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Stroke of Midnight

Is it Scary?

Retro Monster Toys

May 26th, 2010 by phil-bailey

Emce Toys and Diamond Select have again teamed up to bring back Mego style toys. the amazing recreations of Star Trek and Planet of the Apes comes a new Universal Monsters series starting off with Frankenstein and the Wolf Man.

The sculpts and design are a big improvement on the original figures, without making them look too perfect.

The toys should be available in August.

For a look at the original figures visit: Gallery of Monster Toys

Requiem for a Vampire

February 18th, 2010 by phil-bailey

Requiem for a Vampire is arguably one of the best of Jean Rollin’s horror & sex epics.  Most of those films were vampire movies that really brought the sexy vampire into vogue.  Without Jean Rollin there is most likely no Daughters of Darkness, no Hunger, no Buffy, no Edward.  Although Rollin’s film were never mainstream blockbusters, they affected the genre greatly and their influence can still be felt today.

From the opening shot of beautiful girls dressed as clowns shooting out the back of a car involved in a Bonnie and Clyde style car chase through the end every scene of this surreal masterpiece has all the logic of a fever dream and is just as captivating.  There is only enough plot as is necessary for Rollin to stage his set pieces in which he gets the most from his two major assets;  beautiful girls (Marie Pierre Castell & Mirelle D’Argent) and the fabulous locations in rural France.  Images from the film stay with the viewer.  The absurdity of the whole affair is heavily offset by the striking imagery of some scenes.  There is a real artist at work in the midst of all the gratuitous  nudity, sex, bloodletting and striking that imagery abound in Rollin’s work.

This new DVD from Salvation Films puts their previous release to shame, and there wan’t anything wrong with it.  The new disc has a stunning 16:9 transfer that looks good for a new film much less a 38 year old French sex vampire film.

The Escapees

February 18th, 2010 by phil-bailey

The Escapees is essentially a Jean Rollin vampire movie, without the vampires or any other supernatural baddies.  The plot is there basically to string surreal set pieces together and of course to show off beautiful nubile girls.  The Escapees is now making it’s American video debut in any format thanks to this DVD release from Redemption Video.

Marie and Michelle are patients in an insane asylum that they seem to be the only inmates.  Michelle is a tough rebel and Marie is nearly catatonic speaking to no one and spending her days in a rocking chair on the lawn.  Michelle enlists Marie’s aid in geting out of her straight jacket and enabling her escape.  Marie speaks for the first time in years telling Michelle that she wants to go with her.  Michelle reluctantly agrees and thus begins a female mix matched buddy road movie.

The pair travel though some truly odd locals including a burlesque show for sailors in the middle of a junk yard, bizarre dive bars, and various docks and shipyards.  The pair of befriended by a leather clad pick pocket who ultimately arranges for the girls to set sail for the Leeward Islands.

The girls are never really in any danger and little is made of their apparent mental problems apart from a truly strange scene on a closed ice rink when Marie dressed in skates and ice dancing dress realizes her breakdown was caused from exhaustion due to competitive skating, or something, nothing is very well explained.  Ultimately things go terribly wrong as the girls’ escape to freedom comes near, with tragic results.

The film is rather entertaining even without the delirium of most of Rollin’s vampire films and has decidedly less sex and violence than one is accustomed to.  One would also expect some trippy hallucinations from a story about asylum escapees, but no such garishness on display here.   The acting from the leads is rather good although some of the smaller roles range from good to laughably bad.  The video looks surprisingly good although there are some lengthy passages with annoying vertical lines, but nothing to get too concerned about.   Extras include and interview with Jean Rollin and some trailers.

Succubus: The Demon

March 20th, 2009 by phil-bailey

Very often styles of horror films are geographically based. American, Italian, British, Japanese, even Mexican horror films often have a distinctive style that is heavily influenced by the culture and history of the filmmaker’s home country. I suppose the same could be said for Finnish horror, if I had seen more than one Finnish film, horror or otherwise. That lone example of the cinema output of Finland is Sami Haavisto’s Succubus: The Demon.

Following the sudden death of his beloved bride just weeks after their wedding, Henri has spent the last two months in despair.  His entire life has stopped as depression and drinking have take over, until the  visions start.  The visions which may or may not be dreams start Henri looking for answers to his wife’s death.  When the normal course of inquiry fails Henri turns to the occult for help.  As Henri delves deeeper into the occult he discovers more about his late wife and her death, as he looses more of his soul and humanity.

One name kept creeping into my head while watching Succubus; Ken Russell.  Director Sami Haavisto seems to be heavily influenced by the British director of The Devils and Altered States.  It is only a shame that Haavisto in nowhere near the visual director that Russell is and the entire production has an amatuerish feel to it.   The film isn’t bad but pales in comparison to almost any contemporary product from anywhere in the world.  The gore effects are not likely to impress anyone who has seen any horror film made in the last 40 years.  But despite all of it’s flaws, Succubus:  The Demon has an earnestness that keeps the viewer watching through the film’s heart breaking climax.

The DVD reelase from horror and exploitation masters Redemption/Salvation films is the quality that one expects from this label.   The film looks nice with a widescreen transfer and is accompanied by several featurettes that actually enhance the appreciation of the film.  There are also the customary still galleries and Redemption trailers.

Czech & Argentine Horrors on the way from Redemption.

February 16th, 2009 by phil-bailey

Redemption Films is releasing two 21st Century horror films.  One from Eastern Europe, one from South America.  They may not be to everyone’s taste, but Redemption always carries interesting and unusual titles.

