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Zaroff (UK)

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Shaolin [DVD]
Shaolin [DVD]
Dvd ~ Andy Lau
Offered by Champion Toys
Price: £4.55

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buddhist bottom thumper, 15 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Shaolin [DVD] (DVD)
The scale of the film Shaolin, the accessible score, the occasional comedic elements all convey a film that would be superior flick to discover on a sunday afternoon. However, the violence is punchy, immediate & often brutal. Some of the scenes i would say linger just a shade longer than is necessary for the audience to grasp how harsh this world was. Saying this though, the martial arts married to the philosophical shaolin,zen, buddhistic elements are thorough and constant.

So a religious epic that sports many action scenes that portray the wonders, the mastery of the self, that is martial art. With bloodshed. And horses, lots of horses, and way too many guns. The BBFC in the uk has seen fit to remove scenes of the horses falling, in one scene if you look away for a tad too long you might wonder how the horserider ended up on the floor, and hey, where is his horse?

Aside from the taming down of possible animal misuse, which doesnt really harm the whole film but does seem obvious when it happens, the humans here are seeking peace and enlightenment or just going about their business, only to be brutally attacked & double-crossed at every turn. Much of it reminded me of The Godfather to begin with, then a number of chinese epics, some of the better kung-fu of late,and ultimately a more accessible religious flavour than Passion of the Christ which went into the land of gory horror.

The overall impact of a two hour film that is never dull & always interesting is becoming a rarity. It never really over plays its dramatic hand, if you don't mind soaring emotions of an asian suddenness. Action that plays with solid shaolin directness & the idiocy that is mankinds delight in war will show a contrast in the tranquility that is shattered. It probably won't compel many westerners to become a full-on buddhist after it is over, but it may make you very glad that there are some on the planet. Now if only we can concentrate on doing without those daft gun things...

House [Hausu] Masters of Cinema [DVD] [1977]
House [Hausu] Masters of Cinema [DVD] [1977]
Dvd ~ Kimiko Ikegami
Price: £17.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure cinema, 29 Sept. 2013
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The basis or source, (according to the interviews with the UK Eureka release), for this experience/film, is apparently the directors daughter when she was quite young. She came up with a number of scenarios & fears to expand upon and it all snowballed from there. Big snowball. Tallll mountain. The dvd has a wealth of extras, a solid booklet & excellent picture. Subtitles are very easy to engage with.

As others have pointed out, Mario Bava comes to mind, particularly Kill, Baby Kill. Or perhaps Tex Avery's mindset, as the artificial hyper-reality becomes alternately surreal & daring throughout the film. Is this then an Art film or a horror film? Is it mere cartoonish pre-evil dead, cabin in the woods funfair candy-floss? Thankfully you cannot put the whole of House in a genre. It cannot be simply referred to, off-hand or with any clarity. A synopsis without the imagery fails dismally to convey the changes in tone it takes. Perhaps this is why so many people equate this montage or apparent disorder to drug states or other vibrant metaphors.

Thoroughly enjoyable & entertaining taken as a whole, presuming that suspension of disbelief is done before the credits, in pieces this is the trailershow of a dozen films as one. To measure this against generic fare or even asian cinema alone doesn't do it justice. The director has used almost every cinematic trick in the book, has played with focus, comic book imagery, cut-ups, montage, collage, silent cinema set-ups, and amidst this there is a lyrical gothic thread of a horror film. A solid, no holds-barred, knock off the individuals one by one plotting that reminds of the fairy tale via Angela Carter. Yet it is done with art-house artfulness. It sneaks it all past the retina, despite threatening to evolve into a Joss Whedon musical. Even though you are bombarded and then suddenly given the artifice of cinema in buckets, even going so far as blurring the line of the participants viewing what we the audience are viewing, the whole visual menagerie of cinema has been played before us & we have participated.

Sounds too serious and important? No. Not at all. The director used to make clever, avant garde adverts as well as his own more personal arty film projects. Yet this comes across, again, taken as a whole piece, as a remarkable unique 'best of' cinema story-telling. And that is what it boils down to. The freedom of a youth, his daughter, to run with a story. The studio gave him independence to run with that and what we have here are multiple folded images of stories, overlapping and kicking metaphors about the room. Do not be put off by the opening scenarios if it seems a little silly. Once you're in the house, have a stiff drink, noodle on the piano a spell & try not to lose your head..

Vampire Hunters [DVD] [2003]
Vampire Hunters [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Chan Kwok Kwan
Offered by A1-Media
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Hopping zombie-vampire folklore festival of fun, 22 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Vampire Hunters [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
Visually interesting, punchy, nostalgic for cinema as well as chinese folklore. There is a modern, hyped up Hammer feel that recalls Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires. A venerable sage or master tackles the bad guys that seek to harm the sanctity of the dead, whilst his disciples or pupils reveal their own flaws & strengths; it has been used many times as a theme. However, when asian hands are at the wheel fantasy-horror blends with martial arts and acrobatic frenzy. There is also the moments of humour that sit well in the context of the equivalent of an oriental gothic.

