Sunday, August 29, 2021

Forgotten Gialli: Volume Two (The Girl in Room 2A/The French Sex Murders/My Dear Killer) – Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1974 (The Girl in Room 2A), Italy/West Germany/France, 1972 (The French Sex Murders), Italy, 1972 (My Dear Killer)
Directors: William L. Rose (The Girl in Room 2A), Ferdinando Merighi (The French Sex Murders), Tonino Valerii (My Dear Killer)
Cast: Daniela Giordano, Rosalba Neri, Raf Vallone, Karin Schubert (The Girl in Room 2A), Robert Sacchi, Howard Vernon, Rosalba Neri, Barbara Bouchet, Anita Ekberg (The French Sex Murders), George Hilton, William Berger, Patty Shepard, Helga Line (My Dear Killer)

Release Date: November 27th, 2020
Approximate Running Times: 86 Minutes 20 Seconds (The Girl in Room 2A), 90 Minutes 56 Seconds (The French Sex Murders), 100 Minutes 1 Second (My Dear Killer)
Aspect Ratios: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Girl in Room 2A), 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The French Sex Murders), 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (My Dear Killer)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English (The Girl in Room 2A, The French Sex Murders), DTS-HD Mono Italian (My Dear Killer)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $79.98

The Girl in Room 2A "After being released from prison, a young woman named Margaret goes to stay at a halfway house for female ex-cons, run by the kindly Mrs. Grant. It’s not long before Margaret begins experiencing strange happenings in the old house, such as a recurring red stain on the floor. And worse, she begins to be plagued by visions of young women being tortured and murdered by a mysterious figure in a red hood. But things take an even more unsettling turn when she befriends Charlie, who is searching for his sister, who has disappeared after staying in Mrs. Grant’s house..." - synopsis provided by the distributor

The French Sex Murders "Following the brutal death of a prostitute at an exclusive Parisian brothel, grizzled Inspector Fontaine is brought in to investigate. After implicating Antoine, a petty thief and regular client of the murdered woman, Fontaine believes the case to be closed. However, Antoine makes a daring attempt to escape custody, only to get decapitated in the process, after which his eyes are given over to strange Professor Waldemar for study. But soon enough those affiliated with implicating him begin to meet their own violent ends. Has Antoine's vengeful spirit returned to kill those he believes responsible for his own gruesome fate? Or has another, more sinister character been behind these diabolical murders from the very beginning?" - synopsis provided by the distributor

My Dear Killer "After a man is decapitated by an excavator at a rural construction site, Inspector Luca Peretti is assigned to the case. But what initially seems to be an isolated killing soon paves the way for an ever growing number of vicious murders. As Peretti tries desperately to unmask the killer, he discovers that all of the victims were, in some way, connected to another shocking crime, the horrific murder of a young girl, which has remained unsolved for several years..." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (The Girl in Room 2A, The French Sex Murders, My Dear Killer)

Here’s the information provided about The Girl in Room 2A and The French Sex Murders' transfers, "Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm original negative". Here's the information provided about My Dear Killer's transfer, "Newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original negative".

Here’s more information about The Girl in Room 2A, "The following presentation of 'Girl in Room 2A' represents what we believe to be the longest and most complete version ever released on home video. While the English export cut removed a few brief pieces of footage at various points in the film, it also included two short, English language specific, additional scenes not present in any other version. Therefore, we are presenting an integral version which includes all of the footage from both the Italian and Export cuts. Due to the absence of the Export scenes in the original negative, they have been sourced from a 35mm release print.

Furthermore, while watching the English dub, the audio will occasionally switch to subtitled Italian and while watching the Italian dub, the audio during the two scenes unique to the Export cut, will switch to English, as no Italian dub was ever created for them.”

The Girl in Room 2A comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.9 GB

Feature: 22.3 GB

The French Sex Murders comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 23.2 GB

Feature: 22.5 GB

My Dear Killer comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.3 GB

Feature: 28.8 GB (Uncut Version), 10.1 GB (Alternate English Language Version)

The source for The Girl in Room 2A looks very good. Colors are nicely saturated, flesh tones look correct, black levels, and image clarity look solid throughout and grain remains intact. That said, the few moments that are taken from a 35mm print are not as strong as the bulk of transfer.

