Archives April 2012


Catharsis (Fokion Bogris, 2010)

The bygone era of grindhouse exploitation seems to be back and very much alive thanks, in some way, to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Well, that’s what the mainstream movie press would have you believe, anyway. The truth is, grindhouse filmmaking has never really gone away but instead, the various biker movies, sexploitation flicks and slashers have tended to bow on video formats rather than making a more auspicious debut on the fleapit cinema circuit. Other than re-creating the grindhouse experience (albeit with vast quantities of studio cash) the one thing that Rodriguez and Tarantino can be given some credit for however is in legitimising exploitation films once more. Rather than languishing in direct-to-DVD hell, many of the better efforts are getting theatrical releases, and HUMAN CENTIPEDE and the upcoming HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN are both examples of this. Fokion Bogris’s CATHARSIS is another such example, and the Greek revenge thriller is set for release in the cinemas of Greece next week.

CATHARSIS is the story of Esteban (Kostas Stefanakis – a stalwart of Greek cinema, with over 40 credits to his name) a former cop who was forced to leave the police after avenging the death of his beloved wife, who herself had died at the hands of unscrupulous criminals. Leaving his home in Crete and arriving in Athens unemployed, Esteban shacks up with his disabled uncle and sets about trying to find work. It’s not long before he’s unofficially employed by some shady cops (themselves under the guidance of an even shadier government minister) to eradicate Athens’s two largest crime syndicates, by whatever means necessary…

It is immediately evident from watching CATHARSIS that writer/director Bogris is not only familiar with exploitation conventions but has an immense passion for the films that defined them. There are many moments during the film when this reviewer was reminded of Italian genre cinema of the 1970s. As a matter of fact, there’s very little in CATHARSIS that reminds the viewer they’re seeing a contemporary film, and it is obvious that Bogris, his director of photography Domenico Fusco and composer Cygnosic have deliberately gone for a 70s aesthetic. The score, in particular, is at times reminiscent of vintage Goblin, and Fusco’s beautifully rendered compositions (utilising gels and filters) evoke the work of Luciano Tovoli and Romano Albani on SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, respectively. That said, the more stylised aspects of the film’s look are often counterbalanced with a grittiness that is closer to American grindhouse films of the 70s and 80s (James Glickenhaus’s THE EXTERMINATOR or William Lustig’s VIGILANTE, for example) than it is to the slicker visuals of Umberto Lenzi or Sergio Martino’s crime films.

It is not just the aesthetics that are clearly influenced by Italian crime and American vigilante movies, either. The plot of CATHARSIS also follows closely the winning formula that made the exploitation films of the seventies so enjoyable. Many of the situations that Esteban and the villains of the piece find themselves are as calculated in creating memorable moments of savage violence as they are in propelling the narrative. Granted there’s nothing here thematically that’s remotely original, but it more than gets by on Bogris’s style and love for the medium.

In conclusion I’d wholeheartedly recommend CATHARSIS to any other lover of exploitation movies. In making the film Fokion Bogris has not only created a terrific ode to grindhouse but also a calling card that will hopefully allow him to carry on paying homage to the films he so clearly loves.                                                                                              (Paul Alaoui)


Hanna D

Hanna D (Rino Di Silvestro, 1984)

The Girl from Vondel Park

This Amsterdam-shot, Italian/French-produced rip-off of Uli Edel’s depressing CHRISTIANE F. opens with the seduction of schoolgirl Hanna (Ann Gisel Glass) in a train compartment by an older man while her father is elsewhere.  It turns out that Hanna is not-so-innocent as the man who seemed to be her father is actually her pimp and after the older man leaves, he’s got a three-way with a couple organized.  Hanna’s mother (Karin Schubert) is a drunken nympho whose toyboy Hans is constantly walking out on her and then coming back when he needs money (we learn in a flashback that Hans had tried to molest Hanna and that Hanna’s mother blames her for the incident and constantly sends her to get Hans back).

When Hanna gets fed up with whoring to support her mother – who blames her for her supposed loss of looks and her “beastly” body – she walks out and takes to the streets to turn tricks for her own profit.  Despite discovering the body of a friend overdosed on heroin and witnessing a strung-out man kill himself, Hanna also takes to the drug to deaden her emotional pain (though she is seen earlier sniffing coke).  Hanna is rescued from a scuffle with a territorial prostitute by motorcycle-riding Miguel (Antonio Serrano).

No sooner has Miguel wined and dined Hanna and taken her into his bed (in one of the film’s dissolve-heavy love scenes) than he is getting her into work in porn films with him as her manager.  Not one to put all his eggs into one basket, he also has her hooking by night to further supplement their income.  Things take a turn when Hanna meets Axel (Sebastiano Somma) who falls in love with her.  Things turn ugly when a romp through Amsterdam causes Hanna to miss an important appointment set up by Miguel.  While visiting a prostitute friend, Hanna is caught in a raid and jailed where she goes through withdrawal; fortunately, her fellow hookers have what she needs hidden in various orifices.  Miguel bullies Hanna’s mother into appealing to the judge’s sympathies and getting Hanna out of jail.  While explaining to Miguel why she missed the appointment and got caught in the raid, Hanna neglects to mention anything about Axel but Miguel already has his thugs finding out the truth.  Hanna tries to keep her distance from Axel but he persists and gets beaten by Miguel’s thugs for his efforts.  Hanna professes her love for Axel to Miguel who seems to have genuinely fallen for her despite his brutality and degrading remarks.  Hanna is sent back onto the streets as a prostitute by Miguel.  She is so strung out that she does not notice that her latest client is Axel who steals her away to his home and forces her into withdrawal and then goes after Miguel despite Hanna’s pleas.

