APES ON FILM: Fear is the SPOILERS!

Posted on: Apr 30th, 2024 By:

Chris Herzog
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

FEAR IS THE KEY—1972
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Barry Newman, Suzy Kendell, John Vernon, Ben Kingsley
Director: Michael Tuchner
Rated: PG
Studio: Arrow Video
Region: A
BRD Release Date: February 13, 2024
Audio Formats: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.34:1
Run Time: 105 Min.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

FEAR IS THE KEY is rife with surprises, and too snug a review could ruin the viewing experience. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Instead of plot specifics, let’s talk about some other stuff in the movie.  First of all, it contains a fantastic car chase. Stunt coordinator Carey Loftin did the driving here; he also did the chases in VANISHING POINT, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, DUEL, and even THE LOVE BUG. Loftin is one of the unsung heroes of action sequences, and FEAR is another notch on his belt. Sure, Barry Newman and Suzy Kendell are fine, but damn… that chase! There are various twists and turns, with the film ending up in a submarine—actually, it’s a bathyscaphe, but why split hairs. Once again, I’m staying away from the plot on purpose.

We can talk about Alistair MacLean, at least a little bit. I remember stacks of the Scottish writer’s novels everywhere at the bookstores and the airport gift shops when I was younger. These mid-century potboilers usually had to do with various plots to assassinate, overthrow, destroy or steal Macguffins of various stripes, and several included themes of underwater suspense. Many of them became fine movies, like THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, ICE STATION ZEBRA, and of course WHERE EAGLES DARE. In this film, everything clicks together in typical MacLean-ian fashion. No spoilers!

This picture has a great cast as well, many at the height of their powers. Newman had just finished VANISHING POINT and seemingly jumped right out of that and into the next car. Kendell was probably tired of all these Gialos (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, TORSO, SPASMO). This was certainly a change of pace for her. The villains are first-rate too. John Vernon is always great—and pretty much the same, whether he’s in DIRTY HARRY, SAVAGE STREETS, or ANIMAL HOUSE.  Villain #2 is a young Ben Kinglsey. He had done a lot of British television, but this was his first film—and then he went back to TV and didn’t return for ten years at which point GANDHI was released, and he swept out of nowhere to grab the Academy Award™ for Best Actor.  Everyone is on their game here.

Much of the picture was shot on location in Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, while most of the sets were done in England at Bray Studios. As it turns out, most of these folks are British, including the director, much of the cast, and the visual effects crew. American accents are mostly on point with an exception; Kendall didn’t really make the grade here, as she tries and fails to sound like a Southern American heiress. A false note, but not sounded by the loudest instrument in the orchestra. There are too many other wonderful things going on here. An unsung hero is Derek Meddings for his miniature and special effects work. Meddings work was just as good as any onscreen at the time and ever since, frankly. Starting with the Supermarionation series in England like THUNDERBIRDS and STINGRAY, he began working with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson  providing highly memorable visual effects. He became one of the best special effects designers in the world, creating work for various James Bond pictures, the SUPERMAN franchise, and BATMAN.

Arrow’s presentation is rather attractive and articulate. The video quality looks very good, as should be expected. The audio has a nice mono sound that gets the job done. This definitely needed a good, thorough commentary, and Howard S. Berger delivers. He’s almost always great, and this is no exception. Berger takes a deep dive here, and he gives all the answers to the questions you’ll be asking and more. There’s also a visual essay with the author Scout Tafoya. In addition, we also have two fairly long archive interviews from the crew members and the associate producer. Finally, the composer, Roy Budd, gets his own featurette. Budd was always different, with plenty of jazz chops. GET CARTER was arguably his best work, but FEAR IS THE KEY was right behind it. Music historian Neil Brand puts it all together for us.

There are a few more bells and whistles, particularly in this limited edition. We have an illustrated collector’s booklet, featuring the writer Sean Hogan. Of course, there’s also a trailer—and finally, artist Nathanael Marsh has created some sweet new artwork for the sleeve, as well as a poster. If you prefer the original poster artwork for display, it’s on the opposite side of the sleeve. All in all, FEAR IS THE KEY is an outstanding film, and worth the price of the disc for the movie alone. Everything else is cherries on top.

 

 

 

When he’s not casually shuffling across dry creek beds, Chris Herzog is a writer, researcher, and teacher. His film criticism can also be found in Screem magazine and back issues of the late, lamented Video WatcH*Dog.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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APES ON FILM: Life IS Like a Box of Chocolates in Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s THE DEAD MOTHER

Posted on: Jan 26th, 2024 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

THE DEAD MOTHER – 1993
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Karra Elejalde, Ana Álvarez, Lio, Silvia Marsó
Director: Juanma Bajo Ulloa
Rated: Not rated
Studio: Radiance Films
Region: Region A
BRD Release Date: October 10, 2023
Audio Formats: Spanish LPCM 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Run Time: 111 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

The old saying “like taking candy from a baby” implies the ease of stealing something from someone particularly helpless or uninformed, but anyone with children knows this idiom is a bit misguided. When a child wants something badly enough, removal of said something is the equivalent to defusing an H-bomb with a sledgehammer.

The first instance of this phrase appears in the short story “Experiences of a Verdant Bookmaker” from the collection Taking Chances (1900) by Clarence Louis Cullen. In the story, a grocer who’s given up on his humble profession becomes a bookie and tries playing on an unfair advantage at the racetrack. The phrase originates: “Now, this looked like a pretty good thing to the groceryman. It looked like taking candy from a child.” So, no children were harmed or even involved in the saying’s origins, but over the years it’s become a cliché prevalent in everything from Bugs Bunny cartoons to a literal on screen translation in Spanish filmmaker Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s 1993 film THE DEAD MOTHER (LA MADRE MUERTA).

Ulloa’s film begins with a burglar, Ismael (Karra Elejalde), searching for the home of an art restorer in the middle of the night. The requisite black sock hat and flashlight lets us know he’s up to no good. We don’t know what Ismael is looking for, just that he’s not finding it. What we do know is there’s a child in the house, and the mother, startled by Ismael’s knocking around, appears and informs him there’s no money, and finds herself on the business end of a shotgun. As Ismael makes his escape, he takes a chocolate bar from the child’s highchair, but before he can slip out the kitchen window, young Leire (Raquel Santamaría) stands combative, wielding a large stick poised to avenge her mother, and ostensibly defend the chocolate bar Ismael has helped himself to.

Fast forward several years later, we see that Ismael is still up to his crooked ways (not unlike author Cullen’s grocery store bookie), working as a bartender under an alias. Leire (Ava Álvarez) is now in her teens and is living out her days as a mute, afflicted with the arrested mind of a child in an institution for the mentally impaired. Leire’s caretaker Blanca (Silvia Marsó), takes the girl out on daily walks, and on one particular outing Leire and Ismael cross paths, both recognizing each other. This time Ismael and his girlfriend Maite (Lio) skip the candy and go for taking the baby instead, kidnapping Leire and holding her for ransom. “Like taking a patient from an institution.” Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it?

Aside from Blanca’s attempt to rescue Leire, the film is a character study of the strange dynamic amongst Ismael, Leire, and Maite. Jealousy abounds when Maite realizes that Ismael’s internal conflict won’t permit him to murder Leire. A rift forms between the couple as Ismael negotiates a spectrum of emotions regarding Leire; processing everything from guilt to paternal role play to outright lover becomes a crucible for Ismael.