The sources for The French Sex Murders and My Dear Killer look great. Colors and flesh tones look correct, black levels, and image clarity look solid throughout and grain remain intact.

Audio: 4/5 (The Girl in Room 2A, The French Sex Murders), 3.5/5 (My Dear Killer)

The Girl in Room 2A and The French Sex Murders each come with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. All audio mixes sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. Both films come with removable English subtitles for their Italian language tracks.

My Dear Killer comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian and removable English subtitles. Though there are some sibilance issues and background hiss, fortunately they’re never too distracting. Also, dialog comes through clearly, ambient sounds are well-represented and Ennio Morricone’s score sounds appropriately robust.

It should-be noted that the alternate English language version of My Dear Killer was sourced from a videotape.

Extras:

Extras for The Girl in Room 2A include reversible cover art, stills gallery, a trailer for The Girl in Room 2A (2 minutes 33 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English with removable English subtitles), an audio essay by film historian/critic Rachael Nisbet (17 minutes 57 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English subtitles) and an archival interview with actress Daniela Giordano (11 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles).

Extras for The French Sex Murders include reversible cover art, a promotional still gallery, a featurette on the career of producer Dick Randall titled The Wild, Wild World of Dick Randall (32 minutes 41 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English subtitles) and an  commentary track with authors/film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan.

Extras for My Dear Killer include reversible cover art, an interview with writer Roberto Leoni titled Innocence Lost (44 minutes 59 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor George Hilton and director Tonino Valerii (13 minutes 28 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles) and alternate English language version of My Dear Killer (98 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English with removable English SDH subtitles).

Summary:

The Girl in Room 2A: There is something distinctly different about Italian thrillers that sets them apart from thrillers from other countries. And though there have been countless imitations that have tried to recreate the vibe that has become synonymous with Italian thrillers. It always becomes quickly clear when a foreign entity is at the helm of what appears too be an Italian thriller.

The Girl in Room 2A is a perfect example of such mimicry, it's a film produced by an American filmmaker, who up to that point in his career had only directed sexploitation films. Sure, Italian thrillers are ripe with sexuality and in this regard The Girl in Room 2A is mildly successful. Unfortunately, when it comes to building and sustaining tension, The Girl in Room 2A fails in this regard. Also, when it comes to one of this genres most recognizable staples, the kill scene, this film is often lacking visually.

Another key competent that makes Italian thrillers so enjoyable, is that in which they go to great lengths to hide the killer's identity. And in many instances this ends up back firing because far too often it is too easy to guess who the killer is? And in the case of The Girl in Room 2A, let’s just say that the eureka moment is painfully obvious.

Without a doubt, The Girl in Room 2A's most durable and satisfying asset is its stellar cast which includes many recognizable Euro-Cult faces like, Daniela Giordano (Four Times That Night) in the role of the protagonist, Raf Vallone (The Italian Job), Brad Harris (Samson, Goliath against the Giants), Karin Schubert (Emanuelle around the World, Hanna D: The Girl from Vondel Park) and Rosalba Neri (Top Sensation, French Sex Murders). Ultimately The Girl in Room 2A is an underwhelming thriller that spends way to much time dragging its feet and when it finally does make up its mind, by then it is too little to late by then.

The French Sex Murders: Dick Randall produced The French Sex Murders, he was a producer who worked in a variety of films genre and who’s films are known for amping up exploitive elements. Some of his notable films include Four Times That Night, The Clones of Bruce Lee, For Your Height Only and Pieces.

The French Sex Murders was Dick Randall’s first of two foray’s into the Giallo genre. And where his latter-film The Girl in Room 2A lacks an Italian vibe. The same cannot be said for The French Sex Murders, a film who’s behind the scenes crew was predominantly Italian. Key collaborators on The French Sex Murders include Bruno Nicolai (The Case of the Bloody Iris, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) and editor Bruno Mattei (Hell of the Living Dead, Shocking DarK).