Directed by Rino Di Silvestro (WEREWOLF WOMAN) under the name “Axel Berger” (but scripted under his own name), HANNA D. is a co-production between France’s Jacques Letienne and Italy’s Beatrice Film who produced several eighties films directed by this film’s editor Bruno Mattei including VIRUS, RATS: NIGHTS OF TERROR and the two Laura Gemser/Emanuelle prison movies.  Composer Luigi Ceccarelli (also a veteran of several eighties Mattei productions) provides a nice electronic score as well as a cloying theme song (actually not that bad in context).  The happy ending may seem inappropriate and a cop-out but director Di Silvestro reveals in the DVD’s interview his belief in redemption after a descent into hell.  Even without that context, it is obvious that the director feels great sympathy for Hanna (perhaps too much as there are so many shots in which the camera holds on beautifully lit “perfect” static shots of Hanna staring off into nothing whether drugged, delirious, devastated, or happy).  The participation of cinematographer Franco Delli Colli (WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO OUR DAUGHTERS?) also suggests the lofty aspirations of Di Silvestro and his producers Jacques Letienne and Roberto Di Girolamo.  Delli Colli’s lighting is consistently beautiful with even the sleaziest of Hanna’s sexual encounters bathed in warm gold light and the various warehouses the prostitutes hang out in streaked in blue light contrasting with the bonfires.  Some thought also seems to have gone into the colours of the clothing and set dressings as they also contribute to the pleasing compositions.  The opening credits also thank Italian clothier Francesco Casani for the tailoring of leather and furs for the film (and the prostitutes do look smashing in them throughout).

Glass (dubbed by Pat Starke) certainly possesses the angelic look that Di Silvestro says he was looking for when he picked a French actress and she acquits herself believably throughout (her abrupt changes of mood throughout can be blamed more on the editing which tries to surprise us by transitioning from scenes of Hanna in love to Hanna taking another shot of heroin in an eyelid or in her hair and vice versa.  Schubert (dubbed by Carolyn De Fonseca) gives her all as Hanna’s mother; doffing her clothes as usual but also getting to do a lot of crying and shouting.  Somma (dubbed by Ted Russoff, I think) is okay as Hanna’s true love but he is upstaged by Lombardi as Hanna’s pimp/lover Miguel.  As soon as Somma came onscreen, I kept wondering where I had seen him before but I could not place his face in any film but a look at his IMDB filmography reveals that he was the Swiss cop who talks to Cristina Marsillach in the last scene of Argento’s OPERA).

Severin’s DVD presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen (1.77:1) progressive scan transfer which looks quite good with ravishingly attractive colours and only the slightest bit of speckling in one or two shots that may be due to the processing rather than the age of the source.  There is a glitch in an insert shot during the jail scene shoot-up but that glitch also appears in the scene when it is repeated in the documentary so it may be evidence of damaged frames.  Audio is generally clear.  The constant cropping off of the top of heads suggests that a 1.66:1 aspect ratio might have been better suited to the film (it starts to become distracting once you first notice it) but the aspect ratio choice was likely the decision of the licensor Filmexport (from what I’ve been told about other materials acquired from them for another company) but the framing does not seem to obscure nudity which seemed to be the point of contention with the framing of the R1 transfer of Filmexport’s other Di Silvestro holding WEREWOLF WOMAN.  The music – both Ceccarelli’s score and the very eighties theme song – come through boldly while dialogue levels vary but are generally discernable and may be the result of the original mix.

An English language theatrical trailer gives us plenty of cringe-inducing shots of needles about to be injected into various places but holds back on the nudity and gore (the trailer and the film bear a disclaimer stating that the resemblance between those who suffer like Hanna is NOT casual).  Rino Di Silvestro provides a 45 minute interview (shot shortly before his death this year) in which he addresses the critical response to the ending, the casting of the French Glass over Italian actresses, his partnership with Roberto Di Girolamo (from which he likely met Mattei and crew), his working relationship with Delli Colli, the week-long location shoot in Amsterdam and trying to match it with the four week Italian shoot, and his philosophy of storytelling.  Di Silvestro does not mention CHRISTIANE F. but is adamant in stating that this was a story he wanted to tell despite the sources of inspiration that critics have ascribed to the film.

Matting issues aside, Severin Films’ DVD of HANNA D. is an exemplary release thanks to a beautiful transfer and an engrossing interview with the late director.  Di Silvestro’s genuine feeling for the script, the film, and his collaborators comes through not only in the film but also the quality presentation of the disc and its extras (certain other companies would do well to follow their example).  Viewers who think they have seen it all would do well to seek this film out (especially those that think Italian exploitation was already dead in the eighties).                                                                                                     (Eric Cotenas)


So Sweet, So Dead

So Sweet, So Dead (Roberto Bianchi Montero, 1972)

aka Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile

For my money there are two key gialli that helped shape the genre, I’m not talking about films that helped create the genre, but films that gave it a direction for imitators to follow. The first was Argento’s 1970 debut, THE BIRD WITH CRYSTAL PLUMMAGE. This gave us the ‘innocent civilian caught up in a police hunt’ angle that would become a major staple of the genre. It’s also a high-tier movie that strives beyond its genre trappings, whereas the second feature I find an inspiration for the genre played very much too those trappings, Sergio Martino’s excellent 1971 effort, THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH. A film that focused more on the de-robing of its actresses, before slashing them to ribbons, than it was on the revelation of the culprit.

The latter is also the inspiration for the latest release from Camera Obscura, 1972’s SO SWEET, SO DEAD from Roberto Bianchi Montero; father of SATAN’S BABY DOLL’s Mario Bianchi. Montero also shares more in common with Martino than their admiration of breasts and bloodshed, in as much as they’re both ‘jack of all trade’ types within the Italian film industry; turning their hands to various genres during the course of their careers, from Westerns to sex comedies via mondo documentaries, although Martino didn’t go as far as Montero, who took the plunge into hardcore porn towards the end of his career.