Yet i can safely say that with this shortened western-friendly cut, we have perhaps been given a less than coherent version. Did some one decide to trim the more dialogue laden moments, or the more localized anachronistic segments of the movie? For which elementary audience was this done...As it stands, the film comes across a little patchy at times, as though a ride through a ghost-train funfair has lost some braking ability. The ending itself has also been tampered with, for want of a better phrase, to what extent we may well ask. And ask myself a lot of times i most certainly did 'this could be better than it is if there was more of it..'. I might be wrong. Perhaps the longer cut is just plain daft. But honestly, if you like Zu Warriors, Chinese Ghost Story, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, the variations on the usual vamp themes are interesting and vigorous here. Though we have the weirdness of hopping dead & the delight of flying spinning people, this is all solid entertainment.

Deserves 4 stars if someone would at least provide a decent print of the longer version, that apparently is a bit grubby and dark in the singapore release that we mere mortals have not earned the right to judge for ourself. Don't put these imaginative weird innovations in the drawer marked 'third rate', we may be bestowing upon ourselves a dead-weight cinema littered with patented lacklustre Hollywooden rehashes for future consumption as a result...

The Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb [DVD] [2006]
The Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Terence Morgan

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a bit clothy, 14 Sept. 2013
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A 1964 Hammer...the same year that saw some marvelous bits of the Gorgon, Kiss of the Vampire, Paranoiac if memory serves. This is one that falls into the 'unsatisfactory' hammer camp however. After one too many shots of the 'ancient' door opening to a tomb, or 'stationery cupboard' you might surmise, there is a good 50 minutes before we get the old standard flare of ominous music and the creepy ooer that is sufficiently hammery. Before this occurs, all is padding set up, a few hands get some wrist damage and much victorian period detail is lushly filmed-with much bookshelf and wing chairs near fireplaces, floors bestrewn with rugs, a woman flirting with more than one man at the same time..

Once the mummy takes people out, even the police are hard pressed to do much but stand back and act formal. They appear to be a token gesture, like an old pulp adventure yarn. However, there is more to the lame mad script, so the final portion of the film can be said to resemble some elements of the Dr Phibes films, without the wit. No one gets out of this with dignity intact, with even a scrappy denouement for more than one actor.

So overall, this has flashes of Hammerness, slightly stiff acting, well/over-controlled cleavage, and insufficient drive and fright. Not gothic enough perhaps in many respects, in that nothing really goes up in flames or succumbs garishly, and the main actresses swoons do not get bedecked in any blood in vivid close-up nor does she get man-handled enough. Try Blood from the Mummy's Tomb, which is more imaginative, has greater lusty flair and has many attributes diaphanous in the form of Valerie Leon, who fills any screen with ease & is more than memorable all over.

This was perhaps so laboured & dull an affair that i actually have purchased the film twice, forgetting i already owned it. Such is the curse of the mummys tomb...doomed to sit on dusty shelves until the next one comes along...

An Idiot Abroad - Series 3 [DVD]
An Idiot Abroad - Series 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Karl Pilkington
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £6.25

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Petty, 7 Aug. 2013
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First two series were quite simply an amusing rambling tale of an underdog with various degrees of conflict when presented with the world at large, depending how much his Highness Gervais poked him with a stick.

In this series however, the petty, cowardly, adolescent bullying tactic & personality flaws are bubbling very near Pilkington's surface. He is faced with a 'stranger' in the form of Warwick. More often than not in these 'events' of series 3, he isn't so much humourous, as mildly offensive & almost perpetually morose. His observations from the past now thinly veil his sarcastic unpleasant streak & his mild-mannered oafishness is giving way to someone with a distinct disregard for others. He seems to lack empathy. Totally. For anything.

As the short series progressed some moments of funny behaviour did occur, mercifully. It would perhaps seem that the sequences have been edited down considerably, as i suspect Pilkington was even less palatable during other shots we don't see. Watching an angry, deluded idiot mock & demean Warwick suggests he forgot to cover his short temper & extremely limited world-view whilst filming this series.

