Video Nasties: Draconian Days aka Video Nasties The Definitive Guide: Part 2 (2014)

Film: I wonder if Jake West realised that his first documentary about banned films, called Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Tape, was going to be such an amazing piece of work. I have to say that there is probably only two documentary films series that I really could watch as much as I watch regular cinema, they are these two films, and a Gary Hustwit series of three films called Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanised (a loose series starting with regular things we see every day, but looked at from a design point of view (if you haven’t seen them, give them a watch!))

The first film in this series, reviewed elsewhere on this very site, dealt with the banned films of the so-called ‘video nasty’ era in the UK, whereas this film deals with the fallout; the censorship and movie classification under the direction of the Secretary of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), James Ferman.

It’s an interesting look at the pointlessness of having both censorship and classification, as they don’t work together: why have an age related classification of (18) if you are then going to cut it?

It makes no sense.

The reasoning behind it damaging people psychologically wasn’t proven then, and nor is it proven now… and if these films are so bad, why do the censors get to watch them? What makes THEM above us… and why is age a level for censorship? I know immature 50 year olds (I am one) and I’ve observed 20 years old far more mature than me… and hang on, what is maturity anyways?

It also steeps into the specifics of ridiculousness of some decisions. For example, nunchucks and ninja stars were seen as problematic weapons for films, so those films were rejected or edited. This led to cuts made to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.

Yep.

It would seem that Ferman’s rule seemed to become an excuse for him to exert his lost career as a director and re-cut others films. One of his criticisms claims he made ‘censorship by stealth’.

This film features interviews with everyone involved, from ex-BBFC employees, government officials, film-makers, film journalists and so many others that it presents a quite an even discussion about censorship, especially considering some of the interviewees have such varied opinions about what is ‘good’ censorship, and when does it become borderline fascism? There is also a lot of supplementary material from the time that shows how moral panic can lead to dangerous societal results.

This documentary seems to be far more relevant now with the rise of the so-called ‘cancel culture’. Is it right to delete art because it doesn’t stand up to current standards? If we delete prejudice and violence will it change our state of thought or are those things printed on some of our DNA strands?

I’m just a guy who likes movies so don’t look at me for the answers!

All in all it’s a fascinating look at archaic laws, how some politicians who believe themselves to be better educated than you DECIDE what is good for you, and just how quickly power can corrupt anyone.

The image and sound on this disc aren’t great, but it’s just talking heads so the need for hi-def, 1080hp with super duper surround sound probably isn’t needed.

Score: ****

Video: **

Audio: **

Extras: Oh did you want extras? Well, buckle up, sunshine!

Disc 1 has a series of slideshows: the first is a selection of fanzines who traded in illegal video tapes, then we have DPP72 and DPP82 which show the covers of films banned/ almost banned.

This disc also has trailers for The Playgirls and the Vampire, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Night of the Bloody Apes, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Dead of Night, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varitease, Ghost Story, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, Between Your Legs, Cruel Passion, Escort Girls, Some Like It Sexy, Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hit Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise. (Though both Fantasm and Fantasm Comes Again attach to the same trailer, which is a bummer)

There is also a couple of Easter eggs that feature images of programs and passes from various film festivals, and a short film “It’s Just A Movie’.

Disc 2 and 3 have, in total, about 10 hours of trailers (which for length-of-review reasons I won’t list them all) of the Section 3 video nasties, with introductions.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s fascinating and a great supplement to the first documentary, but meanders a little. That hasn’t stopped me from giving it several watches.

Planet of the Vampires aka Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

Planet of the Vampires aka Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

20 years ago this came out!!

Film: There is no doubt that director Mario Bava is truly the Godfather of Italian cinema. Able to dance between genres like a ballet dancer at breakdance school, he did everything from horror to westerns, from historical to sci-fi proving himself to be a master of cinema.

American International Pictures hit a few home runs with the Bava films Black Sunday and Black Sabbath (as well as some other non-Bava Italian films) and were looking to invest more heavily in the production of films so they could have the rights in the USA. Planet of the Vampires was one such collaboration and is based on the short story, One Night of 21 Hours by Renata Pestriniero, originally published in Interstellar Science Fiction Magazine. The screenplay was adapted by Bava, along with Ib Melchior, Alberto Bevilacqua, Castillo Consulich, Antonio Román, Rafael J. Salvia and Louis M. Hayward.

Angry astronauts attack!

So, do many hands make light work, or did too many cooks spoil the broth?

Planet of the Vampires sees the deep space vessels Argos and Galliot answer a distress call on the planet Aura. As the ships descend into the atmosphere, a high gravity pressure forces the crews into unconsciousness, only finding themselves acting temporarily violently upon awakening.

When the ships land, the only person unaffected by the temporarily is the captain of the Argos, Captain Markary, who, after his crew come to their senses, organise a team to search the strange alien landscape for the Galliot.

The finest in astronautical fashion and equipment!

When they find the Galliot, they discover the entire crew has killed each other and so all are buried, only to come back to life and attack the surviving crew. What is causing the crew to return to life though, and what happened to the gigantic alien race whose crashed spaceship seems to have suffered the same fate…?

Essentially, this is more or less a stock standard sci-fi film of the 50s but with a little bit of blood and gore… I mean, a LITTLE bit… but it’s notoriety comes from the influence it had on films like Alien and Prometheus, and if I may throw a little suggestion in their as well, Event Horizon and Lifeforce, but not to the same extent.