Hitchcock favourite, Farley Granger, stars as Inspector Capuana, a big city cop living the easy life in a well to-do town. Only the peace isn’t going to last long, as a sexual maniac – or as some call him – moral avenger, is on the loose dispatching the unfaithful wives of the towns successful husbands. As the bodies pile up, the only clue left at the scene is the photographic evidence of the wives betrayal; due to political pressure Capuana is urged to stay out of the lives of the wealthy and focus on the obvious low-rent who is behind the killing spree. Capuana takes action by setting up an innocent man, causing the killer to take drastic action to reclaim his mantle.

An outdated Catholic morality tale may come across a little misogynistic 40 years after the fact, but the film is hard to label as such as all the characters, male and female, are depicted as liars and cheaters. It’s more of an attack on the upper-class than an attack on women. The widowers wish to keep the fact that their wives had cheated on them out of the press due to the damage it would do to their reputations, it all indicates the film is a product of a time that we will have to have lived in to have fully understood, a time where men were expected to have a mistress and wives were expected to deal with it silently, however, for a man to be cuckold was enough to ruin his career.

The real issue facing the film is the distracting second act. After a gripping and quite frankly excellent first half hour, the film oddly decides to shift focus from Capuana’s investigation to pay homage to Argento’s preferred modus operandi of having an innocent witness get caught up in the investigation after seeing the killer at work. It throws the film’s flow slightly and isn’t as interesting as the opening act, but it does finally shift back to focus on Capuana’s investigation before the brilliant, and still controversial, finale.

Where the film does shine though is in its audacity. Martino brought an increased level of sex and violence to the genre, but Montero takes it into overdrive here. Bringing with him a truckload of Euro-starlets, he provides the audience with enough nudity to carry three movies of this ilk. Actresses such as Femi Benussi (THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN) and Nieves Navarro (DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT) have pretty much been hired to strip, run, scream and get covered in fake blood; unrewarding work sure but it helps maintain the films pace and momentum perfectly, so sterling work all round.  Montero always amps up the style for his murder set-pieces, some are more effective than others; for instance a murder early in the film, on a beach, is greatly realised (why are night for day shots so endearing?) but over does it on the slow-motion. The scene overdoes it to the point of laughter.

Much has been made of the US X-rated re-edit of this film known as ‘PENETRATION’ which featured inserted hardcore sequences with Porn legends Harry Reems, Marc Stevens and Tina Russell. Camera Obscura were initially going to provide that alternate version, but source elements foiled their plans, how the film would play with hardcore inserts is questionable as the film really is classier than it may sound and the inserts will no doubt cheapen the effect of the film. Still, it would have made a great addition as a curio; what with Farley Granger seemingly sharing the screen with Harry Reems!

What they have provided us with though is, hands down, the definitive release of the film. Being rescued from obscurity would have been lucky enough for the film, but Camera Obscura have gone above and beyond once again, providing fans with a brilliant looking anamorphic print that suffers only two instances of poor quality due to the difference in source material. The inferior material pads-out a sex scene and adds a little bit of missing dialogue that really wouldn’t have harmed the film if it were omitted, but always the perfectionists, they’ve provided the longest print available. They included both the Italian dub and the German dub of the film, which comes with flawless English subtitles.

As with previous releases the digi-pack contains the gorgeous original poster art with the cardboard inbox housing the disc and liner notes from German Cult specialist Christian Kessler, who offers his thoughts on the movie in a small essay. On the disc we have ‘Revelations of a Jazz Maniac’ which is an in-depth interview with the film’s composer, Giorgio Gaslini. There’s also an audio commentary from Kessler and fellow Cult enthusiast Marcus Stiglegger, which is in German but once again English subtitles are thankfully provided. The final extra is pretty sweet, in a geeky sense, as it’s a French photo novel that plays out to the films soundtrack; once again English subtitles are provided. The only thing that’s missing is a trailer, but they’ve more than compensated for that. Again Camera Obscura have done a grade-A job on rescuing a much deserved title from the depths of obscurity, this release is essential for any fan of the Giallo genre or Italian Cult film.


(Phillip Escott)


Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (Jake West & Marc Morris, 2010)

In the early eighties, video was in its infancy and not subject to classification by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification).  As such, a flood of European (mainly Italian) and American horror pics made their way to video uncensored and into the small rental collections of auto garages, sweets shops, sporting goods stores, and new agents for children to watch after school and at parties which were usually capped off by a gang rape or acts of mutilation or multiple murder… or so the moral majority would have you believe.  The Video Nasties debacle of the 1980s in Britain was as much about political posturing as it was about concern over a supposed increasing moral decline.  Moral crusader (read: spoilsport) Mary Whitehouse started the “Clean Up TV Campaign” in 1964 and proceeded to attack DOCTOR WHO, Benny Hill, and the show TIL DEATH DO US PART (the inspiration for the American TV show ALL IN THE FAMILY).  She extended her attacks to gay publications, the theatre, and finally video under Thatcher’s government (thank you, wikipedia).

The term “Video Nasty” made the mainstream in an episode of the sitcom THE YOUNG ONES in which the gang plan to watch NIGHTMARE MAKER.  The video company that released CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST didn’t help things by sending a copy of the film to Whitehouse hoping to get some notoriety out of her reaction (which worked – Ed).  The artwork for that release soon gained an iconic significance for the opposition (illustrating several conservative-minded articles).  When it was determined that the Obscene Publications Act could be applied to video seen as “intending to deprave and corrupt” the Director of Public Prosecution drew up a list and videos were soon seized from shops across the UK.  Video Nasties became an easy scapegoat for all and any, and it wasn’t just the  politicians, either. The police could use it to explain the crime rate, parents could use it to explain unruly behaviour, and the legal community could use it as a defence in cases involving heinous crimes.  Police would seize the entire stock inventories of some video stores and made overtime pay reviewing each and every film!  Distributor David Hamilton Grant was arrested for distributing a video release of Romano Scavolini’s NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN that ran a few seconds longer than the BBFC approved cut.  Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson represented Grant and brought in respected film critic Derek Malcolm to assess the merit NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN but the judge was unsympathetic and Grant got eighteen months in prison.  Palace Pictures’ Nik Powell had better luck when he appeared in court to challenge the ruling on THE EVIL DEAD (which had already been awarded an “X” certificate by the BBFC for its theatrical showings, TENEBRAE was also certified before it made the list).

