December 9, 2022

ATTACK OF THE 50 FT. WOMAN: Too Much Talking, Not Enough Attacking


ATTACK OF THE 50 FT. WOMAN (Blu-ray Review)
1958 / 65 min
Review by Mr. Paws😾

Culturally, Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman has probably gotten more mileage out of its title than the film itself. Sure, the special effects are wonderfully ludicrous and the final line uttered by Dr. Cushing - “She finally got Harry all to herself” - is classic, but elsewhere, the film is seldom as much cheeky fun as the title suggests.

For most of the brief running time, it’s actually pretty slow. A majority of the first act consists of unstable, alcoholic heiress Nancy (Allison Hayes) being gaslit by her philandering husband, Harry (William Hudson). When he’s not trying to have her committed - so he can get his mitts on her millions - Harry’s kanoodling with local hussy Honey (Yvette Vickers). But when Nancy becomes irradiated by an alien satellite and grows into a giant, she goes on the hunt for her wayward husband.


A room with a view...and then some.
The final act is amusing, mostly because of the special effects and dialogue, but it feels like forever before Nancy’s finally unleashed. Until then, the film is kind of tedious, with a lot of dull scenes that feel like attempts to pad it out to feature length. With hindsight, it’s obvious why the climax is all anyone remembers, though the overall performances by the b-list cast are actually pretty good.

This Blu-ray transfer is pretty good, too, as is the lone bonus feature, a charming audio commentary that includes the late Ms. Vickers. But despite the considerable cultural impact of its concept and campy title, Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman suffers from too much talking, not enough attacking.


EXTRA KIBBLES

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Tom Weaver and actor Yvette Vickers.

TRAILER


December 8, 2022

NIGHTMARE AT NOON: Nico's Demolition Derby


NIGHTMARE AT NOON (Blu-ray Review)
1988 / 96 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Writer-director (and semi cult legend) Nico Mastorakis must have gotten a hell of a deal on used cars. Maybe he saved some cash buying in bulk because he smashes and blows up a shitload of ‘em in Nightmare at Noon, even in scenes where vehicular mayhem isn’t really required.

For example, the film is about a loony albino scientist (Brion James) who taints a small town’s water supply with a chemical that turns people into violent psychopaths (for reasons never explained). In addition to a few murders, we see two infected drivers intentionally hit each other, and as they’re getting out of their cars to start fighting, another approaching driver speeds up to plow into them. Though the two wrecked cars don’t budge (!), the third one explodes (?) and flies fifty feet through the air.


Okay, maybe that’s a bad example. We can just chalk that up to piss poor execution of a stunt. So how ‘bout this…


Once most of the town is either infected or dead, the Albino’s henchmen arrive in vans wearing hazmat suits and armed with flamethrowers. Naturally, we assume they’re there to cover up their experiment by burning the bodies. Instead, they walk the streets torching parked cars - and nothing else - as our protagonists look on in horror. Then there’s the big drive-in theater shoot-out, which includes one of the infected getting torched by a flamethrower, after which he stumbles to one of the Albino’s vans and crawls in back. The van then explodes. Too bad, actually, because comparatively speaking, it was a pretty cool set o’ wheels.


Must have been a Ford Pinto parked behind that Torino.
But the funniest car-nage comes near the end. By this time, our heroes and villains are all on horseback in the desert. At first, I thought Mastorakis must have run out of vehicles, but it turns out he was saving a few for the climactic aerial dogfight, with an army chopper trying to take down the enemy. Nearly every time they shoot & miss, the rockets destroy abandoned vehicles that just happen to be sitting in the line of fire. 

Elsewhere, Nightmare at Noon is a daffy slab of low budget sci-fi horror. Though brimming with exuberance, it’s ridiculously plotted, logic free and often hilarious. Granted, most of the laughs come at its own expense, but at least the movie’s never boring. The cast features a batch of B-movie stalwarts. Bo Hopkins comes off best, perhaps because he’s the only one who doesn’t appear to take his role seriously. Conversely, Wings Hauser is hilariously awful, but in his defense, his character is saddled with the dumbest dialogue (he was probably hammered, too, as the director attests in one of the bonus features).


Ultimately, Nightmare at Noon is a prime cut of bad movie mayhem and a must-see for those who go in for this sort of thing...or anyone who enjoys watching cars explode. Arrow Video serves it up with a decent transfer and a small selection of interesting bonus features.


