Hired to Kill (1990)

Hired to Kill

Usually the films Arrow Video releases are cult cinema that has some kind of artistic merit to them. Not so with Hired to Kill. This one is just balls to the wall silly fun and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Starring George “I’ve won Oscars but I need a paycheck” Kennedy, Oliver “No one will hire me anymore” Reed, and Brian “The bad guy from Cobra & The X-Files” Thompson and directed by the guy that did the notorious video nasty Island of Death, I knew this would be interesting.

Brian Thompson plays a mercenary hired by George Kennedy to infiltrate a small country and help the rebels there overthrow the villainous dictator played by a bushy mustached Oliver Reed. Ready to assemble his dream team of elite killers, Kennedy tells him this time it will be different. He has to get seven beautiful women who are also deadly and pose as a fashion photographer, the seven being his models. This way Oliver Reed will get a boner and allow them into the country. Thompson doesn’t like it. He apparently doesn’t like ladies but begrudgingly agrees. What follows is a Seven Samurai-esque recruiting montage followed by training montages followed by fashion montages followed by shooting-the-bad-guys montages. It’s awesome.

The bulk of the middle of the film is pretty flabby, unlike Brian Thompson’s washboard stomach. Much of the run time features the women in various outfits being photographed and prancing around, when they aren’t arguing or fighting poolside. It didn’t bother me though because the middle, like the rest of the film, is filled with macho silly lines spouted by any and all characters. The first twenty minutes or so had me grinning from ear to ear, and admittedly the grin drooped a bit in the middle but perked up by the end. It’s a silly film made in Greece starring legitimate actors being asked to say very silly things. What’s not to love? Sure this isn’t a pantheon bad flick but it is a lot of fun and I would give it another spin with friends. I mean who doesn’t love seeing Oliver Reed sporting a Super Mario mustache being kissed by Brian Thompson? It’s like the most macho man-kiss ever filmed. Thompson pretends to be gay so that he can’t be “infiltrated” by one of Reed’s spies. Thompson does do some infiltrating of his own later in the film with one of the rebels though.

Hired to Kill is one of those inoffensive, silly action films made in the late 80’s/early 90’s that feature bad fashion, hilarious dialogue, and cheesy action. Throw in some legendary scenery chewing actors and you’ve got yourself a fun night. It’s not a typical film for Arrow Video but maybe that’s what’s great about them, you never can tell what they’re going to release next. The film has been lovingly restored and yet it still sports a washed out bland color palette but I believe it’s just an artifact of the time and place it was made. The blu features new interviews with the director and Brian Thompson which are fun.

Fascination: The Celluloid Dreams of Jean Rollin (2016)

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I’ve got to be honest when it comes to Jean Rollin and Eurohorror in general. It’s a blind spot for me. Sure, I’ve seen tons of Italian horror flicks and love ’em, but as far as gothic/creepy castle type Eurohorror it’s not a big draw for me. I’ve only seen The Grapes of Death and Zombie Lake by Rollin and according to this book, neither are good representations of the body of work Rollin was known for. I’m not alone in this. Author David Hinds concedes that for most horror fans, Jean Rollin’s work goes unseen. Rollin is often compared to or confused with Spanish director Jess Franco, despite the fact that Rollin is French. I know I’ve made the same mistake myself. Fascination: The Celluloid Dreams of Jean Rollin sets the record straight on the director and schools ignorant film fans (read: me).

Writer David Hinds makes no bones about it: he loves Jean Rollin’s films. His writing on the subject in the first few pages practically gushes his love all over the paper (which could be why the book has an odd but pleasant sweet aroma). From there he spends time writing about his life, his upbringing and how get got into film, as well as his aesthetic and influences for about 60 pages or so. We are then treated to lengthy reviews on each and every one of his films, including his hardcore films, short films, and unfinished works. The reviews not only comment on the style and success (or lack thereof) of the film from an artistic point of view but also goes into the history of how the film was made and background cultural information that may have had an influence. To put it simply, each review is very thorough. The book finishes off with a full interview with Rollin, who has since passed away. The reviews themselves are annotated with footnotes from other interviews with Rollin. The guy did his homework for sure. The book is printed in black and white and features numerous stills from Rollin’s films throughout.