Chocolate remains the connective tissue that binds the strange relationship between Ismael and Leire. At one point, as Ismael is about to force Leire in front of an oncoming train, she drops a candy bar into a puddle and attempts to eat it. Ismael pulls her from the railroad tracks just as the train passes and explains to the girl that she shouldn’t eat the candy because it’s dirty. In this case the mutual regard for chocolate and a strange parental instinct intervenes and saves Leire. The scene is also particularly odd given that while Ismael is contemplating a horrible manslaughter style death for Leire, he becomes more concerned with the poor hygienic choice to eat muddy chocolate.

Chocolate takes on a visually symbolic role permeating the film’s surroundings. Wall paneling and doors often mimic the delectable treat making it emblematic of protection, or imprisonment—your mileage may vary. If nothing else it is the one thing that remains to remind Leire of her dead mother and serves as a trigger for Ismael in the same regard.

As for dead mothers, there’s little mention of the one from the beginning of this film as the story progresses. Seconds before Ismael kills Leire’s mother, he spots a damaged painting of a mother and child; a diagonal slash through the canvas separates the two at the mother’s head. Imagery of that same slash appears throughout the film reminding us of the tragic separation between Leire and her mother. The image becomes representative of the loss Leire is unable to express because of her now impaired condition, the cause of which is eventually revealed, disclosing the catalyst for Ismael’s strange turmoil and affection for the girl.

Ismael’s peculiar obsession with odors and his attempts to earn a smile from Leire are other quirks reflecting the man’s internal unrest and response to personal change through his present experience. In a moment near the end of the film, Ismael, injured by a gunshot, is seated on a train next to a woman with a crying baby in a dirty diaper. Given Ismael’s well-established abhorrence for foul odors, we know he is aware of the soiled baby, but his metamorphosis through his fondness for Leire, along with his humbled and impaired condition, finds him silent and compassionate for the mother and child.

Radiance Films presents THE DEAD MOTHER in high definition on Blu-ray disc with a host of special features including a documentary on the making of the film; Ulloa’s short film “Victor’s Kingdom”; an audio commentary from the director; and, an image gallery. The limited edition features a booklet with writing on the film by Xavier Aldana Reyes and a newly translated archival essay by director Ulloa and co-writer Eduardo Bajo Ulloa. The crown jewel of this release, however, is the inclusion of a bonus CD of the film’s mysterious score by composer Bingen Mendizábal.

The bizarre, nearly inexplicable dynamic shared between Ismael and Leire is mostly foreign to us, but also anchors the film in curiosity. Its emotional beats are compelling enough to keep viewers involved, but seemingly at a distance. THE DEAD MOTHER is a vicarious experiment exploring specific scenarios of inner upheaval as a consequence of bad deeds by misguided people and the journey of loss through the mind of a child. Taking candy from a baby costs big bucks in emotional currency.

 

 

When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly. Look for Lucas on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd, and for all of Lucas’s content, be sure to check out his Linktree.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Posted on: Dec 1st, 2023 By:

Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

The Holidays surround us and penetrate us; they bind the galaxy together, to borrow a totally inappropriate quote from a famous movie. But seriously, if you have a film nerd or scholar you need gifts for, it’s Apes on Film to the rescue! Here, in no particular order, are the films that we think would make great gifts this holiday season. Rest assured these flicks have never looked or sounded better. Click the links below to snag one for yourself or your favorite geeky guy or gal!

 

TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. – 4K UHD – KINO LORBER: Get rich or try dyin’, as Ape on Film Lucas Hardwick would say. My favorite William Friedkin film and one of my top picks for 1985 as a whole. The tense game of cat and mouse between Chance and Masters plus the fantastic soundtrack from Wang Chung makes this a winner for anyone into crime films. Filled with memorable images, dialog, and performances, this film gets under your skin and remains.

FREAKS, THE UNKNOWN, THE MYSTIC – TODD BROWNING’S SIDESHOW SHOCKERS – BLU-RAY, CRITERION COLLECTION: Rediscovered, remastered, revealing. Possibly the best set to see released in 2023, Criterion’s Browning box is a revelation. Outstanding visually, with an enormous set of supplemental features and deep-dive booklet, all put together by Monster Show author and Browning biographer David J. Skal. No fan of classic horror and thriller films should let this pass by.

CUSHING CURIOSITIES – 6 DISC SET – BLU-RAY – SEVERIN FILMS: The gentleman of horror had a more robust career than many give him credit for. Though best known for blowing up the Death Star and staking vampires and building monsters the Hammer way, Peter Cushing played many roles including Count Dracula himself! Check out his Sherlock Holmes as well in this essential collection from Severin, jam-packed with extras as they are wont to do.

WINGS OF DESIRE – 4K & BLU RAY – CRITERION COLLECTION: Another film that no one should live without. Peter Falk goes to Germany to appear on a chat show and meets an Angel having a crisis of faith. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds play live. It’s Wim Wenders’ masterpiece that was clumsily remade as CITY OF ANGELS with Nicholas Cage. Skip that one, WINGS is the real thing, and the Criterion disc is the one to treasure.

GLORIA – BLU-RAY – KINO LORBER: Gena Rowlands was a dot on my media horizon as a young Ape on Film until I saw this movie directed by her husband, John Cassavetes. She meanders onto the screen as a mob gun moll entrusted with not only evidence to convict a cartel of her former friends but a recently orphaned kid. Gloria builds a full head of steam emotionally and visually trying to stay one step ahead of her gangland pursuers as well as the cops, who think she’s a kidnapper. No extras on this disc, but the film is worth the bargain price any day.

THE DEAD ZONE, COLLECTOR’S EDITION – 4k UHD & BLU-RAY – SHOUT! FACTORY: The ICE. Is gonna BREAK! I wouldn’t have pegged David Cronenberg for the guy to adapt this moving Stephen King tale to the screen, but he hit the ball out of the park by keeping it simple and honest. Christopher Walken turns in a career-high performance as a crippled teacher who can psychically “see” the truth of the people around him, including a murderer, a friend, a concerned father, and a presidential candidate with plans for the world that must be stopped. Shout!’s collector edition is a two-disc set featuring a brand-new transfer and supplements galore.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE – 4K UHD & BLU-RAY – CRITERION COLLECTION: As you wish! Perhaps the most beloved film of the 1980s gets the Criterion treatment in an ultra-special edition which includes a hardback booklet, an audiobook reading of the original William Goldman book by director Rob Reiner, commentaries with the cast, the director, the writer, behind the scenes footage and so much more. There’s a reason why this movie is evergreen, and I can’t think of a single person on your holiday list that wouldn’t enjoy this two-disc set.

GORGO – 4K UHD – VINEGAR SYNDROME: He’s like Godzilla with a British accent. A cross between King Kong, Son of Kong, and Godzilla, Gorgo is a very well-made pastiche of the giant monster blockbusters set in London. Spoiler Alert: there’s a killer climax that results in a LOT of damage to the city. Always fun to watch giant monsters stomping world famous landmarks. Vinegar Syndrome went all out with a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, so their presentation is amazing. Chock full of new and archival extras as well.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN COLLECTOR’S EDITION – 4K UHD & BLU-RAY – SHOUT SELECT: It may not be the best Western film of all time, but three out of three Apes on Film agree that it’s a perfect movie. From the incredible cast to John Sturges’ directing, to Elmer Bernstein’s unforgettable, breathtaking score, this film is always a pleasurable watch. Shout! Factory’s presentation boasts a new restoration and color grade from existing scanned elements resulting in a sharper picture than previous releases, and a plethora of supplemental features. Honestly, a must-have for any film buff.

