SEVERIN FILMS, definitely my favorite distributor for cool/obscure cult horror films and notorious for loading up on extra features (including co-owner David Gregory’s directed top-notch documentary productions) just released an incredible double…well, actually make that a triple-feature blu-ray of director Frederick R. Friedel’s (more…)
I have been to quite a few CINEMA WASTELAND conventions in glorious Strongsville, OH and apart from traveling to Melt, Mind’s Eye Records, and various Exchange stores, Ohio will always be the home of Ken Kesey’s CINEMA WASTELAND for this movie bastard. It is, by far, the greatest fan-friendly convention in all of the Midwest, if not the entire fucking country.
This was the (more…)
Anyone that knows anything about horror films is well aware of a period in British horror film history where a woman by the name of Mary Whitehouse and the NVALA (National Viewers And Listeners Association) went on a moral crusade to fight to get certain morally reprehensible films banned by legislation. With the help of the Director of Public Prosecutions (commonly referred to as the DPP), a list of the most (more…)
Nothing is free in life, except for this Blu-ray disc of HARDWARE I am giving away that SEVERIN FILMS was so gracious enough to donate to SHU-IZMZ! So, in my brainstorming for ideas to come up with to make this contest visually, intellectually, and sexually stimulating to me and the boys and gals at Severin, I decided to come up with two levels of personally gratifying goals to be achieved for this freebie. I am a big fan of Top Ten lists. It may be because I spent my youth sneaking up late at night to watch David Letterman on the Letterman Show doing the Top 10 Lists every weeknight, or the fact that I always created a list, a want list of sorts, whenever there was something I wanted to buy but never had enough money to purchase it with. One can say, that I had a large collection of spiral notebooks with lists upon lists of horror and cult films, magazines, comic books, porn titles, skin mags, anime mags, anime series, action figures, vinyl and cassette tapes, and books on film, horror, true crime, and sci-fi that I wanted. I wish I still had most of these lists to look over and laugh at, because if anyone found them, specifically law enforcement, they would think they were written by Kemper or Bundy because I was (and still am) into some pretty twisted and sick shit….which just amounts to anything cool, in my book (or spiral notebook).
So, here, finally are the contest rules. I want a Top Ten List of your favorite movies that have a robot in it, and one robot you think is sexy (for whatever reasons) and why. Then, head over to SEVERIN FILMS (<—-yeah, that is linked to their website) and pick a film they have distributed that you really dug! It is pretty simple. There are tons of movies out there that have robots in them and there are a bunch of solid films that Severin has released over the years. SO, yeah, I lied. There are a FEW things one must do to win this contest. Terminator films, Short Circuit, Chopping Mall, I, Robot, RoboCop, HARDWARE, etc…In fact, Androids can count, too. Any film that has a robot, android, or robotic components in something built to perform tasks is fair game.
Email your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have your list, your pick for sexy robot, name, postal address, and I will assume you are already a fan of SHU-IZMZ on Facebook (shuizmz), following on Twitter (@shuizmz), and I, Shu, have a Google + account, too. One can add me on that, too, because there will be some cool shit posted up there from time to time. It is not mandatory that you at least PRETEND to follow me and like the site on Facebook and Twitter, but it just may be a deciding factor if there is a tie between two epic entries.
The contest will end September 15th. (I neglected to mention this initially, so get your entries in. Overall deciding factor is whose submission was the most well-thought out and looked as though some time was spent on it.)For those of you who decide to enter this contest of sorts, GOOD LUCK!
Over here at SHU-IZMZ, I have been getting a load of films from distributors, some good and some bad, but I try to review each and every one, usually in a timely manner…well, lets face it- I can’t review every film in a timely manner, but I do want to make readers of SHU-IZMZ aware of all the different types of movies and styles that are floating around the world of films. I have decided to do a new feature or style of writing for the website, and that is what INDIE COMEDY ROUND-UP will be. Sometimes, the films won’t even always be indie flicks, but generally more often than not they will be. Those of you that know me probably figured out that comedies are not my favorite, or even close to my favorite genre of films. I do like to laugh, but I just generally laugh at things that many other people do not find the least bit funny. Oh well, that is part of the whole SHU-IZMZ thing. I would much rather watch a comedy along the lines of Dan O’Bannon’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD than I would watch the latest from National Lampoon. For the record, I only watch the National Lampoon movies for the gratuitous T&A. If there is no nudity or sleaze within one of their releases, I generally will regard the film as an epic flop. I just don’t find the humor in those films any good unless it is crude and supplemented with some crude visuals.
So here goes the first installment of INDIE COMEDY ROUND-UP. Sadly, this generally will be films that I only marginally enjoyed, but as always, readers know that comedies are not my thing and one should know that just because I did not enjoy the film does not mean that others who are fans of comedy will not like it. I have outed myself to you, the readers, and the rest of the world as to my biases on the genre of comedy. Also, keep in mind, that I do enjoy other, more mainstream comedies, such as most films with Will Ferrell in them or the goofy and usually sophomoric films that Adam Sandler is in. Go figure.
Today I have chosen two indie flicks from the distributors at Severin Films and Synapse Films: DEVOLVED, the feature debut of screenwriter, documentary filmmaker and ESPN columnist John Cregan and the film THE SWEET LIFE, the directorial debut of Rocco Simonelli, whose past work has been as a writer for the series THE SUBSTITUTE, as well as a handful of other films.
Let’s start with Cregan’s DEVOLVED, described as a teen-themed sex comedy and a throwback comedy, which centers around a group of suburban high-school seniors from San Diego on a whale-watching expedition off the Baja coast of Mexico. They become shipwrecked on a deserted island and it turns into the “nerds” vs. the “jocks”. Elements of LORD OF THE FLIES are reminiscent, as well as the crudeness of the new National Lampoon films and the cheesiness that most teen comedies comprise of. The film is inoculated with tedious and annoying characters, humor, and a plot that has been done on some level but only better. Films in which a group of kids are shipwrecked with little to absolutely zero parental control has been explored before, such as in the very shocking and well-done LORD OF THE FLIES, as I mentioned earlier, but this film is pure comedy, or tries to be, and is filled with the stereotypical characters that everyone has seen in countless other “stranded on an island” scenarios. I kept thinking of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, minus the campiness and cheese factor that a television show from the ’60s with Bob Denver (whom is likeable in it) can have and thrive upon. DEVOLVED was not, per say, a bad film. It was just a film that I really had no interest in throughout and it did not help matters that there was little to no nudity and sleaze within the film when it boasted a fairly attractive cast and was littered with sexual innuendo throughout.
