April 28, 2022

DEMENTIA (1955): A Classic for the Chemically Altered

DEMENTIA (Blu-Ray Review)
1955 / 56 min


Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

What the hell did I just watch?

Thank God I never saw Dementia back in the days when hallucinogens were part of my nutritious breakfast. It might have caused permanent psychological damage. For those who currently enjoy indulging in similar forms of chemical recreation, I guess you can consider that a recommendation. 

Not quite a horror film, this avant garde obscurity unfolds like a fever dream, the kind where you might even be aware you’re dreaming, but somehow can’t wake up. In fact, would-be auteur John J. Parker based it on a dream his secretary (Adrienne Barrett, who also stars) apparently told him.

Though nicely remastered, it’s a pity this disc doesn’t include any supplemental bonus features besides an alternate cut, because Dementia has an interesting history. Most of its imagery might seem a bit quaint today, but in 1953, it was enough to keep the film from getting a proper release for a couple of years. Even now, some of these scenes are undeniably effective.

Today's crossword was too easy.

The plot? Hmm…like a dream, the narrative is appropriately disjointed - often perplexing - moving from one scene to the next with only a distressed young woman - ‘the Gamine’ - as the connecting tissue. I suppose the nutshell plot has her on the run after stabbing a man to death. She’s being chased by a cop that looks exactly like her dead father, whom she also stabbed after he shot her mother. It’s a hallucinatory journey through the night streets, with the Gamine accosted by a variety of abusive men, including one identified in the credits as ‘Evil One’ (Richard Barron). Based on her interactions with him, he appears to be Gamine's pimp, since he arranges the ‘date’ with the man she stabbed (and she later severs his hand with the same switchblade).

Aside from the sci-fi tinged music score, select sound effects and some moments of quasi-sadistic laughter, Dementia is silent, driven entirely by the surreal black & white imagery, which grows increasingly bizarre as the film unfolds. The climax - set in a seedy jazz club - is both unnerving and ambiguous, like those apex moments of our nightmares that are distressing enough to finally jolt us awake. 

Maybe we’re expected to infer some deeper theme buried beneath the surface - The nature of abusive relationships? The manifestation of guilt? - but man, that’s an awful lot of digging and there still might be too many rocks to make it worth the effort. Dementia ultimately works best as a purely sensory experience, a creepy little tone poem that’ll likely keep adventurous viewers - and the chemically altered - engaged for its brief running time.


DAUGHTER OF HORROR - Recut version of Dementia, with added narration by Ed McMahon (yeah, that Ed McMahon), though the story is essentially the same. Unlike the feature film, this one has not been restored, so it looks & sounds pretty ancient. 


April 25, 2022

EXPIRED Might Describe Our Patience

EXPIRED (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 103 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😾

One has to admire the low budget attempts to give Expired a futuristic look…fog, wet streets, multi-colored lights floating across the sky & background. And of course…plenty of neon, pretty much a staple of sci-fi cities ever since Blade Runner. Being that Hong Kong is already a neon wonderland, much of the production design takes care of itself.

The film also appears to be aiming for a similar slow-burning, neo-noir vibe as Blade Runner. However, Expired is a colossal bore.

Jack (Ryan Kwanten) is a brooding killer-for-hire who’s feeling increasingly detached from humanity, at least until he meets lounge singer/escort April (Jillian Nguyen), whom he believes is a kindred spirit. Unfortunately, her presence is causing him to become physically weaker and sicker. He later learns from reclusive ex-researcher Dr. Bergman that Jack was once part of a life-extension experiment, but now his sudden attack of the feels has awakened dormant hormones that severely hamper any chances at immortality. Bergman advises Jack that if he wants to keep on living, he’s got to stop seeing April and go back to behaving like a machine…

When your Viagra is...expired.
…which plays into Expired’s heavy-handed - and derivative - theme of clinging to humanity in an increasingly mechanized world. Ivan Sen directs his own screenplay, which is not only slow and convoluted, the dialogue is phenomenally pretentious. Every character speaks like Emily Dickinson being paraphrased in an emo teen’s diary after a bad day. Kwanten’s slurred, lethargic voice-over narration adds nothing to his character, nor does his thousand yard stare whenever co-stars are speaking.