For Jean Rollin fans this is a must buy. If you like the films, you should own this book. It’s informative and written by a person with obvious passion for the films. I will say that he isn’t slavish in his love however. He’s willing to admit when a film was a failure so the book is pretty balanced as well. I doubt anyone will ever write a more thorough and definitive book on Rollin, especially since he has now passed on. For those uninitiated in the cult of Rollin but are curious, it’s a good buy as well. I like to be informed on the films I watch before, during or right after watching them and this book gives the goods.

The Good, The Tough, The Deadly (2016)

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Growing up in the video store era I spent a lot of time in the action section. At my local mom & pop it was the largest section they had and I loved grabbing arm loads of direct to video fun. I spent many summers grabbing everything that looked good. Fast forward to today and I’ve realized that there were so many great action flicks that I missed in my youth. There are actors, like Gary Daniels, that released lots of fun flicks that I simply didn’t have access to. American action films are an undocumented phenomenon in cinema and frankly its tough to know what to watch. Enter The Good, The Tough, The Deadly: Action Movies & Stars 1960’s – Present by David J. Moore. It’s my new favorite thing.

The Good, The Tough, The Deadly is an exceptional guide to action movies. It’s what guys like me have been waiting for their whole lives. The book is a massive 560 pages and the size of the book covers your whole lap. It’s a giant tome dedicated to action heroes. The book also features contributions from Zack Carlson, Vern, and Mike McBeardo McPadden. Main author Moore has assembled an A-Team of cult cinema writers to make this the definitive guide to action films. I have never seen a book so thorough and well layed out. Well except for Moore’s previous book World Gone Wild. This book is full color with poster art and rare stills, printed on nice glossy paper with a heavy hard back. It’s a high quality product that matches the content. The content of the book consists of several hundred reviews for every action flick I could possibly think of. The introduction claims that the book reviews over 1,500 in fact. I would believe it. This book is massive. Much like with World Gone Wild, the book is very comprehensive in that respect. The book also features in depth reviews with action stars, directors, and assorted crew. It was fun nerding out on interviews with actors that never get interviewed anywhere, the unsung heroes have finally been given the opportunity to speak. It’s amazing.

If you’re looking for a book about action films, you couldn’t possibly find a better book on the subject. In fact, this book is so good, so well written, so comprehensive, I doubt it will ever be topped. That’s not hyperbole, it’s just a fact. I 100% recommend that you buy this book with no reservations or caveats. It’s perfect.

A Cat in the Brain (1990)

Cat in the Brain Blu

The first time I saw A Cat in the Brain was when Grindhouse originally released the movie on DVD. A friend of mine had it and despite having only seen one or two Fulci flicks I was eager to dive in. We both sat mouths agape at what we saw. Truly a spectacle to behold I only saw it that one time but certain scenes were burned into my brain. Fast forward to today and Grindhouse has upgraded their dvd to Blu. In the intervening years (probably at least 10), I have seen many more Fulci Flicks but this one still stands out.

A Cat in the Brain stars the man himself Lucio Fulci, as himself, Maestro Fulci. He’s working on a particularly nasty film with cannibalism and chainsaw dismemberment when he starts to become overwhelmed. Everywhere he goes he fantasizes about murdering people. He decides to go to a psychologist to try to get to the root of the problem. Little does he know that the psychologist is a psycho, and after watching all of Fulci’s films decides he wants to go on a killing spree and wants to set up Fulci as a fall guy. Fulci is haunted by his vivid dreams of murder and suspects that he might be the culprit in a series of real life murders. Not much of a synopsis but really that’s all the film is.

