Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hell's Half Acre DVD & Blu

   Coming out on March 26 from Olive Films is the great 1954 film noir Hell's Half Acre. Directed by John Auer and featuring a great cast including Wendell Corey, Evelyn Keyes, Elsa Lancaster, Jesse White and noir goddess Marie Windsor.  Taking place (and filmed) in the rather unusual location for a B&W crime film of Honolulu, Hi. this is a great little film. It's really nice to see companies like Olive taking the time for almost forgotten little goodies like this.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sound of Horror 1964

   This rather obscure 1964 B & W Spanish horror production gained some interest some years ago because of an early film appearance by future Jess Franco muse Soledad Miranda (Vampyros Lesbos & She Killed In Ecstasy 1970), in addition to it being Ingrid Pitt's (The Vampire Lover's 1970) film debut.

  While digging on mountain (using dynamite ?!) in Greece two archaeologists Dr. Pete Asilov (James Phillbrook) and Professor Andre (Arturo Fernandez) uncover a couple of petrified eggs in a cave. Not noticing that one cracks open and a reptile like creature emerges, then disappears. Later Andre's partner Dorman (Jose Bodalo) shows up with his girlfriend Sofia (Ingrid Pitt), his associate Strevos (Francisco Piquer)  and his driver Andre (Antonio Casas).  Dorman has half of a map then when matched up with the other half that Asilov shows that a treasure may be buried in a mountain. Later a mummified body (described as a "neanderthal man") is found along with some human bones. The group stays at a nearby villa with Andre's niece (Soledad Miranda) and an elderly housekeeper Calliope (Lola Gaos), who tells them about the ancient superstition of a monster guarding the mountain.
   While alone in the cave Strevos is attacked by an invisible monster and pretty graphically (for the time) killed. Soon the bodies began to pile up and the group realizes its being stalked by an invisible "dinosaur" thing.  Andre sacrifices himself while trying to seal the cave up with dynamite (Ahh..that's why they had it.) and the housekeeper is killed while fetching water at a well.  The premise of the movie does sound cheesy in a way (and it is), but it still seems to work in a rather odd/low budget way. The monster is never really seen except in some fleeting frame shots and at the end when its burned in a car, its seen in silhouette and a roar is heard throughout the movie as it approaches. The invisible concept was most likely done as a budget saving device, but there some kind of clever concepts used as a result of that. When axes are thrown at the creature and land with a thud, they hang in the air while the screaming roar is heard. At one point flour is spread on the ground to follow the monster's footsteps as they appear and there are some neat POV shots as it stalks thru the villa.  As an added plus Ingrid and Soledad  get to do a pretty cool go go dance together at one point.

    It's never really explained where the treasure came from (ancient Troy is mentioned at one point and then there's the "neanderthal" mummy ), and its not made clear if the monster is there to guard the treasure or if it just some invisible dinosaur.
   This appears to have played at some point as a double feature with Mario Bava's Kill Baby Kill (1966) - with a really ugly one sheet to promote it. The only available DVD that I know of is a budget release from Alpha that can usually be had for $5.00 or less. The transfer appears to be from a multi generation tape source (complete with VHS roll lines at the bottom of the screen).


Friday, January 25, 2013

Rosalba Neri Friday

Rosalba & Barbara Bouchet during the filming of Silvio Amadio's classic Amuck from 1972

I found these over at the Latarnia Fourms.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Charlie Is My Darling 1965

   One of the legendary "lost" artifacts rock history Charlie is My Darling is a fascinating documentary on the early Rolling Stones. Filmed during a short 2 day tour of Ireland during Sept. of 1965 this captures an almost impossibly young Stones on the cusp of major stardom - just a scant two weeks after Satisfaction had reached # 1 in the British charts. There has was always been a frustrating shortage of  Brian Jones era filmed live performances (up till now The TAMI Show DVD was probably the best available), but thanks to recently released  DVD & BD this has been at least partially rectified.

