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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

KING'S GAMBIT -- DVD Review by Porfle

One of those intriguing premises that's sort of like a feature-length "Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits" episode, KING'S GAMBIT (Indican Pictures, 2020) asks the question: what if certain people known as "Heralds" possessed magical journals, passed down from parent to child, in which they wrote, in strange, glowing symbols, entries which actually came to pass in order to help people in need and influence world events?

Bryce Wheeler (Blake Webb) becomes just such a person after the death of his father gives him a journal and its inherent power, which, as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben would agree, brings great responsibility.

The use of such a power requires the wisdom which Bryce's father has long tried to instill in him by training him to be a master at chess.

With the help of his best friends Ashley (Rebecca Galarza) and Tyler (Reggie Peters), who know his secret, Bryce must use great care in exercising his philanthropic powers since every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Thus, the most well-meaning magical deed might bring about an equal measure of chaos, destruction, and death unless Bryce plots each possible outcome as he would in a game of chess.

Debut writer-director Joseph Sayer has fashioned an instantly compelling premise here, one which is explored in interesting ways by characters we come to like and a capable cast bringing the intelligent script to life.

A major subplot involves one troubled man Bryce tries to help, the dangerously unstable Jon Jenkins (Wade Williams), causing a near-catastrophic disruption of the man's timeline that will prove a recurring problem that comes back to haunt our heroic trio in unpredictable ways.

There's also the matter of TV newswoman Pamela (Sheryl Carbonell), who somehow learns Bryce's secret which may or may not be a good thing. Adding to the mystery is a series of messages in the journal from yet another mysterious Herald who claims to be offering his experience to guide Bryce along a better path.

Things get really serious when Bryce and his friends hatch a highly perilous plan which involves using the journal to set right all the things he's inadvertently thrown out of balance.

Some jarring plot twists follow, as well as a few suspenseful sequences as when Bryce is captured and threatened with death if he doesn't turn over the journal and its secrets.

Director Sayer gets the most out of his modest budget, giving KING'S GAMBIT a visual quality to match the imagination in the story, which, incidentally, is so complicated at times that I sorta let the "gotcha!" twist in the last few seconds go right over my head. But that's okay--I'll get it next time I watch.

Buy it from Indican Pictures


Runtime: 88 minutes
Format: 1:78 HD
Sound: Dolby Sr.
Country: USA
Language: English
Captions: English
Extras: None


ROCKAWAY -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at in 2007.)

The tagline reads, "They took his family, now he'll take their lives."  Obviously your basic revenge movie plot, which can go either way according to who's making the movie.  In this case, Jeff and Joshua Crook, the directors of 2005's surprisingly good GHETTO DAWG 2: OUT OF THE PITS, are behind the camera, and their latest film ROCKAWAY (2007) is an intense, blood-drenched action flick that's even better.

Nicholas Gonzalez plays Trane, a war hero whose tour of duty in Afghanistan is cut short by the brutal murder of his wife and newborn son.  Back in the states, he hooks up with his boyhood pal Dave (Ricardo Chavira), who lives under the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach in Queens, and discovers that the old neighborhood has been taken over by ruthless Latino drug dealers and pimps in league with the Russian mob.  The grief-stricken Trane grimly swears revenge on whoever killed his family, whoever ordered it, and everybody in between--all the way up the food chain to the feared Russian gang boss, Sergei (Vitali Baganov).

With that set-up in place, Trane enters the old neighborhood like a shark and goes about his task with reckless determination.  He hooks up with the top Latino thug Juju under the pretense of having fifty pounds of heroin to sell and is taken to meet Sergei's second-in-command, Ivan, a stone-cold killer who resembles a cross between Charles Bronson and a large rock.  It isn't long before Trane has the two factions at each other's throats while he relentlessly picks them off one by one. 

With a compelling story and realistic characters to work with, the Crook Brothers (who also wrote the screenplay) set up a series of bone-crunching, bullet-riddled action sequences that have all the flamboyant style of a Robert Rodriguez shoot-em-up but with a harder edge.  Deft use of optical wipes, split-screen, and other devices keeps things interesting on a cinematic level, while the violence is as visceral and splatteriffic as a George Romero film.

But the tragedy that motivates Trane isn't just an excuse for funny one-liners and comic-book exploits.  We're constantly reminded of his inner pain and the toll that his descent into savagery is taking on his humanity, especially when he discovers that his own sister (sexy Delilah Cotto) is working for Juju.  Trane's no indestructible Superman, either, and like anyone else, he's capable of screwing up.  When this happens, he suffers a major setback that is both incredibly shocking and grueling to watch.

