The Flesh and Blood Show is somewhat of an odd duck. It’s yet another horror film by British director Pete Walker. I had never seen this one before. Mostly I’ve seen his later output so I was really excited when I put this on last night. But is it any good?
The Flesh and Blood Show is about an improv theater group that has been assembled by a producer and asked to start creating a new play at a rundown theater in the middle of nowhere. The theater hasn’t been used since the war (that’s WWII) and certainly has a creepy vibe. There was a bit of mystery surrounding the theater. It seems the last company that worked there broke up after the start of the group and his wife and daughter disappeared one night. Well as you might have guessed, members of this theater group start disappearing as well, one by one.
On it’s surface the film is very much a part of a very well worn cliche in horror films. Group of young people assemble for some purpose and then get killed one by one. Although we have to remember that this was ’72 and that particular trope hadn’t been run into the ground yet. Much like Walker’s later efforts the film isn’t a gore fest. There’s some blood but overall it’s pretty tame. This is fine because Walker films are never particularly bloody but usually lean and well written. The characters spout impressive lines and the actors involved must have had fun delivering them. The film is odd however because of the abundance of nudity in it. Later in his career Walker sidestepped that particular trope but here there’s a bevy of bare bodies. In fact the first scene in the film has a woman running completely nude. The interview with Walker included on the disc explains it. He said he didn’t want to put all the nudity in the film but he had been making sexploitation films previously and knew the climate of the time demanded nudity to sell the film. It was a transitional piece for him, finally getting away from the sex films he didn’t like making but couldn’t quite completely put the t & a to bed yet. So just like clockwork every 10 minutes or so we are given some sort of nudity in case we were dosing in our chairs. It almost seems like he wasn’t confident in his ability to scare the audience but he knew he could at least titilate them. The film also features 10 minutes or so of 3-d, another gimmick Walker had previously used. Of course once again the 3-d features nudity by way of a completely nude woman and man. Unfortunately on the blu ray you have to stop the film when you get to the 3-d segment, go into the menu, select the 3-d and then watch it. Then when it’s over the blu doesn’t simply pick up where you left off in the feature. You have to go back into the chapter menu and select the last chapter. That being said it was fun being able to see the sequence in 3-d, presumably for the first time since ’72! Redemption didn’t have to do that and its really great they went that extra mile to try to present the film in the way it was originally intended. The picture itself has quite a bit more artifacting than Frightmare did which makes sense as this wasn’t a big hit when it came out so the film wouldn’t have been preserved as well. There are more blips and scratches in the film but again like I said with Frightmare, I’d rather have them in there than have the image scrubbed clean with digital artifacting. The colors are solid, the blacks black. There’s no doubt the film has ever looked better.
Overall The Flesh and Blood Show is a fun flick that moves perhaps not as quickly as Walker’s later efforts but quickly enough that it doesn’t be come dull. And how could it with all of the nudity anyway? For Pete Walker fans its a fun treat but for the uninitiated, you’re probably better off starting with Frightmare or some of Walker’s later works.
About 10 years ago Shriek Show released most of Pete Walker’s films out on dvd. I had no idea who Pete Walker was but the cover art for Frightmare informed me I had to find out. As it turns out he’s a British director who did a string of films in the 70′s very quickly before bowing out of film making. I remember watching an interview on one of the dvds where he said he didn’t have any memories from the sets because they were moving so fast they didn’t have time to stop and think about what they were doing. They just did it very fast and got done. At the time of that interview he basically said making films was too grueling and he couldn’t take it anymore. He’s since changed his tune a bit but I always appreciated his candid interview. He seemed like an honest guy, not wrapped up in his own legend. Fast forward to today and Redemption films is releasing Frightmare on Blu-Ray, completely restored and with a new interview with Pete Walker.
Frightmare is the story of a woman who is a pathological cannibal. She’s caught and found guilty along with her husband and sent to an asylum for the criminally insane. 20 years later they are released and their daughter is helping to take care of them but the urge to kill cannot be contained and soon the woman goes about killing and eating folks again.
