Saturday, 23 March 2013

23rd Century DVD Review: William Shatner's Mysteries Of The Gods (1977, Charles Romine)

"They have been here before. They will come again... SOON!"

I was never good at science at school. In fact I downright hated it. As I have become mature I have realised that was a pretty dickish thing to do. Anyway, I'm not here to bore you with school stories or my ignorance I am here to talk about a documentary that covers a subject that has puzzled scientists for years and. In a time where TV stations  like the History Channel would rather show us reality TV and talk about the Bible it's refreshing to look back at documentaries of the past. Of course, the subject of this documentary was covered recently in Ancient Aliens which of course made the crazy haired Giorgio A. Tsoukalos a household name. So although made in 1976, this piece of celluloid genius is both hilariously dated and relevant at the same time! Let us stop waffling and get on with it shall we?

Mysteries Of The Gods was originally a German production from 1976 directed by Harald Reinl and based on the book of the same name written by Eric Von Däniken. The version I watched was of course the American version directed by Charles Romine and released in 1977. I have no idea what the differences in terms of content (apart from the potential language difference) but what I can tell you is William Shatner is our host and narrator... You need to see this purely for that alone right? Before I continue, I am not going to go in depth about the content and my own personal opinions and theories on the subjects but I am pretty damn sure science has come a long way since this and there have probably been a lot more breakthroughs making the information old but that's the beauty of science!

I went into this one blind and was expecting a low budget sci-fi flick but man was I surprised when I found out this was a documentary! With this realisation I continued to leave my neurotic, disturbing mind well and truly turned off. What I experienced for the next 84 minutes (according to the DVD itself, the IMDB page states it's an 87 minute feature) was just sheer bliss for so many reasons. The first reason was the whole feel of the documentary. What I love for docs of this nature and era is that almost chilling b movie feeling. The film boasts a terrific synth score throughout from a guy called Peter Thomas who I'm sure I will spend many an hour looking for pieces of his work. Another key reason why I loved this was it's almost hallucinogenic and hypnotic use of space photography, illustration and film footage. Oh and come on, William Shatner was in it asking the academics the hard hitting questions in all his campy glory!

There where countless other small touches in this that I wouldn't even be able to touch upon because this would be more of an essay than a review plus, it's another gem (or crystal skull) that you have to experience for yourself. Marvel at some of the characters that Shatner interviews. We have scientists who have more hair on their chins than they do at the top of their heads and people who claim they can telepathically communicate with intelligent life out there. If you love your campy 70's sci-fi movies then this is going to be a real treat. It's a documentary that deals with a genuinely interesting yet unintentionally interesting way. This has cult classic written all over it but I have never heard hardly anyone mention it! Although the subject matter is one that is a hard one for me to really ponder and take in, it did genuinely make me think about the idea that we being watched by another species and my mind is now crammed with potential ideas for future film projects.

Overall, this is a great time capsule that looks backs to a time where scientific documentaries where genuinely interesting and had a theatrical aspect to them. The use of dated editing technology combined with that terrific spaced out synth score is really mesmerising. It doesn't matter if you are here for the intellectual content or if you are here to marvel at a campy, dated aesthetics, there is something here for many people. The transfer on the DVD is another VHS transfer but again it adds to the charm. Again, if you find this in your local pound or charity shop you have to pick it up to experience. However, you can watch this in it's entirety thanks to wonders of Youtube so there's really no excuse! Now if you excuse me... I am off to listen to a bit of Space!

Live long and prosper!


Friday, 22 March 2013

23rd Century DVD Review: Thunder Squad (1985, Umberto Lenzi)

"Call it bravery... Call it courage... Call it guts. Whatever you call it, they've got it!"

Before I start the review I would like to give a few words about the DVD release of this film. From what I gather, the label 23rd Century is a grey market label based in Manchester. I am yet to do major research so you can expect a full post some time in the future. From what I read, these guys put out mainly public domain titles that are mostly ported from degraded VHS tapes. I thought I would celebrate this label and labels like that because for me personally, this is the way you should be watching these crap-tastic gems and not on sparkling blu-ray transfers. I apologise to all you HD elitist fascist types out there but that's just the way I see it. Anyway, welcome to the first 23rd Century review. If you want to see what titles this label has to offer, check out this awesome blog.

