Category Archives: Might-See
High Crime (1973) | Enzo G Castellari’s Italian crime thriller starring Franco Nero on Blu-ray and DVD
From Studiocanal comes director Enzo G Castellari’s 1973 Italian-Spanish crime thriller High Crime on Blu-ray and DVD (with a new 4k restoration print).
Franco Nero takes centre stage as Vice-Commissioner Belli, the assistant chief inspector in Genoa investigating Lebanese drug traffickers. Seeking information, he turns to veteran gangster Cafiero (Fernando Rey), but can he be trusted? When Belli’s boss, Commissioner Aldo Scavino (James Whitmore), is murdered, Belli is forced into taking his position – which puts his daughter and his girlfriend (Delia Boccardo) in jeopardy.
Bolstered by Castellari’s eye for edge-of-your-seat action sequences (many of which take place using real traffic), subtle political pretext (drawing on the real-life terrorist assassination of Italian State Police officer, Luigi Calabresi, and the country’s state of unrest), and gritty location filming (in Genoa and Marseille), High Crime was the Italian director’s first foray into the poliziotteschi subgenre. Inspired by Bullitt and The French Connection, High Crime became a massive hit in Italy (under the title, La polizia incrimina la legge assolve) and heralded the first of seven collaborations between Castellari and Nero, who gives one of the most OTT performances of his career.
The restoration makes everything look crisp and pristine (even those dark and dank alleyways in Genoa), so much so that you might find yourself chuckling at the dummies used in the action sequences, as well as Nero’s dyed hair (is it ginger or blonde?). But then his barnstorming turn is the stand-out here, as is the psychedelic prog-rock score by composer brothers Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, which is said to have given rise to the Italian groove (and used many times – from Umberto Lenzi’s Napoli Violenta to Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof). The only downside to this release is that it’s the cut version (missing about 10 minutes, including a climactic finale). To see that you have to fork out big bucks for the 2021 German Blu-ray or find the old 23rd Century DVD, The Marseilles Contract.
High Crime is released as part of Studiocanal’s new Cult Classics label that also includes Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1968) and Extreme Prejudice (1987). This new release includes interviews with director Castellari and cameraman Girometti, expertly conducted by Eugenio Ercolani. A third featurette, High and Dry, about stunt choreographer Massimo Vanni, is listed, but it doesn’t appear on the preview disc I have.
- A Criminal Conversation – interview director Enzo G Castellari exploring the production of the film 40 years ago.
- The Scene of the Crime – interview with the camera operator Roberto Girometti on his experiences from the film.
LISTEN TO THE SOUNDTRACK HERE
The Wraith | The 1980s stunt-filled supernatural revenger joins the Vestron Video Blu-ray collection
A fresh-faced Charlie Sheen and Nick Cassavetes face off in director Mike Marvin’s 1986 turbocharged actioner, The Wraith, which is now available on Blu-ray as part of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series.
After four glowing spheres collide over a highway near the desert town of Brooks, Arizona, they leave in their wake a Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor and an armoured-up helmeted driver.
The next day, a young man called Jake (Sheen) arrives in town and, catching the eye of pretty teen Keri (Sherilyn Fenn), incurs the jealous wrath of Packard Walsh (Cassavetes), the vicious leader of a gang of car thieves who coerce drivers with fancy sports cars into racing for pink slips.
When the gang members start losing races, and their lives, to the Interceptor and its vigilante driver, the recent murder of Keri’s boyfriend suddenly seems connected with Jake and the seemingly invulnerable supercar…
If you love muscle cars and power rock, then this naff slice of 1980s action fantasy will certainly be your thang. As classic hits by the likes of Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Plant and Bonnie Tyler play out against the film’s desert landscapes, Packard’s gang (dressed like something out of a bad fashion show and have ridiculous names like Shank, Rughead and Gutterboy) come a cropper in a series of explosive crashes as Randy Quaid’s Sheriff Loomis and his clueless lawman try to stop the carnage. It’s all great fun, but in the end, it’s all about seeing that Dodge Turbo Interceptor in action.