Sounds grisly right? Well, it is, sort of. This isn’t a gut-munching gorefest like the cover art suggests but don’t let that deter you from seeing the film. Just understand that this is a very British film and is somewhat reserved with the red stuff. Sure there’s some good blood sprays and a some grisly murder scenes but they aren’t all that graphic. It isn’t Italian. But it doesn’t need to be graphic to be good. The performances are rock solid, especially from Pete Walker’s muse Sheila Keith. She plays the cannibal woman with such subtlety and cruelty that it’s hard to believe she isn’t a crazy cannibal. She really steals the show and is a pleasure to watch. Though that isn’t to say that the rest of the cast is unremarkable, indeed there are many good performances here but Sheila Keith is just so perfect and so menacing it’s hard to focus on anything else. The plot is tight and moves quickly, the film is only 86 minutes including credits. The editing and cinematography are nice as well but this is an actors film to be sure.
The Blu-Ray looks great as well. There are still film artifacts throughout the presentation which was nice to see. They didn’t scrub the film of every imperfection which to my mind means they didn’t mess with the overall picture much. This is a 40 year old film and is bound to have some blips here and there. The colors are vibrant, the blacks solid. This release is a nice upgrade to the now out of print dvd.
Frightmare is a fun film that is anything but dull despite it’s lack of grue. It’s suspenseful, well acted and written. It’s a solid horror treat for any fan out there, especially those looking for something more than a cheap gore fest (I love those too).
John Flynn directed one of my favorite vigilante flicks. Rolling Thunder is a powerhouse of a film filled to the brim with great characters, dialogue, and violence. It’s a tough film that’s powerful and mean. When I found out that John Flynn had directed another vigilante flick I couldn’t wait to see it. I should have.
Defiance stars Jan Michael Vincent as a deck hand on cargo ships. He’s been put on probation due to bad behavior and now he has to take up residence in a tough neighborhood in NYC. The neighborhood his ruled by a ruthless gang called The Souls and of course he runs afoul of them. The neighbors are too scared to fight back but he decides to stand up for them. He also falls in love and hangs out with a former boxer-turned-punch-drunk simpleton and a little kid. A lot.
The problem with Defiance isn’t the gang. They’re tough and stylish and have the right pathos to make the whole thing work. Jan Michael Vincent is good too but there’s far too much melodrama in the movie. The neighbors run afoul of the gang here and there but there are few actual fights in the film. Those that we do get to see are sloppy and weak. Overall there just isn’t enough to chew on here. The film doesn’t go far enough and turns a decent setup into a tepid affair. It wasn’t horrible overall it just wasn’t very memorable, the opposite of Rolling Thunder.
I’m a big fan of the inner city vigilante genre so I’m glad I watched it. I’m sure I’ve seen worse as this was mildly entertaining throughout and never felt boring, but the ending just doesn’t provide the payoff I was hoping for.
As I mentioned in my previous post I love Australian films. They’re funky, unique, and have a voice all their own. It can be hard to track them down though. Often they use American actors or Australian actors who act with American/British accents so the trademark twang might not be there to clue you in. Many of their films have been forgotten and may have never gotten a proper release stateside. There’s a wealth of flicks to dig into if only you know where to look and what to look for. Enter Ozploitation Trailer Explosion dvd by Intervision films.
As the name suggests the dvd is chock full of you guessed it, trailers. 65 of them to be exact running a whopping 165 minutes of pure Australian goodness. You can watch them all at once or choose each one individually which is a killer feature. It makes finding a wacky trailer for a friend very easy. The trailers are also organized by genre, Sexploitation/comedy, Horror, and action flicks. Again having this organization makes viewing the trailers much easier and fun. I’ve seen some trailer compilations that were just a big fat mess. One long stream of trailers with no way to skip to the next one or find one you wanted to watch again. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the dvd and already I’ve discovered some films that I have to track down (Midnite spares looks amazing). The trailers range from 1970-1986, which for many was the golden years of Australian cinema before the industry fell apart .
The quality of the trailers varies. Some look great glossy and perfect. Some are from beat up film prints and others were lifted off of vhs tapes. The fact that these trailers even still exist is amazing. Many of them are for films that I’ve never even heard of which is pretty damn exciting. I’d rather see a beat up trailer then not have the chance to see it at all. If trailers are your thing, this set is worth your cash. There’s a lot to sift through here and Intervision took the time to present them in a way that would be easy for us to watch and re-watch them. It’s a solid release for trailer fanatics and exploitation fans.