This flick is one wild ride for sure. It seems like less of a film as an excuse to pack in as much gore and sleaze as possible. When I first saw this film I thought that each vignette of exploitation was a reference to films Fulci had made in his career. Instead the movie recycles footage from films that Fulci directed previously mixed in with footage from other films that Fulci had some hand in creating whether it was producing, writing or even clandestinely directing. The differences in the stock are fairly obvious with the lifted scenes lacking the sharpness of image that the rest of the film has thanks to the great restoration job done on the film.  We get lots of nudity usually followed by some of the most graphic and unrelenting murders Fulci (or the other directors) ever put to film. Sadly (for me) even a decade after seeing this film i have yet to see the films lifted for use in the movie (Touch of Death and Sodoma’s  Ghost, and Massacre among others), so for me it was all new.

Even after seeing some of his more notorious films however, A Cat in the Brain stands out as possibly his most graphically violent film. There is very little story holding the whole film together but rather each scene is merely there to set up another gore fest or nude scene. It’s almost as if the film is an angry response to his stature in Italy. Fulci’s filmography is actually quite varied and he worked in nearly all genre of films, many of which were not particularly gory. At some point in the late 70’s he got pigeonholed into horror and never seemed to be able to escape. He was a film maker with great aspirations and great talent that by the end of the career was more often maligned then praised. His last films are angry ones and A Cat in the Brain is no different. It’s almost as if he said, so they think I’m just a gore guy huh? Well I’ll give them more gore then they can handle.

Again Grindhouse knocks it out of the park with this film. The true Cat in the Brain footage looks great, or at least as great as it can. At this stage of Italian cinema, budgets were very limited and so the film does lack atmosphere and the color palette is often has a washed out look. The set comes with a booklet with essays from Fulci’s daughter, Eli Roth, David Schow, and Martin Beine. We also get the soundtrack and a boat load of extras on a separate disc.

If you like Lucio Fulci and you love this flick, you will never get a better package than this, until Grindhouse re-releases it again in 10 years in whatever the new format is. Get on it.

Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)

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When I was a kid growing up, the Killer Tomatoes were a part of pop culture knowledge. Every now and then there would be a reference on a sitcom or a clip seen from the original film floating around T.V. land. The original film played on tv every now and then but sadly I never caught it. I vaguely remember a cartoon series that aired briefly on tv when I was a kid and there might have been toys too. For whatever reason I always avoided the whole lot. I’m very sad I did because after checking this film out, I now know I was really missing out.

 

Return of the Killer Tomatoes is a direct sequel to the first film. Since the killer tomatoes smashed everything in the first film, tomatoes have been banned. They cannot be grown or sold and the young folks of San Diego have never even seen one let alone eaten one. The mere sight of a tomatoes strikes fear in the hearts of men and women. John Astin returns as Professor Gangreen. His plan this time around is to turn tomatoes into people he can easily control. He can turn them into muscle bound Rambo knockoffs, beautiful women, and famous people in order to infiltrate positions of power so that he can rule the world with his tomato people army. One such tomato person escapes and ends up on the doorstep of Chad and Matt (played by George Clooney in this early role). She’s hot, loves sex, and wants to know more about humans. She and Chad fall in love while Matt makes jokes. She’s recaptured by the evil professor and so Chad and Matt must face the growing army of the tomatoes to defeat the professor and get back the girl.

 

Full disclosure, I watched this film having never seen any of the other ones (there are four total). As of this writing, I have yet to watch any of the others, though it is something I plan to remedy. The film references the first movie but sadly those references were lost on me. What wasn’t lost however was how much fun this movie is! When I was a young gore hound I avoided this movie because it has no gore and no nudity, and when you’re a teenager what’s the point of watching a flick like that? I’m sad my narrow minded pursuit of crazy movies left me ignoring this because I can tell you that had I seen this back in the VHS days it would have been on heavy rotation. In some ways it reminded me of the corny vibe that lives in Troma movies but without all the politically incorrect jokes and over the top gore. A closer relative would probably be Weird Al film UHF or the Naked Gun movies. Return of the Killer Tomatoes breaks the fourth wall repeatedly throughout the movie in fun and inventive ways. I loved it. We are constantly reminded that this is a movie and a silly one at that and the director wants us to know that he’s knows that it’s silly. If that makes any sense. The film never goes off the rails and maintains a very fun late 80’s comedy vibe that isn’t mean or dirty which may repel some readers of this review but let me make it clear: this movie is an 80’s cheese sandwich and should be seen by lovers of goofy flicks the like of which fill these pages.