When watching The French Sex Murders the thing that immediately grabs you is its learning man  Robert Sacchi who’s face bears a striking resemblance to Humphrey Bogart. And just like Humphrey Bogart’s most celebrated characters, Robert Sacchi portrays a Philip Marlowe-like character that became synonymous with 1940’s film Noir. That said, though he looks like Humphrey Bogart, Robert Sacchi’s range as an actor pales in comparison.

Made at the height of the early 1970’s Gialli film cycle, The French Sex Murders has all elements that one would expect, most notably an ample amount of nudity/sleaze. And the murder set pieces are sufficiently gory.

Without a doubt, The French Sex Murders greatest asset is its cast of who’s who from 1970’s Euro-cult cinema, which includes  Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita, The Killer Nun), Rosalba Neri (Top Sensation, Amuck), Barbara Bouchet (The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, Don't Torture a Duckling) and Jess Franco regular Howard Vernon. Ultimately, The French Sex Murders is a highly entertaining mix of murder, sleaze and outlandish moments. 

My Dear Killer: Tonino Valerii began his career directing spaghetti westerns. He is best remembered for directing such classics like Day of Anger and My Name is Nobody. In 1972 he would direct My Dear Killer his only foray into the Giallo genre.

Content wise, though My Dear Killer has many elements that are synonymous with Giallo cinema. The result is a film that at times resembles Poliziotteschi cinema. Nowhere is this clearer, then how My Dear Killer’s main investigator is a police detective and not the more common everyday person who finds themselves caught up in an investigation. 

That said, though My Dear has a few gory murder set pieces. The overall tone of My Dear Killer is not as violent or sleazy as most Giallo made in the early 1970’s. My Dear Killer’s standout murder set piece is a scene where a school teacher is murder with a circular saw. This sequence foreshadows a scene from Brian De Palma’s Body Double, where a power drill kills a character.

George Hilton is no stranger to the Giallo genre starring several classic’s like Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, The Case of the Bloody Iris, All the Colors of the Dark, The Killer Must Strike Again and Next! And he’s been cast in the role of an Inspector named Peretti. He delivers a strong performance that’s backed up by his charisma. Also, My Dear Killer has a strong supporting cast and Tonino Valerii uses them to their fullest potential.

Ennio Morricone’s scores are an integral part to every film he works on. With My Dear Killer he delivers another superlative score that employs sorrowful coral vocals to great effect. Ultimately, My Dear Killer is a classic Giallo made at the height of the genre’s popularity before the onslaught of imitators that helped kill the genre off by the late 1970’s.

Vinegar Syndrome add another exemplary release to their Forgotten Gialli series, highly recommended.
























Written by Michael Den Boer

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Inquisition – Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1978
Director: Paul Naschy
Writer: Paul Naschy
Cast: Paul Naschy, Daniela Giordano, Mónica Randall, Ricardo Merino, Tony Isbert, Julia Saly, Antonio Iranzo, Juan Luis Galiardo, Eduardo Calvo, Tota Alba

Release Date: June 13th, 2017
Approximate running time: 90 Minutes 48 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Spanish, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"In 16th century France, Inquisitor and magistrate Bernard de Fossey (Paul Naschy) travels to the plague-ridden region of Peyriac in search of witches and devil worshipers. Local beauty Catherine (Daniela Giordano) quickly catches his eye, tormenting him with impure thoughts, although her affections lie with her handsome fiancé Jean. Meanwhile, embittered one-eyed manservant Rénover (Antonio Iranzo) presents Bernard with his first group of torture victims when he accuses several sexy young things who spurned his advances of being witches responsible for the plague.

One by one beautiful women are tortured on the rack then burned at the stake. No-one seems able to halt the Inquisition's reign of terror or the baseless accusations that cause so many innocent deaths. When Jean dies in mysterious circumstances, Catherine allies herself with Satan to get revenge on her enemies - foremost among them, De Fossey himself." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “1080p HD presentation, transferred from the original negative”.

Inquisition comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.5 GB

Feature: 20.4 GB

Colors look correct, image clarity and back levels look very good.  That said, though there's some mild use of DNR, this is a well authored disc that is easily the best this film has looked to date on home video.

