The Body Beneath (1970)

The Body Beneath (1970)

The cover to the Australian release on DVD of the film

Film: Probably known best for such horror and exploitation titles as The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! and Fleshpot on 42nd St., the late Andy Milligan, who died in 1991 of AIDS, was described as ‘the only director worse than Ed Wood’. Whilst that may be an exaggeration, Milligan’s films are incredibly low budget, but the sense of ‘camp’ within them makes them somehow humorous…and ominous. Milligan, a navy brat and dress-maker who ran the clothes shop Ad Lib in New York during the 50s, dabbled in stage productions until he finally made his first feature in 1965, a gay short film called The Vapors. From this humble beginning, he teamed up with producer William Mishkin, and together they made 11 features, sordid morality stories where the nasty antagonists are always faced with their come-uppances, which were often violent. In the late 60s, he moved to London where he made his exploitation horror flicks, including this feature, The Body Beneath also known as Vampire’s Thirst.

The Reverend Alexander Algernon Ford (Gavin Reed), an ancient vampire, who resides in Carfax Abbey, near Highgate Cemetery, close to three of his female descendants, requires the womb of one of his relatives. The lucky one being Susan (Jackie Skarvellis), to return the bloodline of the Ford family to its former glory by having her mate with strong fresh blood and give birth to immortal vampire babies. Assisted by his quiet wife, Alicia (Susan Heard), his hunchbacked Beatle-haired assistant Spool (Berwick Kaler) and a trio of green faced ghouls, the good reverend goes about organizing a vampire feast where their future is to be decided.

Clearly gay and proud, Andy Milligan’s life as been described as more bizarre than his movies, for example, to celebrate his marriage (yes, marriage) to one of his actresses, Candy Hammond, he cruised gay bars on Staten Island. Milligan’s movies, all filmed on left over film stock with a 16mm Auricon camera, are handheld horrors where ethics are thrown out the window. His flowing camera style crosses the line from claustrophobic and moody to occasionally downright annoying. His scripts, all inspired by great works (this one clearly being Dracula), are contrived but still acted quite well in a vaudevillian sense. Another note of interest with Milligan’s movies is that the more ornate costumes were made by himself under his alias Raffine. Watching this movie makes one feel as though they are watching a Hammer movie, filmed with a Carnival of Souls budget.

Camper than a row of tents, The Body Beneath somehow entertains, and proves that Milligan was no hack, but had an inimitable style. Not a movie for big budget blockbuster lovers, but with the vampires, cannibalism and immolation, fans of trash cinema will have a ball.

Score: **

The menu screen from the Australian DVD release of the film.

Extras: The Gallery of Exploitation Art is a great 6 minute montage of movie posters with a radio commercial soundtrack. Posters from films such as The Peeping Phantom, Fanny Hill Meets Dr Erotico and others are accompanied by radio commercials for The Female Butcher, The Girl Snatcher and companions of their ilk.

Trailers for Milligan’s films The Body Beneath, Guru the Mad Monk and The Vapors, which describes him as ‘the New Leader in Underground Filmmaking’.

The surprise on this disc is Milligan’s first short film, The Vapors. Running at 32 minutes and 20 seconds, the Vapors takes place in a gay bath house, where a young gay man meets an older married man, and they talk. Milligan’s epileptic camera work is particularly effective here, although the drama of the main part of the story is undercut by Benny Hill-ish queans over acting the gay stereotype with silly segues. Filmed in Black and white, The Vapors is a surprisingly moving tale.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s just silly enough that it does seem to be irresistible to rewatching.

The review was done with the Australian DVD release of the film.

Studio 666 (2022)

Studio 666 (2022)

The cover to the Australian DVD release of Studio 666

Film: You know that when you get a movie starring a famous popular musical artist that your in for a treat, right? How good is Glitter, starring Mariah Carey… or Crossroads, with Britney Spears… or Spice World, with the Spice Girls…

Ok, I have to confess the Spice World movie is a guilty please, but I think you get the idea!

Dave (Dave Grohl) and his band, The Foo Fighters (played by… well The Foo Fighters) are trying to come up with something special and different for their tenth studio album. Their record company man, Jeremy Shill (Jeff Garlin) will do anything to get them to produce the new album so when they ask for a new studio environment, he gets his real estate agent, Barb (Leslie Grossman) to find them somewhere.

The Foo Fighters in all their glory!

What Barb finds them is a house in Encino that has a horrifying past, and very quickly, Dave starts seeing strange things and acting weird. The next door neighbour, Samantha (Whitney Cummings) tries to warn them of the house’s history, but has she come too late… well, of course she has!

This movie was written by Grohl and the a screenplay was adapted from it by the 2019 Pet Semetery remake writer, Jeff Buhler and Der Vulkan’s Rebecca Hughes. It’s director, BJ O’Donnell is best known for directing music clips for Slayer and other heavy metal bands, but was also responsible for Hatchet 3.

