Curtains has been on many many wish lists over the last 15 years, since DVDs became widely available. Every year one horror magazine or another puts out a top 10 list of forgotten or lost films that have yet to make the jump to dvd. Curtains is almost always on those lists. Many people grew up watching it on HBO or renting it on a poorly dubbed vhs tape from their local mom & pop shop because the movie tanked and was a cheap grab for cable or video stores. I did not grow up watching it and have no nostalgic feelings for it at all. I was, however, super excited to get the film knowing the great care that Synapse puts into their releases. Did it live up to the hype?
Curtains is about a group of actresses all vying for the same role in a stage play put on by a well respected theater director. They are asked up to a secluded house to spend a weekend trying out for the role with the director. Then, people start dying left and right. Or at least that’s one version of the film anyway.
You see the film has a troubled back story. The film was originally directed to be an art house exploration of character and insanity but the producers couldn’t use that to sell the film, nor did they have enough footage to complete the film. The producer then gathered the actresses and re-shot at least 50% of the film, turning it into a slasher flick. Some of the film is artfully shot, some of it is quick and dirty. Some of it has some great slasher tropes, some of it has lots and lots of dialogue. John Vernon does a great job of delivering said dialogue as the domineering theater director. Both films would have been great on their own, but together the film feels a bit like a hodge podge. If it’s a slasher, its a decent entry into the genre, with just enough slashing to satisfy. If it’s an art film, it’s got too much slashing to take it too seriously.
The film looks and sounds great, as I knew it would. Synapse releases are always up to snuff quality wise. The print is clean and clear, with no obvious damage to the print. The source material was great here and they did an excellent job of maintaining the look of a film from ’83. Some blu-ray releases, looks smeared and scrubbed but this release maintains its film grain look. The Blu also comes with a great 35 minute featurette that explains all about the troubled production of the film with interviews with the original director and actors from the film as well as the film’s editor. It also has a vintage feature and audio commentary as well as audio interviews. The release is packed with great supplementals.
If you grew up watching Curtains, you couldn’t ask for a better release. If you’re a slasher or Canadian horror completist, this is also a solid buy. For the rest of us, it’s really up to you. The film isn’t a forgotten classic or hidden gem. It’s got great performances from the actors, and a handful of good slasher scenes but overall I felt it was just OK. It’s clear there was talent behind the film and wasn’t just a cheap cash in. It didn’t blow my socks off but it didn’t bore me either.
Italian crime action flicks of the 70′s are the best! Also known as Poliziotteschi, these films were made by the bundle and featured action, sleaze, and lots of machismo. I’ll admit I’ve probably only seen about a dozen of them but I’m always on the lookout for more. Gang War in Milan was directed by horror favorite Umberto Lenzi, and he went on to direct several more. Largely ignore or completely undistributed in the states, these films are kinda hard to find. You have to know what you’re looking for in order to find them. Blue Underground released a handful many years ago and now Raro Video has been releasing some of the more obscure ones as well. But how does Gang War in Milan stack up?
Gang War in Milan is about one hellava pimp. Guy has more pro’s than Mr. T. has chains. The guy is big time. The problem is a drug lord has moved in and wants him to help sling his dope. Big Pimp will do it but only if he get’s 50% of the take. Big Drugs doesn’t like that deal. Fighting ensues.
Gang War in Milan lacks the super action of some of the more well known flicks in the genre but it also lacks the boredom that can occur in between said action. It’s well written and acted with an engaging plot that goes beyond action for action’s sake. I really enjoyed this flick. Corruption, double dealing, police used as a weapon, and mucho machismo make this one a hit for me. The presentation is damn great too. The blu is beautiful and clean, Raro doing yet another excellent restoration job on an obscure flick. It also features a great (and funny) introduction about the film and the genre by Poliziotteschi documenatarian Mike Malloy. This one is a buy for fans of Italian crime/action flicks. I can’t wait to see what Raro does next!