EXTRA KIBBLES

THE FILMS OF NICO MASTORAKIS: NIGHTMARE AT NOON - A retrospective doc, with interviews and vintage footage.

BEHIND THE SCENES CUTS OF NIGHTMARE AT NOON 

ON SET INTERVIEWS - Individual vintage interviews with actors Wings Hauser, George Kennedy, Kimberly Beck, Bo Hopkins and Brion James.

TRAILER

IMAGE GALLERY

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET (not reviewed)

REVERSIBLE COVER (not reviewed)


December 6, 2022

CREEPSHOW - SEASON THREE: More Freaky Fun


CREEPSHOW - SEASON THREE (Blu-ray Review)
2021 / 295 min (6 episodes)
Review by Carl, the Couch Potato🙀

If you enjoyed the first two seasons, you’ll likely get a kick out of Season Three. Creepshow may not be the greatest anthology series ever made, but it’s certainly one of the most consistent, still maintaining the look, spirit and wicked humor of the original film. My only ongoing complaint: I wish each season consisted of more episodes.

As usual, each episode features two stories of just desserts by various writers and directors. Not every tale hits it out of the park, but there aren’t any total pooches, either. Even some amusing social commentary can be found on occasiont, such as “Meter Reader,” depicting a worldwide pandemic, only instead of COVID, the infected are demonically possessed. Then there’s “Mums,” where redneck insurrectionists get what’s coming to them, while “Drug Traffic” (featuring Michael Rooker) has a sleazy congressman exploiting the suffering of the poor for political gain. 


"He followed me home. Can we keep him?"
Other standout episodes include “Skeletons in the Closet,” a funny homage to countless classic horror films that cleverly incorporates iconic scenes and dialogue into the story. “Okay, I’ll Bite” features a nebbish convicted pharmacist whose obsession with spiders helps him strike back at his tormentors. "Queen Bee" is probably the grossest of the batch, with three teenage fans going to great lengths to catch a glimpse of their idol and getting more than they bargained for. Elsewhere, “The Things in Oakwood’s Past” is an animated episode, though somewhat predictable, while “The Last Tsuburaya” has an interesting story, but is hampered by an unconvincing monster.

For the most part, though, Season 3 is another winner, with the same colorful production design, animated transitions, vivid violence and black humor that have been Creepshow hallmarks since 1982. And as usual, there are so many Easter Eggs peppered throughout the series that it’s impossible to catch ‘em all the first time. What’s not to love?


EXTRA KIBBLES

AMAZON’S COMIC-CON@HOME PANEL INTERVIEW - Featuring Greg Nicotero, Mattie Do, Rusty Cundieff, Michael Rooker & James Remar.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES FOOTAGE

COMIC ART BOOKLET - Faux comic covers; writer, director & cast credits.

PHOTO GALLERY


December 5, 2022

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, SEASON FOUR: Television's Most Inclusive Show?


STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, SEASON FOUR (DVD Review)
2021-2022 / 664 min (13 Episodes)
Review by Carl, the Couch Potato😺

Those of a certain age might recall the days of the original Star Trek series, which tackled themes and content not generally associated with sci-fi television. Creator Gene Roddenberry was nothing if not forward-thinking, showing a future where humankind has advanced beyond the ridiculous trifles that make existence miserable. One episode famously featured the first interracial kiss (between Capt. Kirk and Lt. Uhura). I don't think this was intended to be provocative or controversial; the scene simply required it. 

In that respect, I think Mr. Roddenberry would be proud of what his beloved franchise has evolved into. Granted, I haven't seen everything out there, but after four seasons, Star Trek: Discovery feels like the most diverse and inclusive series on television. People of just about every race - terrestrial or otherwise - are featured in prominent roles, as are those who identify as gay, trans and non-binary. More importantly, the race or gender of particular characters is never relevant to the plot of any episode. By the 32nd Century, no one cares how you identify. 


While that might have the Bible-thumping MAGA hat crowd quaking in their boots, I find that pretty cool. Besides, with galactic Armageddon to deal with - the story arc of these 13 episodes - who the hell has time to worry about such things?


Star Trek's undisputed star...along with Sonequa Martin-Green.
In Season Four, a massive space anomaly - five light-years wide - is laying waste to entire civilizations. Not only is it apparently indestructible, but it can also suddenly disappear and reappear elsewhere without warning. Worse yet, Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and her Discovery crew have determined the anomaly by an unknown species from another galaxy. In the Star Trek canon, there’s never been a threat this big and destructive, and when focused on dealing with the threat - whether learning its origins, attempting first-contact or trying to destroy it - Season Four is compelling and bingeworthy, especially the final six episodes.