As played by Nicholas Gonzalez, Trane is an admirable character that we can root for all the way.  Mario Cimarro and Manny Perez are both scary and comical as Juju and his vile toady Antwan--much of the sparse comic relief in the film revolves around Juju's anal-retentive obsession with his car ("Drive it slow...SLOW," he keeps warning a frustrated Antwan).  The standout, though, is Oleg Taktarov as Ivan, whose cold-blooded exterior masks a surprising depth.  He's not your standard one-dimensional villain. 

As for that major setback I mentioned--I didn't see how Trane's quest for revenge could continue after that point.  But it makes the final confrontation between him and the actual killers of his wife and son even better.  This sequence is full of visual surprises and stylistic indulgences that could easily have been botched in lesser hands, yet the Crook Brothers pull it off in a way that is reminiscent of Sergio Leone. 

ROCKAWAY is one of the most gripping and effective action films I could hope to see this year.  Even the last shot is emotionally resonant, leaving a final impression that most films of this kind wouldn't even try for.

Buy it at


Monday, June 29, 2020

HAIR -- DVD Review by Porfle

I've always had mixed feelings about director Milos Forman's colorful film adaptation of the 60s musical HAIR (Olive Signature Films, 1979), starting from the first time I ever saw it on cable back in the 80s. Or rather, the first five or six times I saw it, since I was a big rewatcher in those days even if I wasn't totally sold on the movie but liked certain parts of it while not caring for others.

The parts I didn't care for included, well, the characters. Or most of them, anyway. By that time, the allure of the hippie lifestyle had long since worn off for this boomer and I started regarding them as the manipulative leeches that they often were, rebelling against the "straight" life while begging members of it for money and eschewing possessions while doing their best to attain them.

Treat Williams' blustery hippie leader Berger is one of the worst offenders, a self-righteous manchild who's really an irresponsible con man at heart. When he and his "tribe" of fellow hippies encounter a young Oklahoman named Claude (John Savage) hanging out in Central Park before his impending induction into the Army, Berger thinks it would be funny to try and induct him into the ways of the hippie while steering him romantically toward a haughty debutante (Beverly D'Angelo as Sheila) who strikes Claude's fancy as she rides a horse majestically through the park.

Berger and his gang invade Sheila's fancy debutante ball with all that insufferable "free-spirited" attitude and delight in disrupting all its various proprieties to the point where he ends up stomping down the length of the dining table while shaking his ass at everyone (to the delight of Charlotte Rae, representing the open-minded oldie who finds such behavior giddily charming).

During this time we see John Savage giving a meaty performance as the confused Claude, who wants to do his military duty but is seduced into the seemingly "free" hippie life, especially after he's persuaded to drop LSD (the surreal sequence that follows is Forman's attempt to be Ken Russell for awhile, something he's not very good at).

With the pushy Berger amusing himself with the lives and feelings of Claude and Sheila, we also get to know the rest of the tribe and aren't always impressed. Jeannie (Annie Golden) is pregnant but doesn't know or care whether the father is blonde-haired Woof (Don Dacus) or the African-American Hud (Dorsey Wright), who also has a fiancee and a small son whom he seems to have abandoned.

It's to the credit of director Milos Forman (AMADEUS, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, MAN ON THE MOON) and screenwriter Michael Weller (who adapted the musical play by Gerome Ragni & James Rado and Galt MacDermot) that these societal outsiders aren't too overly romanticized even though we're often meant to find their antics funny and/or liberating.

There's also a certain veneer of realism that keeps things from getting too fantastical or stylized. Twyla Tharp's choreography is designed to look like a bunch of everyday people dancing around rather than a troup of professional, precision dancers. Real exteriors are used both in New York (mainly a rather grimy Central Park) and Nevada. The Army base where Claude ends up is a hellishly hot, dusty, joyless place.

Most of my reservations about the story were resolved with the stunning climax of the film, which contains a satisfying plot twist and a stirring rendition of "Let the Sunshine In" (a fitting bookend to the opening "Aquarius") which brings the film to a rousing conclusion.

Most of the play's familiar songs are reproduced in outstanding performances which feature the likes of Ellen Foley, Nell Carter, Melba Moore, and Betty Buckley, the latter soloing on my favorite number, the gorgeous "Walking In Space."

