Sunday, October 31, 2021

Human Animals – Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1983
Director: Eligio Herrero
Writer: Eligio Herrero
Cast: Carole Kirkham, Geir Indvard, José Yepes

Release Date: November 9th, 2021
Approximate running time: 97 Minutes 22 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC & 4:3 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"Set in the aftermath of a cataclysmic nuclear war that has destroyed most of the world's population, HUMAN ANIMALS tells of three survivors - one woman and two men - who wake up on a strange, deserted landscape with no memory of their past lives and without the ability to even speak. The woman and one of the men appear to be brother and sister and are both dressed in formal party clothes. The other man is very different - a mustachioed, leather-jacketed macho type.

The trio set off to explore their new home and find a rocky beach where they come under attack from a huge army of crabs. The macho man fights off the crabs, crushing them with rocks before eating their soft flesh. He then turns his attention to the woman and makes violent love to her while her brother looks on, powerless to stop them.

A huge dog appears and leads them over the mountains to a lush jungle paradise. They build a hut and learn to make fire and hunt for food. But soon violence, jealousy and above all sex, rear their ugly heads. The men fight one another for possession of the woman. But then, to their horror they discover that the large and now vicious dog has also set his sights on her. Soon there really is trouble in paradise." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Brand new 4k transfer from film negative."

Human Animals comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 34 GB

Feature: 25.9 GB

The source used for this transfer looks excellent. That said, there’s stock footage that does not look as good as the bulk of the transfer. Colors are nicely saturated, details look crisp and black levels look solid. 

Audio: 4.5/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix. There’s no spoken dialog in this film. The audio sounds clean, clear and robust. Included with this release are removable English subtitles for the title card and some writing that occurs briefly in the opening moments.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a Mondo Macabro preview reel and an interview with screenwriter/director Eligio Herrero (50 minutes 55 seconds, LPCM stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles).

Summary:

It's safe to say that Human Animals is in a genre unto their own. Human Animals is best described as a post-apocalyptic softcore eortica film. It has a simple narrative that revolves around three humans who’ve survived nuclear fallout. Also, there’s no dialog, only grunts, body language and facial expressions.

Needless to say, a film without dialog has its challenges. And though humans interact with most of them, There are a few areas that are not fully fleshed out. Like why the human survivors lost their ability to speak? Also, it appears that the nuclear fallout has regressed the human survivors back to their caveman roots.

Though there are many elements in Human Animals that are associated with exploitation cinema, Most notably, softcore sex sequences and a lot of full frontal female nudity. There’s no denying that Human Animals have arthouse ambitions.

Human Animals is a unique cinema experience that proves that it's anything remotely conventional. And though there are an abundance of unusual things that occur in Human Animals, The strangest thing is a woman who’s the object of desire of two men (one who’s her brother) and a dog.   

From a production standpoint, the premise is well-executed and the narrative does a good job of moving things forward despite the lack of dialog. The visuals are very good and they take full advantage of the island location. Also, the performances exceed expectations, especially Carole Kirkham (Panic Beats) in the role of the woman. Ultimately, Human Animals is an odd fusion of exploitation and arthouse cinema.

Human Animals makes its way to Blu-ray via a release from Mondo Macabro that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and it comes with an insightful interview with the director, recommended.









 Written by Michael Den Boer

It's nothing mama, just a game – Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain/Venezuela, 1974
Director: José María Forqué
Writers: José María Forqué, Hermógenes Sáinz
Cast: David Hemmings, Alida Valli, Francisco Rabal, Andrea Rau, Nuria Gimeno, Galeazzo Benti, Aquiles Guerrero, Lucila Herrera, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba hijo, Rudy Hernández, Enrique Soto

Release Date: November 9th, 2021
Approximate running time: 88 Minutes 51 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC & 4:3 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Spanish, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"David Hemmings plays Juan, a young hacienda-owner who abuses women due to his traumatic upbringing. His late father was a sadistic tyrant who treated the women who worked on his estates as his personal property. After his father's death, Juan begins to act out his own fantasies. His favorite "game" is to have the women dress in rabbit fur bikinis while he chases them through the jungle on horseback with a pack of dogs.