It’s certainly The Foo Fighters Show, and not only are they good at playing themselves, their comedy timing is impeccable and hilarious. It’s certainly a love letter to heavy metal, with a lot of new music played, and some amusing covers of old ones, including a hilarious scene where Grohl is abused by a dream version of Lionel Ritchie, PLAYED by Ritchie, for trying to steal his love ballad ‘Hello’!

Don’t think the guest stars stop there. In addition to Ritchie and a role played by comedian Cummings mentioned earlier, we also see a roadie named Krug (no doubt a reference to Last House on the Left) played by Kerry King, and the music producer, Rip Haight is played by director and composer extraordinaire John Carpenter, the joke being his characters name is an alias he has used occasionally when playing roles in his own films.

A tribute to The Burning

It’s a pretty solid story, both suitably gory and really funny at times. There is a lot of references to horror movies too, like Evil Dead, The Exorcist, The Burning and probably many more that I missed.

Studio 666 is an amazingly fun movie that would be a great double feature with something like Shaun of the Dead. This could have been an ego fuelled, cluster bomb of tripe but the entire production is a fun watch. The only two things that disappointed me were a lack of extras, and we only got a DVD release here in Australia.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian DVD

Extras: There’s only one extra which is a gag reel, but for the first time in along time, it did actually get a chortle out of me here and there.

Score: **

WISIA: Hell, yeah! A gory horror comedy that’s ACTUALLY funny.

I’ve heard of ‘splitting the whisker’ but I don’t think this is right!

This review was done with the Australian DVD release.

Big Tits Zombie (2010)

Big Tits Zombie (2010)

The cover to the Australian release of Big Tits Zombie on DVD

Film: Sometimes it only takes a name to pique ones interest in something. If one can produce something, and give it a name either provocative or evocative, you can get a winner. The history of cinema, especially exploitation and independent horror cinema is rife with alternative titles to make a film sound better than perhaps it really is, or even just to find the correct audience. This film was titled Kyonyû doragon: Onsen zonbi vs sutorippâ 5 (my guess is the last 3 words are ‘zombie vs stripper’) in its native Japan, and the suggested title in English was The Big Tits Dragon. Somewhere along the line, though, an alternative title was offered, and this title, ladies and gentlemen, is one I could not pass: Big Tits Zombie.

That’s right:

Big.

Tits.

Zombie.

The only way it could have been more appealing to your reviewer was if they squeezed the word ‘beer’ or ‘steak’ into the title. This film is written and directed by Takao Nakano, who gave us 2004’s Sexual Parasite: Killer Pussy, and it is based loosely on the manga Kyonyû doragon, by Rei Mikamoto.

Big Tits Zombie is the tale of five strippers, Lena Jodo (Sola Aoi), Ginko Hoshikage (Risa Kasumi), Maria Kuroi (Mari Sakurai), Darna (Io Aikawa) and Nene Hanasaki (Tamayo), who are working a crappy strip club in a rundown town, and who never seem to be able to get a break. None of them really get on too well, and one day whilst fighting (topless and in 3D) amongst themselves, they discover that their dressing room behind the club they perform in has a secret door.

Our heroes!

The go through the door and discover a room full of occult antiquities, that are possibly worth a fortune. Unfortunately what they don’t realise is that their presence has brought the dead hidden down a well in the basement back to life. Dead that are keen to eat the living!!!

When  Darna goes back into the room to steal a box of money she found there, she is the first to be consumed, and the other four must now defend themselves against the hordes of the undead… that is until one of them betrays the rest, and becomes one who can control the living dead, and do her dark bidding!!!

The special effects are of a pretty low standard, even by these low budget Asian horror standards. Some of the zombies make up is nothing but rubber masks, but the variety of zombies presented in this film is fantastic. Basically, any Asian stereotype you can think of is represented by an undead version: ninja, geisha, schoolgirl, you name it. Unfortunately, at times the CGI is deplorable. Blood sprays fly out of bodies, but then just dissipate into thin air, and occasionally body cut and slashes don’t appear at all. The amusing this is the cruddy zombies and poor CGI aren’t the worst special effects: there is a tentacle zombie thing whose strings are SO obvious it should have been called Lady Penelope… what makes it even worse is the scene they can be seen in is a 3D scene, and even the STRINGS are given the 3D treatment!!

The Blue Ogre comes to collect the dead!

OK, I admit that this film is made for the nudity and the gore, but for goodness sake, the dancing choreography was of a level that would make a pre-school ballet school bawl in embarrassment. I don’t want to be too critical of it though, as whether deliberately or accidentally bad, the dancing was a comedy highlight.

Keep a keen eye on some of the sets being covered in plastic so that any fake, non-cgi blood or goop, and try not to notice that the credits are reversed, that is it suggests it is the character that plays the actor, not the other way around. Also, the director seems to have a ‘thing’ for Quentin Tarantino judging by the various visual cues from a selection of his films.

Those into not-so-traditional Japanese business fetishism will be entertained. This film has hot girls fighting, panty shots, bra shots, lingering booby blood spray and the classic ‘threatening tentacles’ of many a hentai horror tale.

