Shaun of the Dead (2004)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: In this humble reviewer’s opinion, the best horror movies are the one where people like you and me are put into extraordinary situations. Night of the Living Dead stands out as an example of this; a group of faceless no-ones, drawn together to fight a common evil. Luckily for those folks they had the convenience of finding a domicile that had a firearm in it, but look around your own house, what do you have to fight back the hordes of the undead…a tennis racket? A cricket bat? A baseball bat? I imagine that the amount of houses that have NO guns would outweigh those that do, so to react against this sort of thing we would use whatever is handy…this is the world of Shaun of the Dead.

Simon Pegg as Shaun and Nick Frost as Ed

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is just like you or I, with all the same problems. His job sucks, his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) has left him due to his flagrant disregard for their relationship, and his obsession with the local pub ‘The Winchester’, and he forgets to call his Mum (Penelope Wilton) regularly, which bring about much agro from his step-father (Bill Nighy) …general details of life that can lead a man to drink until he cannot feel his legs anymore, but Shaun’s problems are getting worse. The dead are rising, with a ravenous lust for human flesh. Shaun has to make a plan so that he can keep himself and his loved ones safe. Along with his best pal, Ed (Nick Frost), he comes up with a plan that will keep Liz, her disapproving flat mates Dianne (Lucy Davis) and David (Dylan Moran), and his mother and step father safe and well until the whole problem blows over…that is, as long as nothing untoward happens…

The walk to the pub is more difficult than normal.

Shaun of the Dead runs the gamut of gruesome gore and clever comedy…so much so you may find your head spinning. There are so many references to other zombie films that you probably won’t pick up on all of them the first time you watch it, like the Italian restaurant named Fulci’s, the electronics store called Foree’s, and the assistant manager named Ash. Seeing as how the creators and many of the other cast are from the Pegg/ Wright creation, Spaced, there are many subtle tips of the hat to that show as well, not to mention a selection of English comedy and music favourites (look out for Little Britain’s Matt Lucas, The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman, League of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith and Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland to name a few). As for the zombies themselves, well, there are some really freakish ideas, like a wheelchair bound zombie…and I shall never look at twins the same way again. Also interesting is the way that Pegg and Wright have compared our mortal existences to those of the hordes of zombies. Are we really any different?

Score: *****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release

Extras: The commentary is by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Half trivia track, half informative and half stand up comedy (hang on, is that 3 halves? Oh well) this track is really one of the best commentaries I have ever heard. It is fun and entertaining, and a great way to get help to spot all the ‘horror asides’.

The special features are divided into a few sections:

Missing Bits contains:

Extended Bits is a selection of scenes from the movie that were trimmed for various reasons. This extra can be played with or without the commentary by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.

Outtakes, surprisingly, are a selection of amusing outtakes. One warning though, within these outtakes contain the worst Beatles impressions you will ever hear.

The Man Who Would Be Shaun shows Nick Frost and Simon Pegg fooling around with different accents in a particular scene.

Funky Pete which shows the ‘clean’ version of a scene for the airplane version where all the ‘F’ words are changed to the word ‘funk’…do you funking well understand what I funking well mean…you mother funker?

Plot Holes contains 3 sections: What happened to Shaun when he ran off, What happened to Dianne When She Left the Winchester and How Did Ed get from the Cellar to the Shed. These sections are done as comic strips, with the tale told by the respective characters, and fill in the plot holes quite suitably and amusingly.

Raw Meat contains:

Peg’s, Davis’ and Cornish’s Video Diaries is a selection of cute behind the scenes stuff done by, well, the people whose names each short is named after. It seems to be more of a look at how mundane filmmaking is. Cornish’s harrowing trip to his day as a zombie extra is both funny and frustration.

Casting Tapes is some footage of the casting process.

Edgar and Simon’s Flip Chart which is a run through of the film by the writer done in September 2001 using a flip book (often used by teachers or in business meetings), and is a quite amusing run through of the movie, before it was even filmed.

SFX Comparison is just that. A few scenes from the movie with the special effects removed, so you can see what had to be done to get some of the effects.

Make Up Tests shows close up views of some of the zombies from the movie, with and without the ‘eye’ effects put in, and a few ‘zombie walk’ tests.

EPK Featurette discusses the origins of the movie and what the lead actors and the director thought about their roles within the movie, and also whether they are making a horror, or a comedy, or something new altogether. It is a bit of a fluff piece, but kept interesting by the personalities of the cast and crew.

TV bits contains:

Is a bunch of ‘in the world of Shaun of the Dead’ TV spots, featuring an interview with Chris Martin from Coldplay about their charity ‘Zombaid’, a game show for zombies (featuring the ‘Gonk’ piece of music from Dawn of the Dead), some bits with Tv\V presenter Trisha and a News reader recalling ‘Z Day’; the day the dead came back alive.

Zombie Gallery contains:

Photo Gallery is a series of behind the scenes photos taken of the cast and crew at rehearsals.

2000AD Strip a comic stripped based on part of the film, taken from the English sci fi comic 2000AD.