Thunder Squad is a 1985 action flick by the cult maestro, Umberto Lenzi and stars the equally iconic Antonio Sabato. The story is pretty simple. A South American rebel leader is taking refuge in Florida and finds out his son has been kidnapped! A crack team of five mercs are assigned the task of finding and rescuing the child. Once they save the kid (no it's not a spoiler... you should know the formula of these films enough by now) things get a little "complicated" to say the least and our band of grunts have to fight their way through hoards of henchmen. Will they survive? What actually happens? That's something I will leave for you to find out for yourselves! Yeah, I'm mean but what can you do?

It may not be the most action packed or violent film of it's type (It's only a 15 rated movie) but it sure kept my attention for it's run time. I would say this s a classic example of "so bad it's good" cinema. There are many moments that stand out in this one including an obscenely terrific sequence where I kid you not, psychoanalysts are used to telepathically locate where the kid is being held captive. If I didn't have a beer belly, I would have broken my jaw on the floor at how terrific that is. Another highlight for me is the absolutely terrible German accent used for Werner Pocath's character. I have no idea if the Austrian dubbed his own voice or not but either way... it's one of the most painfully awful yet amazing accents I have heard! It definitely gives the cliché Nazi evil genius voice we all know and love a run for it's money. It's another one of those films where there are just tiny moments of absurdity that will have you yelping with laughter and disbelief all the way through!

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this piece of euro trash. It's stuff you have seen before so even though I haven't really given too much of the story away, you won't be too surprised by the plot. That being said, it's fairly solid. The DVD itself is what you would expect it to be. It's clearly a rip from some VHS so the quality of the picture isn't amazing but it's passable to those who waste time stressing about that. You are supposed to see these films like this in this way, it's part of the novelty. There are no special features at all and it boasts one of the worst DVD menus of all time which had me laughing before I even pressed play. The most important thing is that the film is uncut (from my comparing the run times to the IMDB page and various blogs. You really have no excuse not to pick this up if you see it in your local charity or pound shop. Saving pennies and enjoying cinema does not get any better than this!

Hopefully you enjoyed this little review. I am hoping to get my hands on more of these titles because it's a great way to see some really obscure gems that you can pay obscene amounts for on import. Just leave your snobbery and brain at the door for these. If anyone has some good suggestions of other 23rd Century releases or similar grey market labels, let me know!


Sunday, 17 March 2013

5 Of My Favourite Directors

I have always wanted to do a list like this but at the same time I know I'm going to hate the outcome. To pick only five from a whole list of directors who have had an impact on me personally is a real bitch but hey, I like lists in general and any excuse to get something up on the blog is OK for me. I will tell you now that these are in no particular order and this list could be completely different in a few hours! I'm sure you guys feel me on that one. Let's get started shall we?

Radley Metzger

My first experience with Radley Metzger was The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann. After experiencing the intelligence and sophistication of this film I had to see more and look into the world of Radley Metzger. His earlier films are European drenched soft core classics and his later films (under the name Henry Paris) are hardcore classics that are considered the best of the genre. What I love about Radley's work is just how classy and beautiful they are. Don't get me wrong I love 70's roughies where the sex is dirty and the characters are scuzzier than the toilet from Trainspotting but every so often, I do appreciate to be intellectually cared for. Basically, if you like 70's high end Italian cinema you should definitely seek him out. Films to look out for are Camile 2000, The Opening Of Misty Beethoven and Score amongst MANY others.

Umberto Lenzi

To many, Umberto Lenzi could be considered a hack director. This is entirely unfair because aside for being infamous for films like Cannibal Ferox and the fact that he has directed around 65 films over his career Lenzi is a true genius in my eyes. For those who primarily know him for his horror and cannibal stuff I would definitely suggest looking at his poliziotteschi efforts because they really do show just how amazingly talented Lenzi is as a director. You also just have to see the many interviews up on Youtube and you will definitely appreciate how his mind works. I love him for making films that gross me out and make me unintentionally laugh but I adore him for providing me with some of my Italian crime flicks. You should check out The Cynic, The Rat, The Fist, it's one of my personal favourites!

