Monday, September 26, 2016

RIP Herschell Gordon Lewis(1929-2016)



Today I found out on Facebook that Herschell Gordon Lewis passed away. He was 87 years old, and he departed peacefully in his sleep. A legend of horror/exploitation filmmaking, Lewis' works will always have a fond place in mine and many hearts.

Some of the famous works of Lewis' career were "The Wizard of Gore," "Blood Feast," "Two Thousand Maniacs," "Color Me Blood Red," and my personal favorite "The Gore Gore Girls." Each of these films tested the boundaries(and stomachs) of audiences, and they paved a new way for gore in entertainment. 

This tribute to Lewis is longer than a lot of my other articles about departed celebrities, and this is because of my love for his movies, and the fact that I once had the opportunity to interview him for this site. I was so grateful that him and his producer James Saito allowed me to conduct my article, and I will always remember it. 

Rest in peace Herschell, you'll always be a legend. 



Friday, May 6, 2016

Subspecies(1991)


Director: Ted Nicolaou
MPAA Rating: R

An evil vampire named Radu steals a powerful treasure called "The Bloodstone," which has an endless supply of blood, and his father and brother must stop him and his little minions "The Subspecies." Unfortunately, this is a hard task to complete, and the entire town is now at risk of being terrorized by the villains.

The movie stars Anders Hove as Radu, Angus Scrimm as the King, Irina Movilla as Mara, Laura Mae Tate as Michele, Michelle McBride as Lillian, and Michael Watson as Stefan. 

Being a Full Moon direct-to-video film from the 1990's, I did not have the highest standards for the quality of "Subspecies." I just wanted the typical B-Movie fun that I love. Luckily, I got that, and a whole lot more. This underrated gem features one of the coolest and freakiest vampires of all time(Radu), some amazing makeup and gore effects, wonderful stop animation by Dave Allen, and a very interesting story. I felt like the acting was hit or miss, with Hover being out of this world, but the girls being mediocre at times. The overall tone of the movie was outstanding, because it was like an amped up version of gothic classics like "Black Sunday." This was possible because of the beautiful filming location of Romania, the classical score, the mysterious cinematography, and suspenseful pacing. I thought that the ending was magnificent, because I was on the edge of my seat in excitement. There really wasn't anything that bad about the movie, outside of small flaws like acting that don't matter much for this kind of film. 

I totally recommend "Subspecies" to all fans of low budget cinema, because it is one of the finest of its kind. It is a top notch vampire flick, horror film, and movie in general. It will be a very enjoyable watch for all those interested, and I promise it will not disappoint. 

Grade: 9.5/10


Puppet Master(1989)


Director: David Schmoeller
MPAA Rating: R

"Puppet Master" tells the haunting story of a group of psychics that are tormented by murderous puppets, while they are investigating the hotel of their recently deceased colleague. 

The movie stars Paul LeMat as Alex, William Hickey as Andre, Irene Miracle as Dana, Jimmie F. Skaggs as Neil Gallagher, Robin Frates as Meghan, and Matt Roe as Frank. 

This Charles Band classic is a very fun installment of the horror genre. Being the first film of Full Moon Picture, it is cheesy with its low budget stop motion effects, which adds to its charm. There is some shocking scenes of gore and violence, the acting is very well done, and the overall story is creative and neat. Each of the puppets had their own personality, which made their characterization very successful. Their weapons of choice were also very unique. The conclusion was also super suspenseful, and extremely fulfilling for fans of this category of cinema. The only thing that I wish was different is that the first half should've have been paced a little better, because it was dry at times. 

Overall, I highly recommend "Puppet Master" to fans of B-Movies and horror flicks. It is a very enjoyable and well made film, and it will not disappoint. 

Grade: 8/10

Friday, April 8, 2016

Day Of Anger(1967)

Theatrical Poster

Director: Tonino Valerii
Rating: M

"Day of Anger" is a Spaghetti Western film that tells the story of Scott Mary. Mary is a poor "bastard" that cleans the streets of his town Clifton. He is constantly bullied by everyone, until he meets Frank Talby. Talby is known to be one of the greatest gunmen ever, and Mary instantly begins to admire him. After saving Talby's life, Mary is taken under his wing to teach him to be the best at gun-fighting.  What Mary doesn't know is Talby's real motives, and no matter how much people warn him, he does not listen. A tale of betrayal and revenge then begins, making a climax one will never forget. 

The film stars Giuliano Gemma as Scott, Lee Van Cleef, Walter Rilla as Murph, and Christa Linder as Gwen. 