Whitehouse approached MP Graham Bright who put the Video Recordings Act before parliament.  Journalist Martin Barker – who had – was asked to write an article on Video Nasties.  When his article was not suitably condemning, he was harangued by phone at work and at home.  On behalf of parliament, an unconnected committee appointed itself to study the effects of these films on children, sending questionnaires to schools all over the country.  The Oxford-produced data was reportedly seized illegally by the committee and a report published by the committee stating that 40% of children were watching Video Nasties.  Barker followed up on the study and was able to obtain backups of all of the work.  He discovered that there were only forty-seven respondents to the questionnaire (Barker points out the rudeness of these moral representatives when trying to have a reasonable discussion with them while Beth Johnson points out their superior attitude, suggesting that they can watch these films and not be corrupted but not the masses – which brings to mind an infamous comment James Ferman made about TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE).  Despite publication of these facts, the official results had their bearing on the passing of the Video Recordings Act.

It is easy to side with anyone from the critics to Barker and Robertson but director West lets Bright dig his own grave – Kruger seems neither proud nor regretful of his actions – and the clips of other participants like Whitehouse speak for themselves.  For all the comments speculating on the type of people who find some of the lesser examples of these films objectionable, the arrogance of Whitehouse and the ignorance of Bright (and one or two other MPs), the matter-of-factness of Kruger and Ferman, and the relatable exasperated bewilderment of Robertson and Barker, Brunel University’s cult film lecturer Xavier Mendik reminds us that the Video Nasties debacle actually ruined lives.  People were fined or jailed, had all of their merchandise seized (including non-list titles to make sure for example, that BAMBI was actually the film on the cassette), and business owners their reputations sullied by visits and raids by the porn squad.  Barker reminds us that these representatives of moral standards committed fraud and were more concerned with winning an argument (I do question the use of uplifting music during Barker’s closing speech which is relevant and powerful without the need of musical editorializing).

The Video Nasties debacle is a labyrinthine story that has spawned several books and documentaries.  I haven’t read or seen most of them but Jake West’s VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP, AND VIDEOTAPE not only seems fairly comprehensive but also an engrossing 71 minutes.  The interviews are cleanly shot while the archival footage varies in quality understandably.  While the archival footage exhibits real overscan tracking lines at the bottom of the frame, West and his editors do indulge in recreating the VHS tracking, dropout, and generational duplication defects to goose up the visuals and the results look authentic (and pleasurable here as opposed to their appearances on the actual movies).  The stereo soundtrack is mostly dialogue (and trailer excerpts and news footage with mono sound) but there is occasional musical accompaniment where the soundscape becomes more active (notably The Damned’s “Nasty”).  The disc also includes a logo “Ident-a-thon” which features an alphabetical sequence of classic video logos both familiar and unfamiliar.  The scene menu screen breaks the logos up into A-C, D-F, and so-on.  There are two Easter Eggs on this page which link to excerpts from the documentary’s premiere panel.  There are two more Easter Eggs on the main scene selection page which I’ll leave the viewer to discover.  Also interviewed are filmmakers Chris Smith (CREEP), Neil Marshall (DOG SOLDIERS), and stage director Andy Nyman, all of whom were kids during the Nasty panic and were inspired in their own work by the Nasties.  Actress Emily Booth appears in an amusing opening and some interstitial bits (including one well-done sequence where she gets attacked by a videotape) but most of her participation is on Discs 2 and 3 for the documentary is only the first disc of a three disc extravaganza.  Disc 2 features trailers for all 39 of the Video Nasties with contextual introductions as well as an artwork gallery.  Disc 3 features the trailers and introductions for the 33 titles dropped from the list.

Some titles made the list on the basis of certain buzzwords.  While CANNIBAL HOLOCUST, CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, and CANNIBAL FEROX feature objectionable content, CANNIBAL MAN seems to have made the list through association (and the opening which features some slaughterhouse stock footage) as well as the eventually dropped DEEP RIVER SAVAGES, “cannibal lite” PRISONER OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (whose animal violence was more objectionable) and the ridiculously stupid CANNIBAL TERROR while the ludicrous DEVIL HUNTER (the pre-cert of which still fetches ridiculous prices) remains on the list.  DON’T GO IN THE WOODS somehow wound up on the list (I know there are about 30 kills in the first half-hour but, wow, this one is incompetent) and three other “DON’T” titles were investigated.  While DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE was eventually dropped from the list despite some strong content, the loopy but harmless DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT and the downright stupid DON’T GO IN THE PARK probably gained more of an audience for their brief listings.  Although TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE was never on the list, its notoriety lead to scrutiny of Hooper’s compromised EATEN ALIVE (under the title DEATH TRAP) and his very mainstream THE FUNHOUSE (although commentator Allan Bryce suggests that the latter may have also attracted attention because of the alternate title to Roger Watkins’ LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET).  Also perhaps through association with Hooper’s horror debut, the depiction of tools in the artwork or the title made titles subject to the wrong kind of attention for fear of imitative violence.  As such, AXE and THE DRILLER KILLER (the artwork of which is used as an example by one of the detractors in the documentary), as well as the dropped PRANKS (with its baseball bat artwork) and perhaps UNHINGED with its scythe-swaying grim reaper cover.  HUMAN EXPERIMENTS was also briefly on the list and Newman speculates that the word “experiments” likely drew association with the several Nazisploitation pics on the list (BEAST IN HEAT, GESTAPO’S LAST ORGY, LOVE CAMP, and SS EXPERIMENT CAMP).  BLOODY MOON featured many power tool deaths too but it also featured some taboo “blood and breasts” imagery.  The listing of EVILSPEAK may be mystifying to American viewers since the distributors hacked every single bit of gore out of the US version to gain an R-rating (although the US and UK DVDs are now uncut).  Ovidio G. Assonitis’ MADHOUSE seems to have only made the list for the “drilled dog” scene (which is still cut from the awful UK DVD) despite how fake the dog head looks in the scene.  Bright and company apparently bought the claims that SNUFF was a real film (Bright is quoted in the documentary as saying that some of the Nasty films were made in South America, which, alas, did not cause an international incident).  The listing of FOREST OF FEAR, known to Americans as TOXIC ZOMBIES or THE BLOODEATERS, seems to be just as puzzling to the Brits as it is the US viewers (particularly since the FOREST OF FEAR cover art was not even remotely provocative).  THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS and THE BIG RED ONE were also seized on the basis of their titles.