Lucio Fulci

Here is a director who needs know introduction to any of you gore hounds out there. All I need to say about Fulci is he was the king of gore and yeah, some of his films made no sense but man did he know how to make an interesting and entertaining film. I did a whole piece of him a couple of days a go (as of writing this) to celebrate his work on the anniversary of his death. Please check out that post if you are a Fulci fan. Films I would definitely urge you to check out are Conquest and Black Cat.

Michael Haneke

I remember first watching the Americanised shot for shot remake of Funny Games and really not liking it. Needless to say, my first taste of Haneke was a very bitter one. That was one of the many times in my life where I become a dick and disregarded his other work... until I actually watched it and actually see what he was trying to say in his films. After watching a couple of his films in my Film Studies course I thought it was only fair to give him a chance and I picked up the ten film box set from Artificial Eye. After watching more of his work and actually listening to interviews and what he has to say... I was just blown away and slapping myself at the same time. What Haneke does is challenge his audience both during and after most of his films. You are ultimately the person who has to finish the film the way you see it. At first I thought he was just a self obsessed academic who completely had his point lost in ridiculous cinematic moments but now I am finding myself spending hours reassessing the film I just watched. A director that pushes the boundaries but never goes past them just for the sake of it. Be careful what film you start with but highlights from his filmography include The Piano Teacher, Caché and Benny's Video. In fact do yourself a favour and pick up the fantastic box set from Artificial Eye!

Werner Herzog

The thing I love most about Herzog is how he can take a story or personal account, turn it into an almost documentary style film that has a sense of fantasy to it. I know bigger Herzogians than myself will probably be shouting "That's not what he is about!" but that's how his films make me feel. I will admit some of his recent documentary work such as Into The Abyss really doesn't do it for me and just feel like opinionated video essays more than anything. I am of course nitpicking. The term "dangerous filmmaker" gets thrown around a lot but it fits perfectly with Herzog... on a literal scale. The technical feats and dedication to his films Aquirre: The Wrath Of God and Fitzcarraldo shot in Peru are testament to that. Filming in an almost inaccessible location and living off the land to make a film is just astonishing. Herzog really throws himself into his films and doesn't take advantage of the director role. Giving up his rights to luxuries such as trailers and studio lackeys. His early films have a fractured and rough feel to them which appeals to me and talk about breathtaking visuals! Some of the most genuinely beautiful landscapes in cinema can be found in Herzog's films throughout. I have so much time and respect for Herzog and his films touch me in a way most others have never done so. My all time favourite has to be The Enigma Of Kasper Hauser and another one worth checking out is the beautiful Heart Of Glass.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Fulci-Fest: Remembering The King Of Gore

Today (as of writing this of course) marks 17 years since we lost the great Lucio Fulci. Fulci died just as he was experiencing how appreciated and adored he was by us horror fans. I would have been 7 years old when he died and that to me is a crazy thought. My experience with the work of Fulci is a pleasurable and he has provided me with many an hour blood soaked, flesh ripping cinema. I don't just love him for his horror work. I have seen only a fraction of his work but I can say with hand on heart (let me just check... yep, it's still there!) that I have enjoyed every film I have seen from a whole spectrum of the genres. I thought that it would make sense to spend a day watching nothing but Fulci films. As I'm writing this, Four Of The Apocalypse is playing in the background. This is one of Fulci's westerns and what a film it is but I will get to that later on.

I thought I would just spend a little time talking about Fulci and his impact on my life. The first film I watched of his was a film you the reader probably watched first too, Zombie Flesh Eaters. This was such a great experience as I had only just recently watched the original Dawn Of The Dead for the first time. This was when a film was just a film to me. I hadn't really taken an interest up until that point but as I discovered more and more Italian cinema from the 70's and 80's such as this I was hooked. I can't exactly recall my whole journey with Fulci but let me say this, I don't think I would be this interested in film if it wasn't for Fulci. His work will always have a special place in my heart and I look forward to watching more and more of his work. As I said earlier, I have spent the day watching Fulci films so I thought I would write a little about each one.

