Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Vinegar Syndrome Review: Deathrow Gameshow (1987)

  Chuck Toedan Wants You ... To Die Laughing!”

Chuck Toedan (John McCafferty) is the host of the popular yet controversial game show Live or Die in which the contestants are death row inmates who get one last shot at fame, freedom and prizes for their families (there's an idea for you President Trump!). After beheading a good old fashioned family man, Chuck is greeted by a rowdy group of protestors outside of the studio, one of which being the beautiful leader of the Women Against Anything Men Are For (WAAMAF for short or what we call feminists nowadays) group; Gloria Sternvirgin (Robyn Blythe). Their paths cross again when they guests on a chat show debating moral value of Live or Die. Their debate bleeds out in to the parking lot until they are suddenly attacked by a couple of armed goons. Making a quick getaway, Toedan makes the realisation that they are grunts from mafia trying to seek revenge for the death of the head of the Pappalardo family, a previous contestant on his electrifying game show. This puts both his and Sternvirgin's lives in danger and he is posed the biggest moral question of all – should he continue with the show or get his well groomed behind out of the picture before it's rubbed out by someone else? Well, money talks so he carries on, but when Luigi Pappalardo (Beano) is sent to finish off the job, maybe that will convince him.
  As you can tell by the concept and some of the names used in the film, this is one of those camp and off-the-wall late 80's comedies. As with a lot of these low-budget horror comedies, the humour is there, but doesn't always work. Some of the character's names did give me a giggle and there is a genuinely funny gag involving a children's crossing and a great moment of fourth wall breaking (probably my favourite segment of the film). That being said, there are many crude jokes, innuendos and all round childish gags that did make my eyes roll. As much as that aspect did often frustrate me, this film never takes itself too seriously and you do get the impression that this was a fun shoot to be involved in. The story is fairly simple, but works and is well paced. Quite well written actually. The actors put in a decent effort and have great chemistry (thanks to the fact that nearly everyone involved has worked with each other multiple times up to that point.), but there are moments that do make you cringe slightly. In terms of production value, I think everyone did a solid job. Craig Bassuk's cinematography is solid with some really nicely staged shots. Tim Shoemaker's editing is equally solid, if not better. As well as that, there's some great stunt work, practical effects and a great score / soundtrack from Gregg Cross (the film's opening theme is great and worth a listen on its own!). All in all, it's a very solidly crafted and executed piece of low-budget comedy. It may not be my cup of tea, but I can definitely see why this has a cult following.
  For fans of the film, you are in for a treat with this release from Vinegar Syndrome. The film is scanned, restored & preserved in 2k from the 35mm original camera negative in a DVD & Blu-ray combo release. The film looks and sounds great, especially the vibrant colours used throughout. As well as that, there's an introduction to film by Mark Pirro as well as a commentary track with himself, Blythe & McCafferty which I found to be both insightful and full of great trivia. To compliment that, there's the 2015 Director's Cut of the film which has some quite questionable additions and tweaks (Pirro does refer to it as a Lucas-like remaster), a trailer, TV spot, image gallery and a director bio. The main special features on this disc are the making of documentary (includes information found in the commentary as well as other entertaining nuggets) and couple of Pirro's short films. These are Buns (1978) and The Spy Who Did it Better (1979). Buns follows a serial killer who murders anyone eating a hamburger and The Spy Who Did it Better is a nice parody (correct music cues and all) of the James Bond films. Both films have the same bizarreness and often bad taste that we find in Deathrow Gameshow and are great additions to this release. I actually think The Spy Who Did it Better is my favourite thing on this disc. All of these wonderful extras are topped off with reversible artwork. All in all, this is a must for hardcore fans of the film and those who like the campy side of 80's cinema. The film wasn't great, but it was by far a dull experience and I have to give credit where credit's due; it's great to see that Pirro is still very active in low-budget scene today. How many times can you say that!?
Deathrow Gameshow is available as a DVD / BluRay Combo from Vinegar Syndrome as well as being streamable on


Thursday, 23 February 2017

Unspecified Compilation #1: Oh, Manchester...