There’s a special place in my cinematic heart for Australian film. Ever since I saw The Road Warrior at a young age (and then endlessly on cable) I’ve been fascinated with the country’s output. Whenever I read an article or review about an interesting film from the land down under I usually try to track it down. About 7 years ago I discovered a trifecta of Australian horror films that all came out about the same time. Strange Behavior, Patrick, and Thirst. All very different from each other and all very different from your normal genre fare. Severin Films has decided to put all three out on Blu-Ray which is a real gift for us genre freaks. All of worthy of your time and moolah. I’ll be reviewing all three as they come out. The first one is Thirst.
Thirst is an odd duck of a film and I love it. It’s about a woman who is kidnapped by a secret society. The society is a collection of vampires who live on a clandestine compound where they have humans kept for their blood, much like a farm. They even call it a dairy. They try to convince the woman that she is one of them and put her through strange and strenuous mental conditioning to try to get her to come around to their side. Soon she doesn’t know what is real and which way is up.
Part sci-fi, part horror, and part psychological thriller, Thirst is a great film. Well paced and directed the film moves well and blends the genres very successfully. It doesn’t feel like an ill fitting hodgepodge but more of a streamlined, well thought out concoction that was clearly the work of some very talented folks. I love all the mental freak outs and hallucinations of the main character. We’re in her shoes so we don’t know whats real and what isn’t either. We’re along for the ride on her crazy journey and it’s a fun one to be on. I really enjoy films that use the unreliable narrator and this one uses that trick quite well. The film has copious amounts of blood letting but I wouldn’t say its gory and it’s not sleazy either. It’s not a sexploitation vampire flick at all. To be honest vampires are probably my least favorite monster when it comes to horror films. So rare are vampire films done right in my opinion that often I avoid them altogether. This one is not one of those films. It belongs in the pantheon of great vampire films alongside Near Dark and Mom. The blu-ray looks fantastic too. The colors are rich and the picture is super crisp. It’s a great upgrade to already good film.
In the past few months I have professed my love for new indie dvd label Artsploitation films. They have combed through the wilderness of the world to bring us some of the most interesting dark cinema out there right now. And that part is important, right now. Right now there are all sorts of great genre films being pumped out from the four corners of the globe and much of it doesn’t make it into the U.S. of A. The reasons for this are many: market saturation, lack of big names to help sell the title, lack of interest in foreign cinema, but mostly it’s the all too often knee jerk reaction against reading subtitles. True cinema lovers, the ones that can get into the sleaze and high art of the format, don’t mind reading as long as the material is worth the effort. Artsploitation’s newest release, Memory of the Dead is worth the effort.
This Argentinian film (that’s an opener I never get to write) is about a group of friends that have gathered at his house to mourn his death. They were gathered there by the wife of the deceased and their goal is to remember all the things they loved about him. Doesn’t sound too spooky so far right? Well it was a dirty rotten trick. An evil ritual has been performed and on this night the dead hone in on the love for their deceased friend with hopes to lead him back to the land of the living. The trouble is there are other ghosts who find the bread crumb trail too and they aren’t friendly. These are the dead that are familiar with the friends, each of their skeletons in the closet. Each one attacks and things get gory quick.
Argentina is not the first thing I think of when it comes to horror. Indeed the entire continent of South America isn’t really known for horror with a few exceptions (Coffin Joe from Brazil comes to mind). I personally think it’s great that we’re starting to see some spooky exports from our neighbors to the South. The more diverse cultural input into horror the better I say. Memory of the Dead is a bit rough around the edges. You have to remember that this is a country that doesn’t have a rich heritage of scaring people cinematically. So they draw on a bit of Italian horror (lots of gels and a moody atmosphere plus some crazy gore), American horror (especially Evil Dead 1 & 2), and soap operas (the interplay between the characters relies heavily on relational context and who’s sleeping with who). All of this is blended up and poured out for us to enjoy. The film is shot on video (what low budget movie isn’t these days?) but looks pretty good. Gone are the days of video being filmed in 29.97 fps, trading for the cinematic 24fps. The plot moves quickly once things get going and there’s some very well done practical gore effects (especially a scene involving a sewing needle, thread and some eyes!). The script is clumsy and the flow is a bit rough but the film at least one-ups many classic Italian films by at least making sense. It also sports a great ending. The box markets the film as a horror comedy but I didn’t get that out of the film. The film felt grim and serious to me, including a subplot involving incest. Incest just doesn’t tickle my funny bone.