I found much of the humor childish, bland, run-of-the-mill but the the film did have some funny moments such as one opening scene in which a newscaster is conducting a live newscast and a couple of attractive girls run on camera in the background donning bikinis and flash everyone (one of those girls being the brunette Cameron Adams who can also be seen in the voyeur porn clips known for on Backroom Casting Couch that is available in small clips on youporn.com) while shaking their chi-chis. Wait, I guess that was meant to be more titillating than humorous. In hindsight, I was really hoping that there would be more of the shaking of breasts in the film because when the annoying voice-over narration started, I then new that this film was going to be a rough viewing. The character titles popping up on the screen identifying who was who and what their “titles” were, such as their majors and high school clique associations, was even more annoying and an easy way to instantly let viewers know who they were without actually writing their character into the story. Really, this film just looked like a bad made-for-television after-school special that would air on one of the major local networks-minus the nudity, of course.
The film stars Lindsey Shaw (10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU), Robert Adamson (LINCOLN HEIGHTS), and Gary Entin (SECONDS APART) as the leaders of the students who for most, if not all of the movie, are arguing over who should be in control and what everyone’s duties are on the deserted island. I think this movie could have worked better if just had all the girls going GIRLS GONE WILD and the guys trying to nail them while delivering ridiculously crude lines of dialogue instead of the film comprising hardly any nudity and trying to form some social opinion on the different social classes that comprise of high school. Honestly, I was reminded of the film CAN’T HARDLY WAIT because that was also a film that introduced characters in it by on-screen titles and descriptions of who they were and what they were known for. The aforementioned movie was also more humorous, incorporated better actors and actresses, and had Jennifer Love Hewitt strutting around wearing a skin-tight white top that glorified her incredible bust and figure (at least in that movie because I have seen the infamous beach photos that circulated around the net and graced the cover of tabloid trash journalism) that I have viewed time and time again for that hope that the film gives with the theme that the nerdy “good guy” can win the heart of the “popular hot girl”. Yeah, one can hope, right?
If DEVOLVED even came close achieving the pace and feel of CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, along with some epic party scenes I think I may have enjoyed the film much more. DEVOLVED had all the elements of a seminal teen-romper full of comedy, but it just fell flat to me. I was not feeling it, though. I think my main reason for not enjoying this film was the fact that so many of the characters were introduced at lightening speed, were extremely shallow in their depth to each character, and that I just did not give a flying whoop over what the hell happened to any of them. I already had figured that this moronic comedy would go on until the big nerd got the popular girl, the parents eventually found their kids, no one would be killed or murdered, and everyone in the end would end up safe. There were no surprises in this film except why the hell did Chris Kattan (NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY) agree to be in this flop as Coach Papillion. Granted, Kattan was out of commission most of the film from dehydration and nearly drowning, but he really offered nothing to this film.
I recommend avoiding this film unless one needs to see every film Kattan has ever been in, or just needs a refresher coarse on what makes a movie funny by watching one that is abysmally non-humorous.
After that review, let’s move on to a movie, THE SWEET LIFE (2003), that puts a bit more thought and care into the plot of the film and offers viewers some insight into the world of dating and falling in love. Granted, this very subject in films is not something I generally choose to throw into my dvd player or blu-ray player, but it was a screener I requested because James Lorinz and Joan Jett are both in the film. If one can’t exactly place the name James Lorinz than maybe they may remember a few of the movies he starred in that to this day I still enjoy immensely, partly due to his character and comedic value within the films. In STREET TRASH (1987), directed by Jim Muro and written by Roy Frumkes (who is also involved with this film’s screenplay), Lorinz played an ultra-sarcastic jerk who is a doorman at a fancy Italian restaurant that is owned by an Italian mobster in a film that centers around bums in a local junkyard who come across a toxic brand of booze sold at a liquor store that turns its drinkers into a puddle of goo. Lorinz then went on to star in Hennenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER three years later and was given the lead role, starring in a film that was full of nudity, crudeness, and many lines delivered by Lorinz filled with his biting humor for sarcasm delivered with deadpan deliveries.
THE SWEET LIFE is a very low-budget indie comedy filmed in New York that follows one brother, New York magazine columnist Michael (Lorinz), as he watches with envy as his confident and much more shallow brother Frankie (Robert Mobley) gets all the women and all the friends one could want in life. Frankie just so happens to be banging a slutty and wild-looking bartender at a dive bar that Frankie frequents regularly. Here is where Michael is set up on a blind date with Sherry, played by none other than the legendary Joan Jett. The date is a disaster and ends up with Michael returning Sherry back to her apartment drunk out of her mind and in no shape to have sex with Michael, even though she wants to. Michael does the right thing, putting her to bed and then ends up meeting her roommate and girlfriend to Frankie, Lila (Barbara Sicuranza).
Michael (Lorinz) and Lila (Sicuranza) end up going out and talking long into the night until sunrise and the two end up developing a connection and falling for each other. The rest of the film revolves around Michael and Lila’s relationship, Frankie and Lila’s relationship, and the brotherly love between Michael and Frankie. I guess one can say that the whole film is just about a bunch of relationships, falling in and out of love, and making hard decisions about where one wants their life to go and in what direction to take it.
The film asks the viewers some tough questions about life and explores the often complicated decisions one may have to make in regards to love, friendship, careers, school, and marriage. The film has just as much comedy in it as it has heartfelt sentiment. I enjoyed it much more than the aforementioned film I am reviewing, even though the cheap digital camera used for filming definitely takes away from the film’s quality. I enjoyed the film regardless of this small quality issue.
Of the two films, I would much rather be watching a bad zombie film or outrageously horrible slasher film than anything along the lines of traditional comedies or romantic comedies, but of the two, THE SWEET LIFE is the winner here and the least agonizing of the two films to be watching. Neither film is awful by any means, but of the two DEVOLVED tells a story I care nothing about and THE SWEET LIFE tells a story I care marginally about making it the winner of the two.
Kids that kill.