    Commissioned by the Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, as a answer to The Beatles A Hard Day's Night the film unfortunately became tangled up in the legalities with Allen Klein and has rarely been seen. Director Peter Whiteheads  original version ran only 35 min and in the 1980's Oldham put together a 50 minute version, but we now have a beautifully restored 65 minute version with all the live performances edited back in. Filmed over two days and in two cities - Dublin & Belfast with two concerts each night, the live footage shows the band ripping thru  such songs as The Last Time, Time Is On My Side, Around & Around and others - plus Satisfaction (which was supposedly  the first time it was played live).  A fascinating document that shows Brian Jones as an integral, driving force in the band - although with the beginnings of the Jagger/Richard songwriting team shown here, it is sad to think what the next few years would bring. Also shown is the riots that accompanied most of their early live shows (Beatlemania had nothing on a 1965 Stones show).
  There is also the usual travelogue and interview footage, but the best stuff is Keith & Mick quietly working thru Sittin on a Fence and Tell Me with Keith on acoustic guitar and then trying out The Beatles Eight Days a Week and I've Just Seen a Face while Andrew Loog Oldham and a bored looking (even more then usual) Charlie Watts watch.
  Out on DVD and Blu-Ray that contain all three versions of the film, plus a big deluxe box set is also available.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Last Shark on DVD

   Upcoming on a Region 0 NTSC DVD from Retro Vision is Enzo G. Castellari's 1981 Italian Jaws rip-off  Last Shark AKA Great White AKA Cruel Jaws. The film had a very limited theatrical release in the United States, before Universal slapped an injunction on it and to this day has blocked its release. Featuring a plastic looking 35 ft. great white shark (who can make the ocean explode , so it can capsize boats and windsurfers easily) terrorizing  the coastal town of Port Harbor. Starring James Franciscus as author & shark expert "Peter Benton" (cough..Peter..cough..cough..Benchley) who teams up with Vic Morrow as shark hating fisherman Ron Hammer, while Mayor William Wells (Joshua Sinclair) ignores the problem so not to spoil the town's upcoming windsurfer regatta. 
  Previously available only as a couple of European DVD's, various grey market releases and strangely enough as a recent Amazon download & MOD disc.  Retro Vision's DVD will feature a newly restored 1:85 anamorphic transfer, some nice extras and is limited to 500 copies. Another old VHS I can get rid of and an entertaining way to spend an evening (plus it's way better then either Jaws 2 or Jaws 3D). Also available from Diabolik DVD

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rosalba Neri Friday

Scans of a few covers of magazines in my collection. I'll post the interior stuff at a later date.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Carlo Rambaldi & Some Really Great Monsters from Medusa vs.The Son of Hercules

    Special Effects wizard Carlo Rambaldi is most famous for creating E.T. (1982) along with his work on King Kong (1976), Alien (1979), Conan the Destroyer (1984), Dune (1984) & King Kong Lives (1986) among others.  However the really neat stuff is all the work he did on tons of Italian films in the 60's and 70's including Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires (1965) & Bay of Blood (1971) along with Bloody Pit of Horror (1966), A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971) and almost countless other horror, gaillo, peplum and sci/fi films (most times uncredited).
  Here's a couple of my favorites  - his nightmarish Medusa from Medusa vs. the Son of Hercules (1963), along with a huge sea monster from the same movie. I  think the only way to get this movie is still this (which I only paid about  $10.00 for at Big Lots years ago) box set.  A big part of the fun of watching these is waiting for a Rambaldi creature to show up. Sadly he passed away on Aug.10 2012. He really deserves a giant hardcover book.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Blood On Satan's Claw 1971