Contraband (1980)
I started the marathon with one of my personal favourites. Contraband is a crime flick starring Fabio Testi. I won't give a full review for this or any of the films only my thoughts and why I love them. I am a massive Italian crime fan and this attempt here is just fabulous. Think of signature Fulci gore and violence mixed in with a great story about greed, treachery and violence in Naples. Some of the highlights are a great use of a Bunsen burner, a Godfather like execution montage and old school mafia bosses from another time showing that it doesn't hurt to be a gentlemen in the mafia game. A great start to the marathon I think you will agree... capiche!?

Manhattan Baby (1982)
I thought it would be only right to follow up with a film from the genre he is most known for, the horror genre. The film I picked was the criminally underrated Manhattan Baby. Yeah it might not have that level of violence most of his other films have but damn! What an atmosphere this film has! Sure, there are some insanely laughable moments but the whole Egyptian portion of the film is genuinely creepy... especially that damn blind woman! This is magnified with Fabio Frizzi's phenomenal score. If you haven't got round to watching this one, you should do right away.

Conquest (1983)

is the only film that I watched today that I hadn't seen before and unfortunately I had to watch this online here. I love cheesy post apocalyptic films from the 80's and this did not disappoint at all. Within 12 minutes of the film I was majorly confused and a woman was ripped in half... I knew I was in for a treat. I came out of this still majorly confused at what I had seen but it didn't matter. It's films like this that make me smile like a kid in a sweet shop. Film snobs need not watch because this isn't for you! Watch it anyway because it's just awesome!

Four Of The Apocalypse (1975)
I decided to finish my Fulci-thon with this gem. A story about a group of misfits who become good friends and come across many obstacles including Tomas Milian doing Captain Jack long before Mr. Depp... seriously, he looks just like him! Once again, this isn't one of Fulci's most violent outings but there are some nasty scenes in this one. The film isn't really about that sort of stuff though and it's one of Fulci's more straight faced films. Highly enjoyable and one of the few times you genuinely care about the characters on screen and not just wonder how and when they die. This also boasts a really solid score from the likes of Fabio Frizzi.

So there you have it! I didn't want to just watch the same Fulci flicks I usually go to. I adore the likes of Zombie Flesh Eaters, House By The Cemetery (possibly my favourite film in the filmography so far) or The Beyond but I wanted to watch the films I enjoyed that often get overlooked or at least hardly mentioned in peoples lists.

Thank you all for reading this and sharing the love and passion for the work of Lucio Fulci. I still have a long way to go before I have a complete collection of films but it's a journey I am absolutely loving so far. I want to also thank Lucio for providing me with hours of entertainment and inspiring me creatively. I don't care if you see him as a hack or a one trick pony, dig into his filmography and you can't help but marvel a guy who directed so many films from so many different genres and keep a high quality throughout. They don't make them like him anymore and probably one of the saddest aspects of his death is he never really got to see how adored he was my genre fans and who knows, he would probably still be making films now.

Thanks again Mr. Fulci!


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mandroid (1993)

"It's Power is in Your Hands!"

Recently on the blog we have been watching some classic examples of slapstick cheese courtesy of the kind folks at 88 Films and Full Moon Entertainment. Don't worry, that will keep coming by the bucket load but today we are looking a film that isn't played for laughs but it's just as cheesetastic and just as enjoyable. Strap on your headsets because we are looking at:

Mandroid is a 1993 flick directed by a Swedish guy named Jack Esgard, set in Russia, shot in Romania and boasts a predominantly American cast. Yeah, that's a whole load of factors right there! Deep in a hidden lab a professor has created Manborg, a thought controlled humanoid for the good of mankind and science. Unfortunately for him his partner wants to sell the droid to the military because boy is this a killing machine in the making. He steals it but gets horrifically disfigured in the process but that doesn't stop him... Oh hell no! There's a whole lot of awesome you can expect with this one ladies and gents including a mask wearing psycho, an unstopable killing machine and... a man who is slwoly becoming invisible?