So even through all the criticism I have offered upon this film, I couldn’t help but like it. Somewhere between the illogical storyline, the terrible special effects and the strippers pulling their boobs out, I found that I was being more entertained than I had been in ages

Big Tits Zombie is a badly acted, terribly choreographed, non-sensical film with crap special effects, hot Japanese chicks and substandard 3D effects. To sum up; it’s a winner. This film knows exactly what it is and revels in it. Fans of things like The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police need to rush out and buy it now… but be warned: don’t show it to people who claim to be ‘film fans’ because they just ain’t gonna get its bloody, low budget charms! I don’t know what the Japanese word for Troma is, but I imagine the director of this film does!!

Score: ***

The menu screen for Big Tits Zombie

Extras: The first thing that has to be pointed out is that this film is presented in both 3D and 2D. The 3D is probably something you will watch only once, but I imagine you will return the zaniness of the 2D time and time again. Make sure you DO watch them both though, as they do contain different footage in the opening credits. I must also point out the 3D feature isn’t completely in 3D, but instead has an onscreen warning when to put your glasses on, sometimes even a character puts his glasses on as well.

There is a pretty funny Making of on this disc. It may not completely cover the ins and outs of the film making process, but it introduces the 6 main actors, chats with the writer director Takao Nakano and shows some of the behind the scenes footage. It is by NO means a complete ‘special edition’ styled making of, but it is pretty entertaining.

Also presented on this disc is the trailer for Big Tits Zombie, Raging Phoenix, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, Love Exposure and Tokyo Zombie.

Score: ***

WISIA: It’s pretty hard to resist rewatching a film called ‘Big Tits Zombie’.

The zombies have a stripper for lunch

Sharpshooter Triple Feature

Sharpshooter Triple Feature

The Zodiac Killer (1971)

The Sex Killer (1965)

Zero in and Scream (1970)

The cover to the Australian DVD release of The Sharpshooter Triple Feature

Film: You gotta love Something Weird Video! They don’t whitewash their lesser releases…they REVELL in them. These three films, The Zodiac Killer, The Sex Killer and Zero in and Scream, although not all containing ‘sharpshooter’ murderers, are classic examples of exploitation films, but somehow they are still kitschy fun and entertaining, if not just for the nudity, then at least for the acting, or the inappropriate soundtracks or just because they are dumb.

The Zodiac Killer

What’s that on your head? A WIIIIIIIIG

Produced and directed by Tom Hansen (who played Mongoose in The Hellcats), The Zodiac Killer is the tale of a motiveless killer who is terrorising San Francisco, ridiculing the police with letters and phone calls, but who is he…? This film is apparently based on the facts in the case of the ACTUAL Zodiac Killer, and features an introduction from a reporter who was ‘actually threatened by the Zodiac Killer’. This film is worth its weight just for the philosophical discussion about women over the age of 20 and the worst wig ever put on film. This film has no nudity in it but it more than makes up in violence, even if it’s of the red paint variety.

An unfortunate victim of The Zodiac Killer

The Sex Killer

Tommy entertains a young lady

Directed by Barry Mahon, upon who Steve McQueen’s character in the Great Escape was based, The Sex Killer tells the story of Tommy, a lonely, introverted manikin factory worker, who is taunted by his macho workmates and has an obsession with watching women sun-baking topless from the roof of a building using binoculars, but his fascination becomes a dangerous one, as Tommy becomes more obsessed, he turns to violence, murder and necrophilia. Funnily enough, a premise like that would make you think this film is like Maniac, unfortunately this B/W picture is as dull as they come, with some of the most plodding camera work ever seen…but there is a hell of a lot of topless women in it. Amusingly enough, POV shots of sunbathing women through his binoculars change viewpoints without him ever leaving the same spot on the rooftop. There’s also some hilariously bad continuity errors too, like underwear magically appearing under a characters clothes.

Tommy’s unfortunate secret.

Zero in and Scream

A tragic film artefact but the killer lines up for a shot

This film, directed by Lee Frost, who also directed Love Camp 7, is about a lonesome man, whose sense of solitude leads him to commit acts of violence against well heeled amorous couples in Hollywood. Of the three films this seems to be the one that gave the disc the ‘R’ rating. It is more a soft core porno with a murderer thrown in. His lingering looks through the sights of his gun BEFORE he has even cocked it are very funny. One of the funniest endings to a LRSK-themed movie you will ever see.