    Part of the short lived pagan/witchcraft sub-genre of British horror that surfaced in the late 60's/early 70's, or as Mark Gillis labeled it in the BBC documentary A History of Horror "folk horror",that also included Witchfinder General (1968), Cry of the Banshee (1970) and The Wicker Man (1974).
  The Blood on Satan;s Claw was produced by Tony Tenser's Tigon British Film Productions in 1970, released in 1971 and directed by Piers Haggard (who also worked on the script). This is a beautifully made film, with well written characters, a haunting musical score by Marc Wilkinson and gorgeous cinematography by Dick Bush who also shot Hammer's Twins of Evil  from 1971 and Dracula A.D. 1972.  Set in the English countryside of the 1600's, it has a wonderful "earthy" look to it, with lush greens, and misty backgrounds. There is also great use of dirt (as it were) - the plowed fields, roads and tracks thru the woods all have a rural medieval feel to them. The dirty hems on the women's dresses, the muddy boots and nicely detailed set decorations all add to the atmosphere. There are several times when you want to freeze the DVD, to examine the interior of houses, articles on tables and such.
  The movie starts off when a young field hand played by Barry Andrews (Dracula Has Risen From The Grave 1966) unearths a rotting beast/figure while plowing which then sets in motion the demonic procession of the villagers (particularly the children). Starting with a young woman who hand turns into a claw and then some truly unsettling make-up effects showing the fur or "devil skin" appearing on characters (particularly, a scene showing the removal of some skin). The demon figure when shown, is shown hooded or kept in the shadows for the most part. We see a claw and a mis-shapen nose, but the make-up is hidden for the most part, allowing us to imagine something much worst.
   The cast includes Patrick Wymark (Where Eagles Dare 1969) as the local judge. Wymark, a wonderful English character actor died before the film was released. However it is Linda Hayden who is the real star. Just 17 at the time of filming, she brings a truly creepy & evil childhood  presence to the character of Angel. Although she does have a child's innocence about her,from her first appearance in the movie you just know somethings lurking beneath the surface there. When she dis-robes and attempts to seduce the village priest, its one of the most chilling erotic scenes in a horror movie. Also the same year she was in Hammer's Taste the Blood of Dracula and earlier did Baby Love (1968) and would later appear in Madhouse (1974) and Expose (AKA House on Straw Hill 1976).

    The score by Marc Wilkinson (available on CD) beautifully complements the film, especially it main theme with its gently descending chords almost sounding like a child's nursery rhyme.  One of my favorite 70's horror films and one that unfortunately has been rather hard to see in the U.S. (an MGM release as part of their Midnight Movie collection was rumored) as its only release on home video was on VHS.  There have been a couple of British releases on DVD, each with their own pluses. The first one released by Anchor Bay in 2003 is non anamorphic, but does include an informative commentary with Piers Haggard, Linda Hayden and writer Robert Wanne-Simmons and a neat little featurette on Hayden titled An Angel for Satan. The next release by Oden in 2010 contains a beautiful re-mastered anamorphic transfer, but doesn't port over any of the extras, just some trailers and a still gallery. Oden have said for the past couple of years that a blu-ray is in the works.  Plus,with Shout Factory's recent deal with MGM, hopefully this will get a long needed blu-ray collectors edition.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Mario Bava Moment.....

   Recently while watching the Anchor Bay DVD of  Mario Bava's Black Sabbath (I Tre Volti Della Paura/The Three Faces of Fear 1963), I paused the DVD at this point and just studied this shot in awe for a few minutes (a movie that I have probably seen at least a dozen times in the past). The housekeeper approaches the front door of the dead medium's house to let in the the nurse.

   Here was a relatively low budget Italian horror movie co-financed by A.I.P for the American drive-in market and horror double-bills. In this shot that lasts less then a minute Mario Bava creates this wonderful world. The high ceiling, ornate woodwork, scuttling cats, the set dressing and of course his lighting, this time purple & green.
  Some exciting blu-ray news is that Arrow is bringing out Mario Bava's Black Sunday, Black Sabbath and Baron Blood in deluxe packaging  They will contain the original Italian versions, but as a bonus they will have the American A.I.P. versions (that haven't been out since those old HBO laser discs).  The Black Sunday package will also contain I Vampiri (1956), the first Italian sound horror film which was directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava.