One day his latest plaything gets caught in a trap and is savaged to death by the dogs. The local people know what's going on but are powerless to stop it as their livelihood depends on work from the estate. Juan's mother, Louise, played by Alida Valli, tries to find a suitable replacement for the dead girl. But Juan has his eyes set on Lola, the beautiful daughter of one of the estate workers. When Lola turns him down, Juan imprisons the girl in an abandoned horse training yard and sets to work breaking down her resistance. But things do not work out the way he planned." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “4K scan and restoration of the OCN."

It's nothing mama, just a game comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 21.8 GB

Feature: 17.5 GB

The source used for this transfer looks great. Any source-related debris is minor. Colors look correct, image clarity and black levels are strong throughout and the image looks organic.

Audio: 4.25/5 (LPCM Mono Spanish, LPCM Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Spanish and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio tracks sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. Included with this release are removable English subtitles for the Italian language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a Mondo Macabro preview reel, two trailers for It's nothing mama, just a game, the first trailer under the alternate title Beyond Erotica (2 minutes 25 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles) and the second trailer under the alternate title Lola (2 minutes 50 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), alternate Spanish title sequence (6 minutes 44 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Spanish, no subtitles), a video essay on the career of David Hemmings by Chris O'Neill titled Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely (18 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film historian Kat Ellinger.

Summary:

Though It's nothing mama, just a game, takes elements from films like The Most Dangerous Game and The Laughing Women. The result is a film that ultimately fuses into something beyond its cinema influences.

From its opening moments, It's nothing mama, just a game establishes a brutal tone that is relentless. In its opening sequence, the protagonist and his dogs chase a scantily clad woman dressed like a bunny rabbit. When her foot gets caught in a trap, she’s surrounded by dogs who rip her to shreds while the protagonist has a look of pleasure on his face. This is the first of many sequences in It's nothing mama, just a game.

The narrative revolves around a disturbed protagonist whose current state of mind is the result of childhood trauma, and to further compound his psyche is a mother who indulges his every whim. From there, the narrative revolves around the protagonist's interactions with his latest victim, who eventually wins him over by playing to his weaknesses.

Not surprisingly, It's nothing mama, just a game's greatest asset is its cast. And performance wise, the entire cast is great in their respective roles, especially David Hemmings (Blow-up, Deep Red) in the role of a sadomasochist protagonist named Juan. Another performance of note is Andrea Rau (Daughters of Darkness) in the role of Juan’s latest victim, a woman named Lola.

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where It's nothing mama, just a game that comes up short. The premise is well-executed and the narrative does a great job maintaining tension. Also, the sadomasochism sequences are extremely effective. Another strength is how the visuals let the performances take center stage. Ultimately, It's nothing mama, just a game is an in-your-face psycho melodrama that fans of Euro-cult cinema should thoroughly enjoy.

It's nothing mama, just a game that gets a first-rate release from Mondo Macabro that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a pair of insightful extras. Highly recommended. 








Written by Michael Den Boer

The Laughing Dead – Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1989
Director: Somtow Sucharitkul
Writer: Somtow Sucharitkul
Cast: Tim Sullivan, Wendy Webb, Premika Eaton, Patrick Roskowick, Larry Kagen, Krista Keim

Release Date: October 26th, 2021
Approximate Running Time: 91 Minutes 32 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $39.98

"A busload of travelers and their guide, on the hunt for Aztec ruins, decide to stop in an all but forgotten-to-time Mexican village, on the eve of the Day of the Dead. The tour leader, a disgraced priest, is enlisted by a local doctor to perform what he believes to be an exorcism, but in actuality, the doctor is using him to begin a diabolical ritual intended to bring about Hell on Earth!" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Newly scanned & restored in 4k from its 35mm original negative."

