Saturday, December 31, 2016


In spite of the ever-increasing decline of video stores everywhere and the (supposedly) slow death of physical media, 2016 turned out to be a banner year for home video with some of the most incredible Blu-ray releases yet from the likes of Arrow Video, Grindhouse Releasing, Severin, Scream Factory, Vinegar Syndrome, Code Red, Mondo Macabro, and several other labels.  Outside of Arrow Video’s truly extraordinary – and very limited - Herschell Gordon Lewis box set entitled SHOCK AND GORE, there is no particular order to any of the below titles.  All of these releases below come highly recommended and are well worthy of your hard-earned cash. 

SHOCK AND GORE – THE FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS (Arrow Video) – Quite simply, this remains one of the most impressive box sets ever produced!  17 discs, 14 films and a ridiculous number of extras, including commentaries, a ton of interviews, postcards, the original BLOOD FEAST novelization, a 7” record featuring tracks from BLOOD FEAST, plus Stephen Thrower’s 92-page book, which is an amazing companion piece to Daniel Krogh and John McCarty’s long out-of-print book, The AMAZING HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS.  Mind-boggling in both sheer size and the breadth of material contained within! 

DR. BUTCHER M.D. (Severin) – Previously available on both DVD and Blu-ray from a number of boutique labels in its original ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST version, Severin’s 2-disc set surpasses them all with a top-notch transfer, a ton of extras, plus – bonus! – the inclusion of Aquarius Releasing’s alternate and long-unavailable DR. BUTCHER M.D. edit, too.  Read review

AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT VOLUME 1 (Arrow Video) – Another stunning and absolutely invaluable box set from the ever-prolific folks at Arrow Video, this set was curated by Stephen Thrower, author of the indispensable book NIGHTMARE USA.  Celebrating the ‘Exploitation Independents’, the set includes Christopher Speeth’s MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1973), Matt Cimber’s The WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976) and Robert Allen Schnitzer’s The PREMONITION (1975).  Let’s hope Volume 2 is in the works!

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (Grindhouse Releasing) – This was Grindhouse’s inaugural DVD release back in 2003, and their revisit is nothing short of spectacular.  Not only do you get a new HD restoration, but deleted scenes, commentaries, as well as its original Cinemation co-feature I EAT YOUR SKIN (1964), plus David Durston’s BLUE SEXTET (1969) besides; and the “Horror Hypo” makes for a nice added touch!

PIECES (Grindhouse Releasing) – This incredible set features brand new 4K transfers of, not only the U.S. theatrical version of this beloved gore classic, but the alternate Spanish director’s cut as well, plus an almost obscene number of extras, including the feature-length documentary, 42nd STREET MEMORIES and the original soundtrack CD…  and let’s not forget the bonus, collectible jigsaw puzzle, too!

COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE (Vinegar Syndrome) – Along with director Javier Aguirre, this moodily melancholic horror melodrama remains one of Paul Naschy’s more daring efforts, but has always suffered from poor presentations in previous releases.  Thanks to VS’s stellar Blu-ray, this wonderful film is finally available in a definitive version that should long stand the test of time.  Read review

WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? (Camera Obscura) – This remarkable poliziesco/giallo hybrid has always looked rather drab in previous releases, but thanks to the detail-obsessed folks at Camera Obscura, it finally receives a fresh, crisp new scan that puts all other versions to shame.  The disc also includes a number of eye-openingly revealing extras, including an hour-long interview with composer Stelvio Cirpriani.  Read review

NO, THE CASE IS HAPPILY RESOLVED (Camera Obscura) – Richly deserving of a far wider audience, this taut, rarely-seen thriller features terrific performances from both Enzo Cerusico and Riccardo Cucciolla.  This is a great film worthy of reappraisal, especially so via Camera Obscura’s handsome Blu-ray. Read review

SYMPTOMS (Mondo Macabro) – Long thought to be lost, José Ramón Larraz’s “psychological horror” film was a great discovery and one of MM’s finest releases especially in their “Red Case” edition, which not only included detailed liner notes courtesy of Samm Deighan but a second disc featuring, “Larraz on Larraz”, a career-spanning interview.

PIGS (Vinegar Syndrome) – Long-available in notoriously shoddy versions, VS’s disc is a real sight for sore eyes, which featured a new 2K scan of the Interpositive and “select shots sourced from 35mm prints.”  Of course, numerous extras only add further value to this already exceptional disc.

The EXORCIST III (Scream Factory) – This notoriously highly-troubled and oft-maligned production gets the 2-disc deluxe treatment, which also includes William Peter Blatty’s original director’s cut.  Even though much of the alternate footage is sourced from inferior sources, it’s still an immersive experience.  Plus, the wealth of extras shed even more light on this highly-underrated and haunting film. 

