Friday, November 25, 2016

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD BLU-RAY

Had a late-night screening of the new Grindhouse Blu-ray release of David Durston's infamous hippie horror film I Drink Your Blood (1971) last night, and what a magnificent job they have done on it! The beautiful, lurid seediness of the film has never looked clearer than on Grindhouse's HD transfer of the original X-rated cut of the film, and they have packed this two disc release with a stunning array of special features, including the original theatrical cut, deleted scenes (including the original and more downbeat ending), trailer and radio spot, the German Super 8mm digest home movie editions, interviews and footage from recent drive-in and grindhouse screenings, and so much more, including HD bonus feature films of I Eat Your Skin (a B&W 1964 Del Tenney film which was picked-up and retitled as a co-feature to I Drink Your Blood) and Blue Sextet, David Durston's rare psychedelic shocker from 1969.

The first 3000 copies of the Blu-ray also include a cool, carded I Drink Your Blood horror hypo syringe, so you can play your own version of "Let's give rabies to the dirty hippies" in your own home!

This is the definitive release of this remakable exploitation film, a true product of its era and not just a great counterculture horror but the best grindhouse film the capture the vibe of the Manson Family killings, which had occured two years earlier and was still very fresh in the public's mind (and fears). Looking forward to the upcoming local release of the disc from Ex Film, who will also be putting it out as a limited edition VHS in tribute to the original early-eighties home video release of the movie on the Media label.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD - GERMAN STYLE

Super 8mm German home movie digest versions of I Drink Your Blood(1971), released in that country by Rex Films.  Great to see these included as an extra on the amazing new two-disc Blu-ray release of this hippie horror classic from Grindhouse Releasing, which I am currently wading through.





Above photos: Some of my memorabilia from I DRINK YOUR BLOOD
and I EAT YOUR SKIN, possibly the greatest double-bill title in
grinhouse horror movie history!


BURIAL GROUND


“WHEN THE MOON TURNS RED THE DEAD SHALL RISE"
So reads the poster tagline for Andrea Bianchi’s 1981 Italian zombie film Burial Ground. Gee, I wonder if that tagline was inspired by the memorable poster blurb for a certain 1978 George A. Romero zombie classic? Alternately known as The Nights of Terror, Zombi Horror, The Zombie Dead and Zombie 3, so much of Burial Ground seems to borrow from other, better known (and just plain better) movies, including Lucio Fulci’s 1979 masterpiece Zombie/Zombie Flesh Eaters (to which this was peddled as an official sequel in some parts of the world). Despite this, Burial Ground winds up being something completely unique and of its own, an utterly delirious, wacky and gory movie that roars along at a great pace and never fails to entertain, containing pretty much everything you could possibly want from an Italian grindhouse zombie flick from this era.
Amazingly, I had never sat down to watch this film before, so experiencing it for the first time via the new Blu-ray release from Severin Films was a complete treat and a real eye-opener. The 2K scan and restoration makes the mud-bleeding zombies look suitably slimy and gross while the film often looks quite stunning thanks to it being filmed at the beautiful old Villa Parisi (a location used in quite a number of Italian genre flicks since the 1960s).  The film pretty much dispenses with any plot establishment or character development and gets stuck into the gut-munching zombie action almost from the get-go, and rarely lets up from there. As if the film isn’t jaw-dropping enough as it is, Bianchi and screenwriter Piero Regnoli take things even further by casting the strange-looking Peter Bark, then 25 but playing a 15 year-old kid who has a sexual attraction to his mother (played by the voluptuous Mariangela Giordano) and at one point even kisses her on the lips and fondles her bare breast while she is trying to comfort him in the midst of all the chaos and horror taking place around them!
Burial Ground also benefits from a great synth/electronica score by Elsio Mancuso and Burt Rexon, which really adds to the film’s ambience and helps give it a unique feel. The print on the new Severin Blu-ray actually contains the title of The Nights of Terror. Extras include several featurette interviews with producer Gabriele Crisanti and a number of actors involved with the film, a modern tour of Villa Parisi, trailer and some deleted and extended scenes. Audio has English dubbed or Italian language tracks (with English subtitle options).
Another winner from Severin Films.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

THE KILLING OF AMERICA


“America is the only industrialized nation with the high murder rate of countries at civil war, like Cambodia and Nicaragua.”