The Laughing Dead comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 32.9 GB

Feature: 25.3 GB

This is another outstanding transfer from Vinegar Syndrome. The source used is in excellent shape, colors look correct, image clarity and black levels look solid and the image looks organic.

Audio: 5/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD stereo mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. The audio is in great shape. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and ambient sounds are well-represented.

Extras:

Extras for this release include reversible cover art, a making-of documentary with: director Somtow Sucharitkul, producer Lex Nakashima, actress Premika Eaton, actor Tim Sullivan, cinematographer David Boyd, associate producer/second unit director Michael Deak, costume designer Shellagh Hannigan and transportation/pa Ron Ford titled Unholy Assembly: Crafting The Laughing Dead (35 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Somtow Sucharitkul and an embossed slipcover limited to 5,000 units.

Summary:

Based solely on its premise, The Laughing Dead should have turned out better than it did. That said, how can a movie that features exorcism and zombies turn out so badly?

The thing that immediately grabs you while watching The Laughing Dead is its stiff performances. For most of the cast, this was their first and only film they ever appeared in. And to further compound things, the awkward dialog does not do the actors any favors.

Though it's clear that The Laughing Dead is a film of limited resources. Surprisingly, when it comes to other things besides acting, The Laughing Dead does a good job exploiting these areas. Most notably, the visuals and production design/locations.

The area where The Laughing Dead excels the most is special effects. A standout moment is an exorcism sequence where a character removes their heart and places it in another character's chest, after they remove that character's heart. Ultimately, The Laughing Dead is the type of film that fans of so-bad-it's-good cinema will only enjoy.

The Laughing Dead makes its way to Blu-ray via an excellent release from Vinegar Syndrome that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a pair of informative extras.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Nothing Underneath / Too Beautiful to Die – Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1985 (Nothing Underneath), Italy, 1988 (Too Beautiful to Die)
Directors: Carlo Vanzina (Nothing Underneath), Dario Piana (Too Beautiful to Die)
Cast: Tom Schanley, Renée Simonsen, Nicola Perring, Maria McDonald, Catherine Noyes, Paolo Tomei, Sonia Raule (Nothing Underneath), François-Eric Gendron, Florence Guérin, Randi Ingerman, Giovanni Tamberi, Helena Jesus, Nora Ariffin, François Marthouret, Gioia Scola (Too Beautiful to Die)

Release Date: October 26th, 2021
Approximate Running Times: 94 Minutes 20 Seconds (Nothing Underneath), 99 Minutes 57 Seconds (Too Beautiful to Die)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo English, Dolby Digital Stereo Italian (Both Films)
Subtitles: English SDH, English for Italian text (Both Films)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $43.98

Nothing Underneath "Bob Crane has long maintained a psychic connection to his twin sister, Jessica, who works as a fashion model in Milan. When Bob senses that his sister might be injured or killed, he travels to Italy to look for her, only to discover that she's vanished without a trace. Enlisting the help of about-to-retire Commissioner Danesi, Bob soon finds himself embroiled in a web of mystery and terror, when a scissors wielding killer begins to strike and all clues lead back to Jessica..." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Too Beautiful to Die "A group of high fashion models have been invited to an isolated house to attend a party. As the night wears on, one of the models falls victim to a deadly 'accident,' which sets into motion a series of brutal murders, all traced back to a shocking secret.." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (Nothing Underneath), 4.25/5 (Too Beautiful to Die)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfers, “newly restored 4K from their original 35mm camera negatives."

Nothing Underneath comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 40 GB

Feature: 26.4 GB

Too Beautiful to Die comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 40.6 GB

Feature: 27.8 GB

The sources used for both films’ transfers look excellent. Colors are nicely saturated, flesh tones look correct, image clarity and black levels look solid throughout and grain remains intact. That said, though both transfers look great, Nothing Underneath’s transfer looks slightly stronger than Too Beautiful to Die’s transfer.

