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Percy’s Progress (1974) | The British sex comedy rises again – on Blu-ray

Percy's_Progress_Blu-ray_1With a bounty of Bollinger 1969 stored onboard his yacht, Percy Edward Anthony (Leigh Lawson) takes to the high seas to escape his notoriety as the well-endowed recipient of the world’s first penis transplant.

But when the entire male population becomes impotent after the US-made PX-123 drug accidentally gets into the water supply, Percy becomes the British Government’s secret weapon in reversing the world’s falling birth rate.

After ‘servicing’ the representatives of several countries in the Miss Conception International contest, Percy decides he’s done his patriotic duty and goes back into hiding – which doesn’t go down well with his advisors or the bevy of beautiful birds who only want a favour most men would be happy to oblige…

Percy's Progress Quad Poster

This 1974 British sex comedy was director Ralph Thomas and producer Betty E Box’s sequel to their box-office hit Percy, based on Raymond Hitchcock’s 1969 debut novel, with Leigh Lawson packing into Hywel Bennett’s briefs as the sexed-up anti-hero with the enviable manhood.

Drawing on themes originally exploited in the 1933 sci-fi musical comedy, It’s Great to Be Alive (a remake of the 1924 silent, The Last Man on Earth), and in the 1946 Pat Frank novel, Mr Adam, Percy’s Progress comes off like a poor-man’s Carry On. It should have been a saucy seaside postcard delight, but it’s not. Director Thomas, who was responsible for the ar superior Doctor series of comedy films, and Up Pompeii! writer Sid Colin have merely served up a series of flaccid, vulgar jokes about impotence.

Percy's Progress (1974)

Getting into bed with Lawson (who famously wedded both Hayley Mills and model Twiggy), are some well-known Hammer glamour stars, including Jenny Hanley, Madeline Smith, Julie Edge and Judy Matheson. But it’s the roll call of other famous names that’s the real reason to check this oddity out. Among the embarrassed faces on display in the messy farce are Elke Sommer, Milo O’Shea, Denholm Elliott, Bernard Lee, Anthony Andrews, Ronald Fraser, Alan Lake and Anthony Sharp.

stavosAs the Aristotle Onassis-styled tycoon Stavos Mammonian, Vincent Price is confined to a wheelchair (the last time he did that was in 1953’s House of Wax); while Harry H Corbett (who wrote some of the dialogue, along with comedy legend Ian La Frenais) gets in an hilarious Harold Wilson impersonation (albeit with a Yorkshire accent) as the British PM.

Barry Humphries and Judy Geeson in Percy's ProgressFollowing his multiple roles in the crude but entertaining Barry McKenzie movies, Barry Humphries takes on the dual role of scientist Dr Anderson (sporting a great whistling speech pediment) and an ‘Australian TV lady’ who bears an uncanny resemblance to his Moonee Ponds housewife, Edna Everage. Judy Geeson, meanwhile, gets a very odd role as Dr Anderson’s overly cheery assistant who become instrumental in reversing the drug’s sterility factor.

It's Not The Size That CountsInterestingly, author Raymond Hitchcock ended up publishing a novel based on Sid Colin’s screenplay, while the film’s theme tune ‘God Knows I Miss You’ was co-written by The Seekers’ Keith Potger and Tony Macaulay, who had a string of hits for the likes of Long John Baldry and The Hollies.

EMI Films originally released the film in the UK in August 1974, but it took another two years before a US distribution was announced. Retitled, It’s Not the Size That Counts, trimmed by 90-minutes, and with additional scenes of a penis transplant and a dwarf (played by one-time Ewok, Luis De Jesus) tacked on, the film was eventually released Stateside in November 1978. You can watch a US TV trailer below.

Percy's Progress (1974)

Released as part of Network’s British Film collection, Percy’s Progress gets a brand-new high definition transfer from the original film elements, in its original aspect ratio, and in both Blu-ray and DVD formats. The special features include original theatrical trailers, image gallery and promotional material (pdf).




