Friday, July 31, 2015

Zombies: The Beginning (2007, Vincent Dawn)

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"Haha! You mean Zombies? Like George Romero?"

Recently released from Intervision Pictures Corp./Severin Films is a film that I was initially hesitant about watching. Why, you ask? Well I am a lover of Italian horror cinema, but my knowledge of anything post 1980's is very limited. Plus, Bruno Mattei's film career is definitely spotty and though I've grown to love many of his films, I just wasn't sure what to expect here. But I really am thankful that I took the plunge.

Zombies: The Beginning (with its ripoff of Fulci's Gates of Hell cover art) begins with a traumatized woman found afloat in the water. The woman suffers from nightmares about the living dead, which she claims to have killed her colleagues and is then fired from her job due to these crazy stories. She then becomes a Buddhist (?) but is brought back to the island by the Tyler Corporation, who have a sneaking suspicion that a "sample" (aka Zombie) that they sent there has...um...caused some problems. The girl travels with a group of soldiers to the island to see the prognosis. Just a hint...it's not good.

Ok so what I may have missed from my fuzzy, incoherent synopsis (for this fuzzy, incoherent film) is that this film is basically Aliens, with zombies instead of Aliens. Ok, not basically. It IS Aliens. The funny thing is that Bruno Mattei (billed here under his usual moniker Vincent Dawn) already did an Alien ripoff in 1989 called Shocking Dark. But that one included elements of The Terminator, instead of zombies so it's ok. So basically, this film is a ripoff of a ripoff. Not something completely unheard of for a Mattei film, nor is the "borrowed" footage (yes, you can see Viggo Mortensen for a couple seconds thanks to some Crimson Tide footage), horrible dubbing and script ("You Ugly Witch"). But you know what? I actually really enjoyed this film. Like I stated before, I was initially concerned by the time when this film was made, but luckily (at least in Mattei World), not much has changed in 25 or so years! Replace some terrible CGI with terrible models and BAM! It's the 80's all over again! So what did I like about this film? The makeup FX were surprisingly well done. The story was engaging (despite its unoriginality) and there were plenty of laugh out loud moments to keep you watching. So in closing, don't expect a great film (or an original one) but do expect a breezy, cheezy splatter-ific gas! There wasn't much improvement needed to be done by Intervision for this release, seeing how it is a fairly recent film so the picture quality is fine and there is also a trailer and a nice little featurette with the writer and his relationship with Mattei.

Rating: 7/10

Purchase Zombies: The Beginning directly from Severin/Intervision Pictures Corp HERE

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bonnie's Kids / The Centerfold Girls (1973 / 1974, Arthur Marks / John Peyser)

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"I'm gonna tell the whole world that you're a goddamn queer!"

Just released from Gorgon Video is another remarkable set of exploitation classics from the great Arthur Marks. Following on the heels of Gorgon's recent Marks double feature of The Roommates/A Woman for All Men, is another set of his pre-Blaxploitation, mid '70's sleaze. I previously owned the Dark Sky Film's DVD of Bonnie's Kids but had never gotten around to watching it. The Centerfold Girls I was unfamiliar with, but given my track record with other Arthur Marks films, I couldn't pass this set up.

Bonnie's Kids stars the beautiful Tiffany Bolling and Robin Mattson as sisters Ellie and Myra. They live with their abusive stepfather until an unfortunate "accident" occurs, leading the girls to drive across the country to move in with their rich uncle Ben and his wife Diana. Ben tries to help the girls start new lives but when they get mixed up with a private detective and a plot to steal a package full of money, the past starts to creep up on them.

The Centerfold Girls (co-written by Marks and directed by television director John Peyser) plays out almost like an anthology film with Andrew Prine as a religious zealot stalking three different nude models whom he wants to "help". Of course by help I mean taunt, stalk and murder. The girls he hunts are played by the sexy trio of Jaime Lyn Bauer, Inseminoid's Jennifer Ashley and (once again) Tiffany Bolling. Also appearing are The Big Bird Cage's Teda Bracci, Aldo Ray, tough guy Mike Mazurki and Janus Blythe from The Hills Have Eyes.