(On the non-singing front, keep a lookout for other such familiar faces as Richard Bright, Miles Chapin, and director Nicholas Ray.)

Even the Stylistics lend their voices to the incredibly strange musical number "Black Boys/White Boys" in which military officers inspecting naked recruits espouse their unbridled joy. Rivaling Betty Buckley's performance is Cheryl Barnes as Hud's spurned fiancee belting out the classic "Easy To Be Hard." Beverly D'Angelo handles the hit "Good Morning, Starshine." And of course the title tune is given a raucous, somewhat overbearing workout.

Strangely enough, it's my love-hate relationship with HAIR that has always made it interesting to watch.  Perhaps it's best that the film neither overly glorifies the hippies (when Berger goes home to beg money from his parents, we see what a phony he is) nor condemns them outright. And Forman's style is an uneasy juxtaposition of the real and the surreal, which pretty much represents that period in history as well as anything.

YEAR: 1979
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio; Color


    New HD restoration
    Audio commentary by assistant director Michael Hausman and actor Treat Williams
    “The Tribe Remembers” – with actors Beverly D’Angelo, Don Dacus, Ellen Foley, Annie Golden, John Savage, and Dorsey Wright
    “Making Chance Work: Choreographing Hair” – with choreographer Twyla Tharp
    “Cutting Hair” – with editors Lynzee Klingman and Stanley Warnow
    “Hair Style” – with production designer Stuart Wurtzel
    “Artist, Teacher, Mentor: Remembering Milos Forman” – with director James Mangold
    Essay by critic Sheila O’Malley

STREET: 6/30/2020
CAT: OS021
UPC: 887090602105
SRP: $39.95


THE BEAST MUST DIE! -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

(THE BEAST MUST DIE is part of Severin's gala Mid-Year Sale)

Having already released it on Blu-ray back in 2017 as part of "The Amicus Collection", Severin Films is now giving the cult classic THE BEAST MUST DIE (1974) an even better-looking updated release based on newly-discovered elements.

In Severin's own words: "A superior 35mm pre-print element of THE BEAST MUST DIE was recently unearthed in France and made available to us. On the previous Amicus box exclusive only an old HD telecine was available of the censored TV version and the censored scenes were scanned from a 16mm print and inserted. The newly available superior element was given a brand new 4k scan and fully restored by Studio Canal in France."

Having just viewed the latest version, I found it superior to the previous release. Not only that, but the disc contains the original bonus features in addition to some brand new ones.

Still included are an audio essay by horror historian Troy Howarth, an informative commentary track with director Paul Arnett, the featurette "Directing the Beast" with Arnett again, and the theatrical trailer.

New features consist of an audio interview excerpt with Milton Subotsky conducted by Philip Nutman, an audio interview with producer Max J. Rosenberg conducted by Jonathan Sothcott, and a trailer commentary by genre scholars Kim Newman and David Flint.

Both English and Spanish 2.0 mono soundtracks are available, with English subtitles.

As for the movie itself, here's our original review:

One of the most hard-and-fast rules of cinema is that any movie is worth watching if it has a "Werewolf Break."

Okay, I made that up, but I do find it to be true in the case of the 1974 Amicus werewolf thriller THE BEAST MUST DIE! (Severin Films), which not only does have a "Werewolf Break" but happens to be the only film I can think of to boast such a distinction.

It opens with a lively title sequence featuring eccentric millionaire Tom Newcliffe (American actor Calvin Lockhart, COTTON COMES TO HARLEM, UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT) being hunted by his own ex-military security staff in order to test their capabilities. This is in preparation for an antipated guest--namely, a werewolf.

Newcliffe, in fact, has invited a varied array of men and women to his secluded estate for the weekend, believing one of them to be a werewolf and looking forward to the opportunity of hunting it down to satisfy his sadistic lusts for sport and blood, as he does every other kind of wild beast he comes in contact with.

Thus, we already get a strong THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME vibe, especially when Newcliffe makes it clear that none of the guests--that is, werewolf suspects--is free to leave the grounds until one of them has been exposed and terminated.

There's also sort of a low-rent Agatha Christie flavor a la "And Then There Were None"/"Ten Little Indians", including even the traditional gathering of the suspects and surprise reveal at the end. (The script is actually adapted from a short story by James Blish, author of the very first Star Trek novel "Spock Must Die!")

What makes this variation on the old saw so much fun--besides, of course, the werewolf angle, which will have the attention of old-school monster fans from frame one--is the pure, undiluted 70s-era cheesiness of the whole thing.