With that opening statement, delivered in a grim, deliberate, and monotone voice by narrator Chuck Riley, begins one of the most brutal, distressing and uncompromising true crime documentaries you are ever likely to endure. I first sat through it, open-mouthed and muscle-tensed, at the beautiful old Capitol cinema in Melbourne when it amazingly played there in 1982 (a strange environment for such a viewing experience for sure), and again several times on videocassette when it was released locally on the infamous Palace Explosive label a couple of years later. It was a film that was both incredibly hard to watch but almost impossible to turn away from. Even living as far away as Australia, it made me wabt to double-bolt my doors every time I watched it. And sadly, it is a film which is just as truthful and relevant today, if not even more so.


















Co-written by Leonard Schrader and produced primarily for the Japanese market to cash-in on the success of the notorious (but largely faked)
Faces of Death shockumentary, The Killing of America documents in unflinching detail and honesty the rise in gun violence, murder and sexual crimes in the land of the brave and the home of the free. Concentrating mostly on the period between the assassination of JFK in November of 1963 and the shooting death of John Lennon in December 1980 (years which saw a marked increase in violence in the country), the film covers political shootings, killing sprees, cult murders and mass suicides (such as Charles Manson and Jonestown), serial killings (Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Ed Kemper), as well as the Vietnam War and the protests over it on home soil which often turned tragic (like Kent State). D
irector Sheldon Renan and editor Lee Percy assemble the film remarkably, bludgeoning you into terrified submission with its continual parade of uncensored footage, crime scene photographs and interviews with criminals (including Robert Kennedy’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan and a chilling interview with incarcerated serial killer Ed Kemper), as well as burnt-out ex-cops and young Sunset Strip prostitutes. Some of the more infamous clips included in the film are the 8mm Zapruder film of John F. Kennedy’s killing, and Vietnam police chief Nguyễn Ngọc Loan casually executing a Vietcong prisoner in cold blood on the streets of Saigon on February 1, 1968.

Aurally, The Killing of America is almost as impactful as it is visually. Apart from Chuck Riley’s downbeat and morose narration, which has a similar effect as the narration on many of those gory driver education short films from the 1960s (such as Mechanized Death and Highways of Agony),  the film makes remarkably effective use of the songs For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield (played over the Vietnam War and social protest footage) and Homicide by English punk band 999 (played over a montage of Sunset Strip street fighting and Hollywood hookers describing confrontations with violent johns and the high prices that an underage girl is likely to fetch). Mark Lindsay and W. Michael Lewis also contribute a soundtrack score which features some piano and synthesizer sounds that complement the onscreen mayhem perfectly, heightening the sense of fear and dread that builds inside the viewer as the movie progresses. 
Equally brutal in all its forms: Various VHS, DVD and Blu-ray releases
of THE KILLING OF AMERICA










Suppressed in the US since audiences stumbled out sick and in shock from a screening at The Public Theatre in New York in February 1982,
The Killing of America has now finally made its official American home video debut thanks to Severin Films, who have issued the film in a stunning new Blu-ray release that does this important documentary justice. The new 2K scan preserves the original
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio and does a magnificent job of cleaning the film to give it a clarity that it has never had before while preserving its documentary feel with some soft grain, particularly in some of the older archive footage. Along with the original English language version, the Severin Blu-ray also includes the longer Japanese cut of the film, which runs for an extra 20 minutes and was titled Violence USA (though the Severin print still bears The Killing of America as its opening title). The Japanese version (presented here with the original Japanese narration and optional English subtitles) makes more of an attempt to examine the schizophrenic duality of American society, inserting footage of a more playful America indulging in wholesome activities like roller skating and skiing, along with some of its big technical achievements such as space travel and the Moon landing, to juxtapose all the violence. Violence USA also opens with some breathtaking aerial shots exploring the country’s natural beauty before moving to its concrete urban nightmares. There are a couple of sequences on the Japanese version that are surprisingly missing from the English one, in particular news footage of Muhammad Ali talking a potential suicide victim from jumping off to top of a city building, and shots of Manson disciple Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford in 1975.

Supplementary material on the Severin Blu-ray include the original trailer and new and very interesting interviews with director Renan and editor Percy, along with an audio commentary track with Renan (on the English version) and an interview with Mondo movie fan and historian Nick Pinkerton, who weighs in of the film and its place with the Mondo genre (a type of pseudo-documentary or shockumentary which takes its name from the classic 1962 Italian film Mondo Cane). A limited version signed on the cover sleeve by the director is also available from the Severin Films website while stocks last.