Bava’ s use of studios for the planet’s exteriors make for a bizarre looking alien world that does use his amazing skill of depth of field using lights and forced perspective, and should be included in any film schools education repertoire.

The costuming is a highlight though because it’s out of this world (wink wink)!! The best way to describe the main suits of the astronauts would be… um… ok, imagine if Hugo Boss has designed the SS uniform based on Kiss-Ass’s superhero suit/ wetsuit, but with 70s shirt collars flipped up like a polo on a frat boy. Yep. Nailed it.

Ultimately it’s 50s sci-fi made in the 60s. It’s quaint and it’s fine but I wish I’d watched Alien again instead! Or Lifeforce.

Or Event Horizon.

Hell, even Prometheus!

Score: **1/2

Planet of the Vampires Menu Screen.

Format: I had a weird revelation whilst watching this DVD in that it’s 20 years old.

Yep. This release from MGM’s Midnite Movies brand is 20 years old at the time of this review, and for a DVD that old, it’s 1.85:1 image and mono audio wasn’t too bad. It’s not brilliant, but it was watchable and the audio was clear.

Score: ***

Extras: A trailer, and that’s it.

Score: *

WISIA: Like I said, I wish I’d watched Alien again.

SHOCK! HORROR!

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A Bay of Blood (1971)

Film: Truly, in English speaking countries and outside of the fans of horror or cult cinema, the name of director Mario Bava, unjustly seems to be ignored.

Bava was the son of a filmmaker and started as a cinematographer, and was also adept at screenwriting and special effects, but really, as a director is where his talent lies. In his career he directed over almost 40, with genres including horror, fantasy, science fiction and comedy… even a movie based on a comics character (yes, Marvel didn’t do that first OR best), and many directors including Dario Argento, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Joe Dante, Lucia Fulci and others claim to have been influenced by his work.

This film, A Bay of Blood, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, Carnage, Ecologia Del Delitto (and many others) tells the tale of a series of murders that take place by the titular Bay.

The worst haircut ever gets it’s due punishment

First, the disabled owner of the bay is found hanging in her house in what was a murder made to look like suicide, but almost immediately, her murderer is also dispatched by a mysterious assailant. These events lead to a series of murders that all appear to be a cover-up for a real estate scam and an inheritance issue that just seem to escalate.

This film is clearly one of the templates for the slasher movies that came ten years later in the eighties: really just a series of gory murders, intercut with some images of boobs/ butts and a barely incoherent story to link it all together.

Not sure about the rest of you, but I don’t really have a problem with that!

Clearly, Sean Cunningham was inspired by this scene

Honestly, the story is REALLY stupid and doesn’t feel at all like any attempt has been made for any type of legitimacy for the story, and it assumes the viewer has NO understanding of how police investigations go. One could never remake this film now as the perpetrators of the film left fingerprints everywhere and even a rock with a slight understanding of forensics would have the ‘mystery’ solved within minutes. Also, so many unnecessary scenes drag on for far too long, and characters whose back stories we really don’t need to know are over-explained to the point of slowing down the story.

I say all that but it the end it is still charming, and the scenes of violence, considering this came out in 1971, are quite shocking and occasionally sophisticated in their execution. Sometimes the victim’s death scenes are just dumb though… for example, Brunhilda is clearly still breathing after her demise… for them not to ring too true, but they are excusable as not much of it feels realistic at all.

Island of Death director Nick Mastorakis said (and I paraphrase) that in making his film that he asked members of his team to come up with a bunch of horrible ways to die, and a bunch of perversions and he wrote a script around those parameters: this feels like it was made similarly.

This film also boasts the worst haircut ever seen in the history of cinema. It’s a pseudo-Afro-mullet that looks like a fake artist tried to flock a motorcycle helmet. It’s both the most horrifying and funniest thing in this film.

Having said all that, this film has a weird endearing honesty about it that makes it a joy to watch, even if the final scene is one of the most ridiculous things you’ll ever see.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow films multiregion Bluray release from 2010. It is presented in a clear, but artefact-filled 1.85:1 image with a fairly decent mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: Oh boy, it’s a smorgasbord of extras on this disc… are smorgasbords Italian? Do I mean tapas? No that’s Spanish… Buffet? Whatever: the point is there’s heaps of extras!

The Italian Version of the Film, with or without subtitles is included in the extras.n

The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti is an interview with the story writer of A Bay of Blood, Sacchetti, and his experiences in the Italian/ giallo film scene, including working with a Bava on this film.

Joe Dante Remembers Twitch of the Death Nerve sees director/ film enthusiast Joe Dante talk about Bava and his reception in America.

Shooting a Spaghetti Classic looks at how A Bay of Blood was shot through the eyes of assistant cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia.

There are also two Trailers from Hell narrated by Shaun of the Dead director, Edgar Wright, which are both for A Bay of Blood, but under two of its other names, Carnage and Twitch of the Death Nerve.

Finally there are two radio spots for the film.

Also, the review edition is the Arrow Films release from about 2010 and it has a choice of 4 different covers, a poster and a booklet about the film by Jay Slater.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s kitschy and cute, and gory as hell! It’ll get watched again, for sure!

The Killer Must Kill Again (1975)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Killer Must Kill Again aka L’assassino è Costretto ad Uccidere Ancora (1975)

Film: I love giallo films, and it was with great pleasure that this one, The Killer Must Kill Again, finally crossed my palms. Also known as L’assassino è costretto ad uccidere ancora or Il Ragno (The Spider), The Killer Must Kill Again is the second film directed by Luigi Cozzi and was made in 1973, but was initially banned, and did not get an official release until 1975.

