Tag Archives: DVD

Review: THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1974)

91R2u84-EFL._SL1500_THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1974, DVD/Blu-Ray Combo)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

I actually bought this movie on DVD way back in 2000 when Image Entertainment had the rights to it. At that time I had never heard of the movie and was only made aware of it, I believe, through some mentioning of it in Fangoria. That mentioning is what got me to buy it. But, it was another matter altogether when I settled down to watch it. I think I got about a half hour in when the tedium of the plot finally destroyed any and all interest I had in it.

Just this past Halloween TCM aired it one late night. I recorded it and again tried to watch it. This time it wasn’t the storyline that derailed my desire but the god-awful transfer and audio. Still determined to see this movie through to the end, I finally managed to score a review copy of it from Severin and this time managed to see it through to the end. I wasn’t totally put off by the tedium of the story this time, but the ending was a headscratcher.

Okay, so, the story goes like this, horror movie director, Eric Hartman (John Ireland), whom I will always remember as the local sheriff in The Incubus (1982), takes a film crew to this haunted mansion to make a horror movie. Among the cast members of the movie within the movie is Gayle Dorian (Faith Domergue), whom I will always equate with It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), and the mansion’s caretaker, Edgar Price, played by horror icon, John Carradine.

About 90% of this movie is focused on Hartman’s making of his horror movie with for the first hour at least smidgens of supernatural activity mixed in between. Those smidgens focuses on one of Hartman’s actors, David (Jerry Strickler) who finds a shelf full of “forbidden tomes,” one of which is the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, and I think we all know by now what happens when unsuspecting people read and/or recite passages from these kinds of books. And that’s exactly what David does at the behest of Hartman who wants to add some of the passages to his movie.

In that first hour we get the unexplained death of Gayle’s cat; David and his actress girlfriend spotting Price going behind a tombstone, lifting something up and disappearing into the ground; and the history of the Beal mansion which involved the inexplicable murders/suicide of the family. Nothing that goes on in the movie is ever explained. We never find out why or how Gayle’s cat was cut in half, where the hell Carradine went when he went into the ground, or why David goes mad and tries to push Hartman into an open grave as they’re out in the cemetery getting exterior shots for the movie.
Even more inexplicable is when Hartman flips him into the grave and two pairs of desiccated undead arms appear seconds later and tries to grab Hartman. Did David turn into this corpse? Unknown. But before that event even happens, a corpse comes out of that same open grave, staggers into the mansion and kills everyone there. So, there were two corpses? Unknown, we never see them together, or why the corpse carries a dead, naked actress back into the open grave with it as the credits roll.

As of this writing I have yet to listen to the commentary, which I’m thankful there is one. And I’ll be checking it out tonight for some kind of explanation.

Putting all other releases to shame Severin Films released this movie back in August in a DVD/Blu-ray combo with a transfer that’s ten times better than the one TCM ran. It’s not perfect, it still shows some minor print damage in places, but the colors and the dark levels are striking.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen—DTS-HD Master Audio Mono—No subtitles.

The audio commentary with Associate Producer Gary Kent, moderated by Lars Nilsen was a great one full of information about the location, the actors, low-budget filmmaking in general but it didn’t shed much light on the plot. In my second viewing, though, I finally noticed the connection between the murders of the original family members seen in the prologue and the murders of the film crew at the end and how they mimicked one another, and then had that fact backed up by Kent in the closing moments of the movie.

Along with the movie’s theatrical trailer the main extra here is the newly discovered interview with John Carradine that runs 28:03. It was a very enlightening one, too. It’s obvious from the start Carradine was never a horror movie fan. He clearly states he’s made over 400 movies, with only 25 of them being in the horror genre and towards the end he states he’s never understood people’s fascination with them. He reveals theater is his first love and anything that took him out of it was only a job. He was also grateful for those “jobs” for they allowed him to see a lot of the world.

This film reminds me of Jim Wynorski’s remake of Not Of This Earth (1988) in that I had vague memories of seeing it on cable but was unsure if the eventual DVD I had ordered would be a keeper. After finally seeing it after all those years I didn’t think it was all that great, then I listened to the new commentary included with Wynorski and Traci Lords and I suddenly found myself actually appreciating the movie. The House Of Seven Corpses is exactly like that. The commentary was so insightful I now like the movie and deem it a keeper.

Review: NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)

914hRTdFRML._SL1500_NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

Exactly like the two previous reviews I recently did—Saturn 3 (1980) and Body Bags (1991)—I have not seen Night Of The Comet in decades, specifically speaking not since cable circa 1985. And again like those two previous movies my initial reaction was lukewarm. In 1984 I was 15; I have no memory of it’s theatrical release, but a year later, when I presume I saw it on cable, I do have a vague memory of seeing it one day in the living room. I also think I read about it Fangoria, but alas I no longer have any of those mid-80s issue due to two factors: a bad decision that resulted in me cutting some of them up and using them in a collage for art class, and years later the remaining issues were destroyed by cat piss.