Those three words had me hooked on seeing this film when I read the film’s synopsis back in the mid-80s on the back of the VHS box at the liquor store/video rental store Elm’s Liquorland in Arlington Heights. What made this rental between me and my friends even better was the old, slimy store clerk (who, himself, looked to be a child molester) tried to tell my buddy’s mother that Bloody Birthday (’81) was a horror film about kids that killed adults, had a fair amount of nudity, and was nothing that anyone under 17 years of age should be watching. O.K., she said. I will worry about my kids viewing choices while you just make sure drunks have a choice of video rentals while they are picking up a bottle of Jack Daniels or a case of beer. I thought it was funny that a scumbag at a liquor store whom looked and smelled like he was drunk 24/7 was giving a mother of two kids advice on parenting. Dude, you work in a liquor store selling a vice to drunks and avid drinkers. Hell, if the guy decided not to sell alcohol to those he felt drank too much or whose livers were dying out, he probably would be out-of-business or barely scraping by financially. His “warning” made me and my two buddies even more stoked to watch this morally-depraved film about murderous little shits!
I remember that I was not disappointed with Bloody Birthday at all. In fact, I loved it. I had never seen a film where kids under the legal age of driving, as young as ten years old, were going around wasting anyone that they felt they wanted to kill or got in their way. What was even better about this film was the fact that there were a few actors and actresses that I was familiar with: K.C. Martel of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (’82) fame, Elizabeth Hoy from The Blues Brothers (’80), and Billy Jayne from Cujo (’83). These were actors and actresses that I knew from other movies, one of which was from the horror genre, and did not play evil and twisted roles as in Bloody Birthday.
Bloody Birthday’s plot revolves around three kids: Debbie Brody (Elizabeth Hoy), Steve Seton (Andy Freeman), and Curtis Taylor (Billy Jayne) whom all were born on the same day at the height of a lunar eclipse. The doctor at the hospital, credited as “doctor” and played by the incredible Jose Ferrer (Dune (’84), The Caine Mutiny (’54), and Lawrence of Arabia (’62) in a very brief role, notes this lunar eclipse as he goes in with a nurse to care for the new-born babies. We then skip to about ten years later where the kids look and appear to be nice little boys and girls, except for the fact that they are killing adults, some even as young as teenagers and any other kids that cross them. Some of the victims whom are killed lose their lives because they are out late at night having sex outside in a cemetery, as is the case in one murder, or are screwing around in the back of their van. In either case, the scenes contain some nice nudity and sexuality in which we are shown that the kids murdering the victims are watching the sexual foreplay for a bit before killing them in slasher film fashion. Along with the bad kids, there is one good kid amongst the group whom goes to the same school and lives in the same neighborhood whose name is Timmy Russell (K.C. Martel of E.T. and The Amityville Horror fame). His older sister Joyce Russell (Lori Lethin) is main lead in the film, also best friends with one of the devious children’s older sisters’, Beverly Brody (West Coast Julie Brown of MTV (not to be confused with Downtown Julie Brown also of MTV) and also starred in Earth Girls Are Easy (’88) and Clueless (’95)).
Joyce works at the school all the children attend and one night is researching the students’ birthdays and notices that the three kids whom all share the same birthday were born during a lunar eclipse in which the sun and moon block Saturn, which in astrology just so happens to control emotions. This is why the kids are remorseless and are stone-cold killers. At times, watching the little kids bash a teenagers head in with a shovel and choking his girlfriend with a jump-rope as if they were just playing a game of kickball or a game of tag outside is pretty damn disturbing. None of the murders in the film are extremely gory or even that bloody, but just the fact that 10 year old kids are peeping on girls screwing around with their boyfriends, breasts bare, or getting undressed and dancing around naked in the privacy of their own bedroom as is the case in which Beverly does while her younger sister Debbie charges her two young boy friends a quarter to watch through a homemade fashioned peephole in the closet is totally disturbing. I can’t recall a movie from the ’80s, or even off-hand right now that has kids this young and cute savagely killing off adults. The only film that comes to mind to me is Children of the Corn, but in the case of that film, there were some more supernatural elements at work and the kids all live in a cult-like cornfield and some of the kids are in their upper teens, if not even older. I think Bloody Birthday stands out more because of the innocence the kids exude in their perfect little white. suburban neighborhood where a lost dog is probably the biggest problem to occur.
One of my favorite scenes in the film is, aside from the nude dancing of Julie Brown (sorry guys, no full-frontal nudity by any actress at any point) in her bedroom is another scene in which a victim is killed by an arrow shot through the peephole and goes right through the eyeball. Now this scene is by no means comparable to a, say, certain scene in a certain Dario Argento movie in which a bullet is shot through a door’s peephole (Opera) or another epic eyeball scene in which a splinter is pierced through a woman’s eyeball in beautiful gory fashion from a Lucio Fulci film (Zombie)-but it is still fun…and a cute, little 10-year old girl is doing the killing.
As well as having some very brief scenes with screen legend Jose Ferrer, Susan Strasberg (Psych-Out (’68), Scream of Fear (’61)) also has some short screen time in the movie. I think it may be a unique role for her, as well. I found it very interesting that both Ferrer and Strasberg decided on being in a horror film about 10-year olds that go on a killing rampage.
The film, directed by Ed Hunt, is not his first only foray into the world of horror. Horror fans may recall another genre film starring David Gale (Re-Animator) in which a giant brain is being used by Gale (as Dr. Blake) to brainwash the town with mind-control and the rest of the planet for world domination. Hunt’s first horror film was Bloody Birthday and some of his other earlier works, one of which was first marketed as soft-core pornography (Corrupted (’73) ) and the other another sexually-oriented film (Diary of a Sinner), did not shy away from nudity and sexual themes. I guess one can assume it only fitting that Bloody Birthday cover an array of taboo subjects such as kids killing adults, peeping on girls undressing and couples having sex. Hunt seems to be in very familiar territory with Bloody Birthday. The Brain even had some scenes of nudity if I can recall correctly.