Scumbag husband Giogio Mainardi (George Hilton) had decided to leave his bitchy, mistrusting, but rich, wife but gets a better idea when he happens to witness a serial killer (Michael Antoine) dispose of a body. Giorgio blackmails the killer, and for some reason also offers him $20,00, to kill his wife. The Killer executes the plot perfectly, but has fate thrust upon him when the car he is storing the body in the boot of is stolen by a pair of joyriders, Luca (Alessia Orano) and his girlfriend, Laura (What Ever Happened to Solonge’s Christina Galbo) who are travelling to a place called Seagull Rock where Luca intends to deflower Laura.

The Killer steals another car in the street and pursues them cross country. Meanwhile, Giorgio waits with a police investigator who is led to believe that Giogio’s wife has been kidnapped, seeing as how her father is rich, and so they make preparations for a ransom call that has yet to be made. The inspector though, slowly becomes more and more suspicious of Giorgio.

Eventually the Killer catches up with Luca and Laura, but what happens next?

The answer quite possibly lies within the films title…

Cozzi wears his influences on his sleeve with this film. It is a little bit Dario Argento, but with his usual ploy of not revealing the killer until the end turned on its head, and a little Alfred Hitchcock, but much sleazier. Sleazecock perhaps? Several scenes are clearly influences by Hitchcock, such as the Killer pushing a victims car Marion Crane like into a body of water. In actual fact, Michael Antoine looks a little like Anthony Perkins, although maybe more like a DNA splicing of Charles Bronson and Reggie Nalder with Johnny Cash’s wardrobe.

The whole film appears to be made to offset the mind of the viewer. There is a lot of queer scoring and music effects and some some fantastically weird camera work and editing. One wonderful example is the juxtaposition of a rape and some lovemaking that makes for a scene that acts as a sexy/repulsive collage of lust. The script follows some strange paths as well. Even though the ‘kidnapper’ has not made any sort of demands, the inspector suggests that a ransom is put together… but why?

There is a lot to like about this film. It is super cool and somehow extraordinarily scummy at the same time. George Hilton is suitably bastardish, and Michael Antoine’s cavalier sociopath is a perfect example of how to act creepy. You really have to love a film that doesn’t really have a clear ‘good guy’: all the characters are either macho womanizers, bitches, slutty bimbo’s or just plain out frigid.

Simply, I can’t recommend this enough: I loved every second of it.

Score: *****

Format: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation has a few tiny artefacts here and the but nothing to really detract from the viewing experience. For its age this is a splendid transfer. No fancy 5.1 remix here, with The Killer Must Kill Again presented in old school stereo, but it is a decent track. You also have the choice of subtitles Italian or dubbed English.

Score: **

Extras: A nice basket of extras on this disc.

 

There is a thorough commentary track by Cozzi, who is prompted along by interviewer Pete Tombs, author of Mondo Macabro. Cozzi talks about all aspects of the film, and it is entertaining and informative. He discusses the original title – Il Ragno – and where it came from, and generally has great recollections of the films production.

The Road to The Killer is an interview with Cozzi from October 2004 and he talks about his influences and career.

Initials D.A. The Killer has a lighter with the initials D.A. on it, and Cozzi discusses how this is a tribute to Dario Argento, a man whom he seems to respect.

The Giallo Genre is a documentary originally presented on the Region 2 Mondo Macabro release of Death Walks at Midnight. It is narrated by Adrian Smith, author of the giallo book Blood and Black Lace, and is a decent introduction to the world of giallo. I did find an issue with the audio at this point though. Everytime Smith spoke, my sound system accompanied his speech with a dull hum, whether this is present on the disc or was just my equipment, I am not sure.

There is also a theatrical trailer, a blogs and stills galleries, which feature posters and text filmographies, and an original title sequence of the film as it was known as Il Ragno.

In addition, this disc has a collage of film scenes called More from Mondo Macabro, which shows scenes from their other releases, such as Alucarda, The Diabolical Dr. Z, Aswang, Living Corpse, Blood of the Virgins, Seven Women for Satan, Lady Terminator, Crazy Love, Mill of the Stone Women, Dangerous Seductress and Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay Special Edition. The worse thing about this sequence of films was the amount of DVDS I am going to have to purchase over the next few months!

Score: ****

WISIA: With it’s strange vibe, The Killer Must Kill Again is a definite rewatcher.

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

One from the re-watch pile…

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

Film: As I sit here at the To Watch Pile Mansion, in my movie room, I look around and enjoy the fact that one wall is covered in blurays and DVDs, another has my vinyl soundtrack collection, the third is my TV screen and finally a big pile of books all about film, more specifically, horror, cult and sci-fi films. To say that I am a movie fan is a slight understatement: I simply LOVE cinema!

One thing that has always fascinated me was the Video Nasty scare in the UK. I first heard the term ‘video nasty’ as a kid when it was mentioned on an episode of The Young Ones, a hilarious 80s UK comedy series starring Ade Edmondson, Rick Mayall and Nigel Planer.

If you haven’t heard of this show, for me and my friends in high school, it was our Simpsons: funny and infinitely quotable. I don’t necessarily suggest everyone needs to see it as I’m not sure if a new, younger audience would appreciate it.