One of my favorite movie posters of all time. The Spanish one sheet for I Tre Volti Della Paura.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Patty Shepard 1945-2013

    Actress Patty Shepard passed away on Jan. 3 2013 in Madrid,Spain. Although perhaps not as well known today as some of her peers in 1960's/70's European horror films she was a striking beauty and had a had a memorizing presence in the movies she appeared in (in some ways similar to Barbara Steele).
   Born in South Carolina, she moved to Spain at the age of 18 with her family band and began modeling there. She moved to film work soon afterwards appearing in almost 50 movies including Hannah, Queen of the Vampires(AKA Crypt of the Living Dead 1973) and is probably best known to genre fans for her work with Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy in Assignment Terror (AKA Draculs Versus Frankenstein 1970) and Werewolf Shadow (AKA The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman 1971). Her other horror films include Rest in Pieces, Edge of the Axe. El Montedelas Brujas, My Dear Killer and Slugs. Kino/Lobar is rumored to begin bringing out the Nascy films on blu-ray this year, so hopefully this will help more horror fans discover her.

The Centerfold Girls 1974

(or Tiffany Bolling Movie Night # 1)

    A 1974 release from Arthur Marks General Film Corp, The Centerfold Girls is a great 1970's exploitation thriller. It contains an unbelievable cast - Andrew Prine  Aldo Ray, Jennifer Ashley , Janet Wood, Francine York, Ray Danton, Jeremy Slate, Mike Mazurki and one of the queens of '70's drive-in movies- Tiffany Bolling.

   Andrew Prine, looking like a demented door to door salesman, wears a dark suit a couple of sizes too small (which accents his gangly figure), glasses, ugly saddle shoes and lives in an all white room in which he keeps souvenirs of his victims. Playing Clement Dunne, a psychotic killer who is murdering centerfold models for a popular men's magazine, he really brings a creepy vibe to the role. From the opening scene of Prine dragging the nude body of a girl with her throat slit over a desolate beach to bury her to the finale in a bleak, wildfire ravaged canyon,  this is a very dark & twisted ride.  Like most of Arthur Marks's productions Centerfold Girls presents the world and the people in it (except for the killers victims) as pretty sick. Prine, started out on the stage and appeared in John Wayne's Chisum in 1970 among other films, and alternated T.V. work with such such drive-in staples as Hannah, Queen of the Vampires (1973) and Grizzly (1976).

   Although it first come across as disjointed the film actually sets up a kind of interesting concept of being divided into three separate stories with Prine's character being the the common thread as he stalks the models. One of the segments ends up in a house on an island for a rather neat Agatha Christie type "who's going to get murdered  next" setup.  The film also uses several times the telephone as a suspense item (one of my favorite things from older movies), which in these days of cellphones is pretty much a lost plot device.
   Director John Peyser might seem at first an odd choice for such a movie. He was born in 1916 and did most of his work in T.V., but he does a very nice job here and there's more then a couple startling set pieces- including one scene where Prine slashes one of his victim's neck and the blood  splatters across a window in front of the camera. The cast is really good with Jeremy Slate playing an an almost darkly funny ineffectual police detective and Ray Danton (in a wonderful slimy role) & Francince York as the models agents.

  Tiffany Bolling plays one of the centerfolds (naturally) and brings her usual presence. I really like Tiffany Bolling. She did bunches of T.V. work in the 70's but also appeared in several other classic exploitation films, including another Arthur Mark's production Bonnie's Kids ("Thank God, she only had two" !!), The Candy Snatchers (released by Subversive on DVD , but now OOP) both from 1973 and pehaps her best known role, co-starring in 1977's classic Kingdom of the Spiders. She always seems to bring a little something extra to her roles and has a wonderful, natural, very pretty "70's" look to her. She first started out as a singer, releasing an album in 1970 and a had a minor regional hit with the single  "Thank God the War is Over". In the unique 1974 film Wicked, Wicked which was filmed in "Duo-Vision", a process in which two side by side scenes were shown on the screen, she appears as a nightclub singers and gets to sing in the movie. Her album titled "Tiffany" on Canyon Records is a pretty hot item on the collector market today.