However, it takes a while to gain some momentum. Even more so than last season, subplots involving relationships, personal crises and characters ‘finding’ themselves get a little repetitive. There are more inspirational speeches, encouraging pep talks and personal epiphanies than there are stars in the galaxy they’re trying to save. While the foundations of Star Trek are built on strong character relationships, most of these moments - charming as they may be - simply aren’t as interesting as the looming apocalyptic crisis. 


On the other hand, other viewers will relish those asides as the best aspects of Season Four. Characters and their quirks are part of what has always made Star Trek unique, and as such, every character - new and recurring - has ample moments in the spotlight. Whatever the case, this season is another good one. Going where no one in any previous series has gone before - narratively and literally, as it turns out - this is a Star Trek for everyone.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES -Star Trek Discovery: The Voyage of Season 4” (making-of); “Being Michael Burnham: The Captain’s Log” (Sonequa Martin-Green interviews, personal videos and behind-the-scenes footage) “Creating Space” (FX featurette); “The Toll It Took” (creating Season 4 during COVID).

AUDIO COMMENTARY (Last episode only) 

GAG REEL

DELETED SCENES


December 4, 2022

ALIENOID: Bonkers Sci-Fi


ALIENOID (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 143 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😼

If India’s RRR is 2022’s most wonderfully bonkers megamovie, then Korea’s Alienoid runs a close second. Not quite as wonderful, not quite as bonkers, but definitely the work of madmen who decided to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. And they were apparently confident much of it would because this is only Part One of a two-part story.

Alienoid is a crazy mash-up of science-fiction, fantasy, action, disaster movie, comedy, historical fiction, Taoism, martial arts and family drama, all tossed in a blender for a smoothie consisting of familiar ingredients, but is generally pretty satisfying. Perhaps topping it with a couple of crazy musical numbers would’ve added a bit more flavor


The narrative unfolds as two seemingly unrelated threads, with an opening time travel sequence providing the only link. Presently, Guard and Thunder are shapeshifting alien robots who imprison their planet’s criminals in the unaware bodies of human beings. They’re also taking care of Ahn, a 10-year-old they rescued from the 14th Century. Some of the prisoners manage to escape their human hosts to wreak havoc while trying to find the man hosting their leader, The Controller. Guard and Thunder must stop them before they unleash Haava, floating balls of their home planet’s atmosphere, which is deadly to humans.


"Yeah...it's a Rolex."
Meanwhile in the 14th Century, Muruk is a bounty-hunting swordsman trying to steal The Crystal Knife, which carries a substantial reward. He’s aided by two cats which can transform into human servants/fighters. To get close to the knife, he poses as a bridegroom, not knowing that she’s also an imposter seeking the knife. Armed with 21st century weapons, that woman turns out to be Ahn, the little girl from the other timeline. Additionally, the masked man who possesses the knife, Ja-jang, is also an alien and aided by two conniving sorcerers. 

Both storylines eventually converge, allowing the viewer to make some sense out of the insanity. But until then, Alienoid is often pretty perplexing, but if one doesn’t try to think about it too hard and just let everything happen, the film is pretty entertaining (if a bit overlong). There’s gobs of over-the-top action in the form of swordplay, close-quarters fighting, magic, gravity-defying stunts, chases, time jumps, robot rampage, a talking SUV and a jawdropping scene of citywide destruction. The special effects aren’t always convincing, but certainly fun to watch.


And this is only Part One. While there is some closure to the story, major plot threads are left unresolved. A glimpse of what to expect in Part Two is teased during an end-credits sequence, but be prepared to be left hanging. Whether or not Alienoid’s story and characters justify two movies is debatable, but while in the moment, it’s enjoyably bonkers sci-fi.


EXTRA KIBBLES

FEATURETTES - Making of; character trailer

ENGLISH LANGUAGE OPTION

TRAILER


Revisiting PULP FICTION in 4K


PULP FICTION (4K UHD SteelBook Review)
1994 / 154 min
Review by Mr. Paws😸

Pulp Fiction still feels like a brand new movie, even though I’ve revisited it at least once a year since it first knocked my socks off almost three decades ago (Christ, has it been that long?). Like other films on my all-time favorites list - a close #2 behind Jaws - I’ve owned it in every format.