SUPERMAN 5 FILM COLLECTION – 4K UHD & BLU-RAY – WARNER BROS: In 1978, we all believed a man could fly. Christopher Reeve’s amazing performance as the Man of Steel was utterly convincing, the special effects were state of the art, and Richard Donner’s directing coupled with a fantastic script from Mario Puzo and a cadre of re-writers combined to make the perfect superhero movie. In fact, SUPERMAN has been the template on which the best of all superhero films that followed was patterned after to some degree. WB’s new comprehensive 4-disc set contains all of Reeve’s films (including the Richard Donner cut of SUPERMAN II) and is festooned with special features. Absolutely a gift that will get you a kiss, even without any mistletoe around.

 

This is just a small selection of the amazing films that were released in ultra-high definition this year. What are your picks for the ultimate HD media stocking stuffers? Let us know in the comments below and hey – HAPPY HOLIDAYS from your favorite Apes on Film!

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Retro Fan, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more. He is the author of the book The Art of George Wilson from Hermes Press.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review, Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: No One Will Hear You Scream— Radiance Films’ MESSIAH OF EVIL

Posted on: Nov 29th, 2023 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

MESSIAH OF EVIL1974
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Marianna Hill, Michael Greer, Anitra Ford, Joy Bang, Royal Dano, Elisha Cook Jr.
Director: Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Radiance Films
Region: Region A (B, C untested)
BRD Release Date: October 24, 2023
Audio Formats: English: LPCM 2.0 mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (34.93 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (original aspect ratio: 2.39:1)
Run Time: 90 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Point Dume is one of those spooky small towns where you really want to avoid conversation with any of the locals. Perched up on the Pacific Coast with its beautiful seaside sunset views, a humble grocery store, movie theater, gas station, and art gallery, Point Dume looks like a million other neon stucco towns. Its idyllic qualities are perfect for a cozy Airbnb weekend, but its hollow-eyed, laconic, once tax-paying citizens make Point Dume hardly the place to get away from it all.

Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz’s 1974 feature MESSIAH OF EVIL is the story of Arletty Lang (Marianna Hill) who arrives in creepy Point Dume in search of her estranged father. Arletty quickly gets more than she bargained for from the town’s welcoming committee when she stops at a gas station on the outskirts to find the attendant frantically firing rounds into the night. An albino man with an unpleasant disposition interrupts her transaction, and pretty soon the paranoid station employee is feverishly telling her to scram. The good people of Point Dume only become more troubling as Arletty investigates her father’s whereabouts.

Arletty’s father, Joseph (Royal Dano), is an artist who’s attracted the attention of a trio of Bohemians in search of his work. Thom (Michael Greer), and his “traveling companions” Laura and Toni (Anitra Ford and Joy Bang), are also curious about where to find Joseph and have bumped into their own local weirdo, Charlie (Elisha Cook Jr.), a bum who rattles on about his own birth and some business regarding a red moon dragging people to hell. Just your average street corner wino and his apocalyptic ravings, right?

Arletty and her Bohemian pals lounge around her father’s empty home while pondering the strange temperament of Point Dume’s residents and discuss what could have happened to Mr. Lang. When Thom’s companion Laura allows jealousy to get the best of her, she takes off in the middle of the night and winds up as a late-night snack for a handful of googly-eyed Point Dumers ravaging the meat counter at the local Ralph’s grocery store. Point Dume is even weirder than you thought.

Huyck and Katz’s film boils down to being a slow-burn zombie flick—and like most zombie flicks—with an inexplicable catalyst that’s turning the locals into chalky (but handsome) undead cannibals. The film’s mild epistolary structure reveals that zombification is most likely what happened to Mr. Lang, and in the meantime, serves as an expository WebMD that’s got Arletty worked up into an appropriate level of paranoia and jabbing straight pins into her thighs to see if she too has become afflicted.

The movie showcases three suspenseful key moments that reveal all the weirdness we can stand to know about Point Dume and its denizens of death. First is Arletty’s strange introduction at the service station, the second is Laura’s demise at the checkout counter in Ralph’s, and third is the soul-rattling experience Toni finds herself in at the movie theater. Coated in blood-red enamel, the theater is mostly empty save for a few scattered patrons, one in particular glaring at Toni over the back of his seat. The shot holds on him for a moment before the lights dim signifying Toni’s last chance to beat it before she becomes a featured concession stand item. It’s one of the most unnerving moments in the film.

While Point Dume is mostly devoid of small-town bustle, it’s Arletty’s father’s basement that is strangely the most populated place in the film. Sure, Arletty and her friends are hanging out there eating up all the food in the icebox and making long-distance phone calls, but the gang is joined by the landscapes and people of Mr. Lang’s murals that include Lee Harvey Oswald lookalikes and Supreme Court Justices. Not exactly the friendly faces most of us would select to adorn our ever-sacred wall-space, but still better than the relentless burgeoning hoard that’s festering in Point Dume.

MESSIAH OF EVIL unfolds hypnotically and fosters that good old fashioned “what the fuck did I just watch” vibe that with what little explanation it offers doesn’t make a whole lot of sense—in a good way. It’s a film that reveals itself in moments like a disconnected nightmare that haunts you all night long. However, in spite of its vague narrative, the subtext suggests life amongst art—no matter how dull (i.e., Supreme Court Justices)—versus the zombie-minded vapidness of everyday people engaging in the diabolical act of capitalism. Each instance of undead onslaught or outright weirdness occurs in a place of commerce: the shiny new Mobil station, Ralph’s grocery, and the movie theater. Meanwhile, meaningful moments of revelation occur in the heavily muraled, post-modern realist world of Joe Lang’s basement where the only real live people in this world doing any thinking are artsy non-conformists.

Radiance Films presents MESSIAH OF EVIL with the best picture and sound it has ever had in a stunning 4K restoration on high-definition Blu-ray disc. The limited edition release features an audio commentary by film authors Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower; a new 57-minute documentary exploring the themes of the film; a visual essay by film writer Kat Ellinger; and an archival interview with the film’s co-writer and director Willard Huyck. The limited edition also includes an 80-page booklet with essays by Bill Ackerman, Joseph Dwyer, Amanda Reyes, Andy Marshall-Roberts, and Larissa Glasser. Packaged in a rigid box with reversible sleeve art, Radiance’s release is the best home video presentation of MESSIAH OF EVIL available.

MESSIAH OF EVIL is a bleak aberration that examines the end of the world through the contextually relevant eyes of self-aware beatniks. It is a revelation that exists in the construct of the mind adjacent to the spirit of the horror classic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and the films of Jean Rollin. But its detached tendencies are what make it compelling and pertinent to a deeper connection to human paranoia, permitting it to function as a signpost to internal terror.

 

 

 

 

When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly. Look for Lucas on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd, and for all of Lucas’s content, be sure to check out his Linktree.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: How Monstrous and Shrewd We Are

Posted on: Nov 1st, 2023 By:

Chris Herzog
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

**I want to take a moment to welcome Ape Chris Herzog back to the fold. Chris suffered a stroke earlier this year and we’re really happy to have him back doing what he loves most, writing about film – Anthony Taylor, Supreme Ape Commander

 

 

THE GIANT GILA MONSTER1959 (with THE KILLER SHREWS—1959)
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring:
Don Sullivan, Lisa Simone
Director: Ray Kellogg
Rated: No rating
Studio: Film Masters
Region: A-B-C
BRD Release Date: September 26, 2023
Audio Formats: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 1.33:1
Run Time: 74 Min.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

I imagine you’ve watched THE GIANT GILA MONSTER and/or THE KILLER SHREWS by now. These are both in the public domain, so they’re pretty cheap to find (or even free). If you like these two films, you may want to take a look at one of the best bundles I’ve seen. This two-disc set from Film Masters includes commentaries on both movies, as well as a nice booklet with an essay for each film. You should know what you’re getting here by now as far as the films go, but at least the transfers and the bonus materials all look pretty damned good.