There was a time about 10 years ago that I was obsessed with the Video Nasties. I wanted to know why they were banned and if they were really all that awful. So, I found a list online and I went through as many as I could get my hands on. I believe I watched at least 60 of the original Video nasties over the course of a year or so. Let me tell you, there’s a lot of crap on that list and a lot of over the top sleaze too. Some of the films on the list were Nazisploitation films that were largely made in Italy in the late 70′s. The Gestapo’s Last Orgy was one of those films.
Let me begin by saying that Nazisploitation films are nasty nasty flicks. They are completely sold on tragedy and honestly I think they’re pretty sick today. Just the idea of making an exploitation flick about the nazis makes me rather disgusted these days. 10 years ago however I watched many of them, including the Gestapo’s Last Orgy. The film is about a nazi officer that runs a harem for other officers to indulge in. He takes one of the prisoners as his personal plaything and wants to completely break her before he kills her. She, however is seemingly unbreakable, and eventually he falls in love with her and she protects herself by pretending to love him.
On the scale of nastiness of Nazisploitation flicks this one lacks the class of Salon Kitty, which to me is an excellent film, and isn’t nearly as gross as S.S. Hell Camp, the high watermark for sleaze in these films and doesn’t have the arty cred of Salo. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some nasty stuff here but the film doesn’t go super for for a nazisploitation flick. The print looks pretty good and certainly better than the vhs-ripped dvd I used to have years ago. If you’re into these types of movies then this is a must buy. It’s released well with a very informative short documentary on the genre. If you’ve never seen any before, check out Ilsa She Wolf of the S.S. and Salon Kitty first.
Sex plays a large part in our lives. We go out in the world to seek a person with which to spend the rest of our lives with and along the way many of us get caught up with a wide variety of relationship types. Some of us get into what most would consider to be aberrant relationships that involve sexual preferences far from the norm of most. There are films that explore these worlds of unique, strange, and to many, perverse sexual relationships. Blue Movie is such a film.
Produced in Italy by a rogue director, Blue Movie is about a young woman that is almost raped in a park. She runs away and is taken in by a photographer to allows her to stay with him for a while until she feels safe to venture out. As it turns out this photographer is a sexually dominant man who enjoys controlling the women who are in his life. He tells them what to do and completely controls their sexual encounters. He seems to receive no joy but only wishes to remain firmly in control. When the rape victim decides she wants to leave she finds out she can’t. He won’t let her. He traps her in his home while he dominates his photography subjects.
Known for graphic footage of copraphelia and urinating as well as lots of nudity the film has been largely forgotten. It’s considered one of the most obscure and hard to find films on the subject and now thanks to Raro, it’s finally available. I don’t really know what to make of this one. It was apparently shot for as little money as possible as quickly as possible on a bet and honestly it shows. Rough and rugged, the film has style but feels rushed and the plot doesn’t really gel. The print quality is ok for a film so hard to find but it certainly shows its age and doesn’t look as great as other raro releases. This is a film for a very fringe audience and because of that it lacks the spit and polish that most of their releases receive. It does have a great and informative booklet which is always a huge bonus in my mind. The problem as I said is that the film didn’t do much for me. It has a short run time and by the end I was glad. Not because I was grossed out by the sleaze on display but because I just didn’t really care anymore. There are many that love this film but I’d rather watch the Story of O again before I popped this in. For those that dig the fringes of sexual behavior and really like films like this it’s probably a safe bet that you’d like it. If not, or if you haven’t mined the small genre’s classics yet, it’s best to start elsewhere though you could do worse. Still bravo to Raro for releasing such an obscure flick.
Jess Franco is a divisive director. Peddling smut and sleaze, he has a rabid following. A cult that has to have every release possible by him. I have never been a part of that cult. I’ve seen a handful of his films, some entertaining, some not so much. It all hinges on whether or not you dig softcore porn. His films are often riddled with steamy scenes that just barely qualify for softcore, and some of this films have hardcore versions as he also directed porn off and on during his career. Bloody Moon is a bit of an odd duck in his filmography. He was asked to direct an American Slasher film with jump scares every minute, with buckets of blood. But did he deliver?