In 1984 everyone on earth is waiting to see this comet that’s supposed to pass by the earth. Not so sure if that’s a good thing to celebrate for the last time it visited this neck of the woods the dinosaurs “went missing.” Yeah, that’s right, every single one of them. So, you can see where this is all leading.

Teenager Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) works as an usher at a movie theater and she’s working there the very night the comet comes. Her sister, Samantha (Kelli Maroney) is home contending with her “evil” stepmother who actually slugs her in the face when she mouths off to her.

The next morning earth turns into a whole new world. Regina didn’t go home, she spent the night with her “boyfriend” in the projection booth, and Samantha ran away from home and spent the night sleeping in the shed out back. Both girls were in rooms made from steel, which is what kept them alive. For everyone else who was fully exposed to the comet they got reduced to red dust. People who partially exposed suffer a more gruesome fate before eventually turning into red dust; they become “comet zombies.” And like regular zombies they crave live flesh, unlike regular zombies most of them still have full possession of their faculties and can communicate, shoot guns and menace a person like any regular earth bound psychopath would, except the end result in their case is the complete and total cannibalization of the person they are menacing.

The seemingly still in operation radio station is the first place the girls venture to hoping to find survivors. Here they encounter Hector (Robert Beltran), a truck driver who lost his girl to a ravenous comet zombie.

In another part of the state a “thinktank” of scientific researchers—notable among them is Geoffrey Lewis (’79 version of Salem’s Lot) and Mary Woronov (Terrorvision)—have survived, barely, and think they can produce a cure for the comet zombie plague, but they need blood doners for that, which is a bad thing, for the doner that is.

The girls pit their gun/survival skills (their father was military) against any comet zombie they come across not to mention the thinktankers, by the end of the film they gain a pseudo-family in the form of two children the thinktankers kidnapped. Samantha even stumbles across another guy, since Hector and Regina are already paired up, and with that New Adam and New Eve are ready to repopulate the earth.

Under their Scream Factory sub-label Shout Factory! finally brings this cult classic to blu-ray and DVD in a combo that came out on November 19th.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p High Definition 1.78:1 widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English only subtitles.
The transfer on this one is extremely good looking and colorful where it needs to be. I had no problem with the audio.

Extra features are plentiful. To start off with you get not one, not two, but three separate commentaries: One with the two lead actresses, Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney, moderated by Edwin Samuelson, one with the director, Thom Eberhardt moderated by Michael Felsher and one with Production Designer, John Muto, again moderated by Micheal Felsher (owner of Red Shirt Pictures).

There are three featurettes on the DVD & the Blu-ray:
‘Valley Girls At The End Of The Earth’ (14:59): Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney reminisce about the film and still remain good friends to this day.

‘The Last Man On Earth?’ (12:32): Robert Beltan is interviewed and he turned down the role twice until the filmmakers promised he could play it like he wanted and not as it was written since it was written similar to the role he played as Raoul in Eating Raoul (1982).

‘Curse Of The Comet’ (6:32): Interviews FX Artist David B. Miller recounts his work on the movie; he was in charge of creating the “zombie” effects.
Rounding out the extras is a Film Photo Gallery (3:27), a Behind The Scene Photo Gallery (5:02) and the Theatrical Trailer.

Even though Night Of The Comet was never a favorite movie of mine, and after finally seeing it again it still registers non-existent on my list of movies I need to collect, it always comes to mind whenever I hear the names of the two lead actresses. I should say the first movie that comes to mine whenever I hear their names. For Catherine Mary Stuart it goes like this—Night Of The Comet, The Last Starfighter, Nightflyers and for Kelli Maroney it’s Night Of The Comet, Killbots (hard for me to think of that film as Chopping Mall since I first saw it on cable under it’s Killbots title) and the ’88 version of Not Of This Earth.

Also whenever I come across Robert Beltran’s name Night Of The Comet hits me right in the ol’ brainpan, and then Lone Wolf McQuade and then his stint on Star Trek: Voyager. Plus, it just reminds me of those good ol’ days of being a teen in the 80s. I don’t know how you all view the 80s now, speaking strictly to the Gen-X crowd, but I loved that era and miss it badly. Huh, for a movie I’m not a fan of it seems to certainly play an integral part in my life.

Review: Body Bags (1993)

BodyBagsBlu-610x767JOHN CARPENTER PRESENTS BODY BAGS (1993)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

I remember Body Bags. I remember reading about it in Fangoria and then seeing it on Showtime. I liked the second story the best but overall didn’t care for it. Haven’t seen it since then. I just watched it for a second time last night and now I like it. I had a feeling this would be the case after all these years.