A new company, Film Masters starts out of the gate quite nicely. These seem to be some of the same folks who have worked at The Film Detective. This boutique label apparently focuses on PD monsters, horror, and general exploitation pictures. Instead of the usual ragged ninety-nine-cent DVDs, it looks like they’re tackling a lot of restoration, as well as two disc/two film packages, booklets, “special editions,” and, of course, HD media. We’ve all seen these films as well as THE TERROR, BEAST FROM THE HAUNTED CAVE, TORMENTED, and so many more for decades. Film Masters is sprucing up a lot of these dinosaurs and they are surprisingly agreeable presentations. Hopefully, the rest of their special editions look as nice as these.

Between all the various bells and whistles, we have plenty of information here, starting with the commentaries. First up, we have The Monster Party Podcast providing a fun, free-for-all discussion for THE GIANT GILA MONSTER. On the second disk, author Jason A. Ney provides a lot of interesting material for the SHREWS. Ney also writes further in the booklet, while Don Stradley takes on the GILA MONSTER. One of the interesting parts of the story is Gordon McLendon, a Texas millionaire who decided to produce a couple of no-budget movies for his drive-ins, of which he had many. He also had theaters, radio stations, and other businesses. Both were released in 1959 and often double billed, the two pictures almost certainly made a lot of money compared to their cost of production, but for whatever reason McClendon didn’t make any more movies. These two pictures, however, live on.

Both are fun, but for my money, THE KILLER SHREWS is a better film. Much like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD nine years later, the story is a bleak motif with a pretty harrowing siege. Sure, those dogs are pretty silly by themselves, but the whole shebang kind of works – sometimes. It helps to have two strong leads here. James Best and Ken Curtis later worked in television and film for years. And, yes, you get to watch Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (THE DUKES OF HAZZARD) fight for his life with Festus from GUNSMOKE. Unfortunately, most of these other actors vanished after this film. THE GIANT GILA MONSTER is enjoyable as well – hot rods, a bunch of kids all getting together with a “giant” lizard, and, of course, the Sheriff. You’re in trouble when the film’s Sheriff is the best actor in the movie, while the lizard is a close second. But who cares?

Director Ray Kellogg helmed both films, and his first love appears to be working with special effects. He did a pretty good job in other assignments like THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT and THE KING AND I. In this case, Kellogg took some lemons and some watered-down lemonade and made something magical. After he found a big lizard, he just put together a few tiny cars, trees, and buildings – that’s all he needed. The shrews were a different story. In this case, Kellogg grabbed a few German Shepherds and made a couple of weird dog costumes. You can hear more information on the Blu-Ray.

You’ll also get two aspect ratios (1.85:1 and 1.33:1) for both films. There’s a restored 35mm trailer from the GILA, while the SHREWS have some rare radio spots. There’s also a pretty good documentary on Ray Kellogg, as well as an archival interview with Don Sullivan, GILA’s leading man. Honestly, I’m pretty sure these films (Blu-ray or DVD) have never had a commentary, a documentary, or anything else of added value on a home video release. Previously, you might have gotten a trailer if that. All in all, THE GIANT GILA MONSTER/THE KILLER SHREWS is a great package, with several hours of substantial schlock. 

 

 

When he’s not casually shuffling across dry creek beds, Chris Herzog is a writer, researcher, and teacher. His film criticism can also be found in Screem magazine and back issues of the late, lamented Video WatcH*Dog.

Apes caricatures by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: She’s Into Malakas, Dino!—Arrow Video’s WEIRD SCIENCE

Posted on: Oct 5th, 2023 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

WEIRD SCIENCE– 1985
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Kelly LeBrock, Bill Paxton, Suzanne Snyder, Judie Aronson, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Rusler
Director: John Hughes
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Arrow Video
Region: 4K UHD Region Free
BRD Release Date: August 22, 2023
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit), English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 97 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

The adolescent weekend sleepover is a realm of heightened possibility. Two like minds so alike they’ve agreed to spend the weekend together for the purpose of none other than to mine any variety of wall-to-wall amusement for a solid 48 hours. The usual parental mandates are loosened for these very special and often rare occasions, and in the best-case scenarios, parents are otherwise preoccupied or missing all together. These are the instances when the best laid plans between two inseparable cohorts come to bear. This reviewer’s most memorable sleepovers cultivated firing BB guns inside the house and peeping soft-core cable programming through heavy-lidded eyes. The adolescent sleepover is a dare to accomplish missions none would venture alone, and exists as a living laboratory of the pubescent mind.

In John HughesWEIRD SCIENCE, high school dweebs Gary and Wyatt (Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith) are left to their own hormonally charged devices for a weekend in Wyatt’s sprawling, well-stocked palatial home. The boys ingest piles of snacks and classic Universal horror films while pouting about the unrequited attention of two girls from the cheerleading squad—Deb and Hilly (Suzanne Snyder and Judie Arnonson).

Watching James Whale’s 1931 feature FRANKENSTEIN, and sizing up Wyatt’s state-of-the-art computer rig, Gary concocts the idea that the boys create the perfect woman for themselves. Plotted as a simulation only, inexplicable “weird science” occurs and produces the real live woman of Gary and Wyatt’s dreams in the form of the very beautiful and very adult Lisa (Kelly LeBrock). Lisa is not only the boys’ perfect female companion, but she’s also supercharged with powers to provide sports cars and fake IDs out of thin air. It’s the time-honored tale of the search for personal identity through unlimited means told in the horror-adjacent tactic of playing god by building bodies for exacting impossible demands.

Most famous for manifesting classic teenybopper angst and humor in his films, grown-up teenager John Hughes executes the most primal version of his fascinations in WEIRD SCIENCE. Charged with sex and wit, the story is a raw look into the teenage male psyche obsessed with the arduous task of solving identity, female desires, and ultimately their alpha roles within society. It’s a film so puerile and reactive, dare I say it could hardly be made today.

With barely any plot to get in the way of the story, the film unfolds on in-the-moment impulses of two boys with the world conceivably at their disposal. The first thing the guys do with Lisa once she appears is what any teenage boy would do: watch her shower. Then it’s a night on the town culminating in a scene that will shock the youthful progressive minds of the present day as Gary not only drinks and smokes as an underage young adult, but talks in jive and refers to “big-titty eighth-grade bitches.” The scene’s inappropriate nature charges it with a new sense of humor for modern audiences. In 1985 it falls in line with the typical brand of silliness found in most 80s comedies, but in 2023 it’s hilarious because it’s shocking.

With Lisa at their side, Gary and Wyatt seem unstoppable, but Wyatt’s older brother Chet (Bill Paxton) – a living roadblock armed with extortion and blackmail tactics – isn’t afraid to wave a gun around. When Chet isn’t on screen bilking Wyatt for money and slinging inappropriate slurs, he exists in the background reminding everyone of a reality beyond the fantasy Gary and Wyatt have created for themselves, that when Mom and Dad get home, there’s gonna be some explaining to do.

Deb and Hilly’s current love interests also exist as reminders of Gary and Wyatt’s uncool place in teenage hierarchy. Ian and Max (Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Rusler) are the pants-shucking high school bullies the boys are forced to compete against for the fickle affections of the freshmen females. Gary and Wyatt’s requisite trip to the mall winds up drenched in cherry-flavored public humiliation that has Lisa coming to their rescue with a couple of sports cars and an all-inclusive invitation to a climactic party at Wyatt’s house where the limits of the weekend fantasy knows no bounds.