There's a hell of a lot dust flying around here. If there's one thing I am terrible at – it's keeping this place up to date. I'm sure you've heard it all before. Recently, I rediscovered my Innerspace posts from back in the day. If you are a regular reader (first of all, thank you so much!) you may remember the Innerspace series. It was basically a short-lived monthly series in which I would compile (with help from my soul brother Mr. Daniel Lee Harvey) a selection of songs based around a theme. That died out and turned in to Ultimate Cinemageddon. Eventually that stopped for whatever reason and I stopped compiling songs even though music is probably a bigger passion for me than cinema and craft beer! I basically had an itch to restart Innerspace albeit in a new form and not really under the guise of a specific series. So ladies and gentlemen here is the first in what could potentially be a series of new compilations. Kickstarting with something I love and adore – Manchester.

  Although my dad's side of the family is Welsh / Scouse, I've always seen Manchester as my spiritual home. Before I met the greatest person in my life (my beautiful Jeanny of course!), I even had a “dream” of living and working in inner-city Manchester. A city that isn't trying to show off like Liverpool (a city I do love by the way!) with it's Capital of Culture title and shiny buildings. Manchester has that perfect mixture of contemporary, the old and sometimes scruffy. Manchester is never as beautiful as it is when it's overcast. Yes, that's poncey, but I remember the afternoons, mornings and evenings spent in the alleyways and alcoves of the city during my Graphic Design education at Salford (two completely different places by the way!) just marvelling in the honesty and gloom of the city. I remember the early morning hours after nights out just revelling in the silence. My love for the place began before that in my high school years. Going to Wigan on a Friday night and spending the hangover (and my mum's money!) on Saturday in Manchester. I wouldn't be able to do that now of course. I just need to have a couple of beers to feel sluggish the next day. Another major role to play in my discovery and love for Manchester was the music and culture.

My dad rented Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People a.k.a The Greatest Film of all Time one night and I was instantly hooked. Naturally, next came the Joy Division period of my life and there I was picking up a guitar and getting so impressed with myself when I had learnt Hooky's bass line to She's Lost Control. My dad had always been a fan of Morrissey so he and The Smiths had been implanted in to my psyche from a young age and thus planted the seed. I don't get to visit Manchester all that much now being in Germany, but when I do, it's always a special and somewhat spiritual experience. You'll find me in the Brewdog bar sinking a couple of beers and then making my way through the usual haunts such as Fopp!, Piccadilly Records, The Night & Day Cafe and other historically significant places I won't name off here because I already sound like a pretentious tit. I own the hipster label thrown at me so who the fuck cares, right?

Anyway, the idea to start with Manchester for this series was thanks to getting a tad homesick by reading Hooky's Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, The
Ha├žienda: How Not to Run a Club (still need to get round to his recent New Order book.) and Mark E. Smith's Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith. What better way to pay tribute to the city by putting together a small selection of my favourite tracks. No, There isn't any Oasis (for good reason.) or Joy Division (too hard to pick a favourite.) and yes, there are a few Factory related songs scattered throughout!
1.The Smiths- Barbarism Begins at Home (Taken from Meat is Murder)

A classic Smiths song for me. My all time favourite is This Night Has Opened My Eyes, but I thought that was too obvious and why not kick things off with a bit of a jig? Of course you have Morrissey's scathing attack on the school system juxtaposed perfectly with an almost disco / funk vibe. We all know Morissey was backed up by talented and unique sounding music, but this is Joyce, Rourke and Marr at their finest.

2. A Certain Ratio- I Need Someone Tonite (Taken from the I Need Someone Tonite 12”)

Possibly the most underrated band on this compilation. Things may have started a bit funky, but this is taken to a completely different level. That bass line for a start! You listen to a lot of that electroclash stuff that was popular in the 2000's and all you hear is ACR. True pioneers.