One of the killer’s victims

Let’s face it, when the makers of these films made them, they weren’t worried about the effects of the Viet Nam War on young minds, or how Kafka or Neitzche influenced modern thought, or any sociological ramifications these films might have, they wanted to make short movies with a lot of nudity and/ or violence in them. The story was only ever secondary to how many nubile young girlies could be butchered and/or whip out their boobs for a bit of male oriented entertainment. Luckily there were many such girls and we can still enjoy them today, although while watching I can’t help but think that most of these girls are probably grandmothers…

There is just so much on this disc it has to be given an average score just for the quantity, as for the quality, well, if exploitation sex films of the sixties and seventies are up your alley, you’ll love it. The film and audio value varies from feature to feature, but all in all you can clearly see and hear everything that is going on, and to be quite honest, the average quality adds to the sleaziness of it. A warning though for fans of the Brazilian or the shaven haven: you will be disappointed. The women in Zero In And Scream have more bush than Mike and Mal Leyland EVER saw. That’s not to say that there isn’t a bit of meat for the ladies either: in ZIAS there’s a fair bit of swimming pool-based penises as well!

Score: ****

The menu screen for the DVD

Extras: Trailers for ‘The Sex Killer’, ‘Zero in and Scream’, ‘The Psycho Lover’,’ Honeymoon of Terror’ and ‘Aroused’.

Gallery of Sick Sixties Sex films with Audio Oddities is a 10 Minute and 40 second montage featuring audio of radio commercials for such films as ‘Wife-Child’ and ‘Poor White Trash’ and others played over images of posters and one-sheets of films such as ‘A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine’ and ‘Orgy of the Golden Nudes’ and others – this is one of those great montage sequences that Something Weird Video is so good at.

Score: **

WISIA: I don’t think I would watch these again, even though I enjoyed them a fair bit. They are in interesting snapshot of the exploitation films of the time.

Motor Psycho (1965) / Good Morning…and Goodbye! (1967)

Motor Psycho (1965) / Good Morning…and Goodbye! (1967)

The cover to the Arrow release of the films

Film: I think comparing Russ Meyer to Walt Disney is a fair one. Both men created an empire by making films aimed at a specific audience, unfortunately, ol’ Russ never got to make himself a theme park based on HIS cinema… I am sure a Tura Satana roller coaster would have been an excuse to go to America alone!! I am sorry, but give me the Wonderful World of Russ Meyer over the Wonderful World of Disney any day! A world where political correctness means not being a dirty Commie, where ‘Double D’ is flat chested, the definition of a city is a petrol station, a strip club and a junkyard in the middle of the desert, fast cars are a sign of machismo and slapping a woman across the face after she has spat at you is classed as foreplay.

We can all only pray that one day the world returns to those old fashioned values. (Before you slam the site, yes, this is all tongue-in-cheek and I’m not serious)

In the meantime, we still have Meyer’s films to remind us that Misogyny isn’t an entrant is the Miss America pageant.

This particular disc has two of Meyer’s masterpieces on show, and they are the rape/ revenge flick Motor Psycho and Good Morning… and Goodnight, which is a tale that is hard to define in a sub-genre, though ‘immorality play’ might be the closest.

They may look like posties, but they are a tough motorcycle gang!

Motor Psycho tells of a three man motorcycle gang… well, I say motorcycle, but they are effectively of Postie’s scooters… who are general miscreants and civil disturbers. Led by War veteran, and total nutjob Brahmin (Steve Oliver) the three set about picking on women wherever they can. They chance upon Gail Maddox (Holle K. Winters) whom they set about harassing, that is until her husband; horse vet Cory (Alex Rocco) turns up and pushed Brahmin to the ground. This gets Brahmin angry and they hang around until Cory leaves the house before setting themselves on Gail.

Cory arrives home from a job only to find that his wife has been assaulted and raped, and sets it on himself to track the gang down himself, after the local Sherriff (E.E. Meyer aka Russ himself) discounts the assault and rape, claiming it’s what women are made for and the she probably brought it upon herself (oh yeah, you read that right).

So Cory sets out to track down the gang, and on the way picks up a sidekick in the form of Ruby Bonner (Haji) whose husband had been murdered by the gang, and she herself had been left for dead. The pair track the gang into some hills in the middle of a desert, and after an encounter with a snake, set about exacting their revenge.

Haji, ready for action!

This film is classic Meyer, and a blast to watch. It’s melodramatic to a T (wait until you see the delivery of the line ‘She was assaulted; criminally assaulted!’ when Cory speaks of his wife’s attack)The characters are all traditional Meyer’s ones; the tough guy, the busty hard chick, the doddering, emasculated ol’ fart… you know the ones… and his usual not so subtle indicators are there too; from Ruby being forced to suck out snake venom (Cory’s cries of ‘Suck it…SUCK IT!’ are hilarious)to when Cory finally gets an opportunity to get his revenge, the dynamite he uses is particularly phallic in its display. This really has all of Meyer’s favourite stuff in it: groovy music, hot babes and macho men… you know, everything, including the ‘kitsching’ sink.

The next feature is Good Morning… and Goodnight! Which I admit I did really enjoy at all except for the typically sexy and lumpy women, Meyer has used to play the female roles. I admit, that it starts perfectly, with Cara Peters running inexplicably naked through the woods in slow motion as a Greek chorus tells what sort of tale we are about to endure… I mean enjoy, and introduces the main characters…

… and then the enjoyment dries up.