While capable enough, the direction by Paul Annett, as well as cinematography,  editing, and some rather broad acting, give the film the look and feel of a quickie TV-movie of the era.

The original score by Douglas Gamley is perfectly fine and even somewhat reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann until he tries for a 70s funk-rock effect, which recalls the old thwacka-wacka 70s porn-movie backing tracks.

This, however, by no means hampers one's enjoyment of the film.  Rather, it increases it for viewers with a taste for fine cheese who revel in seeing such a cast, including Peter Cushing, Anton Diffring, Michael Gambon, and Charles Gray, taking part in such goings on.

Calvin Lockhart himself overacts his role with such magnificent abandon that I kept wishing he could skip the werewolf and go up against Rod Steiger in a ham-actor cage match.

With three successive nights of full moons, THE BEAST MUST DIE! gives us plenty of furious action (although the murky day-for-night photography sometimes makes it hard to see just what's going on) as well as lots of ensemble drama pitting the hot-blooded hunter against his own reluctant guests as he tries to trick each into revealing his or her hidden lycanthropy.  This includes even his wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark, who also tends to emote rather robustly).

When we see the werewolf itself, it's rather disappointingly played by an actual canine rather than a person in werewolf makeup (which I, being a lifelong fan of such films as THE WOLF MAN and CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, would much prefer).

I got used to this, however, and was primed when the film finally paused for its delightfully hokey "Werewolf Break", a gimmick harkening back to the days of William Castle in which we're given thirty seconds to weigh the clues and decide the true identity of the werewolf.  (I was wrong, and you probably will be, too.)

There are those, of course, who will find this  practically unwatchable if they require their horror films to be more costly, refined, and sophisticated.  That's fine for them, but I'm one of many who can watch a movie like THE BEAST MUST DIE! and relish it every bit as much as those other ones--and, occasionally, even more.


Sunday, June 28, 2020

FULCI FOR FAKE -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

(FULCI FOR FAKE is part of Severin Films' Gala Mid-Year Sale)

For an unusual filmmaker such as Lucio Fulci comes an unusual approach to a screen biography, FULCI FOR FAKE (2019), which gets points for trying something new even though the attempt isn't always a success.

Writer-director Simone Scafidi, a longtime admirer of his subject, came up with the odd conceit of placing a fictional character, that of an actor hired to play Fulci in a fictitious film about his life, in the position of interviewing actual people from Fulci's life in order to lay the groundwork for his portrayal.

Thus, when we see Fulci's daughters Camilla and Antonella along with various friends and coworkers being interviewed by Scafidi, closeups of the actor are inserted asking the questions.  We also see occasional glimpses of the actor contemplating the role as he goes about his daily business.

For me, this unique form of presentation never really gels, and I began to view the actor segments as more of an intrusion than anything else. It's a cinematic affectation that doesn't really do anything to augment the actual interview material or the film as a cohesive whole.

Still, for Fulci fans the documentary material will prove priceless, as we're treated to extensive contemplations, ruminations, and revelations about the famed Italian film maestro by those who knew and loved him best.

Daughters Camilla and Antonella give the most intimate details of their father about whom they still get visibly emotional.  More essential perspectives on Fulci as a filmmaker and as a man are supplied by the likes of close friend Sandro Bitetto, film composer Fabio Frizzi, actor Paolo Malco (NEW YORK RIPPER), cinematographer Sergio Salvati (THE BEYOND, THE WAX MASK), director Michele Soavi, writer-producer Enrico Vanzina, and official biographer Michele Romagnoli.

The film is at its best when these notable personalities are waxing nostalgic about Fulci. Where I find it most lacking is in the almost total absence of film clips. We never get to see actual examples of the scenes to which the interviewees are referring, and the only visuals besides the talking heads consist of still photos and some home movie footage.

The narrative also tends to stray from the more interesting cinematic aspects of Fulci's life into less compelling areas such as his love for horses and even such trivial things as how unruly his hair tended to be. This results in some rather dry passages that don't really add much to the film.

More pertinent to many viewers will be details such as the making of the maestro's final film, THE DOOR INTO SILENCE, and his beginning work on THE WAX MASK (which was conceived for him by friend Dario Argento) during which he died due to heart complications.

In addition to this is some fascinating coverage of Fulci's most essential works in the horror genre during the late 70s and 80s, including AENIGMA, THE DEVIL'S HONEY, and ZOMBIE 3.