Severin’s release of Bloody Birthday comes packed with some special features, including an audio interview with director Ed Hunt, as well as an interview with lead actress Lori Lethin (who played Joyce Russell) entitled Don’t Eat the Cake. This is one of tw0 recent Severin releases that are of the slasher genre (the other being Nightmares a.k.a. Stage Fright) and both contain a short but interesting documentary on the slasher genre by none other than Adam Rockoff (author of Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film), entitled A Brief History of Slasher Films. Adam Rockoff is an active member of the horror community whom I have run into at various horror conventions and film festivals in the Midwest, and is also buddies with some of my buddies and professional acquaintances in the Chicagoland horror community. I also had the pleasure (or displeasure) of writing a fairly scathing review of Wicked Lake, a film he wrote the screenplay for.
In the end, I found out I probably enjoyed Bloody Birthday just as much as I did when I saw it for the first time as a young, warped youth, except that this time around I did not get so excited when boobs appeared on the screen or a woman’s ass was shown as I did when I was just starting to hit puberty in junior high or whenever the hell I started to. The years without a girlfriend are some dark years, indeed! As a slasher film, I feel that Bloody Birthday is very unique in that it portrays kids killing adults and has some perverted elements of kinkiness to it with the peeping of teenagers having sex and the sister dancing around naked while the boys pay to see. I wished the gore was more and the blood flowed more freely, but I suppose there is never enough blood, gore, and nudity in a film to ever satisfy my tastes. As a horror film and a slasher film, I really think one ought to at least view this film, if not even buy it.
P.S.-Don’t forget to look for low-budget action/adventure star Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja (’85)) in a very tiny role as the boyfriend of Beverly Brody (Julie Brown).
When I popped in Nightmares and started watching it, I was expecting a standard slasher film that was going to offer nothing new in terms of violence, blood, and the usual frights and scares that films from this genre are usually known to offer. But then I looked the film up and realized it was categorized in the Australian exploitation category known as Ozploitation. After viewing Mark Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood, of which Nightmares is mentioned quite a few times in, I knew that I was going to be in for something quite a bit different and possibly far uniquer than most of the American slasher films I have seen in my time.
I was right, but also wrong. The film is definitely unique but I am not sure if always for the right reasons. Australian director John Lamond takes a bizarre approach to directing this fully-restored print of the very graphic giallo-like thriller that Nightmares comprises of. The film blends aspects of the American slasher genre with many core components of the Italian giallo genre in one mind-blowing perverse oddity. I throw perverse in the mix because there is a fair bit of nudity and sexual situations throughout the film.
Nightmares a.k.a. Stage Fright starts off in peculiar manner, one of which that totally baffled me at first viewing. I actually had to go back and watch the first fifteen minutes several times before I understood the first few flashback scenes made sense. In the beginning of the film we go back to January of 1963 and are privy to a young girl whom wakes up in the middle of the night, probably due to a bad nightmare (hence the title), and opens to the door to her mother’s bedroom and catches her in the act of lovemaking with a man. We are not shown the two copulating individuals faces or told who they are. I assumed they were the girl’s mother and father, but maybe that is not so. Then we move forward to a month later where the little girl (I am assuming the same little girl) is getting in to a car with her mother and a man, presumably her father, saying goodbye to his wife and daughter. The mother is about to drive off and the little girl wakes up in the back seat wrapped in a blanket.
The mother says, “I thought you were asleep.” The father tells his wife that he will see her in a couple of days once he can get away. At this point I am kind of confused as to whom the lovemaking individuals were, if the two girls that were shown on screen were the same girls, and if the man saying goodbye is the woman’s husband. The car with the girl and mother drive off and the next scene the woman (I think its the same woman whom I believe is the mother of the girl who had the nightmare, saw her mom and (possibly) father having sex in the film’s first scene) is driving the car while a man and groping and rubbing her inner thigh and crotch. Sadly, we are shown a view of the scene from the chest down and don’t get to see the hornballs’ faces. The girl wakes up, yells at the man (whom I now believe is not her father or anyone else’s) to leave her mother alone (ok, it is, in fact, the girl’s mother) and grabs her mom, causing her to lose control of the car and not notice a vehicle parked in the middle of the road (appearing to be empty) and crashes into it. At first viewing, I thought the parked car was the one with the little girl and her mother because the prior scene did not show them having driven away yet and I was not sure if the two scenes with the little girl were in fact the same girl. The beginning scenes of this film really confused the hell out of me and after watching those scenes more than several times I concluded that the young child was the same character in every scene she was in and that the mother was cheating on her husband with one or more men and that the young daughter did not approve of this infidelity. Sometimes giallos can be so confusing to me if I don’t pay very close attention. I can recall how many times I have had to re-watch specific scenes or portions of these films more than one time.
Another part of giallos that are part of their style that sometimes bewilder me are the incessant flashbacks and confusing plot-lines. Nightmares was one of those such films that initially confused me so much that I was almost debating on whether to attempt to sort the film out and even write up a review of it. I finally decided that I was going to watch the damn movie until the beginning sequence of events made sense…or until I could kid myself into believing it made sense.
Now, the somewhat confusing introductory scenes of Nightmares have concluded. The viewer learns through statements made by the man that was messing around with the little girl’s mother (the result of the accident was that the mother flew threw the windshield and with the help of her daughter moving her body her neck was slashed upon the jagged broken windshield glass) that the little girl caused the accident and killed her mother by dragging her neck across the glass. This fact was conveyed to us through some barely audible off-screen comments by what appeared to doctors or medical officials. More utter confusion.
We fast-forward to present times and what looks to be this messed-up child grown-up is none other than actress Jenny Neumann portraying Helen Selleck. Neumann is best known for her role in another slasher film, notably more popular and well-known than this film, Hell Night. Now, as an adult, Helen is trying out for a role in a theater production. She gets the part but when told of the good news she is less than thrilled. I guess that may be because she has traumatic flashbacks and nightmares frequently, some of which occur while she is awake, and also seems to talk to herself most of the time and in another voice. I think that this is what schizophrenics’ exhibit. I think a schizophrenic wrote the story because I found confusion clouded this story just as much as fog masks the city of London regularly.
