Category Archives: Might See
The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) | Sergio Martino’s notorious exploitation cult looks ravishing on Blu-ray
From Shameless in the UK comes the 2k restoration release of Sergio Martino’s 1978 Italian horror The Mountain of the Cannibal God (minus the gratuitous animal cruelty) on Blu-ray and DVD.
Ursula Andress braves tarantulas, alligators, anacondas and treacherous terrain as she goes in search of her missing scientist husband, Henry, on a ‘wild and uncontaminated’ island in New Guinea.
Enlisting the services of Stacey Keach’s professor Edward Foster and jungle explorer Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli), Susan (Andress) and her brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina) set their sights on the mountain of Ra Ra Me, where Henry’s clandestine expedition was headed. But everyone have their own private reasons for reaching this mystical destination… and not everyone is going to survive the ‘orgiastic pandemonium’ that ensues…
Also known as La montagna del dio cannibale (in Italy), Slave of the Cannibal God (in the US) and Prisoner of the Cannibal God (in the UK), Martino’s exploitation flick was banned in the UK as a ‘video nasty’ until 2001 for its violent imagery. Shameless have now reinstated the long-missing original dramatic gore, but has wisely chosen to ‘soften’ the animal suffering visuals which were patently inserted, completely out of context, to cater for commercial stipulations of the day. However, that bestiality scene involving a ‘disinterested’ pig remains intact!
Frankly, I think this rebuild makes for much more suspenseful jungle adventure (like King Solomon’s MInes meets Emmanuelle), while Giancarlo Ferrando’s cinematography of the jungle and its wildlife, and the cave locations (all shot in Sri Lanka,) really shine in this restoration. The camera also loves Andress, who looks flawless despite her many ordeals, which include climbing a genuinely dangerous waterfall and being turned into a living goddess coated in honey. The music score, by Guido and Maurizo de Angelis, is also one I could happily listen to in its own right. My only niggle is the film’s unflattering portrayal of indigenous culture (but that is something that’s problematic of many Mondo-style exploitation flicks of the era).
Martino has fully supported Shameless’ efforts not to ‘pander to exploitative and unnecessary violence against animals’, and the director explains that in detail in the extras that are included in this release.
• Cannibal Nightmare – Return to The Mountain of the Cannibal God: Documentary
• Sergio Martino on filming animal cruelty
• Theatrical trailer
• Italian credits
In an apocalyptic Australia, where lawlessness prevails, outcasts and misfits are being secretly herded into concentration camps disguised as drive-in movie theatres. When young petrolhead Crabs (Neil Manning) takes Carmen (Natalie McCurry) to the local drives in his brother’s ’56 Chevy, they soon face the terrible realisation that they have become the latest inmates of this bizarre social experiment. Can they escape before becoming resigned to a hellish existence of all-day parties, round-the-clock movie shows, and all the radioactive junk food they can eat?
Dead-End Drive-In is a prime slice of crazed Ozploitation from Brian Trenchard-Smith (aka Australia’s answer Roger Corman), who was responsible for Australia’s first martial arts thriller The Man From Hong Kong and the cult prison actioner Turkey Shoot. When it was released Down Under in 1986, it was written off as a bargain bin Mad Max rip-off, while its unconvincing cast of day-glo punks, freaks and loons looked like they had stepped out of an issue of the era’s über-trendy i-D magazine.
But it does have its fans, including this (Australian-born) writer, especially as it popularised German Bundeswehr vests and featured some rocking new wave tunes from those legendary Aussie alternative bands, Hunters + Collectors and Kids in the Kitchen. It’s also a great reminder of the now lost Australia tradition of going to the Drives.
Originally put out under the ArrowDrome label on DVD in 2013, Dead-End Drive-In is now out on Blu-ray, featuring a 2k restoration print, and packed with new extras, including an audio commentary from Trenchard-Smith and a documentary by the director on Australian stuntman Grant Page. Which only makes this the perfect excuse to revisit the much-maligned futuristic thriller.
Virgin Witch (aka The Virgin Witch and Lesbian Twins) is a 1971 British sexploitation horror about two models (played by real-life sisters Vicki Michelle Ann Michelle) who are lured into a coven by a lecherous lesbian. Directed by Ray Austin (TV’s Journey to the Unknown) from a screenplay by Klaus Vogel (allegedly the pseudonym for Hazel Adair, one of the creators of TV soap Crossroads), it was later disowned by the Michelle sisters, but remains a guilty pleasure for genre fans.