I do remember seeing this on its original release – only because it made the news (and not in a good way). The film is dedicated to Bruce Ingram, a camera operator who died during the filming of one of the car chases, and his death almost ended Mike Marvin’s film career. He goes into detail about this in the extras, of which there are some doozies.
– Audio Commentary with writer/director Mike Marvin
– Audio Commentary with actors Dave Sherrill and Jamie Bozian
– Isolated Score Selections featuring an audio interview with co-composer J. Peter Robinson
– Tales From The Desert – An interview with writer/director Mike Marvin
– Rughead Speaks! – An interview with Actor Clint Howard
– Ride of the Future – Interviews with stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker and transportation coordinator Gary Hellerstein
– The Ghost Car – Interviews with visual effects producer Peter Kuran and effects animator Kevin Kutchaver
– The Wraith Filming Locations: Then and Now
– Theatrical Trailer
– TV Spots
– Alternate Title Sequence
– Still Gallery
Arrow Video unleashes a quartet of 1950s monochrome terrors on Blu-ray that revisits the golden age of B-movie monsters! Welcome to the world of Sam Katzman and his Cold War creature features.
Katzman (July 7, 1901 – August 4, 1973) was one of Hollywood’s most prolific film producers and directors whose long career included serials, musicals, teen pictures, action movies and sex comedies, from the 1930s to the early 1970s. In the 1950s, Katzman navigated the zeitgeist of the Cold War era with a host of successful horror Columbia Pictures’ features aimed squarely at the teen market. This collection handpicks four that have left an indelible mark on contemporary culture and the bonus extras in this four-disc box-set include interviews and visual essays from an array of film historians that explain why. What Katzman, who only ever saw his pictures in terms of box-office receipts, would make of the in-depth analysis will make for great discussion when you break out this fabulous box-set.
In 1955’s Creature with the Atom Brain, a mob boss uses an ex-Nazi scientist’s atomic radiation reanimation machine to seek revenge on his enemies. An auto-accident survivor turns gnarly when he’s injected with an irradiated wolf serum in The Werewolf (1956). Treasure hunters battle the zombified crew members of a sunken ship while seeking a cache of diamonds in Zombies of Mora Tau (1957). And in The Giant Claw – one of the most infamous sci-fi’s of the decade – an extraterrestrial turkey creates worldwide havoc.
The Arrow Video box-set includes high definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of all four films (which were originally released together in a DVD box-set in 2008), with original uncompressed mono audio, optional English subtitles, an illustrated 60-page collector’s book and an 80-page collector’s art book. Plus, there are two double-sided posters by Matt Griffin, and reversible sleeves featuring original and new artwork by Matt Griffin. The bonus features on each disc are listed below.
DISC 1 – CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN
Written by Curt Siodmak (who also penned Donovan’s Brain and The Wolfman), this taut thriller about mind-controlled reanimated corpses successfully fuses sci-fi and crime noir and paved the way for Katzman’s subsequent creature features. Richard Denning (of Creature from the Black Lagoon fame) plays the all-American square-jawed devoted husband/dad/scientist who ultimately saves the day. Director Edward L Cahn also helmed genre faves The She Creature (1956) and Voodoo Woman (1957).
● Introduction by Kim Newman
● Audio commentary by Russell Dyball
● Sam Katzman: Before and Beyond the Cold War Creatures, feature-length presentation on the life, career and films of Sam Katzman by Stephen R Bissette
● Condensed Super 8mm version of Creature with the Atom Brain
● Theatrical Trailer & Image Gallery
DISC 2 – THE WEREWOLF
This one has the distinction of being the first ‘werewolf’ film of the 1950s and went out on a double bill in the US in 1956 with Earth vs. Flying Saucers and Creature with the Atom Brain in the UK. Is it any good though? Well, it does make good use of the Big Bear Lake location in California’s San Bernardino National Forest, and the transformation scenes are also pretty OK. There’s also a couple of good turns from character actors Saul John Launer (best known as Perry Mason), Larry J Blake (who set up the first Motion Picture AA group in Hollywood) and Don Megowan (who played the on-land Gill-man in The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).