What We Do In the Shadows (2014) | Best vampire comedy by far! Here’s seven reasons why…

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

What happens when four ancient vampires decide to lodge together in modern-day Wellington? Well that’s what a documentary film crew, armed with crucifixes, want to find out in this laugh-about Kiwi mockumentary, directed by and starring Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).

Pedantic 18th-century dandy Viago (Taika Waititi), 183-year-old bad boy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and 862-year-old ladies man Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) are three bloodsuckers leading a pretty normal life in Wellington, New Zealand, coping with housework and finding unsuspecting victims in the city’s local nightclubs, assisted by Deacon’s familiar, Jackie (Jackie van Beek).

When their 8000 year-old basement-dwelling housemate Petyr (Ben Fransham) turns Jackie’s ex Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) into a vampire, the guys suddenly find themselves learning more about modern life from a surprising source – Nick’s human best mate Stu (Stuart Rutherford).

Like ‘The Young Ones with extra bite’, this is the best vampire comedy to come along in a very long time, and here are seven side-splitting reasons why…

From his old-school style coffin rising to playing ‘ghost cups’ in the mirror, Viago is hilarious anytime he’s on screen, but when the burst artery of one his victims sprays blood everywhere, that newspaper he’s carefully put down becomes totally useless.

The one-time lothario has lost his mojo over the centuries due to a fall-out with his ex-lover,  The Beast. But watching him try out his lame hypnotic powers on an old guy watching telly is pathetically sad. He’s also not very good at fighting while transformed into a bat (prone to setting  off car alarms). At least he has a unique fashion sense, which he calls ‘dead but delicious’.

Deacon thinks he’s the coolest vampire in the house, but he’s actually a bit of a drip – as witnessed by his naff snake dancing. But he really shows himself up when he tries to convince Nick that he’s eating worms instead of spaghetti – which he pronounces as bisghetti.

Deacon’s familiar is fed up with having spent four years ironing the boys’ frills as she waits her turn to become immortal. She might be a dag, but Jackie’s certainly having the last laugh on her old school enemies as they are now being drained by Deacon and his pals.

Like Viago, Nick turns every scene he’s in, into a laugh riot – his one-to-one’s with Petyr over not killing Stu because ‘vampire mates don’t eat human mates’ is a hoot. But it’s the look on a smart arse shop assistant’s face when he shows his vampire face that had me cackling.

Everyone loves Stu, Nick’s geeky human mate, especially when he shows the guys the wonders of the internet, from looking at pictures of ‘virgins’ to helping Viago skype his 90-year-old former assistant back in Germany. He’s the quite achiever in this gang.

The wereguys preparing for their monthly transformation is the film’s funniest moment, especially when alpha wolf Anton (Rhys Darby) chastises a pack member for wearing jeans instead of tracksuit bottoms. But also is this scene when the vamps and werewolves clash.

What We Do In The Shadows is released on DVD in the UK through Metrodome. The special extras include deleted scenes, interviews, a Behind The Shadows featurette, bonus video extras and promos.


The Comedy of Terrors (1963) | Your favourite creeps together again in HD

The Comedy of Terrors

To mark the 16 February UK Blu-ray/DVD release of The Comedy of Terrors from Arrow Video (reviewed at the bottom of the post), here’s a look back at the vintage horror farce.

‘You’re invited to a funeral’
Welcome to the Hinchley & Trumbull funeral parlour, the only establishment of its kind that has found the secret of increasing business – by furnishing its own corpses! From Jacques Tourneur, director of the horror classics, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and Night of the Demon, comes the 1963 horror spoof, The Comedy of Terrors, starring four masters of the macabre – Vincent Price, Peter LorreBasil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘What place is this?’
Inebriate undertaker Waldo Trumbull (Price) is running a New England funeral home business owned by his ageing father-in-law (Karloff)… straight into the ground. Hounded by his penny-pinching landlord Mr Black (Rathbone) for non-payment of rent, Trumbull and his put upon assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre) hatch a plan to boost business. But murder is not their forté, especially when their latest ‘client’ refuses to stay dead…

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘Every shroud has a silver lining when old friends get together for a real swinging blast of grave robbery… poisoning, and multiple mayhem!’

