Saturday, 31 October 2009

HALLOWEEN ALL-NIGHTER

An advert in the local paper caught my eye, concerning the listings at our nearest cinema. Tonight, the fab Cinema Delux in Derby will play host to a special Halloween all-nighter comprising of the six SAW films.If the prospect of sitting through every film is a little too daunting, there is an option to bag a ticket for the midnight screening of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
Now, if I had the fortitude to sit through six genre movies on this most special of nights, I can think of a slightly more varied selection than the continuing adventures of Jigsaw.
Ok, here goes.

CASTLE OF BLOOD .You can read my review HERE

KILL, BABY..KILL! Up there with LISA AND THE DEVIL as my favourite Bava film. Read my review HERE

SESSION 9.
This may seem an odd choice to some, but Brad Anderson's chiller has all the trappings and moody content of an accomplished genre flick.
Set in the abandoned Danvers State Hospital, Peter Mullen leads a group of men who are charged with removing asbestos within a one week time frame.
As the men set to work, the eerie asylum affects the men in different ways, leading to a truly haunting finale. If you have yet to see this film, check out the trailer below and do your utmost to catch what is a remarkable study in terror.



THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE.
Another old favourite that used to regularly haunt UK late-night TV. You can read my review HERE

THE HAUNTING.
Great book, great film. My thoughts on this superior spooker can be found HERE

INFERNO.
Although I've long held the opinion that DEEP RED represents Dario Argento's finest hour, INFERNO is certainly my favourite in the Argento canon.. I've seen this wonderfully stylish film at the cinema, on video, Laserdisc and DVD and eargerly await a Blu-ray release. Enjoy the trailer below and remember that golden age where Argento unleashed the forces of darkness right inside your door.



Of course, there are so many films vying for a place in this top six: HORROR HOTEL; NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD; BLACK SABBATH; THE BEYOND; SUSPIRIA... the list goes on.
I'll be pleased if you can find time to compile your own choices in the comments.
Whatever you're doing and wherever you are, have a Happy Halloween.

Friday, 30 October 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND

As it's Halloween tomorrow, I thought I'd despense with the usual punk-orientated music video and instead give you a few clips and some valuable commentary on one of the finest ghost stories on film. Hope you enjoy the following video in praise of THE STONE TAPE. You can read my review HERE



The DVD is currently out of print in the UK, so ebay may be a good bet for those who wish to track down a copy.
Look out for video of London's National Film Theatre amongst the clips; a great venue where I caught many screenings.

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE


Two gun-toting girls on the run burn the body of their former partner in crime and following an attempted rape and Fulci-esque premature burial, end up at a suitably spooky chateau. It's here they meet the last vampire on earth (Gaste) and his small band of wannabes, who seek to perpetuate a dying race by adding a couple of virgins to the waiting list.

For most of the opening hour, Requiem For A Vampire is bereft of any meaningful dialogue, instead using a succession of dreamlike encounters and imagery as a prelude to a final act that's thought provoking and genuinely moving. The two female leads (Castel and Dargent) are perfect for their respective roles, conveying the tragic elements of this story in the grand tradition of the silent movies of years gone by. Credit to them and Gaste that when the dialogue kicks in, later in the film, their contributions become even more impressive as moods, motivations, and beliefs are changed - for better or worse. I suppose it's possible to dilute the positives on offer here by focusing on apparent directorial misjudgements: there are times when Rollin trades his customary brand of stylish eroticism for a combination of Benny Hill meets Killer's Moon - wildly out of place, given the overall tone of this film. It's also irritating when eerie night-time scenes are suddenly disrupted by constantly changing the timeline from dusk to dawn and back again. Budgetary constraints associated with this type of production, or simply haphazard direction with scant regard for continuity? I prefer to view this as a continuation of Requiem's general theme, where the characters' convictions change like, well, night moves into day. Nothing is as it seems in the dream life of Rollin, though there's no mistaking the raw emotion on display when Dargent is whipped by her best friend in order to reveal the whereabouts of an 'outsider' who threatens this practically extinct race. Here, the pain and angst shared by the two girls approaches the poetic horror of The Living Dead Girl which is, I believe, Rollin at his very best.