Catch it on The Horror Channel today at 10.55pm (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70, Freesat 138).
INTO THE WOODS
Following a bloody fallout with their mob boss dad, two biker brothers and their sadistic Impalers gang invade the secluded cabin of a crazy scientist and his glum daughter. But they soon regret it when they unwittingly become guinea pigs in the scientist’s latest genetic experiment, while a sasquatch starts picking them off…
A huge fan of 1960s and 1970s drive-in exploitation movies, director James Bickert hits the jackpot in recapturing the sleazy vibe of those films with Dear God No!, a breast-tastic, ultra-violent trip that fuses John Waters-style humour with Roger Corman’s biker classic The Wild Angels, the trippy satanic film I Drink Your Blood and the 1970s faux documentary The Legend of Boggy Creek to create a grindhouse homage to die-for. Shot on super 16mm, Dear God No! is a drive-in lovers’ wet-dream. Just forget the lame acting and bad synching and enjoy the ride.
THE DVD RELEASE
In 2012, a two-disc Impaler edition was released by Monster Pictures which included the Grindhouse Cut of the feature (with 1.32sec cut by the BBFC), collector’s booklet, audio commentaries, trailers, gag reel, two parodies and an animated short. In the US, Big World Pictures released a R1 DVD featuring the film uncut and unrated.
Dear God No! also screens today (Sunday 3 April) on The Horror Channel at 11.40pm
Ten Little Indians (1974) | The Agatha Christie who’s next whodunnit gets the Harry Alan Towers treatment
Ten strangers are invited to the luxurious Persian desert hotel owned by the wealthy, but absent, Mr Owen where they learn, from a mysterious voice, that retribution is at hand as each one of them is an unpunished murderer…
1974’s Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None) which screens on ITV3 HD tonight at 1.15am was the third film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s best-selling 1939 novel (whose original title was latter changed for being racially insensitive) by legendary exploitation producer Harry Alan Towers, whose Euro thrillers were all bankrolled on the back of deals made with hoteliers and government tourism ministers around the world, and getting big name stars to sign up for a glorified paid holiday.
For this ‘international movie mess’ which is how Vincent Canby of the New York Times described the film, the fabulous Abbasi Hotel (then known as the Shah Abbas Hotel) in Isfahan, Iran stood in for the desert home of U.N. Owen (voiced by Orson Welles, who played Long John Silver in Towers’ Treasure Island in 1972).
But aside from the opulent hotel and a haunting score from an uncredited Bruno Nicolai, the most entertaining thing about the film (which was directed by Peter Collinson of The Italian Job fame, but who ended up helming genre fare like Fright, Open Season and Straight On Til Morning) is the starry cast, which included two former Bond villains Gert (Goldfinger) Fröbe and Adolfo (Largo) Celi, as well as Oliver Reed, Charles Aznavour, Herbert Lom, Richard Attenborough, Elke Sommer, Stéphane Audran and Maria Rohm (aka Mrs Harry Alan Towers). And as for the award to the best ‘worst’ performance – well, if you can stay awake until the end, then it’s a toss up between Reed and Aznavour (who lip-synchs his trademark song The Old Fashioned Way).
Fans of the classic mystery might like to know that an all-star three-part dramatisation is heading to BBC1 over Christmas.
Heavily inspired by Nigel Kneale’s The Quatermass Experiment, 1959’s The First Man into Space (which has nothing to do with Yuri Gagarin) was produced by British B-movie producer Richard Gordon after being rejected by American International Pictures. Shot in London and at air bases in Brooklyn and New Mexico, it was directed by Robert Day, who was no stranger to shockfests having helmed Boris Karloff’s Grip of the Strangler and Corridors of Blood the year before.
The most dangerous and daring mission of all time!
Daredevil pilot Dan Prescott (Bill Edwards) becomes the first man to fly into outer space – but he is exposed to cosmic rays and when his rocket returns to Earth, he seems to have vanished. Dan’s brother Chuck (Marshall Thompson) assumes the worst, until hearing reports that a bloodthirsty creature is terrorising Sante Fe…
The Picture That Leaps Out of the Headline!
When I saw this golden age sci-fi as a 10-year-old, I was truly terrified by that hideous one-eyed cosmic dust encrusted monster that Bill Edwards’ turns into after his experimental flight. He reminded me of one of my mum’s badly burned Sunday roasts (now they were terrifying).
