Thursday, June 30, 2016

Swinging Cheerleaders (1974, Jack Hill)

Jack Hill is one of those directors I heard of through Quentin Tarantino. The first time I heard the name was in an article in either FHM or Maxim that listed the best Grindhouse movies (right after Tarantino/Rodriguez's Grindhouse came out). The list included either (or maybe both) The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House. It may have included more of his movies too. After that, I watched a special feature on the Reservoir Dogs dvd, which was a biography on Jack Hill. I had remembered reading about some of his films and now I was very interested. The first of his films that I watched was Coffy with Pam Grier, one of the hottest female action stars I had ever seen. Shortly after I watched The Big Bird Cage and Switchblade Sisters, which I also enjoyed very much. The Switchblade Sisters dvd had a trailer for The Swinging Cheerleaders and it definitely piqued my interest.

The Swinging Cheerleaders is about a college football team which has the potential of being undefeated. One of the prize players, Ross (Ric Carrott) is dating a cheerleader (Rainbeaux Smith) who won't go all the way. Buck (Ron Hajek), the star quarterback, is dating Mary Ann (Colleen Camp), the lead cheerleader. A young radical named Kate (Jo Johnston) tries out and makes the cheerleading squad in order to write a paper exposing how cheerleading exploits women. She soon finds out that the Coach, one of the Professors and Mary Ann's father, who is also the Dean of the School, is rigging the games to make a fortune gambling.

The thing that I love about Jack Hill's films is that there is so much going on, so much character and story development that you forget you are watching a sleazy low budget exploitation film. They have lots of nudity, drugs and profanity but they also have great stories and interesting characters. The Swinging Cheerleaders is no exception. Most of the acting was appropriately over the top (this is a good thing) and the story moved along at a nice pace. Throw in some beautiful cheerleaders and some action and you've got the winning Swinging Cheerleaders.  I would have to say that this probably gets my vote as my favorite Jack Hill film.

Arrow's new release is chock full of goodies.  Here is a full list of extras for this director-approved special edition:

·         Brand new 2K restoration from original film materials
·         High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD Presentations
·         Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
·         Audio commentary by writer-director Jack Hill, recorded exclusively for this release
·         Brand new interview with Jack Hill
·         Archive interview with cinematographer Alfred Taylor
·         Archive interview with Hill and Johnny Legend
·         Q&A with Hill, and actors Colleen Camp and Rosanne Katon recorded at the New Beverly Cinema in 2012
·         TV spots
·         Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys

Pre-Order Swinging Cheerleaders from MVD HERE

Friday, June 17, 2016

Death Walks Twice (Arrow Video, 2016)

Arrow Video is really making us Giallo fans happy!  These somewhat forgotten Italian films from the 70's featuring a mysterious killer (usually disguised in some manner), lots of nekkid women and enough blood to fill a swimming pool really deserve another chance.  And luckily we have Arrow to come to the rescue.  I had seen both of the films in this collection - Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight - several years ago and they both stuck out as shining examples of the genre.  The director Luciano Ercoli is a favorite of mine, directing the brilliant giallo Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion and the Polizioteschi Killer Cop (aka La polizia ha le mani legati).

Death Walks on High Heels (1971) stars Italian screen great Frank Wolff (Once Upon a Time in the West, The Great Silence) as a doctor who is obsessed with a stripper named Nicole (Susan Scott aka Nieves Navarro - Ercoli's wife).  After being attacked by a masked man, Nicole accepts the doctor's proposal to run away to England.  Her boyfriend (Simon Andreu) isn't pleased and tries to find her, while the masked man does too.

Death Walks at Midnight (1972) also stars Susan Scott as Valentina, a model who witnesses a murder while under a hallucinogenic drug given to her in a clinical study.  Though initially laughed at, it soon turns out that a murder recently happened the same way as what she had seen and she finds herself being chased by the same man who she saw in her hallucination.  She must save herself while trying to figure out who is trying to kill her and why.