  Centerfold Girls is out on an excellent DVD from Dark Sky. The 1:66 anamorphic transfer displays some wear and scratches, but  overall looks very good. Also included is a documentary on the film containing interviews with cast members Andrew Prine, Francine York and Jennifer Ashley - who relates how she was initially uncomfortable with the nudity (she says it came out "pretty good") and how most of her fan mail now comes from prison inmates. Trailer and TV spots, and some isolated music cues from Mark Wolin's very effective score are also included. Dark Sky has also released the above mentioned Bonnie's Kids on DVD. Over at the Cool Ass Cinema blog there's  an excellent write up done on The Centerfold Girls from 2010.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Lee Van Cleef

  A very special birthday remembrance for Lee Van Cleef, born on this day in 1925. American character actor who after co-starring in the Sergio Leone films For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) become a major box office star in Europe and later went on to star in Escape from New York among others. Before the Leone pictures he played  memorable western villains in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), High Noon (1952),The Lawless Breed (1953) and The Tin Star (1957) among others. He also appeared in the classic sci-fi films The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), It Conquered the World (1956) and the classic film-noir The Big Combo (1955). He passed away in 1989 and is very missed.
   Mill Creek has recently issued a western blu-ray double feature that contains Enzo G. Castellari's Koema (1976) and Giancarlo Santi's The Grand Duel (1974). The Grand Duel stars Van Cleef and along with The Big Gundown (1966), is one of his best spaghetti westerns.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"I'll Just Get My Gear" - Rolling Thunder on Blu 4/9

    Just announced from Shout Factory is the 1977 action/revenge classic Rolling Thunder to be released April 9 on blu-ray. The best of the "decorated Vietnam vet comes home, gets wronged and kicks major ass" movie sub-genre, this is a release that's been a long time coming. Written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) and starring William Devane (with a hook hand) plus an early appearance by Tommy Lee Jones. This caused a pretty big sensation at the time of it's release because of it's violence content (Wait till you see how Devane loses his hand - supposedly a leg of lamb was used for the effect in the shot).
    Devane is great in this and director John Flynn creates an relentlessly grim atmosphere that climaxes at a Mexican bordello with one of the most intense/bloodiest shoot-outs ever filmed. A must.