Now it’s in 4K, available with both traditional packaging and this nicely designed SteelBook, and I couldn’t be happier. If you’re like me, you tend to collect movies much like voracious readers hoard books. For most novels, the paperback will do, but it’s nice to have hardcover editions those ‘special’ books - classics, personal favorite authors, etc. - proudly displayed on a bookshelf, not just as home decor, but because, in a way, they sort-of define you. 


SteelBooks are the hardcover novels of physical media, and when at all possible, it’s nice when those special movies - ones that represent more than just another disc in your collection - get released with solid packaging and brand new artwork. The vivid minimalist art created for the Pulp Fiction SteelBook creatively represents the tone, imagery and cultural impact of Quentin Tarantino’s career defining film. 


What...no marshmallows?
But the 4K disc, man! How does the movie look in 4K? Are there any new bonus features? Is it worth the upgrade?

For those who don’t care about aesthetic accouterments and love the film itself, absolutely. Pulp Fiction has looked better with every physical format. Since the Blu-ray edition already sports a great picture, the difference in the 4K is a little less pronounced. Still, the right home theater system will reveal a sharper overall image, with deeper black levels and more vivid contrast. The 5.1 DTS audio is identical to the Blu-ray disc, which sounds great. The bonus features, while substantial, are all carried over from previous releases.


Anyone reading probably doesn’t need to be reminded what a great film this is. Not only does Pulp Fiction remain the director’s magnum opus, but it’s also one of the best American movies of the past 30 years, if not the best. Tarantino’s exuberance and love of cinema are obvious in every frame, making it a joy to revisit, especially in 4K.


EXTRA KIBBLES

4K, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL COPIES

ENHANCED TRIVIA TRACK

NOT THE USUAL MINDLESS BORING GETTING TO KNOW YOU CHIT-CHAT - Retrospective interviews with the cast & crew.

HERE ARE SOME FACTS ON THE FICTION - Critics roundtable.

PULP FICTION: THE FACTS - Archival documentary.

FEATURETTES - 2 Behind-the-scenes montages; production design featurette

THE TARANTINO GENERATION - Segment from Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, where the two critics discuss Tarantino's impact on cinema.

CHARLE ROSE SHOW EPISODE - Interview with Quentin Tarantino.

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS - Guillermo del Toro interviews Quentin Tarantino.

MARKETING GALLERY - A huge collection of trailers from around the world, TV spots, posters & trade ads.

STILL GALLERY


December 1, 2022

CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS: Everyone Had to Start Somewhere


CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (Blu-ray Review)
1972 / 87 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is one of the most awesome titles in history, even if the movie itself isn’t any good. Touted as a horror-comedy, it’s neither scary nor funny, though certainly plenty weird. You would have had to be psychic to predict director Bob Clark would someday find great success in a variety of genres, to say nothing of being responsible for one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time (and no, I don’t mean Black Christmas). 

But that’s what makes this 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray so interesting. Everyone had to start somewhere, and like some of his contemporaries, Clark cut his teeth on regional low-budget horror before joining the big leagues. But unlike the Carpenters, Cronenbergs and Cravens of the world, Clark quickly left horror behind. It’s always fun to go back to visit a successful director’s humble beginnings, but the fact that Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things was the brainchild of the same guy who’d soon give us Tribute, Murder by Decree and A Christmas Story is morbidly fascinating.


The scariest part of this movie? Those pants.
He didn’t do it alone, though. Alan Ormsby was his partner-in-crime in those salad days, doing triple duty here as an actor, co-writer and creator of the make-up FX (which are actually pretty good). Ormsby pops up a lot over these two discs, which largely serve as a tribute to the late Bob Clark. The movie is no great shakes, but the 90-minute documentary that comes with it is an affectionate bio and summary of the director’s early years, as well as an excellent look at independent filmmaking during the '70s, recalled by those who worked closely with Clark for a number of films. The documentary alone is worth the price of admission.

The film has a pretty large cult following today, evidenced by a bunch of other bonus features, such as music videos, fan tributes and a couple of revival screening Q&As, where Ormsby amusingly admits he and Clark were inspired by Night of the Living Dead enough to rip it off. So while Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is definitely no NOTLD (not even close), there’s a lot of interesting horror history to be found here.


EXTRA KIBBLES

DREAMING OF DEATH - An excellent feature-length retrospective documentary about Bob Clark’s horror years.