Bloody Moon is about a group of young people living abroad in Spain, learning the language and partying. But of course there’s a killer on the loose. There’s a bit more to the plot but honestly that about sums it up. Then again what slasher film can’t be summed up similarly?
Promised a huge budget with great music by Pink Floyd and the best makeup artist in Hollywood, Franco got none of these things. He got a musician that he hated, an FX person from Spain that was a friend, and a modest budget. Being well versed in limited budgets he did what he could to keep the producers happy but ultimately he was very unhappy with the product. He admits on the dvd that Bloody Moon is not one of his favorite films. There was far too much producer “input” for his taste. The film does indeed feature some great graphic gore, silly music, and a simple plot that gets complicated in the last act in a somewhat giallo fashion. We do get to see some nudity but this is not your typical sex film from Franco. The Blu looks fantastic, much better than the bootleg I saw many years ago. It has never looked better and I doubt anyone will top this release. The problem is that for me, it was fairly luke warm. I wasn’t blown away by it but I wasn’t bored to tears either. For me it’s a middle of the road slasher that has languished in obscurity for many years. For Eurohorror fans it’s a must buy. For Franco fans it’s a must buy. For the rest of us it’s a maybe. It all depends on how much you love the slasher genre and how much of a completist you are.
I’ve been a fan of British director Pete Walker for several years now. He made a series of horror flicks in the 70′s (and one in the 80′s) that were well written, tightly plotted, and very well acted. His films aren’t known for being graphic gorefests because the censors at the time wouldn’t allow it but that didn’t stop distributors from selling his films like they were Italian gut munchers. This has led to many a fright fan being let down by the film but if you know going in you’re not going to get anything particularly graphic then they truly are a great run of films. House of Mortal Sin is one such film.
House of Mortal Sin is about a young girl who is very confused. She has an asshole boyfriend and decides to go to church to see if an old friend of hers is there and eventually goes into confession. There she meets the villain of the story a pushy old priest who becomes obsessed with her and with killing everyone around her that is leading her astray!
I loved this flick! The priest is so damn wicked and the actor chews the scenery beautifully. His assistant is played by Pete Walker regular Sheila Keith and she is also superb in her role as a wicked woman with a blacked out eyeglasses lens. Together they’re great to watch as each actor tries to outdo each other in their malice-dripping performances. We actually do get a bit grue in this one too which was a surprise. We get some rather nasty murders but the real star of the show is the great performances. The film is well paced and written and like so many other Walker films, a real joy to watch. His films are actors films, giving them plenty of room to shine and they certainly do here.
The Blu-ray print looks GREAT. I can’t believe how clean and clear the print is. There are times when the film looks like it was made just yesterday with it’s crisp picture and clear color palette. Though the costumes are a dead give away, this is a 70′s flick all the way.
If you are a fan of Pete Walker this is an easy pick up. It’s a great film and it’s been lovingly restored and released.
I grew up in the 90′s, the peak of the video boom, right before the massive fall of the video store and vhs as the king of the formats. I had a local mom & pop shop (movies to go) in my little town and eventually we got a Blockbuster, a Hollywood Video, and a few other video stores that popped up and came tumbling down just as quickly. I have nostalgia for that time in my life. I used to rent old movies, 6 for $6 and my summers were filled with roundhouse kicks and monsters. Of course I can’t deny how much I have loved using Netflix either. I was an early adopter of Netflix after having rented everything of interest from my local stores. I wish for a world where both can co-exist but as of right now we know that isn’t happening. I also love finding funky VHS tapes at thrift stores and cruise my local spots regularly hoping to find some grimy gold. Adjust Your Tracking is a documentary about doing just that, digging deep and trying to find forgotten films and preserve them for future enjoyment. It is also about the love of video stores and the love of our cinematic childhoods.