This film tells of Burt (Stuart Lancaster) whose wife Angel (Alaina Capri) is dissatisfied with their sexlife, and so goes looking for schlong pretty much well anywhere she can find it, but repeatedly with local tough guy Stone (Patrick Wright). Unfortunately, Stone roots everything he can get his knob into, and starts looking at Burt’s daughter, Angel’s step daughter, Lana (Karen Ciral), who is starting to get sick of her boyfriend, the effeminate Ray (Don Johnson… no, not THAT Don Johnson) constantly checking out her step mother… are you following so far?

The very picture of innocence!

OK: While out  on his property one day, Burt comes (almost literally) across a witch, played by Haji, who using her spells and potions, allows Burt to reclaim his virility, control of his now wayward daughter, and his wife.

Awwww. What a nice ending.

This story is terrible, and unfortunately isn’t made any better by the lack of nudity, which would have been the only saving grace. Sure Motor Psycho doesn’t have any nudity in it, but the story is enough to keep interest.  We do get to see some ladies bottoms in this one, but nothing else, and the story just isn’t engaging enough to allow that to be enough (and honestly the bottoms aren’t  that great). The whole film is just people constantly insulting each other, but not in a Don Rickles/ amusing way and it becomes boring quickly. 

There are themes explored in this film that Meyer did SOOOOO much better in other films, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens immediately springs to mind.

Haji as the witch

As far as watching this disc as a whole is concerned, this is a nice pair of Haji flicks, but really its worth it only for Motor Psycho.

This is a quite uneven representation of Meyer’s films in my book. Motor Psycho is a cool, if not slightly innocent example of a rape/revenge flick, whereas Good Morning… and Goodbye! Is a morality play with no morals… which may be the point, but it feels like a single idea, of witchcraft helping a man regain his virility and control of his life, fleshed out for far too long. Still the women and dialogue is classic Meyer, and that in itself makes for a fun double feature.

Score: ***1/2

The menu of the dvd

Extras: Only trailers present on this disc, but they are trailers for faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Blacksnake!, Mudhoney, Vixen, Wild Gals of the Naked West, Supervixens, Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens, Cherry, Harry and Raquel and Common Law Cabin.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I honestly can’t see myself watching these particular Meyer films again if I felt like watching a Meyer film or two.

Reviewed on the Arrow Video DVD.

Meyer’s films always seem to be set somewhere hot!

Playbirds (1978)

Playbirds (1978)

Film: Mary Millington is best known for being the UK’s best know striptease artist, and, along with Fiona Richmond, was labelled ‘the two hottest sex stars of the seventies. Millington started her career as a glamour model and eventually graduated to sex films and reels. In her life she was contacted pursued by the police, which eventually resulted in her committing suicide at age 33.

(The is a review of Respectable: The Mary Millington Story elsewhere on this very site)

This film, Playbirds, tell of a serial killer who is targeting girls from the men’s magazine Playbirds. The police, Holbourne (Glynn Edwards from Get Carter) and Morgan (Gavin Campbell from On The Buses) investigate the murders, interviewing the magazines owner, Dougan (Alan Lake from Blake’s Seven) before deciding they need a ‘man’ on the inside… you know, putting a female officer in danger by posing as a stripper/ glamour model… standard police procedure.

Speaking of ‘standard police procedure’, the way they decided which WPC should be used in the undercover work is to get a bunch of them to volunteer to strip and show their bodies, the ‘winner’ being an officer named Lucy (Millington), new so she goes undercover to infiltrate the business and try to find the killer… but will she a victim herself?

It’s such a weird film as it really does appear to attempt to be telling some kind of giallo-ish thriller! It’s written by George Evans, who worked on Carry On films and several 70s tv series like Bless This House and the Dick Emery Show, and Willy Roe, also the director, who wrote mainly soft core porn films, including Millington’s Come Play With Me. The combination of TV comedy writer and a porno writer don’t make for a gripping story.

It being 70s soft core though, I expect the story isn’t was the viewer was supposed to be ‘gripping’ – nudge nudge wink wink.

The weird thing about this film is the attempts to be a ‘legitimate’ film, with actors like the aforementioned Edwards, Campbell and Lake, also joined by such well known actors as Dudley Sutton, Alex Mango and Windsor Davies!

It’s little more than a quaint and kitschy curio, but it’s an interesting look at the attempts to legitimise soft core porn as ‘proper’ entertainment. I warn you though, it’s not in the slightest but PC, so it’s not for the easily offended… but I guess the easily offended wouldn’t be watching this sort of thing anyway!

Score: **

Extras: Honestly, I was surprised by how many extra they are on this disc:

Mary Millington’s Striptease Extravaganza is a 45 minute featurette from 1981 celebrating Millington’s life via a striptease competition. It reminds me of Varietease and other strip reels. It’s a quaint, and occasionally awkward when you think these women would all be grans now, look at stripping.

Response (1974) is an 8mm ‘short’ of the type that were sold in sex shops in the 70s. Soundless (because it’s a reel) soft-porn shenanigans.