There’s something wrong with any movie where the best moment is the first one, when Jack shoots his mark point-blank in an alley. Afterwards, anything resembling action ceases and Expired descends into interminable scenes of the three main characters wallowing in sorrow. The film's glacial pace only exacerbates all of its shortcomings. While there’s an earnest attempt at a poignant resolution, chances are the viewer’s patience will expire long before then.





April 23, 2022

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (4K): The Definition of Joy

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN - 70th Anniversary (4K UHD Review)
1952 / 103 min
Review by Mr. Paws😸

I don’t believe I’ve ever met anybody claiming to completely dislike Singin’ in the Rain, and suspect that many who do probably haven’t actually sat down to watch the film in its entirety (kinda like when my folks once declared their utter hatred of Iron Maiden based on hearing one song). We’re all familiar with Gene Kelly’s iconic performance of the title tune, but really, the whole film can't be defined that one scene. I would argue that it isn’t even the best moment.

70 years on, Singin’ in the Rain is the quintessential musical and has lost none of its magic. Like such classics as Star Wars, it’s one of those films that transcends its genre to even appeal to those who don’t normally go in for this sort of thing. Such as yours truly. This remains the only musical ever made that I’ve been happy to revisit multiple times.

It had been awhile since I’d last seen it - at least a decade - and rather than summarize a plot most are familiar with, I thought I’d share a few takeaways that came to my attention this time around…

  • First off, it’s too bad widescreen films weren’t being made in 1952. Considering the lavish dance numbers and production design, Singin’ in the Rain would have been even more visually spectacular than it already is. Still, the film looks magnificent in 4K, especially the striking colors and set design of the “Broadway Melody” sequence. Speaking of which…
  • With all reverence to Kelly’s still-infectious rain dance, the lengthy “Broadway Melody” section is the highlight of the film. What’s ultimately ironic is that it’s arguably the one musical number that really has nothing to do with the plot. However, it’s a stunner, telling a mini story in its own right. 
  • This was also the first time I noticed how often these dance numbers are shot in long takes. Considering some of the fast-paced, jaw-dropping choreography, these scenes had to be a logistical nightmare. That Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor make it look effortless is amazing.

This scene originally included a Smash 'n' Grab.

  • On the subject of O’Connor…as Cosmo, he might be my new favorite character in the film. He’s easily the funniest, and not just his classic “Make ‘Em Laugh” number. Whether delivering some of the script's best throwaway lines (“At least I can stop suffering and write that symphony”) or handing R.F. one of his own congratulatory cigars, O’Connor is hilarious without calling a lot of attention to himself. But as self-absorbed, bubble headed Lina Lamont, Jean Hagan might be the most underappreciated member of the cast. Having just recently seen her sympathetic turn in The Asphalt Jungle, I was reminded of her largely unsung versatility. 
  • Cyd Charisse - Kelly’s dance partner in “Broadway Melody” - is a strong candidate for the most beautiful woman who ever lived.
  • Finally, in addition to being both a musical and satire of the film business, Singin’ in the Rain could arguably be considered a meta movie. Again, this is especially prevalent  during the “Broadway Melody” sequence. Even the characters themselves acknowledge the sequence has nothing to do with The Dancing Cavalier, the film-within-the-film they are trying to save by turning it into a musical. 

One thing, however, has always been obvious. If joy could be defined by a single film, you’d be hard-pressed to name a better example than Singin’ in the Rain. Every scene is an exercise in charm, exuberance, style and technical virtuosity, something even musical curmudgeons must grudgingly concede. Now in 4K, the film has never looked or sounded better, and its technical specs are the main reason for doing an upgrade, since the bonus features are all carried over from the 2012 Blu-ray (also included in this set).


SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN: RAINING ON A NEW GENERATION - 50-minute appreciation featuring comments & anecdotes by various contemporary directors, choreographers, dancers and actors. 

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donnen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann & Rudy Behlmer. Recorded separately, of course.

“JUKEBOX” OPTION - Allows viewers to jump to any of the 14 songs in the film.



April 21, 2022

Add JIGSAW (1962) to Your Guest List

JIGSAW (Blu-ray Review)
1962 / 107 min


Review by Mr. Paws😺

Director Val Guest had a pretty eclectic career. Though probably best remembered for such British sci-fi classics as The Day the Earth Caught Fire and the first two Quatermass films, he was adept in a variety of genres…comedies, dramas, thrillers, war films, even a musical or two.

Considering most of his early work consisted of comedies, perhaps it’s no surprise that even some of his darker films featured bits of subtle, dry humor and slightly quirky characters. The 1962 crime drama, Jigsaw, is no exception. 

The film begins with a woman’s murder at the hands of someone she obviously knows, even calling him by name…Johnny. Shortly after, Detectives Fellows (Jack Warner) and Wilks (Ronald Lewis) are investigating the break-in of a real estate office. Oddly, all that was taken were lease contracts. This leads them to a home rented by John Campbell, where they discover parts of the woman’s dismembered corpse. 

"My rumpus room, if you know what I mean."
The story is primarily a police procedural, but in a somewhat interesting narrative turn, the detectives know who they’re supposed to be looking for. The real mystery is the victim’s identity. Clues lead them to believe it’s Jean Sherman (Yolande Dolan, Val’s wife), only to find her alive, though she did have a one-night stand with their suspect at the same house as the murder. Now Fellows and Wilks need her to identify Campbell…if that’s his real name, and if they can even find him.

Despite a slow start, Jigsaw tells an engaging story with a few nifty surprises here and there (at the very least, you aren’t likely to predict the murderer’s identity). The film is also punctuated by some witty dialogue, mostly the banter between Fellows and Wilks, as well as some of the beleaguered underlings. As a weary, seasoned cop, Warner’s droll performance is especially amusing.

With a title befitting the plot, Jigsaw is an enjoyable police procedural, though with more red herrings than the story probably needs. Adapting Hillary Waugh’s novel (who penned a series of books featuring Detective Fellows), it’s well written & directed by Guest, one of British cinema’s most reliable journeymen.


THE POOP SCOOP: Criterion Kibbles!

😺RAGING BULL on 4K and Blu-ray 7/12 from Criterion.
With this stunningly visceral portrait of self-destructive machismo, Martin Scorsese created one of the truly great and visionary works of modern cinema. Robert De Niro pours his blood, sweat, and brute physicality into the Oscar-winning role of Jake La Motta, the rising middleweight boxer from the Bronx whose furious ambition propels him to success within the ring but whose unbridled paranoia and jealousy tatter his relationships with everyone in his orbit, including his brother and manager (Joe Pesci) and gorgeous, streetwise wife (Cathy Moriarty). Thelma Schoonmaker’s Oscar-winning editing, Michael Chapman’s extraordinarily tactile black-and-white cinematography, and Frank Warner’s ingenious sound design combine to make Raging Bull a uniquely powerful exploration of violence on multiple levels—physical, emotional, psychic, and spiritual. In addition to a 4K digital master, the set includes a large selection of new and vintage bonus features.

😺DRIVE MY CAR on Blu-ray and DVD 7/19 from Criterion.
Only Ryusuke Hamaguchi—with his extraordinary sensitivity to the mysterious resonances of human interactions—could sweep up international awards and galvanize audiences everywhere with a pensive, three-hour movie about an experimental staging of an Anton Chekhov play, presented in nine languages and adapted from Haruki Murakami stories. With Drive My Car, the Japanese director has confirmed his place among contemporary cinema’s most vital voices. Two years after his wife’s unexpected death, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) arrives in Hiroshima to direct a production of Uncle Vanya for a theater festival and, through relationships with an actor (Masaki Okada) with whom he shares a tangled history and a chauffeur (Toko Miura) with whom he develops a surprising rapport, finds himself confronting emotional scars. This quietly mesmerizing tale of love, art, grief, and healing is ultimately a cathartic exploration of what it means to go on living when there seems to be no road ahead.

