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Blu-ray Review: KILLER NUN

Anita Ekberg screws the scenery in this awesomely outrageous shocker

In the annals of the unsavory subgenre known as “nunsploitation’, director Giulio Berruti’s late-from-the-gate shocker KILLER NUN stands tall, a truly nasty piece of work that has so much fun reveling in bad behavior that it’s a grim joy to behold. And that can’t be said for many of the post-THE DEVILS “nunsploitation” ilk, as they’re often depressing, claustrophobic affairs. Now back on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video, hardcore fans and newly minted habit-horror-hounds alike can go another round with this psycho-horror classic and marvel at its delightful tawdriness.

The movie stars Fellini favorite Anita Ekberg (LA DOLCE VITA) – here, well into middle-age but still a goddamned knockout – as the deranged Sister Gertrude, a woman whose religion-fueled madness has caught up with her. Respected by her peers (and, in the case of some of her fellow nuns, lusted over), Gertrude is deeply, profoundly mentally ill and after tormenting weaker souls around her, begins self-medicating her increasingly disturbed condition with heroin addiction, serial sex with both fellow sisters and male strangers and eventually, wholesale murder.

Apparently based on a real case of convent carnage, KILLER NUN is most assuredly trash, but what beautifully crass trash it is. Ekberg dives deep into the role, making Gertrude a manic marvel, veering between the most jaw-dropping atrocities and yet tempering the character with empathy, pathos and remorse. This woman is sick and sculpted by her surroundings and is seemingly unable to stop her free-fall from happening. She’s a pathetic creation. But one doesn’t really watch KILLER NUN for its wrenching drama. No, the true pleasures to be found here are gleefully grotesque and often hilariously cruel. My favorite is the unforgettable sequence where Gertrude screams at an elderly woman for taking out her dentures at the table then proceeds to grab the old lady’s teeth and stomp them to dust while laughing maniacally. As the woman recoils in shock, Gertrude snaps out of her derangement and apologizes. Hours later, the poor gummy granny dies of a heart attack! Nasty? Sure. Tasteless. You bet. But scenes like this (and there are plenty of them) are SO outrageous that Berruti is inviting us to laugh. And we do. Well, at least some of us will.

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Blu-ray Review: TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN

 

Exploitation drama favors character and theme over explicit shocks

It’s arguable that the greatest sorts of exploration films dial back their visually explicit shocks in favor of the power of suggestion. The most obvious example might be PSYCHO, with its skillfully edited shower scene making us think we see more than we do. But that’s not particularly fair, as PSYCHO was made by a major filmmaker and studio and released during a period where nudity, sex and extreme bloodshed were simply not on the mainstream menu. But later, the same Gein-centric source material was mined for THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, a 1973 release that was produced at a time when all manner of gushy thing was allowed and accepted on screen. And yet, CHAIN SAW, one of the most brutal and notorious pictures of its kind in the world, refused to show too much either, using sound and suggestion and style to to turn stomachs and smack its audience senseless. Other films, like 1971’s BLOOD AND LACE, 1973’s THE BABY et al also proved ample sleazy and upsetting while teetering between PG and R and using theme and tone to their advantage.

Which brings us to 1972’s harrowing and hideous and unforgettable trash sorta-classic TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN, now widely available via a splendid, feature-packed Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, a restored 2K visual upgrade from the long out-of-print Something Weird Video DVD release, where it was paired with the icky and awesome THE TOY BOX. The film is as perverse and seedy as they come, telling the tale of the emotionally disturbed young woman Jamie (a fascinating one-shot turn from Marcia Forbes), who we first meet masturbating in bed to one of her many stuffed animals as she breathlessly chants “daddy, daddy”, a sweaty session interrupted by her braying mother, who chastises her and accuses her of being “just like her father”. Seems Jamie’s dad was a cad who tom-catted around and eventually bailed on the family, leaving the vulgar mother to smother her only child. Though MIA, Jamie’s pop has continued to send her toys, which she keeps littered around her room and whose presence have contributed to her bizarre, sexually stunted, childlike state of mind, where she yearns for daddy’s love while yearning for other more carnal pleasures.

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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: MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS

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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UK BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN

by Matty Budrewicz
It’s a wonderful ol’ world when we’re treated to not one but two – TWO! – souped-up special editions of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. Just three months after Scream Factory’s cracking, region A-locked disc comes this: Arrow’s UK counterpart of long-time tosh specialist William Sachs’ gloopalicious horror howler. And – as they did last year with Tobe Hooper’s outrageous LIFEFORCE – Britain’s premier boutique label have again taken everything that made Scream Factory’s package so essential and added that extra kicker; this time by including the Super 8 digest version of the film.

Assembled from THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN’s numerous, dubious highlights, this seven minute long, scratty-looking (as per its source material) zinger is a ‘best of’ mini-compilation; the Super 8 digest form itself – as Arrow’s introductory card explains – being one of the earliest available means of screening movies at home. It’s not quite as lavish a bonus as Arrow’s top-notch LIFEFORCE doc Cannon Fodder but, for anyone fascinated with the history of home video or, indeed, any Melting Man die-hards out there, it’s certainly the cherry on an already tasty schlock sundae.

While cynics may argue this massively truncated cut is more preferable, for clag connoisseurs Sachs’ flick remains as endearingly terrible as ever. Conventional criticism cannot be applied to something like THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, and nor should it; it’s a lousy yet ludicrously entertaining Z-grader every bit as wonderfully putrid as the gelatinous face of its eponymous antagonist.
Who’s to blame for such an uproarious farrago is anyone’s guess. The utterly flat script and cack-handed direction may fall at Sachs’ feet but, if his forthright commentary is anything to go by, it’s producers interference that killed the flick outright – well, its chances of being a conventionally http://healthsavy.com/product/zovirax/ passable programmer anyway. Ported from Scream Factory, it’s an excellent natter, with Sachs candidly addressing both his own shortcomings as a filmmaker and his producers refusal to understand the material as he originally conceived it; as a playful, spoofy cross between Atomic Era sci-fi and EC-style comic book shock.

The campy and kitsch influences are definitely there as astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) – radioactive after an accident up in orbit – turns into a murderous, gooey slop, but, as Melting Man make-up maestro Rick Baker suggests in his and Sachs’ great, two-handed twenty minute interview piece (another port), the film’s comedy is more likely due to its technical incompetence and truly awful performances than anything Sachs supposedly intended. Here, Baker is an affable delight as he discusses everything from his reluctance to get involved with the project – originally titled ‘The Ghoul From Outer Space’ – to his own feelings on the film’s surprising longevity.

The AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON FX legend’s gorgeously grotesque work is, of course, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN’s greatest asset, and it looks superb thanks to the MGM-licensed HD transfer; a gloriously film-y eye-popper. You mightn’t, as West says, have seen anything until you’ve seen the sun through the rings of Saturn, but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN in 1080p. Sound is served by a solid 2.0 mono mix and the set is rounded out with the film’s stupendously po-faced trailer, a cool promo gallery and a nifty, UK-exclusive three minute micro-chat with Baker’s then-protege, but now equally revered FX wiz, Greg Cannom.

A damn fine release of a terrifically naff movie; pick it up!
DELIRIUM REVIEW 8/10

 

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