Return of the Killer Tomatoes left me feeling energized and excited to dig into the rest of the films in the series. I might even try to track down the short lived cartoon. It’s a shame that the direct only made five films (4 of which were killer tomato movies) but I’m glad that we have at least these films to enjoy.

Cat in the Brain comes to Blu!

Hey all,

Here’s a press release from Grindhouse Releasing who will be unleashing Lucio Fulci classic Cat in the Brain on Blu! Check it out:

 

Grindhouse Releasing has set a July 12 street date for the new deluxe 3-disc Blu-ray edition of Lucio Fulci’s nightmare classic CAT IN THE BRAIN. The movie will be touring theaters all over the U.S. this summer, starting June 2.

CAT IN THE BRAIN is a psychological masterpiece in the tradition of such cinematic classics as PSYCHO, STRAIT-JACKET, ERASERHEAD and Fellini’s 8 1/2. Acclaimed Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci, director of ZOMBIE and THE BEYOND, stars in this blood-soaked epic as a director being driven insane by his own movies. Fulci is thrust into an ultra-violent nightmare of death and depravity where murder and madness consume his sanity in a vortex of violence.

“CAT IN THE BRAIN is my favorite Fulci movie,” says Grindhouse Releasing co-founder Bob Murawski. “How could it not be? It’s wall-to-wall gore and stars Lucio Fulci playing himself. It delivers on all levels.”

As with Grindhouse Releasing’s #1 best-selling smash PIECES, the new Blu-ray release of CAT IN THE BRAIN will be issued in two versions: the standard release, and a special edition for collectors limited to 3,000 copies.

The limited version of the CAT IN THE BRAIN Blu-ray includes a glow-in-the-dark slipcover and an original portrait of Lucio Fulci created especially for this release.

Grindhouse Releasing advises all customers who want to be guaranteed a copy of the limited edition to pre-order from Diabolik DVD, as Diabolik customers will get first priority and will receive the set early.

Supplies are not expected to last long — if you do not pre-order from Diabolik DVD, there is no guarantee of receiving one of the limited collector’s copies.

As an additional exclusive, Diabolik DVD is offering a special bundle that includes the CAT IN THE BRAIN Blu-ray and the official Lucio Fulci bobblehead from Cult Colletibles. This offer is limited to 500 copies, as these are the last of the numbered Lucio Fulci “Weird Wobbler” bobbleheads – when they’re gone, they’re gone!

CAT IN THE BRAIN Blu-ray specs:

– Hi-definition digital restoration of the original UNCENSORED DIRECTOR’S CUT

– Presented with English and original Italian language soundtracks

– In-depth interviews with director Lucio Fulci and cult superstar Brett Halsey (REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, RETURN OF THE FLY, THE GODFATHER 3)

– New interviews with composer Fabio Frizzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori, cinematographer Sandro Grossi and poster artist Enzo Sciotti

– Lucio Fulci’s heroic appearance at the 1996 NYC Fangoria Weekend of Horrors

– Original Italian theatrical trailer & gallery of stills and poster art

– Liner notes by Antonella Fulci, David J. Schow, Eli Roth and Martin Beine

– BONUS CD – the original soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi!

– Chilling GLOW-IN-THE-DARK slip cover – limited to first 3000 copies

– Mini portrait of Lucio Fulci – suitable for framing – limited to first 3000 copies

– PLUS OTHER SURPRISES!