Anyway, this term fascinated me and I had read about it in everything from magazines like Fangoria, Samhain and Deep Red, but it didn’t seem to be something we experienced here in Australia as I worked in a video shop when I was about 15, and things like Evil Dead, and Lucio Fulci films were readily available to watch, perhaps cut in various ways, but still there to hire.

Anyway, to get the full deal on what the Video Nasty was about, I had to glean information from various sources, but now, this wonderful documentary exists, directed by Jake West, whose name you might know from films such as Doghouse and Evil Aliens.

West has managed to get so many interviews with both sides of the argument that you really get a complete picture of what was going on both socially and politically in the UK at the time, and whilst it does come from a director of horror’s hands, it’s surprisingly balanced, but even the least politically-motivated viewer will see that the hands of oppressive moral majority were heavy and unreasonable, bordering on WW2 book-burning and Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent’s almost destruction of the comics industry in the US.

In addition to the incredibly informative amount of experts giving their opinions and recounting their tales, we also have a bucketload of bloody clips taken from the films in question.

I can’t express how enjoyable and informative this documentary is. It completely recounts the whole period, and even has a sequel: Video Nasties: Draconian Days which looks inside the censorship board in the UK. Both are must-sees for horror movie fans.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK DVD, which runs for 72 minutes approximately. It is presented in a 1.78:1 image of varying degrees of quality (to express points the director has deliberately degraded the film at times to visually explain how repeatedly copies VHS eventually looked) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, with similar eff ts performed on it to audibly explain VHS sound. It doesn’t, however, ever become unwatchable or inaudible.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: Extras… EXTRAS? How about two full discs of extras?!?

Disc 1: Video Ident-a-Thon is a selection of the video distribution companies of the time idents played at the beginning of every tape… and there is almost a FULL HOUR of them!

Bonus Gallery has a selection of VHS covers played as a slide show with a soundtrack.

Also available has trailers for other DVDs available from Nucleus films, including The Playgirls and the Vampire, Night of the Bloody Apes, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varietease, Ghost Story, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 1, Death Ship, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, The Ugliest Woman in the World, and Between Your Legs. That’s not to mention trailers for titles from Naughty Films such as Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hot Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise.

Disc 2: This disc has the trailers for 39 videos which became the actual Video Nasties. These trailers can be watched either with or without title cards, showing the release dates and other information, followed by introductions from Emily Booth, Kim Newman, Alan Jones (the UK one, not ‘ours’)and Stephen Thrower, all who were featured in the main documentary.

This disc also has another brief slideshow of the VHS covers of the 39 banned films, again with a score played over the top.

Disc 3: This disc is similar content to disc 2, but instead this has the 33 films that didn’t permanently achieve the Video Nasty status, or as they are called here ‘The Dropped 33’. This again has introductions from subjects from the documentary like Emily Booth, Dr. Patricia MacCormack, Alan Jones, Marc Morris, Allan Bryce, Xavier Mendik, Brad Stevens, Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower.

This disc also has a slideshow similar to disc 2,but of the Dropped 33.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve already watched it a 100 times and I’ll probably watch it a 100 more.

The Night Child (1975)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Night Child (1975)

Film: With the likes of Argento, Fulci, Leone and the various Bavas dominating the spotlight it would be easy to get your name lost to these far more well known Italian directors, but in amongst these is the name Massimo Dallamano. Dallamano started as a cinematographer in 1964 and worked on films like A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, but was also an accomplished director in his own right, , as can be seen in films like 1969’s Le Malizie Di Emerge aka Venus in Furs (which he directed as ‘Max Dillman’), 1972’s Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange? aka What Have You Done To Solange? And this film, 1975;s Il Medaglione Insanguinato aka The Night Child.

The Night Child tells of recently widowered Michael Williams (played by Zombie Flesh Eaters’ Richard Johnson) and his daughter Emily (Italy’s first scream queen Nicoletta Elmi) who are to travel to Italy so Michael can film a documentary about the image of Satan in Art for the BBC. Emily, as one would expect, is extraordinarily disturbed by the death of her mother, and asks her father if he would mind if she could take a medallion from her mother’s belongings to wear as a keepsake.

Of course the old man doesn’t mind, and along with Emily’s nanny, Jill (Evelyne Stewert, aka Ida Galli from La Dolce Vita) they travel to Italy and meet up with the American producer of the documentary Joanna (Ghost of Mars’ Joanna Cassidy) and a local, Contessa Cappelli (Lila Kendrova from Polanski’s The Tenant), who knows all about a mysterious painting rumoured to have been painted by the devil himself.

Then, weirdness ensues.

Emily starts to have strange fantasies about a medieval girl being pursued by angry and fuck-ugly townsfolk, and the murders… that is, the ‘accidents’… start to happen…

My biggest problem with this film is it’s story. I have watched the film several times now and I am still not sure if it was the painting, the medallion, the girl, or all three are the cursed thing, and this ambiguity is hard for me to get over and therefore, spoilt any enjoyment I could had have of the film. I guess the clue that should straightedges out that curly one is the fact the film in Italian is called The Cursed Medallion but if you the film, I’m not sure that completely makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong, The Night Child is exquisitely shot, with some pretty good performances from a varied cast but the story was so flat, and the ending SUCH a downer (you know those ones where it seems like the writers wrote themselves into a corner?) that I just can’t give it any real credibility, because to this reviewer, the story is the most important part of a film.