So declared the promo poster for American International PicturesThe Comedy of Terrors, which famously brought together four great names from the horror hall of fame. In the early-1960s, AIP were riding high with their winning formula of director Roger Corman, star Vincent Price, screenwriter Richard Matheson, composer Les Baxter, et all. Following their full-on Colorscope Gothic horrors, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, AIP added some comic relief in 1962’s Tales of Terror, in a segment called The Black Cat, whose highlight was an improvised wine tasting scene between Price and Lorre.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Because the two spooks gelled so well, director Corman gave Price and Lorre the chance to do it all over again in his 1963 fantasy spoof, The Raven. Out of that was born a gruesome twosome comedy duo that were like an Abbott & Costello for the drive-in generation. Wanting to tap those funny bones again, AIP gave Matheson free reign to conjure up another vehicle for them. The result was The Comedy of Terrors (originally called Graveside Story), which was shot over 15 days, starting 4 September 1963, and released in US cinemas on 22 January 1964.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘Comedy and terror are closely allied. My job as an actor is to try and make the unbelievable believable and the despicable delectable’  Vincent Price

As the roguish Waldo Trumbull, Price is at his ‘delicious boozy hammiest’ – according to the New York Herald Tribune – and has a whale of a time making the most of Matheson’s venomous dialogue – in particular his sardonic put-downs on Lorre’s wanted fugitive Felix (who is a terrible coffin-maker, I might add), while their slapstick misadventures evoke Laurel and Hardy – Price even gets to reappropriate their famous catchphrase: ‘A fine mess you’ve made of things again!’

Sadly, this would be the last time that the two pals got to act together, as the 59-year-old Lorre was in poor health during the shoot (his regular stunt double Harvey Parry did all of his action scenes wearing a mask), and died just two months after the film’s release. Fittingly, it was Price who delivered the eulogy.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Interestingly in this film, Price and Lorre reverse the roles they played in Tales of Terror, and again there’s Joyce Jameson playing a buxom mistreated wife with a drunk for a hubby. As Amaryllis, an unfulfilled opera star with the ‘vocal emissions of a laryngitic cow’, Jameson hits a real high with her ‘off-key’ singing during a funeral service, while her verbal sparring with Price is eminently quotable. David Del Valle’s audio commentary in the Arrow release is dedicated to Jameson, a great friend to the film historian who tragically took her life in 1987, aged 59.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Veterans Rathbone and Karloff are also game for a laugh in this Arsenic and Old Lace-styled affair (and shares a similar structure as that classic 1941 play which famously sent up Karloff’s horror screen persona). Rathbone is exceptional as the Shakespearean-spouting cataleptic who refuses to ‘shuffle off his mortal coil’, while he also gets to play up his thespian image and swashbuckling days (the sword play being an homage to 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.)

At 76, and suffering from arthritis, Karloff was not up to playing Mr Black, a role which was originally offered to him. But as the endearingly senile Amos, who somehow manages to avoid the poison that Waldo offers him at every turn, Karloff is only one who keeps the farce from taking full flight.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

The downside to Tourneur’s film, however (it was the director’s second-to-last feature before some TV work and then retiring), is that it’s rather stagey and old-fashioned (especially for the 1960s teen crowd that it was aimed at). It remains, however, a firm favourite of mine – a gleefully ghoulish slapstick affair with a classy never-to-be-repeated cast of old Hollywood greats.

Comedy of Terrors caricature

This fine caricature by Jack Manning was available as part of AIP’s original marketing campaign.