However, the sequences with them dressed as pandas was strangely compelling and amusing.
I will be seeking out more of Warwick, who is a more rounded, interesting human. I will no longer be interested in the Pilkington 'character'. As clearly, he has none.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 6, 2014 9:31 PM BST

Horrors of Malformed Men [DVD] [1969] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Horrors of Malformed Men [DVD] [1969] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

4.0 out of 5 stars Rampo circus of sanity, 15 Jun. 2013
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Firstly, no synopsis could convey this 99 minute festival of flamboyance. So let us simply approach with caution and declare it is a cult film, a psychotronic midnight movie. The film is peppered with humour, some of it distinctly asian, some of it broadly speaking black humour. The veering plotlines suggest much of the Rampo style upon which this was based, in that logical deduction and an almost Conan Doyle-Poe approach to a mystery is taken. There are times when it is clear these Rampo detection meanderings are almost absurd...which is where the film might suddenly diverge into an art film and annoy a great many people. The visual representation of narrative becomes ever more potent & discursive, the people employed to play a great many characters are in fact circus folk and so it all becomes a 'performance'.

The nearest i could say this visually and narratively seemed to be similar to were the films of both Moctezuma, particularly Mansion of Madness, and occasional bursts of Jodorowsky, El Topo or Holy Mountain perhaps. And yet, because of the melange of Rampo stories deployed, rather than one coherent narrative, we have a flair, a firework display of images against what could easily have been a mystery plot made by Roger Corman in his Poe cycle. This extends as far in similarity in as much as the crashing waves, the coastal shots & the grotesque horrors played out against the natural beauty. Also of distinct flavour is the psychological spiralling that occurs to many characters. Every one in this film is in some way either starting with questionable sanity or is clearly going to come out of the whole circus of horrors with shreds of dignity and mind, a world in tatters. Imagine Island of Dr Moreau taken to extremes with the perverse logical linear ideas of madman played out in almost theatrical style.

So, a cultic-psychotronic flick that bares similarities to a few equally barmy mexican midnight movie-makers, shot through with comic-tragic overtones, played with vigour by a circus troupe ensemble. Sounds messy?...surprisingly not. What did come across, especially after the hilariously audacious closing act, was how much control must have occurred not to have let this film run away from the director. It could have been a mad film about madness. As it stands it is quite simply unique, audacious, grotesque, funny & most importantly damn right weird. If these sensations appeal, if the idea of depraved minds losing their tether in a mad murder mystery floats your boat, this will definitely entertain. And that is the key here, regardless of content and the tendency to hysterical acting or lunatic narrative...this will entertain and like the better cult flicks, will outlive a great many superior, greater budgeted pieces of low-imagination. Recommended with or without literary hallucinogens.

Glorious Nemesis
Glorious Nemesis
by Ladislav Klima
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Uber-Klima, 31 May 2013
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This review is from: Glorious Nemesis (Hardcover)
For a strangely pathological character such as the author himself, Klima, to have a sense of black humour is perhaps one access point by which to enter his domain. And it is most certainly His domain. He keeps reminding everyone throughout his tale, and probably his actual life. Will, in the Nietzschian sense, is All. So the tale unfolds, or flashes, or spills past us in accordance with someone trying to keep his marbles, see his way clear...not lose his mind.

Names of similar disjointed or powerfully existentially minded authors will parade before the eyes. Gogol and Dostoevsky, Poe, moments of Maupassant, the delight in elusive detail that enthralled Walser. Themes touched by Camus, Hesse and Sartre are also prevalent, but created by eccentricity they come across as laughing cosmic melodrama. Klima likes to take the weights off, if i may be so bold. Moreover, the elements inherent in Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Cioran...but funnelled through a Klima with adrenalin & dashes of exuberance. He seems to have his character driven to Lorrain, Gautier whispy ethereal promises, yet the contrasts and ambivalence inherent in his polarized existence threaten and dare him to destroy himself. This is all a concoction of what to me seemed, the most controlled ravings of madman, a contradiction in terms.

The line twixt author and characters becoming ciphers to espouse the author's very personal philosophical 'system' (hardly), is blurry. Often it is in literature by accident or design. Yet in Klima, he seemed careless, deliberately so. He seemed nonchalant, almost perpetually self-alienating. The book in question, Glorious Nemesis, could stand for that elusive charming grip that life has on us. Horror. Despair. Clarity. Questioning the validity of reality.
A synopsis of the tale or Klima, out of context, would fail to relay the gasps, the stuttering shape of a mind losing it's footing...which the tale does to very good effect. Clean, decisive and ghastly in its aimlessness.

Evil Clergyman [DVD] [2012] [NTSC]
Evil Clergyman [DVD] [2012] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ David Gale
Offered by Full Moon Features UK
Price: £4.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Novelty value retro adaptation, 29 April 2013
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Ok, the line-up on this long thought lost piece of schlock is great, Combs, Crampton, Warner, Gale and written by Dennis Paoli who has good stead with his Stuart Gordon pieces of work.

The tight 30 minutes does seem a little cramped, the strange rat-like familiar of the slightly pervy clergyman, hasn't much to do but listen for Gale's raspy voice it's ideal.