The rest of the film is full of point-of-view shots as cast members and crew of the production of the theater play are killed off in bloody and gory fashion one-by-one. Many of which are murdered during sex or in the process of having just had sex. The slasher book of rules citing that fornicating and sex go hand in hand with getting carved up by a sharp knife or tool definitely apply here in this film. I would say this film threw that rule into effect the same year that the American slasher film Friday the 13th did in their but can’t say for sure if anyone really copied this rule from one or the other. Hell, Anthony Perkins slashed up the beautiful Janet Leigh in Hitchcock’s Psycho during the infamous shower scene which is one of the earliest examples of sexuality and slaughter going in hand-in-hand (along with Powell’s Peeping Tom which some argue is the first true slasher film of the genre even though both came out in the same year so who’s to say?). Contrary to what I have written, overall I really did enjoy this Ozploitation slasher-giallo flick.
Part of the enjoyment was due to quirky lines of dialogue that had me cracking up at their absurdity. For instance, when Helen has a flashback of some victims whom were recently murdered from the set of the play, she starts cackling and crying at the same time, of which I was not sure if it was more laughter or crying that I heard when all of a sudden a fellow cast member slaps her hard in the face as all the cast and crew stare at her in disbelief. Helen instantly blurts out,
“You bitch! You fucking bitch! I can do whatever I want, you hear?! You can’t stop me!” and runs off.
The girl that slaps her simply replies, “She’s mad…”.
There were quite a few scenes such as this one that only would elicit a reaction of laughter more than anything else. I found myself laughing more often than not and having quite a fun time doing so. The director within the film, actor Max Phipps, was a total douchebag and gave one of the better performances within the film. He played George D’alberg, director of the play, and was relentless as the know-it-all judge of talent even though the eminent critic, Bennett Collingswood portrayed by John Michael Howson, considered his work to be a pile of crap. The film centers around the crew squabbling with each other and Helen (Neumann) and Terry Besanko falling for each other romantically.
The film has many cool sequences and an excellent soundtrack courtesy of composer Brian May, known as one of the best film music composers in the history of Australian Cinema. May, whom has created the music for Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Road Games, and Patrick, composes another soundtrack that gives the listener chills as it perfectly matches the insanity of the flashbacks throughout the film and the atmosphere-heavy sequences during artful murders filled with nudity and creative edits most notably familiar in Italian giallos. Several times I was reminded of one of my favorite Italian directors, Dario Argento, and his earlier work with directing giallos. Several scenes depicted within the film in which the murderer raises shards of glass instead of the usual butcher knife are so reminiscent of Argento’s style. The weapon, in this case piece of glass, is raised- catching the moonlight and shining artfully in the night, just before striking down into the victim and causing a stream of blood to run down the poor soul’s skin. This occurs several times within the film and it never gets old with me. It is standard giallo slashing. I love it.
Nightmares incorporates all the familiar elements of slasher films and the style of giallo, just sometimes in a confusing manner and fashion. I think the style of the film really pushes this movie into being unique among a plethora of movies coming out that same year. Maybe it has something to do with being an Australian film made by an Australian director and their styles being somewhat unique and different than both Italian directors of giallo films and American directors of slasher films- or maybe not. I do know that the film was overall entertaining, easily predictable once the opening sequences conclude, and only somewhat annoying that every murder is show POV and, at times, with little to zero light. Why couldn’t the director throw in some more lights during some of the night scenes? It would have made the movie much easier to view and not take too much from the overall atmosphere of the picture. Besides those minor points, I was thoroughly entertained with Nightmares. It is not the best slasher-giallo-Ozploitation film out there, but it certainly is better than a fair amount of them. I felt that it was a fair entry to the slasher genre from our friends down under.
Severin Films have brought to dvd one of the strangest films that I have ever seen for quite some time. Bizarre does not even begin to explain the twisted subject matter contained within this Hollywood production. In fact, I can honestly say that never have I seen a film rated PG that has left such a disturbing and confused feeling within me.
The Baby, directed by Ted Post (Magnum Force, Hang Em High), is a psychological horror film starring Anjanette Comer as Ann Gentry, a social worker in L.A. County whom is assigned to investigate the case of the Wadsworth family and their son, known only as “Baby”. A social worker investigating a family is run-of-the-mill for families on financial support that receive a check every month except in the case of the Wadsworth family: Mrs. Wadsworth (former ’50s starlet Ruth Roman), Germaine (Marianna Hill), and Alba (Susanne Zenor). The Wadsworth daughters prance around the home, dressed in very sexy, skimpy outfits and are the kind of daughters that know they have attractive bodies and and killer racks to boot.
So far, this family just seemed quirky to me, that was until “Baby” was introduced. Baby is a grown man, probably in his mid-20’s, whom is dressed as if he was 2 or 3 years old and is in a giant wooden crib. The young man cannot talk, walk, or possesses any other high-functioning traits. The interesting thing about the plot to this film is the manner in which director Post and writer Abe Polsky (The Rebel Rousers) present the story and the facts at hand to the viewers. Baby and his quasi-twisted family are presented as just being a little bit off, and as more of the story unfolds subtle characteristics and personalities are slowly oozed out into the plot of the film. Viewers are not only learning more and more about the family and its dynamics, but also about all the characters in the film. Social worker Ann is, or was, also married. Ann seems reluctant to talk about her past and her private life. I was intrigued and curious to learn more about Ann and the rest of the Wadsworth family and the story feeds the viewers a little bit at a time, keeping one glued to the screen to find out what exactly will happen next. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed the film so damn much!
From the synopsis of the film, I was hooked. As more facts about the characters are divulged, my interest in the story was piqued even more. Just as a little kid walking down the street is lured with candy into getting into the van with the “nice” stranger, I was lured into watching more of the movie and finding out its ending. Except, I was not going to meet an untimely demise by Chester the Molester in his big, black, dark van. I was, instead, going to be privy to one of the most interesting and creepy endings to a horror film that was not filled with a plethora of gore, blood, guts and nudity or violence. Instead, The Baby is a very intelligently crafted psychological thriller of the better variety and execution.
I said there was no nudity or gore/violence in the film, but there is definitely a great deal of sexuality. The two sisters definitely have an unhealthy desire and sex drive, especially considering one likes to go into Baby’s crib, undress, and sleep with him. Yeah, there is some possible incest going on as well. How fucked up is that? Viewers are led to believe she is screwing the fully-developed, mentally under-developed young man. If that is not enough, the baby is caught in another scene groping and sucking on his babysitter’s bare breast (which viewers are not shown) but the scene is carefully edited so no nipple is present. The film continues to plod along, crossing more and more boundaries that society has set for itself. Take into consideration that this film came out in 1973 from a major Hollywood studio with a solid cast and budget. I can see why Post was reluctant to direct this film’s unique story initially.