Watching it today, I had completely forgotten about the copious amounts of stock footage and talking heads that take up most of the film’s running time until we get to the best bits – when the rubber-suited monster goes on the rampage. Well rampage is a bit strong, as poor Bill is just trying to get back to base to get into a high-altitude testing chamber so he can breathe properly again.
Marshall Thompson, who had been in Fiend Without a Face and It! The Terror From Beyond Space plays it brave, but bland (he was way better in TV’s Daktari); while Marla Landi makes an OK scream queen as Dan Dare’s caring girlfriend (Landi would next appear in Hammer’s Hound of the Baskervilles before ditching acting to marry a baronet); and then there’s Roger Delgado pops up as a Mexican Consul. Dated but still one to seek out, if only for the burnt casserole monster – which was a big influence on the 1970s sci-fi, The Incredible Melting Man.
The OEG Classic Movies DVD release features a remasterd and restored print by the BFI (although it looked way grainy to me) presented in a PAL 4:3 aspect ratio, with no extras.
When Island of Death director Nico Mastorakis once asked a festival audience member, ‘What made you want to see this movie?’, he got a telling reply: ‘Because it was banned’. And that’s exactly the reason why I first sought out what has become Greek exploitation’s most famous export.
The movie that the censors don’t want you to see!
Originally on the British censors video nasty hit list in the 1980s for its depictions of bestiality and graphic violence, Island of Death ended up having some 20-minutes of footage excised by the BBFC. When it was eventually passed uncut and released on DVD in 2011 by Arrow Video, video nasty aficionados finally got the chance a chance to see the film as the director shot it. Now, the infamous lurid shocker has been given an exclusive 2k restoration by Arrow.
The lucky ones simply got their brains blown out!
Shot on the cheap over 18-days during the off-season on the Greek island of Mykonos, with a group of English-speaking non-actors in tow (some of whom also appeared in that other Mediterranean mess, The Devil’s Men, which was shot at the same time, but had star names like Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance attached to it), this psycho-sexual thriller follows a psychopathic British couple, Christopher and Celia, as they attempt to cleanse the island of immorality and perversion by killing anyone (mainly homosexuals, middle aged nymphomaniacs and hippies) who don’t meet their crazed ideas of purity. As an added kink, the couple photograph their murder spree that includes crucifixion, poisoning with paint, hanging from a plane wing, and being hacked to death with a mighty sword of justice.
Although the film boasts depraved acts of sex and rape, both human and animal, the results are little more than what you’d expect from a sex comedy, while the gore looks cartoon-like. The travelogue-like cinematography, which perfectly captures Mykonos’ picture-postcard scenery, and the incongruous folksy soundtrack only serve to make this film campier than the director intended.
THE BLU-RAY ARROW VIDEO RELEASE
Arrow Video‘s director-approved dual format (Blu-ray/DVD) edition features not only a new 2K restoration of the film, but over seven hours of bonus content, including the making-of featurette, Exploring Island of Death (which drags on a bit), and a location featurette, Return to Island of Death (with Mastorakis playing tour guide. This one’s a winner for me).
Also included is an archive interview with the director, alternative newly-created opening titles, and five original tracks from the soundtrack, including the catchy theme song. A four-part documentary charting Mastorakis’ filmmaking career and trailer reel (featuring some real stinkers) make up the Blu-ray release extras, plus a reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Graham Humphreys and a collector’s booklet.
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The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981) | Walerian Borowczyk’s ravishing take on the classic tale is ripe for reappraisal on Blu-ray
Walerian Borocywck’s 1981 arthouse take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic allegorical tale is a ravishingly surreal oddity laced with satirical dark humour, an important work within the director’s oeuvre, and one of the best interpretations of the iconic story. Now, from Arrow in the UK, the French-West German erotic thriller has been given an exclusive Blu-ray release.
‘Long live the novelty of my sensations!’
A gentile engagement party for Dr Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier) and his fiancée, Fanny Osbourne (Marina Pierro) descends into murder and mayhem when a madman breaks into Dr Jekyll’s London townhouse and starts raping and killing his guests. But why is the good doctor never around whenever another guest comes under attack?
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is like peeping through a Victorian Mutoscope, where an Orton-esque farce or a scandalous Bunuel-esque drama unfolds like a perverse wet dream. Rape, sodomy and murder are all carried out in dark corners, behind flapping velvet curtains and closed doors, involving the pillars of Victorian society, before a bizarre metaphysical marriage of flesh, blood and sexuality brings the waking nightmare to a delirious climax…
If Borocywck wanted to place us inside Louis Stevenson’s own fever-infected unconscious when he dreamt up his original 1885 Jekyll and Hyde manuscript while recovering from a serious illness, then he certainly nailed it with this 1981 erotic thriller. And if he wanted to portray Jekyll’s transformation as a violent rebellious assault on Victorian morality, taste and decency, then he nailed that too.