CAT IN THE BRAIN screening dates:

6/2/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Omaha, NE

6/3/2016 – Moolah Theatre, St Louis, MO

6/4/2016 – Moolah Theatre, St. Louis, MO

6/5/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse S. Lamar, Austin, TX

6/10/2016 – Hollywood Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

6/11/2016 – Hollywood Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

6/15/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Richardson TX

6/17/2016 – Coolidge Corner Theatre, Boston, MA

6/18/2016 – Coolidge Corner Theatre, Boston, MA

6/19/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Mission, San Francisco, CA

6/20/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes, San Antonio, TX

6/20/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Stone Oak, San Antonio, TX

6/21/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Dallas, TX

6/22/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Ashburn, VA

6/25/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park, Houston, TX

6/25/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Lubbock, TX

6/25/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, El Paso, TX

6/27/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Kansas City, MO

6/27/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Laredo, TX

6/27/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, New Braunfels, TX

6/27/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Park North, San Antonio, TX

6/28/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Winchester, VA

6/29/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers, NY

7/1/2016 – Frida Cinema, Santa Ana, CA

7/8/2016 – Grand Illusion Cinema, Seattle, WA

7/13/2016 – Film Scene, Iowa City, IA

7/15/2016 – Circle Cinema, Tulsa, OK

7/16/2016 – Circle Cinema, Tulsa, OK

7/29/2016 – Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL

7/30/2016 – Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL

7/30/2016 – Metrograph, New York City, NY

7/31/2016 – PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA

7/31/2016 – Metrograph, New York City, NY

8/1/2016 – PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA

8/5/2016 – Hollywood Theater, Portland, OR

8/6/2016 – Hollywood Theater, Portland, OR

8/12/2016 – Cinefamily, Los Angeles, CA

8/31/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Littleton, CO

“A shattering exposition of gore, mutilation and sordid sex, certain to satisfy the sick set. A MASTERPIECE!”

– David F. Friedman, legendary producer of BLOOD FEAST and ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE S.S.

“The fun never stops! Sadism, carnage, brutality, lust and utter psychosis delivered as only Lucio Fulci can.”

– CLIVE BARKER, director of HELLRAISER

More theaters and screening dates coming soon! Visit GrindhouseReleasing.com for updates!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Grindhouse-Releasing-125392227536411

Twitter: @GrindhouseFilm

Dolemite (1975)

Dolemite

Over the years I have seen plenty of Blaxploitation flicks. My favorite are the ones starring Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. The films are often lots of fun and give a peak into a place and time unique to the films. Dolemite is a flick I’ve always wanted to check out but for multiple reasons I was never able to get a hold of a copy of it, until now.

Comedian Rudy Ray Moore got his start recording comedy bits in his house and producing the albums himself. He would then take his especially vulgar albums full of dirty jokes (with album art that always featured nudity) to the poor areas of major cities and play the record for people to hear. The records sold like hot cakes and the demand for his live performances became greater and greater. He toured the states selling records and performing live until he had enough money to take his infamous character Dolemite from his records and put him on the silver screen. He’s a pimp with a whole stable of ladies who would do anything for him. He gets framed by some dirty cops and sent up the river after they find a bunch of drugs in the trunk of his car. The madam of his stable fought long and hard to get someone to look at his case again and finally she gets a break. The warden has agreed to release Dolemite temporarily if he can bring down the dirty dudes that set him up otherwise it’s back into the clink or worse, death by dirty dude. Dolemite is up to the task though and he leaves prison to find the guys responsible and plans to karate chop their asses into justice.

This film is such a hoot! Rudy Ray Moore is obviously having a blast in this flick. Every line he spouts is full of passion and the dialogue is so cheesy and over the top I couldn’t help but love it. He gives Sam Jackson a run for his money every time Moore spouts “Mother Fucker!” which is a lot. Dude knows how to let that roll off his tongue just right. When he leaves prison, he ditches his cheap duds and puts on his proper pimp attire and climbs in the back of his limo surrounded by his ladies. Dude knows how to roll in style for sure. He’s stopped along the way by some nefarious dudes so he climbs out of the car and shoots them all with a machine gun. Rudy doesn’t take any shit. His fashion sense is so far over the top that it is an important part of the fun. He looks like the pimpiest pimp that ever pimped in this movie. He busts out his sloppy kung fu on any jerk that tries to mess with him. All the acting in the film is bad as is the editing, the cinematography, the fight scenes, pretty much everything in the film is amateur hour but that just makes it even more fun to watch. It’s rough and ragged and yet it lends a special charm to the movie. It reminds me of the skits on Madtv where they would make fun of bad Blaxploitation flicks. I always thought those were uncharitable as all the films I saw were all competently made. I believe they were directly riffing on Dolemite as everything seems to have been done poorly.

