Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Friday, October 12, 2012

Finally... HD

Just as corporate scientist are working hard to bring us SUPER-HD, Jess Franco gets some long-awaited notice on blu-ray... although the people at Twitch don't seen very impressed... "Redemption Films deal with Kino has produced a great number of gems ripe for rediscovery, films that would never have made it to HD without the clout of a venerable company like Kino behind them. The question now becomes, is it really worth it?" I'd say of course it's worth it, for the simple fact that this prolific director already has a cult following. Is Twitch saying that becuase Franco's work is way outside of the mainstream that his fans don't deserve - or that, it really doesn't matter if they do - to see his work in the best presentation possible (that is to say, as close to a cinema experience as we're likely to get with Franco save for seeing a retrospective at a Parisian cinematheque every half-decade or so)? I'm just stoking the proverbial fire because, no, that's not what Twitch was saying, obviously, but I'd dare point out this lack of thought put forth in the brief blurb preceding the actual review of the Female Vampire blu-ray -- due out in just a few days. You can read about it here. And actually, it's a really good review, and I have to say I do agree with pretty much everything else post-blurb. Also, European retailer/distributor 1Kult has some hi-res Franco goodies this month, too... One thing Twitch did mention within the blurb in question that is obviously close to being right... the apocalypse does seem to be upon us now.

Check it out!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Brides of the Impalers

When I got back from Europe earlier this year the first thing I did was pick out Edward Lee's novel Brides of the Impaler, which y wife had given to me as a birthday present some time ago. I've always been a fan of the frenzied writing of Lee's and his uber-sexualized Lovecraftian fantasy-horror. But this time, I was in for something slightly different. Opening to the Acknowledgments page, I was a little surprised to see these names mentioned as the main inspirational source for this novel: Jess Franco, Amando de Ossorio, Paul Naschy, and Jean Rollin, “...whose macabre and brilliant films have enthralled me for years and whose manipulation of imagery and atmosphere have proven a polarizing influence.” Not only were these filmmakers thanked, they were the first ones to be thanked in the long list of appreciative credit. The book itself in a contemporary, unique and highly energized twist on the Dracula legends that sees The Nun appear in modern-day New York City, recruiting ex-drug addicts/street girls into a supernatural order. Filled with sacrificial implements, and general blood-splattering (and again, heavily sexualized) mayhem this plot half plays out as a police thriller (probably another nod to the Italian Poliziotteschi flicks of the seventies) on top of the religious splatter-horror. It's an awesome ride from author Lee, as usual, who penned one of my all-time favorite novels (if you can find an old copy grab it!) titled “The Coven”, from the early nineties, I believe.

While Lee may have been inspired by this handful of creative genre-warping film directors, his novel nevertheless is pure Lee, not really reminiscent of Franco or his cinematic cohorts. No, for that I had to go back and revisit the likes of Return of the Blind Dead (Ossorio) and Vampiros Lesbos. Not that summer's back with us in full force I find my thoughts swimming back to Soledad Miranda, Ewa Stromberg, Vampiros Lesbos, and She Killed in Ecstasy. Although this cinematic style is not exactly present in Lee's book, I can easily see how one is inspired by all of this. There is something beautiful about the cheap film stock and bright location shots of these stories, not to mention the talent and charm in front of and behind the cameras, which inevitably tends to bleed through.

And on yet another sad note, I'm writing this on the day (one of my only mornings off all week) that Sage Stallone was discovered to have passed away suddenly, a man who unfortunately might me more known to people as the son of Sylvester Stallone, but who actually co-founded the film company Grindhouse Releasing and was responsible for bringing cinephiles films like Fulci's The Beyond, Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust and Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox to the North American DVD market. At 36, he's too soon gone on to join most of the above-mentioned filmmakers and talented actors, RIP. --V

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finally - news from

The Redemption label has confirmed that it is preparing to release on Blu-ray various films by legendary Italian director Mario Bava. Exact technical specs, region coding status and release dates are yet to be confirmed, but the first titles are expected in September/October 2012.