So does Dallamano deserve to be amongst those big names of Italian cinema? Well, I believe he does, as like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, he sets scenes and shoots them so wonderfully that at times you just get caught up in the art of cinema itself.

Unfortunately the story here is just far too convoluted to be a good example of his storytelling, and The Night Child simply cannot complete with that competition.

On. Side note, redhead-o-philes will love this film as in addition to young Italian film legend Nicoletta Elmi who was in stuff like Demons and Bay of Blood, and American bombshell Joanna Cassidy, almost every female character is a redhead. Is there something Dallamano is trying to say, or was he just a fan of the red? Maybe there was a subtle I nod to the medieval idea that redheads were of the beast..

The Night Child feels like, it had several initial ideas, but instead of picking just one, the writer went with all of the , resulting in somewhat of a mess. It is a well-crafted and beautifully crafted mess, but still a mess. Really for Dallamano or Elmi or possession completists only.

Score: **

Format: Arrow’s DVD presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the image is sharp, colourful and generally a decent with only occasional film artefacts present. The audio is presented either in English mono, or Italian mono with English subtitles. It is a clear soundtrack, but you will notice what almost seems to be a vinyl record styled crackling here and there. Honestly I only noticed as I was listening for audio faults, and a casual viewer may not even notice it at all. The English track does occasionally play Italian with subtitles: for completion purposes, I suppose.

Score: ***

Extras: Exorcism – Italian Style is an interesting look at the post Rosemary’s Baby/ The Exorcist Italian rip-offs of possession films with interviews with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori and Italian film critic Paolo Zalati.

There is also an Italian and a US trailer. the Us trailer is particularly funny with the Last House on the Left tiff of ‘keep telling yourself, it’s only a child, it’s only a child…’

Included in this DVD release from Arrow films is a booklet featuring a detailed history of Dallamano’s work by High Rising Productions Callum Waddell, which is an interesting and thorough considering it’s only 5 odd pages of text.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I don’t believe I need to revisit this yet again.

Ratman (1988)

Ratman (1988)

Film: Sometimes, being a B movie fan is like trying to find your wife’s wedding ring after she dropped it in a septic tank: you must wade through a lot of shit to find a gem. Discovering that gem is a treat, but generally you’ll find yourself with a large handful of excrement. Unfortunately, Ratman is not a gem, but instead one of those piles of shit one more than often finds, and not just any piece of excrement either. No, Ratman is a steaming fresh pile of peanut-encrusted beer bog.

Spoiler alert: it’s that bad.

Ratman, also known in Italian as Quella Villa in Fondo al Parco (The Village by the Park? Something like that) was directed by Giuliano Carnimeo, who also directed The Case of the Bloody Iris, and is written by Dardarno Sacchetti who gave us Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, City of the Living Dead and House by the Cemetery, along with many other classics of Italian horror. Honestly, I don’t know what either of them was thinking when they made this – and that goes for star David Warbeck as well. Surely times never got that lean!!

Set on a small island, Ratman starts with a professor proudly proclaiming that he should win the Nobel Prize for science after he creates a monster he calls ‘Mousey’ (played by tiny actor Nelson De La Rosa. Seriously, this guy is so small even Verne Troyer could pick on him), a rat/monkey hybrid. The problem with Mousey is that he has also developed poisonous teeth and claws, which will kill a man in no time at all.

Of course, Mousey escapes and starts a half pint reign of terror!

Mousey starts by killing a model, and her sister is called to the island to identify the body. Upon arrival she meets an author, and they soon become chums and visit the morgue together only to find the girl is not her sister, and that her sister has made a trip into the forest on another photo shoot, and the two choose to investigate… but what they find is a trail of death!!!!!

I really can’t stress enough what a piece of crap this film is, and its directorial and writing genealogy, with Sacchetti and Warbeck’s involvement specifically, makes it even more disappointing.

I know that as a B movie fan this is one of those ‘gems’ I am supposed to like, but I just found it to be crap, and barely watchable. Of what I have seen from Shameless so far, I have enjoyed this the least. Only purchase this if you really want a full set of Shameless’s collection. I will say though, that this film has the best tagline ever: “He’s the critter from the shitter”. Pure comedy.

Score: *

Format: In a decent act for such a film, Shameless have presented this in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen, but the image is terrible. Unfortunately, it is foggy and laden with film artefacts, but I guess that heightens the sleaziness of the proceedings, so perhaps that adds atmosphere? I didn’t feel that at all though. The audio is presented in English mono and the best I can say about it is that you can hear what people are saying. It performs the function that is required of it. To give Shameless credit though, they do apologise for the poor audio on David Warbeck’s character at times due to multiple audio sources.

Score: **

Extras: Nothing but trailer for Ratman and other Shameless titles here: The Frightened Woman, My Dear Killer, Baba Yaga, The Black Cat, The New York Ripper and Manhattan Baby. Shameless do offer multiple covers on this disc, which is something I always find to be quite cool, one of which is a funny but poorly executed Jaws piss-take. The other looks to be original video art, which is nice, but not at all relevant. then again, what video art ever was?

Score: **

WISIA: No. just no.

Demons 2 aka Demoni 2: L’incubo Ritorna (1986)

One from the re watch pile…

Demons 2 aka Demoni 2: L’incubo Ritorna (1986)

Film: The only thing that has come out of Italy that is better than the food, is horror films. Seriously, the perfect night would be a fresh lasagne, some garlic bread, along with Argento or Bava, and a nice Chianti (insert bizarre suckling noise here). Demons 2 proves, that not everything for Italy’s cinematic feast is delicious.

