Blu-ray Review: THE COMING OF SIN

Jose Larraz’s elegant and depraved masterwork comes to Blu-ray as part of Arrow’s Blood Hunger box set

In the annals of exploitation cinema, Spanish filmmaker Jose Larraz had one of the more unique voices; a multi-hyphenate artist who dabbled in many mediums, including comic books, and whose filmed fixations on beautiful women and hot sex were matched for his interests in darker, more psychological explorations. And while his resume certainly boasts a more than a few middling efforts, Arrow Video has collected a trio of his undisputed masterworks in their new “Blood Hunger” Blu-ray box set, where fans and fans-to-be can find gorgeous transfers of essential Larraz pictures like WHIRLPOOL, VAMPYRES and THE COMING OF SIN. It’s that last-listed title that brings us here. Because I’d never seen THE COMING OF SIN until now. And it’s just as astonishing a work of erotic horror as I’d heard it was, the depraved equal to WHIRLPOOL and sensual kin to VAMPYRES, a balletic three-hander that forsakes plot in favor of fevered couplings and ratcheting tension.

The film (released in many markets under the riotous and misleading title THE VIOLATION OF THE BITCH) stars Lidia Stern as Triana, a beautiful but simple Gypsy servant girl whose masters “loan” her out to an older, sexually voracious artist named Lorna (Patrice Grant) at her beautiful country estate. Before you can say “The Rain in Spain”, Lorna is smugly boasting that she will refine Triana’s palette, teaching her how to read, to speak, to socialize. And to fuck. Because it’s clear from the moment the two women meet that there is a strong sexual connection and Larraz revels in sustaining that tension, creating a dripping erotic aura that only relaxes once his film veers into full blown mania.

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Blu-ray Review: THE WITCHES

One of Hammer’s strongest ’60s shockers comes to Blu-ray from Scream Factory

Director Cyril Frankel’s 1966 supernatural drama THE WITCHES (based on the novel “The Devil’s Own” by Peter Curtis) might be one of Hammer’s most misunderstood and undervalued productions, with casual admirers of the venerable studio’s output often either ignoring or dismissing it. This is likely due to the film being released squarely in the center of Hammer’s “Golden Age”, when the company had had a near decade-long paydirt mining and perfecting Gothic melodrama and more sensational shockers. It defied audience expectations and needs, in some respects. But Frankel’s eerie mystery is more in-line with the studio’s post-PSYCHO “Mini-Hitchcock” thrillers, material like Frankel’s own queasy NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM STRANGERS, but one armed with a supernatural twist and buoyed by two mature female leads in the cast. But unlike Hammer’s 1965 scenery-chomper DIE, DIE MY DARLING – in which an aged and deranged Talulah Bankhead out-babied BABY JANE – THE WITCHES is no pandering horror-hagsploitation potboiler. It’s something far more evolved and interesting (and I say that with ardent adoration of the hagsploitation subgenre).

THE WITCHES stars Hollywood legend Joan Fontaine (Hitchcock’s REBECCA) as hard-nosed school teacher Gwen Mayfield who, after enduring a nightmarish experience in Africa (a berserk pre-credits sequence featuring monstrous witch doctors and tiki-men bursting into her classroom while Fontaine collapses, screaming), has endured a right and proper nervous breakdown. Once back on her feet, she accepts a job teaching the children of a tiny rural English Hamlet, an ideal position in a seemingly idyllic and peaceful community. However, almost from the moment she arrives, Gwen suspects something is “off”. The local minister turns out not to be a minister at all, despite wearing the collar for “comfort”; odd pagan talismans appear in tree trunks; some of the population seem to be in a kind of somnambulist state; and the town seems to be trying very hard to sabotage the budding romance between a pair of perfectly sweet and healthy teenagers. When people begin to die and Gwen starts to believe the whispers of witchcraft drifting through the village, she aims to do something about it, an act she might live to regret.

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Blu-ray Review: TERROR IS A MAN

Severin unearths the 1959 Filipino horror classic

“More horrifying than FRANKENSTEIN! More Terrifying Than DRACULA! “

To my everlasting shame as a cult film connoisseur I must admit to having watched little to nothing of Eddie Romero’s output.As a producer and director, Romero was responsible for such classics as BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT, TWILIGHT PEOPLE, BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA. THE WOMAN HUNT and BEYOND ATLANTIS but its his “Blood Island trilogy” that stands out in the hearts of horror aficionados.