Richard Matheson scripted a follow-up called Sweethearts and Horrors, that was to feature the fearsome four once again, but it was shelved due to Lorre’s death and the film’s poor box-office takings. The unfilmed screenplay ended up being released in 2009 as part of Matheson’s collected works, entitled Visions Deferred.

The music is by celebrated composer Les Baxter (who also did the US scores for Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath and The Evil Eye in 1963, as well as Corman’s The Raven). The complete mono session which was recorded in November 1963 at Goldwyn Studios was uncovered from the MGM vaults last year and released on a now sold out CD.


Cleopatra is played by one of Hollywood’s most celebrated animal stars, Rhubarb (aka Orangey) – a 12-pound marmalade tabby who won two American Humane Association’s PATSY awards for 1951’s Rhubarb and 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (in which he has almost seven minutes of screen time), and who also appeared in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). In The Comedy of Terrors, Rhubarb gets an inspired scene in the closing credits.



The Comedy of Terrors is presented its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with mono 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on Blu-ray). The HD master was made available by MGM via Hollywood Classics, and includes optional English subtitles. The extras include:
• Audio commentary with David Del Valle and Rapid Heart TV’s David DeCocteau
Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes: This is the unseen alternate cut of the 1987 David Del Valle interview that was previously released on DVD in 2002 as The Sinister Image
Whispering in Distant Chambers: informative 17-min video essay by David Cairns, exploring Tourneur’s work.
Richard Matheson Storyteller – Comedy of Terrors; this featurette on late screenwriter also appears on the Shout! Blu-ray and on the older MGM Midnite Movies DVD.
• Unrestored original US theatrical trailer (this makes the film look more racy and scary than it actually was).
• Collector’s booklet featuring a critical analysis of the film by Chris Fujiwara, author of Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, plus archive stills and posters.
• Artwork by Paul Shipper.

Also available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory (from October 2014), an imprint of Shout! Factory, with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1 and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, as part of their Vincent Price Collection II bundle, and includes a Iowa Public Television introduction with Price, but no audio commentary. Blu-ray reviewers have also praised Arrow’s transfer over this one, both for its excellent print and audio transfer. A German Blu-ray was also released in May 2013.

Stage Fright (2014) | Shriek and shriek again – The summer camp slasher genre gets a Gleeful musical makeover

Stage Fright (2014)

On the opening night of her Broadway-bound musical The Haunting of the Opera, diva Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) is brutally murdered. Ten years later, her producer Roger (Meat Loaf Aday) is running a theatre summer camp where Kylie’s twins, Camilla (Allie MacDonald) and Buddy (Douglas Smith), are helping out. But when the campers decide to revive the cursed musical and Camilla lands the lead role, the deranged killer returns. But who’s behind the kabuki mask and why does the fiend hate musical theatre so much?

Stage Fright (2014)

When it comes to horror musical spoofs, few can top Brian De Palma’s perfect pastiche Phantom of the Paradise and its Oscar-nominated score by Paul Williams or Richard O’Brien’s cult favourite sing-along The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The idea of sending up the tired clichés of musical theatre and the slasher genre really is just too delicious to entertain, and that’s what Stage Fright sets out to do. However, its not going to be stealing Phantom and Rocky’s crown anytime soon.

Stage Fright (2014)

It’s a shame because Stage Fright starts so well – imagine John Waters’ Hairspray and Serial Mum fused with Friday the 13th and TV’s Glee. But the spoof quickly loses its way, becoming very predictable (the killer’s identity is obvious from the start), and wastes a talented cast who have a rollicking time with their kooky characters. The musical numbers are also unmemorable, especially those squealed and shrieked by the deranged metal killer (my ears are still ringing). And as for the neat horror film references, they just get lost in the mayhem.

Stage Fright (2014)

It’s a careful tightrope act to get the horror/comedy balance just right in a spoof like this, but 1973’s Theatre of Blood proved you can be gory and gleeful at the same time – so long as you have someone of the calibre and range of Vincent Price to make it work. Meat Loaf (bless him) is a poor substitute.