It's another simple tale of greed and power tokd brilliantly. Yeah, it's cheesy as hell but that's why we watch these films right? You can marvel at how badass the mandroid is. You can squirm at the site of our disfigured supervillain and you can be on the floor in stitches at the hilariously bad Russian accents. Yeah it's one of those early 90's action flicks that are hilarious for all the wrong reasons. Bad stereotype accents (thank the fuhrer this isn't set in ze Germany!) aside, it's a well acted romp that will keep your attention throughout.

Overall, I would suggest you give it a try. I enjoyed it but wouldn't say it was as entertaining as the campy schlock I have reviewed over the past couple of days. If you love your early 90's so bad it's good action then this is a great film for you to sink your rusty little teeth into. For those of you aware with the fantastically crap budget DVD label here in the UK called Hollywood DVD... Yeah it's a film that you would expect to see on one of their amazing multipacks. However, this isn't just a throw away pickup to fill up a space in your collection!

88 Films have done another brilliant job with this release and comes with the added extras you come to expect. The short film this time however is in the form of a behind the scenes/ making of feature which I am guessing was take from a TV show or something? I don't know but it is a nice extra as you never really see a making of or behind the scenes feature for a film like this. I enjoyed it for what it was and the 81 minute runtime flew by. Oh by the way, I mentioned an invisible man earlier right? Well, you have to watch the follow up film to this to see where that one goes. I think I will have to invest my time into that one... If I do... I will let you know!


Saturday, 9 March 2013

Dr. Alien (1989)

"She has the cure for growing pains..."
There comes a time in every boys life where they experience the problem this piece of educational film making covers. That moment where all of a sudden your hormones, the testosterone completely takes over and next thing you know, you are beating the women off left right and centre. OK that is completely bullshit and that has nothing to do with this film but I needed your attention. Sit down and shut up because class is in session!

Dr. Alien is another film by prolific cheese director David DeCoteau from 1989. What we have in this fine effort is a teen comedy in which a socially awkward, intelligent teenage boy gets wrapped up in an intergalactic breeding plot when his biology teacher has an accident and his replacement is a stunner of an alien (would a female alien technically be called alienne?) who is trying to secure the future of her planet. The experiment makes our likable lead become a pussy magnet with a rather nasty looking fleshy antenna on his head.... so damn hot! As he's beating the women off with a stick (not literally, it's not one of those movies... sicko!) his heart is for one girl only and boy is she a cutie! No big twists or turns in this one folks!

Because I am good to you sleazehounds out there, let's get the main reason you are going to buy this film out of the way first, the women! Oh yes gentlemen (and ladies of course) we have a fine display of treats on offer! The big names I was glad to see where of course Linnea Quigley and even better, Ginger Lynne! Of course I have to mention Judy Landers who plays our teacher and last but by no means least, my personal favourite of the film, Olivia Barash who plays as the adorable love interest. Of course this film is littered in pure, unadulterated female nudity so if that's your thing then this a perfect film for you!

This film has more than just eye candy though. Our main guy is a genuinely likable chap even when he lets his new found sex appeal get to his head (literally... I'm hilarious!). You genuinely root for him when he gets mobbed by gangs of nubile young things and you want him to get the girl at the same time. It's a genuinely funny film which like most films of this type and era, don't take themselves too seriously. There is a never a dull moment and that's what I really enjoyed most about this one, especially when you look at modern teen comedies which are just crude, unfunny pieces of crap.

The story is nice and simple and the characters are all a joy to watch. You get a real sense that this was a fun film to make and there's something about films from the 80's in high schools and colleges that just appeal to me. The film has many memorable moments including the various dreams our stud has, the awesome gig scene towards the end of the film, a rather fun scene that involves a mobbing in the girls showers and a great climax. Of course, the film is littered with gems and it would do a great injustice to just tell you and not experience it for yourself.