Hicksploitation Movie Night # 3 - Moonrunners 1975

      Let's see - two cousins (who are proficient with bow & arrow) run moonshine for their Uncle Jesse while pursued by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane and Waylon Jennings narrates and provides songs. Also the cousins car is named after a Southern Civil War icon, there's a fellow named Cooter, a tavern called The Boars Head and last but not least a pretty woman hangs out and is protected by the two cousins.
   No, it's not The Dukes of Hazzard, but Moonrunners, a 1975 feature movie that CBS used as a basis for the hit 1979-85 TV show. While the show did take the basic characters and plot, Moonrunners is somewhat more gritty and dirty - Among other things, the local boss (named Jake Rainey here), has prostitutes he runs out his bar.
   The film stars Kiel Martin as Bobby Lee Hagg (who later gain fame on Hill Street Blues as Officer John 'J.D.' LaRue) and James Mitchum as his cousin Grady Hagg . Mitchum played along side his dad Robert in 1958's classic Thunder Road, the ground zero of the southern drive-in movie. Starring, written and produced by Robert Mitchum (he even sings the title song), Thunder Road played drive-ins in the south on double features up till the late 70's. If you have not seen it, do so now. Keil Martin sadly passed away in 1990 at the early age of 46.
   Back to Moonrunners. Uncle Jesse is played by the always reliable Arthur Hunnicutt.  Chris Forbes plays Beth Ann Eubanks (the Daisy Duke character) who is running away from a forced marriage (shades of the the later Smokey and the Bandit) before she falls in with the cousins. Forbes did this and some TV stuff in the 70's, but seems to have dropped out of sight.  Elaine 'Spanky' McFarlane (of Spanky and our Gang), shows up as a bartender. 
    This was Director/Writer Gy Waldron only feature film and later became involved in the Dukes of Hazzard TV show. Producer Bob Clark had an extensive career as a writer, director and producer. Among his credits as director are A Christmas Story (1983) and Porky's (1982) and as a producer the low budget classics Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1973) and Black Christmas (1974). He passed away in 2007.
  I really enjoyed this movie. It was actually filmed in Georgia, so it has a good rural look and the car chases are well done for a low budget movie - there's even a dirt track stock car race edited rather neatly into the movie. Keil Martin does a good job and Mitchum has a nice easy going presence and he does really channel his dad in some parts. Another thing I noticed is that the cars seem to sustain the damage they receive as the movie moves along- dents & torn bodywork aren't magically fixed from scene to scene, which was a nice touch.  BTW the cousins stock car is named Traveler after Gen. Robert E. Lee's horse. The plot of the movie is pretty much the plot of moonshine movies - the big syndicate wants to move in on the small timers like Uncle Jesse and its up to the cousins to help out.
   In 2005 Warner Bros. made the Dukes of Hazzard as an ill-advised feature film. Not bothering to check the T.V. show's legal lineage, they promptly made it without securing the rights from the Moonrunners producers. A lawsuit was brought forth after the film was completed, and Warner's with this thing ready to be released ending up settling with producer Clark for $17.5 Million !


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hicksploitation Movie Night # 2 - Dixie Dynamite 1976

   I admit I started Dixie Dynamite with pretty high hopes. Directed by exploitation guru Lee Frost (Black Gestapo. Policewomen, Love Camp 7, plus tons of others), co-written by his frequent collaborator & producer Wes Bishop and starring one on my favorite actors - Warren Oates.
   Two sisters Dixie and Patsy Eldridge, played by Jane Anne Johnstone and Kathy McHaley, go on a crime spree after their moonshiner father is killed in a fiery car crash while eluding capture from corrupt sheriff Christopher George (The Rat Patrol) and his deputy (and movie co-writer) Wes Bishop.

  The rich jerk behind everything is played to slimy, obese perfection by veteran TV charactor actor Stanley Adams.  Lee Frost and a PG rating just don't seem to go together very well. You keep waiting for exploitation elements to show up, but the whole thing plays out like a TV movie. Warren Oates plays the sisters Uncle (and a motocross racer).  Oates had a pretty amazing carrer in the 70's - alternating between stuff like this and Drum (1976) while also doing things like The Brinks Job (1978) and Two Lane Blacktop (1971). Speaking of motocross racing, an unbilled Steve McQueen plays one the motorcycle riders during the race sequence. Story is that he was bored in between movie roles and took the job for $200.
   R.G. Armstrong also shows up along with frequent Lee Frost actor and 70's drive-in heavy Phil Hoover (Race With The Devil).  Not a totally bad movie , but Frost has done much better and not as enjoyable as Moonshine County Express (see post below).

Happy Birthday Suzy Kendall

   A Happy Birthday today goes out to British actress Suzy Kendall , born on this day in 1944. Star of many classic horror/Italian giallo thrillers thru the 60's & 70's. Among them are Dario Argento's Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970), Sergio Martino's I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale AKA Torso (1973) and Peter Collinson's 1967 thriller Penthouse (still sadly missing on DVD). She also appeared in To Sir With Love and had a small part in Thunderball. She was married to Dudley Moore from 1968-1972.