Stage Fright (2014)

The death scenes are also too violent and too gory to chuckle at. They’re done without finesse, and feel at odds with the bright ‘gay’ musical numbers and the cast of mainly young children singing their little hearts out (bless them, too). Sorry Stage Fright, but it’s a ‘Next!’ from me.

Director Jerome Sable got this gig on the back of his 2010 sing-a-long short The Legend of Beaver Dam (watch it below). Let’s hope Ryan Murphy’s upcoming TV project Scream Queens might just be the ticket to give the slasher genre a bloody good send up.

Check out the official Facebook page and website

Stage Fright is available on DVD in the UK from Metrodome


Watch The Legend of Beaver Dam here

Ninjas vs Monsters (2013) | Universal’s classic monsters have nothing to fear from these amateurs

Ninjas Vs Monsters (2013)

The world’s greatest monsters have just met their match…
Hot on the heels of taking down a nest of vampires, a group of suburban American Ninja heroes take on Dracula, the Werewolf, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster and a coven of witches using their newly acquired supernatural powers. Let the games begin…

Ninjas Vs Monsters (2013)

‘It’s a joke and you’re the punchline’
Remember that scene in Disney’s Bambi where Mrs Rabbit asks Thumper what his father said about being impolite and Thumper replies: ‘If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all’? Well that’s how I feel about Ninjas vs Monsters.

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I’m sorry, but this really is just a ‘home’ movie featuring a bunch of friends larking about like 10-year-olds play-acting an episode of Power Rangers. How and why Eduardo Sanchez, the director of the DIY cult hit The Blair Witch Project and the excellent Lovely Molly, put his name to this amateurish effort is anyone’s guest. And did you know it’s the final film in a ‘trilogy’ that began with something called Zombie Contagion (aka Ninjas vs Zombies)?

Ninjas Vs Monsters (2013)

I’m afraid to admit, but I turned off after 20minutes. I just couldn’t handle the overacting, the terrible dialogue and the poor sound (though the makeup and sfx are actually better than you’d expect). Then I got to thinking about all the other films that have attempted to bring Universal’s classic monsters together. And looking down the list, they’re all pretty hit and miss. For me, you can’t beat House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and (yes!) Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). But what do you think?

Assignment Terror (1970)Assignment Terror (1970). Paul Naschy’s werewolf defeats an alien plot to use a vampire, a mummy and Frankenstein’s monster to take over the world. Michael Rennie’s also in this weird Euro trip, which I loved as a kid.



Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971)Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971). J Carrol Naish’s mad scientist revives his ancestor’s creation with the help of his mute assistant (the original Wolfman, Lon Chaney Jr), Dracula – and Forest J Ackerman!


The Monster SquadThe Monster Squad (1987). A group of monster kids save their hometown from Dracula and his army of monsters that include The Mummy, The Gill-Man, The Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster (all re-imagined by Stan Winston). Now this cult classic showed its worth when Lionsgate’s 2009 Blu-ray sold out in no time. There’s even a remake in the works. Nuff said!


House of Frankenstein (1997)House of Frankenstein (1997). Adrian Pasdar’s LA detective battles Greg Wise’s vampire and the Frankenstein monster while trying to save his werewolf girlfriend (Teri Polo) in this so-so TV movie.


Van HelsingVan Helsing (2004) Hugh Jackman’s vigilante monster hunter joins forces with Kate Beckinsale to take down Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in Stephen Sommers’ tongue-in-cheek blockbuster which filmgoers loved, but critics hated. I so wanted this to work out!


House of the Wolf Man


House of the Wolf Man (2009) Five strangers discover Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster and Lon Chaney Jr’s grandson (Ron Chaney) hiding out in an old castle that they’re in line to inherit.