The first batch of titles is expected to include Mario Bava's cult Mask of Satan a.k.a Black Sunday (1960), starring Barbara Steele, John Richardson and Andrea Checchi, Lisa and the Devil a.k.a The House of Exorcism (1974), starring Elke Sommer, Sylva Koscina, and Telly Savalas, and Hatchet for the Honeymoon a.k.a Blood Brides (1970), starring Dagmar Lassander, Laura Betti, and Stephen Forsyth (the latter coming from a new HD master).

The Redemption label has also confirmed that it will release on Blu-ray uncut versions of Jess Franco's Female Vampire a.k.a Erotic Kill (1973), starring the late Lina Romay, Jack Taylor and Alice Arno, Exorcism a.k.a The Sadist of Notre Dame (1979), starring Lina Romay and Catherine Lafferière, and A Virgin Among the Living Dead a.k.a Christine, Princess of Eroticism (1973), starring Christina von Blanc, Britt Nichols, Rosa Palomar, and Howard Vernon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I wish...

Originally posted by Edward McHale Jr. on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RIP Lina Romay, February 15, 2012

It's a shame, it seems like the internet news on Lina's death has been leaking slowly, I only heard about this today from a Mondo Macabro twitter post from the 24th - yet other sources are saying her actual date of death was nine days earlier than even that. She lost a battle with cancer, Jess Franco's life partner and muse. In his films, she was a force to be reckoned with whether playing a hard-ass femme fatale (or vampiric succubus, for that matter) or a mousy half-insane victim in his more atypical giallo-inspired sexploitation flicks. She worked with him far past her erotic due date, yet she was always a welcome presence in his films. And more than just that - she'd become an expected presence, part of Jess Franco and his films. This is a sad reminder that as we get older we are bound to lose some of these inspirational performers and artists from this mortal coil, as we'll also go one day, but we will at least have her work, and her partner's work, to enjoy and be inspired by, influenced by, get drunk to, until our time comes as well. It just won't be the same knowing you're not around any longer, Lina. RIP.

Jean Rollin III

I have not been, I'm sorry to say, in much of a Jess Franco state of mind lately. I've moved back from the UK and I was certainly glad to have access back top my stacks of retro Shriek Show and Blue Underground DVDs. Loads of Franco in there, that's for sure. Unfortunately, my limited leisure time on the DVD spinner has been filled more with the likes of John Carpenter, Brain DePalma and Umberto Lenzi (although the mannequins in Spasmo always reminded me of Franco's sixties masterpiece Succubus)
Apparently, the folks in charge of cult blu-ray distribution haven't had much of a mind on Franco, either, instead focusing on releasing the early stages of Jean Rollin's catalogue in glorious hi-def. It was sure nice to see these bad boys up in my Amazon recommendations...

If these discs do well in the face of the inevitable complete disappearance of the tangible media, more Rollin titles have been promised on blu-ray. Personally, as a collector, I'm both a little saddened and excited to think that this might be our last chance to own actual print copies of these, and many of our other favorite films.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Escapees: or, a women-in-a-mental-asylum triple-feature

It all started a few months ago when I had the opportunity to watch John Carpenter's new flick The Ward and it has come around to a little-known (to me, anyway) Jean Rollin flick called The Escapees, when I came across the Salvation UK DVD quite unintentionally in a little place off of Charing Cross Road in London. Not only was I not looking for this particular DVD, I actually had no idea the film even existed. I was intrigued, but not quite enough to delve into a blind purchase. Well, not immediately, anyway.