FAN Q&A VIDEO - Featuring actor/co-writer Alan Ormsby.

GRINDHOUSE Q&A - This one is really hard to hear.

MEMORIES OF BOB CLARK - Audio tribute to the late director.

CONFESSIONS OF A GRAVE DIGGER - Interview with Ken Goch…who really did dig a bunch ‘o graves for the film.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By actor/co-writer Alan Ormsby, actor Anya Cronin (formerly Ormsby) and actor Jane Daly.

2 MUSIC VIDEOS - “Dead Girls Don’t Say No” & “Cemetery Mary,” both by The Deadthings, an Australian metal band.

FAN TRIBUTE VIDEO

PHOTO GALLERY

TRAILER & RADIO SPOTS

SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Features an essay, “Bob Clark’s Dead Things: Low-Budget Horror in the Sunshine State.”

REVERSIBLE COVER


November 30, 2022

HEARTLAND OF DARKNESS: Linnea the Legend


HEARTLAND OF DARKNESS (Blu-ray Review)
1989 / 102 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Heartland of Darkness is a low-budget horror film completed in 1989. Like a lot of homegrown fright flicks back in the day, it was regionally produced (in Ohio) by a cast & crew armed with more ambition than resources. Still, they managed to snag the lovely Linnea Quigley to boost its marquee value.

Unfortunately, the title never did grace any marquees, nor did it end up fighting for shelf space at Blockbuster or any other video store. In fact, Heartland of Darkness is just now being released for the first time. In the interim, it sort of became the stuff of cult legend as Linnea Quigley’s lost film. Though not actually appearing in too many scenes, she definitely leaves an impression…for the same aesthetic reasons that made her a B-movie scream queen in the first place. If nothing else, watching this film today is a vivid reminder of her uncanny ability to stir impressionable young hearts (among other things). 


Purrr.

As for the movie itself, Heartland of Darkness is neither the best nor worst budget-conscious creepfest from the era. The story features a journalist who moves to a small town and investigates a series of gory murders, which turn out to be the work of a satanic cult led by the local pastor. It’s standard stuff and somewhat derivative. Like all small towns in 80s horror flicks, most of the population belongs to the cult. 


Still, it’s well made on a limited budget, with a bonkers final act that throws in car chases, snipers and a psychotic body-builder. But hey, if you can’t go big, you might as well go a little crazy, which probably explains casting Quigley as a History teacher while still tarting her up like a Hollywood chainsaw hooker. Elsewhere, the performances are generally pretty pedestrian, but overall, the film is fast-moving, efficiently directed and occasionally atmospheric, with some good, bloody kills here and there.


But even if one doesn’t agree, this Blu-ray is packed with goodies and the movie’s backstory (and its long, hard road to finally being released) is fascinating and discussed at-length in some of the bonus features. In addition to a few amusing bits of swag, the mixture of new and vintage extras conveys a charming can-do spirit on both sides of the camera. None of those involved had any illusions about the type of film they were making - or its quality - but we’re certainly able to appreciate what they accomplished. 


EXTRA KIBBLES

“DEEPER INTO THE DARKNESS” - A great 40-minute retrospective documentary featuring varios cast & crew, including director Eric Swelstad and actor Nick Balasare. Easily the most entertaining of the bonus features.

2 LINNEA QUIGLEY INTERVIEWS - One is brand new, the other is an archival interview done for a local Ohio TV show.

2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) by director Eric Swelstad, and actor Nick Balasare, cinematographer Scott Spears & composer Jay Woelfel; 2) by Tony Strauss of Weng’s Chop magazine.

“FALLEN ANGELS” - The original 1990 workprint of the film (includes an optional commentary track by director Eric Swelstad).

“THE MAKING OF FALLEN ANGELS” - Archival interview from back when this was titled Fallen Angels.

BLOOD CHURCH PROMO VIDEO - Another alternate title.

TRAILERS & TV SPOTS

IMAGE GALLERY

“DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHT" - Text excerpt from Fangoria magazine.

INSERT - Includes an essay, “The Devil Went Down to Ohio,” and tech credits.

HEARTLAND OF DARKNESS ‘PRAYER CLOTH’ - Fun little piece pf promo swag.

VHS STICKERS - Sheet of the type of stickers you used to see on rental boxes.

LINNEA QUIGLEY MINI POSTER - Mee-ow!!!

REVERSIBLE COVER - The other side features Blood Church title & artwork.