I should say that there is some blood in the film, near the end, and a small bit of violence throughout the film. Probably one of the more shocking films in the movie is a scene where Baby is being punished and is getting shocked with a cattle prod by one of his sisters for punishment. What is he being punished for, you ask? No, not crapping in his diaper but for attempting to walk, talk, and communicate. Yeah, the family does not want Baby to develop any normal child developmental skills.
Another outstanding component to the film was the soundtrack. Gerald Fried (The Killing, Paths of Glory) wrote the original music to the film. I loved it! It had a creepy yet epic film quality to it. The soundtrack just sounded big and extravagant at times, as though Bernard Hermann or John Williams had written it, but then always slides back down to a dark subtlety. It had that big-deal sound to it, as though the world had discovered a solution to A.I.D.S. or cancer, but always went back to a dark, submissive style and dark ending. The sound had a very edgy and dark quality to it, a tinge of terror thrown into each piece of music. The violins in the soundtrack worked to achieve a doom-like stir within the viewer.
Baby, played by David Mooney, really got into his role and really did an amazing job throughout the whole film. I had no trouble at all of being convinced to Baby’s authenticity as an infant trapped in a young man’s body. The story is creepy, well-written, and the acting within the film is top-notch. Mrs. Wadsworth reminded me of the performance Bette Davis gave as the evil Baby Jane Hudson who locked up her physically handicapped sister up in her house both night and day. In the end, this film seems like a tale of good vs. evil. Or is it?
Severin Films have fully restored the original film negative and presented this dvd in a widescreen format (1.66.1) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital mono. Special Features within the dvd include Tales from the Crib: An Audio Interview with Director Ted Post, as well as Baby Talk: an Audio Interview with the star David Mooney. I highly recommend pickup up the Severin release of The Baby, as it is a must-have in one’s collection.
Leave it to Severin Films to dig up an obscure British biker film that I have never even heard of-but that may not be saying much. As many films as I have seen, it seems that there is an infinitely growing pile of obscure horror, cult, and exploitation flicks sitting around in some deep, dark basement collecting dust and waiting for some collector to find them or some studio to give the film a rebirth and a modern audience to view for the first time. Psychomania is one of those such films.
Severin Films is going about releasing films like many home video markets should be going about choosing and releasing their films- they are giving films that have never had a proper release and putting them out on DVD and Blu-Ray disc loaded with special features, including commentaries and interviews with cast and crew. I love it!
As for the film Psychomania, directed by Don Sharp (Rasputin: The Mad Monk), I had a hard time watching it all the way through without dozing off. That is not to say that the film is awful, or even bad, but there is just something that the soundtrack did to me that caused my eyes to close and drift off into sleep. The story about a biker gang that kills off themselves so that they can come back from the dead to wreak havoc on the town that they roam about in had a certain charm to it.
The high points of the film, obviously, are the amount of scenes with bikers roaring down the streets causing pain and bloodshed to anyone that they encounter. The film has a tremendous amount of motorcycle stunts throughout the whole film, along with some cool stunts. I can watch motorcycles ripping around destroying shit ALL DAY LONG (as long as there is no trippy keyboard music causing me to fall into a deep apnea)! The story revolves around The Living Dead, a semi-cool biker gang of the clean-cut variety (most had cleanly shaved faces and no long, scraggly beards like motorcycle gang members are generally known for) and I am sure if they were riding Vespas they may be mistaken for some British Mods. The biker gang is run by Tom Latham (Nicky Henson, Syriana) and he leads the gang in scene after scene of semi-risky bike riding through the wooded areas of England, generally running old folks and upstanding citizens off the roads in disastrous fashion. I really enjoy watching car crashes caused by biker gangs on film. There is just something about outcasts of society getting wreaking havoc on the 9 to 5-ers. I guess that is not entirely true though because I relish films that involve the square-pegged individuals of society who get revenge upon the scumbags that have ruined their white-picket fenced residence and perfect family. I guess I am just into films portraying mayhem upon the screen. It gets me squealing like a little kid in the candy store upon hearing he/she can get whatever amount of candy that they want. Some kids like candy and some adults just like mayhem. It’s just how it is, I guess.
Now Tom leads his gang of men and women blindly to reach new levels of adrenaline rushes upon their motorcycles (none of which are Harley-Davidsons, I might add!) around the town just as the Pied Piper led his rats out of the city. I mean, these bikers idolize their leader and think any idea he has is a great idea. The movie begins to slow when the story starts to unfold. No, this movie is just not a bunch of bikers messing up a town and killing the townsfolk with a hero taking the gang out ala Mad Max-style. I can only hope another film as rad as Mad Max would ever be made again! Psychomania decides to throw some zombie-witchcraft into the story, some of which I am not exactly clear upon because there is no concrete discussion as to what the hell is exactly going on- but who cares!
Tom has a mother who is into some type of witchcraft or black magic and her husband was, as well. From what I gathered, Tom’s father tried to kill himself and then come back to live forever. This plan sort of goes along with the legend of vampires, and more specifically, The Lost Boys (another gang of outcasts on bikes which also were not Harley-Davidsons but in fact average dirt-bikes whom lived forever but had issues with sunlight). I believe his mother made some deal with some devil or demon entity disguised as an average human. She signed some papers and still I have no idea exactly what was going on-but that makes the movie weird and cult-like. Tom then goes into the same room which is a sort of dimensional room (I think) and finds out how to achieve immortality and do things the right way, which his father didn’t (Maybe he has father issues and that is why he leads a rebellious gang around town!). Tom also has a love-interest in the gang, Abby Holman (Mary Larkin, X,Y, and Zee), whom seems to be the most average-looking member. She wears cute skirts and does not look menacing at all. The only other female member of the gang seems to be the greatest thrill-seeker of them all (besides Tom). Tom decides he is ready to kill himself so that he can come back and live forever…forever screwing up the town and pissing off the police. Tom has some very lofty goals, here. After a very sleep-inducing funeral ceremony with some hippie music from the flower-power era (I completely zonked out every time I got to this point in the film for some reason!), Tom is buried-but not before Tom’s butler Shadwell (his mother is very wealthy) comes with a necklace that has some sort of toad or frog on it and tosses it in the hole with Tom’s corpse propped up on his bike. Shadwell, played as if he was sleeping throughout the film as well, was portrayed by George Sanders (whom actually committed suicide before the release of Psychomania).