The thirty-three titles eventually dropped from the official list; not because of official reactions similar to those of the commentators here, but because they felt they could not insure successful prosecution on these titles.  Like the thirty-nine trailers on the previous disc, the “Dropped 33” are a diverse array of art and trash, several of which provoke the same kind of bewilderment as some of the official Video Nasties.  Among the artier fare are Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION (which was considered trashy by much of the British press at the time despite Adjani’s Cannes and César Best Actress awards) and Dario Argento’s INFERNO (which had its objectionable cat-eating-mouse scene cut for the tape release but restored for its recent DVD and Blu-ray editions).  Among the trash is the dreadfully boring I MISS YOU, HUGS & KISSES with Elke Sommer (which was also titled DROP DEAD DARLING although I saw it in the US under the title LEFT FOR DEAD) and THE FROZEN SCREAM.   Curiously, a couple commentators on the titles starting with “DON’T” suggest that they were the likely inspiration for Edgar Wright’s fake trailer for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarrentino’s GRINDHOUSE but it seems directly inspired by the narration for the trailer for Tony Maylem’s THE BURNING (which is featured on Disc 2).  Others like NIGHT SCHOOL seemingly made the list because of the imagery of women being menaced by figures with knives.  Jones believes that LATE NIGHT TRAINS (although its tape face label refers to as DON’T RIDE ON LATE NIGHT TRAINS, it has the familiar onscreen title NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS) should still be on the Video Nasty list (given the logic).  He follows up on comments Mendik made on HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK about social class here in discussing the subtle acting gestures of Macha Meril’s “Lady on the Train.”

Both Disc 2 (“The Final 39”) and Disc 3 (“The Dropped 33”) feature the options to play the trailers with or without their introduction as well as English subtitles for the trailer audio (with narration in uppercase to distinguish it from dialogue).  The introductions – which feature comments from Morris, Kim Newman, Alan Jones, Stephen Thrower, Xavier Mendik, Brunel journalism professor Dr. Julian Petley, and Dr. Patricia MacCormack of Anglia Ruskin University, and TV presenter Emily Booth – are sometimes strained but generally vary from truly informative to entertaining.  Kim Newman compares BAY OF BLOOD to LA RONDE and is understandably dumbfounded by FROZEN SCREAM (he points out that the complete synopsis on the back of the box was quite helpful when viewing the film).  Marc Morris gives us the backstory on FACES OF DEATH (the pre-cert of which was missing ten minutes, including the scene featuring the cover imagery) and puzzles the authorship of the jaw-dropping CANNIBAL TERROR.  On both discs, Stephen Thrower makes some interesting arguments for some unlikely films like the “melancholy” AXE and the deliberate artistic choices of DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE.  Allen Bryce gives a couple DVD cover art-worthy quotes such as “a very immobile vampire flick” for DON’T GO IN THE PARK and describes the Mykonos of Niko Mastorakis’ ISLAND OF DEATH as a place “where men are men and sheep are scared.”  MacCormack’s introductions are at times overly-academic but usually thought-provoking.  Her thoughts on REVENGE OF THE BOGEY MAN and FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN are interesting and it would have been nice to hear her talk about POSSESSION (although, as mentioned above, Thrower does an excellent job discussing the film).  Strangely, she does not have much of interest to say about THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA which has got tattoos and castration and I’m still puzzling her “baroque interpretation of the body” comment on THE BEYOND.  Mendik’s and Petley’s contextual analyses are a bit more audience friendly.  Mendik argues for the artistic merits of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and the distancing effects during the rape scenes in HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (whose tape release was cut by 11 minutes).  Booth sounds as though she’s auditioning to be a TV horror hostess (fusing her somehow with MacCormack might make for an Elvira-esque figure), especially during her spoiler-filled introduction for KILLER NUN while WEREWOLF AND THE YETI is more suited to her gushing. (Emily Booth actually presented horror and cult-related shows on UK TV – Ed). There are some where the presenters were reaching for things to say about the films but those strained comments were appropriate to how bad the films were.  Morris, for instance, keeps things short and painless for the short trailer for the extremely painful MARDI GRAS MASSACRE while Newman points out the irony of the title ABSURD (the English export title for ANTHROPOPHAGUS 2) as well as its French title HORRIBLE but otherwise can barely sum up the energy to ridicule the film.

Besides the box art galleries for both sets of films and the collection of video logos on the 3 discs, there are some interesting extras to be found inside the trailer introductions themselves.  Alan Jones shows us his unused LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE vomit bag from the original press screening, a “guess the brain weight” press screening invitation to NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN, as well as the atypical gatefold sleeve for EXPOSE (the only British film on the list).  Petley tells us about the two alternate nude and non-nude SS EXPERIMENT CAMP covers.  The introductions to THE EVIL DEAD, TENEBRAE, DEATH TRAP and DEAD AND BURIED include rare UK TV spots.  Filmmaker Chris Smith (CREEP, TRIANGLE) makes an appearance during the discussion of UNHINGED which he rented as a kid for a party.  Fooled by the box art, the kids watched an hour and a half of talking and wandering around before all three of the potential final girls were dispatched.  Smith also turns up with some memories during the introductions to NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (re: the infamous motorcyclist’s death) and Fulci’s ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS.  A subtitled interview with Ruggero Deodato is excerpted during discussions of his Video Nasty list films CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK.   An additional titbit from Disc 3 is that MacCormack has a tattoo inspired by Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND while Jones has one inspired by Dario Argento’s INFERNO (two titles which were dropped from the final list).