Poster Designs, which is a series of poster ideas for the film.

Trails of the Dead contains various trailers for Shaun of the Dead, including the teaser trailer from Fright Fest 2003.

Finally, in this exhaustive and thorough pile of extras, is a storyboard feature that allows you to, during the film, hit enter on your remote whenever a pair of zombie eyes pop up, to see the storyboard for that section.

Score: *****

WISIA: Yes. It’s easily the best part of the Cornetto Trilogy and is just so much fun.

It’s a zombie movie: not everyone survives!

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release.

Paganini Horror (1989)

Paganini Horror (1989)

The cover of the 88 Films release on Bluray of Paganini Horror

Film: It’s funny how no matter how well versed you think you are in a genre, sometimes a film may just slip through your fingers.

Honestly, before the release of this soundtrack on vinyl I had never heard of this film, and I like to think of myself as a fan of writer/ director Luigi Cozzi as well, consider my affection for Contamination, The Black Cat, Starcrash and the documentary Dario Argento: Master of Horror.

(On a side note: it is a mission of mine to one day visit his horror store in Rome, Profundo Rosso)

Kate (Jasmine Maimone) sings an awful rip of of a Bon Jovi song

Kate (Jasmine Maimone) is used to writer hit songs, but has hit a dry spell that she can’t seem to come out of, and it’s suggested to her that perhaps she find someone to write her a new hit song.

Her drummer, Daniel (Pascal Persiano) makes a deal with a Mr. Pickett (Donald Pleasance, but dubbed by someone else which makes for a decidedly unsettling performance) to get a piece of unpublished music by Nicolo Paganini, the 19th century violinist who was said to have made a deal with the devil!

They decide to make an elaborate music clip in an old house owned by Sylvia Hackett (Daria Niccolodi), directed by a horror movie director, Mark Singer (Pietro Genuardi). The band are excited by the prospect of doing a Michael Jackson/ Thriller-styled clip, but very quickly things go awry.

Maimone, Niccolodi and Pleasance – triple threat

Daniel and Rita (Luanda Ravegnini) go missing and bizarre supernatural things start happening, but is it some kind of curse from the Paganini music, or is the old house somehow involved, and what does this all have to do with the murder that is committed by a young girl upon her mother that we witnessed in the prologue?

This whole thing looks like a weird, 90 minute film clip for a song like Guns ‘n’ Roses November Rain, and being totally honest, it’s so boring it took me several goes to get through it. If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew Pleasance and Niccolodi appeared again towards the end, I probably would not have finished it at all, and this review wouldn’t exist.

I do normally like Cozzi’s film no matter how low the budget is, but this is just awful. The only reason to own this disc is for the excellent commentary by Troy Howarth.

Avoid.

Score: *

Paganini Horror’s Bluray menu screen

Extras: There’s some very interesting extras on this disc:

Commentary by Troy Hogarth, the writer of three volumes of So Deadly, So Perverse, a book series about the history of giallo films, so it makes him the perfect person to do a commentary about this film, and it’s a stunningly informative piece.

Bloody Violin: Luigi Cozzi on Paganini Horror sees the writer/ director reminisce about the origins of the film, and the journey to completing the production. He also discusses where his film sits in the history of gialli and Italian cinema.

Interview with Pietro Genuardi is a look back with the actor, over his career and his performance as Mark Singer in this film. Some interesting anecdotes about making films in the late 80s in Italy.

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: Nope. I regret watching it once.

The spirit of Paganini himself haunts the grounds

This movie was reviewed using the 88 Films Bluray release.

Cold Eyes of Fear (1971)

Cold Eyes of Fear aka Gli Occhi Freddi Della Paura (1971)

The cover to the Black House release of Cold Eyes of Fear

Film: Sometimes, if you have an extensive movie collection, a movie may just seem to appear like some kind of Pokémon. Recently, I’ve been cleaning up my various collections of movies, records, comics, magazines etc and in the course of that have discovered a whole pile of movies that I had either forgotten I owned, or couldn’t remember how they became a part of my collection.

This film, Cold Eyes of Fear, is directed by Enzo G. Castellari, the man who gave us films like the original version of The Inglorious Bastards, and one of my favourite VHS to hire as a kid, 1990: The Bronx Warriors. This film was written by Castellari, along with Leo Anchóriz, and Tito Carpi.

Peter (Gianni Garko) makes a move on Anna (Giovanna Ralli)

Cold Eyes of Fear tells of solicitor Peter Bedell (Gianni Garko) who leans quite heavily into the sleazier parts of town, much to his uncle’s (Fernando Rey), who is a judge, despair. On the night we start our tale, Peter meets a young woman, Anna (Giovanna Ralli) at a Grand Guignol club and takes her home.

Unfortunately for the couple, when they get back to Peter’s house, they find themselves held prisoner by Quill (Julián Mateos), a crook who has invaded their house in a hope to score some money from a safe he has been assured is in the house by an accomplice.