The mechanics of Gary and Wyatt’s reverie become less and less important as the film moves along. How and why Lisa is able to do the things she does ceases to be of any concern for the boys, the audience, and even director Hughes himself. The final act, culminating in the party of the century, is fantasy unhinged as grand pianos are sucked up chimneys, nuclear missiles are willed into existence, and a barbaric motorcycle gang crashes into the scene at last forcing Gary and Wyatt to grow beyond dweeby status and establish their own identities as iconic cool.

Arrow Video presents WEIRD SCIENCE on 4K Ultra-High-Definition Blu-Ray disc. This new release is loaded with interviews from casting director Jackie Burch, editor Chris Lebenzon, composer Ira Newborn, makeup artist Craig Reardon, and supporting actor John Kapelos. The disc also includes the extended and edited-for-TV versions of the film as well as the archival documentary IT’S ALIVE! RESURRECTING WEIRD SCIENCE. Other features are an illustrated booklet with writing on the film by authors Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Amanda Reyes and a double-sided fold-out poster of original and newly commissioned artwork by Tracie Ching.

The magic of Gary and Wyatt’s fantasy weekend is never explained, and ultimately it’s not important as everything returns to normal seconds before Wyatt’s parents return home. The story is at best a heightened construct of the teenage mind, amplifying the trials of pimply-faced noggins and hormone-enraged hearts, reminding us of the politics and romance that rule the adolescent institution.

 

 

 

When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly. Look for Lucas on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd, and for all of Lucas’s content, be sure to check out his Linktree.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kats of the Week: Spain’s Own Mario Mayo Piedra and Jaime Arnaiz Rebollo Whack Audiences with an Over-the-Top Bare-Knuckle Battle Royale Chock Full of Comedic Bloody Mayhem in Multi-Award-Winning Film, I’LL CRUSH Y’ALL at the 16th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival

Posted on: Oct 5th, 2023 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

 

Kike Narcea’s I’LL CRUSH Y’ALL (2023), was the opening night feature at the 16th annual Buried Alive Film Festival (BAFF), Atlanta’s Premiere Horror Film Festival, which ran Sept. 29 – Oct. 1, 2023, invading the historic Plaza Theatre once again. Narcea’s action-packed gut punch of a film is crushing the genre film festival circuit across the US with two wins so far under its bare-knuckle belt, winning the Audience Choice Award at Fantastic Fest during its world premiere in Austin TX, and hours after this interview, the film took in another win and was voted Best Feature at Buried Alive. There’s nowhere to go now for this killer film, but up!

ATLRetro sat down with actor Mario Mayo Piedra [“Gabriel”/”Tarado”] and one of the film’s producers Jaime Arnaiz Rebollo of JAR Produccion in the Twin Peaks-inspired room at The Plaza to get down to brass tacks about the film, the inspirations behind the making of I’ll CRUSH Y’ALL and the current state of action/horror film in Spain.

ATLRetro: Are you guys having a good time at Buried Alive Film Festival? Favorite films you’ve seen at the festival?

Jaime Arnaiz Rebollo: Great question. First of all, we’d like to give a big shout out to Josh Gould the Director of the festival. He has treated us great, and we are actually feeling like we’re home over here. The theatre is amazing. The smell, whenever you enter, is like coming back to our youth. I mean, this is a very nice place, the theatre inside is also, and the audience was great. So, yeah, we are having a really good time. And from my point of view, the project that I liked most from what we saw is a short film called “Bookworm” directed by a Spanish guy also, named Javier Yanez. It’s actually very interesting. It’s related to manga, and it has some horror. It’s about a librarian. It’s pretty interesting.

Mario Mayo Piedra: We have seen a lot of short films, and we were very interested in “Bookworm.” I have seen a lot of short films with many good qualities and the features are great, too.

J: We saw this 10th Anniversary screening of THE DEMON’S ROOK, directed by James Sizemore and it was a very interesting movie. It was selected for Sitges and Fantasia and other places. The movie was very interesting, especially since they had such a low budget. They had this props designer that made these awesome devils and monsters.

M: And zombies.

J: It looked very good.

M: Yes, I remember James’ film.

J: Yeah, we were here also with the producer team. He’s from Atlanta and he was actually really excited about screening the movie here. Josh is part of the cast also. The movie is very funny actually.

M: Yes, it was very funny.

How did you get involved with I’LL CRUSH Y’ALL? Any special backstory about getting involved in this film?

J: Yeah, it’s all Mario’s fault. (laughs) I mean, I’m the producer, along with four other producers from Spain who are Kiko and Javie Prada (The Other Side Films), Bruno Martin, and Jesus Loniego, along with our own company, but we all got together because of Mario. He’s the spiritual producer of the movie who has been behind our backs the whole time whipping us and crushing us all in order to motivate us. He’s been the heart of the movie, the project.

M: I have a love for working in movies like this kind because I think in Spain we have a lot of potential for doing these kinds of movies, but I think in this moment, we have a poor production of action movies. I think we can do more and more and more, and a good job of these movies, actions movies. For example, our neighbor France makes a lot of action movies, but in Spain…

J: We don’t do that many over there in Spain, no.

M: Yes. And I think we can do it.

J: Actually, I agree with Mario. One of our main goals is to create this branch of movies of live action. We have many references in Europe, in Asia, and the States about live action, but we don’t have that much content of live action in terms of content in Spain, but we have Mario who has this huge camera presence and a very strong physique-

M: Thank you.

J: -and he is a very good actor also, so we want him and all our cast actually to become new action heroes and new action villains. That would be only if we could go step by step by step by creating new projects and I’LL CRUSH Y’ALL did really well and it’s doing very well. We are now preparing the sequel, I’LL CRUSH Y’ALL 2, where Mario is going to be smashing more heads (laughs).

M: Ha!

The film just won the Audience Choice award at Fantastic Fest. What was it like winning that award at the film’s world premiere?

J: Goosebumps. I mean it’s awesome. I’m an independent producer with this low budget movie and with our own resources. We don’t have any funds from the government from Spain, no funds from a funding company. We did it with our own resources. And getting this award, this Audience Award at Fantastic Fest, which is one of the ten largest genre festivals in the world, it’s an awesome achievement. Last year, this award was won by THE MENU, so last year THE MENU was here and this year I’LL CRUSH Y’ALL is here, so not bad at all. I mean, we are actually living the American dream. This is the land of opportunities, and this is actually a small one getting a great opportunity, so I think that this is actually paying off for the year we invested in this, not only this movie, but, our careers, professionally.

M: It was great! Now I am at the same level as Ralph Fiennes, as an actor. No?

J: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

M: Sorry, Ralph. (laughs)

J: And it’s also been an amazing time because we didn’t know actually how the movie was going to do in the market and as soon as we got the award, the very next day we started getting proposals and opportunities, so right now we are just making decisions for the movie to be screened all around the world.

Clearly this is a very physical film, it being about “crushing” folks. What was the most physically difficult part to film?

M: Maybe all of the filming – we filmed the movie in six weeks and during the filming I lost more than 5 kilos because it was very physical and I sweated a lot, a lot, repeat, repeat, repeat, but I think that is important because you can choose the better frames, the better scenes and I remember all of the filming was very hard.

Were the fight scenes choreographed or were most of them improv?

M: No, they were prepared.

J: They were prepared because Kike Narcea, he’s a great choreographer, he’s the director but he’s a great choreographer because he’s seen a lot of movies (Asian, French, Italian, German, all of the countries) and he loves action movies. And when we were on the set he had very clear ideas.

So, he pretty much had a vision?

Both: Yes, yes.