Audio: 4.5/5 (DTS-HD Stereo English), 3/5 (Dolby Digital Stereo Italian)

Both films come with two audio options, a DTS-HD stereo mix in English and a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Italian. The stronger of these two audio tracks is the DTS-HD stereo English track, which is superior in every way. The DTS-HD stereo English track sounds fuller and more dynamic than the Dolby Digital stereo Italian track, which sounds flat. Both films come with two subtitle options, English SDH subtitles for the English language tracks and English subtitles for onscreen text that’s in Italian.

Extras:

Extras for Nothing Underneath include an interview with actor Tom Schanley titled Models, Murders and Italy (19 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English subtitles), an interview with composer Pino Donaggio titled High Fashion Music (12 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an interview with screenwriter Franco Ferrini titled Murder He Wrote (28 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an interview with screenwriter Enrico Vanzina titled Murders a la Mode (28 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues! and an audio commentary with film historian and critic Rachael Nisbet.

Extras for Too Beautiful to Die include deleted scenes storyboards (12 minutes 21 seconds), alternate ending storyboards (1 minute 59 seconds), an interview with screenwriter/director Dario Piana titled Nothing True But The Eyes (42 minutes 13 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles) and an audio commentary with film historian and critic Rachael Nisbet.

Rounding out the extras are a reversible cover, the outside cover art is for Nothing Underneath, and the inside cover art is for Too Beautiful to Die. There is also an embossed slipcover limited to 5,000 units.

Summary:

Nothing Underneath: When discussing the Giallo genre, it's hard not to acknowledge Dario Aregnto’s influence on this genre. And though the films Gialli made during the 1970’s bear a strong resemblance to the foundation laid by Dario Argento, By the 1980's, his influence over Italian thrillers would be eclipsed by other filmmakers like Brian De Palma. A case in point is a film like Nothing Underneath.

From its opening moments, Nothing Underneath boldly wears its cinema influences. Whether it is its premise that has many striking similarities to Brian De Palma’s Body Double and other films directed by him. Also, Nothing Underneath’s  score was composed by Pino Donaggio (who also composed Body Double’s score). In fact, the main music motif in Nothing Underneath is a slight variation of the song Telescope from Body Double. Needless to say, there are an ample number of moments in Nothing Underneath that will have you feeling deja vu.

Being that Nothing Underneath is a story that takes place in the world of fashion, it's not surprising how colorful the clothing and locations are. The look of Nothing Underneath has a pastel color scheme that’s synonymous with 1980’s cinema. And of course, there’s an abundance of beautiful women scantily dressed/undressed.

From a production standpoint, Nothing Underneath is a slickly put together film. The premise is well-executed and the narrative does a good balancing of mundane moments with stylish sequences where the killer strikes. Besides Pino Donaggio’s fabulous score, Nothing Underneath also features pop music like Murray Head's One Night in Bangkok and Gloria Gaynor's I Am What I Am. The performances suit the story at hand. The most memorable performance was by Renée Simonsen in the role of a model named Barbara. Ultimately, Nothing Underneath is arguably one of the better 1980’s Gialli not directed by Dario Argento.

Too Beautiful to Die: It's a time-old tradition of trying to capitalize on something successful. And in the world of cinema, there’s never a shortage of sequels, reboots, and knockoffs. That said, this is even more prevalent in the world of Italian cinema, which has had a long tradition of cannibalizing films that were successful. 

This brings us to Too Beautiful to Die, a film that’s best described as a spiritual successor to Nothing Underneath. Though many of the creative talents behind Nothing Underneath contribute to Too Beautiful to Die, The result is a film that couldn't be more unlike the film that preceded it.

Front and center, the element that Too Beautiful to Die is most sorely missing is a score composed by Pino Donaggio. What Too Beautiful to Die has is a generic score that is further propped up by several pop songs like Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Warriors of the Wasteland, Toto's I Won't Hold You Back and Huey Lewis & The News' Perfect World. And to further compound things, the use of pop music in Too Beautiful to Die feels like an excuse to do extended music video like sequences.

