Friday, August 30, 2013

THE ENFORCER - BLU-RAY REVIEW


A number of classic Hollywood films have been resurrected on Blu-Ray over the last couple of years and, along with The Criterion Collection, Olive Films have been leading the way, especially when they acquired access to the Republic Pictures library.  Films such as Fred Zinnemann’s HIGH NOON (1952), Don Siegel’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), George Cukor’s A DOUBLE LIFE (1947), Nicolas Ray’s JOHNNY GUITAR (1954) and Raoul Walsh’s PURSUED (1947) are a just few examples within Olive’s impressive catalogue. 

Not really getting the recognition it deserves, Brietagne Windust’s The ENFORCER (1951) was a great surprise thanks to an outstanding cast and taut direction.  Humphrey Bogart stars as District Attorney Martin Ferguson and he's assigned to take down Murder Incorporated, a murder-for-hire racket run by the local crime syndicate.  When his star witness Rico (Ted De Corsia) dies in an accident, Ferguson and two police detectives begin to re-trace their investigation through a number of tape recordings in the hopes of discovering another possible witness.  Unfolding through a series of flashbacks, Ferguson recounts and pieces together the inception and proliferation of Murder Incorporated.

Although prominently billed, Bogart shares the screen with a terrific ensemble of great character actors highlighted by Ted De Corsia as Rico, the panic-stricken star witness who we later see in the numerous flashbacks as the tough racketeer.  He is quite impressive in his role and manages to dominate the screen even when he’s sharing it with Bogart.  Other notable standouts are Zero Mostel as another potential witness and Everett Sloane in a  calm yet menacing performance as the mastermind behind the criminal organization.

As stated on Olive’s terrific Blu-Ray, The ENFORCER had uncredited direction from Raoul Walsh who was a frequent collaborator with Bogart on such films as The ROARING TWENTIES (1939) and HIGH SIERRA (1941).  It’s not exactly made clear what he contributed to the final film but it’s just as fast-paced and hard-hitting as many of his best works.  As usual, Olive Films have provided another fine, film-like presentation that looks great on Blu-Ray.  If you’re a fan of film noir or early Warner Brothers gangster films, then you should definitely add this to your library.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

THE POLICE CONNECTION - DVD REVIEW


Just caught up with Bert I. Gordon’s The POLICE CONNECTION (1973), a terrific no-nonsense cop thriller that benefits greatly from the fine talents of Chuck Connors, Vince Edwards and Neville Brand in the lead roles.

Connors stars as William Dorn, a rather unhinged individual that has been terrorizing the Los Angeles area with a series of mysterious bombings and it’s up to Vince Edwards as Lieutenant Minneli to try and stop him.  Unfortunately for Minelli, the only person that can identify him is George Fromley, a serial rapist and killer who is played to the hilt by Neville Brand.  

It’s nice to see these all these old pros working together in roles they can have plenty of fun with.  Edwards and Brand play well off each other in the few scenes they have together and Brand definitely gets to chew the scenery in a couple of memorable moments that include some homemade stag films.  However, it’s safe to say that Connors will always get most of the accolades for his unusual performance as the obsessive villain that will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.  He doesn’t say a whole lot throughout the film but he still commands the screen whenever he’s on it.

Even in the more permissive ‘70s, The POLICE CONNECTION turned out to be quite a departure for Mr. Gordon, a jack-of-all-trades director whose career was prominently associated with more family friendly sci-fi and horror that included AIP gems such as The AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957), WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST (1958) and FOOD OF THE GODS (1976).  He definitely wasn’t afraid to wallow through the muck and throws about as much sleaze and violence on the screen, which must have pushed the limits of that R rating.  In spite of all the nudity and violence prevalent in the film (nicely restored by Mr. Bill Olsen at Code Red), it still has that flat TV-movie vibe to it; kind of a sleazier, cheesier episode of Joseph Wambaugh’s POLICE STORY which, coincidentally also starred Chuck Connors and Vince Edwards in a couple of episodes.  Even TV regulars like Roy Applegate turn up in this; he has a brief but memorable run-in with Connors at a street intersection.      

Previously available as The MAD BOMBER on a variety of budget labels on both VHS and DVD, Code Red has thankfully revived this exploitation classic in its original uncut theatrical version in a brand new 16x9 transfer.  The difference is quite a step-up in terms of picture quality and the hefty dose of nudity and violence is reason enough to pick this up.

So what are you waiting for?  Support Code Red and order yours today on their Big Cartel Site.  When visiting, check out all their newest stuff as well including Eric Weston’s EVILSPEAK (1981) in a brand-spanking new transfer and John Henry Johnson’s CURSE OF THE BLUE LIGHTS (1988), a nearly forgotten late-‘80s horror film.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A BOUNTY OF SPAGHETTI WESTERNS


Back in 2002, British based DVD company C’est la Vie released Roberto Mauri’s SARTANA IN THE VALLEY OF DEATH (1970), the first title in a series that was devoted to spaghetti westerns.  They went on to release Leon Klimovsky’s A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO (1967 – re-titled as SOME DOLLARS FOR DJANGO and co-directed by Enzo G. Castellari), Pasquale Squitieri’s VENGEANCE TRAIL (1970) and Mario Gariazzo’s ACQUASANTA JOE (1971).  Unfortunately, many of these were sourced from inferior elements, cut or not shown in their proper aspect ratios.  After just four releases and endless delays, C’est la Vie holstered their guns for good, but despite these problematic DVDs, they had quite an impressive list of upcoming spaghetti westerns slated for release that never materialized.