J: Our director is a geek.

As we all are.

J: Yes. That is why we are here. He’s a geek. He has a great background in action movies and not only action movies, but all types of cinemas and he really had a clear idea of the movie in his mind. So, whenever we were going to shoot any scene he would sit down with the team beforehand and then after that with the cast and he will explain everything to the team first, then he will explain everything to the cast and then they will try to do some testing, but he had everything ready, like “You are launching the punch and halfway I’m cutting so you don’t need to do it all the way.” So, he has perfectly clear in his mind the editing of the movie, so that actually helps us a lot. Although, there is a scene in the movie that was improvised. Only one scene. Can you guess?

Was that the pallet scene?

Both: Yes, yes.

I only know that because I was at your Q&A, and it was mentioned there.

J: Yes, it’s actually a very unique scene for us. A very interesting scene.

The pallet scene is where a lot of the comedy kicked in for me.

J: Yes.

So, what was it like working with the dogs?

M: Wow, marvelous. I love dogs. I am more friends with dogs than with people. I have cats, I have a dog and I love animals.

J: It’s great. It was amazing to me. They were very nice.

Did they take direction well from the Director?

J: Yes, so usually you should never shoot with animals or kids because it’s really hard, but on this occasion we were very lucky because the owner of the dogs is one of the cast members. So, this scene where the dogs are actually eating from a guy, they are killing him, and the truth is that, as he is the owner, we just put some jam on him and the dogs were kissing him, but on the screen it actually seems like they are feasting on him. It’s actually very cute. They didn’t die during the movie, a little spoiler, but everybody was like, “Oh the dogs,” you can see them at the beginning of the movie, and I don’t know if people were thinking, “Oh, they are going to die,” but in the end they don’t die and they have a very important role.

M: And their sounds helped a lot for scenes like this [dog eating the man], the sound-

J: The sound designing, yes, we did a great sound design and all the music of the movie, everything just fits perfectly. The music composer is Daniel Maldonado, who is a Spanish composer, and he did a great job. Also, the final song that we have in the movie, which is like the main track, it was composed by the owner of the dogs – he’s the owner of the dogs, the owner of the house, he did the main theme – we got a lot of great things from Diego Paris, thank you for everything Diego – we love you.

Anything else you’d like our audience to know about the film?

J: For sure. We are very happy and pleased about getting this award at Fantastic Fest and hopefully we may get some awards here at Buried Alive. It’s up to the jury. But we are working really hard in order to get the movie on all platforms and theatres. We’ve already got some offers from American distributors, but we want to keep on working, not to just be on the American market but also the whole world and this is because, as I said before, we are really willing to make a new branch of movies, action movies, with Mario as lead role.

And you said you’re working on a sequel?

J: We are working on the sequel. We actually do have half the script and we have the whole plot idea. Also, we are already gathering the actors to cast and gathering the funds. If everything goes well, maybe next year or in two years we will be done with the sequel.

What is your favorite action film from any time period that’s important to you and epitomizes what you love about the action movie genre?

J: I have two references. I’m not the director, so, for sure this question would be much better answered by Kike, but from my point of view as a producer, I have two references that for me I would like to achieve the quality of entertainment. The first one is a movie called AIRBAG. It’s a Spanish movie directed by Juanma Bajo Ullow. It was a movie shot in the late nineties, early 2000s and is very funny. It’s an action and thrill movie, but it’s all fun and—

M: Manic comedy.

J: Comedy. Everybody is crazy and the characters are unique people. And I think we have similarities in our movie. And another production I really love is HOME ALONE. I mean, actually, we don’t have Macaulay Culkin in our movie, but we have Mario Mayo, which I think he’s going to have a great career.

There’s actually a line in the movie about HOME ALONE, correct?

J: There’s a line that we actually speak about it and it’s just because Kevin McCallister stays in his house—

M: I am Kevin McCallister.

J: Yes, and he has to keep it from these burglars. Mario is like Kevin McCallister. He has to remain in his house, and he has to keep his house safe from all these people that are coming over. So, more or less, there are some similarities, but I would love as a producer the success of those two movies. I mean, for me HOME ALONE is the best reference along with INDIANA JONES and THE GOONIES—the most well-known movies ever and AIRBAG – I’m pretty sure for every Spanish person thinks it’s one of the funniest movies and I invite you to see it because I’m sure you will enjoy it.

M: I think for example, this movie looks like, more or less, FIRST BLOOD, Sylvester Stallone, he doesn’t want to have problems but problems find him and maybe my character is more or less like Rambo. And also, there is a kind of movie or cinema in Spain called cine kinki (cine quinqui)—

J: Not the English “Kinky.” In Spain in the 80s we had a big problem with drugs, heroin, and we have a lot of crime, and we have this urban tribe called kinki people, which were like outsiders, ex-drug dealers, ex-consumers and they were involved in crime, robbery and stealing and so that way of life was called the kinki life—being underground, and being an outlaw. So, during the late 80s and 90s this new branch of cinema called the kinki cinema was about that type of people. It was just resembling what our society had and in our movie we are showing a little bit of the low-income part of society, so it has some reminders of those kinki movies.

M: Yes.

J: It’s not the same kinki as you have here.

M: No. Many years ago in Spain, many directors were filming film kinki.

J: So basically, we did a movie to have fun, we enjoyed the filming and what we liked most is that the audience liked the movie. I mean, it’s very interesting how we showed the movie in Spanish and most of the jokes are internal Spanish jokes.

M: Yeah.

J: But we were shocked that the American audience reacted very well with those jokes. Although they didn’t understand all of them they got many of them and also we were told that our translation is not the best and so we have to keep on working on it, but it’s only been the third screening ever, so we’ve only been showing the movie for one week in only five theatres that have seen the movie. And we are just getting the first feedback.

Nice! What’s next for you guys?

M: Now I am working with Alex de la Iglesia in a serial for Netflix, and it’s a small character, but it’s great. Working with Alex is awesome. He is one of my favorite filmmakers. I expect I will work with him again on another project.

J: Well, I’m studying to become a pharmacist. I’m in my fifth year of school for this career. Because cinema is a little like a roller coaster – it’s tough to survive because of this.

M: He’s a great producer. You are going to be a producer, a great producer. There will be more than what we’re doing now.

So, a legal drug dealer then?

J: I’m actually going to spend all the money I get from drug dealing on cinema. But legal drug dealing (laughs). No actually, I’m studying the career, but at the same time I’m doing all of these productions. We are preparing a new movie we are shooting in February which will be directed by Bruno Martin, and we are going to be co-producing it and also I shot three different short films this year.

M: Yes, I am also in this film.

J: He is also in this new film that we are going to film, but as I said, we shot three different short films this year with different genres. One of them is action – fights between the Spanish mob and Chinese mob. We have a drama about a mother and daughter who get evicted from their house and she tells her daughter that they are going on holiday, so the daughter doesn’t realize what is actually going on. We have this other project called SHAKESPEARE IN SMOKE, directed by Francesco Cocco. It’s like an essay about what it is to be an actor your whole life. Three different actors who are different ages, but they all have the same path, and they share their experiences. And I’m in many other projects but at the moment we would like to enjoy and harvest all that we have already planted.