For the uninitiated, it's no easy task to lend a helping hand and point to any one Rollin film as the ideal introduction to his work. Pick a title yourself and you'll either fall in love or dismiss the film in question as the work of a hack, though the excellent Region 2 disc containing Requiem and Fascination offers a marvellous introduction to the man and his movies. This enticing double feature disc was the debut release from Allan Bryce's Darkside magazine, and includes three superb featurettes, containing over 100 mins of clips and interviews: the excellent Eurotica programme, "Virgins And Vampires"; another documentary, "Bloody Lips And Iron Crosses" and, finally, interviews with Rollin and Eurofox Brigitte Lahaie. A perfect start for would-be Rollinades, and a real treat for long-time afficianado's, too. To be fair, though, there are a couple of problems you should be aware of: firstly, Requiem is cut, though no blame can be attached to Bryce who had to adhere to BBFC requirements. In this case, the scissors were taken to the infamous 'Caged Virgins' scene; no great loss, perhaps, but completists will no doubt double up on Requiem by adding Image's uncut Region 1 disc to their collections. The other minor gripe relates to the transfer. While this is the best UK version I've laid eyes on, there are occasions when exterior scenes suffer with regard to dull colours and a slightly soft image. There are also several instances of horrible chroma noise and moire patterning. A real shame.

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: I VAMPIRI


When police find the body of a young woman floating in the river Seine, journalist Pierre Lantin (Michaelis) embarks on a personal crusade, aiming to solve the mystery of the so-called 'Vampire Murders.' The latest in a series of blood-drained corpses leads our intrepid newshound to a castle owned by the Duchess du Grand, whose neice, Gisele (Canale), adds further to a troubled history shared by the Lantin family and her own flesh and blood.

Often referred to as the first Italian horror film, I Vampiri started life as a bet between Riccardo Freda and two Italian film producers who wagered that Freda would not be able to shoot his proposed feature inside 12 days. The rest, as they say, is history. With 2 days left and only 50% of the script translated into film, Freda asked for an extension and was duly turned down. Freda walked, Mario Bava stepped in and managed to complete the film, courtesy of major script changes, the inclusion of stock footage and some truly inspired photography. The end result may occasionally reflect the rather bizarre production deal, but it's still a fascinating and visually impressive film which is strong enough to carry the weight of two great directors.

Freda's love of the macabre is well to the fore here, rubbing shoulders with Bava's already considerable talents to deliver suspense and shock in equal measure. As Bava's grand design unveils eerie candlelit tombs, hidden passageways leading to corpse-ridden rooms and, best of all, a remarkable transformation scene, the excellent cast grow in stature: Micahelis, promoted by Bava from supporting actor to major player; Canale, impossibly gorgeous as the cold-hearted beauty harbouring a dark secret; Antoine Balpetri's harrassed scientist, who is in just as much of a hurry as his director - in this case to produce results for a less-than model patient - and Paul Muller as a drug addict who exists on a supply-and-supply basis. Although Muller's character suffers from the directorial switch (the ligature marks on his neck are, literally, from another film entirely), this should not detract too much from a stylish study in terror which thoroughly deserved its promotion to DVD. While Image's disc presentation looks way too bright and washed-out in places, it generally provides a sharp, stable picture with bags of detail in those wonderfully spooky castle interiors. B+ for the transfer and the same for the film which marked the formative steps of a golden age.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE


During a video introduction on Anchor Bay's DVD, Jorge Grau expresses the hope that viewers will be scared by this blood-splattered account of ecological mayhem.

Fast approaching its 30th anniversary, The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue proves rather adept at increasing the number of beats per minute, with some fairly explicit gore and several set-pieces that are brimming with tension.

The fun really begins when the Department Of Agriculture unveils an ultra- sonic sound machine designed to drastically reduce the insect population. Luckily for us, Grau and his team of pen-pushers had other ideas, sparing us the horrors of 'Farming Today' and instead standing us lunch by using this less-than cutting-edge technology to resurrect the newly dead. Soon the titular crypt and surrounding area - actually based in the Lake District (and shot mostly in the Peak District) - are awash with zombies and it's up to George and Edna (Lovelock & Galbo) to save the day. These two central characters gain in stature as their predicament grows ever worse: Galbo being the sensitive, vulnerable half of this 'odd couple' pairing, but still offering steadfast support to the initially irritating Lovelock, whose inner strength comes to the fore as their situation intensifies.

Probably the most colourful character aside from undead down-but-not-out Guthrie - is the gloriously stupid Sergeant McCormick (Kennedy) who must have been a great inspiration to a certain self-styled ''God's Cop' during those heady days of 'Video Nasties.' Indeed, one can't help but wonder if Grau's less-than respectful portrayal of the police may well have contributed to some pretty heavy interest in suppressing video distribution of his film. Quite possibly, though a certain Gianetto de Rossi did his little bit by providing fx for some delightful 'dining' sequences that would resurface to even greater effect a few years later in Fulci's Zombie Flesheaters.

