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Archive for May, 2011

Big cult releases from Shout! Factory in June!

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 17 - 2011
The good folks over at Shout! Factory continue their persistent re-release of amazing “cult” films with two new releases that showcase two very different, but beloved, genres. The first up is THE WILD WEST COLLECTION which should grab the attention of both Blaxploitation fans as well as general Western enthusiasts. The first title on the set is Rio Conchos (1964), which was directed by Gordon Douglas and features veteran actor Richard Boone (Have Gun Will Travel, The Alamo and Halls of Montezuma) and showcases the debut of Blaxploitation legend Jim Brown (Slaughter, Three the Hard Way and tick… tick… tick…).


The second title on the set features a cast that is simply out of this world! Take a Hard Ride features the previously mentioned Jim Brown along with Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem and The Inglorious Bastards), Lee Van Cleef (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Death Rides a Horse), Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon and Black Belt Jones), Catherine Spaak (The Cat O’ Nine Tails) and Harry Carey Jr. (The Searchers)! All inhabiting an action-western… you can just imagine the pure awesome it holds!




Next up on the release schedule is their WOMEN IN CAGES two disc set from the Roger Corman Collection. Showcasing some of Corman’s biggest hits that helped launch the career of one famous female known as Pam Grier! Grier stars in all three of these women-in-prison titles and if you haven’t guessed by now they are absolute stalwart examples of the genre. The three titles featured on the set are big names, and they are The Big Bird Cage, Big Doll House and Women in Cages. All three films are presented in new anamorphic widescreen film transfers, and also bring with them all-new special features.

To continue reading the full press release, click for “more” and read-on after the break!

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Demon, The

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 14 - 2011

Review originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis



The Demon (1981)
Director: Percival Rubens
Writers: Percival Rubens
Starring: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell and Craig Gardner



The Plot: This tale begins when a prowler breaks into the isolated Parker house, tying Mrs. Joan Parker up with a plastic bag over her head and running off with her fourteen year old daughter Emily. The father comes home in time to save his wife, but the prowler has his way with the daughter in the nearby forest. After days go by and the search for Emily fails, the Parkers hire retired Marine Colonel turned psychic Bill Carson who can identify the killer and find their daughter by using his telepathic powers. In the meantime, our bulky leather strapping killer picks up a ride, asphyxiates the driver and attempts to rape and murder unsuspecting young women. It seems the killer is trying to kill a sassy young kindergarten instructor named Mary, who lives with her cousin Jo who is trying to hook up with a flashy rich boy named Dean Turner. Col. Carson reveals two particular aspects about the killer: 1) he has a deadly obsession with random young women and 2) his faceless visage suggests that he is not human or is at least possessed by something evil. Knowing this and how every attempt to stop him fails with fatal results, will Mary have a chance to evade the killer once he comes for her?


The Review
When looking through obscure Slasher movies, you’ll often come across some generic titles to surprisingly entertaining Horror movies. There’s a genuine sense of reward you get when you pick up movies like Stage Fright, The Prowler, House on Sorority Row or even Joe D’Amato’s Horrible and find some creepy atmosphere or gut wrenching death scenes that make you wonder why they’re often ignored. Then there are the titles that sound generic but have no payoff to them. The ones that make you feel like an idiot after having watched it. The Demon is one of them.

I should be honest with you, dear reader, this movie doesn’t feature an actual demon; much like how the tag line to The Prey does not feature an axe wielding monster but instead a mutant beatnik played by the bad guy from Battle for Endor.

The easiest assessment would be the fact that our killer is simply possessed by a demon which is why he kills, but that information is hardly lucid in the movie itself. It is hard to say whether the killer is really a demon since there are times where we can clearly see the man’s face and hair, as well as times where he suddenly no longer wears a white Halloween (or Alice, Sweet Alice) mask and instead has white face paint on. ‘But why are you looking into this,’ you may be asking. ‘Why analyze the title and its connection to the movie?’ Why? Because that’s the only interesting thing about this movie. The Demon is a confusing, lagging, poorly shot crap-fest of an ‘80’s Slasher movie. The only demonic specification the poor chump carries is his propensity to grunt and growl and his nearly obscure distaste for midnight radio evangelists. I actually had a hard time re-watching this for a review. The structure of this failed ‘80’s Slasher Film is so broken that not even a modern day remake would fix it. This is one of those movies that you can clearly envision as a person, throwing its hands up in the air, shaking its head and failure and admitting “I just don’t know.”