There is some back and forth going on until the accomplice, Arthur Welt (Frank Wolff) turns up and all of the sudden the game gets more involved as we find that perhaps Welt’s motivation is greater than money…

Welt (Frank Wolff) considers making a move on Peter… a violent move!

I was quite surprised by this film. The opening scene is a classic bait-and-switch me is the sauciest the film gets. The main part of the film, the home invasion, is overlong, but is just intriguing enough that it kept me watching.

Interestingly it is an extraordinarily small script with minimal that without some of the fluff (like the aforementioned opening scene) I could almost believe that this is a stage play adapted to the screen, like something like The Bad Seed was. Thankfully, Castellari keeps the whole thing interesting with some claustrophobic filming and some over the top performances that somehow make the spaces even smaller.

One this that stood out for me, and this is going to seem strange, but Garko’s hair was almost a character unto itself. The more he was roughed up, the more bizarre the mop on top of his became. It’s quite a special thing.

The main criticism of the film is it just goes on for FAR to long. It honestly could have been a really tight story told in 45 minutes, but cinema cannot be that short. It does entertain for the most part though.

Score: ***

The menu screen of the Black House release

Extras: There is trailers for five Jean Rollin films on this disc, for Fascination, Lips of Blood, The Iron Rose, The Nude Vampire and The Shiver of the Vampire.

Score: **

WISIA: I can see myself watching this again, but not for a while.

Peter’s very serious uncle (Fernando Rey)

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

The slipcase to the Cinema Cult release of Hatchet for the Honeymoon

Film: I have a feeling that I don’t always give enough tribute to the ‘cult’ and horror’ part of my websites tagline, but sometimes it’s hard seeing as how superhero movies come under ‘sci-fi’ or ‘action’ (technically) and as a tiny website drowning in a sea of other bigger, and probably better websites, sometimes having ‘Batman’ or ‘Iron Man’ rather than ‘Dario Argento’ or ‘Mario Bava’ in your tags give you a higher SEO. That may sound a little rude, but even though I do enjoy writing movies, seeing that people are reading them is nice too!

Not today though, my horror loving friends! Today I’m overcoming my need for mainstream validation and it’s all about the aforementioned Mario Bava; easily one of the most important filmmakers of the twentieth century! Bava comes from a family of film experts, his father being Eugenio Bava, a cinematographer from the early days of cinema, and even though Mario trained as a painter, he eventually followed his father’s footsteps but his artistic flair is apparent in almost every film he made.

Stephen Forsyth as the tortured psychopath John Harrington

Seriously, I’m not going to bang on about Bava and his amazing films, but I will say if you DON’T know who he is, fix that immediately by watching things like Black Sabbath, Black Sunday, Blood and Black Lace and one of the best comic-based movies ever made, Danger: Diabolik!

Unfortunately, and at a risk of burying the lead, which is another way of saying ‘SPOILER ALERT’, this film isn’t in that category of ‘Bava’s you must see’.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon tells of John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth), a handsome man who suffers from an intense childhood trauma that he simply can’t remember, but he has discovered that every time he kills a bride, he gets closer to unveiling that which his mind has hidden.

Unfortunately, our dear killer has access to lots of beautiful young women, as he has inherited his mother’s bridal fashion house, which is predominantly kept afloat by the money from his wife, Mildred (Laura Betti), whom he wishes to divorce, but she flatly refuses, instead torturing him with her presence.

Dagmar Lassander as Harrington’s wife, Helen.

She tells him that she is going away for a week, but this is simply a ruse by her to catch him in an infidelity but he is so frustrated by her presence that he kills her and buries her in the garden. Everyone else maintains that they continue to see her about the grounds, which seems to lead John deeper into his madness, and an attempt at yet another murder…

It’s a weird bird, this film. Posing as a giallo but it’s fails to do so as it completely ignores the idea that we, the viewer, are to ‘help’ with the investigation, and we are only to ever see the murders from the killers point of view. Also, the inclusion of the subplot about the wife, which is totally unnecessary as it overcomplicates proceedings and makes the film’s flow choke on several occasions. This film would have been far better with just the idea of the woman-hating murderer having access to so many young women, which is a far scarier idea.

It is, however, beautifully shot and is worth looking at for Bava’s skill behind the camera, but as I stated earlier, there are better films of his to see that.

Score: **1/2

The menu screen for Hatchet for the Honeymoon

Extras: Unfortunately there is just trailers for other films that were released under the ‘Cinema Cult’ label, like the trailer for this film, Masters of the Universe, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Electra Glide in Blue, Vanishing Point and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. It’s doesn’t seem like much, and it’s literally just adverts for other products under this label, but I must admit I took a great deal of joy in watching these trailers!

Score: ***

WISIA: No. it’s not REALLY worth the first watch as there are better choices. Want to watch a giallo? Watch Bay of Blood or Tenebrae or Deep Red. Want to watch a film about a madman who kills women? Well, Psycho or Deranged or either versions of Maniac are far better choices.

This film was reviewed with the Australian Cinema Cult edition Bluray.

Stare into the eyes of one of the victims.

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.

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.