Die-hard fans of the aforementioned classic may scoff at even the tiniest comparison with Grau's movie but Manchester Morgue is well worthy of inclusion in your list of top 'Living Dead' flicks.

Watch out for: breast munching, the disembowelling of a brave, but foolhardy police constable, and the wonderfully stomach-churning scene where Lovelock and Galbo attempt to escape from a crypt full of living dead.
A Blu-ray release will soon be unveiled by our friends over at Blue Underground

Monday, 26 October 2009

A SAD DAY.


I received a phone call at work mid-afternoon today from my wife, with the sad news that her mother passed away this morning.

Phyllis had been unwell for some time, and was admitted to hospital at the end of last week. Although I only spent a few days in her company, it was enough for me to realise she was (and always will be) a very special lady.
You see, my wife and I first met on the Internet, with 4,000 miles between us.
We kept in touch every day - by keyboard, phone and webcam - for 18 months before we decided to get married.
So, I flew to America and, 2 days after meeting in person, we were married in the garden of a friend with a chainsaw whirring away in the background at a neighbouring house.
Our biggest decision would be where to settle. Susan had her mother, 2 brothers and a sister in America. My mother lived in England, but has no surviving relatives, other than myself. My father had been dead for some years, my brother and sister died when they were infants. So, Susan decided we must locate in England so my mother had help and support at hand. An enormous sacrifice for Susan and her family.
I would not have blamed her family if they had given me the cold shoulder. After all, I was whisking their daughter & sister away across the ocean to a new life. As it turned out, they all received me with warmth and affection; a truly humbling experience. Phyllis was an absolute delight, and I feel so very lucky to have been in her company; if only for a short time.

Susan and I are best friends as well as husband and wife, and are happier with every passing day. I guess we are soul mates and while we regret we couldn't have met years earlier, feel so lucky to have found each other.
Tonight, we remember Phyllis for her love, kindness and her support for our relationship.

PEKIN, Ill. -
Phyllis M. Larimore, 82, of Pekin, passed away at 8:45 a.m. Monday, Oct. 26, 2009, at Pekin Hospital.

Phyllis was born July 7, 1927, to Carl and Madge S. Hyatt Hoffman. She married Robert L. Larimore on Oct. 19, 1967, in Missouri. He died on May 17, 1991.

Also preceding her in death were two brothers, Neal Hoffman and Richard Hoffman.

Surviving are two sons, Mike (Kristina) Cook of Pekin and Tom Cook of Shelbyville; two daughters, Valarie (David) Ripper of Pekin and Susan (Stephen) Langton in England; one sister, Vera Damarin of Pekin; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; four stepchildren; and 10 stepgrandchildren.

Phyllis was a member of St. Paul United Church of Christ.

She enjoyed crocheting. Her children and grandchildren brought her great joy.

Memorial services will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, at Henderson Funeral Home. The Rev. Dwight Borden will officiate. Burial will be at a later date in Lakeside Cemetery.

Visitation will be from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Paul United Church of Christ, 101 N. Eighth St., Pekin, IL 61554.

To offer online condolences, visit www.hendersonfuneralcare.com.

Friday, 23 October 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: THE FALL

August, 1978 saw the first vinyl release by a Manchester band named The Fall.
"Bingo-Masters Break-Out!" was just that little bit different to make me sit up and really take notice, and compel me to pay the most earnest attention to this group. With Mark E. Smith's sing/speak/shout vocal style and often incomprehensible lyrics, The Fall covered many musical bases.
Their magnificent "Live At The Witch Trials" debut album is a real landmark but, with over 50 albums (not counting compilations), it's hard to pick their finest work.

Hope you enjoy this video from 1988.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

SUPERIOR SCRIBBLERS


The bloggers Superior Scribblers award has just come to my attention.
Here are the rules:

•Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
•Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
•Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
•Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
•Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Here are my 5 choices:

Radiator Heaven

Moon In The Gutter

Sugar And Spice

Only The Cinema

Lazy Thoughts From A Boomer

Now, I'm familiar with the opening quartet of blogs (which continue to excel), but Lazy Thoughts is a new one on me. Having checked out this blog, it's crystal clear we have some quality writing which will amply reward continued visits.

Thanks very much indeed to JD over at Radiator Heaven.

Friday, 16 October 2009

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND

Taken from one of the finest debut albums ever, Patti Smith's 'Free Money' is, for me, the standout track on the legendary 'Horses' album.