Perhaps the most fulfilling parts of Severin Films' Blu-ray edition of FULCI FOR FAKE (which is in Italian with English subtitles) are contained in the generous bonus menu, which contains Camilla Fulci's entire interview along with extra interview footage with Salvati, Frizzi, Malco, Soavi, Vanzani, and Romagnoli.

We also get more of those vintage home movies (with commentary by Fulci and Romagnoli) and audio recordings by Fulci himself. Rounding out the menu is some zombie footage from the Venice Film Festival and a trailer.

Scafidi himself reveals in a bonus interview that his docudrama isn't intended to be a comprehensive biography of Lucio Fulci--the internet now exists, he says, to fill interested parties in on such details--but is more of an esoteric celebration of the essence of the man. 

This makes watching FULCI FOR FAKE a rather fruitless pursuit for the uninitiated, while those already interested in and somewhat knowledgable about the subject should find it an enriching experience.

Blu-ray Features Limited Edition Lenticular Slipcover/Limited to 1500 copies

PLEASE NOTE: Due to Severin's licensing agreement for this film, it will be available to North American customers ONLY.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

FRANKY AND HIS PALS -- DVD Review by Porfle

(FRANKY AND HIS PALS is part of Severin Films' Gala Mid-Year Sale)

There are movie lovers who love bad movies--we all know about them. And then there are those hardy souls who take it a whole 'nother step farther than a simple fondness for such films as PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and MANOS: HANDS OF FATE. These are the people who love bad shot-on-video movies from back in the days of VCRs and camcorders.

Yes, I'm talking about the obscure, murky, mind-numbing video relics of which our subject for today, FRANKY AND HIS PALS (Intervision, 1991), is a prime example. For most people, trying to watch such barrel-scraping stuff would be an insufferable ordeal. For others, it's a special kind of fun that can't really be logically explained.

Suffice it to say, this story of five "classic" monsters (more or less) who happen upon a treasure map and then try to find a cache of hidden gold, is only as good as you imagine it to be. If this is your cup of weak tea, you'll have a ball. If not, you may have a cow just trying to get away from it.

It all begins with the monsters, who have been trapped in a cave for years by a landslide, escaping thanks to the extreme flatulence of gassy monster Franky blowing a boulder away from the entrance.

The others include Drak, Wolfie, Mummy and the parasitic smart-aleck reptile who lives in his tummy, and Humper the lecherous hunchback.  If Drak sounds familiar to you, it's because the actor playing him seems to be attempting to channel Christopher Lloyd. (A helpful disclaimer during the closing credits assures us that "celebrity voice are simulated.")

When Humper produces the treasure map during a poker game, they set off on foot for the small backwoods town where the hotel containing the gold is located. Here, they search for the hidden riches under tables, in books, behind shelves--wherever a fortune in gold wouldn't be in a million years--while a costume party-slash-dance taking place in the hotel keeps them from attracting too much undue attention.

This sets up filmmaker Gerald Cormier (BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD) to give us a parade of bad jokes and vignettes that make "Hee Haw" look like A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Humper makes good on his name by descending upon every female derriere in sight, while Wolfie hooks up with a gay guy in a tutu named Clover and Mummy can't get anywhere with the ladies because his scaly alter-ego keeps making offensive quips and getting him slapped.

Drak avails himself of an available neck here and there, delivering what is probably the movie's funniest line after one particularly good snack ("Mmm...type O, vintage '65. A very good year!") It all comes to an explosive finale when Franky discovers an entire pot of chili beans cooking on the stove and gulps them down.

The monster makeup is passable when the camera isn't too close to it. Performances are about as good as one might expect, while, surprisingly, the technical aspects actually display a certain rudimentary level of professionalism that lifts this effort above most other shot-on-video fare. 

Serving as backdrop during all the fart and pee-pee jokes, naughty sex scenes, and a climactic bikini contest are some of the worst rock and rap songs one could possibly hope to never hear. Somehow, though, it would spoil much of the fun if they were actually good.

Rounding things off are a peripheral subplot about a mad scientist with a time machine and a couple of black gravediggers whose dialogue is of the "Are you jivin' me?" variety.

The DVD from Intervision is in full frame with English captions. Extras include an interview with actor Eric "Big Franky" Weathersbee, an interview with actor/FX artist Keith "Humper" Lack, an interview with actor Shawn "Clover" West, interviews with members of the "Franky and His Pals" party band, and a "Radio Beach" music video by same.