Still gallery featuring the artwork and media marketing for the film.

Lastly, 4 trailers for other ‘adult’ films: Cool It Carol, Intimate Games, Spaced Out and Secrets of Sex.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I don’t think I would watch it again, except to show someone else.

Death of Me (2020)

Death of Me (2020)

Film: I’d like to say I’m a fan of Darren Lynn Bousman, but I just can’t. For me, his output has been massively hit or miss for me. I loved his additions to the Saw saga, and the Mother’s Day remake (was it REALLY a remake? I’m not sure), but films like St. Agatha completely missed the mark.

There’s no doubt he has a great visual eye and he gets good performances from his actors, but I think occasionally the stories are duds, and that reflects on him.

This film, Death of Me sits smack bang in the middle of the two extremes.

Death of Me tells the story of Christine (Maggie Q) and her husband, travel writer Neil (Luke Hemsworth… how many Hemsworths are there?!? There seems to be more than the Baldwins and Daddos combined) are staying at a small AirBnB on a remote island in Thailand when something strange happens.

The film opens with our couple waking up in their room which has been destroyed. There is mud everywhere and they are both filthy. They do some investigation and find a two hour video on the memory card, which shows them both doing shots in a small bar, before finding themselves outside the AirBnB, where Neil rapes Christine, strangles her, and then remorsefully buries her right there and then.

If he killed her though, how is she still alive? Christine seems to be getting strangely sicker too, with her vomiting up grass and dirt initially, followed by a small snake, and the local doctor, suggested to them by the owner of the AirBnB, Samantha (Alex Esso, from Starry Eyes and Doctor Sleep), tells her that there is nothing wrong.

They continue their investigations until Neil suddenly goes missing after Christine seemingly witnessed him committing suicide on a nearby dock, and then it starts to get REALLY weird… but how is it all tied into the weird necklace, and the threat of an incoming typhoon?

Easily the two best things about this film are the location, which was filmed in Thailand and looks so lush and fresh that it’s almost unbearable, and the casting of Maggie Q, an actor I have adored since I saw her in Naked Weapon and followed her career through various Die Hards and Mission Impossibles.

Another point on the location: Bousman does a fantastic job at mixed the wide open spaces and beautiful landscapes, with some really claustrophobic interiors that make for an occasional effectively creepy scene.

Now the problems: the story is somewhat bland. It’s clearly influenced by films like The Wicker Man (even to the point one of the characters even references it) with its ‘strangers in a strange land/ odd locals’ theme but it just doesn’t resonate, and the Carrie styled ending is a little bit daft too. Hemsworth probably wasn’t the greatest companion for Q either; she is far to strong an actor and he is somewhat pedestrian.

It’s a shame. This film could have possibly been great, but it just flapped around, not really doing anything extraordinary.

Score: *1/2

Extras: Nothing. Sorry.

Score: 0

WISIA: No.

Catwoman (2004)

Catwoman (2004)

Film: I have been a comic fan for well over 35 years, and I have to admit that whenever I hear that one of my favourite characters is coming out in a cinematic form, I admit to be fairly excited by the prospect… OK, more than a little excited: maybe, just maybe, on occasion a little bit of wee does leak out.

More often than not that excitement turns to trepidation as I hear of choices made in the casting department, but after being proven wrong with my doubts about Michael Keaton being able to perform a decent Batman, I concede that some ludicrous decisions can actually work. The argument against that, of course, is Daredevil, two Hulk films, Superman Returns and this film, Catwoman.

Catwoman is a character I have loved since I first read of her in a Batman comic, and as her character evolved over the years from a cat-burgling she-foil for the Dark Knight into a love-interest female Robin Hood of Gotham City I always had hopes of seeing her on the big screen, outside of a Bat-film and on her own, so imagine my excitement when this film was originally announced in 1995 to be written by Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters, as a vehicle for Michelle Pfeiffer after her portrayal of the character in Batman Returns as a psychologically damaged ex-shrinking violet turned super-villain/ spirit of vengeance.

Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in Hollywood, films are put on back-burners and cast and crew are replaced, and scripts are re-written, in this case apparently 14 times (which is a GIANT red flag against quality!). For a film that could have had a real pro-woman stance, the story descended into a story where the main character wanted pretty things, and became involved in a fight against an evil cosmetics company.

This version of Catwoman tells the tale of advertising artist Patience Phillips (Halle Berry), a downtrodden wallflower who works for cosmetic magnate George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) and his wife Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone). After being told her work is not good enough by George, Phillips redoes some artwork in record time and delivers it to him at one of his factories, only to discover their new product Beau-line has disastrous side-effects. Hedare orders his flunkies to kill Phillips and she is flushed out of a sewer pipe, and drowns, only to be brought back to life by the CPR administered by a bunch of cats, led by a cat previously rescued by her, and some magical cat hoodoo.

She returns from deaths as a flesh eating cat zombie… no, sorry, she returns from death with all the powers of the cat: can always land on her feet, can see in the dark, can wield a bullwhip (hang on, cats can’t do that!!) and is so flexible she can lick herself in places normally only others can reach.