A tough, challenging, and haunting but utterly galvanizing viewing experience, one not likely to be soon forgotten by anyone who chooses to brave it.
Original Mexican lobby card











DR. STRANGE


Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved checking out the local cinemas whenever I am on vacation. So last week Marneen and I visited the Ward 16 theatres in Waikiki to check out Dr. Strange. The cinema was lovely, reclining leather chairs with foot rests and a retractable table for food and beverages. We both really enjoyed the movie, which succesfully captured the essence of this reasonably obscure (to the masses) comic book character while also making him relatable and appealing to a wide commercial audience. Great casting by Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, and was lovely to see the very trippy visuals paying tribute to some of those classic mind-bending panels which the great Steve Ditko dreamed up for the Doctor's early 1960s comic book adventures. Certainly, Chris Nolan's Inception may have been the clear inspiration for some of the sequences depicting large cityscapes morphing, but Dr. Strange ups the ante and takes it to a whole new level. Easily one of the best Marvel movies to date for me. The only distraction for me is that Benedict Wong's voice reminded me so much of the voice used for Curt Jergens' Stromberg villain in the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

Destined to be a stoner's classic. Will definately try to check Dr. Strange out again before it leaves the cinemas - in IMAX 3D if I can.


MADE FOR TV MAYHEM

Along with paranormal activities, UFOs and unexplained phenomena (such as the Bermuda Triangle disappearances), mythical monsters like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti (aka the Abominable Snowman) became a big pop culture talking point during the 1970s. Whether it was covered on TV (in shows like In Search Of..., hosted by Leonard Nimoy), in cheap mass-market paperbacks or documentary films (such as the low-rent classic The Mysterious Monsters), the world became obsessed with what was hiding deep beneath the waters of Scotland, of high up within the woods of the American Pacific Northwest.
One television movie which cashed-in on all the hysteria, as well as riding the coattails of popular movies like JAWS, was Snowbeast, a 1977 movie directed by Herb Wallerstein and starring Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux and Robert Logan. Written by Psycho and The Outer Limits scriptwriter Joseph Stefano, Snowbeast has a strange Bigfoot/Yeti hybrid picking off skiers at a popular Colorado ski resort, just as it is about to host its 50th Annual Winter Carnival (these monsters sure know when to pick the right time to attack).
Snowbeast is one of the movies which I will be discussing at the upcoming Made for TV Mayhem panel event happening at Monster Fest on the evening of Saturday, November the 26th. Joining myself will be Amanda Reyes, Kier-La Janisse and Lee Gambin, as well as Marneen Fields (actress and former stuntwoman who worked on a number of TV movies in the 1970s/80s). We will be discussing the world of American TV movies (mostly from the 1970s/80s), showing lots of clips and using the event as the launch for the upcoming Headpress book Are You in the Hous Alone?, which was edited by Amanda and features written contributions from Kier-La, Lee and myself. Special advance hardcover copies of the book will be available to purchase and have signed at the event, which will be followed by a screening of Buzz Kulick’s bizarre cult classic TV movie from 1974, Bad Ronald.
Should be a fun and informative evening, and one of the many cool highlights of this year’s Monster Fest!





SON OF BLOB

"THE MOVIE J.R. SHOT!"
After watching Chuck Russell's fun 1988 remake of The Blob yesterday, I decided to continue on and watch the 1972 sequel Son of Blob, which is also included on Umbrella's new limited blu-ray release of the original 1958 film and its '88 remake (though only in standard definition and 4:3 aspect ratio). The print on the Umbrella release actually bears the film's alternate title of Beware! The Blob.
If you came into the movie without any knowledge of its history or production, you would swear that Son of Blob was the result of a bunch of college kids heading out for a weekend on the pot and deciding on the spur of the moment to grab a friend's 8mm home movie camera and dream up a horror movie on the spot. But then you realize that it was actually directed by I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas star Larry Hagman, and features performances from the likes of Burgess Meredith, Carol Lynley, Cindy Williamms, Dick Van Pattern, Sid Haig and other recognizable faces and names, and you wonder what must have been going through their heads while the film was being shot.
From what I've read about the production of the film, a lot of it was improvised, and I recall reading a recent interview with one of Larry Hagman's kids stating that he was a big pothead, which may help explain why this film turned out as strange as it did. As either a horror film or a comedy it is very lackluster, but it does have its own weird little charm about it, and it is certainly a real curio and a definite product of its time.


BEWARE OF THE BLOBS!