Photo by Rebecca Perry – (L-R) Mario Mayo, Jaime Arnaiz, Josh Gould

Category: Features, Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Buried Alive Film Festival Returns to Plaza Theatre for Its 16th Year Spotlighting the Best of Local and International Indie Horror

Posted on: Sep 29th, 2023 By:

Buried Alive Film Festival (BAFF) brings both new and Retro cinema scares to the historic Plaza Theatre for its 16th annual outing this weekend, Friday Sept. 29 through Sunday Oct.1, 2023. Over the years, the festival founded by Gorehound Productions has never failed to impress with a mix of independent features and groundbreaking shorts from all over the world. Tickets are available for individual films and short blocks here, but we recommend going all in for the $80 all-inclusive festival pass! Why? Well, where the HELL do we start and how the HELL do you choose?! If you’re not DEAD SET on attending, check out the festival trailer featuring Professor Morte and the practical FX masters of Silver Scream FX Lab NOW!

Festival Insider Tip: The curated short blocks are BAFF’s pièce de résistance! Year after year, the film selection committee outdoes itself in unearthing some of the highest quality, zaniest, creepiest horror shorts by filmmakers ranging from local talents to creators from all over the world. Expect to be surprised and blown away because anything from anywhere may show up on the big screen from hellacious humor to spine-tingling scares, from old-school Gothic to the craziest Bizarro, from atmospheric supernatural to pushing the envelope of skin-crawling bloody gore-fantastic.

FRIDAY SEPT. 29

SINEMA CHALLENGE (6 PM). Local indie filmmakers randomly selected a horror genre from a deck of Cards Against Humanity and had 13 days to make a movie! The results are always a riot but also a chance for some of Georgia’s most talented film creators and crews to go all in with no Hollywood rules. Be the first to see these wacky and innovative shorts made especially for BAFF.

I’LL CRUSH YA’LL (Os Reviento, DIR: Kike Narcea, 8 PM), the opening night feature, is a bloody bare-knuckle horror/action comedy from Spain about a retired boxing champion and his dog defending his family farm from wave after wave of gangsters. A hit at Fantastic Fest, let’s just say the trailer is just as over the top as you’d expect if you’re a BAFF regular!

SHORT BLOCK 1 (10 pm),  The first program of BAFF’s curated horror shorts from around the world includes surprises at a farewell ceremony to a dead sister, voracious hunger, a possessed office printer, terror in Mumbai’s decaying red light district, insect love, and more! Stick around for filmmaker Q&As after the screenings.

SATURDAY SEPT. 30

If you can only do one day of BAFF, get ready to camp out at the Plaza ALL DAY Saturday.

YOKAI MONSTERS; SPOOK WARFARE (DIR: Yoshiyuki Kuroda, 1:30 PM) Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spookshow present one of the wildest Yokai movies of all time. For the uninitiated, the Yokai are strange supernatural entities from Japanese folklore known for wacky shapes and trickster humor which you hope is on your side. This is the second of a trilogy and a not-to-miss chance to see it on the big screen with the Spookshow experience as the cherry on top! Here’s a trailer to the trilogy because after seeing Spook Warfare, you’ll want to see the rest.

SHORTS BLOCK 2 (4 PM). The second program of our curated horror shorts from around the world includes a lovely glittering earworm, an offbeat Dublin-based short about a hard-to-please dad, cobwebs in the…gulp…throat, something provocatively titled Titsferatu, boogie-ing ghosts at a high school dance, and more! Stick around for filmmaker Q&As after the screenings.

FEATURE: FAT FLESHY THINGS (DIR: Various, 6 PM). This anthology film made entirely by alumni of the BizaroLand Film Festival tells the tales of eight hapless souls infected with a monstrous sexually transmitted parasite that holds eldritch powers over its host’s mind! Teaser trailer here. Preceding the feature is a short to be insane fun short film, CONTENT: THE LO-FI MAN, by BAFF favorite Brian Lonano and BAFF co-founder Blake Meyers!

SHORTS PROGRAM 3 (8 PM). The third program of BAFF’s curated horror shorts from around the world features a horrifying VD, fire, a kaiju-sized robotic creature, an eventful evening in the life among death of a mortuary artist, puppetry, a haunted Spanish library in 1979, and much more! Stick around for filmmaker Q&As after the screenings.

FEATURE: DEMON’S ROOK (DIR: James Sizemore, 10 PM). 10th anniversary screening of a festival-awardwinning indie horror classic which FearNet called “a virtual love-letter to early 80s Italian zombie cinema”! A young boy named Roscoe finds a portal to another world where he is taught magic by an elder demon known as Dimwos. Dimwos raises the boy into manhood, revealing to him many secrets. Trailer here!

SUNDAY OCT.1

FEATURE: SEX DEMON (DIR: J.C. Cricket 1975, 1 PM). An ultra-rare chance to see a long-lost underground “queer horror” cult classic on the big screen! According to the Plaza’s Website: “All hell breaks loose when John’s last-minute anniversary gift inadvertently causes his younger lover Jim to become possessed by a SEX DEMON who wreaks havoc on New York’s gay cruising spots. Openly inspired by both THE EXORCIST and its Blaxploitation cousin, ABBY, J. C. Cricket’s SEX DEMON is a ferocious mix of the erotic and the grotesque that’s primed and ready to shock audiences again after being lost for the past forty years. In the words of Gay Scene critic Bruce King, ‘the squeamish may not want to watch, but if you do, you won’t forget it!’”

SHORTS PROGRAM 4 (3 PM). The final installment of curated horror shorts from around the world features the terrifying ultimatum “stop moving until you die,” a hallucinatory nightmare road trip, a Vietnam vet turned into an ultra-violent test subject, a “silver gleaming death machine,” a man obsessed with starring in his own snuff film, and more! As always, stick around for filmmaker Q&As after the screening.

FEATURE: SPOOKT (DIR: Tony Reames, 5 PM). Fresh from its world premiere at Fright Fest in August, Spookt is the highly anticipated first full-length feature by television director Tony Reames, whom BAFF 2019 attendees may remember  for fan-favorite short PLAYTIME’S OVER. When paranormal investigator Claire and sceptic Rachel join forces to discover the truth behind a missing girl and the infamous Dr Byler, beliefs are tested when unexplained occurrences begin to happen, centring around the notorious Gibson house. Check out the Red Band trailer here!

BAFF AWARDS (7 PM). After all the screenings, find out which shorts and features won the BAFF Awards, chosen by this year’s judges and audience votes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: One Night In SoHo

Posted on: Sep 8th, 2023 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

 

AFTER HOURS – (1985) – 4K Ultra HD + Blu-Ray
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara, Verna Bloom
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rated: R
Studio: Criterion
Region: 4K – Free, 2K Blu-Ray – Region A (Locked)
BRD Release Date: 07/11/2023
Audio Formats: LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: 4K Ultra HD Native 4K (2160p) HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc, Two-disc set (1 BD-100, 1 BD-50))
Run Time: 97 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

The word absurdist is defined first as “intentionally ridiculous or bizarre; surreal,” and secondly as “relating to or supporting the belief that human beings exist in a purposeless, chaotic universe.” Only the first definition applies itself well to Martin Scorsese’s AFTER HOURS, though it can hardly be described as anything but absurdist; delightfully, absolutely absurdist.

Paul Hackett (Dunne, also co-producer) lives a life of soul deadening corporate drudgery by day. A chance meeting in a diner with flirty and unusual Marcy (Arquette) leads him on an increasingly ridiculous and dangerous night of pursuit, evasion, and sheer desperation to remove himself from what any sensible Chinese person would call “interesting times,” in the warehouse district of SoHo and getting back to his predictable, secure existence in upper Manhattan. On his Odysseus-like journey, he is both guided and hampered by a profusion of modern-day nymphs, cyclops, witches, and oracles, none of whom can be trusted with his safety. The real standout is O’Hara as a demented ice cream truck driver who literally glows onscreen. Her turn in the long line to pummel Hackett is enhanced by her determination to utterly destroy him once she becomes convinced that he’s the serial burglar that’s been plaguing the neighborhood (in reality the work of a pair of likable no-goodniks played by Cheech and Chong).