The UK Blu-ray of Ninjas vs Monsters includes 2010’s Ninjas Vs Vampires, the second film in the trilogy (urgh!). Left Film’s Blu-ray and DVD releases also include commentaries with director Justin Timpane and co-producer Michael Dougherty, and comedy Trekoff commentary; auditions, deleted scenes, funny (its not, actually) alternative ending, a tribute to Brian Anderson (who did the visual effects), trailers and the Until We Drop Down Dead music video.

Check out the official website:

The House in Nightmare Park (1973) | Revisiting the British horror spoof starring comedy legend Frankie Howerd

House in Nightmare Park

Yoo-hoo! I’m here… the entertainment’s arrived!
In 1907, vain stage actor Foster Twelvetrees (Frankie Howerd) is invited to give a dramatic reading at a stately country house and discovers that he is heir to the family fortune and could provide a clue to the whereabouts of a stash of diamonds. But Foster’s newfound relatives are a bunch of crazy eccentrics, and one of them is a killer out to claim the diamonds for their own. Will the hammy Twelvetrees run out of one-liners before its too late?

House in Nightmare Park (1973)

I’ve played empty houses before, but blimey…
Drawing on the 1939 Bob Hope comedy The Cat and the Canary and the popular Carry On’s of the day, 1973’s The House in Nightmare Park from director Peter Sykes (best known for the superior Hammer chiller Demons of the Mind) and writers Clive Exton (Jeeves & Wooster) and Terry Nation (Doctor Who) was a film vehicle for British comedy legend Frankie Howerd.

House in Nightmare Park (1973)

It’s a riot of quotable dialogue (‘Do you play by ear? No, I use my fingers’), where Howerd gets to do his trademark vaudeville shtick on the big screen for a change. The film’s Old Dark House premise might be dated, but Howerd’s one-of-a-kind delivery really grabs the attention, as does the film’s setting – the gothic Oakley Court in Windsor, which was a popular choice of location for horror films of the period.

House in Nightmare Park (1973)

Ray Milland is the other big name here, playing one of the sinister brothers out to claim the family fortune for his own. He doesn’t do much here, and is really only truly sinister when he gets made up as a Raggedy Ann doll in a bizarre scene involving a weird musical act.

House in Nightmare Park (1973)

The Network Distributing DVD release, part of The British Film collection, includes a brand-new transfer from original film elements in its as-exhibited cinema aspect ratio, original theatrical trailer, London TV spot (an odd choice as its mute), and image gallery. A real bonus is the 30-minute music suite from Hammer horror composer Harry Robinson.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) | A fiendishly funny thrill ride that turns the horror genre inside out

Cabin in the Woods (2011)

The scenario is a well-trodden horror movie cliche: five college students head off for a weekend getaway, but their horny hi-jinks quickly turn to terror when they unwittingly unleash sinister forces. But before you starting yawning, you better take another look.

The Cabin in the Woods

In 2012’s The Cabin in the Woods, fan boy favourite Joss Whedon and Cloverfield scribe-turned-director Drew Goddard aren’t just churning out yet another haunted-house or slasher movie – they’ve actually conceived a fiendishly clever, mind-bending chiller that turns the horror genre inside out and holds its conventions up for close examination. But this satirical horror isn’t just a mischievous exercise in post-modern cleverness, it’s also a giddily funny, gulpingly scary, enormously entertaining thrill ride.

The Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Online from Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Varsity Blood (2014) | This babe and hunk slaying slasher is unashamedly old-school

Varsity Blood (2014)

The bitchy Hogeye High Varsity Cheer team and their dumb-headed jock boyfriends on the Warriors football team share a dark secret – last Halloween they were involved in the accidental death of the high school principal’s daughter Jenny during a party prank. Now, as Halloween approaches once again, the gang, along with new girl Hannah (Lexi Giovagnoli), head out to a remote abandoned farmhouse for a night of booze, blow and banging (hopefully). But waiting in the shadows is a killer – armed with an axe and dressed as their team mascot, an Indian warrior. But who is behind the mask? Could it be Jenny’s disturbed teen boyfriend Ben, who has just bailed out of rehab, or someone much closer to home?