A disclaimer informs us that the original materials have been lost, and that this DVD print comes from the only surviving element which is a commercial copy of the film. Thus, FRANKY AND HIS PALS looks exactly the way it should look--as though you'd just rented it on VHS from some hole-in-the-wall video store in 1991. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Limited Edition, Hand-Numbered DVD/Limited to 1000 Copies



Friday, June 26, 2020

BAHIA BLANCA -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

(BAHIA BLANCA is part of Severin's Gala Mid-Year Sale)

After seeing prolific writer-director Jess Franco at his most outrageous, most violent, most sexually explicit, and most,'s nice sometimes to see him as a restrained, thoughtful, contemplative filmmaker switching into low gear to fashion something as quietly effective as BAHIA BLANCA (Severin Films, 1984).

Franco has chosen a scenic oceanfront village as his location, and revels in capturing its pictorial beauty in shot after dazzling shot. Against a backdrop of glittering ocean waves and blazing cloud-strewn sunsets, everything and everyone in the story takes on added importance and effect.

As for the story, it's surely some of Franco's best writing, filled with memorable dialogue, interesting characters, and a low-key plot that takes its time to unfold but keeps drawing us along toward its heartrending conclusion.

Antonio Mayans is Inspector Carlos Fernández, the local lawman who must delve into the mysterious murder of one Pocho Martin after he is found with a bullet to the head. 

The investigation leads to an island tavern run by beautiful Alida (Eva León), who sells both alcohol and love to the passing sailors, and cares for her mute, simple-minded sister Maria (Franco mainstay Lina Romay) while also carrying a torch for Carlos.

This complicates her relationship with the local underworld boss Raul Sebastian (Tony Skios), a cool, cruel type with a jealous streak that tolerates no other man in Alida's life.

More drama comes in the form of Raul's amorous son Andy (José Llamas), engaged to a sweet village girl but not above forcing himself on Maria despite Alida's threats of deadly force. Franco himself appears as a supposed mystic who warns those involved for whom he foretells grave peril.

Franco the filmmaker is more interested this time in telling an involving story than shocking or titillating us, keeping the sex scenes reined in (despite numerous and very pleasant topless shots of Eva León and Lina Romay) and never going for any kind of cheap shocks.

While it takes a bit of time to draw us in, the story eventually takes root in the viewer's imagination (this one, anyway) like an unusually well-written pulp novel featuring impetuous characters bound for tragedy in an exotic location.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films is scanned in 4K from the original negative for the first time ever. Spanish mono with English subtitles. Extras consist of "In the Land of Franco, Part 4" (Stephen Thrower & Antonio Mayans tour multiple Franco locations in Spain) and "Bay of Jess" (interview with Stephen Thrower, author of "Murderous Passions" and "Flowers of Perversion").

I'm not sure how many films like BAHIA BLANCA Franco made or how characteristic it is of his work--having seen only fifteen or twenty of his films, I'm still a relative novice--but this is doubtless a prime example of the genuine filmmaking talent which was his to command when he chose to do so. It's by no means an epic, but it really burrows in and stays with you.

Limited Edition Blu-ray--MID YEAR EXCLUSIVE (Limited to 1500 copies)

Please Note: Bahia Blanca is a MID YEAR EXCLUSIVE, meaning this will be sold ONLY during the 4-day Mid Year Sale and will not be available ever again (much like Severin's Combat Shock release). ALL OF THESE RELEASES ARE REGION FREE.


Great 3 Stooges Running Gag: "Out! Out! Darned Spot!" (video)

A hole in a window shade or other item... casting a spot on whatever the Stooge is working on...

...and they spend a great deal of energy trying to get rid of the spot.



I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


Thursday, June 25, 2020

AENIGMA -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

(AENIGMA is part of Severin's Gala Mid Year Sale)

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but it also has no fury like a woman who suffers the humiliation of a cruel college prank and then, while fleeing from her jeering tormenters, gets hit by a truck and ends up in a coma from which she uses her psychic powers to possess the body of a newly-enrolled student and exact bloody revenge upon everyone who put her there.

Which, incidentally, is the plot of Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci's murderous melodrama AENIGMA (1987, Severin Films). Inspired by such films as CARRIE, PATRICK, and Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA, this lively entry gets all of that plot set-up out of the way in the first ten minutes and then gets right down to the good stuff.

