Friday, August 30, 2013

OLIVE FILMS' 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.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

AMAZONS AND SAVAGE BEASTS


A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Tokyo. Wandering the streets of Akihabara, a district known for its electronic shops and mobile phone stores, it was pretty much inevitable that I would come across some DVD shops.

In one store, a large bin at the entrance filled with “One Coin” titles – that’s ¥500 – I discovered a whole slew of Italian titles on a label called First Trading.  The most interesting was Antonio Climati and Mario Morra’s SAVAGE MAN… SAVAGE BEAST (1975), a film that still hasn't received any sort of legitimate home video release in the US or Canada.  



This significant mondo effort was actually the catalyst to get FACES OF DEATH (1978) into production after enterprising Japanese producers sought out director Conan LeCilaire, who was putting together “nature stuff” and decided to change the concept.  The rest, I guess is video history.  Originally released in the ‘80s on Japanese VHS and Laserdisc by Columbia Video in an uncut but optically fogged version, First Trading has issued SAVAGE MAN… SAVAGE BEAST once again and, like the VHS, it is fullscreen and in English with the added bonus of removable Japanese subtitles plus a lengthy Italian trailer.  Despite the English soundtrack (nicely narrated by Edmund Purdom), this new uncut release features Italian credits and much less digital fogging than the long out-of-print VHS tape. 

Another interesting release that I came across at HMV in Shibuya was Alfonso Brescia’s AMAZONS AND SUPERMEN (1973)  or its better known US title SUPER STOOGES VS THE AMAZON WOMEN. This DVD is courtesy of Cinefil and the transfer is much better than both the discontinued US release from BCI and German release from Simple Movie, which were either incomplete or not in their proper aspect ratios.  The Japanese DVD is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and, unlike the other releases, is enhanced for 16x9 monitors.  In a mistaken bit of marketing, Cinefil got Brescia’s pair of Amazon films mixed up and adorned their packaging with artwork from its companion piece BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS (1973).


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CODE RED's 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.