Audio: 4.5/5

This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Spanish and included with this release are removable English subtitles. Both audio mixes sound, clean, clear and balanced throughout. With the main difference between these two audio mixes being their translations. The Spanish audio mixes dialog does a better job reinforcing the subject-matter at hand.

Extras:

Extras for this release include the Mondo Macabro’s Promo Reel, an introduction with actor/director Paul Naschy (7 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles), a documentary about Spanish horror films titled Blood and Sand (24 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish and English with English subtitles), an interview with actress Daniela Giordano (14 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn (the Naschycast).

Summary:

With Inquisition Paul Naschy would make his debut as director. And besides casting himself in the lead role, he also wrote this films screenplay. A key collaborator on Inquisition was cinematographer Miguel Fernández Mila whose other notable films as a cinematographer includes, All the Colors of the Dark, Return of the Blind Dead, The Loreley’s Grasp and The People Who Own the Dark.

No name has become more synonymous with Spanish Horror cinema than Paul Naschy, who as an actor portrayed wolf men, a hunchback, vampires and a variety of other monsters. And though he is most remembered for his films that featured classic Horror cinema monsters. His diverse filmography includes, films like Inquisition that take Horror to another level.

And at the heart of Inquisition, is a film that uses events from Medieval Evil times as its launching point. And the result is a film that is arguably one of the best example of films that dealt with the inquisition that wreaked havoc throughout Medieval Times.

Content wise, Inquisition is an unflinching recount of those who were given the power to expose witches and other heretics. And though there is no denying the potency of this film’s torture sequences. One must not undervalue the impact of a subplot involving a woman who seduces one of the witch-finder.

Performance wise the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performances being Daniela Giordano (Four Times that Night, The Girl in Room 2A) in the role of Catherine, a young woman who professes her loyalty to Satan after the man she loved gets murdered and Paul Naschy (Curse of the Devil, Werewolf Shadow) in the dual role of a witch-finder named Bernard de Fossey and Satan.

Other standout performances include, Mónica Randall (My Dear Killer) in the role of Madeleine, the young woman who introduces Catherine to black magic and Antonio Iranzo (Cut-Throats Nine) in the role of Rénover, a disfigured servant who lusts after Catherine’s sister.

Inquisition gets a strong release from Mondo Macabro that comes with a wealth of insightful content, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Devil in Maddalena – One 7 Movies (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy/Yugoslavia, 1971
Director: Jerzy Kawalerowicz
Writer: Jerzy Kawalerowicz
Cast: Lisa Gastoni, Eric Woofe, Ivo Garrani, Nando Gazzolo, Umberto Orsini

Release Date: September 14th, 2021
Approximate running time: 112 Minutes 55 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $24.98

"Maddalena (Lisa Gastoni) is a young sensual woman, with a tormented soul. Separated from her husband, who won’t grant her a divorce, she desperately seeks true and sincere love. During one of her erotic parties, she meets a young priest (Eric Woofe), dragged in front of her for a bet. Maddalena sees in that priest, doubtful about his ability to cope with his oath of celibacy, her own spiritual and physical salvation. She therefore decides to become a constant presence in his life and to seduce him." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "fully restored directly from its original negative."

The Devil in Maddalena comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.9 GB

Feature: 22.6 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape and any source related debris is minimal. Colors and flesh tones look correct, image clarity is strong and black levels are adequate with some instances of black crush. Also, though there seems too be some digital filter of the image, it's not as egregious as most of Raro Video’s Blu-ray transfers. That said, this transfer is one of One 7 Movies strongest transfers.

Audio: 3.5/5

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Though both audio tracks sound clean and clear, there are some instances where the audio sounds distorted/harsh. Quality wise these two audio tracks sound similar. Though this release comes with an Italian language track, there are no English subtitles.

Extras:

There are no extras. Just a static menu that has three options, play film, chapter selection and audio options.

Summary:

Though just about everything about The Devil in Maddalena signals that it's an Italian film. It’s a Yugoslavia co-production that’s directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, a filmmaker who made the bulk of his films in Poland. 