Caution: that last idea tragically did not make it into the film.

What she does do though is dress is the sluttiest leather clothes she can find and both foils crimes and commits them at the same time, and eventually is told by a mysterious cat lady, Ophelia (Francis Conroy) that she is the latest in a long line of vengeful spirits that give women super powers (an idea stolen directly from the Crow, along with some of the dialogue). Eventually Catwoman decides to use her powers to defeat the Hedares and stop their evil plans to copy the Joker’s threat from 1989’s Batman film.

This FILM HAS Absolutely NO saving graces. Bad acting, atrocious CGI, over-glossy production design, and a story SO clichéd and… well, crap that I feel that the cavalcade of writers may not have been responsible for it at all, and instead it was actually written by some kind of super-computer programmed to write the worst film ever! I imagine getting caught by your Mum polishing your dolphin to Playstation 1 graphics of Lara Croft would be LESS embarrassing that being caught watching this pile of steaming cat turd.

Now I guess I should clarify some of the comments made in the previous paragraph.

Academy Award winner Berry truly embarrassed herself, and a good percentage of womankind by appearing in this: the quality of her acting in this is nothing short of dull. I am sure that forever more, comics fans who have seen this film will no longer fantasize about her multi-million dollar mams, instead, the dream of slapping her face has replaced it. Singling her out though is unfair though: Bratt was as flaccid as ever, Stone coated her villainy with an air of boredom and the supercool Wilson was as interesting as a high school science teacher. The only actor in this who truly acted to her abilities was Alex Borstein, who other than her portrayal of Lois Griffin in Family Guy is an affront to both words in the term ‘acting profession’.

The CGI was a huge problem here as well. It is a shame that someone like me, who is a proponent of this cinematic artform, can have the barely good enough to be a console game cut-scene images in this film as an argument against his enjoyment high standards of effects. I certainly hope the team responsible didn’t high five each other upon presentation to the director, as to approve this he must have had no standards, or no budget. The surprising thing about either of those options is that Pitof is normally a Special effects supervisor and has works on such films as Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children.

The production design deserves a huge smack in the face as well. Straight up, the worst costume EVER for the character of Catwoman, and considering in the comics at one point she wore a scaly green outfit, that is saying something. Sure it showed off Berry’s great body, but it also showed what a slut looks like at the end of a big night of B and D. The cityscape was lackluster as well, after the amazing designs used in Tim Burton’s Batman films of Gotham City, designed by Anton Furst these were just uninteresting, standard city skylines.

This film received 7 nominations for Razzies, which are the anti Academy Award, and won 4 on them, which, to her credit, Berry went to receive… it seems to me, upon reflection, she was aware of the travesty in which she had taken part.

There is NO doubt that the image is a good one, and is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, but don’t’ don’t imagine anyone will ever test their AV equipment by throwing on a Catwoman DVD! Again, this disc has a really great presentation here in Dolby Digital 5.1 but you will never use it as a standard by which to set other discs.

If I were to give this movie a score at all it would be just for the quality of the disc, but the film is SO terrible, I can’t bring myself to even give it a single star.

Score: 0

Extras: The Many Face of Catwoman is an excellent, if brief, look at all the actresses who have played the character, hosted, as it should be, by Ertha Kitt, and with comments from various comic creators, writers and co-stars (the immortal Adam West) about the history of the feline felon. I have to say my favourite inadvertently funny part of this piece is Halle Berry’s whip trailer talking about her impressive ‘horizontal crack’. OooooKay….

Behind the Scenes Documentary is a traditional BTS piece that briefly discusses the making of the film, with a lot of clips from the film. AT best, it is perfunctory.

The deleted scenes were thankfully, deleted, as it shortened a film that already suffers with far too much padding. I would like to especially point out what absolute GASH the alternate ending is, as well.

There is also a theatrical trailer, and some DVD-rom stuff which involves the installation of something called Interactual Player 2.0 which I am not prepared to litter my laptop’s memory with, so I did not review.

Score: ***

WISIA: Why would one choose to abuse themselves in this way more than once?

An Adventure in Space and Time (2013)

An Adventure in Space and Time (2013)

Film: Basically, Doctor Who is a third parent of mine. I don’t mean my mum was once an intern in the 60s at the BBC, but instead, he took care of me by being my after school babysitter and also taught me a general sense of right and wrong when I watched him on the ABC as a kid.

My first experience with Doctor Who though wasn’t the TV series but instead the books, when my mum bought me a copy of the novelisation of Death to the Daleks in the 70s and I was immediately hooked. When I then found out it was a TV series on ABC I became immediately enamoured with it. Since then it has always been a part of my life, and I have a sad and tragic collection that includes DVDs, comics, magazines, books, toys, t shirts… Basically everything.