With a meticulous eye for detail in the film’s sets, décor and ephemera, and gorgeous soft-focus camerawork that evokes sepia photo montages of old (like the work of Oscar Gustav Rejlander), Borocywck’s barely-seen film (it was only ever screened in soft-core sex theatres and arthouse cinemas) will make you swoon or snore – depending on what kind of cinephile you are.
While I’m a big fan of Borowczyk’s aesthetics, what really drew me here was Udo Keir (as Jekyll) and Patrick Magee – two character actors whose careers have often skirted cinema’s lunatic fringe. I love them both in whatever they do (good, bad or dreadful), and Magee (playing a pervy General) certainly doesn’t disappoint, especially as his inimitable booming voice is retained on the dubbed English track.
Euro-cinema’s go-to weirdo Keir, meanwhile, is far more restrained than usual (he’s also dubbed, which is a pity), and doesn’t get to let loose except in the film’s key transformative bath scene – in which he thrashes about like a big kid at bath time – before turning into the eyebrow-less Mr Hyde (Gérard Zalcberg).
But the film’s most memorable moment – and it’s most accomplished – is the film’s long final scene in which Hyde/Jekyll and Fanny literally feast on each other inside a hansom carriage as it races through a fog-bound London. It’s key to Borowczyk’s themes of transcendence that get lost amid the shouting and sodomy earlier on in the film, but which play out with brutal beautiful carnality.
While Borowczyk is best known for his sensational erotic offerings like The Beast and Immoral Tales, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne is a poetically macabre offering that’s ripe for reappraisal and this meticulously-curated Arrow release is the way to go. It also looks and sounds fantastique, and makes for a great companion piece to the Borowczyk retrospective box set that Arrow released back in 2014 (and which quickly sold out).
THE ARROW ACADEMY RELEASE
• New 2K restoration (in all its diffused loveliness), scanned from the original camera negative and supervised by cinematographer Noël Véry, with restored English and French soundtracks in LPCM 1.0, and optional English subtitles.
• Audio commentary featuring a 1981 interview with Walerian Borowczyk and new interviews with cinematographer Noël Véry, editor Khadicha Bariha, assistant Michael Levy and filmmaker Noël Simsolo.
• Happy Toy (1979): arty short based on Charles-Émile Reynaud’s praxinoscope, which reveal’s Borowczyk’s naughty sensationalist side.
• Himorogi (2012): this wordless short by Marina and Alessio Pierro is a sight and sound response to Borowczyk’s aesthetics.
• Interviews with Udo Keir, Marina Pierro, Alessio Pierro (on Himorogi), Sarah Mallinson and Peter Foldes.
• Appreciation by Michael Brooke.
• Eyes That Listen: featurette on composer Bernard Parmegiani.
• Phantasmagoria of the Interior: video essay by Adrian Martin and Cristina Alvarez Lopez.
• Returning to Méliès – Borowczyk and Early Cinema: featurette by Daniel Bird.
• Theatrical trailer.
• Reversible sleeve with artwork based on Borowczyk’s own poster design.
• Booklet, with new writing and archive materials (Daniel Bird and Michael Brooke have great fun with the production credits).
Werewolves on Wheels revs into action on The Horror Channel tonight at 10.50pm (Sky 319/320, Virgin 149/202, Freesat 138/139)
If you’re hairy you belong on a motorbike!
The Devil’s Advocates, an outlaw gang of Harley-riding hellions led by Adam (Stephen Oliver), cruise the highways of the American Southwest in search of their next great kick. But when Adam’s right-hand man Tarot (Gene Shane) takes the motley gang into to a satanic church, the high priest One (Severn Darden) drugs the gang and performs a ritual sacrifice. Now, two have become – werewolves on wheels!
A grungy fusion of stoner road movie, outlaw biker trash, occult thriller and monster mayhem, 1971’s Werewolves on Wheels was the directorial debut of Michel Levesque (1943-2010), who crewed on Roger Corman’s The Trip and Bloody Mama before forging himself a career as an art director on Russ Meyer’s sexploitation flix and schlock pix like The Incredible Melting Man.