The Spaghetti Western genre has always been hit and miss for me, because there are the occasional movies that tell very powerful stories, and some that are just plain boring. Luckily, "Day of Anger" created a schema of what every Western should be. There was beautiful cinematography, wonderful scenes of action, engrossing characters, a grandiose and triumphant score by Riz Ortolani, and grit that will leave an impact on the viewer. I really love how the film balanced the action and story, because a lot of Westerns have too much of one of those, and not enough of the other. Also, the plot was much more than your typical "Cowboy flick," as it brought up themes of morality and corruption. I watched the hour and 53 minute Italian version of the movie, and while I believe it could have been a little shorter, there was not a moment that I was bored. 

Arrow Blu Ray Release

The copy of "Day of Anger" that I acquired was the Blu Ray/DVD set from Arrow Video. This three disc collection gives the viewer the definitive look at this film. On the Blu Ray disc, there is the original Italian version of the movie with option of Italian or English language, and there is also a shortened version that is only in English. All of these are available on the two DVD discs also included. The transfer for the film was absolutely beautiful, with a picture so clear that the movie didn't look its age, and the sound filled the air. The special features included are also good, with interviews with direct Tonino Valerii, screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, and film critic/author Roberto Curti. Also featured is a deleted scene, trailers, a booklet by Howard Hughes, and a reversible sleeve with artwork approved by Reinhard Kleist.  This set is so worth the money, because it gives a full look at the movie, and truly does it justice. 

"Day of Anger" was a pleasant surprise in my movie watching, and I can honestly say its one of my new favorites in the Western genre. It is a very powerful and action packed flick, and it will not disappoint. Definitely check out this criminally underrated film, because it will blow you away.

Grade: 9.5/10
Blu Ray Grade: 10/10

Friday, April 1, 2016

Plan 9 From Outer Space(1959)

An image of a UFO in "Plan 9 From Outer Space"(can you see the strings?)

Director: Ed Wood
Rating: Not Rated

A trio of aliens come up with a plan to bring people back from the dead and use them as an army to save the world. 

The film stars Bela Lugosi as "Ghoul Man," Vampira as "Vampire Girl," and Tor Johnson as Clay.

I went into "Plan 9 From Outer Space" expecting the worst film ever made, and that is exactly what I got. With terrible acting, writing, directing, and laughable special effects, this movie is a clunker in every way. Luckily, the flaws that are present make the film much more enjoyable, resulting in one of the most hilariously entertaining movies of all time. Terrible dialogue like "Your stupid minds! Stupid, stupid," will forever be hysterical, and the string powered UFO's will always make me chuckle. I thought the narration was also extremely funny, because it gave the vibe of a cheesy movie trailer, rather than being the film itself. 

2012 Blu Ray release from Legend Films

The release of this movie that I purchased was a Blu Ray disc from Legend Films. This set includes B&W and color versions of the film, a commentary with Mike Nelson of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," Ed Wood home videos, commercials Wood made, and subtitles with trivia about the movie. This is a very worthy purchase, because it gives the definitive look at this historical film. 

Fans of B-Movies should look no farther than "Plan 9 From Outer Space," because it is the holy grail of the genre. The film is so terrible that it will charm you and have you laughing hysterically. Ed Wood was the master of bad movies, because he lacked the merit of film-making(to his advantage). So definitely check out this film, because it will not disappoint. 

Grade: 10/10 (A horrendously bad movie, but perfect for what it is).
Blu Ray Grade: 8/10

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Suspiria(1977)

Promotional poster of the film

Director: Dario Argento
Rating: R

A young girl named Suzy begins to attend a ballet academy in Germany, and is instantly terrified by the tragic occurrences taking place. She begins to look for help, and tries to uncover what the cause is. 

The film stars Jessica Harper as Suzy, Stefania Casini as Sarah, Flavio Bucci as Daniel, Alida Valli as Miss Tanner, and Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc. 

Right from the start of "Suspiria," I knew I was viewing a very special piece of art. The wild colors and loud music gave such an intense emotion, and there was a underlying tone of suspense that instantly captivated me. When I saw the first murder, I was jawdropped at how unrelenting and warped Dario Argento's paranormal masterpiece actually was. While the overall storyline is nothing extravagant, Argento used his distinct style to make one of the scariest and technically beautiful movies of the horror genre. There were so many times where I could do nothing but stare at the screen because I was so shocked about what happened. While the violence was not frequent, it really left an impact on its viewer, because there were instances that I had never seen before. The acting was also amazing, with an amazing leading performance by the stunningly beautiful Jessica Harper. One of the things that stuck out to me the most(along with the crazy lighting and colors) was the wonderful soundtrack by Goblin. The heavy and intense progressive sounds were absolutely perfect at making the viewer even more scared than before, because they captured the raw emotion of the characters' fear. 

