Wednesday, March 28, 2012

GIVEAWAY CONTEST - Win the Corman's World documentary on Blu-Ray



That's right folks.  Starmummy here from B Movies and Beyond has a copy of Anchor Bay's brand new Corman's World documentary (just released today!) on Blu Ray to give away to one lucky reader.  All you have to do is comment on this post telling me what your favorite Roger Corman film is and why.  Winner will be announced one week from today.

Good luck!

BTW - my favorite Corman film is Battle Beyond the Stars.  If you want to know why - read my review HERE 

Monday, March 12, 2012

California Split (1974, Robert Altman)


There's just something fascinating about films that deal with gambling.  Usually you never know what's going to happen, but I always expect the person to lose, thus providing the audience with the message that gambling is bad.  California Split puts a nice spin on gambling films, mixing together comedy, drama and action.  I stumbled across this movie on crackle.com, which I later found out was the original theatrical version (the DVD has a few minutes cut due to music copyright issues).

California Split stars George Segal as Bill Denny, a magazine writer who likes to gamble.  He meets Charlie Waters (Elliott Gould), a gambling addict and the two get on quite well.  Pretty soon Bill is skipping work and staying out late gambling with Charlie as his life starts falling apart around him.  The two decide to put all their money together for a high stakes poker game, which Bill plans to be his final game.

Being the gambling film fan that I am, California Split is a dream come true.  This movie has horse racing, poker tournaments, roulette, craps and any other type of gambling sport you can think of, but there's more to the film.  Much more.  Robert Altman crafts a very realistic and funny portrayal of how desperate gamblers can be.  Segal and Gould are amazing as the two protagonists and the supporting cast (featuring Jeff Goldblum and Ann Prentiss) help the film too.  My favorite scenes are those filmed in the Tijuana casino, which display a fantastic 70's country theme.  Of all the gambling films I have seen, California Split just may be the best...or at least its probably my favorite.

RATING:  9/10

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Devil's Men (1976, Kostas Karagiannis) / Terror (1978, Norman J. Warren)





New from Scorpion Releasing's Katarina's Nightmare Theater line is a double bill featuring two obscure 70s horror films - Devil's Men (aka Land of the Minotaur) and Terror.  Though I had heard of Land of the Minotaur (and thought it was a giant creature movie a la Godzilla), I had never seen either film before.  Oddly paired considering the films seem to have little in common, there is definitely that old "you never know what you're gonna get" feeling of seeing a drive in double feature, which also appeals to me.

Devil's Men stars Donald Pleasence as a priest who is investigating the disappearances of some archeology students and calls upon his private detective friend Milo (Costa Skouras) for help.  They believe that the castle owned by Baron Corofax (Peter Cushing) is where the students have disappeared to and must find a way inside, despite the evil that may be lurking in the castle.

Terror stars John Nolan as James Garrick, a film director who has just finished up a film about a convicted witch from the 1600's which happens to be based on one of his ancestors.  After showing the film to his cast and crew, weird things start happening and they start dying one by one.  Is it his family's curse or is someone else behind the mysterious deaths?

Though I wouldn't consider either film a classic, Devil's Men and Terror are both entertaining.  Neither of the films are very scary or even totally coherent, but they do have some factors working in their favor.  Devil's Men is saved by two horror legends, Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing.  Without them the film would probably be rightfully forgotten but they add enough charisma and presence to make the whole film come together.  A few nice deaths, some satan (or minotaur) worshipping scenes and lots of dark settings help this one along as well.  The electronic score by ambient god Brian Eno and end title song sung by Paul Williams (Phantom of the Paradise), two of my favorites, are just two more reasons for me not to hate this film. Terror, obviously influenced by Dario Argento, benefits by a nice whodunnit story and a professional cast (none of whom I actually know who they are).  There are some good deaths and lots of interesting lighting, again seemingly pilfered from Argento.  This double feature comes together on a single disc and features intros by horror host Katarina Leigh Waters and several trailers from other Katarina's Nightmare Theater titles.

RATING:

DEVIL'S MEN:  6/10

TERROR:  6/10

Revenge (1971, Sidney Hayers)


Revenge (also known as the clumsily titled Inn of the Frightened People) is a British suspense thriller just released on DVD by Scorpion Releasing's Katarina's Nightmare Theater line.  I had never heard of this film before but the plot of revenge and kidnapping in a small English town definitely sounded interesting. 

Jim Radford (James Booth) is mourning his young daughter, who was recently raped and killed.  Along with his friend Harry (Ray Barrett), whose daughter had the same fate, Jim decides to go after the man he believes is responsible.  After kidnapping and almost killing the suspect, the duo, along with Jim's wife (Joan Collins) and son, tie him up and leave him in the cellar of Jim's pub.  They must decide what to do with the killer, especially after they are unsure they even have the right man.

Revenge was a nice little caper with several unexpected twists and turns.  The cast are all first rate and the story was well written and executed.  There were some nice fight and torture scenes and concerning the subject matter, I was shocked that the film was only rated PG.  Revenge comes with an intro with horror host Katarina Leigh Waters and some trailers for other DVDs in the Katarina's Nightmare Theater series.

RATING:  8/10

Dinosaur Jr. - Bug Live at the 9:30 Club: In the Hands of the Fans (2012, MVD)

 

Dinosaur Jr.  Sigh.  I still remember when their video for Feel the Pain was on constant rotation on MTV.  I liked them but had only heard a few songs.  Then came Christmas morning, it was either '96 or '97 that I got a copy of their second album You're Living All Over Me.  Mind Blown!  The day after Christmas I went to the Newbury Comics store in Shrewsbury, MA and bought their first self titled album, their third album Bug and an album by Dinosaur Jr's bass player Lou Barlow's band Sentridoh.  I then went to a flea market in Westboro, MA and while listening to Bug on my portable CD player and thinking how great it was.  Now, 15 or so years later and I am revisiting Bug again with this new DVD, from MVD.

Dinosaur Jr. - Bug Live at the 9:30 Club features the three original members (J. Mascis, Lou Barlow, Murph) playing the entire Bug album live from start to finish.   The performance was captured by 6 fans who won an online contest and who also got to meet and interview the band.  This disc is part of the In the Hands of the Fans series, which also features a disc by Iggy and Stooges performing their Raw Power album (review HERE ).

When I heard Dinosaur Jr's classic lineup was getting back together roughly 5 years ago I was stoked.  They have since released two new studio albums and have toured several times.  This disc is the perfect document for a fan who never saw them the first time around since they sound pretty much exactly the same as they did on record 25 years ago.  My only gripe with the performance was that they had one of the fans come up and sing the song 'Don't', which Lou Barlow originally sang (he said he blew out his voice singing it the first night of the tour).  Other than that though, the performance (which also included some songs from other albums added in) was perfect.  Also included on this great DVD are interviews with the band by the 6 contest winners, an on stage interview with the band by Henry Rollins, Henry Rollins on the history of the 9:30 club, interview with J Mascis and director Dave Markey and two bonus live songs.  This is simply a dream come true for a Dinosaur Jr. fan and even your typical concert film fan should enjoy it.

RATING:  9/10

Buy the DVD or the Blu Ray directly from MVD