Moore was very disappointed with the film. The director had no faith in the project and the sloppy results are proof. He was embarrassed by the movie but since he had invested his own money to fund the entire project he knew he had to recoup his costs. Much to his (and everyone else’s) surprise the film was a hit in the theaters it played. Lines formed around the block to get in to see the film that promised action and a high level of vulgarity. The film ends up feeling like a very crude cartoon, and one that I got a big kick out of watching. The film strikes a rare balance of being very poorly made, so much so that it’s shortcomings are hilarious, and yet I was rooting for Dolemite the whole way through. In short, the flick is cheesy and lots of fun. What’s not to love?

This is my first Vinegar Syndrome release and I am very impressed with it. The film looks absolutely fantstic. There is no way this film will ever look any better than this. It’s been completely restored. The colors are fantastic and the print is in great shape. The blu came with some nice special features too including a great documentary about Rudy Ray Moore and how he came to make Dolemite. The doc ends after Dolemite was released and leaves you hanging with a “to be continued,” presumably it will be continued on the next Rudy Ray Moore film release by Vinegar Syndrome. The doc had me hooked and I honestly thought for a moment that i’d love to get the next release just to continue the story of Rudy Ray Moore. That’s pretty incredible that a special feature is strong enough not only to sell the release but to sell the NEXT release too. Fantastic. I can’t wait to get the next installment in the Rudy Ray Moore library.

The Hong Kong Filmography 1977-1997 (1999)

hong kong filmography

The cinema from Hong Kong’s golden era is like no other. Kinetic, bizarre, graphic, violent, brutal, artful, beautiful, hilarious, the films ran the gamut. They had higher highs and lower lows then their western counterparts during this era. Highly influential on American cinema throughout the 90’s, the films were notoriously difficult to find if you even knew what to look for to begin with. The films were imported, often times through grey market companies using dodgy prints, and sold in specialty stores around the country. Sometimes you could find some gold at your local mom & pop video store but more often than not you had to go beyond the safety of your favorite store and venture out into the wide world or roll the dice on films out of shady catalogs. Still the power of the films made the hunt worth it and crossed all barriers of difficulty. Keeping the films straight was tough. A reference guide was needed big time, enter The Hong Kong Filmography by John Charles.

The Hong Kong Filmography boasts 1,100 (!) reviews of Hong Kong cinema from 1977-1997. That is a ton of films to come from a tiny island in a mere 20 years. The crazy thing is, i’m sure there are probably hundreds (or more) films that the author didn’t review during that era. The book covers traditional kung fu films, heroic bloodshed action flicks, comedies, romantic films, dramas, and even some naughty adult fare. This endows the book with an encyclopedic quality that wont’ be rivaled anytime soon. Each film has extensive notes on the writers/actors/directors etc, run times, plot summary, succinct and well written review, as well as a rating out of a possible 10 points.

The book is a pleasure to thumb through and scan the page until something catches your eye. The information contained within the pages is authoritative, heck Tim Lucas even wrote the foreword for this beast. If you’re looking into digging deeper into the wild world of Hong Kong cinema this book has you covered with plenty of great films to go out and find. To this day many of the titles covered in this book are hard to find so even after over a decade since it’s original publication it’s still a powerful tool in the hunt for quality HK cinema. You’re not just going to stumble upon these flicks on Netflix. You’ll have to dig deep to find the treasures contained within. Thankfully, you now have a guide to get you to the gold.

http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/

America’s Deadliest Home Video (1993)

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Before I begin this review I feel that I should disclose that I write for Lunchmeat magazine, whose head honcho Josh was largely responsible for this flick being released on dvd. In fact I first heard about this flick from Josh’s glowing review in an old issue of Lunchmeat. He discovered the film and loved it only to find out that it was super rare. That didn’t sit right with him and so he’s spent years trying to get a dvd release of the movie so a broader audience could enjoy it. This is a “lost” film that thanks to Josh and his efforts can finally be seen nearly 25 years after it’s initial release.