You may be thinking, wait, wasn’t there another VHS documentary? Yes, there was. Filmed at the same time by separate filmmakers, Rewind This was also about the love VHS but focused more on it’s impact on filmmakers and took a much more historical look at the format. Adjust Your Tracking interviews some of the same folks that were featured in Rewind This but has a different focus. The focus here is really on the culture of collecting and why people love filling up their homes with plastic magnetic jewels. This film interviews some of the heavy hitters of the collecting world as well as VHS banner wavers like the guys behind Massacre Video and Lunchmeat magazine (whom I write for and highly recommend!). It’s a fun doc that’s well paced and informative without ever being dull. Running at a lean 80 minutes it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and kept me engaged throughout. I love the subject and I love documentaries and this one is a sure fire winner. I really liked Rewind This but I felt it was lacking VHS’ current history and culture and Adjust Your Tracking fills that void very nicely. This is the debut film from the director and if this is where he is starting, I can’t wait to see where he goes next. It seems easy to go out and a shoot a doc but trust me, it isn’t. I know he drove across the entire U.S. doing tons of interviews, probably shooting hundreds of hours of interviews to cut that down into an 80 minute feature that has an organic and seemingly effortless flow is one tough feat, especially when you’re working on a small budget, and with little experience. Adjust Your Tracking isn’t good for a first feature, it’s just plain good. I really enjoyed watching it and I’m really glad I did.
Also included on the dvd are 3 short films which I also really enjoyed. One is about a video store trying to hang on, another is about Chester Turner the man behind the cult phenomenon Tales of the Quadead Zone, and another is about a huge video store in Staten Island that has to close. They all add to the overall flavor of the culture of VHS and the one about the small video store hanging on has inspired me to go to my own “local” video store (it’s 30 min away) and rent a few things with my kids. There are in total 7+ hours of bonus features for us to dig into and that my friends is value for money indeed!
It’s clear that Adjust Your Tracking is a labor of love. The film needed to be made and was executed by the right team at the right time. They’ve produced an important documentary well worth the sticker price for any body who used to roam around a video store looking for gold and anyone who continues to hunt for hidden cult treasure. Recommended!
My earliest action movie memory is of The Road Warrior. Every time the film played on T.V., I would watch it. Max was just such a cool character. He drove what is arguably the coolest vehicle in all of film history, sported a sweet sawed off shotgun that has the same amount of stopping power as a rocket launcher, and he hardly said anything. It also had awesome bad guys driving awesome-er cars. The film is such a unique and strong vision of a future turned to shit that it’s burned into my brain permanently. It was one of the first VHS tapes I ever bought. I still own it today. It spawned countless rip-offs and knock offs and influenced several big budget Hollywood films. The 80′s were a ripe time for post apocalyptic films with the ever looming chance of a nuclear war. Since then, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic films have been gaining ground again as small indie flicks (every zombie movie made in the last 15 years) and big budget spectacles (Pacific Rim, Godzilla, countless Tom Cruise movies). One man was brave enough, or crazy enough, to dig in and watch them. ALL of them.
World Gone Wild is a film book that covers every single apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic film ever made. Seriously. The book is filled with 800+ reviews, the writing of which took the author 8 years to complete. Imagine that. Nearly a decade of watching, researching, and tracking down every single film in the apocalyptic canon. It’s a dizzying feat, one that I can’t imagine embarking on. Thankfully, I don’t have to. With the accurate, concise, and fun reviews packed in this bundle, I can avoid the many many stinkers and hone in on the solid ones. And, knowing me, I’ll circle back and try to find the worst of the worst in the book. The book comes in a beautiful hardcover edition, thick with high quality glossy FULL COLOR pages. This thing is stunning. The book is FILLED with full color posters and lobby cards. Every single page has at least one color photo on it. Honestly I can’t believe how good the quality some of the images are. I mean, a solid chunk of the book reviews are for films that aren’t on dvd. VHS only or sometimes not even that. Films lost floating in the ether of the internet, but David somehow grabbed them, pulled them in, reviewed em, and then found awesome images for them. Incredible. Damn near every other page also contains an interview with an actor, director, crew member, writer, you get the picture. I would have been very happy with a book that simply reviewed a ton of apocalyptic films. The author goes above and beyond here with the wonderful interviews and at the back of the book are several great lists. Everybody LOVES lists, and I’m a sucker for em too. You may be saying, Lord, I don’t need another film guide. Let me tell you something buddy, you do.