TERROR IS A MAN is the first of this very loose trilogy and one of the Philippines’ first Horror films to be shot in English. Directed in 1959 by Gérard de Leon but only picked up for North American distribution by Hemisphere 10 years later,  TERROR’s basic theme is taken from HG Welles’ Island of Dr Moreau. When William Fitzgerald  (Richard Derr) is washed ashore on an island, the only survivor of a shipwreck, he’s found by Dr. Girard (Francis Lederer) a park Avenue surgeon and (apparently) genetic scientist who has isolated himself to pursue his experiments free from distractions (and ethical constraints) and assisted by his wife Francis (Greta Thyssen) and his assistant Walter (Oscars Keesee).Quickly, we learn that the island has no means of leaving and no means of communicating with the outside world.  Fitzgerald is told that any return to civilization will have to wait until the supply ship returns in several months. Plenty of time for him to explore the island, the native culture of the indigenous people, stumble into the mysterious experiments and get to know the disenfranchised wife a bit better.

Actually…a lot better!

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Blu-ray Review: BLUE MOVIE


Controversial Dutch sex comedy comes to Blu-ray from Cult Epics

Blending edgy MIDNIGHT COWBOY arthouse neorealism with cheeky softcore pornography, director Wim Verstappen’s controversial and long unseen 1971 Dutch sex comedy BLUE MOVIE has finally spurted its way to Blu-ray courtesy of Eurotrash heroes Cult Epics and it’s cause for a kind of celebration. Because the movie (produced by the notorious Pim de la Parra) is a vital piece of the Dutch film industry’s evolution. It’s also tons of dirty, breezy fun and a fascinating time capsule of its time and place.

The lanky, Hugh Metsers plays Michael, an amiable lad just out of prison for shagging an underage girl who suddenly finds himself appendage deep in the early days of the swingin’ 70s. With the help from his ever-stressed and oddly paternal parole office, Michael is set up in a modern apartment complex and urged to both find a job and a nice single lady to settle down with. Alone and horny, Michael catches the eye of a slew of sexy housewives and soon, he’s moving from suite to suite, “borrowing sugar” and getting his rocks off with a bevy of liberated ladies. Before he knows it, this Dutch Don Juan become a kind of sexual guru, setting up a series of orgies and milking his new found freedom for all its worth.

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Joseph H. Lewis’ taught noir finally makes it to Blu-ray

The joy of loving cinema – and I’m not talking about devouring whatever the latest juggernaut product is being fed to us every Friday night at the multiplex or cheapie lazily streaming on Netflx – is that no matter how much we know or see, there are ALWAYS hundreds upon hundreds of pictures hiding, waiting to be discovered. And if you’re a fan of the unofficial subgenre French film critics dubbed “film noir”, there are so many of them out there, from poverty-row potboilers, to major studio “B” movies. And thank God for boutique labels like Arrow Video for taking the time and effort to dig up many of these mini-masterpieces and give them the affection and attention they deserve.

Among Arrow’s latest offerings is director Joseph H. Lewis’s MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, a lulu of a thriller that served as the basis of the almost equally obscure 1987 mystery DEAD OF WINTER. That unofficial remake is certainly a fine distraction, with a cast that includes the great Roddy McDowall and Mary Steenburgen, but it can’t hold a candle to Lewis’ original. This is prime nastiness, with a damsel in deep distress, reptilian, money-crazed villains of every age and gender and suspense so thick you can cut it in half.

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Looking back at the scrappy and silly 1985 teen action drama

Those of us who lived and came of age in the 1980s no doubt find it amusing that the decade’s film, music and fashion have become objects for contemporary pop culture fetishists. But that’s how this train rolls. The common zeitgeist almost always becomes exotic, exciting, important.

Still, who knew that director Matthew (DRAGONSLAYER, writer of CRIMSON PEAK) Robbins’ earnest 1985 teen drama/crime caper THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN would emerge as a classic. Certainly not the critics of the period who dismissed its heavy-handed metaphors and cartoonish social statements as kid stuff and fluff, nor the young people it was targeted towards, who mostly ignored it theatrically and got tired of its presence on home video and cable very quickly. And while time hasn’t healed the picture’s ample flaws, there’s an undeniable energy to the piece, with broadly drawn performances by a doozy of a cast and of course, there’s that thundering Pat Benatar song (“Invincible”) that weaves its way into the soundtrack of the film itself. Re-released by Mill Creek Entertainment as part of their retro VHS line of Blu-ray’s as the “Fair is Fair” edition, the movie is definitely worth a watch (or re-watch) and is anything but boring.

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Sound Shock: A Closer Look at Alice Cooper’s PARANORMAL

An appreciation of the iconic rocker’s underrated 2017 album

“I’m condemned
to the long endless night 
and I live in the absence of light…”

Thus begins ALICE COOPER’s 2017 double album release PARANORMAL.

In full disclosure I’ll say that I grew up a big Cooper fan. Eagerly devouring his 70’s and early 80’s releases but kind of lost track and, perhaps, interest after 1983’s DADA while still having a big soft spot for the Coop. So it was with no small trepidation that I approached this release, even being produced and co-mixed with frequent collaborator Bob Ezrin.  I’d seen too many of my childhood heroes become parodies or even worse, pantomimes of themselves. So you won’t have to read this till the end to find out whether or not this reviewer enjoyed PARANORMAL; I frikkin’ LOVED it !