These two classics are a must have for any giallo fan.  They have all of the familiar aspects of the genre and excel at every one.  Nieves Navarro is one of the most beautiful women to grace the screen and the supporting cast is great too.  Of the two, Death Walks on High Heels is the more "classic" example of the genre, while Death Walks at Midnight stretches the familiar trappings and is more original.  I can't say which I prefer more as they both had so many good qualities.  Arrow's release here is nothing short of amazing, featuring everything you could expect and more.  In this limited edition set, we get different versions of the films, commentaries, interviews, a booklet and a beautiful new artwork (and the original artwork as well).  Full list of extras below:

·         Limited Edition boxed-set (3000 copies) containing Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight
·         Brand new 2K restorations of the films from the original camera negatives
·         High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
·         Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)
·         Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
·         Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks
·         Limited Edition 60-page booklet containing new writing from authors Danny Shipka (Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France), Troy Howarth (So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films) and writer Leonard Jacobs, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

·         Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
·         Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
·         Newly-edited archive interview with director Luciano Ercoli and actress Nieves Navarro
·         Master of Giallo – brand new interview in which Gastaldi discusses Death Walks on High Heels and offers up his thoughts as to what constitutes a good giallo
·         An interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani
·         Original Italian trailer
·         Original English trailer
·         Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

·         Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
·         Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
·         Extended TV version of the feature [105 mins]
·         Crime Does Pay – brand new interview in which Gastaldi discusses Death Walks at Midnight and a career script-writing crime films
·         Desperately Seeking Susan – a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the distinctive giallo collaborations between director Luciano Ercoli and star Nieves Navarro

·         Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Purchase this film directly from MVD HERE

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Dillinger (1973, John Milius)

I LOOOVE gangster films.  From classics like Scarface to The Untouchables to old Black and White Noir films like The Public Enemy, Kiss of Death and White Heat, I can't get enough Gangster films.   Though the story of Dillinger has been told before (and since), John Milius' Dillinger (recently released from Arrow Video) is one of the best, bloodiest and most realistic.

Dillinger avoids any real back story about the legendary character before we see him and his gang start blowing people away.  Warren Oates stars as the man himself, who goes on a bank robbing rampage in the 1930's with his gang of criminals including, Homer Van Meter (Harry Dean Stanton) and Harry Pierpoint (Geoffrey Lewis).  They eventually meet up with Pretty Boy Floyd (Steve Kanaly) and Baby Face Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss) while being pursued by FBI Agent or "G-man" (short for Government man) Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson) who will stop at nothing to end Dillinger's reign of terror.  During his travels, Dillinger also shacks up with Billie Frechette (Michelle Phillips).

Dillinger gets my vote for being one of the most realistic crime films I've ever seen.  The fights, falls, and the bullet wounds look so brutal and realistic and given Milius' almost news footage-like film making, it just adds to the verisimilitude.  The cast is a dream come true for 70s cult film fans.  Oates, Stanton, Lewis, Dreyfuss and The Mamas and the Papas' Michelle Phillips (who in my opinion is one of the most beautiful creatures I've ever set eyes on).  Stuffed with some nice extras, Arrow's release is a must see for 70s cult and action film fans.

Full list of extras:

-Brand new 2K restoration of the film from original film elements
-High Definition (1080p) Blu Ray and Standard Definition DVD presentations of the film
-Original mono soundtrack (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-Ray)
-Optional English Subtitles for the dead and hard of hearing
-Audio commentary by Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema and Screening Violence
-Newly-filmed interview with producer Lawrence Gordon
-Newly-filmed interview with director of photography Jules Brenner
-Newly-filmed interview with composer Barry De Vorzon
-Stills Gallery
-Theatrical Trailer
-Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
-Collector's booklet containing new writing by Kim Newman on fictional portrayals of John Dillinger, plus an on-set report containing interviews with writer-director John Milius and others, illustrated with original production stills

Purchase this film directly from MVD HERE