America’s Deadliest Home Video stars Danny Donaduce. He just got a video camera and has started to make a video journal. He finds ou that his girlfriend has been cheating on him so he hits the open road looking for adventure and answers. What he finds is a criminal gang that takes him hostage and makes him film their crimes. The Stockholm syndrome starts to take hold as Danny begins to like the violent crew while being terrified of them. He has to find a way out before they tire of him and put a bullet in his head.

What makes this film’s place in history so interesting is that his film is a found footage flick. It’s the type of film that has flooded cinemas for several years and yet this one predates even the Blair Witch Project, the first found footage smash hit, and it was filmed and completed before Man Bites Dog, though it was released shortly after. The director had the right idea for the film but he executed it at the wrong time. There was no market for a film like this and I’m sure most video store patrons didn’t understand what they were watching. Instead of trying to spook out his audience with ghosts and things that go bump in the night, he was trying to shock audiences and bring real life terror to the film. It is that rare Shot On Video film that actually uses the format to the film’s advantage instead of trying to pretend it wasn’t made with a video camera. He made the video camera essential to the film’s structure.

But is it any good? I myself am not a big fan of the found footage genre. This film is nasty and has plenty of ugly character moments. The style of the film helps to put the audience in Danny’s shoes and those are pair of reeboks I would not want to be in. The robberies and shootings have a real flavor to them even if the characters are a bit cartoony. America’s Deadliest Home Video is an ugly film about ugly characters. They have no redeeming qualities. They are wolves among sheep who can commit crime with no consequences. It’s a scary thought and grim film. If that sounds like your cup of tea, by all means take a ride with Bonaduce in his wood panel van with a gang of psychos.

What Have You Done To Solange? (1972)

what have you done to solange

About a decade ago (has it been that long?!) I went on a giallo binge. I looked up lists online and tried to knock out the best of the best. I remembered watching this flick and not having my socks blown when I saw it. When I got the Blu it was great timing, I was in the mood for a giallo and I decided to give this one another spin.

A teacher (played by Italian fave Fabio Testi) is having an affair with one of his students. They’re on a canoe ride down a calm stream and he’s trying to convince her to do the deed. Sounds perilous I know but I admire Testi’s confidence. While said macking is going down a girl is murdered on a nearby bank. Testi’s student witnesses part of the murder and he doesn’t believe her. The mood killed, Testi goes back home to hang out with his severe German wife. He hears on the radio about the murder and realizes that his student was correct. He rushes to the seen only find out it’s another girl that goes to his school. Unbeknownst to him, he drops a pen at the scene. The police question him about the girl and find the pen realizing it’s his (apparently Testi’s pens are very exclusive, only he owns them). Now he has to work to clear his name while hiding his affair.

The setup to the film is a fairly typical giallo. You’ve got a hunky dude implicated in a murder of a pretty girl and he has to unravel the mystery before he’s thrown in the clink. Testi is good as always but for my money this isn’t is best. I know that this film is considered top tier if not the absolute best giallo by some aficionados so take it with a grain of salt when I say, I still don’t think this flick is great. The style is really lacking for one thing. When I think giallo, I think memorable music, beautiful women, elaborate kills and lots of garish colors. This one does have pretty girls and testi does drive a sweet sports car but the movie doesn’t ooze style. This is surprising as the director was the DP on several classic westerns (including A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More)  so the man knew what he was doing behind the camera. The shocker of an ending isn’t predictable I’ll give it that but lord is it shocking. For my taste it was too brutal and that says a lot.

The Blu ray looks fantastic and again has some nice special features including a commentary track with Alan Jones and Kim Newman, a nice booklet with an essay about the film, cast interviews and more. If you love this flick, you should pick up the Blu. If you love gialli you should probably grab it too. If you’ve never seen one, there are other places (namely Argento’s output) that are better places to start.