Milijana Zirojevic as the put-upon "Kathy" spends the rest of the film in a hospital bed hooked up to a jumble of wires and looking the worse for wear, while her pretty surrogate, Eva (Lara Naszinski), moves into the girls' dorm (a nice SUSPIRIA-like interior location) and wastes no time linking up with her erstwhile tormentors for one juicy episode of bloody payback after another.

These include some pretty imaginative touches, such as a museum statue coming to life and giving one of the girls a cold reception. There's also what may be the only known instance of what can only be described as "death by snails" in horror film history.

The "headless Tom" sequence is another highlight, in which one of the girls pulls back her bed covers to find her boyfriend sans noggin, then runs screaming from room to room just to encounter the same sight over and over again.

Needless to say, the comatose Kathy--no longer flatlining now that her brain waves have something fun to do--has all the power of the supernatural at her disposal in exacting these imaginative revenge scenarios. 

This gives director Fulci a free hand to indulge in whatever way-out visuals (including some pleasantly outlandish gore) that strike his artistic fancy.

The story starts to get even more interesting when neurologist Dr. Robert Anderson (Jared Martin, a prolific actor whose face you'll probably recognize) is called in to deal with poor Eva's sudden fits of violent hysteria brought on by Kathy's mental control.

A sudden romance forms between the two, one whose inevitable complications (including a jealousy-fueled love triangle) form the basis for the film's lively finale. 

Performances are good--well, good enough, anyway--and Fulci (who does a cameo as a police inspector) gets the job done with his usual workmanlike skill, infectious enthusiasm for the genre, and occasional displays of style.

The 2-disc Blu-ray from Severin Films (with slipcover) contains a CD of the robust soundtrack music by Carlo Maria Cordio. The film itself was scanned in 4K from the original negative for the first time in America. Dialogue is in both Italian and English 2.0 mono, with English subtitles.

Bonus features include an audio commentary with Troy Howarth, author of "Splintered Visions--Lucio Fulci and His Films", and Mondo Digital's Nathaniel Thompson; an interview with screenwriter Giorgio Mariuzzo; the featurette "Italian Aenigma--Appraising Late Day Fulci"; trailers; and the film's Italian main titles.

While it could be described as derivative, I found AENIGMA's deftly-handled blend of familiar elements from earlier films to be quite enjoyable for that very reason.  It's your standard "bloody revenge in a girls' school" tale, Italian-horror style, and with Lucio Fulci at the helm it just can't help being a lot of fun to watch.

2-Disc Blu-ray Featuring CD Soundtrack and Limited Edition Slipcover
Limited to 1500 copies


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

SHINING SEX -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

(SHINING SEX is part of Severin's Gala Mid-Year Sale)

I think it's fair to say that incredibly prolific cult filmmaker Jess Franco wrote and directed SHINING SEX (1977, Severin Films) as an excuse to closely examine the naked body of his lifelong love and artistic muse Lina Romay in what can only be described as loving detail.

Hence, the narrative consists of roughly 10% story and 90% naked Lina Romay, which is great if (a) you're really, really into Lina Romay, and (b) you enjoy just sitting back and watching compulsive film addict Franco getting his celluloid fix by thinking up different reasons to aim a camera at things.

Those things in this case would be parts of Lina Romay's body, which we get to know almost as intimately as her ob/gyn.  In fact, this film goes a long way toward making up for the fact that I never had sex education classes in school.  It's like an anatomical textbook in motion.

Of course, even Franco's simplest films usually have some kind of plot, and in this case it's the story of wildly popular nightclub dancer Cynthia (Romay), whose act consists of wearing next to nothing and rolling around on the floor in front of patrons like a kitty cat in heat, being taken to the luxurious home of an interested but strangely aloof couple.

Playfully seductive Cynthia strips off upon arrival and gets the woman, Alpha (Evelyne Scott), into bed for some girl-girl action while the man, Andros (Raymond Hardy) is supposedly off "putting the car away."

But whereas this is usually a prelude to naughty fun, we can see (even if Cynthia can't) that there's something very not right about Alpha's disaffected, almost robotic behavior.

Even her growing sexual arousal in response to Cynthia's efforts to engage her has an ominous feel to it, as the accompanying music itself sounds like something out of a Herk Harvey movie.

How much should I reveal about the rest of the plot? I like to watch movies like this without much foreknowledge, and in this case the mystery just made it that much more enjoyable. Suffice it to say that Franco takes a big left turn into sci-fi territory with elements of the mystical and the metaphysical.