We essentially follow three stories here one consisting of a brutally strong, strangulating, serial death-rapist, his plucky soon-to-be next victim’s cousin Jo and Cameron Mitchell. Rarely do these stories connect or represent any real conflict. Most of the Cameron Mitchell sections just consists of Cameron being a mysterious, but ineffective psychic as he occasionally sees the killer and how Mr. Parker wants to hunt the killer down. The Mary sections just consist of the build up to her young cousin Jo (rather than Mary), her life style and how it will be ruined once the killer finally attacks her.

The director seemed to have little idea how to make either story connect effectively, thus creating tension and conflict or make us care about any of the characters involved. Granted, some of the characters are well acted: Jennifer Holmes certainly breathes some life into the character, but despite all the screen credit she’s given, she’s given little screen time or dialogue compared to her heart struck cousin. Cameron Mitchell is pretty decent in the movie, too; he pulls the struggling psychic role off pretty well as he telepathically tries to track the killer by getting into his persona. However, it would’ve been better if he was the main character in the story and if he actually confronted the killer at one point. It would’ve felt more like a Halloween rip-off if he did, but at least HIS plot would’ve tied in with the the killer and even Mary’s plot! Plus, it’s kind of funny how he switches from being facetious to serious when he’s first introduced to the bereaved Parkers; maybe that explains why his story arc ends so abruptly and why a secondary character steals the best line in the movie.

The movie is so wildly obsessed with Mary’s cousin Jo and her relationship with Dean that the segments involving them get old fast; we spend several minutes watching these lame-brains getting to know each other through wine drinking, boat rowing and photo shootings. Ordinarily, I’d say these two characters are the build-up and the character development found in any good Horror movie. Unfortunately, these characters aren’t interesting! Sure, Dean has a back story and he’s acted fairly well, but he’s no different than Robert Taylor from the French in Action TV series (in kidding, they practically have the same back story… and why I remember that series so well I don’t know*)!! By the time the movie focuses on Jennifer Holmes’ character, there’s a very brief sense of fear and dread, but not enough to really care whether she makes it out all right.


The movie is flawed on a technical basis, too. The music consists of a relentless string quartet that goes to unbearably high pitches during the jump scares. There are rare moments where the soundtrack works, mostly in the Cameron Mitchell scenes or when Mary finally confronts the killer in the end. The lighting in the movie is quite horrible as the only real good lighting is natural light; some shots in the film were far too dark to notice any details. I kept adjusting the screen to the brightest notch on the gamut during nighttime and day-for-night scenes and I still had to squint in order to see anything. You may notice there’s very little shots of intensity or murder in the shots I picked. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to see a few shots that looked decent like close-ups of the killers claw-gloves, but because the lighting is so murky in the indoor scenes I couldn’t get a good enough shot without editing it. There are some continuity errors here and there, but nothing out-right hilarious, just confusing. There are moments where the killer is supposed to be wearing a plaster Last House on Dead End Street Mask but it’ll change to white face paint. There’s one scene near the end where Dean and Jo are in bed to which Jo says Dean has to leave, but the next scene shows them frolicking in the pool. Like I said, the continuity isn’t good, but it’s not hilariously bad, either.

Probably the biggest goof in the whole movie is when someone who has all ready been in contact with the police finds the killer and several other people know about this. So when the person gets inevitably killed by the killer… why doesn’t anyone take the initiative to get the police involved?? Seriously, the character finds the killer’s location, the killer offs him, dumps his body right where he’s staying and it’s found the next morning… What the Hell, are the police in South Africa really that dense?! After that character’s body is found, the killer stays there, too! The people who knew about the character’s going there could have easily sent more police there!! Why’d it take so long for someone in the movie to find Emily’s body? Was it just an excuse for the director to use that classic skeleton wearing a wig effect?