It was early this November when I saw Carpenter's The Ward, and it was a decent enough experience. After the disappointing Ghosts of Mars (his last actual feature film) and the completely unrecognizable-as-Carpenter Pro-Life, I went into The Ward with an understandable amount of trepidation. What was interesting, right off the bat, is that this is the first John Carpenter flick I can remember seeing that wasn't shot in Cinemascope. Nope, this sucker was 1.85:1. That seemed alright to me because the last thing of Carpenter's I'd seen and enjoyed was his Masters of Horror television episode Cigarette Burns, and what the opening scenes of The Ward felt like to me was that he was capturing the more intimate, smaller-aspect feeling of Masters of Horror. However, it did not end there... The story of The Ward is basically about a young woman (Amber Heard) who is committed to an insane asylum where some pretty strange goings-ons are transpiring amidst an alarmingly lengthening list of missing female patients. Set-up as a horror mystery, this turns out to be one of Carpenter's best films of recent times – certainly since the killer In the Mouth of Madness (which is, oddly enough, another flick about people going insane). There are some truly inspired scenes in The Ward, even evoking such Carpenter classics as The Thing and Halloween. However, before I get too carried away, The Ward won't be for everyone. Even as it evokes classic Carpenter is isn't classic Carpenter, it's an amiable enough effort that some people (myself excluded) might find predictable and somewhat by-the-numbers. I thought it was a good take on a classic Ten Little Indians scenario. Of course, the sub-plot of the film is leading lady Amber Heard trying to get the fuck out of there. Much like the opening premise of Jean Rollin's The Escapees...

And this is basically the only plot-thrust in Zack Snyder's otherwise completely plotless Sucker Punch, which I had the pleasure of viewing just this December. After reading some horrendous reviews of his first self-penned directorial effort, I steered clear of this sucker for ages. So what changed my mind? Well, that was thanks to discovering the existence of The Escapees, of course. I couldn't get it out of my head that this overblown Hollywood mega-budgeted film had essentially lifted the plot from a little old Jean Rollin flick from the early eighties. I'd say Snyder's flick is even more exploitive than Rollin's, at least Rollins has a gorgeous dreamlike narrative that swings it into the usual realm of arthouse fantasy. Snyder's film, for all its cold awesomeness, is pure exploitation fantasy as a handful of forgettably-written young female characters spend the entire film swinging from one reality to the next in order to ultimately escape the mental asylum they've all been committed to. It's a non-linear symphony of war machines, burlesque performances and fetishistic Bedlam narratives, intertwined with no real purpose other than eye candy. The film exists as a video-game puzzle, and while it is mostly cool to sit through, it's a puzzle that exists only because it is a puzzle (with eye candy), with no satisfying characters, plot or conclusion. In fact, the conclusion not only does not make sense, but it fails to justify the entire film. Still, I might give this one a second chance in the future. In the meantime, there area better things to experience...

Like Rollin's film, where two girls committed to an asylum decide to escape. This actually happens pretty much immediately, so this isn't quite the girls-trapped-in-a-mental-asylum adventure I had been expecting. However, much like Rollin's earlier (and highly awesome) Requiem for a Vampire, this is a two-girls-on-the-run odyssey. After fleeing the asylum, they hook up with a band of traveling musicians/strippers who put on stripping road-shows behind railroad tracks. They eventually befriend some of the biker audience members, and the two girls, whose personalities clash and are extremely at odds when the road adventure begins, become friends. That's really it, there's not much more to say about this subtle, mature and surprisingly sweet story. The Escapees is not bizarre like Requiem for a Vampire, it's actually a straight-ahead road story about the two girls' growing friendship. In fact, there's barely even any nudity in this Rollin picture, and the brief scenes of sex are mild and non-exploitative, serving to contribute to the characters and the story. And in fact, this might be Rollin's best work. It's an engaging film and wonderfully shot. At nearly an hour and fifty minutes, one of Rollin's longer flicks (ignore the printed running time on the back of the Redemption DVD box 'cause it's wrong), the time really just flew by as I wallowed in the lushness of the movie. At the end, in true Rollin genre style, it does get wacky as a botched lesbian rape attempt (featuring Rollin regular babe Brigitte Lahaie) turns into an all out machine-gun shoot-out with an army of cops, and somehow, winds up with the two girls walking into the sunset. I'd have to say that this is probably the best acting I've ever seen in one of Rollin's films as well. I'd like to call The Escapees a minor gem, but to me, it's much more than minor. A hidden gem, or a criminally neglected gem, seemingly forgotten about in Rollin's usual catalogue of the fantastique. But a real gem. I urge Rollin fans to check it out.