The packing, as always, is nice but there is no supplemental booklet this time around which I have to admit was a bit of a letdown. Overall though it’s another solid release for Artsploitation. I like to think they they are out there grabbing movies that might never get a wide release stateside and preserving them for future film lovers to discover. I also appreciate that they are grabbing new films which is a much more risky venture with no history to grab onto to market. Artsploitation are indeed a great label worth watching. I know I will.
Italian Splatter. We all love it and we all need more of it in our lives. Umberto Lenzi a director responsible for sleaze classics like Cannibal Ferox, Eaten Alive, and Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, helms this zombie-ish flick. Nightmare City is about a plane full of infected folks going on a rampage. If you’re bitten you are turned into another blood hungry maniac. Sound familiar? These fiends aren’t really zombies however. They’re still alive. See the original batch of infected folks were made that way by radiation and their bodies crave fresh blood to help replace the rapidly dying red blood cells or some kind of nonsense like that.
The film starts with a bang and doesn’t let up throughout it’s entire run time. Throats are slashed, faces are bitten, axes are wielded, and much blood is spilled. There’s even a masectomy which is particularly nasty. The makeup effects run the gamut between ketchup and full on prosthetics. It’s almost as if the makeup artist learned how to do the trade while making the movie so that by the end things finally start looking realistically grisly. As I said the pace is quick helped along by a few subplots of people trying to escape the plague of people but our main hero is a man on a mission to find his wife and escape the madness. The film also sports a great italian-riffic sound track with some great hypnotic rhythms.
I first saw Nightmare City about 10 years ago on dvd and the picture quality here is fantastic. The colors are solid and the definition is very clear, almost to the detriment of the film. We can see just how silly some of the effects work is in glorious high def., which would have been a bit more concealed in the lower-res version. The sound is also fantastic and the set comes with a great booklet filled with information about the film. If you don’t already own the film on DVD now is the chance to pick it up on Blu, and if you already do own it (like I do), it’s a very nice upgrade. Raro has a reputation for putting out some of the more obscure Italian films out there and lovingly restoring them and this one is no different.
Growing up in the 90′s, I’ve seen my fair share of bad straight to video action films. More often then not they were the worst thing a film can be, boring. I was sorely disappointed many many times after watching my selections from the video store. At some point though, after watching hundreds of bad movies, I started to find the truly awful. The films made by amateurs to with no know-how but with buckets of enthusiasm. I’m always on the lookout for such z-grade fun flicks and Lost Faith fits the bill. Big time.
Steve Nekoda (played by the film’s director, writer, and producer) is having a really bad day. His wife gets kidnapped by a group of martial artist paramilitaries in the hopes of selling her into sex slavery. The cops don’t care and it’s up to Steve to find her and bring her home. His house also gets robbed, his car runs out of gas, and he gets arrested for stealing a car. That has to be one of the worst days on record. Everywhere he goes he gets in a fight. The guy just can’t get a break.
I LOVED this movie. It’s filmed on a camcorder and has some of the hammiest lines I’ve heard since Samurai Cop. The film has a great fast pace and almost no downtime. No boredom here my friends! Just wall to wall spin kicks and punches. For being a zero budget film the quality isn’t unwatchable either. The film actually gets better and better from a technical standpoint as it goes along. I imagine the film must have been shot in order and was a learn by doing experience. The choreography also isn’t halfbad, i’ve certainly seen a lot worse from much higher budgeted films. The kicks and punches feel pretty real and the canned sound effects made it so much more fun. The film is earnest like Miami Connection with only a few “funny” scenes that nearly ruin the vibe of the film but thankfully the “humor” is pulled back from the brink just in time. The head bad guy has a great asshole mustache and I can certainly see him being a jerk in real life. Our hero is charismatic and fun to watch too. It’s obvious he’s a real martial artist who wanted to use his skills to make a movie. He really gives it his all in the fight scenes and by the end I was rooting for him and actually believing that he was exhausted. He probably was. Directing, acting, producing, and doing endless spin kicks must have worn him out something fierce.