I will be a little fair to this movie, though: it’s not THE worst ‘80’s Slasher I’ve seen; it is ONE OF the worst ‘80’s Slasher movies out there, but it’s slightly better than The Prey. Unlike The Prey, The Demon has a few moments of intensity, mainly when Mr. Parker hunts the killer down and when Mary defends herself from the killer. In fact, the last five minutes of this movie are the most intense as Mary and the killer play a game of cat and mouse and the final scene itself is surprisingly inventive. The Demon also has its share of T&A which, again, makes it better than The Prey; Compared to another ‘80’s Slasher directed by and starring people involved in the Adult Film industry about horny young adults in the woods that featured no nudity whatsoever, The Demon certainly has the upper hand.


The Conclusion
I won’t kid you, though, The Demon is not an obscure movie tracking down, not even for Cameron Mitchell fans. I honestly can’t re-watch this movie without taking a break halfway through. I’m sure it had potential somewhere and somehow, but it certainly didn’t go very far and in short deserves to stay there.

Stinger: “Did your Extra Sensory Perception prepare you for THIS?”




*: Oh, wait, I know why I remember French in Action so well: Valérie Allain! Yuum!


“The Demon” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 14 - 2011
Prof. Aglaophotis makes it back to Varied Celluloid in order to deliver further explorations into the world of low budget horror cinema from days gone by! Check it out as he completely dismantles The Demon

The Plot: This tale begins when a prowler breaks into the isolated Parker house, tying Mrs. Joan Parker up with a plastic bag over her head and running off with her fourteen year old daughter Emily. The father comes home in time to save his wife, but the prowler has his way with the daughter in the nearby forest. After days go by and the search for Emily fails, the Parkers hire retired Marine Colonel turned psychic Bill Carson who can identify the killer and find their daughter by using his telepathic powers. In the meantime, our bulky leather strapping killer picks up a ride, asphyxiates the driver and attempts to rape and murder unsuspecting young women. It seems the killer is trying to kill a sassy young kindergarten instructor named Mary, who lives with her cousin Jo who is trying to hook up with a flashy rich boy named Dean Turner. Col. Carson reveals two particular aspects about the killer: 1) he has a deadly obsession with random young women and 2) his faceless visage suggests that he is not human or is at least possessed by something evil. Knowing this and how every attempt to stop him fails with fatal results, will Mary have a chance to evade the killer once he comes for her?


CONTINUE READING HERE!

“Grand Theft Auto” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 13 - 2011
We’re back yet again with MORE Ron Howard manliness via the Ron Howard Action Pack from Shout! Factory. Read the review and find out just what was thought about the movie!

The Plot: Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) is a beautiful young woman from a very accomplished family. When she brings home Sam Freeman (Ron Howard) and tells her family that the young couple will be married shortly, they do not react in the most sympathetic of manner. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as we see her family orders her to break it off with Sam and instead marry the very rich Collins Hedgeworth. Paula breaks away from her family and steals her father’s Rolls Royce and both she and Sam are then out on the run to Las Vegas in order for the two of them to be married. Unfortunately, Paula’s parents are just rich and psychotic enough to give chase all the way to Las Vegas and now the two are going to have to really jet down the highway in order to beat their pursuers. Making matters worse, Paula’s parents call up Collins Hedgeworth who offers a $25,000 reward in order to bring “his girl” back. Now everyone between Los Angeles and Las Vegas are looking for this couple. Along for the chase we have Collins, his parents, Paula’s parents, a street preacher, a gas station attendant, two mechanics and a radio announcer who simply wants the scoop! Prepare for auto-insanity!


And now, another interview with Ron Howard detailing his experiences on the set of Grand Theft Auto



CONTINUE READING HERE!