The alphabetical ordering of the trailers makes for some awkwardness.  Discussion of ABSURD precedes ANTHROPOPHAGUS and Petley informs us on two separate occasions of the Nazisploitation preceding THE NIGHT PORTER and originating in the “women in prison” sub-genre.  The alphabetical ordering certainly makes it easier to search among the thirty-nine trailers (and the “Dropped 33” on Disc 3) but perhaps some alternate navigation could have been programmed into the DVDs to alternately organize them by “Zombies/Werewolves,” “Rape/Revenge,” “Stalkers/Slashers,” et cetera.  While clip-licensing might have been a big issue, the use of sequences from the trailers within the introductions sometimes undercuts some of the thrill of seeing the trailer itself (even if only a couple are truly rare and haven’t been seen on other trailer comps or DVD release of the titles).  While several of the trailers are easily source-able from remastered DVDs, several of the rarer ones have been meticulously recreated by Marc Morris (continuing his standout work from the GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS volumes).  The fonts and compositing of the recreated titles sometimes stand out from the background video in an unconvincing manner and some text screens that could not be recreated result in the 16:9 trailers bouncing back to pillar-boxed 4:3 for these shots (for instance, VISITING HOURS and the rare French trailer for WEREWOLF AND THE YETI).  While there is some entertainment value in seeing trailers in scratchy and splicy condition on Something Weird Video releases and the like, the focus on this release is on the content of the advertising rather than nostalgia.  My review copies were single-layered but it has been confirmed that the pressed discs will be dual-layered which is a good thing because these discs are all seriously PACKED (Disc 2 is over 4 hours and Disc 3 is 3 1/2 hours when the trailers are played with their introductions).  The increase in bitrate may also make it easier to appreciate the spine labels of all of the rare pre-certs on the shelves behind some of the commentators (as well as perhaps eeking out a bit more resolution from some of the poorer-looking trailers).

(Eric Cotenas)


Crucible of Terror

Crucible of Terror (Ted Hooker, 1971)

 When backer Brent (Kenneth Keeling) is told he cannot have a mysterious bronze nude of a Japanese woman, he demands a return on his investment from gallery owner Davis (James Bolam, O LUCKY MAN!) before he returns from his business trip (we later see Brent break into the gallery to steal the bronze only to be murdered by an unseen assailant).  Davis decides that he must get his hands on more work by the artist Victor Clare (Mike Raven, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE) but the artist’s son Mike (Ronald Lacey, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) is reluctant to approach his father since he had stolen the bronze.  Davis suggests that cold hard cash might do the trick so he, his girlfriend Millie (Mary Maude, THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED), Mike, and his wife Jane (Beth Morris) head down to Cornwall to the artist’s remote home near a condemned mine where the artist lives with his wife Dorothy (Betty Alberge, who also appeared with Raven in DISCIPLE OF DEATH) who has been driven mad by his cruelty, family friend Bill (John Arnatt, HYSTERIA), and model Marcia (Judy Matheson, TWINS OF EVIL).

Davis discovers that Victor is a painter and learns from Mike that the bronze was his only sculpture, that the model Chi-San (Me Me Lai, THE ELEMENT OF CRIME) belonged to a strange religious cult that believed the dead could control the living and that she mysteriously disappeared after the sculpture was made (hmm…).  Although Victor is less than hospitable to his son, his daughter-in-law, and Davis, Millie catches his eye and he wants her to model for him (much to the annoyance of Marcia).  That night after a failed seduction of Jane by Victor, she is murdered and her body hidden.  Victor endeavours to separate Davis from Millie by telling him he’ll make a deal with him if he can get the cash right away.  Davis drives back to London to ask Brent’s wife (Melissa Stribling, HORROR OF DRACULA) for another loan.  Meanwhile, more houseguests are taken out by an unseen killer as Victor tries to convince Millie to model for his next sculpture.

The only directorial effort of former editor Ted Hooker, CRUCIBLE OF TERROR is a mess of thriller and supernatural elements.  We know who is responsible for the opening credits murder but then the film builds up suspense out of the subsequent killings with a bunch of suspects (dotty Dorothy with a fascination for razors, jealous Marcia, Bill polishing his Japanese swords) who are obviously red herrings.  Other critics have cited (in its uncut form) its seeming influence on the gorier Italian gialli of the mid seventies and onwards but the killer’s identity and motive here are linked to an early incident so trivial it is forgotten as irrelevant by the ending and it has to be explained with flashbacks by someone who was not present at any of those scenes.

Shot and produced by former cinematographer Peter Newbrook, the film wrings some wonderful atmosphere out of the Cornish seaside exteriors (although the incompetent use of a diffusing scrim in front of the camera lens makes one wonder if Newbrook actually looked through the lens to frame the shot).  Raven is not as menacing as he would like to be and Maude has little to do but run around (she fared better as the sadistic head girl in Narcisco Serrador’s THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED and in her witch-burner cameo in Norman Warren’s TERROR).  Only Alberge and Lacey make impressions as mad mother and drunk son but some of the killings are striking for an early seventies British pic and its certainly better than Raven’s self-financed 16mm blow-up period horror pic DISCIPLE OF DEATH.