Demons 2 is directed by the original’s director, Lamberto Bava, and is written by the same writing team of Bava, Dario Argento, Franco Ferinni and Dardano Sacchetti, but it is definitely… spoiler alert… the inferior of the two films.

This film has us in a super high-tech apartment block where various occupants are going about their business of dinner with family, studying for tests, being an 8 year old who is left home alone, having intercourse with high quality hookers, working out in the basement gym and having a birthday party.

The part is for whinging superbitch Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) who complains about everything and locks herself in her bedroom after hearing that a person whom she didn’t want invited to her party was actually invited by a friend. Whilst in her room, she watches, like several people who live in the block, a documentary about the demon incursion that occurred in the first film. Unfortunately, like the film from the first film, the doco appears to be cursed… or something… and a demon comes out of the TV, attacking Sally and starting the infection all over again.

Luckily the demons aren’t able to escape the apartment block… or can they?

To put it bluntly, this film is pretty bad. Bad,y acted and dubbed at times, with some dreadful dialogue Nd non-sensical plotlines that don’t move the story forward in the slightest. For exampl, some parents are driving home to their son at the same time as the party is happening, but they don’t make it… so why even show it?

The script is a breadless crap pizza with no real logic as to how the demons appear. The Tv show being watched by the viewers are potently infected but the cameraman filming the doco was resistant? What? Thankfully this eventually explained by the fact that the show is being transmitted by a demon TV station (as a heads up, demon TV stations are like NORMAL TV stations. It with flashing lights): I’ve seen some pretty dumb stuff in my horror experience, but demon TV station is up there with the dumbest.

It’s not entirely bad though. Whilst Demons 2 isn’t as gruesome as it’s predecessor, it features some creative effects work. There is a wider variety of demon looks in this film, and there is an amusing Demon Dog sequence. The effects are generally solid except for one that has a worse that Ghoulies rubber puppet look about it.

I also enjoyed the music far more on this film as it was more to my taste : The Cult, The Art Of Noise, The Smiths, Fields Of The Nephilim and others.

This film is far more a string of effects held together by a dodgy story, than a complete film.

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video Bluray which is presented in 1.66:1 and has been restored from the original negative. That being said it does contain a bit of noise on the film here and there. The audio is presented in the original mono and does the job just fine. The film can also be watched with its Italian audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The first thing I should comment on is the excellent packaging design and the non-digital extras. Like most of Arrows Bluray releases when this first came out, we have a choice of four covers on a double-sided Bluray slick. There is also a double sided poster with original movie artwork on one side and art from Jeff Zornow on the other. This package also contains part 2 of a Demons comic, again with art by Zornow and a script by Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating. Finally there is a booklet titled Twice the Terror by Calum Waddell which is an interesting celebration of Bava.

There are a couple of extras on the disc as well:

Creating Creature Carnage is a discussion with Italian special effects maestro Sergio Stivaletti. If you are interested in practical special effects this is really interesting.

Bava to Bava: Luigi Cozzi on The History Of Italian Horror is exactly what the title suggests and is the perfect sequel to Cozzi’s discussion on the first Demons release from Arrow Video.

There is also a director commentary hosted by Calum Waddell featuring Bava, Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci. It’s not the greatest commentary in the world, but when they do speak, what they say is very interesting.

Score: ****

WISIA: The first Demons film is an Italian classic, watch that again instead of this.

Demons aka Demoni (1985)

One from the re watch pile…

Demons aka Demoni (1985)

Film: Those who are regular visitors of the To Watch Pile will know that I love horror films of the 80s: Re-animator, Burial Ground, Dead and Buried… I could write a massive list of films that I love from this time, and right here, we have one of them.

I first discovered this film working in a small video shop in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and immediately loved it: the gore, the hot European girls, and just the general tone of the film blew my mind. I had a DVD release and enjoyed it, but this Arrow Blu-ray release has taken the love affair even further.

Demons starts with a young girl (Natasha Hovey) being approached on a train by a strange looking man who appears to be wearing a mask (film director Michele Soavi), and is handing out free tickets to a cinema screening. She manages to score two of them so she can bring her constantly whining friend (Paola Cozzo) along, and they skip a lecture at university to go.

The cinema is an old one, and there are several people there to see the film, including a young couple; a cranky old bastard and his long suffering wife; a pair of horny young men who start sniffing around our heroine; and a classic 70s pimp-styled character along with two of his ’employees’, one of who mucks around with a metal mask on display in the foyer and accidentally cuts her face with it.

They sit down to watch the film, which is all about four people looking for the tomb of Nostradamus, and the four find a mask much like the one in the foyer, and when one of the characters cuts his face, he turns into a demon.

Not surprisingly, the prostitute (Geretta Geretta)who cut her face in the cinema becomes one as well and starts terrorising the patrons, and everyone who is attacked becomes a demon. They try to escape, but discover that they are trapped inside with the creatures, which are constantly increasing in number.

What happens next is good old fashioned, gory, unholy fun!!

This film is directed by Lamberto Bava, son of Italian cinema legend Mario Bava and written by him, Dario Argento, Franco Ferinni and Dardano Sarchetti. Gorehounds will get a gargantuan sense of satisfaction as it relishes in the gore, all of which are good ol’ fashioned practical effects: messy and non-CGI! Italian film fans will have fun as well, spotting some Italian horror cinema regulars like Nicoletta Elmi, who was also in A Bay of Blood and Deep Red, and a cameo from Giovanni Frezza, best known as Bob from The House by the Cemetary.