Though Too Beautiful to Die had all the sources it needed at its disposal, The execution is not of the same level that Nothing Underneath achieved. That said, there’s only so much beautiful women and stylish visuals can do, when everything else is lacking. Also, the kill sequences are best described as underwhelming. Ultimately, Too Beautiful to Die is a mildly entertaining Gialli, and even the most hardcore Gialli fans will find it a rough ride.

Nothing Underneath and Too Beautiful to Die is a solid release from Vinegar Syndrome. Both films have never looked or sounded better on home video and both films come with a wealth of insightful extra content, highly recommended.


















Written by Michael Den Boer

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Three Brothers – Arrow Academy (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy/France, 1981
Director: Francesco Rosi
Writers: Tonino Guerra, Francesco Rosi
Cast: Philippe Noiret, Michele Placido, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Andréa Ferréol, Simonetta Stefanelli, Charles Vanel

Release Date: April 6th, 2016 (UK), April 25th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate Running Time: 111 Minutes 23 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 12 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK) / $39.95 (USA)

"Three Brothers (Tre fratelli) explores similarly knotty social and political territory through the seemingly straightforward story of three siblings returning to their native southern Italy to pay homage to their late mother. However, their various professions a judge in Rome (Philippe Noiret), a spiritual counsellor in Naples (Vittorio Mezzogiorno), a factory worker in Turin (Michele Placido) have a profound effect on their response to this reunion." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "2K restoration from original film materials."

Three Brothers comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 37 GB

Feature: 30.4 GB

The source used for this transfer is in great shape and any source related debris is minor. Colors look correct, black levels fare well, the image looks crisp and grain remains intact.

Audio: 4/5

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

Extras:

Extras for this release include reversible cover, a trailer for Three Brothers (3 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with English subtitles), an archival audio interview with Francesco Rosi (72 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), forty-four-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay written by director Francesco Rosi titled In Opposition to Life, In Opposition to Death, an essay written by Millicent Marcus titled Beyond Cinema Politico, contemporary reviews, Francesco Rosi on Three Brothers an interview conducted by Michael Ciment and information about the transfer.

Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release.

Summary:

The narrative revolves around three brothers: Raffaele, a judge, Nicola, a factory worker, and Rocco, a consular. And though they are linked by blood, when it comes to the way they see the world, they couldn’t be farther apart. That being said, there is one area where they do share a common link, and that is their unhappiness with their lives. Not to be overlooked is a fourth character, their father, Donato, and through this character he provides a glimpse of the lives that these three brothers once lived.

Without a doubt, Three Brothers' greatest strength are its characters, and they are all well-defined. Another area where Three Brothers excels in regards to its customers is how it balances past and present moments to give a well-rounded view of where they came from and what direction their present lives are leading them.

Standout moments visually include the opening moments where rats crawl on the ground. Other striking moments visually are a scene where Donato sees his recently deceased wife, who has just caught a rabbit for his dinner, and a scene where Raffaele envisions his own violent death at the hands of terrorists. This last scene is the scene has a political tone that has since become synonymous with Francesco Rosi’s cinematic output throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Performance wise, the entire cast is very good in their respective roles. The most memorable performance came from Charles Vanel (The Wages of Fear) in the role of Donato. Other notable performances include Philippe Noiret (Cinema Paradiso), Michele Placido (Art of Love) and Vittorio Mezzogiorno (Stunt Squad) in the roles of the three brothers, Raffaele, Nicola, and Rocco.

In life, it is easy to get caught in familiar trappings, which then distance us or worse, isolate us from the things that we once held precious. Fortunately, there are extraordinary films like Three Brothers that remind us how resilient the human spirit is and that it is never too late to reconnect with the things that once brought us joy.

Three Brothers gets a strong audio/video presentation and a pair of informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Warriors Two and The Prodigal Son: Limited Edition Set – Eureka Video (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Dates: Hong Kong, 1978 (Warriors Two), Ho...