Overall I highly recommend this film to anyone who loves a good cheesy ride... and of course bodacious boobs by the spacecraft load. If you are looking for that outlandish strong stinking bishop style cheese however, you might not fully get that experience but I'm sure you connoisseurs out there know this already. Once again 88 Films have put a great package with the trailers, reversible artwork and of course the bonus film which in this case is a rather interesting oddity from the early 1970's called Auditions which is kinda like a 70's version of a porno casting couch video... only the wannabe stars don't get humiliated by the redneck behind the camera!

Had to end on a high note!


Picking Yer' Brain #1: Fabio Frizzi

Hello and welcome to the first installment of Picking Yer' Brain!

If you are a fan of the Facebook group you may already know what this blog exclusive series is all about. If not, basically this is where I ask 5 questions to various people within the world of cult cinema. Hopefully this will be the start of an interesting series and will consist of actors, writers, directors and just like today, composers. Our first guest is a man who needs no introduction but because I'm nice and honoured to have him here, I will! You will know him from his various collaborations with your favourite gore maestro, Lucio Fulci. A composer who took Fulci's films to a completely other level with his scoring. Today, I would like to welcome the one and only Fabio Frizzi!


First of all I would like to thank for taking the time to do this. Most fans of Euro horror and cult will know your work, especially Zombie Flesh Eaters. You worked a lot with Fulci. What are your fondest memories of him?

The memory of a great professional, an eclectic complex man, a person who loved cinema and knew it very well. Lucio was definitely one of the directors from whom I learned a lot, the role that music plays in film making, the charm and complexity of my profession. Finally, and very importantly, the relationship of friendship and mutual esteem.

You have scored and been involved in over 70 movies. Are there any personal favourites of yours?

Each soundtrack that I created is something important and beautiful for me. Every time I go into a project, there is a new story to tell, a group of people to work with, new ideas to build, perhaps to look for new musicians. Hopes, stress and satisfaction are mixed together every time, in percentages always different. It's like talking about their children, there is not one better than the other. Of course, the big production linked to the films of Lucio Fulci is one of the most interesting seasons of my life's work. Manhattan Baby, for example, is a film that is not as beloved as Zombi 2 or The Beyond. But these days I'm working on a re-orchestration of his themes for the concerts "Frizzi 2 Fulci" that there will be in the coming months. And I assure you that the soundtrack of Manhattan Baby surprised and impassioned me so much.

Are there any modern film composers working today that you really like?

The work of the soundtrack has changed a lot over the past 20 years, as for all the arts there is an increasing use of the technology, which sometimes crushes the creative element. I think the magic of Nino Rota atmospheres or the natural power of Bernard Herrmann's orchestrations are wonders unrepeatable. But surely even today there are composers of great quality that I admire and appreciate. Three names among all James Newton Howard, Denny Elfman and John Williams, just to name a few.

What is the creative process when it comes to scoring a film?

The creative process depends on many things. But to enclose in a single concept, let's say that you have to get into the film, as a part of it, must live from within the project, get in the shoes of the individual characters, experience the feelings you can breathe on set, the harmonies and the injustices that story contains. The fun and bitterness, love and hate. Then, when you're full of it as after a wedding lunch, you go to the piano and the ideas come out, naturally.

Are there any current projects or projects of yours in the near future that you would like to tell the readers about?

There are many projects that are born or to be born. First of all, thanks to the web, opportunities and meetings can take place anywhere. There are at this time, as well as two Italian films, other collaborations with northern Europe and the United States. A new project, which is very important to me that I mentioned earlier, a show-tribute to my friend, the great Lucio Fulci. "Frizzi 2 Fulci " will be a marathon through the music written for his films. Not only that, it will be a way to tell the man, the friend, the artist. Maybe during the life he deserved more. He is having today, thanks to millions of fans around the world, the right recognition.


Once again, a massive thank you to Fabio Frizzi for his time, it has been an honour.

If you want to know more information on upcoming projects, especially "Frizzi 2 Fulci" please click on those links down below!

Fabio Frizzi Logbook Facebook
Frizzi 2 Fulci Facebook