The album’s flow works beautifully-the lead song, PARANORMAL is introduced with a soft guitar jangle befor ebeing punctured with crunching metal chords, flowing into a thumping drum/bass rhythm and swelling guitars before again falling back to a repeat the softer bridge from the opening.

It just sounds like the perfect opening salvo to a night of ALICE!

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Severin releases one of the wildest “bad movies” of all time on Blu-ray

Those who – like me – have cited Ed Adlum’s SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED as the worst indie American horror movie of the 1970s, obviously never saw his 1972 go-for-broke earlier craptastic creeper INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS. I’d missed it, though had certainly heard many scream its perverse praises for years and now, thanks to Severin Films, we have a new remastered Blu-ray release packed (as the label always does) with wild special features so that hardcore fans and newly minted audience members (like me) can lock their bloodshot glazballs upon it. Naturally, one has to have a healthy streak of masochism in order to fully appreciate the film’s downmarket charms but those bold enough to endure its 77 torturous minutes will be – for better or worse – transformed for life.

Filmed in woodsy upstate New York by Adlum and his co-conspirators, Roberta and Michael Findlay (SNUFF and the aforementioned SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED), INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS was actually partially shot by future ERASERHEAD DP Frederick Elmes. And while there’s little trace of the future David Lynch collaborator’s singular visual style, the picture absolutely feels like it exists in ERASERHEAD’s bent universe. Nothing in this film makes much sense, either visually, aurally or narratively, with cross-eye-level framing, slipshod special effects and “acting” that is alternately listless and ludicrous. In it, a dopey bush-league student and a effeminate mad scientist stumble upon some sort of bubbly blood that they think is very important because it fills up their beakers magically. Said voodoo gore was drawn from the wounds of a local loser named Jim Carrey (ha!) who bled out all over the local bar. Poor old Jim had escaped the clutches of the titular Blood Farmers, a gang of hayseed Druids lorded over by a  poncy cult leader who needs the blood of the innocent to revive his Queen, who lies comatose in a pretty nifty glass coffin. After his daughter’s dog is killed and eaten by one of the giggling Druid henchmen (a riotous scene where a fluffy canine is replaced by literal fluff), the scientist and his youthful protege find a rusty old key and set-off to solve the problem of the super-blood and unlock the mysteries of the Blood Farmers.

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Blu-ray Review: NEMESIS

Flashing back to video store action classic courtesy of MVD’s Rewind Collection

If you EVER entered a video rental store and made it to the science fiction or fantasy section, you definitely came across some of Albert Pyun`s cinematic opuses. The art on the VHS covers were always dynamic: SWORD AND THE SORCERER with it`s Frazetta-esque painting, CAPTAIN AMERICA with the good Captain coming straight for us (and for once the suit was comic-book accurate!), CYBORG with new action star JCVD facing down a gang of badass post apocalyptic thugs and NEMESIS, with cool painted Oliver Gruner ( think 50% JCVD, 50% Dolph Lundgren ) as a sleek trench-coat wearin`, machine gun totin` terminator with a  babe in the background holding an even bigger hand cannon to sweeten the deal.

Well, courtesy of MVD we now have NEMESIS in a remastered, special edition Blu-ray / DVD set, packaged in a retro looking slipcase with that selfsame cover, with a ‘worn’ look and adorned with video store `stickers`.

NEMESIS is the kind of `serious` 80`s sci-fi film where everyone wears sunglasses and you know what the hero’s thinking because of his serious, baritone voice over.

Before I continue I just want to say that the following review has some spoilers so be forewarned.

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NEKROMANTIK 2 Coming to Limited Edition VHS!

Cult Epics release Jorg Buttgereit’s Gruesome Horror Comedy on VHS for Valentine’s Day

As Valentine’s Day fast approaches, necrophiliacs can rejoice as Cult Epics has just announced the upcoming return of the loving dead – with the official VHS release of Jörg Buttgereit’s NEKROMANTIK 2. Produced in three exclusive variants (some signed), and featuring ghoulish new artwork by Martin Trafford and cover design by Parker Richardson, these numbered editions are strictly limited (with very low numbers), be quick as our previous VHS of NEKROMANTIK was a sell-out last year. Also unleashed is a delightfully gory antique enamel pin based on NEKROMANTIK 2’s original poster art – the perfect gift for your loved one at any time of year (alive or otherwise!).

You have an exclusive window to order the special edition here!

In case you haven’t seen this wild and sick sequel, NEKROMANTIK 2 tells the tale of a beautiful necrophiliac, who works by day as a nurse and prowls by night in cemeteries searching for fresh corpses, finds the grave of Nekromantik’s Rob––and brings him home. When her real-life relationship begins to falter, she has to make a final choice between the living and the dead, with gruesome consequences.

Dig in!