Body Bags is an anthology movie comprised of 3 stories (The Gas Station, Hair and Eye) that was specifically made for Showtime by John Carpenter. The wraparound tale is about a dead “coroner” played by Carpenter himself who’s hosting shtick is similar to what The Cryptkeeper did on HBO’s long running Tales From The Crypt series. He clowns around with jet black humor and then introduces each tale:
“The Gas Station”—Haddonfield, 1993, Annie (Alex Datcher), a collegian, is starting her new job on the graveyard shift at a gas station. Over the radio as she’s being dropped off by her friend we learn a serial killer is stalking the town killing women. Christ, that poor town simply cannot catch a break ever since Micheal Myers cut a swath of carnage through it back in the late 70s. She quickly introduces herself to her departing co-working, Bill (Robert Carradine), and gets to work. Through out the night she serves various patrons, some are creepier than others but most are played by recognize stars. Wes Craven buys some cigarettes; David Naughton forgets his credit card; transient, and Carpenter regular, Buck Flower, needs to use the rest room; Peter Jason (another Carpenter regular) and wife show up to get gas, and Sam Raimi puts in two cameos: one in an Employee Of The Month photo and one as a dead body that falls out of a locker.

One of these men she’s recently met this night is the killer and it isn’t long before he reveals himself and the machete he plans to kill her with. The music, the pacing, the terror is classic Carpenter. I think this is my second favorite tale now. I even saw a couple of scenes Carpenter recreated from Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981).

“Hair”—Stacey Keach plays Richard Coberts (IMDB says his last name is Coberts but in the actual movie it sounds like they say Kobritz, which is the last name of the ill-fated babysitter in Carpenter’s The Fog) losing his hair and simply cannot stand it. Megan (Sheena Easton), his girlfriend, is constantly frustrated as well by his desperation for a solution. Richard comes across a commercial where a Dr. Lock (David Warner) claims he has the perfect solution. Richard pays him a visit, gets his head treated and wakes the next morning with incredibly long hair. There’s a catch, though, and its one that has already sealed his fate.

This was always my favorite of the three tales. It’s kind of similar to Carpenter’s own They Live (1988) where the aliens are already here on earth. In “Hair” they come in the form of the hair itself, which when inspected up close with a magnifying glass look like snakes brought to glorious life by Jim Danforth’s (Equinox) stop motion animation. This animation was so smooth for a minute I thought I was looking at some really early CGI.

“Eye”—This particular tale was my least favorite. Directed by Tobe Hooper it fits in nicely with The Hand (1981) and Body Parts (1991), with a basic plot that is pretty much identical to those two movies. A “family man” gets into a car accident, loses an appendage and then gets a new one grafted on to him, but the new one comes from a serial killer and that “evil cell memory” infects the man and influences him to do evil things. In this case that “family man” is Brent Matthews a professional baseball player who loses his right eye one night in a car accident. A couple of doctors played by Roger Corman and the late John Agar (Tarantula, Creature From The Black Lagoon) give him an eye transplant. Said transplant comes off successfully but he’s plagued by horrific visions of being a child abused, dead bodies appearing in the dirt in his backyard, body parts grinding up in the garbage disposal and sex with his pregnant wife that turns into the rape of a corpse.

A confrontation with Agar and research at the library reveals his eye came from a serial killer, but this does nothing to help him. His decent into madness becomes total at the end, with one final act of redemption. If thine eye offends thee pluck it out . . .

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p High Definition 1.78:1 widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English only subtitles
Body Bags hits DVD and blu-ray in a combo from Shout Factory through their Scream Factory sub-label and the transfer looks real nice. The audio is where I had a problem. It has the same problem as Retromedia’s Octaman (1971) release. I listen to all my movies through cordless headphones and through them I could hear occasional pops and cracks. The overall crispness was not very good either. The 5.1 audio was basically the lesser of the two evils. Listening to it through the TV’s speakers, however, did not reveal any problem, as was also the case for Octaman. They are minor and don’t totally detract from the viewing the experience, but having said that you can’t help but notice them.

Extras include a very good commentary with Carpenter and Robert Carradine on Gas Station, Carpenter and Stacey Keach on Hair and Justine Beahm and producer/Carpenter’s wife, Sandy King on Eye. Augmenting this commentary is a 20:08 doc titled, ‘Unzipping Body Bags.’ Mark Hamill’s two cents, however, was sorely missed on the commentary and the doc.

Highlights of both commentary/doc was that Showtime wanted Body Bags to be a series but they didn’t want to spend the money Carpenter said he would need to make it something of quality; Rick Baker’s hands shake when he has too much coffee; Carpenter enjoyed his acting stint as the “coroner” host, and Sandy King reveals that she and Carpenter are working on a PG-13 version of Darkchyld.
You also get Body Bag’s “theatrical trailer.”