Hope you enjoy this version recorded in 1976. I was lucky enough to see her gig at the Birmingham Odeon in 1978 and rate it as one of my all-time top 10 gigs.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN


Based on 'Let Me In' - a 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist - Tomas Alfredson's splendid feature film has been attracting rave reviews all over the world since its release in 2008. With Lindqvist on board for the screenplay, Alfredson creates a troubled winter wonderland where 12-year-old Oskar makes friends with a young girl named Elie who declares "I've been 12 a long time". Suffering bullying at school on an almost daily basis, Oskar eventually confides in his new acquaintance, initially unaware that her nocturnal habits include a dependence on human blood in order to survive.

As her watchman Hakan proves himself not up to the task of supplying her essential nourishment, Elie must fend for herself while Oskar battles against the bullies and his own concerns regarding just who or what Elie really is.
Here, Oskar's pain of growing up in the real world is contrasted by the plight of a vampire child who will never change physically, with both of them forced to survive in harsh, unforgiving terrain.
While LET THE RIGHT ONE IN contains moments of feral savagery, there are many instances of sheer poetry in dialogue and imagery; a gesture here, a sentence there, all propelling this story into a fantastique world where childlike innocence mutates into something altogether different.
This really is an extraordinary work, standing proudly alongside genre greats of recent years. Indeed, for my money, it's up there with Abel Ferrara's THE ADDICTION as one of the most challenging vampire films of the last few decades, though for entirely different reasons.

On Blu-ray, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN benefits from an outstanding transfer. The snow-laden landscape looks of the purest white, while the colour ranges from vibrant to dull reflecting the narrative shifts. As much of the film takes place at night, solid blacks are important and that's just what we get. A worthwhile commentary track is included, together with 4 deleted scenes. While it's likely their addition would not have significantly improved the film, it's good to be able to watch them here.

Here's a trailer to whet the appetite of any of you yet to see this remarkable coming-of-age tale. Please, don't miss it.

Friday, 9 October 2009

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Head on over to Radiator Heaven

JD is celebrating Halloween in style, with a series of reviews taking us us up to the 31st October.
He's already covered SILENT HILL, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Get your popcorn, pumpkins and candy and join us!

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND

Recall seeing The Only Ones a few times; the first being a gig at Derby's Ajanta Theatre back in (I think) 1977. This , I'd venture to suggest, is their finest offering.
Enjoy.

AH, THE FESTIVAL SEASON


The latest issue of the essential Sight & Sound magazine arrived today, with its front cover proclaiming 'Film Festival Special'.
Inside, Nick James' editorial reminds us that Venice and Toronto have barely finished and then we're straight into The Times 53rd London Film Festival.
James' excellent piece remarks that film festivals are perhaps victims of their own success, owing to the numerical surge that sees even the older established fests duking it out for the films of real artistic merit. The London bash will screen 191 feature films and 113 shorts, but how many of those will stimulate and how many will disappoint?
Having viewed roughly half the programme, the Sight & Sound team have found 30 films to recommend which is just about the number of titles on my would-love-to-see list (although all my own choices are made sight unseen). Of course, every festival contains precious gems that surprise and delight from the most unlikely source and, tragically, many of those titles will likely never receive either theatrical or DVD releases.

I've been lucky enough to attend the festival in London for many years, always managing to book three days off work during what is invariably a very busy time of year. I'd receive the programme and simply book for as many films as possible during my three-day stay. This enforced method of selection worked well for the most part, though inevitable disappointment always reared its ugly head when I discovered the latest from Woody Allen or Claire Denis were being screened the day I started back to work.Sure, I saw some clunkers but, for the most part, was amply rewarded with a ton of memorable events.
It was at the LFF that I caught the UK premiere of David Cronenberg's CRASH; a screening made even better by an introduction and post-film Q&A by the man himself. That England's gutter press almost managed to get the screening (and the film) banned via a series of absolutely worthless articles (Daily Mail, take a bow), made this event one for the history books (the screening was in doubt right up to almost the 11th hour). THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION; a restored NOSFERATU; Ferrara's SNAKE EYES (soon to be known as DANGEROUS GAME); Ang Lee's wonderful EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN; ETERNITY AND A DAY; ALMOST FAMOUS; THE FUNERAL; I CAN'T SLEEP; AUTOFOCUS; KILLING ZOE (with one of THE most downbeat endings you'd never wish to see); REQUIEM FOR A DREAM; GOSFORD PARK; FAUST; THE LOST WORLD; SHANGHAI TRIAD; MIGHTY APHRODITE; HORESMAN ON THE ROOF; EARTH; THE MAGDALENE SISTERS; BURNING SKY (a German take on Thelma And Louise that I'd love to see again)... just a few of the movies I was lucky enough to catch in my breakneck visits that often took in ten films in a 3 day period.