😺OKJA on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD 7/5 from Criterion.
Master genre exploder Bong Joon Ho swirls pathos, dark satire, action, and horror into an exhilarating twenty-first-century fairy tale. An all-star cast including Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, and Jake Gyllenhaal is led by An Seo Hyun as Mija, a South Korean girl growing up on an Edenic mountainside with her grandfather and best friend: Okja, a giant, empathetic “superpig” created as part of a secret GMO experiment. When Okja is abruptly torn away from her, Mija embarks on a perilous rescue mission that places her at the center of a sinister corporate conspiracy. While Bong’s trademark virtuosic set pieces dazzle, Okja’s beating heart is the connection between a girl and her superpig, made all the more poignant by the brilliant special effects that bring the animal star to unforgettable life. Includes a 4K master, approved by Bong Joon Ho, as well as numerous bonus features.

😺DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS on 4K and Blu-ray 7/19 from Criterion.
The bone-deep disillusionment of postwar film noir becomes a powerful vehicle to explore America’s racial injustices in Carl Franklin’s richly atmospheric Devil in a Blue Dress, an adaptation of the hard-boiled novel by Walter Mosley. Denzel Washington has charisma to burn as the jobless ex-GI Easy Rawlins, who sees a chance to make some quick cash when he’s recruited to find the missing lover (Jennifer Beals) of a wealthy mayoral candidate in late-1940s Los Angeles—only to find himself embroiled in murder, political intrigue, and a scandal that crosses the treacherous color lines of a segregated society. Featuring breakout work by Don Cheadle as Rawlins’s cheerfully trigger-happy sidekick, this stylish mystery both channels and subverts classic noir tropes as it exposes the bitter racial realities underlying the American dream. Includes a 4K master, approved by Carl Franklin, as well as numerous bonus features.

April 20, 2022

VINYL NATION Preaches to the Choir

VINYL NATION (Movie Review)
2020 / 92 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

Ain’t it cool that vinyl records are back? 

Not just as some fad embraced by hipsters and audiophiles, they're once again relevant to the music industry. While nothing is likely to ever erase the scourge of digital downloads, vinyl is currently the biggest selling physical format. Kinda makes me wish I didn’t unload all my albums back when records were first rendered uncool. Recently re-buying Reign in Blood set me back almost thirty bucks.

Record collecting today is expensive, but as everyone featured in Vinyl Nation lovingly attests, the tactile joys far outweigh the cost (as does the oddly cathartic act of watching them spin). We meet die-hards of all ages - from kids to old cronies - who sing vinyl’s praises while showing off their own collections. The film also visits new and landmark record stores from around the country. Speaking with their owners, it’s obvious most of them do this as a labor of love. 

"No kid...that hole is supposed to be there."
Everyone’s enthusiasm is infectious, though they’re ultimately preaching to the choir. Vinyl Nation is likely to be of the most interest to other record lovers, who’ll certainly appreciate the repeated confirmations that music still has value and collecting discs is awesome. But what’s really interesting is when the film focuses on a few record manufacturing plants, some which weathered the storm when the format was at its nadir, others that have sprung up during vinyl’s resurgence. Despite being a 100-year-old technology, how they work has always been a mystery to me and watching the process is fascinating. We even visit the headquarters of Crosley, the company that manufactures portable - and affordable - turntables, many of which appear designed to turn younger folks on to vinyl (I’m listening to one right now). 