The oldest home viewing edition of The Blob (1958) along with the latest. Limited to 2300 numbered copies (I scored #982), the new local 2 disc 1080P blu-ray set from Umbrella is pretty good, not only contains the classic Steve McQueen original but also the belated and more comedic 1972 sequel Son of Blob (aka Beware! The Blob), as well as Chuck Russell's underrated 1988 remake. Watched the remake this morning and had forgotten what a cool little 80s gorror gem it is, well worth another look. Anything with Candy Clark in it is usually has something going for it.


HACKSAW RIDGE

Based on the true story of a conscientious objector who served as a medic (without carrying or firing a weapon) in the ferocious battle for Okinawa during the last days of World War Two, Hacksaw Ridge is a stunning return to form for director Mel Gibson. Brutal, uncompromising and poignant, it easily takes its place alongside some of the great war films of the modern era, including Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Saving Private Ryan (all of which it bears some similarities with). Great performances from former Spider-Man Andrew Garfield (an Oscar-worthy turn), Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths. Even the usually insufferable Sam Worthington is excellent. Definitely at the top of the 2016 film heap.


KILLER BLU-RAY

Received my director-signed new Severin Blu-ray release of the brutal 1981 documentary The Killing of America today, looking forward to checking it out over the weekend, have read some great reviews of it so far.
Also terrific to hear that Ex Film are panning a local Blu-ray and limited VHS release of the movie for early next year, hopefully along with some cinema screenings.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

ED WOOD’S 8mm PORN LOOPS


Since his premature death from heart disease at the age of only 54 in 1978, much has been written and documented about the life and work of Edward D. Wood Jr., the infamous low-budget filmmaker responsible for such mind-bending and unique cult gems as Glen or Glenda (1953) and Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). Wood’s oeuvre and eccentric personal life has been thoroughly dissected and discussed in print and a number of documentaries, as well as Tim Burton’s acclaimed (if somewhat fantasised) 1994 biopic Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp in the title role and Martin Landau in an Oscar-winning turn as a broken and brittle Bela Lugosi (whom Wood befriended and threw some work to during the famed horror star’s sad last days).

With all this interest, you would think that the Ed Wood archives had been well and truly plundered and exhausted by now. But Wood’s twilight years, spent in an alcoholic haze across various Hollywood dives and crash pads, saw the angora-loving writer and filmmaker struggling to eke out a living in the porno netherworld, his prolific fingers banging out a string of unique adult paperbacks on his old IBM Executive typewriter while also directing a slew of quickie sex films, both soft and hardcore, to help keep his tab at the local Pla-Boy Liquour Store ticking over. Unfortunately, a lot of these books and films were written and directed under pseudonyms (or often lacking any credits at all, in the case of many of his sex film shorts), giving Wood’s fans and archaeologists a tough job when trying to compile a complete filmography and bibliography.
Thanks to the efforts of New York based filmmaker and exploitation historian Keith Crocker, the Ed Wood filmography moves a step closer to completion with the discovery of a number of his Super 8mm porn film loops, which have now been made available through Crocker’s important boutique film label Cinefear Video. Filmed between 1973/74 for the famous Swedish Erotica company, this collection of grimy hardcore XXX shorts were originally produced for home movie sale (advertised in the back pages of men’s magazines), as well as shown in the burgeoning porno cinemas and adult book shops, where they were screened in peep booths and coin-fed viewing machines (in the later, they would play continuously, hence their popular term of ‘loops’).
Above: the young John Holmes
Taken at face value on their own terms, the collection of 10 loops presented here are fairly indicative of and standard for the grainy, low-rent porn material of the day. Swedish Erotica did have a bit of a reputation for (comparative) quality, but these films were produced when the company was still in its infancy, and in fact were the first series of loops which they produced for the commercial market. Each loop runs for around 10-12 minutes in length, and were directed by Wood in the San Fernando Valley area. Originally shot in 16mm, they would later be transferred to 8mm and offered for sale. Filmed in silent with subtitles added (like they were needed), some suitably retro porn fuzz instrumental rock has been dubbed in for some extra mood on this collection. Like many loops, they often start off with a brief outdoors sequence before quickly moving into the boudoir or lounge room and getting straight down to the action. Featuring titles like Wet and Wild, Western Lust, Devil Cult and Girl on a Bike, one of the more interesting things about these early Swedish Erotica loops - apart from the fact that Ed Wood was in the director's chair - is the appearance of the legendary John (Johnny Wadd) Holmes is several of them (Hollywood Starlet, Behind the Ate Ball and the two-part The Virgin Next Door), leading one to imagine what a meeting and working relationship between Wood and the Wadd must have been like. And anyone who has seen Wood’s 1971 adult feature Necromania (released in both softcore and XXX versions) will recognise the bizarre owl eyes wall prop from that feature, which turns up in The Virgin Next Door (as a device which allows John Holmes to peep on his sexy neighbour).
Running at nearly two hours, Ed Wood’s 8mm Porn Loops may not make for particularly arousing erotica, but is an important compilation and artefact of its type, a recommended and worthy acquisition for both fans of Wood as well as those with an interest and fascination in the early days of hardcore filmmaking (even if the interest extends no further than a simple enjoyment of its visual and aural sleaze 'n’ cheese).
Ed Wood’s 8mm Porn Loops is available from the Cinefear website at Cinefear Adult Sinema, and an interesting interview by Robert Monell with Cinefear head honco Keith Croker, talking about the compilation, can be found here: Cinemadrome interview with Keith Croker
Review Copyright John Harrison 2016