Levesque plays fast and loose with his leather-clad lycanthrope horror, in which you have to wait one hour fifteen to see the one and only transformation scene (and there are no werewolves on wheels); the rest of the movie is made up of the bikers wrestling in the dirt, mucking about in scrap yards, getting stoned around campfires, and shagging their women (or each other – yes, there’s a couple of gay bikers in the gang, how alternative!). The lengthy ritual scene is the film’s highlight – and practically a how-to guide in conjuring up Satan. Levesque shows off his visual flair best in these hallucinatory scenes, while his arty sand dune shots evoke Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (which came out the year before) and the Monkees surreal 1968 comedy adventure Head.
Given most of the cast were non-actors and real bikers; it’s not surprising there’s very little dialogue. But this does allow for Don Gere’s psychedelic country score – all twangy guitars and beefy riffs with a scratchy Basil Kirchin bent – to hold sway (see below). Also starring Billy Gray (from TV’s Father Knows Best) and pop singer Barry McGuire. The guy playing One, the lead Satanist, is Severn Darden. He’s best known for playing the evil Kolp in two of the original Ape films (Conquest and Battle). This is 1970s bikesploitation at its ripest, and completely worthy of its cult status. Amazingly Tarantino hasn’t scheduled a remake – yet!
The Don Gere Soundtrack
Fans of stoner psychedelic rock will get a blast out of pop folk songwriter Don Gere’s soundtrack that has been described as a ‘hillbilly Haxan’ fusion of twangy country, crazy Krautrock and mood altering psychedelia. British label Finders Keepers, which specialises in re-issuing eccentric oddities, released a re-press red vinyl in 2013, containing 17 tracks, two of which are radio advertisements from the period. Composer Don Gere followed this with the soundtrack to Michel Levesque’s 1973 film Sweet Sugar. After that, little was heard of him.
THE FULL MOVIE
Beware! This YouTube version lifted from amctv.com has some wacky pan and scans.
The Washing Machine (1993) | Ruggero Deodato’s twisted sisters Euro thriller is more Almodóvar than Argento
A DEADLY SPIN…
Following the report of a man’s mangled body being discovered inside a washing machine in a Budapest apartment, homicide detective Inspector Alexander Stacey (Philippe Caroit) arrives on the scene only to discover the corpse, belonging to jewel thief Yuri (Yorgo Voyagis), has disappeared.
Questioning Yuri’s lover Vida (Katarzyna Figura), and her bewitching sisters, Ludmilla (Barbara Ricci) and Sissy (Ilaria Borrelli), Stacey gradually finds himself drawn into a web of lies, deceit and treachery as each sister seduces him while spinning different versions of events. But if Yuri was murdered, who did it and why?
PLUMBING NEW DEPTHS OF DECEIT
This 1993 erotic Euro thriller from Italian director Ruggero Deodato is a twisted oddity indeed. While the whodunit plot doesn’t bare close scrutiny and the film’s more surreal elements throws logic out the window, the atmospheric cinematography, Claudio Simonetti’s moody score and the engaging performances all draw you into its trashy web.
Deodato is best known for the exploitation cult hit Cannibal Holocaust, and practically invented the found footage technique as a result. For this sexy giallo however he’s less inventive and much more restrained. But while there’s a lack gore (there’s really only one grisly scene – a bloodied torso gets repeatedly hacked at) and sex (there’s lots of heavy panting but the girls keep their knickers on), Deodato dresses his giallo with elements of high camp, while also making effective use (a la Argento) of the creaky old Art Nouveau Budapest apartment in which the twisted sisters reside.
And talking of camp, the look and feel of the film is reminiscent of Pedro Almodóvar, no more so than in Katarzyna Figura, Barbara Ricci and Ilaria Borrelli. All three of their characters are bold, brassy, sexy and eccentric – just like the women in Almodóvar’s films, and Deodato’s script verges on the hysterical. Philippe Caroit meanwhile makes for some delicious man meat for our predatory heroines. With his piercing blue eyes and rugged features, he comes off like a young James Franciscus, who, incidentally, starred in Dario Argento’s 1970s giallo The Cat ‘O Nine Tails.
If anything’s missing in Deodato’s sleazy Euro thriller, which was originally called Vortice mortale, it’s some more big death scenes involving the washing machine. But as you’ll discover in the ‘shocking’ double twist ending, its a bit of red herring. But then, that’s what whodunit’s are made of.
THE UK DVD RELEASE
The Washing Machine is now revived in an exclusive Shameless Screen Entertainment Limited Edition DVD, presented in a yellow metal box with transparent window designed by UK artist Graham Humphreys.