South Korean Blu Ray release

The release of "Suspiria" I bought was a copy from South Korea. This Blu Ray is quite bare bone when it comes to special features, but I can honestly say that the transfer is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The picture was clear as water, and the sound blared to make everything scary as can be. I honestly would recommend this release, because while it only comes with a trailer, it definitely gives the experience of the movie that it deserves. 

I honestly can't recommend "Suspiria" enough, because it is the most beautiful movie I have ever seen, and it is also extremely scary. On top of being the best Argento film I have seen thus far, I may be able to call it my favorite horror movie. Definitely check out this masterpiece, because it will blow you away. 

Grade: 10/10
Blu Ray: 7/10

Monday, March 21, 2016

Wake Up and Kill(1966)

Arrow Video Blu Ray Release
Director: Carlo Lizzani
Rating: Unrated

"Wake Up and Kill"(aka "Wake Up and Die") tells the story of infamous criminal Luciano Lutring. Lutring was a jewelry thief during the 1960s in Italy, France, Amsterdam, and other places around the world. After meeting the love of his life Candida, more pressure is put on him to steal, because he wants to impress her with riches. Candida heavily disapproves of the criminal activity, but it is hard for her to leave the life she is leading with him. She then begins to realize that the only thing she can do is help the police find her husband, but she does not know how to do this without Luciano's life being taken.

The movie stars Robert Hoffman as Luciano, Lisa Gastoni in her Golden Globe winning performance as Candida, Gian Maria Volonté as Inspector Moroni, and Claudio Camaso as Franco. 

"Wake Up and Kill" was a total shot in the dark for me, as I had never heard of the film before seeing it on Amazon. The plot was intriguing enough in text, so I felt like the movie was worth a chance. I'm so glad for trying it though, because this film is a criminally underrated masterpiece. Even with a long running time of over two hours, there was not one moment where I was anything less than engrossed with what was happening. The main success of this film is the emotion and intensity that the cast and Lizzani's direction enabled. There is not an abundance of action, and there is not a lot of excess throughout, but there is the constant threat of Lutring being caught, which keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. The film is also much more than a crime flick, and the focus of Lutring and his wife really helps the viewer form an emotional connection. While it is apparent that their marriage is not healthy at all, there is still a lot of power in seeing how far Candida would go to protect her troubled husband. Every member of the cast gave Oscar worthy performances, because their emotion and characterization were beyond authentic. Hoffman became Luciano, and it was amazing to me that he was able to portray the decay of his character. Gastoni excelled as Candida, because she depicted the pain and stress that the wife of a gangster would be under in a convincing manner, and she made the audience care about her. Stylistically, this movie was quite flawless. There were amazing heist and car chase scenes, the cinematography was beautiful, and the score was very effective at portraying the emotions the characters were feeling. The ending was extremely suspenseful, and it left the viewer at an abrupt conclusion. As a viewer of this film, there was nothing I would change about it, because it was very enjoyable and beautifully made. The only thing that could have been improved was the title. I understand that "Wake Up and Kill" was a way to draw in audiences, but there was so much more substance and complexity to the story than this name suggests. 


Full View of Blu Ray Release

The version of the movie that I purchased was Arrow Video's release. This two disc set includes Blu Ray and DVD transfers, which feature the uncut Italian and shortened English versions of the movie. I watched the Italian cut on Blu Ray, and I have to say I was very impressed by the overall look. There were occasional specks throughout, but for the rarity of this film, this was more than acceptable. Most of the picture was clear as can be, and the sound was great too. The special features were quite scarce, with only a trailer being on the disc. While this was a little bit disappointing, I would not discourage buying the set, because it is still the definitive way to own this wonderful movie. The booklet that was included with the film was extremely interesting, and it gave information about the fact vs. fiction of the movie, Lizzano's career, more about Lutring's life, information about the cast and crew, a description about the restoration process of the film, etc. The reversible artwork for the sleeve is also very well done, and it adds to the physical appeal of the package. I would definitely recommend buying this copy of "Wake Up and Kill," because I think that it is great that a company like Arrow would take this little known movie, and make it available to the public. 

I cannot recommend "Wake Up and Kill" enough, because it is a very engrossing crime-drama that will leave an impact on its viewer. I am so glad that I was able to experience this film, because it gave me even more appreciation of Italian cinema, which I had already loved. All cinephiles should view this movie at some time, because it is a hidden treasure that needs to be uncovered. 

Grade: 10/10
Blu Ray Grade: 8/10