All that, of course, is in service to the abundance of prolonged sex scenes, which get about as close to hardcore as I've seen in a Jess Franco movie. I'll even wager that this one would need extensive cuts to have been shown on Cinemax or the Playboy Channel back in the day.

Evelyne Scott (DEVIL'S KISS) is a commanding presence as Alpha. Monica Swinn (BARBED WIRE DOLLS) appears about halfway through as mystic Madame Pécame, who becomes involved in the paranormal goings-on along with Franco himself as Dr. Seward, head of a private psychiatric hospital. Also appearing are Olivier Mathot (THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME) and Elmos Kallman.

The 2-disc Blu-ray from Severin contains a CD of music from this and other Franco films. The uncensored print has been scanned from the original negative. Soundtrack is English 2.0 mono with English subtitles. A slipcover features different artwork than the box itself.

Bonus features include "In the Land of Franco, Part 3" with Stephen Thrower, an interview with Thrower entitled "Shining Jess", "Never Met Franco" with filmmaker Gerald Kikoine, "Filmmaker Christopher Gans on France", Commentary with scholars Robert Monell and Rod Barnett, some very explicit outtakes, and a trailer.

While the sci-fi angle gets nuttier (and the sex kinkier) as it goes along, there's always the spectacle of Jess Franco's beloved Lina languishing in the nude and getting ravished by everyone in sight. If you're not a Francophile, this will probably mean very little to you. But for those to whom every aspect of the director's career evokes endless fascination, SHINING SEX will prove evocative indeed.

2-Disc Blu-ray Featuring Limited Edition Slipcover
Limited to 1500 copies

Slipcover art:


Don Sullivan's 3 Classic Songs In "GIANT GILA MONSTER" (1959) (video)

Everyone knows about Don Sullivan's classic "Mushroom Song."

But he also sings a snappy acapella love ballad...

...and a mystery single that rocks a teen dance hop.

Still, it's the undying classic "Mushroom Song" for which Don will always be remembered.

I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

EVERGREEN -- Movie Review by Porfle

If I ever decide to put together my own dictionary, then the term "chick flick" may very well be accompanied by a still from EVERGREEN (2019).  Not only is this definitely not a movie that will ever be hosted by Joe Bob Briggs, but I would imagine it's potent stuff even for staunch aficianados of the genre.

Young lovers Gena (Amanda Maddox) and Paul (Tanner Kalina) get together in a beautiful cabin in the wilds of Colorado (one which, in the words of Richard Boone in BIG JAKE, "sure does bespeak of a great deal of money") to celebrate Christmas shortly before their planned wedding.

However, the observantly Catholic Paul insists on keeping things celibate before the vows, which rankles the amorous Gena, who even tries to take advantage of him when he's inebriated (and if I'm up-to-date on current mores, that's a big no-no).

So, robbed of her chance to have a super-sexy weekend, she insists they instead engage in a hot 'n' heavy game of "Very Personal Questions, Very Honest Answers", no-holds-barred edition. And as Arnold was fond of saying in THE LAST ACTION HERO: "Big mistake."

The rest of the film teases us with some light banter and a happy-fun montage or two before delving into the inevitable arguments, accusations, recriminations, disturbing discoveries, and other unpleasantries that we just knew we were going to have to slog through.

These are exacerbated by the arrival of Paul and Gena's former lovers Cassie (Olivia Grace Applegate, BLOOD FEST, THE FOX HUNTER) and Dylan (David Bianchi, BIRDS OF PREY), who, even in imaginary form and existing only in their own minds, give our main characters a chance to ruminate to an unhealthy degree on all the regrets and uncertainties which may very well drive a wedge between them.

Director and co-writer Joe Duca (HER NAME WAS JO) leans heavy on the melancholy while taking advantage of the beautiful, serenely desolate location (even the interiors glow with a warm natural light) and going easy on the stylistic affects.

As for the cast, I was impressed by the skill it took for Maddox and Kalina to act out these flaky characters and their massive amounts of emotional and sometimes maudlin dialogue with a semblance of naturalism. Many times such scenes come off like acting class exercises, but here the actors do a top-notch job of selling it all.

Of course, a whole weekend of just hashing things out in a hyper-emotional way amidst a backdrop of great environmental beauty will be manna for some, and to them I recommend EVERGREEN as a shamelessly indulgent wallow.  For me, however, it was, in its own way, one of the most profoundly depressing films I've seen since EDEN LAKE.