Shortly after, Tom is back riding around town on his bike, but this time he is killing everyone that gets in his way. When he reconnects with his gang, he tells them to all kill themselves and if they believe in this reincarnation, they will come back as the living dead (just as their gang is aptly named). This part of the film gets to be interesting and is filled with pretty spectacular stunts, especially for the early ’70s. Ironically, the suicides in the film are filmed in such a matter-of-fact manner and it sort of downplays the seriousness and atrocity of death…which kind of adds to the quirkiness and campiness of the film. My favorite suicide scene was when two bikers launch themselves into a semi-truck’s bed and smash through the siding. Again, it reminded me of the scene in Mad Max in which one of the cops go flying through the truck’s side and gets stuck on top of it (The scene in Mad Max was far more spectacular and their really is no comparison to George Miller’s epic cult flick full of engines howling and rubber burning).
There really is not too much dialogue or plot in this film besides the scenes with his mother and her butler Shadwell. The only other characters within the film besides Tom’s lady, Abby, is the police chief who is in a few scenes driving around with the other cops always arriving after the murders have occurred or the place has been destroyed. One particular scene that was fun to view is when the whole gang rips through a grocery store and destroys it. There even was one scene where a mother is shopping with her baby in a stroller and the other female biker gang member targets the stroller and runs over it. We are led to believe that the baby is probably dead, if not severely disfigured and brain damaged with a bleak outlook on living much longer. Grocery market mayhem scenes rank very high with us at SHU-IZMZ-especially when motorcycles are involved. The screenplay was written by Arnaud d’Usseau and Julian Halevy (both writers of Horror Express)
As for the special features on the disc, it is loaded with featurettes that include many of the cast, as well as interviews with stars Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor in the segment Return of the Living Dead. In The Sound of Psychomania, there is an interview with Soundtrack Composer John Cameron. He even plays a sample of the soundtrack on his keyboard…I could feel the my eyes get heavier by the second. Riding Free is an interview with singer Harvey Andrews who wrote and plays the song in the cemetery during the funeral of Tom. The lamest portion of the extra features has to be the introduction by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander. I was quickly reminded why I did not renew my subscription to Fangoria last year. Throw in the original trailer for the film and aside from not having an audio commentary for the film, the special features are pretty solid.
Overall, I recommend watching the film because it has a lot of interesting motorcycle stunts and mayhem within the film and truly is one of the weirdest plots in a motorcycle gang movie to this day. I can’t think of any movie I have seen that has such a bizarre story filled with crazy motorcycle stunts, trippy music, and endless shots of fancy stunt-riding on motorcycles. If one does not like watching motorcycles riding around, this movie may not be for you. I love motorcycle movies so I could get past the bizarre plot that had many gaping holes in it and unanswered questions left. I recommend at least viewing the film once, and try not to fall asleep while the music is playing…but maybe that was just me.
Leave it up to SEVERIN FILMS to dig up some lesser known films most have only seen on a crappy, old VHS copy-if even that! Two classic slasher films and “one of the most depraved films of the ’70s”, says Severin Films. Well, that remains to be seen, but all three of these films (only one of which I have seen), have some pretty hilarious poster artwork. If anything, I would pick these films up for the campy value of them, if anything at all.
I have fond memories of the killer kid classic Bloody Birthday, directed by Canadian exploitation filmmaker Ed Hunt (The Brain, Diary of a Sinner). I rented it with a childhood friend, when I was just a wee teenager, from the local liquor store that doubled as a video rental joint. To say the least, the selection blew donkey balls, but it was good for getting some lesser known titles that one usually would not come across unless at a horror convention or scouring ebay…which I don’t think was even around when I rented Bloody Birthday on VHS! This film is famous for the “before-she-was-famous topless dance of MTV’s Julie Brown“. Of course, I can’t say I remember too much from this film except a certain scene involving a closet, some titties, and an arrow…Well, I think it was an arrow. My memory is pretty hazy. After all, that was a time period when I invested heavily in smoking pot and blasting Pantera and Cannibal Corpse in a dark, moldy, basement. I now refer to those years as the “wasted years” (Iron Maiden pun intended!). This version is a recent transfer from the original negative in high-definition and also has the original painting of the severed finger cake for the cover’s boxart. Check it out:
|This poster brings me such fond childhood memories…|
Also out from Severin Films is Felicity’s director John Lamond’s Nightmares a.k.a. Stage Fright (1980). With a Lamond film comes a fair amount of nudity and with Nightmares a decent amount of gruesome deaths as well. If that is not reason enough to get one excited for this film, “Not Quite Hollywood’s Mark Hartley recently recorded an audio commentary in celebration of the film’s first fully uncut release, transferred in 2.35:1 from the original negative, in North America.”
And finishing up the third release from Severin Films, we have The Baby (1973). Sadly, I have never heard of this film. I find this odd because it is a film out of Hollywood, directed by A-List director Ted Post (Magnum Force, Beneath the Planet of the Apes), and has a tag-line that shouts,”What goes on in this nursery isn’t for kids!” What the hell can this film be about? I look forward to watching this film, to say the least.
|This is one of those posters that is beyond ridiculous!|
Sometimes, it amazes me what forgotten films studios choose to bring back on to dvd and give some pretty decent treatment to, including director commentary, interviews with those that worked on the film…even an international version accompanying the dvd release! Well, Severin Films has decided to pick out one of the oddest choices to add to their ever-growing catalog in picking Loose Screws: Screwballs 2.
Loose Screws is the sequel to the early ’80s sex-comedy entitled Screwballs, of which I have probably had the luck of never seeing, and according to the plots of the two films the only difference in the sequel is that the group of horny high school boys have decided that they must have sex with all the young women and hot faculty they encounter instead of just getting a peek at their tits. After pulling a prank that involves all the freshman receiving a “mock” physical examination by Brad Lovett (Bryan Genesse), Steve Hardmann (Lance Van Der Kolk), Hugh G. Rection (Alan Deveau), and Marvin Eatmore (Jason Warren), the boys all get kicked out of Beaver High and sent to Coxwell Academy.