Ennio Morricone composed The Devil in Maddalena’s score. And anyone familiar with Ennio Morricone’s other scores, known to expect an exemplary score. It should-be noted that some of the score would later be recycled by Ennio Morricone who used Chi Mai for The Professionals score. 

Desire and religion are two of the more prominent themes explored in Italian cinema. And at the heart of The Devil in Maddalena is a tale that intersects these two themes. With the protagonist forming a bond with a preacher who’s doubt’s have led him to leave the church.

Though the premise lays the groundwork for a salacious tale of sexual desire. The result is a film that’s not as perverse as other similar themed Italian films from this era. Also, most of the nudity occurs during the finale.

Lisa Gastoni’s (Wake Up and Die, Seduction) portrayal of Maddalena carries the film. She delivers an uninhibited performance that effortlessly alternates between Madonna and a whore. 

From a production standpoint, there are no areas where The Devil in Maddalena comes up short. The premise is well-executed, the non-linear narrative does a good job navigating Maddalena’s journey and the finale provides a very satisfying coda. Another strength are the mood reinforcing visuals that are filled with symbolic imagery.

The Devil in Maddalena gets a satisfactory release from One 7 Movies.








Written by Michael Den Boer

The Devil Incarnate – Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1979
Director: Paul Naschy
Writers: Paul Naschy, Eduarda Targioni
Cast: Paul Naschy, Sara Lezana, Irene Gutiérrez Caba, Rafael Hernández, Eva León

Release Date: May 8th, 2018
Approximate running time: 92 Minutes 51 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Spanish
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"The action takes place in 16th century Spain. The Devil comes to earth to live as a mere mortal. Together with a human companion, Tomas, he travels, like Don Quixote, through the countryside and has a series of wild encounters with both men and women. On the way he acquires great wealth and even fathers a child. But too late he learns a terrible lesson about we devious humans." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “brand new 4K restoration from original negative”.

The Devil Incarnate comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.4 GB

Feature: 20.6 GB

The source used for this transfer is in excellent shape. Colors and flesh tones look correct, details look sharp, black levels look strong throughout and grain remains intact.

Audio: 4.5/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Spanish and included with this release are removable English subtitles. The audio sounds, clean, clear and balanced throughout.

Extras:

Extras for this release include the Mondo Macabro’s Promo Reel, an introduction with actor/director Paul Naschy (10 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles), an interview with actor David Rocha (15 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles), an interview with Sergio Monlina (29 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Bruno Molina (29 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles) and an audio commentary with film historian Troy Howarth.

Summary:

The premise of The Devil Incarnate poses what if the devil walked the earth disguised as a mortal. And while he roams the Earth, he finds himself as disciple who he teaches the finer points of being evil. With the film providing a very satisfying finale that is in line with the black humor that runs rampant throughout this film.

Content wise, The Devil Incarnate has all the ingredients that have since become synonymous with the 1970’s “Decameron” themed European sex comedies. The premise is superbly realized and the briskly paced narrative contains entertaining vignettes.

Performance wise the cast are all very good in their respective roles, especially Paul Naschy in the role of Leonardo (aka the devil in the flesh). He delivers an utterly convincing performance that perfectly captures evil personified. Another performance of note is David Rocha (Killing of the Dolls) in the role of Tomás, the devil’s apprentice.

From a production standpoint, there is not an area where this film does not excel. There is an ample amount of symbolism in The Devil Incarnate and the visuals take full advantage of the locations. Standout moments include, the scene where Leonardo torments Tomás’s blind master, the scene where Leonardo poses as an exorcist while staying at a convent, the scene where Leonardo shows Tomás disturbing glimpse of the future (images of from the World War’s) and the scene where Tomás’s turns the table on Leonardo, after he sold him out to a homosexual aristocrat.

The Devil Incarnate gets a definitive release from Mondo Macabro that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a wealth of insightful extra content, highly recommended.









Written by Michael Den Boer

Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman (Limited Edition) – Arrow Video (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1955 (Creature with...