Still, records remain a comparative niche market for music lovers, the same which could be said for Vinyl Nation. The grand tour of stores, factories and conventions will certainly fascinate record buyers, who will also find the interviews with like-minded audiophiles pretty charming. Conversely, those whose entire collection is stored on their phone will wonder why these folks are wasting so much money.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to grab that overpriced Volbeat album I’ve been eyeballing.


FREE KITTENS MOVIE GUIDE is giving away a 4K Ultra HD copy of the classic, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, courtesy of WARNER BROS HOME ENTERTAINMENT. 

Singin’ in the Rain is widely considered to be one of the greatest musical films in cinematic history. The musical romantic comedy was directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly (On the Town) and Stanley Donen (On the Town) and stars Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchel and Cyd Charisse. The film was written by Adolph Green and Betty Comden and produced by Arthur Freed. The music is by Nacio Herb Brown and the lyrics are by Arthur Freed. O'Connor won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and Betty Comden and Adolph Green won the Writers Guild of America Award for their screenplay, while Jean Hagen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1989, Singin' in the Rain was one of the first 25 films selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". 

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is available on 4K, BLU-RAY & Digital Combo Pack 4/26.


Shoot us an email at freekittensmovieguide@gmail.com

Contest ends 4/30

April 18, 2022

JACKASS FOREVER: Family Movie Night

JACKASS FOREVER (Blu-ray Review)
2022 / 96 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

“Gather ‘round the TV, kids!”

I never thought I’d be saying that to my daughters again. They’re 18 and 27, the days of popping in Finding Nemo for family movie night now a distant memory, as are the weekends when I’d introduce Lucy to my favorite horror films and turned Natalie into a fan of westerns. Today, they’re too busy with college, video games, friends and a social life to hang out with their old man as much as he’d like.

But at the mention of Jackass Forever, they came charging downstairs like a cat to a can opener. Too young to recall the TV show, they absolutely love the movies. And as much as I’m embarrassed to admit it, so do I. Though my wife politely declined this particular invitation to family movie night, the three of us gathered in the Dave Cave, ready to once-again unleash our inner 12-year-old boy. Being the first Jackass film in over a decade, it had been awhile.

The boys did not disappoint. They’re a little older now, and some of the original cast do not return, like Ryan Dunn (RIP) and Bam Margera (apparently a walking trainwreck these days). However, there are a few fresh faces who fit right in, including Rachel Wolfson, the first female cast member whose wince-inducing introduction involves a bit of scorpion venom Botox. But interestingly, the fact that some of these guys are now pushing 50 are part of the film’s charm. You’re never too old to enjoy punching a buddy in the balls.

Habitrails in Hell.
Speaking of which, this one seems to be especially dedicated to demonstrating a variety of ways to assault the crotch. Pee-pees and nuts are regularly pounded, stung, bitten, injected with hot sauce, hit with hockey pucks, pressed between glass and baited to attract a variety of hungry critters. Elsewhere, the song remains the same, with stunts and pranks that are both hilarious and wince-inducing, along with a few that are obviously calculated to trigger the gag reflex (mission accomplished, by the way). I’d have to say my favorite bit has two guys wearing fishbowl helmets linked by a tube containing a tarantula. 

What has always made the Jackass franchise unique - which YouTube imitators often fail to realize - is that it’s never cruel or mean-spirited. There’s even a bit demented genius behind some of these stunts, or at the very least, one hell of a lot of audacity in attempting them. And as Jackass Forever once again demonstrates, a big reason we find it all so funny is because the cast thinks it's funny. Their laughter is indeed infectious.

Perhaps a sign they aren’t getting any younger, both Steve-O and ringleader Johnny Knoxville land themselves in the hospital during the film. This prompts the question: How much longer can these guys keep this up? Is Jackass Forever the pinnacle of the franchise, or does adding new cast members suggest a passing of the baton to a younger crew? Let’s hope it’s the latter, because this stuff is still hilarious and a guaranteed fun family movie night with my girls. May they never outgrow the simple pleasure of watching this batch of bros brutalize themselves.