World Gone Wild is a perfect book about it’s subject matter. It’s thorough, high-quality, well conceived and executed, and above all fun and informative. If you have even just a passing interest in the genre, you’ll love the book. For aficionados, there’s plenty to dig into as well. My guess is there is no one on the planet that has watched more of these films than David J. Moore, and he decided to give us the best gift he could. An awesome book pointing us in the right direction in our pursuit of a truly wild staple of exploitation cinema. Do yourself a favor and pick up the book. Who knows, the survival techniques displayed in the kaleidoscopic variety of films might just save your life should the apocalypse arrive sooner than expected.
About 10 years ago I discovered the video nasty phenomenon. Here in the states we can usually release whatever the hell we want but the blokes out in the U.K. have not had it so good. In the early 80′s as VCRs became available, distributors started pumping out all sorts of lurid covers from graphic (and some not graphic at all) horror movies. This caught the attention of the powers that be and soon a firestorm of controversy was started. Learning this I found a list of the original 72 films that were either banned outright or cut for release in the U.K. I was interested in just how extreme some of them might be so I tracked down as many as I could (50+) at the time and went through the list alphabetically. Some were righteously labeled as nasty and some were just lumped in because of the title or because of the artwork associated with the film. A fair amount of them are pretty poorly made flicks.
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide, is indeed very thorough. It’s a 3 dvd set that includes a full documentary directed by gore master Jake West ( Evil Aliens, Doghouse, ABC’s of Death) that features new interviews and information that wasn’t included on the Video Nasty documentary on the House on Straw Hill Blu, also released by Severin, and to be honest it’s presented in a much more fun and less dry style. It includes interviews with Neil Marshall (Doomsday, Centurion, The Descent), Christopher Smith (Triangle, Creep, Severance, Black Death), several critics, and some folks that were there, fighting the good fight at the time. Certainly it doesn’t dig as deep as the aforementioned documentary on the House on Straw Hill Blu, but it’s still very informative. If you are as into the subject matter as I am, why not pick up both from Severin? I’m sure they’ll be very happy you did!
The other discs include trailers for EVERY SINGLE video nasty. In total there’s nearly 14 hours of content spread across the 3 discs! Whoa. That’s alotta video nasty. For trailer lovers this is a great set as it is complete. Perfect for parties or dates with very adventurous partners.
Time travel is one of my favorite tropes in science fiction cinema. It’s an easy way to get a high concept idea made into a film with a limited budget. Or a fantastic way to blow a huge wad of cash on fancy special effects. Back in Crime is more interested in subtlety than flash and puts an interesting spin on the tried and true plot device.
Newly released in the states, this French film is about an older police detective. He’s worn and tired. He spends his free time alone and mulls over a series of killings that happened more than 20 years previously where the killer was never caught. Another body shows up matching the M.O. from the old slayings and he meets a woman who discovered the body. He starts to fall for her just as he’s transported into the past by some unseen force. He’s sent back just a few days before the murders begin and so he sets out to stop the killer this time around. Things, however get complicated when he’s implicated in the murders!
Back in Crime is a simple, subtle film. It never jumps the shark and doesn’t blow it in the end. Often times films of this nature fall apart in the third act (see nearly every thriller from the early to mid 90′s). The characters are engaging and very human. It being French the film focuses more on the characters than it does the action and I’m totally fine with that. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor did it blow my mind. It is totally rock solid however. As the film proceeds it looks less likely the criminal will be stopped and more likely our hero will be caught in connection with the murders. In this way the film becomes very Hitchcockian and I had fun with it. If you like films based on time travel, serial killer procedurals, or subtle French thrillers, give Back in Crime a shot.