Seemingly in the public domain, it appeared on several videotape editions in a horrendously cut version (whether this reflected a US theatrical version or a TV version is not known).  Even Video Gems’ lovely clamshell cased “UNCENSORED” version was the cut edition.  Of course, few were aware that this film had anything more to offer until it appeared on US DVD from Image Entertainment in 2000 with some rarely seen gore and extended scenes.  The colour and sharpness of that release was an improvement over previous versions but the unmatted (although framed at 1.44:1 with side mattes), single-layer image was interlaced.

Severin’s single-layer anamorphic version features a progressive image from a rare 35mm print that is a noticeable improvement over the Image release (reportedly loaned to Severin by “a Bodmin Moor coven”).  Audio is louder with some hiss and some rare high-end distortion on the score and sound effects.  References cite a 1.66:1 OAR but the 1.78:1 framing does not impede any of the compositions.  The disc has no extras while the earlier Image disc featured a Spanish track and a Music and Effects track (it’s really not that great a score).  The Image disc runs slightly longer due to the inclusion of the licensor logo.                                                                                                                  (Eric Cotenas)


Cine-Excess VI – Full Schedule

Cine-Excess VI  – Transglobal Excess: The Art and Atrocity of Cult Adaptation

24 to 26 May 2012 – Odeon Covent Garden & The Italian Cultural Institute, London


Final Programme

Thursday 24th May 2012 (ODEON COVENT GARDEN)

Conference Registration 11.30 -1pm
1pm-1.15pm Conference Welcome/Conference Opening
1.15pm-2.45pm Panel 1 The American Nightmare: Visions of Adaptation and Excess
Chair: Kate Eagan
1. Laura Mee, (De Montfort University) “Think you can bring the dead back to life?”: Platinum Dunes and the Horror Franchise Reboot.
2. Wickham Clayton (Roehampton University) “Unnatural, unnatural, unnatural, unnatural, unnatural!”… but real?: The Toolbox Murders as a True Story Adaptation, or Not
3. Aaron McMullan (King’s College, London) “Blowback Horror: Adaptation, Interrogation and Revelation in Post-9/11 American Horror Cinema.
3pm-3.30pm Coffee
3.30pm-5pm Panel 2 Transnational Excess: Cross-Cultural Studies in Adaptation
Chair: Leon Hunt
1. Ben Halligan (Salford University) Factory as Laboratory: Vinyl – Andy Warhol’s A Clockwork Orange.
2. Alex Marlow-Mann (St Andrews University) Feeling across Borders: Transcultural Appropriation and Sensorial Embodiment in Cattet and Forzani’s Amer (2009).
3. Adrian Horrocks (Anglia Ruskin University) Modern French Horror: Foreign Genre Cinema as Site of Adaptation and Allegory.
6.30pm-7.30pm Script to Scream: The Time Out Magazine and Cine-Excess Discussion – The Art of Cult Adaptation
8pm-9.30pm Cine-Excess UK Theatrical Premiere 1: Closed Circuit Extreme (Giorgio Amato, 2011)
10pm -11.30pm Cine-Excess UK Theatrical Premiere 2: Shiver (Julian Richards, 2011)


Friday 25th May 2012 (ODEON COVENT GARDEN)

Registration/Coffee 9.30am-10am
10am-11.45am Panel 3 Literature, Lust and Laughs: Cult Adaptations of the Erotic
Chair: Mark Goodall
1. Clarissa Smith (Sunderland University) A Mother’s Love Cannot be Denied: Ma Mere.
2. Sarah Harman (Brunel University) Returning to Roissy: Just Jaeckin and’s adaptations of the Story of O.
3. Tamao Nakahara (Independent Scholar) New Hats and Shoes: Cross-Dressing in 1970s Italian Sex Comedies.
11.45am-12.00pm Coffee
12.00pm-1pm Keynote 1 Professor Steffen Hantke (Sogang University) ‘West German Cult TV: Re-Packaging Subcultural Capital.’
1pm-2pm Lunch
2pm-3.30pm Panel 4 Maniacs, Myths and Monstrous Movies 1: Adapting Themes and Figures of Evil
Chair: Filippo Del Lucchese
1. Daniel O’Brien (Southampton University) Blue Collar Mephistopheles: Videodrome and the Subversive Sidekick.
2. Elisabetta Di Minico (University of Barcelona) Horror and the dystopia.
3. Finn J. Ballard (Warwick University) Uwe Boll’s Auschwitz as Holocaust ‘Torture Porn‘.
3.30pm-4pm Coffee
4.00-5.30 Panel 5 Maniacs, Myths and Monstrous Movies 2: Cult Adaptations of the Manson Family
Chair: Charlie Blake
1. Mark Goodall (Bradford University) Helter Skelter: Charles Manson goes to the Movies.
2. Nicolò Gallio (University of Bologna) Surfing with Charlie.
3. Ian Cooper (Independent Scholar) Family Values and Creepy Crawlies: Manson and the Horror Film.
7.30pm-9pm: The Year’s With(out) Lead: Bodies, Bullets, and the 1970s Italian Extreme: A Special Panel Discussion between Enzo G. Castellari, Sergio Martino and Professor Mary P. Wood (Birkbeck College, London).