The dvd itself is packed with great special features too. Usually with films of the caliber no one involved wants to admit their role in the film and special features are scarce. Here we’re treated to a making of/behind the scenes feature that was made at the time the movie was filmed. We also get great commentary tracks and a new feature showing us how to kick ass like Steve Nekoda.
I absolutely love the DIY ethic showcased in Lost Faith. They didn’t have the money or the equipment to do the film but they did it anyway and now we get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. I really love that Joel Wynkoop isn’t ashamed of the film. It would be easy to be embarrassed by it but he’s still acting today! The guy has 107 acting credits, and 13 directing credits, all of which are low budget films and shorts. This year alone he has 5 acting credits to his name. Amazing. The only problem is now I gotta start tracking all this stuff down! Yes, it’s very low quality. Yes, the acting is poor in most cases. But there’s so much enthusiasm and heart put into this that it’s damn near impossible not to enjoy. It certainly falls under the umbrella of “so bad it’s good,” and would be a hoot with a large group, but afterwards I wanted to shake Wynkoop’s hand and thank him for such a good time. You can buy the dvd here or the ultimate set here.
A relative newcomer to the world of zines (though the creators are old hands at the zine world), Weng’s Chop has grown from a decent sized cult fanzine to a mammoth journal worthy of anyone’s collection.
Issue #4 isn’t an issue. It’s a book. Really. At 215 pages of magazine sized stock this thing is a beast! Nicely bound and printed, this one will stand the test of time as well. When I recieved this in the mail i was shocked and just how fat the thing is. They’re charging fanzine prices ($9!) for a full fledged book. Inside you’ll find tons of reviews (of course), a retrospective on Harryhausen, articles on: the films of Larry Cohen, Joe D’Amato, crazy Indian fantasy films, Mexican Monsters, Godfrey Ho, Sonny Chiba, and a boatload more.
Had this issue been half as long I would have been really really happy, but I’m blown away. This is the epitome of giving value for money. The writing is sharp and fun, delving into a wide variety of cult film genres. This isn’t just a horror mag, not by a long shot. For those of us who enjoy our cult from around the world and around the spectrum of sleaze, you can do no better than Weng’s Chop.
I grew up in a time when magazines were waning. Fangoria was huge, Rue Morgue was gaining ground, but other magazines were starting to fall. My access to underground zines was nil. I live in a cultural wasteland devoid all things neat-o. I knew they existed but I had no idea of how to grab any of them. Recently I’ve had the honor to contribute to a handful of new zines which is amazing to me. I completely lack historical reference however. Enter the massive Xerox Ferox.
Xerox Ferox is a mammoth book. Nearly 800 pages dedicated to horror fanzines, 40 fanzine creators interviewed at length about their zine and the overall history of monster zines. Normally when I review a book, I wait until I’m done reading it. Given this book’s encyclopedic coverage of the subject, I’ll be chewing on it for a while and I don’t want to wait to spread the good news to you dear readers. This book is colossal, killer, and crucial to own if you care at all about underground publication. What you won’t find are interviews with Fangoria, Rue Morgue, or Famous Monsters Alum. No Gorezone, no Starlog, no SFX. None of the big names are here and I’m glad. I don’t need to know more about them and if I did, I could look elsewhere. This book is dedicated to zines run more or less by a single person, a person with a passion and a need to write about cult/horror films, not a need to make their living off of it. This is a true tome dedicated to the DIY spirit of self publishing. It’s informative, fun, and inspiring. The layout is great too. It’s basically just a series of interviews, straight dope from the horses mouth. The book is filled with great grungy photos of zines and films which helps create a cut-n-paste vibe which really works here. This is a book several years in the making and it shows in the best way possible. The book really is food for my soul. It’s so nice to read about kindred spirits, loving film and putting it out there for everyone to see. I’ve been trying to get my own print zine off of the ground for a couple of years now and after reading this the candle has been relit.
To echo what i’ve already said on my Bleeding Skull review, I’m really glad that Headpress is here and is releasing high quality books like this. And again this book is a must own for anyone interested in the history and passion of print zines. Hopefully there will be expanded versions in the future including current zines like Lunchmeat, Crimson Screens,Weng’s Chop, and Paracinema who are still keeping print alive.