Scorsese, drawn to the material as a recent SoHo resident himself after a fallow point in his career. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST was cancelled by the studio after four years of preparation and his recently released THE KING OF COMEDY was proclaimed Flop of the Year by Entertainment Tonight. It seems an awkward choice to direct the film, but he clearly felt a thematic resonance to Hackett’s predicament and handles his duties with aplomb, as one might surmise in retrospect.

Criterion Collection’s 4K UHD presentation of the film is a triumph both visually and auditorily. The story takes place almost exclusively at night, and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus‘s location shots in SoHo are gorgeously viewable with dense shadows and subtle light effects where appropriate. The uncompressed audio track is newly remastered from the original mono soundtrack and very well balanced – no scrambling for the remote to increase volume for dialog or decrease it for loud sound effects. Howard Shore’s music is mated at just the right level. Sporting a brand-new digital transfer approved by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, this is the best possible viewing one may have of the film.

The supplemental materials included are worthy of the presentation;  a new interview with director Scorsese by writer Fran Lebowitz (If you saw AFTER HOURS in 1985 and had spent any time in New York City, there are numerous inside jokes aimed directly at residents. Scorsese and Leibowitz discuss this at length.), audio commentary featuring Scorsese, Schoonmaker, director of photography Ballhaus, actor and producer Griffin Dunne, and producer Amy Robinson, a documentary on the making of the film featuring Dunne, Robinson, Schoonmaker, and Scorsese, a new program on the look of the film featuring costume designer Rita Ryack and production designer Jeffrey Townsend, as well as deleted scenes, the trailer, and an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley which is illustrated with the wanted poster of Dunne from the movie.

I confess that AFTER HOURS has been a non-guilty pleasure of mine since its initial release. Though Dunne remains as polite as he possibly can be throughout the film, there are a few instances where the constant ridiculousness wears him down and his performance becomes a true joy to watch. The film’s conclusion also puts the perfect cap on the theme of the film – sometimes you can escape the mundanity of life and sometimes you shouldn’t even try. Heartily recommended viewing.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Retro Fan, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more. He is the author of the book The Art of George Wilson from Hermes Press.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Not a Drop to Drink—Arrow Video’s WATERWORLD 4K

Posted on: Aug 29th, 2023 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

WATERWORLD – 1995
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Arrow Video
Region: 4K UHD Region Free
BRD Release Date: June 27, 2023
Audio Formats: English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 135 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Children are the future, and what better way to impress upon them the horrors of the depleted ozone layer and melted ice caps in store for them than with a movie made exclusively for nine-year-old boys? Director Kevin Reynolds appeals to the swashbuckling MAD MAX-inspired tyke living inside all of us with his 1995 film WATERWORLD, placing the post-apocalypse on the high seas.

Kevin Costner stars as “the Mariner” in this briny adventure, who after being outed by the nearest junk atoll community as a “Muto” for his “ichthy” qualities, finds himself on the run with a salvage dealer named Helen (Tripplehorn) and the little girl she cares for, Enola (Majorino). The trio is pursued across the flooded globe by a gang known as the Smokers, led by charismatic baddie Deacon (Hopper) who wants Enola for the mysterious tattoo on her back that is rumored to be a map that leads to the only remaining dry land on the planet.

Costner’s Mariner isn’t just a reluctant hero and custodian of the two stowaways needing his gigantic trimaran boat to get around, he’s brooding, and contemplative, and… kind of an asshole. What Mel Gibson did for the post-apocalyptic moody disposition, Costner turns into smug and unlikable. Part of the problem is we’re not sure what he really wants; he’s got gills. He’s got webbed feet. He can get to the earth’s drowned cities and plunder Davy Jones’s locker like any pro fish-man could. Outside of fending off scurvy (and why hasn’t he evolved out of that problem?) Mariner, with his enormous seafaring rig and its 50-caliber machine gun, is pretty well set for whatever the high seas throws at him. The only thing we know he wants is these helpless women off his boat! It’s completely understandable that the film’s hero should have some advantages, but Mariner’s situation leaves him at the top of the food chain. Lack of incentive and Costner’s prickly, heavy-handed reluctance doesn’t do much to get us rooting for him.

Deacon and his gang of ruffians, while wildly more entertaining, also kind of have it made. They have jet skis; they have a cool hideout. They somehow have dry cigarettes and plenty of gasoline. And other than belittling his own people and making a few empty threats, Deacon doesn’t do anything inherently bad. He eventually gets around to kidnapping Enola, but he’s not even a creep about it. Dennis Hopper’s Deacon comes off more like a weird uncle who also just happens to be a high seas buccaneer. That’s not to say he’s not loads of fun to watch; Hopper (as is often the case in this film) delivers mundane lines like, “That’s why I love children: no guile,” with the relatable dryness of a man quietly frustrated after having just been insulted by a Smoker youth. Deacon wants to be the mustache twirling bad guy, but he’s ultimately just ineffective and comes off as downright lovable.

The narrative problems that plague WATERWORLD don’t prevent it from being the fun, daring adventure it wants to be. The overall swaggering tone of the film is often hampered, honestly, by Costner’s lack of any humor whatsoever. The scenes prominently featuring the actor consequently grind to a halt. The rest of the film seems to know exactly what it is, while Costner carries on like he’s paying the film’s $175 million production bill. Infamously known for not using a British accent in he and director Reynolds’ prior adventure film for nine-year-old boys, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, Costner is a drag in WATERWORLD and proves that he’s best when portraying regular guys and baseball players.

Filming almost exclusively on water for the entire production is certainly not without intrinsic challenges. The enormous breadth of Mariner’s trimaran dictated the football field-size of the movie’s key atoll set and indebted Universal to pony up and extend Hawaii’s Kona Airport tarmac by a quarter mile to be able to accommodate the 747 tasked with delivering the titanic boat. The movie’s trimaran-sized costs along with tomes of bad and inaccurate press that included tales of people dying on set, ultimately affected the public perception of the film, suggesting that it was a problematic and troubled production. While rife with its share of challenges, troubles didn’t really occur until near the end of shooting when Reynolds dropped out of the picture due to creative differences with Costner, who took over as director and finished the film.

Arrow Video presents WATERWORLD on 4K Ultra High-Definition Blu-ray Disc. The three-disc boxed set is loaded with features that include three cuts of the film: theatrical, TV, and the extended “Ulysses” cut with shots and dialogue originally removed from the theatrical version. The set also includes the feature-length documentary “Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld,”—a terrific look at the making of the film by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; the archival featurette “Dances With Waves;” and film critic Glenn Kenny’s exploration of the eco-apocalypse subgenre in the feature “Global Warnings.” This massive-sized limited release also includes a two-sided poster, collector postcards, and a 60 page booklet featuring writing on the movie by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith.

Where MAD MAX was a story of survival in a post-apocalyptic world brought on by oil shortage, the undercurrent of WATERWORLD and its characters’ odyssey for dry land attempts to serve as a warning regarding mankind’s destructive ways, but any sincerity for the film’s greater eco message is drowned out by its adventurous nature and self-awareness. Even the infamous and contextually relevant oil tanker Deacon and company inhabit seems pulled from a Mad magazine parody. Logic problems and Costner’s misguided intensity aside, the juggernaut that is WATERWORLD sets a course directly into our nine-year-old hearts.

Fathoms of fun that’s only inches deep. Recommended.

 

When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly. Look for Lucas on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd, and for all of his content, be sure to check out his Linktree.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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