Sunday, September 18, 2016

MARNEEN FIELDS TALKS ABOUT HER UPCOMING ASTOR THEATRE APPEARANCE

The cool New Zealand based website Love & Pop has posted a nice interview I conducted with Marneen Fields to promote her upcoming appearance at the Astor Theatre's screening of The Gauntlet on September 28. Check it out at the link below!

THE ASTOR THEATRE TO HIGHLIGHT HOLLYWOOD STUNTWOMAN MARNEEN FIELDS


MARNEEN FIELDS Q&A AT THE ASTOR SCREENING OF 'THE GAUNTLET'!

Any film fans who are based in Melbourne, Australia may want to get along to the beautiful old Astor Theatre in St. Kilda on Wednesday, September 28 to see Marneen Fields and John Harrison introduce the screening of Clint Eastwood's The Gauntlet (1977), which the cinema is screening that night, as a second feature to Bruce Lee's classic 1974 martial arts film Enter the Dragon. John will be providing the introduction to The Gauntlet before bringing Marneen up onto the stage to talk about her amazing stunt work on the film. After the screening, audiences will be able to say hello to Marneen in the theatre's foyer, pose for photos, and check out the range of rare vintage memorabilia from The Gauntlet that will be on display. Don't miss out on this very special event, and if you have The Gauntlet on VHS, DVD or Blu-ray, feel free to bring it (or any other items you may have from the film) along to have it signed!
 
See the event flyer below for more details.

 
 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

WENG'S CHOP #9 OUT NOW

Looking over some of my contributions to the latest issue of Weng's Chop (#9), which arrived in the post today. Apart from my own pieces (including some blaxploitation reviews and an article on 70s disaster movies, accompanied by an interview with Marneen Fields regarding her acting and stuntwork on several big disaster flicks), there is a stack of great-looking stuff in this massive 234 page issue.
Nice to see a strong Australian presence within its pages, with a continuation of Andrew Leavold's examination of Filipino action/exploitation filmmaker Bobby Suarez, and an interview with Mark Savage regarding his latest (excellent) feature film, Stressed to Kill.
Canadian writer/artist/publisher/adult film historian Robin Bougie (Cinema Sewer) is also interviewed in this issue, Dawn Dabell examines the 1970 British-West German film Deep End, and I'm especially looking forward to reading Stephen Bissette's article on vintage adult paperbacks that revolved around a horror theme.
There's a less expensive B&W edition of Weng's Chop available, but I strongly recommend forking out the extra bucks for the full color edition if you can. It looks stunning and the pages just pop out at you. A great job by designer Tim Paxton and the rest of the WC team (Tony Strauss, Brian Harris, et al).













Thursday, August 18, 2016

HELLHOLE REVIEW

Have just completed a review of the 1985 grindhouse film Hellhole, which has just made its official Blu-ray and DVD debut on the Scream Factory label, and in which Marneen Fields has a prominent co-starring role as Curry, the poor young religious insanity victim who is dragged off to the Hellhole (an illegal experimental facility located at a women's sanatorium) to face unspeakable horrors. Marneen gained great recognition and notices for her performance in this film, and the clip of her scene on the gurney in the Hellhole has racked up over half a million views on You Tube. It's great to see Hellhole finally available in an uncut hi-def transfer, after having to sit through grainy VHS tapes and fuzzy bootleg DVDs for years.

The review can be found at the following link: