There's an old saying in Classic Hollywood, attributed to Howard Hawks, that a good movie is "three good scenes, no bad scenes." Sometimes I've felt, while watching Italian horror and Giallo movies, particularly Lucio Fulci's, that the rule is "three interesting (and gory) scenes, and who the hell cares what else happens?" Shock and strangeness are paramount, with coherence coming a very distant third. So it was surprising to me, watching Don't Torture a Duckling, that it has a story that can be pieced together with only a few leaps in logic. Don't Torture a Duckling begins with a genuinely
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Lucio Fulci, famous for his gore and zombie films, brings his lurid vision to the Giallo.
An oddball mix of crime drama and horror (with heavy doses of slapsstick thrown in) make for an interesting mix.
As I have been watching and reviewing more and more Italian films, I have come to realize that I tend to lump a couple of genres in together. Certainly, I use "giallo" and "Italian horror" interchangeably even though they aren’t always the same thing. "Giallo" literally means “yellow” in Italian and comes from a type of cheap mystery novel published in Italy that came in a yellow cover. Many of those stories were made into cheap Italian films, which started as fairly straight forward crime thrillers but over time became more lurid and graphically violent with increasing horror elements. It's
Gore meister makes a film with an actual plot and social commentary, results are mixed.
If Mario Bava is the grandfather of Italian horror and Dario Argento artsy-fartsy daddy figure who brought giallo to the mainstream, then Lucio Fulci is the creepy uncle doing strange things in the basement and making all the ladies feel uncomfortable at the dinner table. I’ve only seen a couple of his films but they, and his reputation, declare that as a director he was more interested in bloodletting than story, he loved gore more than any pretense of depth. That might have changed in 1972 with his film Don’t Torture a Duckling. In it, he smooths the edges off
An idiosyncratic semi-slasher that barely got a theatrical release is finally on home video, uncut and restored.
Achieving notoriety in the early '80s (at least across the pond) for being one of the Video Nasties, films legally challenged and sometimes prohibited from exhibition in the U.K., the American-made The Slayer is a slasher movie that does not quite want to be one. For certain, it has the overall structure of one: four people (two couples) go out to an isolated vacation spot, have personal tension, and then one by one are slaughtered in graphic ways. The murderer is a mystery, the deaths are gruesome and elaborate, with special make-up effects by an industry veteran. There's a final
Director Kinji Fukasaku and star Junta Sugawara team up again for more impressive results.
That "New" in the title is your tip that these films are a continuation of a previous project. In this case, the "original" was a series of five interconnected yakuza films from the same director and star. The original films proved to be so popular upon their release in the early 1970s that Toei Studio begged the talent to come back for more, leading to this mid-'70s follow-up trilogy. Unlike their predecessors, each of the films in this trilogy are unrelated to each other, with the primary constants being the director, star, genre, and theme music. The titular first film
Arrow Books presents a critical overview of Lady Snowblood's entire career.
To much of the post-Millennium western cinematic audience, Meiko Kaji was introduced with her voice. Both the theme songs from Lady Snowblood and Female Convict Scorpion were featured in Kill Bill. More than that, Kill Bill's story, structure and visual style (at least in the section in Japan) were all heavily influenced by Lady Snowblood. Ironically enough, though Meiko Kaji did have a successful singing career in the '70s, her most influential contributions have been visual: the way she looked, the way she dressed, embodied a fierce determination and independence that made her stand apart from other Japanese film actresses
'80s cult horror film based on a Stephen King short story gets seriously loaded Blu-ray release.
Cult movies aren't the same as good movies. Good movies generally have decent production values, interesting stories and scripts, nuanced performances, and resonant themes. Cult movies can have any or all of the above, but can often dispense with most or even all of the markers of quality to create their cult moments. That weird scene, that creepy image, that one thing you couldn't believe you were seeing. Children of the Corn misses a lot of marks as a good movie, but it sure has more than its share of cult-making moments. The premise helps a lot - in the
New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: The Complete Trilogy Blu-ray Review: More Frenzied Yakuza Madness
Returning to his Yakuza series a whole six months after the last, Fukasaku covers similar ground, but finds new angles.
Battles Without Honor and Humanity has been called the Japanese Godfather, and while it has some similarities (depicting daily life of gangsters, where formality and ritual places a veneer of civility on brutal criminality) it has a completely different tone. There's a sepia-tinged nostalgia to The Godfather, with Michael Corleone's rise in power and his subsequent decline in humanity looked on with a sense of tragedy. The Battles series, directed by Kinji Fukasaku and largely written by Kasahara Kazuo, was an intentional demystification of the yakuza. Gone are the stoic and honor-bound modern samurai of earlier yakuza films. In Battles,
Arrow Video's remastered version of this cult classic is loaded with extras, making it a must-have for fans.
Anxious people pound on a door at the Institute of Medicine in Switzerland shouting for Dr. Gruber. When they hear manic screaming on the other side, two armed guards break the door down. They find Gruber lying on the floor, head bloated and discolored as Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) desperately holds on to him, shouting that he cannot leave but must make notes about his experiment. When accused of killing Gruber, West counters with “I gave him life.” Much later a re-animated, decapitated corpse holds its own head between the legs of a tied-down, completely naked, and very much alive
Arrow Video brings us Mario Bava's unique Italian take on American 'Vikings' in this stellar BD/DVD combo release.
A few years before Mario Bava singlehandedly invented the giallo with his genre-breaking Blood and Black Lace, he created that one thing most Italian filmmakers get a bad rep for doing: remaking popular American films. Of course, when you're an inventive genius like the late great Mario Bava, the actual story of a film doesn't matter as much as the manner in which you make it. Taking its cue from the 1958 US Kirk Douglas/Tony Curtis box office smash The Vikings, Bava's 1961 epic Erik the Conqueror eliminates the typical, boring humdrum usually reserved for lavish Hollywood epics, fusing his
Obscure '80s horror has more in common with European films than your typical slasher flick, but never quite manages to terrify.
Two overworked and over-stressed couples take off for a weekend retreat on a secluded island for a little rest, relaxation, and maybe a little fishing too. There’s Kay (Sarah Kendall), a surrealist artist who has been having nightmares about a sadistic killer, and her husband David, a doctor who tries to be supportive but is growing increasingly tired of her hysterical paranoia. Her brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) was the one who thought a vacation might do Kay some good. He brought along Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), who can’t seem to do anything but complain. At first, nobody takes Kay’s delirium’s seriously,
A very full week brings us superhero galore, zombies, Deadites, punks, and much more.
Almost a year ago to the day, I made Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season my Pick of the Week. I noted then my great fondness for the Evil Dead movies and my great excitement over the new series. I also noted that by the time the Blu-ray was hitting the store shelves I’d not yet seen the entire series. Well, Season 2 has now hit the shelves and while I’ve watched a few more episodes of Season 1, I’ve still not made it all the way through. I like the show, I really do. It is a
No matter what they paid "Screaming" Mad George for the practical horror effects, they got their money's worth.
A quick look at our recent history will show plenty of animosity towards the wealthy, the upper classes, and high society. From the Occupy Wall Street movement to Bernie Sanders-style socialism, thousands of people are lining up to protest with cries of “Eat the Rich!” But what if the rich weren't just greedy bastards taking from the poor to make themselves unfathomably more wealthy? What if they truly were evil. What if the rich ate us? Director Brian Yuzna’s 1989 film Society has something to say about that. Young, pretty Bill (Billy Warlock) comes from a wealthy, elite family but
Arrow Video revives John Frankenheimer's criminally neglected late '90s gritty crime thriller via a beautiful, all-new 4K scan.
At one point or another amidst whatever we may have selected (or been selected) for our respective careers, we will fall from grace. Even if you're a great filmmaker like John Frankenheimer. In his heyday, the late director (who passed from this world in 2002, shortly after his final contribution to cinema ‒ an HBO docu-drama ‒ premiered) had crafted several groundbreaking films, from the highly fictionalized (but nevertheless well-made) biopic Birdman of Alcatraz, the must-see WWII locomotive heist classic The Train, as well as one of my personal favorites, the 1962 paranoiac conspiracy Cold War thriller, The Manchurian Candidate.
Mike Figgis' impressive feature film debut ‒ also starring Melanie Griffith and Tommy Lee Jones ‒ returns to razzle, dazzle, and jazzle thanks to Arrow Video.
Years before he found himself Leaving Las Vegas, the one man showmanship of Britain's own Mike Figgis paved the way for the influx of jazzy, sex-fueled neo-noir titles that all-but dominated the film industry in the early '90s with 1988's Stormy Monday. Inspired by the many magnificent gritty crime dramas that emerged from Europe in the '60s and '70s (and filmed his Figgis' hometown of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where Michael Caine's Get Carter was shot), Figgis' self-described "romantic thriller" finds young Sean Bean as a fellow who is desperate enough to do just about anything for work. Fortunately for him, he couldn't
Japanese horror doesn't so much scare, but fills you with unnamed dread.
Horror in the 1980s was all about the slasher - mindless monsters mutilating teenagers in desolate places. With Scream, released in 1996, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson stabbed the slasher in its cold, dead heart. Scream (and its numerous sequels and countless inspired-bys) satirized slasher films with a self-aware sarcastic mocking. Around this same time, Americans first began discovering (and then remaking) Asian horror in general and Japanese horror in specific. These films neither relied on blood-filled violence (though certainly Japan has its fair share of gore maestros - the films of Takashi Miike come immediately to mind)
Arrow pulls out all the stops for an all-time horror classic.
The horror genre tends to get a really bad rap. Yes, I know that some movies of this rather reviled film category are cheesy, campy, over and under-acted. They may not cater to everyone, or match their movie tastes. However, this genre is one of the most influential in film history. Horror movies are not just blood and guts, they can go beyond that to reflect on how insane our society has become. They also deal with people who dare to play God and go against the nature of death. And director Stuart Gordon's incredible and legendary 1985 adaptation of
Arrow Video unleashes a truly mind-blowing 1970s exploitation action-comedy equivalent to fusion cuisine starring the larger-than-life Shin'ichi Chiba.
An unconventional policeman from the boonies travels to the big city to help out on a case, complete with a pet pig in tow. No, it's not the beginning of another Italian cop comedy starring Terence Hill. Rather, this particular picture marked both the beginning and the end of two distinctively different eras in Japanese cinema. After maybe overdoing the yakuza genre just a tad throughout the '70s, the film industry in Japan started to explore different options. And if there is one good word which may be employed in a noble effort to accurately describe all of the sights
Arrow Video throws us a bone in the form of a shapeshifting werewolf feller like no other.
Much like vampirism, the subject of lycanthropy is generally reserved for horror films. Or perhaps a comedy horror film. There have even been action horror comedies pertaining to the subject of werewolves and shapeshifters. But there are very few movies like Wolf Guy floating about. In fact, I think Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's Wolf Guy may be a real one-of-a-kind filmic outing; a gory, over-the-top Japanese action thriller which has very little to do with the common folklore western civilization seems to be better familiar with. But then, I can't even say Wolf Guy's peculiarity is purely attributable to a foreign culture
Entertaining cop movie despite a wildly fluctuating tone, a departure from director Fukasaku's harder-edged Yakuza material.
Kinji Fukasaku, of Battles Without Honor or Humanity fame, is best known as the director of hard-edged, cynical material with an almost documentary edge to it (that is, before he directed his final film Battle Royale, 20 years after his career heyday). When he was tapped to direct a manga adaptation, it was an odd pairing. Manga, or more specifically, gegika, which is manga that takes itself seriously, still tends toward over-heated material, with one foot in reality and on foot in comic book exaggeration. The book Fukasaku was tasked with adapting, Doberman Cop, is about a Harley-riding tough who