The KILLING OF AMERICA (Severin) – As incendiary as ever, director Sheldon Renan and writer Leonard Schrader’s look at violence in the U.S. hasn’t lost any of its power over the 35 years since its original release.  Not only does Severin’s edition include a number of amazing extras, among them an audio commentary with Renan, but they’ve also included the longer Japanese version, entitled VIOLENCE U.S.A.  

THAT’S SEXPLOITATION (Severin) – Frank Henenlotter’s essential, exhaustive documentary on American sexploitation films is every bit as entertaining as it is informative and, like many of Something Weird Video’s early releases, it’s also loaded with a number of special features, including a wonderful audio commentary with director Henenlotter and the late Mike Vraney’s widow, current SWV head honcho Lisa Petrucci.  Read review

BLUE SUNSHINE (FilmCentrix) – This stunning new 4K restoration of Jeff Lieberman’s trippy horror film comes complete with a staggering number of extras and some truly beautiful packaging that gets most cult film fans salivating for more from this exciting new label!

BODY DOUBLE (Indicator) – A new 4K restoration of Brian De Palma’s incredibly entertaining film that is truly eye-popping, and the extras are second-to-none, including a beautifully illustrated – and thick – booklet of liner notes.  This just keeps on getting better and better with each new viewing!  Keep your eyes peeled for future Indicator releases. 

The THING (Scream Factory) – Finally, a definitive edition of this much-beloved classic, which includes a new 2K scan of the Interpositive and ALL of the extras from previous editions, as well as a whole wealth of all-new stuff on top of it.  Timeless, and thoroughly worth the double or even triple-dip!

DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE (Scorpion Releasing) – Despite grumblings online about some of the censored profanity, this long-awaited Blu-ray was certainly worth the wait!  Scorpion’s new HD scan of the original camera negative is a real sight to behold, which also features an additional 9 minutes of footage! The copious number of extras both new and old and cool reversible cover art only sweeten the package.  Ignore the complaints and pick this up!

MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (Subkultur) – Superb, top-notch release from Germany’s Subkultur Entertainment of this Italian gothic from director Giorgio Ferroni.  Subkultur have decked-out their release with three (!) separate versions of the film, as well as an audio commentary and numerous other extras.  Stunning!

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES (Mondo Macabro) – Whenever MM decides to tackle a Jess Franco title, you know they’re going to give it their customary red carpet treatment, and this their latest release is definitely no exception.  The HD transfer, proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio and newly-translated English subtitles add extra wonders to Franco’s hallucinatory sexy noir. 

TRAILER TRAUMA 2: DRIVE-IN MONSTERAMA (Garagehouse Pictures) – An incredibly entertaining and utterly mammoth 3½-hour trailer compilation – including a vast array of heretofore unreleased trailers – that truly boggles the mind. ’Nuff said! Read review


The ALIEN FACTOR (Retromedia), ALL NIGHT AT THE BIZARRE ART THEATRE (Vinegar Syndrome), The AMERICAN FRIEND (Criterion Collection), BLOOD BATH (Arrow Video), BURIAL GROUND (Severin), DEAD RINGERS (Scream Factory), DEADLY HERO (Code Red), DOLEMITE (Vinegar Syndrome), The HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK (Olive Films), The HOUSE THAT SCREAMED (Scream Factory), IN A LONELY PLACE (Criterion Collection), KILLER DAMES: TWO GOTHIC CHILLERS BY EMILIO P. MIRAGLIA (Arrow Video), LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY (Olive Films), LONE WOLF AND CUB (Criterion Collection), MANHATTAN BABY (Blue Underground), MOBY DICK (Twilight Time), The MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (Olive Films), The MUTILATOR (Arrow Video), The NEW WORLD (Criterion Collection), ONE-EYED JACKS (Criterion Collection), PHENOMENA (Synapse Films), RAISING CAIN (Scream Factory), The SATANIST (Garagehouse Pictures), The SEVEN-UPS (Signal One Entertainment / Region B), TELL ME THAT YOU LOVE ME, JUNIE MOON (Olive Films), TENEBRAE (Synapse Films), TRUCK STOP WOMEN (Code Red), The UNDERTAKER (Vinegar Syndrome), WAXWORK / WAXWORK II: LOST IN TIME (Lionsgate), WOLF LAKE (KL Studio Classics).

Friday, December 30, 2016


Trioxin 245, the chemical agent responsible for bringing the dead back to life in Dan O’Bannon’s original RETURN OF THE LIVIND DEAD (1985) is pretty much the only commonality in all the subsequent sequels, including this smaller-budgeted, atypical approach to this somewhat confusing zombie franchise.  Much like his earlier BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (1989), director Brian Yuzna once again incorporates elements of James Whale’s The BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), albeit mixed with touches of “Romeo and Juliet.”  Difficult to see in its original uncut, unrated version since its VHS and laserdisc debuts, Lionsgate have thankfully remedied this oversight with volume 4 in their Vestron Video Collector’s Series.

Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) and Julie (Melinda Clarke) are a pair of young lovers who decide to sneak into a top secret military installation, where they witness Curt’s dad, Colonel John Reynolds (Kent McCord), developing the newest techniques involving those barrel-encased zombies.  Instead of just storing them away, the military plans on utilizing them as weapons of war and, in between use, Reynolds has devised a revolutionary technique of freezing them using bullet-like ammunition.  However, Curt and Julie leave before witnessing the entire – badly botched – experiment, which enables Colonel Sinclair (Sarah Douglas), Reynolds’ rival, to embark on her exoskeleton design, and which results in Reynolds’ relocation.  Curt is none too happy about this sudden change and decides to leave for Seattle with Julie, but as they make their way out of town, he crashes his motorcycle and Julie is killed; so of course – what else?! – he heads back to the military facility in the hopes of reviving his newly dead girlfriend…

Although hiding behind the façade of a zombie film, this is essentially a ‘love story’, as Curt does what he can to keep his love for Julie burning bright even in the face of death.  Most of the cast of this competently-put-together production really do give it their all, and even though Curt’s actions may be a little too over-the-top at times, this works well within the context of the story further accentuating his ‘obsessive’ fascination with her.  Melinda Clarke, future star of The O.C. (2003-2007), also puts in a solid performance as the rebellious and subsequently highly-confused tortured zombie.  Her desperation and utter disorientation is akin to Richard Backus’ character Andy Brooks from Bob Clark’s DEATHDREAM (1974), and in an interesting take on the zombie mythos, her use of self-mutilation to ‘ease the pain’ of death is certainly original.  Scripted by John Penney, the second assistant editor on the original RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, definitely attempted something distinctive here and, despite the limited budget, the film moves at a good clip, with no pretense whatsoever of being anything more than a gory (if certainly quite novel) zombie flick.  Also, in this unrated version at least, special makeup effects guru Steve Johnson and his significant crew of makeup artists (which also includes Thomas C. Rainone), supply several gory set-pieces of practical effects work, which should please most old school horror fans.

As with the other Vestron titles, ROTLD 3 is loaded with vast amounts of special features, beginning with two commentary tracks – taken from Trimark’s original R-rated DVD version and perfectly synched to the longer, unrated version – that features director Yuzna on track one speaking enthusiastically about the entire project and how much of the film’s strengths are due to John Penney’s original take on the material.  On the second track, actor Clarke and effects whiz Rainone talk specifically about most of the rather elaborate effects work, as well as some of the challenges Clarke had to endure to fully realize her character. 

Of course, in conjunction with Michael Felsher’s Red Shirt Pictures, Lionsgate have also included a number of featurettes, beginning with “Ashes to Ashes”, which is another talk with Yuzna and Penney wherein they discuss the origins of the project and the different direction they ultimately decided to take it in.  In the aptly-titled “Living Dead Girl”, Clarke once again discusses some of the elaborate makeup effects she had to go through, as well as how she originally landed the role, plus the long working hours and working alongside J. Trevor Edmond, who also gets his own featurette, “Romeo Is Bleeding.”  In it, he discusses his involvement in the shoot, the swift shooting schedule and how Clarke helped him land the part.  In “Trimark and Trioxin”, former Trimark executive David Tripet and editor Chris Roth reminiscence about the market at the time, which was hungry for horror product. They also discuss the L.A. locations, their disappointment at the film’s lackluster theatrical release and once again touch on the love story angle.  In the final featurette, “The Resurrected Dead”, special effects gurus Steve Johnson and Chris Nelson talk about the various enthusiastic effects work – including some excellent behind-the-scenes footage – and their humble beginnings in the industry, plus all the various special makeup effects houses which were involved in the production.  Detailed still/storyboard galleries and a couple of theatrical trailers finish off the extras. 

In terms of picture quality, this edition of ROTLD 3 is a handsome 1080p HD transfer retaining the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which puts all other previous editions to shame; something that can also be said for the film’s soundtrack.  Presented in DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo, the sound is clean and crisp and has been greatly improved compared to the older DVDs.  Finally, the Blu-ray also comes with a nice embossed O-card.

After a long absence on home video, it’s nice to finally have the full, unrated version back in circulation, and Lionsgate’s Blu-ray will definitely satisfy fans of the film.  It’s another highly recommended release in Lionsgate’s ongoing Vestron Video Collector’s Series.  Order it from DiabolikDVD.