3. The Fall- Iceland (Taken from Hex Enduction Hour)

Ah, Mark E. Smith! Ah, The Fall! OK, when you have released 30+ studio albums alone as well as seeing more lineup changes than Shaun Ryder has had drug dealers, not everything is going to be great. In fact, there's a fair few Fall songs that are downright AWFUL! This however, isn't. I have really no idea what the lyrics are about, but that almost constant pace and rhythm is mesmerising and kinda reminds me of LCD Soundsystem's All My Friends. I think James Murphy owes a lot to the likes of Mr. Smith!

4. The Durutti Column- Messidor (Taken from LC)

Vini Reilly may be odd. Really odd in fact, but my goodness is he a wonderful guitarist. There's something so bittersweet with this piece of music. Gloomy, yet beautiful. Much like Manchester itself. Words can't do this track justice.

5. 10cc- Good Morning Judge (Taken from Deceptive Bends)

It's time for a little pick me up and I think this is just right. A jolly little number from a band that I really need to investigate further. First became aware of this wonderful tune thanks to the fantastic re-edit from Mock & Toof which was part of RVNG Intl's RVNG of the NRDS series. This is one of those tracks you can just loop!

6. Dr. John Cooper Clarke & Hugh Cornwell- It's Only Make Believe (Taken from This Time It's Personal)

I am a MASSIVE fan of the original Stranglers lineup and Hugh Cornwell doesn't get the credit from his peers he deserves. I also love John Cooper Clarke's poetry. When I found out they were teaming up together I was confused as I was excited. When I learnt they were collaborating on an album of covers, I was even more confused. This rendition of Conway Twitty's classic is beautiful. In fact, the whole album is a must. Definitely one of the best of 2016!

7. Happy Mondays- Tart Tart (Taken from Squirrel And G-Man: Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out))

Aside from coming from the album with best name ever, this a fucking beaut of a song. Happy Mondays are another band who don't get the credit they deserve when it comes to the music. The pills, thrills and belly aches get all the attention. This is just a perfect party track when you're on the right side of fucked. Brilliant video too.

8. New Order- Angel Dust (Taken from Brotherhood)

New Order, but no Joy Division or at least Warsaw!? Are you fucking mad!? No, it was just hard to pick a Joy Division track and in all honesty, I'm more of a fan of New Order. This isn't even my favourite New Order track, but it just seemed to fit in the context of this compilation. That's not to say it isn't a great track. Why would I put it in here if it wasn't?

9. Doves- Firesuite (Taken from Lost Souls)

You don't hear much nowadays about these chaps and you rarely hear Lost Souls getting mentioned. I recently discovered this album and this track and just fell in love with it. Much like Messidor, it's an instrumental track that has a melancholy beauty to it. Great to listen to this as you're traversing the Northern Quarter on a rainy day.

10. 808 State- Techno Bell (Taken from ExEl)

What a banger this one is. The album itself is one of the greatest electronic albums ever in my opinion. I'm reminded of Mr. Oizo for some reason with this one. This is one of those songs you hear now in most electronic music. Some of the sounds in this are phenomenal.

11. The Manchester Mekon- The Cakeshop Device (Take from the A Manchester Collection compilation)

We're ending on a high with probably my favourite song on the compilation. There's something really charming about this one. Another track that seems to have a range of emotions. The Manchester Mekon are a recent discovery for me and a band I am surprised lasted for such a short amount of time. An unsung hero in Manchester's musical heritage. You play this in an indie club now and you're going to blow minds.

Well there you have it ladies and gentlemen. It's not the most original selection of tracks I know, but I didn't want to come across as one of those “Oh my god I am so cultured!” types. I hope these songs move you and all albums these tracks come from are highly recommended from me!

Oh, Manchester...
Here's to the next one. If there is a next one! Oh by the way, you can still download the Innerspace compilations here.