Like Saturn 3, which I just reviewed, and initially didn’t care for until now, Body Bags is a noteworthy entry in Carpenter’s career, coming in between Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1993) and In The Mouth Of Madness (1995).

One last thing, Scream Factory’s version marks the first time the Uncut version has hit home video. As King states in the commentary it got edited for its overseas release and that release just carried over to the US. But if you saw it on Showtime you already saw the uncut version. Most of the edits were made in the “Eye” segment.

Review: SATURN 3 (1980)

saturn3SATURN 3 (1980)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

In grade school I had two friends that had cable before I did. Back then it was HBO that was the big boy on the block, the only boy now that I think about it, and I can’t rightly recall which one it was, Mike or Rob, that told me about this movie. And I’m not sure if it was after they had seen it at the movies or from cable. Anyway, the thing I remember the most from their talk of the movie was that this giant robot rips off Harvey Keitel’s head and uses it as its own.

For a young kid like myself who wasn’t totally into horror movies back then, well, I was, but they frightened me something awful until a traumatizing night at the drive-in to see The Thing in 1982 hardened me up real good, an image of a robot with no head using a torn off human’s one as its own certainly burned itself into my memory.

I have vague recollections of Starlog covering the movie so I already knew what the robot looked like. Eventually it hit TV but to this day I have only snippets of it still lodged in my brain. One of those snippets was being sort of under whelmed when it came time to seeing the robot with its human head. Just goes to show you imagination can sometimes be more potent than the real thing. Sometimes but not all the time. In this case it certainly was.

I haven’t seen Saturn 3 again since that TV viewing and was curious to know if Shout Factory!’s DVD/Blu-Ray combo would be a keeper. I’ve learned in the last few years that movies I used to either dislike or feel indifferent towards when I was young I now find appealing and vice versa. Saturn 3 now falls into the former category.

In an undisclosed future Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett) work on a hydroponics base on of one Saturn’s moon with their dog (Spoiler: dog gets iced). Everything is going along just fine until Captain Benson (Harvey Keitel) shows up to upgrade their system with a robot that’s the first in the Demigod line. It’s supposed to replace either Alex or Adam, much like we have nowadays where companies go the automated route to replace human workers.

We have two problems with this scenario: Benson is mentally ill, as in psychopathic and the robot he constructs, who he names Hector, gets it’s systems upgrade by connecting directly into Benson’s head, which means we now also have a mentally ill robot.

In the opening, we learned through a brief scene that Benson was not scheduled to go to Saturn 3 due to his psyche exam failure but takes it upon himself to go anyway by killing the guy who took his place.

Benson is certainly an odd person, which you get the sense of when you finally meet him on Saturn’s moon. Very unemotional, has an odd way of talking and not shy about asking Alex if he can bang her. When Hector is finally constructed and starts running amok the Frankenstein vibe is more than obvious. And this is where the movie settles in with Adam and Alex trying to survive Hector’s psychopathy and eventual delusions of grandeur. Harvey Keitel is eventually dispatched and that aforementioned “torn off head scene” surfaces where Hector puts Benson’s decapitated head upon his own. You see he’s basically a humanoid shaped creation with only a rudimentary neck armature and two lenses that act as a head.

This is not a gory movie, with more science fiction and action than horror. Despite that we do get a hand and a head that gets severed. The former happens right on screen, while the latter occurs off screen with only a brief reveal later on of where Keitel’s head went.

Video/Audio/Subtitle: 1080p High Definition 1.85:1 widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English only subtitles.

Saturn 3 hits DVD and Blu-ray in combo form from Shout Factory! under their Scream Factory sub-label on December 3rd and the blu-ray transfer is gorgeous. Especially when we get into the Saturn 3 moonbase where there is fluorescent white lighting and blues in the architecture. This new remaster brings out those colors fantastically.

As extras go, first off, you get a commentary with Greg Moss who has a very thorough fan site that covers everything you ever wanted to know about Saturn 3 (http://saturn3makingof.com/) and Film Critic, David Bradley who moderates.

There are also two separate interviews, one with Voice Actor, Roy Dotrice (6:29), whom I will always remember from Space: 1999. He guest starred in two epsiodes from Season One. Here he talks about his dubbing of Harvey Keitel’s voice. The reason he was given was that he sounded too American. Dotrice is British, but he makes the argument what was Kirk and Farrah speaking? And one with Special Effects Director, Collin Chilvers (15:55) who was coming off of Superman (1978) when he took this job.

Other features included Additional Scenes From The Network Version (9:55) which kind of make the film a little better. No idea why they were cut. A Deleted Ecstasy Scene (3:32) with audio that cuts out near the end. A theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots and a Still Gallery (5:22).

Saturn 3 is a strange movie and one you wouldn’t associate with Kirk Douglas but I dug it.