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Stroke of Midnight

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Archive for the 'DVD News' Category

Czech & Argentine Horrors on the way from Redemption.

Monday, February 16th, 2009

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.

31 Days of Horror: The Deadly Bees

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Seriously, am I the only person who likes The Deadly Bees?  The film has been given the Mystery Science Theater treatment and only manages a 2.6/10 at IMDB, but it has a nice style and is far from the worst of the  “mysterious happenings at quaint English village” movies.  It features striking visuals from director Freddie Francis, good character acting from Guy Doleman, Frank Finlay, and Michael Ripper.  Beautiful women (Suzanna Leigh and Katy Wild) and even a cameo by Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones.

Pop singer Vicki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh), suffering from exhaustion is sent to Seagull Island for a fortnight of rest and relaxation.  On the remote island Vicki encounters dueling beekeepers, a bickering host couple that make George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? look like sappy newlyweds.  Soon, killer bee attacks start up on the island.  Apparently not only is someone raising killer bees, but is also training them to attack specific targets, but who is controlling the deadly bees, the boorish Hargrove or the kindly Manfred?

The Deadly Bees is not a classic by any definition, but it is great fun.  It is a great rainy day flick.   The film looks great and has that easy charm so prevalent in British horror films of the 1960’s.  The film was made by Amicus, who made their name with 4 story horror anthologies like Asylum and Dr Terror’s House of Horrors.  Most Amicus feature length films really would have been better suited to the short format of the anthology as they usually feel a bit padded out at feature length.  Also the longer running times give more time for the holes in the plot to appear.  The Deadly Bees is no exception.  While hardly horrific by the standards of today’s gore fests, the script by horror master Robert Bloch creates some real menace and tension.  Even without blood the bee attacks are fairly gruesome with close-ups of bees stinging human flesh. The attack on Vicki in her bathroom, clad only in a bra and half slip is quite creepy.

The DVD from Legend Films and Paramount could hardly look better.  The film is presented in 1:78 widescreen with luscious colors and strong mono sound.  It is really nice to see the care taken on such a minor film.

2 Exploitation Cinema Double Features

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Two new double features have been announced under BCI’s “Exploitation Cinema” series.  NIghtmare in Wax/Blood of Dracula’s Castle and Horror High/The Lurkers both have a street date of 12/30/08.

With a $14.95 price tag these are very affordable and sought after titles.  Blood of Dracula’s Castle is an Al Adamson hoot of a horror movie with an aged John Carradine and could rival Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space as one of the worst movies ever made.

I’ve never seen The Lurkers, but since it is a Roberta Findlay film, I am intrigued.  Findlay is one of the lesser known and more notoriuous indie grindhouse film makers of the 1970’s and 80’s, often writing, directing, editing, and acting in her films including Snuff, Shriek of the Mutilated, and Invasion of the Blood Farmers.

Fu Manchu is Coming(not the band)!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

In a victory over knee jerk political correctness, Warner Home Video is releasing the best of the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films, Brides of Fu Manchu on DVD in October.

As a fan of the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu both in the Sax Rohmer novels and various film versions, I was starting to get concerned that fears of reprisals from P.C. watchdogs had kept the Warner owned Harry Alan Tower’s produced Fu Manchus, (Face of Fu Manchu, Brides of Fu Manchu, and Vengeance of Fu Manchu) locked in the vaults never to see DVD release.  But now on of the three is seeing release as part of a double bill disc available as a Best Buy exclusive.  The other film on the disc is the 1966 version of Chamber of Horrors.  On the same day there is another Warners/Best Buy disc with The Shuttered Room and It!.  I would really have preferred Brides to be paired with It! so I only had to buy one $14.99 DVD.

The problem that people could find with the films is two fold.  One is in the depiction of all Asians as villainous, and two having a six foot five english actor playing the titular Chinese character. The issue is of course with white actors playing asian characters and the analogy is made with white actors appearing in black face.  Of course there have been many film adaptations of Sax Rohmer’s tales and none that I can recall have cast asians as Fu Manchu.  Boris Karloff, Warner Oland, and Peter Sellers have all played Fu Manchu.

There was some stink made a few years ago trying to block the release of restored Charlie Chan films on DVD, a project partially backed by Lucy Liu.  But it looks like some of that noise has died down and we now what Charlie Chan, Mr. Wong, Mr. Moto, and Fu Manchu all available for viewing on DVD.

Brides of Fu Manchu
is by no means a great film, but it is great fun.  Christopher Lee is almost always able to raise his performance a bit above the material and here is no exception.  The film has a great look, some clap trap plot and a multitude of beautiful girls.  Yet the real star of this and the other Harry Alan Tower’s Fu Manchu films is Tsai Chin who plays Fu’s coldly sadistic daughter.  I’ll be back with a review of this disc, soon.