Barbara Crampton though clothed for most, does get fondled/handled by a pair of hands, and a stunt-buttock/special effect is tainted by the rat-thing, par for the course. The David Warner character appears to give supporting warnings and gooey hints of malfeasance, previous dark hints of naughty goings on, all to add eerieness. The main of the story hints at the dark romance between this gal as the perverted clergyman's lastest conquest. With twist. There is slight feel of Hellraiser about the style of story..which is very loosely adapted from Lovecraft's original very short tale,which features distinctly less female & perversion, ie: none.

Though the picture has been taken from the only vhs copy available and has been cleaned up, its still showing its age, but well. The new score sounds lushly romance with a touch of tragedy.

Overall a fine retro feel for Crampton and Combs in their hey-day, who can forget From Beyond or Re-Animator...but aside from the novelty value of being thought lost, there is only 30 mins of something thematically Stuart Gordon may have drawn out in a movie,given more skin & fleshy pulping than can be allowed in a tv constrained episode.

Don't Go in the House [DVD] [1980]
Don't Go in the House [DVD] [1980]
Dvd ~ Dan Grimaldi

4.0 out of 5 stars Grim but not dim, 21 April 2013
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Eccentric mother's boy seeks flame-haired momma for revenge motif and 'good times', must have a perversely dark sense of humour & a photogenic body..you know, all over. Able to cook over gas stove without burning arms, absolute essential. Likes disco music, but doesn't need to show-off and move to any beat, nor react in any way to external stimuli.. such as co-workers on fire..what do they expect, i thought the flames were pretty. Must must must come to My house, it is MY house now.. so you can see what i offer the suitable candidate, which must be a young girl. Not too young, but enough to remind me what i am missing. I have not got a metal lined room with a hook in it to roast girls. I have not got a tendency to react like Anthony Perkins to my memories. I have no need to wear a bodywarmer but i like it, it makes me feel secure. Do not mock me. There may be issues with seedy, sordid sounds in MY house, but the suitable candidate will be prepared for my strange use of english american. Please like me until i show you my metal room.

Arrow have provided us with a lovely print, considering the grainy flavour of the original. The lead actor is actually very good, now we can see him clearer. Now that the eerie house is sufficiently lit and ominous, the whole film on the cusp of the eighties yet pre-empting the Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, and numerous other items it is best compared in my deluded mind with the likes of Nightmare (scavolini) or Don't Answer the Phone without the laughs. Uncut at long last, with only one drawback for the strange folk who sit and enjoy such flicks, in that the cover of the dvd, either side of which is innocuous. Originally on vhs the selling point was how tacky and sordid, or shall we say, outrageous lie, the imagery was. The sheer lurid conveyance of nothing much to do with the film was frowned upon subsequently by the powers that be, so we now have a classic piece of well made, well shot, well acted piece of cinematic treasure getting in under the radar. Congratulations all round. And what is worse than being on fire during a disco...?

Island of Death [DVD]
Island of Death [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bob Belling
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £7.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dionystic, ripping good fun, 20 April 2013
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This review is from: Island of Death [DVD] (DVD)
Judging from the extras on this fully stuffed Arrow release, Mastorakis the director is a pleasant, congenial, funny, philosophical and clearly talented chap. A contrast to the slightly barmy religiously fruity serial perv's in the movie in question. And notably, from his comments, the writer director is also remarkably like a fan of such movies, when remarking about censors the world over, whom he suggests are medieval and in many ways the work of a dictatorship. Well back in the day, the UK was hardly unique in having such works hacked and maimed for the good of children everywhere...

But this film was made for money, for a deliberate poke at convention, to push the envelope as the director says. That we now are quite jaded by excesses cinematic, puts Island of Death as a retro piece of history, and should be viewed in context. Which is what the whole Arrow package here does. Now looking clean and bright, the print looks filmic, edits like a good old seventies flick and has random levels of acting ability. Pure exploitation. Does what it says on the tin.

Not overtly bloody and medical as a Fulci or Argento, nor as beautiful as a Bava. Not as seedy as perhaps Don't Go in the House. Yet Island of Death is unique, in that it simply barrels along and puts one highly tasteless scenario after another, for sheer gusto, and drives it toward entertainment. As such, the sheer ludicrous nature of the whole excess, comes across, with its hippy soundtrack and setting suns, as a black comedy of the greek tourist board...

Take it as a funny, retro piece of cinematic sleaze and this can be remarkably entertaining. Be warned however, no minors of any description should be near this movie, nor should any one who has nodded in agreement with a Mary Whitehouse or similar. These people will not, nor cannot, understand why anyone should want to watch such a spectacle...and perhaps even a few fans may feel the same. Why did i witness this movie? Can i see it again? Will it feel different next time?...Where did i put my camera..?

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