● Introduction by critic Kim Newman
● Audio commentary by Lee Gambin
● Beyond Window Dressing, visual essay exploring the role of women in the films of Sam Katzman by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
● Condensed Super 8mm version of The Werewolf
● Theatrical Trailer & Image Gallery
DISC 3 – ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU
Creature with the Atom Brain director Edward L Cahn returns with this contemporary-set zombie thriller whose story is said to be the inspiration for John Carpenter’s The Fog. Watch out for Allison Hayes, who is best known for her lead role in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and check out those zombies (any slower and they’d be walking backwards). Bizarrely, the film is supposed to be set in Africa – but it looks more like the same swampy Louisanna backlot used in Universal’s The Mummy’s Curse (1944). The underwater diving sequences are the film’s hilarious highlight.
● Introduction by Kim Newman
● Audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger
● Atomic Terror: Genre in Transformation, a visual essay exploring the intersection of mythical horror creatures and the rational world of science in the films of Sam Katzman by Josh Hurtado.
● Theatrical Trailer & Image Gallery
DISC 4 – THE GIANT CLAW
Love it or hate it! This ludicrous sci-fi is one of a kind. Katzman had wanted Ray Harryhausen to devise the special effects (as he had co-produced Earth vs. Flying Saucers with Charles Schneer in 1956), but when that didn’t pan out he still went ahead. The result, a right ugly turkey puppet on very visible wires. The best part about his schlock-fest is that everyone plays it dead straight, which just makes it all the more hilarious to watch. Jeff Morrow, best known for This Island Earth (1955) and Kronos (1957), was so embarrassed at the film’s premiere, he went home and got drunk. I wonder if he did the same when he saw 1971’s Octaman (in which he had a cameo)? Playing the film’s brainy heroine is Mara Corday, who was married to House on Haunted Hill and Nanny and the Professor actor Richard Long. She was also a buddy of Clint Eastwood who gave her some notable cameos in The Gauntlet (1977) and Sudden Impact (1983).
● Introduction by critic Kim Newman
● Audio commentary by critics Emma Westwood and Cerise Howard
● Family Endangered!, visual essay on Cold War paranoia in Katzman’s monster movies, by Mike White
● Condensed Super 8mm version of The Giant Claw.
● Theatrical Trailer & Image Gallery
From the pen of Japan’s foremost master of the macabre, Edogawa Rampo, comes Blind Beast – a grotesque portrait about obsession, art and sensuality.
Waking up inside a dark warehouse studio whose walls are decorated with outsized women’s body parts, artist’s model Aki (Mako Midori) discovers she has been abducted by Michio (Eiji Funakoshi), a blind sculptor who desires to create the perfect female form. Defiant at first, Aki soon finds herself drawn into his warped sightless world in which touch is everything.
This 1969 arthouse erotic horror from director Yasuzo Masumura, adapted from Rampo’s 1931 novel Mojo: The Blind Beast, is a trippy, stylish, fetishistic affair, boasting lashings of dark humour, fantastical set design and way out performances from the two leads. It now gets a Blu-ray release from Arrow, alongside some entertaining extras. Check out the trailer and special contents below.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand new audio commentary by Asian cinema scholar Earl Jackson
• Newly filmed introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
• Blind Beast: Masumura the Supersensualist, a brand new visual essay by Japanese literature and visual studies scholar Seth Jacobowitz
• Original Trailer
• Image Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella
• Illustrated booklet featuring new writing by Virginie Sélavy (first pressing only).
If you have ever thought about becoming an independent film-maker, then you must check this out first. Justin McConnell, who writes, directs and features, has worked as a film festival coordinator, as well as being a cinematographer and editor on heaps of featurettes you’ve probably seen as bonus content, and also directed a number of documentaries and helmed two features. But he has still yet to make his mark in this riskiest of businesses, where it has become harder and harder for independents to make a living due to media giant monopolisation and a market oversaturated with product.
Featuring interviews with a vast range of industry luminaries, Clapboard Jungle (which is available on ARROW from Monday 19 April) follows Justin’s personal journey over a five year period, exploring not only the nitty-gritty of the film business (from pitch to product) but also the physical and emotional strain that comes with it. It’s a fascinating insight and something of a survival guide for anyone brave enough to attempt themselves.
Once you have watched the documentary, I strongly urge you to check out the extended interviews which feature a roll call of some of our favourite cult heroes who all discuss their career highs and lows, and their place in the independent film world today. Poignantly, among them are Dick Miller, George Romeo and Larry Cohen, who are no longer with us – so these are very special indeed.
Clapboard Jungle is available from ARROW from Monday 19 April
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Audio commentary with Justin McConnell
• Crew commentary: Justin McConnell, co-producer Darryl Shaw, executive producer Avi Federgreen and editor/associate producer Kevin Burke)
• Guest commentary/panel discussion: Barbara Crampton, Richard Stanley, John McNaughton, Gigi Saul Guerrero and Adam Mason
• Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Justin McConnell
• Extended interviews: Anne-Marie Gélinas, Barbara Crampton, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Brian Yuzna, Charles Band, Corey Moosa, Dean Cundey, Dick Miller, Don Mancini, Frank Henenlotter, Gary Sherman, George Romero, George Mihalka, Guillermo Del Toro, John McNaughton, Jon Reiss, Larry Cohen, Larry Fessenden, Lloyd Kaufman, Mette-Marie Kongsved, Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Mick Garris, Paul Schrader, Richard Stanley, Sam Firstenberg, Tom Holland, Tom Savini, Vincenzo Natali
• Documentaries: Working Class Rock Star (2008) and Skull World (2013)
• 13 short films with optional commentaries and intros
• Trailers, promos, photo gallery and Easter eggs
• Artwork by Ilan Sheady
• Collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by producer/director Brian Yuzna
Death Has Blue Eyes | Nico Mastorakis’ wacky 1970’s paranormal sex comedy action thriller on Blu-ray
There’s a whole lot of love over at Arrow for the crazy cine-verse of Greek film-maker Nico Mastorakis, as they have so far released his 1975 infamous ‘video nasty’ exploitation debut Island of Death (twice), Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), Blood Tide (1982), The Zero Boys and The Wind (both 1986), Bloodstone (1988) and 1990’s Hired to Kill.
I’ve seen and reviewed Island of Death and The Wind, and now have finally caught up with Death Has Blue Eyes, which was released back in April (2021) on Blu-ray in a new HD master in both widescreen and full-frame versions.
Be prepared as this is a wacky, messy but wholly entertaining cocktail of conspiracy thrills, psychic chills and action spills (with a bit of a 1970s sex comedy vibe thrown in).
International gigolo-cum-racing driver Ches (Chris Nomikos) and his dodgy Vietnam vet mate Bob (Peter Winter) meet up in Athens where they encounter the wealthy but mysterious Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin) and her psychic daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi).
All the lads want to do is have sex (with a penchant for threesomes – oo-er!!!), but they soon find themselves in the middle of an international conspiracy – and nothing is what it seems, especially Geraldine, who has a secret agenda.
While Island of Death was released first, this was in fact Mastorakis’ debut feature – and it’s one to watch with a gang of fellow exploitation film fans, while Graham Humphreys’ colourful poster artwork really captures the essence of Mastorakis’ lurid conspiracy thriller.
But what really thrilled me was checking out Jessica Dublin’s credits. She so steals the show here and should be better known as she’s been in so many cult faves – including Visconti’s The Damned, Mastorakis’ Island of Death, Kostas Karayiannis’ The Devil’s Men and was Mrs Junko in Troma’s Toxic Avenger sequels.
Mastorakis made his last feature in 1990, before turning his hand to TV sitcoms, but he’s recently scored renewed success as the writer of the award-winning 2018 documentary, Mykonos, the Soul of an Island.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- Brand new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
- Two versions of the film: the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version
- Original mono audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis
- Exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi
- Dancing with Death: tracks from the original soundtrack
- Original theatrical trailers
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger
Directing his second feature, Pusher writer Jens Dahl explores the dark side of biohacking and the search for the ultimate youth renewal serum in Breeder, a brutal and bloody Euro-horror thriller which gets a UK Blu-ray release from Eureka Entertainment.
Ruthless in her determination to reverse the ageing process, Dr Isabel Ruben (Signe Eghom Olsen) resorts to harvesting the cells of newborn babies from the women she has kidnapped and inseminated with her wealthy client’s DNA. But when her funding partner Thomas (Anders Heinrichsen) discovers the terrifying reality behind her research, Ruben abducts his suspicious girlfriend Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) and locks her up with the other test subjects.
Without a doubt, Breeder is certainly a chilling scenario, but whatever social critique Dahl might be implying gets lost under the film’s grimy survival thriller surface. It begins all clean and clinical in A Cure for Wellness kind of way, then quickly descends into women-in-cages exploitation mode as Mia and her fellow unwashed subjects suffer relentless abuse at the hands of two psychopaths. At first, I couldn’t reconcile why the women were being forced to live in such filthy conditions when they were being used as baby machines but then comes a truly stomach-churning scene which explains why they aren’t in one of the nicer rooms of the abandoned factory where Ruben has her HQ.
If you like your Euro-horror in the extreme, then Breeder might just be your bag, if not then turn away now!
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
• DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio and optional English subtitles
• Interview with director Jens Dahl and screenwriter Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen
• Collector’s Booklet featuring a new essay by film historian Kat Ellinger
From 101 Films and Cinema Retro comes the 1977 adventure The Deep on Blu-ray.
While scuba diving on the wreck of the World War II freighter Goliath in Bermuda, Gail (Jacqueline Bisset) and David (Nick Nolte) find evidence of 17th-century Spanish gold but also ampules of morphine, both of which could be worth a fortune.
They unlist Adam Coffin (Eli Wallach), the only survivor of the Goliath, to help them locate the gold while trying to convince famed treasure hunter Romer Treece (Robert Shaw) to join them in their search. But hot on their heels is a Haitian drug dealer, Cloche (Louis Gossett), who has his eye on the precious drugs.
The Deep was a MUST-SEE film in 1977 because it was Peter Benchley’s follow-up novel to Jaws (well we all know how phenomenal that was!), but also because of Jacqueline Bisset swimming braless, which helped popularise the wet tee-shirt craze. Aged 13 at the time, I was more interested in scares than breasts but was ultimately left disappointed by the film as the only thrill factor was a huge Moray eel guarding the wreck.
Four decades later, Film 101 have released the 1970s adventure on Blu-ray in conjunction with Cinema Retro magazine. And after reading the informative ‘Film In Focus’ booklet and watching the extras, I now have renewed respect for the film, especially the excellent underwater photography by Al Giddings and Stan Waterman that was all accomplished in the days before CGI. And also the excellent performances from Bisset and Nolte (who did all their own underwater sequences) and veterans Wallach and Shaw. It might not be Jaws, but The Deep is well worth a revisit.
- Cinema Retro mini-magazine
- Commentary with film critic Kevin Lyons
- Interview with underwater art director Terry Ackland-Snow
- The Making of The Deep (Robert Shaw hosts the 1977 CBS Special. 48min, unrestored and transferred from video)
- Select Scenes from the 3-hour 1980 US TV Special Edition (this features the unused prologue which involves the sinking of the Goliath in 1943. Playing the young Adam Coffin and Romer Treece are Wallach and Shaw’s sons, Peter and Colin, while Cameron Mitchell plays the captain of the doomed ship).
From 101 Films comes the UK Blu-ray of Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Big Bad Wolves (2013), a brutal and unpredictable Israeli thriller that addresses the perils of victimhood and the consequences of vengeance.
SOME MEN ARE CREATED EVIL
Following the disappearance of a number of young girls in a small Israeli town, hardened police detective Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) fingers socially awkward religious studies teacher Dror (Rotem Keinan) as the culprit. When Miki is caught on-camera using extreme violence while interrogating the teacher, he is forced to let him go and is suspended from the force.
Unable to let the case go, Miki pursues Dror, but the two men are then kidnapped by Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the father of one of the girls, whose headless body has just been discovered, who plans to extract a confession out of the teacher. But as the tension mounts and Dror maintains his innocence, the lines between justice and vengeance, innocence and guilt, become increasingly frayed. Just how far should you go before you accept a truth? And what does it cost you to find out?
MANIACS ARE ONLY AFRAID OF MANIACS
Big Bad Wolves comes from Israeli filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, who are best known for their breakout festival hit, and Israel’s first slasher, the black comedy Rabies (check out my review here).
For their follow up, Keshales and Papushado have created a brutal scathing shocker that has divided both audiences and critics. Part giallo, part torture porn, part political comment, it’s really hard to pigeonhole this incredibly violent tale about child abduction and vigilante revenge, that even adds elements from the Hansel and Gretel fairytale into its sordid mix.
The political comment, laced with absurdist humour, is evident throughout, with much of it aimed at Israeli identity, attitudes towards their Arab neighbours, and the use of excessive force over due process and trial by jury. The vitriolic hate espoused by the characters as they dish out their extreme form of justice – which gets increasingly stomach churning as the film progresses – certainly does leave a bitter taste. But what really sends a shiver down the spine is how these characters end up appearing, which is best summed up in one of the film’s most chilling lines: ‘Smells like a barbecue. You have no idea how much I’ve missed that smell’. In the end you have to ask yourself, just who are the real big bad wolves in this world?
Released on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, this release from 101 Films includes Last Night at the Empire: Big Bad Wolves at FrightFest, a brand new documentary on the background and impact of the film, and its UK premiere at FrightFest in August 2013. In closing the festival, it became the last film to screen in the Empire Leicester Square’s famous main screen, before it was refurbished and split in two. The other extras include AXS TV: A Look at Big Bad Wolves and the theatrical trailer.
From Eureka Entertainment comes The Holy Mountain, the greatest of the German ‘mountain films’ and the film that launched the career of Leni Riefenstahl , digitally restored in 2K and presented on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK as a part of The Masters of Cinemas Series.
German filmmaker Arnold Fanck made this beautifully photographed Bergfilm, or ‘mountain film’, in 1926. Written in three days and nights – especially for Riefenstahl, who would go on to direct the Nazi propaganda films, Der Sieg des Glaubens (1933), Triumph of the Will (1935), and Tag der Freiheit (1935) – The Holy Mountain (aka Der Heilige Berg) took over a year to film at the Atelier Staaken studio in Berlin and on mountain locations in Switzerland, with an entourage of expert skiers and climbers.
Ostensibly a tragic love triangle romance – between Riefenstahl’s young dancer and two mountain climbers, Vigo (Ernst Petersen) and his older friend (Luis Trenker) – Fanck relishes the glorious Alpine landscape by filming death-defying climbing, avalanche dodging, and frenetic downhill ski racing.
Digitally restored in 2K, The Holy Mountain is a visual feast – and a fascinating look at the origin of a genre.
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray, from a 2014 2K digital restoration
• Score by Aljoscha Zimmerman, available in both LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1
• Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
• The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993, 180 mins) – Ray Müller’s Emmy award-winning documentary on Leni Reifenstahl. In German, with subtitles.
• Audio commentary by film historian Travis Crawford
• Collector’s booklet