I loved this film as a teen, and nothing has changed since then except for silver hair and arthritis. The story is engaging and moves along at a cracking pace, the characters are wacky stereotypes that you’ll never forget, and the effects are gory and top-shelf practical ones. If you want to have an argument with a lover of CGI effects, show them this film and I’m sure they’ll have nothing to respond with.Plus, it features a three and a half minute sequence where a guy wielding a samurai sword hooks around a cinema on a motorcycle killing demons to the sounds of heavy metal band Accept’s song ‘Fast Like A Shark’!

If you need more than that from a film, you are far too fussy!

What’s the best way to give a film collector what they want? How about a favourite film, presented cleanly, in great packaging with great extras? It’s that easy! Well played, Arrow.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed using Arrow Video’s Bluray release. The image is present in a surprisingly good, considering its age, 1.66:1 image and even though the soundtrack is only in mono 2.0, there is nothing wrong with this audio presentation. It is presented in both Italian or English tracks, which should both be given a listen as they have different musical cues, and the opportunity to hear Simonetti’s soundtrack is much greater on the Italian as the music track is a little more prominent.

 

Score: ***1/2

Extras: First I must compliment the excellent packaging. It has the ‘poster’ styled packaging that Arrow used to offer on their Blu-rays, with the option of 4 different covers, a double sided poster, a booklet essay by Calum Waddell and part 1 of a Demons 3 comic by writers Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating with art by horror artist extraordinaire Jeff Zornow. This is a new story, not Ogre or any other of the cinematic ‘sequels’ and, as a horror comic fan, I think it is a cool comic. The story is continued in Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Demons 2.

Dario’s Demon Origins sees Mr. Argento discuss the origins of the film, most of which your average horror fan would have heard before.

Defining An Era In Music is a discussion with Claudio Simonetti about the soundtrack to the film.

Whilst the other two pieces are mildly interesting, Luigi Cozzi’s Top Horror Films (it’s called Splatter Spaghetti Style on the feature) is really interesting, as he talks about Italian horror and his favourite/most important films of the genre.

We also have a Director’s commentary with Lamberto Bava and Sergio Stivaletti. It is in both Italian and English and whilst informative, it is at times a trial to listen to due to the language swapping.

There is also a Cast and Crw commentary by Mike Burgess, Art Ettinger from Ultra Violent Magazine, Mark Murray from Cult Collectable, soundtrack writer Claudio Simonetti, director Lamberto Bava, Geretta Geretta (who played ‘Rosemary) and effects legend Sergio Stivaletti. This is a far better commentary than the previous one as it discusses many aspects of the film. It is, however, in a mix of English and Italian.

Score: *****

WISIA: This film gets a regular watch, so yeah, it’s a full-tilt rewatcher!

The Beyond (1981)

One from the re watch pile…

The Beyond (1981)

Film: When I was a teen, my first job was manning the counter of a small video shop in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and let me tell you, I loved that job. Every Sunday I worked from 12 until 4 pm without fail, and I never asked for a day off in the entire time I worked there I would show up at twelve, unwrap my sandwich and stick The Beyond (I think it was a Palace Explosive tape) into the in store player. For that 90 odd minutes, no one was allowed to rent that tape. They could come back after I had finished watching it, but until then, it was verboten (if you are interested, the second feature was always Dawn of the Dead, which they let me keep when the shop closed down, unfortunately, The Beyond had gone missing, so I couldn’t take that as well).

The Beyond is a film by Lucio Fulci, the other Godfather of Gore and was one of the films that was banned in the UK’s ‘video nasty’ witch hunts.

This film is a part of the Fulci’s unofficial zombie trilogy, also known as the Gates of Hell trilogy, which also includes House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, and as far as this reviewer is concerned, isn’t just the best of these films, but is the best of his career, even though the plot line is confusing and open to the individual’s  interpretation, and at times the effects are somewhat lacking in realism. Unfortunately, the sharpness of the Blu-ray image  is even less forgiving and a few of those effects are even less convincing.

Onto the story…

The Beyond opens in Louisiana in 1927, where a mobs of local townsfolk are making their way to the 7 Doors Hotel, where an artist named Schweik (Antoine Saint-John) is painting a rather disturbing picture that depicts the barren-ness of Hell while a copy of the mysterious Book of Eibon sits close-by. The townsfolk accuse him of witchcraft, which he claims was to keep a gate to Hell that exists within the hotel shut, but the mob ignore his cries, nail him to a wall, and cover him in quicklime.

Many years later, a young women named Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the hotel from her uncle, and almost as soon as she starts work on renovations, the trouble begins. First a painter falls from a scaffolding from which he should never have fallen, and soon after a plumber is butchered in the flooded basement, after which Liza strikes up a friendship with a local doctor, John (David Warbeck). A strange girl Emily (Sarah Fuller aka Cinzia Moreale) warns Liza that the work she is doing on the hotel is dangerous, but Liza chooses to ignore her, even though she is spooked by her words, and the accidents that have happened.  Strange things happen around room 36 as well (get it? 3 x 6…666) which is the room Schweik was dragged from to his death, and Liza thinks she sees both the body of Schweik and the Book of Eibon as well, but once John turns up, it appears to be a fantasy.

More and more deaths occur and it would appear that Liza has accidentally reopened the gate to Hell.  Can Liza find a way to close the Gate… will she even bother?