Having read so much about it though I do have a pretty good foundation in knowing when and where the show came from, but imagine my excitement when I discovered that a TV drama was being made of the genesis of my favourite TV show, written by a writer whose work I admire, being League of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss, directed by award winning director Terry McDonough (Wire in the Blood) and starring several actors I like, including Brian Cox (Manhunter), David Bradley (the Harry Potter films)and Jessica Raine (The Woman in Black).

An Adventure in Space and Time is based in the early 60s and tells of then Head of Drama Sydney Newman (Cox) coming up with an idea for a TV show for children called ‘Doctor Who’. He approaches his former production assistant Verity Lanbert (Raine) to be head producer and make the show along with director Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), but can a Jewish girl and an Indian man create a show when it appears they may have been set up for failure by the old guard of the BBC?

You better believe it!

They employ well known actor Bill Hartnell (Bradley) to play the Doctor and we follow the next three years of production, obviously told in a quite abbreviated matter and look at the key elements of the series’ life in those early days if television, and how Doctor Who went from being something that the BBC didn’t have faith in, to a million viewer show.

With the current huge fan base for Doctor Who, this really was the best way to create a historical document about the origin of the show. Sure, there could have been factual documentary made, but essentially, a lot of the people involved have passed and for the rest it would have been little more than a talking head doco that may not have held too many people’s interest except for die hard fans, like your truly.

Having a drama though, written by post millennium who writer Gatiss, and starring a Harry Potter series favourite was definitely to best way to go to get the younger fans involved. The script is fun and the actors are charismatic enough to make what could be a stodgy story about the old Beeb irreverent and entertaining. I must admit to having somewhat of a crush on Jessica Raine now as well.

The story moves along at a cracking pace and a lot is fit into the time, but it never feels rushed. The departures of Hussein and Lambert seem to happen quite suddenly,  though their absence, along with some of the initial costars does lead to Hartnell’s departure as well.

The story is quite well written as well in the sense that it is a show about a TV series, and yet starts as a story about Lambert yet ends as a tale about Hartnell, without taking a breath. The tale ends with a round up of what each character went on to do with their careers.

A special mention must go to the soundtrack by Edmund Butt (Ed Butt… Brilliant: he should have been a WWE wrestler). It is a wonderful combination of cinematic whimsy with a few winks to Doctor Who, and really suits the production magnificently.

Eagle eyed fans should also keep a look out as there may be an old cast member or two turning up here and there.

I really only have two real criticisms of this production. The first has to do with opportunistic, schmaltzy fan service. In a scene where Hartnell ponders his and the show’s future, we are presented with a phantom of the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith. The populous piece of claptrap exists to make sure the current fans get a look at their Doctor, but to this old fan, it seems to be a disservice to all the other people who have played the part of the Doctor. Am I being over sensitive? Possibly, but it essentially served no other purpose.

The second criticism involves a catastrophic bit of miscasting. Reece Shearsmith is put forward to play a young Patrick Troughton, Hartnell’s replacement of the role of the Doctor. He simply looks terrible in his extraordinarily bad wig, and I feel like he only exists in the role as a favour to Gatiss, the pair of them being ex League of Gentlemen cast mates. Don’t get me wrong, I like Shearsmith, and the role is only brief, but it is like fingernails down a blackboard as he plays it like a pantomime caricature which doesn’t sit well within the well executed acting by the rest of the cast.

The An Adventure is Space and Time DVD looks and sounds great, presented in 16:9 with a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack.

All in all though, and even taking those criticisms into account, this is a thoroughly enjoyable drama about an important part of my life, that is, my adoration a silly science fiction children’s television program, and also is an interesting look at TV production in the 60s, told in an amusing and affectionate manner.

Score: ****

Extras: A great deal of extras for the Who fan here as well:

William Hartnell: the Original looks at William Hartnell’s career with interviews of former cast and crew mates, others Doctors, family members and directors.  It is an affectionate look at his life, and includes some wonderful footage of him in an interview from the 60s.

The Making of an Adventure is a good old fashioned making of, though it is hosted by actor Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan, the original Doctor’s granddaughter. It is a combination of a documentary about the original series, and a making of this production.

Reconstructions is a series of recreations of scenes from the original series. They are really clever and include all the faults, dialogue mistakes and miscues of the originals, and also act as deleted scenes (though there are a few of those as well). They include Scenes from An Unearthly Child, Regenerations, Farewell to Susan and Festive Greeting.

The Title Sequences compares the actual original title sequence from Who with the replica titles from this production.

There are also two deleted scenes: the The Radiophonic Workshop and Verity ‘s Leaving Party.

A special mention must also go to the menus and the accompanying leaflet. The artwork on the cover is a recreation of the first Doctor Who Annual. The leaflet itself contains photos from the production, a drawing if William Hartnell as the Doctor and a few Daleks, and an introduction from writer Mark Gatiss.

Score: ****

WISIA: As a dedicated Who nut I found this extraordinary, though a non Who fan may not be as impressed, I doubt though they could not enjoy the production in itself, as it is well written and a lot of fun. Having said that, it may not have the water to regularly rewatch!

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.