Unfortunately, my wife and I are again unable to attend this year but I hope the festival isn't hit too hard by the debilitating world recession. It's a wonderful event staged in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and my festival memories include sharing some great times with some great people. The CRASH screening will stay long in my memory as it was there that I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Auty and Ben Howard. Dan & Ben run the excellent Mondo Movie site, which includes a long-running series of podcasts. I do highly recommend you check it out .
Just click HERE

Thursday, 8 October 2009

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD IN HD

George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is set for its second Blu-ray release in the UK, this time from Network.
We're promised a brand-new transfer taken from original 35mm film elements.
Check out this Blu-ray clip posted on youtube, which bodes well for this release.



NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is slated for release on 26th October.

THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE BLU-RAY


Tobe Hooper's savage, unrelenting nightmare has a chequered history here in the UK.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE was refused a cinema release back in 1974, and was only granted certificates for cinema and home video in 1999. The retirement of BBFC head honcho, the late James Ferman, opened the door for many previously outlawed films: indeed, Ferman had found the whole Chain Saw experience to be so intense that he declared it was impossible to make any cuts to this film and make it available for public viewing.
So, Hooper's film simply gathered dust here, though the thriving UK fanzine community ensured those who really wanted to see the film could do so, courtesy of third-gen bootleg tapes which were always at the top of most peoples 'swap lists'.
Now, the Blu-ray format has caught up with Chain Saw in the form of the 'Seriously Ultimate Edition'. Thanks to Second Sight Films, this 16mm journey into darkness looks as good as one could hope for. Happily, this transfer retains the grain 'n' grit but also looks sharp and colourful in places, echoing Hooper's intention that his film should no longer be the victim of heavy, heavy grain Ala the early theatrical screenings.

With an impressive roster of juicy extras, TCM comes over as an even greater accomplishment, with the excellent 'The Shocking Truth' documentary giving us the low-down on exactly what went into the making of this film, and the heavy toll it took on those involved; particularly Marilyn Burns who deserved some kind of medal for her participation. With tales of The Mafia and reminiscences from the heat of on-screen battle , Dave Gregory's doc acts as a valuable record of the filming and the legend that simply refuses to lay down and die. Of course, there are cast and crew members sadly no longer with us and they are remembered in the moving 'In Memoriam' segment of the 'Flesh Wounds' featurette.

The film itself still holds up as one of the most enduring in Horror Cinema. I find it every bit as difficult to sit through as my first Chain Saw experience many years ago. It's a relentless, in-your-face production and it's testament to the power of this film that many of us still go away thinking we've seen more than was actually shown. There's only a modicum of blood spilt onscreen, but the charnel house atmosphere and endlessly imaginative set designs combine with committed performances to fashion a true genre heavyweight. With just an 80 minute running time, Hooper's film seems a lot longer, and I offer that observation as a compliment.

With Blu-ray releases for DAWN OF THE DEAD and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on the horizon, Blu-ray is starting to become a fitting home for some of our favourite movies. For the target audience, these are the sort of releases that sell Blu-ray players and it's nice to see THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE receive such reverential treatment.
Initially, this will be a HMV exclusive here in the UK, but will be more widely available early next year.

Friday, 2 October 2009

DAWN OF THE DEAD BLU-RAY


Here are the spec for the forthcoming DAWN OF THE DEAD UK Blu-ray release from Arrow Films.

Disc One (Blu Ray):

Theatrical Cut in High Definition
DTS HD and Stereo Audio.
Commentary 1 with George A Romero, Tom Savini and Chris Romero.
Commentary 2 with Richard P. Rubinstein
Document of the Dead - the classic documentary
Document of the Dead: The Lost Interview and Deleted Scenes
Fan of the Dead (mad French dude goes to visit the locations!)
Disc Two (DVD):

Director’s Cut of Dawn of the Dead
The Dead Will Walk Documentary (the stunning 2004 documentary)
Disc Three (DVD):

Argento Cut of Dawn of the Dead
Scream Greats (brilliant Tom Savini documentary)
Publicity Vault containing:
US and German Trailers
TV and Radio Spots
Reviews
Giallo Trailers (Macabre, Sleepless and House by the Cemetery)

DAWN will be released on 19th October, and will initially be a HMV exclusive.