The fact that the film is so open to the watcher’s interpretation is the main thing I like about The Beyond. Whilst ‘regular’ film goers probably would have trouble with unconvincing special effects and gore, horror fans can (and in my experience, will) talk for hours about the meanings behind the film, and what the actual plotline is! It is dreamlike and nightmarish, and has this feel of a real horror film, one which I think many horror filmmakers no longer attempt to match as perhaps today’s movie goer requires more literal storytelling.

The Beyond has some spectacular gore scenes that may look a little fake but are executed with gusto! In this film Fulci has taken special attention to the face, and it’s parts, and celebrates their destruction in a way that will repulse most, but will inspire a “Cool!” from those who like it.

This film also has a great legacy of Italian and international horror stars: Catriona (Catherine) MacColl who also starred in House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, David Warbeck of The Black Cat and Hunters of the Golden Cobra, Cincia Moreale from Buio Omega and The Stendahl Sydrome, Antoine Saint-John of The Killer Must Kill Again and A Fistful of Dynamite, Giampaolo (sic) Saccarola of Tenebrae and the House By the Cemetery and Veronica Lazar from Inferno and Last Tango in Paris.

Score: *****

Format: Those of you who wander the wild land of the internet will know of the initial problem that scarred this release, that is, the incorrect black and white instead of sepia toned opening. When I purchased this disc, I received one of these flawed copies, but after contacting the people at Arrow Films, I received a corrected version within a week, which considering I am in Australia and they are in the UK, is quite commendable. I should point out that according to Arrow films, this error was on the first batch released, so all subsequent releases should be the sepia version.

The film is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 image that’s looks pretty special, especially when you consider the age of the film. Really the only bad thing about this film is that occasionally in some of the darker sequences there is a small amount of film speckling, which is completely excusable. The amazing soundtrack is presented in  5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with the options for either an English or Italian mono track for the purists as well. I am not one of those purists so I instead enjoyed the 5.1 only, and found it to be incredible.

Score: *****

Extras: There is HEAPS of extra features on this 2 discer!

Disc 1:

Before the film starts, Cinzia Moreale introduces the film, and her broken English is bound to bring a smile to your face.

Aka Sarah Keller: Cinzia Moreale Remembers The Beyond  is a nice look back by the actress who portrayed Emily in the film. She discusses her career and her work on this film, all with great poise, I must add.

The Beyond Q & A: Cartriona Maccoll is a fairly informative question session with MacColl which took place after a screening of the film. Unfortunately this is marred by two things; the first is the fact that some scrotum in the audience starts to eat a bag of chips, making crinkling noises all through the piece, the second is the fact that the film notes it with a subtitle referring to it. It is noted several times through the piece, and really the annoying bastard only needed to be pointed out once, as I found the subtitle detracted from what MacColl had to say.

There are also two commentaries on this disc. The first is an older commentary found on previous laserdisc and DVD releases by David Warbeck and MacColl, recorded before Warbeck died in 1997. It is a charming and friendly commentary that has some dubious recollections from the two. The second is with Antonella Fulci and hosted by Calum Waddell, which is a fascinating and personal look at Fulci’s work by his daughter.

Disc 2:

Beyond Italy: Louis Fuller And The Seven Doors Of Death is an absolutely brilliant feature which has the president of Aquarius Films, Terry Levene talk about his career in exploitation films, and what was done to sell Italian films to the states. Those interested in the whole 42nd Street/ Grindhouse thing will find this fascinating, and detractors of Quentin Tarantino will appreciate his comments as well.

One Step Beyond: Catriona Maccoll Remembers A Spaghetti Splatter Classic is recollection from MacColl about her time filming The Beyond and her own career. As with all these sorts of ‘complete’ set of extras, some stories do overlap with disc 1’s Q & A and her commentary with Warbeck, but she is so charming it is easily overlooked.

Butcher Baker Zombiemaker: The Living Dead Legacy Of Gianetto De Rossi looks at the work of special effects artist De Rossi through his own eyes. Through a gravel voice that would make Lawrence Tierney sound like Shirley Temple in comparison, he discusses all the joys and woes of pre-CGI splatter filmmaking.

Fulci Flashbacks: Reflections On Italy’s Leading Paura Protagonist is a series of fond (sometimes) recollections of Fulci and his career from his associates and family.

Alternative Pre-Credit Sequence is just that! An alternative opening of the film, but with one of it’s many alternative titles. Interestingly, this one features a full colour version of the sepia opening of the usual release!!

There is also the International Theatrical Trailer.

The extras don’t just stop at what’s on the two discs either, with Arrow presenting the film in a box that contains a choice of four different covers, (The 7 Doors fo Death, the original title of L’aldila (or more correctly, according to the onscreen title ‘…E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore! L’Aldila’ translated as ‘..And thou shalt live in terror! The Afterlife’.) or even Die Geisterstadt der Zombies (in English ‘The Ghost-town of the Zombies’), along with a two sided poster and a booklet with two articles by English horror journalist Calem Waddell and an introduction to The Beyond by Cabin Fever director, Eli Roth.

Since this edition was released, and pictured above, there has also been a steelbook version of the film with some amazing new art!

Score: *****

WISIA: I flat out love this film, it was a favourite when I was a kid, I loved it when I first grabbed it on DVD, and this BD version makes me simply burst with excitement. Arrow films have created a master film disc that is a suburb addition to any Blu-ray collection. Grab it now!