Things continue to progress from this point on and resemble the film Porky’s so much its ridiculous. I have seen Porky’s and its sequels, which have far more nudity (including full frontal nudity and some wonderful bush), as well as containing far more elements of humor that one will actually laugh out loud at. The antics of the four horn-balls revolve around seeing chicks naked, trying to get laid, and being the first one to have sex with the new French teacher, Mona Lott (Cynthia Belliveau) whom everyone is gaga over, including the principal Mr. Arsenault (Mike McDonald). The rest of the film is just schemes and scenarios that involve some levels of nudity but not as much as one would think would be in a film whose main purpose is too be filled with raunchy jokes, slapstick sexual comedy, and women displayed as sexual objects throughout the whole film. I felt the movie was very tame, much more so than it should have been. Director Rafal Zielinski
(Screwballs (1983), Last Resort (1994) (st: Corey Feldman), Screwball Hotel (1988)) should have just gone all the way as they say instead of having scenes of couples making out in underwear. Why not have them making out or simulating sex fully nude-isn’t that the whole point of the damn movie? It should be a full-blown softcore sex comedy! There should be no beating around the bush and that pun was fully intended as their was only one scene that had “almost” a flash forestry.
The ending of the film defines any sort of reasons for making any type of sense which is good because much of this movie was ridiculous and senseless from the get-go! I think the whole point was to write a script that incorporated corny jokes full of raunchiness on a grand scale that the regular readers of Hustler would appreciate. If partial nudity, crude jokes, or massive sexual innuendo was not fully prevalent than the director was just setting up the scene for it.
|Too many scenes with more fabric than flesh like this…|
I have applauded Severin in the past for bringing back some little known films and cult pictures back on dvd with the red carpet treatment for film buffs, but Loose Screws: Screwballs 2 is probably not going to be one of the more epic films to be remembered. The ‘80s can have this Hardbodies/Porky’s near rip-off, sexually- charged, hornball “comedy” and keep it. Another point of contention is the extremely atrocious soundtrack to the film and I am not just talking about the ridiculous dance numbers that are played randomly during the film but the synth-keyboards that sound like they belong in a very bad ’80s movie-oh wait, the music in this movie fits perfectly then.
The special features include an interview with Producer Maurice Smith (Recruits, Screwballs, Screwball Hotel), who talks in great length about how he got the idea for Loose Screws: Screwballs 2 after watching Porky’s and loving that film. At least Smith gives credit where credit is due.
The second interview is with Production Manager Ken Gourd (producer on Stuck, co-producer on The Brain) who is interviewed about the film. Ken Gourd (Production manager on The Brain, Mr. Nice Guy, Recruits) lets viewers know that the film is just what it looks like-low-brow, corny sex-driven humor in the same vein of Porky’s and other sex comedies of the ’80s. He knew what type of movie Loose Screws was and what it would be in the end: a cheap, goofball sex-comedy full of low-brow Benny Hill-style humor.
|Low-brow humor that just didn’t cut it|
Also included in the extra features is a full-length commentary by director Rafal Zielinski and the International Version of this film, which runs 11 minutes longer (none of those minutes have any extra nudity to offer, mind you) and looks to be recorded from a PAL tape with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 which means its a little box on your tv with black bars all around it. Its quality is terrible but and since it is “presented in Authentic VHS-Vision” I thought the idea kind of interesting. Actually, I really liked the thought process behind it which was just as hair-brained as the damn movie itself. The extra minutes were just added to the International Version to give the film a longer running time for the international audience as they are not accustomed to watching movies this short like North American audiences are. I have to tell ya, whenever I see uncut or extra minutes stamped on a dvd box I ALWAYS want to get it because I feel that I am missing a breast here, some bush there, a decapitation over there, and a mutilation over here…but it usually turns out to never be the case. Oh bother!
Loose Screws: Screwballs 2 consistently reminded me of films like Porky’s (’82) (which was far better), Hardbodies (’84), two films which were some of the late-night features I stayed up for until the wee hours of the night while spending the night at friends’ houses for sleepovers who had cable with all the movie channels. Hardbodies (’84) was one of the first breast-filled films I had ever seen and one that I will always remember and cherish. I guess on some level, I do have a slight fondness for the shenanigans within that Loose Screws offers, but as I said, only a SLIGHT fondness. I think that the film would have won me over if there were more scenes full of much more nudity because the jokes were definitely not winning me over.
Severin Films has done another solid job of loading up a lesser-known film with great extra features but I felt that their treatment was wasted on this particular film. Although I did not hate the film, I just kept comparing the level of nudity, sleezy humor, and caliber of jokes to many other ’80s sex comedies made around the same decade. I am sure there was an audience for this, but it just was not me.
“In celebration of our mammoth Blu-ray and DVD special edition arriving this January, Alejandro Jodorowsky classic Santa Sangre will make its return to the big screen for three rare 35mm showings in Los Angeles, Austin, and Boston.
Santa Sangre will screen in Los Angeles on January 15th at The American Cinematheque shown with Jodorowsky’s debut feature Fando Y Lis, followed by a double feature showing of El Topo and The Holy Mountain on the 16th. Present at both screenings will be Holy Mountain executive producer Robert Taicher for a Q&A. Santa Sangre will screen at The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX on January 19th (tickets have not yet gone on sale), and January 24th in Boston at the Stuart Street Playhouse (ticket link coming soon).”
Unfortunately, Chicago is not one of the cities listed for this incredible event, but I am very excited to be getting a copy of Santa Sangre on Blu-Ray and it is about time Jodorowsky’s modern masterpiece is getting the red carpet treatment from Severin Films. Imagine that- a high-definition transfer of a Jodorwosky film and even rarer is being privy for a screening of it on 35mm! The icing on the surreal cake is being able to see Fando Y Lis and a double feature of El Topo and The Holy Mountain in Los Angeles. It will be a Jodorowsky orgasmic experience for fans of him! It ALMOST makes me think moving to L.A., Austin, or Boston would be worth it. ALMOST. I will say that the only thing I think Texas is worth visiting for is the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. I want to go to vacation there one day during a very cool filmfest and just watch movies there my whole visit. Anyone want to mail me a plane ticket with all expenses paid to Austin, TX? Anyone? Can’t someone get these films a screening in the Midwest? Please!