From the real-life horror of the master race to the fantasized crushing of an individual, both of Redemption’s new acquisition’s have two key factors in common; they both feature a strong woman in the lead role and they each have a dark and disturbing narrative that is held together within a strong and powerful drama.

Breaking Nikki (2008, Argentina, English language) – is a taut psychological thriller in which a man sets about transforming a hapless call girl into his ex-wife using abuse, torture and drugs. At times highly disquieting, this is a serious new horror film and one that Redemption is delighted to be releasing.

Spring of Life aka Pramen Zivota (2000, Czech Republic, English subtitles) – is a bleak, haunting and emotional drama in which a young Czech girl whose blonde hair and blue eyes bring her to the attention of the SS, finds herself conscripted to a secret project, ‘Lebensborn’ – the Nazis’ secret and infamous master race breeding program. Stylish and beautifully crafted, ‘Spring of Life’ is a real gem and one that Redemption is very pleased to be able to bring to a side audience.

Happy Birthday H.R. Giger

February 5th, 2009 by phil-bailey

Happy 68th Birthday H.R. Giger.  The Swiss surrealist artist is probably best known for his design work on Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) but has also done album covers for Debbie Harry, Danzig, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  His artwork used as a poster for the Dead Kennedys’ album Frankenchrist caused quite a stir and arrest & trial for Jello Biafra.

Giger has decades of stunningly original artwork and design in his portfolio.

Happy Birthday George Romero

February 4th, 2009 by phil-bailey

George Romero is easily the creator of the modern horror genre.  With Night of the Living Dead, he brought visceral horror and gore to theatre screens.  He also paved the way for indie film making.  NOTLD was made by a goup of friends on a miniscule budget.  By the time Romero came out with the Living Dead sequel, Dawn of the Dead, dozens of other gore auteurs had made their mark.  Names like Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, and many others owe a great debt to Mr. Romero.

My personal favorite George Romero flick!

Remain Uninvited

January 28th, 2009 by phil-bailey

Despite the onslaught of tv advertising, please send a message to the movie industry and skip the new film The Uninvited.   Do yourself a favor and pick up the DVD of the Korean original A Tale of Two Sisters.

I personally find it insulting that in the US we are not deemed worthy of seeing foreign films in theaters (at least not in wide release) but instead are subjected to Americanized remakes, which never stack up to the original.  From Ju-on/The Grudge to Ringu/The Ring to One Missed Call to The Eye, Asian horror is a hit on DVD and I have to imagine that a wide release of a Japanese or Korean horror film has to be much cheaper than a remake with a massive publicity budget.

Happy Birthday Tippi Hedren

January 19th, 2009 by phil-bailey

Tippi Hedren is 79 today.  She starred in two of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films; The Birds and Marnie.  Hedren was famous for being an object of obsession for for Hitchcock and along with Kim Novak and Grace Kelly embodied his ideal icy blonde.

Tippi’s daughter Melanie Griffith was named after her character in The Birds, Melanie Daniels.

Amazing poster.  The pulp novel artwork is antithetical to the film, but who wouldn’t want to see it after glimpsing this poster?

Beyond the Beyond

November 20th, 2008 by phil-bailey

Wow! The Beyond has for ages been one of my favorite horror movies. I mean what’s not to love? Loads of gore, torture, man eating spiders, zombies, evil books, haunted hotels, gateways to hell, and virtually no plot getting in the way of the story. Decades after first seeing it on video, the surreal horror masterpiece still holds it’s power.

There really is no way of describing the story of The Beyond as there scarcely is a plot. The film exists almost entirely in dream logic, and trying to describe it in any meaningful way is like telling your dream to someone and we all know how interesting that is! There are major visual moments that act as plot points including the crucifixion of the painter in the opening scenes of the film. The sudden appearance of the blind psychic Emily, standing with her German Shepard guide dog on the middle of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in New Orleans, is one of the more jarring, non gore moments of the movie. The city of New Orleans with it’s raised tombs and wrought iron architecture of the French Quarter and Garden District lend a great deal of atmosphere to the proceedings.

The Beyond is actually one of the best H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, even though it isn’t actually based on Lovecraft. It does dabble in Lovecraftian mythology (as did Fulci’s earlier Gates of Hell aka City of the Living Dead). The setting is New Orleans replacing New England, but the huge house with it’s hidden secrets, the gateway to hell and the Book of Eibon all point to Lovecraft as does the whole feel of the film.

Lucio Fulci sometimes gets a bad rap for being merely a gore director. True, his horror films certainly push the vomit levels, but you often can sense something stronger than merely bloodletting in his approach, be it with Zombie 2, Gates of Hell or Manhattan Baby. The Beyond is where he finally puts it all together and creates fascinating piece of visual cinema, unencumbered by the necessity for coherent plot. It is easily his best and most important contribution to modern horror cinema.

Like some other Lucio Fulci films, The Beyond has had a spotty record on home video. A heavily censored version called Seven Doors to Death have floated around for years, and pales in comparison to the proper version. Of course this isn’t nearly as bad as the infamous swapped reals in some video versions of Fulci House By the Cemetery. Parts of the film were mastered out of sequence so people who had died earlier in the film suddenly showed back up with no explanation, causing the film to be thought of quite poorly. Of course this new deluxe edition of The Beyond suffers from none of that nonsense. A very sharp widescreen transfer is graced with stereo and mono English audio, Italian audio, and a really rollicking commentary track with stars Catriona MacColl and the late David Warbeck. The disc also has interviews, music videos, alternate scenes, and trailers.