9pm- 10.30pm The Italian Cultural Institute- Cine-Excess Screening 3: Keoma (Enzo G. Castellari, 1976)
10.30 pm-12.00am The Italian Cultural Institute Cine-Excess Screening 4: Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I have the Key (Sergio Martino, 1972)
12.00am The Italian Cultural Institute Cine-Excess Midnight Movie Excess (Screening TBA)


Saturday 26th May, 2012 (ODEON COVENT GARDEN)

Registration/Coffee 9.30am-9.45am
9.45am-11am Panel 7 Comics, Posters and Pop: Adaptations of Cult Iconography Across Mixed Media
Chair: Julian Savage
1. Neil Jackson (Lincoln University) Stained with the Blood of the Marketing Department: Discourses of Violence in 1970s Film Posters.
2. Leon Hunt Brunel (University) Danger: Diabolik – The Italian Comic-book Anti-Hero as Superhero.
3. Rachel Mizsei Ward (University of East Anglia) Criminal Lifestyles, Sexuality and the Martial Arts: Appropriating Blaxploitation in Hip-Hop Music Videos.
11am-11.30am Coffee
11.30pm-1.30pm Panel 8 Europa Excess: The Italian Trans-Cult(ural) Image
Chair: Xavier Mendik
1. Stefano Ciammaroni (Manchester Metropolitan University) In Too Deep (Red): The Politics and Historiography of Violence and Death in Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione and Dario Argento’s Profondo rosso.
2. Anthony Page (Hertfordshire University) ‘High” and ‘Low’ Art Nazis: Cavani’s The Night Porter and Canevari’s The Gestapo’s Last Orgy.
3. Karen Oughton (Regent’s College) “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Fulci? The Role of Metanarrative in Cat in the Brain”.
4. Kate Egan (Aberystwyth University)The Women in White: Aesthetic and Thematic Uses of Costume in Argento’s Films.
1.30pm-2.30pm Lunch
2.30pm -4pm Panel 9 Agonised Bodies, Adaptive Performance: Sexuality, Ethnicity and Excess
Chair: Leon Hunt
1. Darren Elliot-Smith (University of Hertfordshire) ‘Queer Poe-nography’: Gay Shame and Gothic Layering in David DeCoteau’s Edgar Allen Poe Cycle.
2. Adam Locks (University of Chichester) Chicks with guns: The cult of female bodybuilding.
3. Grisel Y. Acosta (Queensborough Community College, NY) “‘Spork’ Mixer: Tough, Twisted Girls in Borderless, Multicultural Oz”.
4. Iain Robert Smith (Roehampton University) It’s a Bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Shaktimaan! : The Bollywood Superhero from Mr India (1987) to Krrish (2006).

4pm-6pm Inglorious Icon: Enzo G. Castellari On-Stage includes Cine-Excess Screening 6: (To Be Announced)
6pm Odeon Close
8pm-9pm The Italian Cultural Institute: Sergio Martino Onstage at Cine-Excess VI
9.30pm-10.30pm Cine-Excess Screening 7: All the Colours of the Dark (Sergio Martino, 1972)
10.30pm -12.00 Cine-Excess Screening 8: Fair Game (Mario Andreacchio, 1986)


For booking and ticket prices head on over to the Cine Excess site for full details…

Who Dares Wins – Arrow Video Blu-ray

From our exclusive feed with Cult Labs

Who Dares Wins (Arrow Video)


Paranoia, black ops and espionage combine in Who Dares Wins, a violent and edgy anti-terror classic starring Lewis Collins (The Professionals) and Edward Woodward (The Equalizer).

The anti-nuclear movement is plotting a bloody outrage on British soil and, having already fatally lost their undercover operative at a violent protest, the secret services call on the aid of the SAS. Captain Peter Skellen (Collins) risks his career, his family and his life to infiltrate the terrorist group before they can unleash an attack that will devastate the country.

Relive a classic cold war thrill ride which remains relevant to this day… Who Dares Wins, a violent lesson in how to deal with the enemy within.

Special Features:

– High Definition Presentation of the main feature

– Audio commentary with producer Euan Lloyd and director Ian Sharp

– The Last of the Gentleman Producers: A Documentary on the life of the legendary producer Euan Lloyd, featuring Sir Roger Moore, Ingrid Pitt, Kenneth Griffith and more!

– Two Original Trailers

– Bonus Feature Film: THE COMMANDER, another Lewis Collins action spectacular co-starring Lee Van Cleef and Donald Pleasance, directed by Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony M. Dawson!

– Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork

– Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Ali Catterall, co-author of Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties plus press book extracts and writing by Euan Lloyd!

Blu-ray only

Region B

Release date: 02/07/2012

The Wild Geese – Arrow Video Blu-ray

From our exclusive feed with Cult Labs

The Wild Geese (Arrow Video)

One Last Pay Day… One More Chance To Die!

Legendary hell-raisers Richard Burton and Richard Harris, along with a coolly detached Roger Moore are aging mercenaries with a taste for fine liquor, drawn together for a late but extremely lucrative pay day in The Wild Geese, an African adventure soaked in booze, gunfire and bloodshed.

Colonel Allen Faulkner (Burton) is secretly back in London to accept the task of reinstating an African leader deposed in a violent military coup, but without the combat skills of his two old friends, there isn’t going to be a mission. With his two reliable loose cannons in place, Faulkner and the team enact a text book rescue operation but disaster is close at hand when the cynical multinational who set up the whole deal turns the tables, striking a new deal with the local despot which sees The Wild Geese trying to escape with their lives intact.

The Wild Geese are ready for one last mission so finish your drinks and relive this classic old school British action adventure today.

Special Features:

– High Definition Presentation of the main feature

– Audio commentary with Roger Moore, producer Euan Lloyd and second unit director John Glen

– World Premiere Newsreel Footage

– Original Trailer

– Bonus Feature Film: CODE NAME: WILD GEESE, starring Lewis Collins, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine and Klaus Kinski, directed by Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony M. Dawson

– Reversible sleeve with original poster and newly commissioned artwork cover

– Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Ali Catterall, co-author of Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties and a biography of Euan Lloyd

Blu-ray only

Region B

Release date: 02/07/2012

The Black Panther

Note: In the 1980s, The Black Panther was released for rental on VHS. This video trailer was targeted at a rental audience at that time and is not the original theatrical trailer.

Directed by Ian Merrick, this intelligent crime drama charts the infamous killing spree which Donald Neilson, aka the Black Panther, perpetrated across England during the mid-70s, culminating in the kidnapping and death of a 17-year-old girl. Told with uncommon accuracy and refraining from any measure of sensationalism, this fascinating and disturbing film fell foul of a media-driven campaign upon its original cinema release, which resulted in an effective ban.