Varsity Blood (2014)

Using John Carpenter’s Halloween, it’s sequel and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes: Part II as its blueprint, Varsity Blood is unashamedly an old school slasher right down to the Friday the 13th slashing string score, gratuitous near nudity and gory set pieces in which the vacuous good-looking cast get dispatched by hunting knife, shotgun, axe, bow and arrow and drowning in a toilet bowl (all mostly in the dark).

Varsity Blood (2014)

As you’d expect, the acting is pretty ropey, with scream queen icon Debbie Rochon turning up the demento-meter with her crazy momma turn, while Chris Hlozek, who plays Ben’s dad Rick, gets my vote as the worst actor this side of an Ed Wood movie. Despite the paint by numbers plot and typically cardboard characters, I actually found myself getting confused as to what was going on and who was who (well jocks and cheerleaders do lookalike, don’t they?). Plus, everyone talks really fast in some kind of Texan Valley speak. But if you listen real carefully, there are some LOL lines struggling to get out (check some of them out below).

Varsity Blood (2014)

Look out for the police dispatcher (Cindy Timms), whose sole purpose is to help us understand what the hell is going on. Now, is it just me or is she channelling Kimmy Robertson’s quirky Lucy Moran from Twin Peaks? Finally, a bit of trivia. It’s shot at the same high school where 1999’s Varsity Blues was filmed (which happens to be the alma mater of writer/director Jake Helgren).

Favourite lines:
Sex is like shooting a bunny – guaranteed to be greeted with guilt’ (Linda)
Your negativity is not helping anything’ (Heather)
My cheergina’s going to close up if you don’t do it already’ (Tina)
Damn meddling kids’ (Rick)

Varsity Blood is released on DVD in the UK from Image Entertainment

Harold and Maude (1971) | Hal Ashby’s life-affirming cult black comedy just gets better with age

Harold and Maude blu-ray

They met at the funeral of a perfect stranger. From then on, things got perfectly stranger
Feeling trapped and emotionally dead by his wealthy surroundings, 20-year-old Harold (Bud Cort) repeatedly stages his suicide in elaborate ways to annoy his society-conscious mother (Vivian Pickles), while attending other people’s funerals in a custom-built hearse.

Meeting Maude (Ruth Gordon), who is about to turn 80, at one of the services, Harold finds himself drawn to the free-spirit whose zest for life awakens something inside of him, and it is through her love that Harold begins to see life as something to be lived…

Harold and Maude

If you want to sing out… sing out
Like Ruth Gordon’s sprightly 79-year-old character, director Hal Ashby and screenwriter Colin Higgins’ life-affirming black comedy Harold and Maude just gets better with age. There’s a hugely uplifting quality to the film as well as wonderful sense of anarchic rebellion that speaks as much now as it did on its original release, where it became a cause célèbre among North American college audiences and enjoyed extended runs (some going for years like one cinema in Minneapolis where it ran for three years, much to the chagrin of the locals).

Key to the film’s longevity are its universal themes of life, death and resurrection (Maude sees death only as part of the life cycle and wants to return as a sunflower) and the unique chemistry between the two leads, whose characters’ 50-year age gap romance shocked audiences of the day. Bud Cort is quietly effective as the manchild Harold, while Ruth Gordon brings a subtle sense of sadness behind Maude’s wrinkly smiles.

Harold and Maude

While not a laugh out loud comedy, the film is packed with hilarious moments (Maude giving Tom Skerritt’s motorcycle cop the runaround is a highlight, while Charles Tyner‘s one-armed army captain Uncle Victor is a hoot) and the script is a quotable delight, with the best quips coming from Maude: ‘Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully’; ‘A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life’, and my favourite: ‘Oh my, how the world still dearly loves a cage.’