Then, sometime in 2010, a small DVD Company out of Australia known as Bounty Entertainment mysteriously acquired a number of obscure spaghetti westerns as part of their ‘70s Spaghetti Western Classics (most of the films are actually from the ‘60s), which look to be from C’est la Vie’s long lost release schedule.  Usually found in many DVD bargain bins in both Melbourne and Sydney, a few have never shown up on DVD anywhere else.  Here are a few of the more interesting titles:

KITOSH, THE MAN WHO CAME FROM THE NORTH (1967) – This Canadian set film from director Jose Luis Merino stars George Hilton as Kitosh, a ex-Canadian Mountie who is persuaded by his former superiors to help transport a shipment of gold through treacherous territory.  Judging from the running time of 95 minutes, it seems relatively complete other than an abbreviated credits sequence.  Unfortunately, Fausto Rossi’s scope photography is cropped to 1.33:1 resulting in a number of shots where both actors are off the screen.

The FURY OF THE APACHES (1964) – This is an early Spanish-lensed effort from director Jose Maria Elorrieta (he went on to direct FEAST FOR THE DEVIL in 1971 under his Joe Lacy pseudonym) starring Frank Latimore, Jesús Puente and genre veterans Aldo Sambrell and Frank Braña. It has a fairly basic scenario about a disparate group of people holed up in a fort while a tribe of Apaches attack.  The DVD description goes a bit further by saying it’s “reminiscent of films like FORT APACHE THE BRONX (1981) and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976)” and “an army of savages spill over the walls, attempting to hack everyone to death in an orgy of genocidal fury”.  Let’s just say, it's a pretty standard B-movie western and not nearly as enticing as Bounty's description proclaims.  Even though the picture quality is a little on the soft side, it's in 16x9 widescreen but, unfortunately, Alfonso Nieva's original 2.35:1 Techniscope image is cropped to 1.85:1.

The REVENGE OF RINGO (1970) – Also known as RINGO IT’S MASSACRE TIME, this incredibly obscure, horror-tinged cheapie from the equally obscure Mario Pinzauti stars Jean Louis as Ringo who is searching for his missing brother (played by Mickey Hargitay in what amounts to an extended cameo).  Along the way, he discovers witches, voodoo dolls and other weirdness in a lowly Mexican village.  It definitely sounds more interesting than it is and even at 73 minutes, this one drags its spurs through the mud despite the oddball plotting. Fullscreen only.
                                                                                             
The LAW OF VIOLENCE (1969) – This poverty-row Gianni Crea film stars Giorgio Cerioni (using his George Greenwood alias) as a gunman who slowly takes over a small town through “violence and intimidation” in order to profit and fulfill his revenge.  This is probably one of Bounty’s more attractive releases with a relatively sharp picture and stable colours, which is also presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced.

Other titles in Bounty’s ‘70s Spaghetti Western Classics Collection include SARTANA IN THE VALLEY OF DEATH, A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO, ACQUASANTA JOE, Giuseppe Colizzi’s BOOT HILL (1968) and two Sergio Garrone westerns NO ROOM TO DIE (1969) and KILL DJANGO… KILL FIRST (1971).  At this point, it’s not certain if any more titles will be released, but at least Bounty Entertainment have managed to unearth a few previously hard-to-find films, which are well worth searching out if spaghetti westerns are your thing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

UNGLAUBLICH! - ERWIN C. DIETRICH BOOK REVIEW


Released in 2006, but unknown to most English-speaking fans, Mädchen, Machos und Moneten is the first and only book dedicated to Swiss director / producer / distributor Erwin C. Dietrich.  Unfortunately, the text is only in German, but it’s quite evident flipping through this glossy hardcover that authors Benedikt Eppenberger and Daniel Stapfer were committed to present a definitive account of Dietrich's  career.

Divided into 14 chapters with such titles as The Franco Years (Jess Franco also provides the forward), Soldiers of Fortune and The Mad, Mad World of ECD, the book is a thorough chronological account of Dietrich’s career beginning with some of his earliest stints as a producer on the various “Heimat” films from the mid-to-late ‘50s.  Then, in the ‘60s, he even produced a few Edgar Wallace styled thrillers such as Rudolf Zehetgruber’s The NYLON NOOSE (1963) and Hans Mehringer’s The STRANGLER OF THE TOWER (1964). 


Of course, Dietrich is known in this part of the world for his numerous softcore sex films such as ISLAND WOMEN (1980) and The AMOROUS SISTERS (1980), which he wrote, produced and directed under his preferred pseudonyms Michael Thomas and Manfred Gregor. Thankfully, the authors don't shy away from this facet of Dietrich's career, which lasted on-and-off from 1968 until the early '80s.  They devote a sizeable portion of the book to these films, which inundated US and Canadian video stores in the '80s thanks to Media Home Entertainment's subsidiary adult label Private Screenings.

Handsomely illustrated with many rare posters, admats and great photos, Mädchen, Machos und Moneten is an amazing look into one of the most prolific figures within the European exploitation film world.  Highly recommended!