Gorgon has outdone themselves here with this depraved duo of exploitation classics. Bonnie's Kids felt like a '70's good time Bad News Bears type film one minute (I dig that theme song) and then the next the girls are naked or someone is getting blown away with a shotgun. Oh and did I mention Arthur Marks regular Alex Rocco appears as a goon too! Sadly, they just don't make films like this anymore. The Centerfold Girls on the other hands was just dripping with sex and violence from start to finish. Andrew Prine was so creepy as Clement Dunne, servant of God and professional weirdo and you couldn't find a more beautiful group of stalkees (I think I just made up a new word) than Bolling, Ashley and Bauer. If you are looking for two drive-in classics, you wouldn't be able to find a better pair than these two films. Gorgon's new Blu Ray looks absolutely beautiful and features some nice interviews with Bolling, Marks and Prine giving us some interesting behind the scenes stories about these films and their careers as well.

Rating:

Bonnie's Kids: 9/10
The Centerfold Girls: 9/10

Buy this Blu Ray/DVD combo directly from Gorgon Video (for only $20!) HERE

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fast Cars Fast Women / Starship Eros (1981 / 1979, Scott McHaley)

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Recently released from the great Vinegar Syndrome is a nice double feature of films from Scott McHaley. Couldn't find much info on McHaley on the web, other than directing these two films but the guy definitely had some talent. I mean, its not everyday you see a car racing adult film, let alone a sci fi adult film! But lets praise the gods at VinSyn for pulling these titles out of obscurity and bringing them to us weirdos!

Fast Cars Fast Women stars Kay Parker as Molly, a race car sponsor who hires new driver Kristy (Lisa Lane) to race for her. But they find trouble when the owner of a tire company and his goon (Ron Jeremy) sabotages their cars. Starship Eros stars Lori Rogers as the commander of a spaceship with an all female crew. New crew member Christine Moon (Becky Saunders) joins the crew and is swiftly shown pleasure at the hands of the commander, her bunk mate and a captured Amazon woman. Oh yeah, and the ship's male robot Quasar, who is real man from the neck down (and powered by a 9 volt battery and a cassette player).

What can I say about these films? Hokey? Yes. Silly? Sure. But goddamn were they a lot of fun. Starship Eros wore its zero budget on its sleeve, which in my opinion made the ridiculous story even more watchable. I mean it is an adult film after all. But the actors all "performed" very well and the addition of the male robot (wearing a C-3PO mask) was hilarious. Overall, just as great as you would hope from an adult science fiction film from the 70s. Fast Cars Fast Women was light years ahead of Starship Eros in terms of story, budget and pretty much everything else. Seeing a young(er) Ron Jeremy was interesting to say the least and the whole cast were attractive and surprisingly decent actors (not just in bed). I wouldn't be able to pick which of these I enjoyed more because I loved them both for different reasons, but what Starship Eros lacked in budget it made up for in laughs. Vinegar Syndrome's release (under their Peekarama series) is a nice quality release with two great prints and a very reasonable price. VinSyn should be applauded for releasing such obscure, yet classic films. Full list of specs are below:

-1.85:1 OAR
-Scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm original camera negative
-Softcore outtakes for FAST CARS FAST WOMEN
-Theatrical Trailer for FAST CARS FAST WOMEN
-Audio Introduction by Producer Wesley Emerson for STARSHIP EROS

RATING:

Fast Cars Fast Women: 8/10
Starship Eros: 8/10

Purchase Fast Cars Fast Women/Starship Eros directly from Vinegar Syndrome HERE

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Vampyros Lesbos (1971, Jesús Franco)

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"The old house of Uskulan, high above on the mountain."

You want more Jess Franco on Blu Ray? Well the fine folks at Severin Films have got you covered. One of the best known and most adored films from Mr. Franco, Vampyros Lesbos is a film I have wanted to check out for a long time but never got around to it. I had even bought a copy of one of the older DVD's that, due to the busy life of a procrastinator, I never got around to watching. So when the new Blu Ray came out I finally made it a point to check this film out. And, as with any Franco film, I made the right choice.

Vampyros Lesbos stars Franco regular Ewa Strömberg as Linda Westinghouse, a woman who works at a law firm. She is sent to a remote island inhabited by Countess Nadine Corody (the inimitable Soledad Miranda, billed again as Susann Korda) regarding an inheritance left to the Countess by some dude named Count something or other. Oh yeah, Dracula. Anyway, when Linda arrives, she recognizes the Countess as a woman that has been plaguing her erotic dreams. Things get steamy, the Countess drinks Linda's blood and then Linda blacks out and ends up in a nuthouse, which is run by vampire expert Dr. Seward (Dennis Price). Will Linda, her boyfriend Omar and Seward be able to break the Countess's spell over Linda?

Vampyros Lesbos is another classic Jess Franco film, chock full of nudity, blood and insanity. Just when the film starts to feel like a regular film (plot wise), the whole thing turns on its head and goes a completely different direction. This gives Vampyros Lesbos the feeling of a fever dream, which is something Franco seems to excel at. Strange images, imaginative camerawork and loads of eroticism no doubt give this film the cult following it so rightfully deserves. Not to mention a great, funky soundtrack from Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab, from which the song The Lions and the Cucumber from this film was even used in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. Much stranger and cerebral than She Killed in Ecstasy, but no less brilliant, Vampyros Lesbos is a must for exploitation and weird film lovers. Severin's new Blu Ray/DVD combo features a crystal clear transfer and some great bonus features (including a "bootleg" Spanish cut of the film titled Las Vampiras). Here are a full list of bonus features:

Disc 1 (Blu-Ray):

Newly remastered HD presentation of the feature in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio
“Vampyros Jesus”: Interview featurette with Director Jess Franco
“Sublime Soledad”: Interview with Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown
“Stephen Thrower on Vampyros Lesbos”: Interview with Author of ‘Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jess Franco’
“Jess Is Yoda” Clip
Alternate German Opening Title Sequence – ‘Dracula’s Heiress’
German Trailer

Disc 2 (DVD):

Las Vampiras – Alternate Spanish Language VHS Version With Optional English Subtitles
Specially packaged in dye cut slip case. Newly created cover art by Wes Benscoter.

RATING: 9/10

Purchase the Vampyros Lesbos Limited Edition Blu Ray/DVD combo from Severin Films HERE

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971, Jesús Franco)

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"YOU ARE THE SECOND PIG - J"

Jesús Franco. Where do I start? How can a director turn films about zombies, vampires, diabolical doctors, and lots of lesbians into poetic, eerie, ambiguous, beautifully shot masterpieces? Some mysteries will never be solved and it really doesn't matter. The devoted are just glad that this mad genius made over 200 magical films to slobber over. And luckily we have Severin Films to bring us some of his classics, like She Kills in Ecstasy!

This film stars the beautiful Soledad Miranda (under the pseudonym Susann Korda) as the wife of Dr. Johnson (Fred Williams). The good doctor believes that his research testing experimental drugs on human embryos to basically try to help the human race become healthier and more resilient to environmental changes/dangers will change the world for the better. Unfortunately, the medical board (which consists of Ewa Strömberg, Paul Muller, Howard Vernon and Franco himself) thinks that Johnson's experiments are immoral and they take away his license to practice medicine. Johnson ends up going insane and his wife decides to get revenge on the board members by seducing and then killing them one by one.

She Killed in Ecstasy is a wild, erotic, gory and mesmerizing film. Soledad Miranda, who died tragically in a car accident shortly after filming this, is simply one of the most beautiful actresses ever captured on celluloid and her big brown eyes display so much emotion in this film that it is a shame she passed away so young. The rest of the cast (which are all regulars in Franco's films) play their parts well and the simple story leaves a lot of open space for atmosphere, which the director (billed this time as Frank Hollman) takes advantage of to no end. Close ups, purposely out of focus shots coming into focus, that huge house on the hill and many other Franco staples are all here and used to full effect. The new Severin Films blu ray release is quite a sight to behold. The picture is clear, subtitles easy to read and the funky music by Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab sounds great. And as much as I loved the funky soundtrack, the "classical music" provided by one of my favorite Italian composers Bruno Nicolai beautifully adds to the moodiness and to Miranda's haunting performance. For fans of Jess Franco or cult, horror and exploitation films, She Killed in Ecstasy is a must own, especially this limited edition Blu Ray which comes with a bonus CD soundtrack disc of Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab music from this film, Vampyros Lesbos and The Devil Came from Akasava! Full list of bonus features are:

Disc 1 (Blu-Ray):

Newly remastered HD presentation of the feature in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio
“Jess Killed In Ecstasy”: Interview with Director Jess Franco
“Sublime Soledad”: Interview with Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown
“Stephen Thrower on She Killed in Ecstasy”: Interview with Author of ‘Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jess Franco’
“Paul Muller On Jess Franco”: Interview with frequent Franco Star
German Trailer

Disc 2 (CD):

Original Motion Picture Soundtracks
3 Films By Jess Franco: Vampyros Lesbos/She Killed In Ecstasy/The Devil Came From Akasava
Repressing of the ultra rare 24 track CD

RATING: 9/10

Purchase this Limited Edition Blu Ray/CD combo directly from Severin Films HERE

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Roommates / A Woman for All Men (1973/1975, Arthur Marks)

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"You know, sometimes I wished my mother would have dressed me up funny so I could have grown up to be a homosexual."

Recently released by Gorgon Video is a two-fer of classic exploitation films from the great Arthur Marks, who I was familiar with through such classic films as Detroit 9000, Bucktown, J.D.'s Revenge and Friday Foster. I wasn't sure what to expect since those films were more blaxploitation/urban than the two titles on this set, but I knew Marks was a good film maker and had to give them a shot. The films in question are 1973's The Roommates and 1975's A Woman for All Men.

The Roommates is a classic story of a group of twenty-something girls who decide to go away together for the summer to Lake Arrowhead. Among the girls are sassy Carla (Sugar Hill herself Marki Bey), wild Beth (Big Birdcage's Roberta Collins), strong Heather (Petticoat Junction's Pat Woodell) and motherly Brea (The Hot Box's Laurie Rose). We follow these beautiful girls as they party and meet up with different men and each have their own adventures. Oh yeah, and just to make this film not your average seventies swingin' girl film, there is someone going around killing people at the lake too.

A Woman for All Men stars Judith Brown (also from The Big Birdcage) as Karen, a Las Vegas prostitute who marries a rich older businessman (Keenan Wynn), much to the dismay of his children. One of his sons (played by Dirty Harry's Andrew Robinson) however falls for Karen and after his father disappears and is presumed dead, they run off only to realize things aren't really what they seem.

Gorgon Video hits it out of the park with this sleazy duo of exploitation goodness. Arthur Marks proves himself a great film maker in any genre and with great stories, a who's who of classic 70s actors and lots of skin, what we have is a must buy DVD/Blu Ray combo. The Roommates, with its lovable cast of some of the sexiest girls in film at the time, witty script and proto-slasher side plot was definitely the stronger of the two. A Woman for All Men was a nice lurid tale with the beautiful Brown and menacing Robinson holding it all together but suffered slightly by its almost Soap Opera moments. Gorgon's presentation here is top notch with amazing looking transfers and a bunch of worthy bonus features (including on screen interviews with Marks, Brown and Roberta Collins).

RATING:

The Roommates: 9/10
A Woman for All Men: 7/10

Purchase this Blu Ray/DVD combo directly from Gorgon Video HERE