Also uplifting is Cat Steven’s hippie folk tunes and John Alonzo’s cinematography, which finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: a concrete Californian highway bathed in a gorgeous sunset, a picnic in a scrap yard, and the dilapidated railway carriage in which Maude resides, which looks like a bohemian gypsy caravan.

Harold and Maude

Alzono later scored an Oscar nomination for his work on Polanksi’s Chinatown in 1974, while Ashby (certainly one of Hollywood’s most underrated directors) would go on to helm the Oscar nominated Coming Home (1978) and Being There (1979), probably Peter Sellers’ finest performance on screen. Writer Higgins, meanwhile, ended up directing the comedy hits Foul Play and Nine to Five, before tragically succumbing to AIDS in 1988, aged 47. Ashby died the same year, from cancer, aged 59. Their legacy, however, is this unforgettable cult comedy. So, if you’re ever feeling down or at odds with the world, just let Harold and Maude in your life to make it that little bit better.

Harold and Maude

This is the first time in the UK that the cult black comedy has been made available on Blu-ray and features a newly restored 1080p high-definition master in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with a choice of original mono audio or stereo track and optional English subtitles. The extras include audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and producer Charles B Mulvehill and a video discussion by critic David Cairns. The booklet accompanying the release features archival interviews with Ashby, Higgins and Gordon alongside vintage imagery.

Return to Nuke ‘Em High – Volume One (2013) | This schlocky gloopy gorefest tips the scale in OTT tastelessness

Return to Nuke Em High Volume 1

From Troma mogul Lloyd Kaufman, comes a trashy new term for the Class of Nuke ‘Em High. The schlockmeister’s original 1986 film and its two sequels found the Tromaville High kids battling subhumanoid creatures spawned from radioactive waste seeping out of a nuclear power plant. In this long digested follow-up, the first in a two-part adventure (a la Kill Bill), more toxic shocks await the students and faculty, this time from mutant-morphing school dinners created by the Tromorganic Foodstuffs company, who have built their processing facility on the site of the old power plant.

Return to Nuke Em High Volume 1

When the Tromapoof’s Glee Club are transformed into the sociopathic Cretins gang after devouring glowing green tacos, eco-blogger Chrissy (Asta Paredes) and duck-loving rich girl Lauren (Catherine Corcoran) are forced together to deal with the monstrous mayhem. But while trying to take down the evil food giant, Chrissy and Lauren discover something stirring between them – could it be their twitching furry tacos?

Return to Nuke Em High Volume 1

If you’re easily offended, then look away now because Return to Nuke ‘Em High – Volume One is 85-minutes of OTT tastelessness, where boobs, bad acting, bodily fluids and lots of fluorescent gore are the order of the day. But this is Troma for Christ’s sake, so what did you think you were going to get?

Filled with unapologetic, non-PC humour, and peppered with references to Troma’s back catalogue, as well Glee, Carrie and Rock n Roll High School, this cheesy horror romp’s outrageousness will delight Troma fans, while newbies will be left in a state of deep shock by the puerile slapstick comedy – care for a giant penis, anyone?

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The legendary Stan Lee makes a cameo in the pre-credit sequence which features a cool retro theme tune (I can’t get it out of my head), while Motörhead’s Lemmy delivers an unintelligible turn as the US President (he desperately needs subtitles). But the strangest thing here is the inclusion of 18 tracks by the cult British punk cabaret act The Tiger Lillies, whose fabulously freaky dark circus sideshow tunes get swallowed up by the frenetic visuals (they belong in a different kind of film altogether).

If you do manage to stay until the end, you’ll discover the film stops abruptly; that’s because you have to wait until Volume Two (currently being filmed now) to find out what happens next (I can’t wait). A schlocky gloopy gorefest that’s a must-see for horror comedy fans.

Return to Nuke ‘Em High – Volume One is out on DVD in the UK from Anchor Bay Entertainment


Check out the 3min trailer…

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