ADDITIONAL STUNTS - Some are stunts deleted from the film, others are bits that didn’t work out like they hoped, and a few are alternate versions of what made the final cut. Some cast members and director Jeff Tremaine are featured in introductions, talking about these scenes.


April 17, 2022


1976-1977 / 198 min (2 movies)
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

The Big Racket and The Heroin Busters are my first Poliziotteschi films. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a subgenre of Italian action movies that generally feature corruption, organized crime, renegade cops and no-small amount of vigilantism. Sort of the bastard son of Giallo, there’s more emphasis on brutal action than atmosphere or suspense, but the pulpy, sensationalistic approach to filmmaking remains. As such, these films are a lot of kick-ass fun. 

This terrific - and accurately titled - boxed set, Rogue Cops and Racketeers, collects two Poliziotteschi films from the mid-70s, which was the height of the genre’s popularity. Both are directed by Enzo G. Castellari, a somewhat underrated Italian filmmaker who’s cranked out a lot of reliably entertaining exploitation movies in a variety of genres. 

1976’s The Big Racket is the better of the two. It’s also the most violent, which includes a couple of tough-to-watch rape scenes that make the one in Death Wish look docile. But elsewhere, the movie serves up some rousing revenge. Fabio Testi plays Nico Palmieri, a reckless cop who goes up against a sadistic gang of racketeers terrorizing local businesses. After being stripped of his badge, he decides to deal some street justice with the help of a family friend, a guy he once busted and a couple of recent victims who have payback in-mind. Fast-moving and ferocious, the story eschews plausibility in favor of action and retribution.

Fabio misses his train.
1977’s The Heroin Busters also stars Testi, along with several other Castellari favorites. In this one, Testi is Fabio, an undercover cop who gets in deep with the criminal underworld, posing as a heroin dealer. His lone contact outside of the mafia is detective Mike Hamilton (David Hemmings), who goes to great lengths covering for him, including a Fabio-led robbery of their own precinct. The story is a little convoluted at times, but recovers nicely during the bravura final act, a lengthy chase which has Fabio trying to escape the mob once his cover is blown. 

Neither of these are what anyone would mistake for artistic achievements - like most Castellari films - but they’re sure a gung ho good time. This set includes great restorations for both, which are presented in both English and Italian, along with a slew of brand new bonus features for each. As such, Rogue Cops and Racketeers is a nice introduction to Poliziotteschi, and if these two titles are indicative of what the genre has to offer, sign this guy up for more.


Both Films:


AUDIO COMMENTARIES - By critics Adrian J. Smith and David Flint.

58 PAGE BOOKLET - Includes: “Viva da Muerte!: Enzo G. Castellari’s The Big Racket” (essay by Roberto Curti; “Cops of Two Nations: The Heroin Busters” (essay by Barry Forshaw; cast, crew & restoration credits.


REVERSIBLE COVERS - With new and vintage artwork.

The Big Racket:

THE YEARS OF RACKETEERING - Interview with director Enzo G. Castellari.

VIOLENT TIMES - Interview with actor Fabio Testi.

ANGEL FACE FOR A TOUGH GUY - Interview with actor Massimo Vanni.

KING OF MOVIEOLA - Interview with editor Gianfranco Amicucci.

THE GREAT RACKET - Music historian/collector Lovely Jon discusses the career of Guido & Maurizio De Angelis, who scored the film.



The Heroin Busters

ENDLESS PURSUIT - Interview with director Enzo G. Castellari.

DRUG SQUAD - Interview with actor Fabio Testi.

THE DRUG DEALER - Interview with actor Massimo Vanni.

HOW THEY KILLED ITALIAN CINEMA - Interview with editor Gianfranco Amicucci.

A COP ON THE SET - Interview with retired “poliziotto” (cop) Nicola Longo.

THE EARDRUM BUSTERS - Music historian/collector Lovely Jon discusses the career Goblin, who scored the film.Being a fan of the band - and its many line-ups - this is my personal favorite of the bonus material.