Grand Theft Auto

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 13 - 2011

Grand Theft Auto (1977)
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Ron Howard and Rance Howard
Starring: Ron Howard, Nancy Morgan and Marion Ross



The Plot: Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) is a beautiful young woman from a very accomplished family. When she brings home Sam Freeman (Ron Howard) and tells her family that the young couple will be married shortly, they do not react in the most sympathetic of manner. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as we see her family orders her to break it off with Sam and instead marry the very rich Collins Hedgeworth. Paula breaks away from her family and steals her father’s Rolls Royce and both she and Sam are then out on the run to Las Vegas in order for the two of them to be married. Unfortunately, Paula’s parents are just rich and psychotic enough to give chase all the way to Las Vegas and now the two are going to have to really jet down the highway in order to beat their pursuers. Making matters worse, Paula’s parents call up Collins Hedgeworth who offers a $25,000 reward in order to bring “his girl” back. Now everyone between Los Angeles and Las Vegas are looking for this couple. Along for the chase we have Collins, his parents, Paula’s parents, a street preacher, a gas station attendant, two mechanics and a radio announcer who simply wants the scoop! Prepare for auto-insanity!


The Review
Ron Howard has lead one of the most intriguing lives in the Hollywood system, there’s no question about that. Beginning his career as a child-actor on the Andy Griffith Show, followed by his star-making turn on the television program Happy Days. What provided his legendary career span though would obviously be his turn as a director which would see him continue working for several decades longer, and also see him win an Oscar sometime later on. However, it was during his stint with New World Pictures, where he would work with Roger Corman, that would see him cut his teeth as a director and start this new life behind the camera. This Ron Howard Action Pack from Shout! Factory, which features both Grand Theft Auto and Eat My Dust, delivers both the films that would start this new career of his, and through the special features on the double disc set, as well as the stories behind this transition.

Ron Howard may not seem like the go-to guy to star in an action packed film dealing with car chases, but the seventies were certainly a very different time and era. People were more willing to experiment during these times and although we still shades of such things today (with Michael Cera starring in titles such as Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), few smaller framed actors would be thrown in such roles during modern times. As we saw in Eat My Dust, Howard was the sort of actor who could make anything work. With Grand Theft Auto, Howard is back a year later and has grown his hair out in the same manner that he continually threatened throughout the previously mentioned film. His general look is far more hipster-like and his character is certainly far different than the one he portrayed in the previous film. His hip’ness is felt seeping through the camera as he asks Nancy Morgan to pull over so the two can “fool around”. Although he still has fears of his own inadequacy at times, the character seems much more down to earth.

The broad comedy of Eat My Dust (and later on, Smokey Bites the Dust) certainly makes a triumphant return here.This can be a good thing or this can be a bad thing when it comes to slapstick comedy, so the audience usually has a fifty-fifty shot of gathering up a movie that is worth some value and although the comedy in Grand Theft Auto isn’t always on pitch its most assuredly in the better half. There are still some really strong and broadly drawn characters that walk beyond the line of “satirical” and are simply “stereotypical”. Characters such as the maniacal street preacher and every last one of the “rich” family members who are continually speaking with their bottom jaw puckered as far outward as is conceivably possible, they are the worst examples of this low-brow sensibility. The comedy remains over the top but it is also just witty enough that we can have faith in the filmmakers to take us into something interesting.

Ron Howard, who made his directorial debut here, shows a veteran skill despite being a novice at the time. Knowing that he would be doing so much behind the scenes, it was a smart idea for the director to have such a gigantic ensemble cast. An ensemble cast that would feature numerous Roger Corman regulars as well as Howard’s own father Rance Howard and his brother Clint, who both feature prominently in the movie. Howard establishes this large ensemble role so that he doesn’t have to direct himself throughout much of the picture, and he himself is only featured throughout the movie in tiny bits and pieces. His role doesn’t seem as large as many of the character bits throughout, but when he is onscreen sharing time with Nancy Morgan he does make the most of it. The small moments between Howard and Morgan make tue heart of the movie and ultimately give us reason to root for these two lovebirds.

Featuring more action than in any Roger Corman produced car chase movie I have seen yet, I give total credit to Howard for crafting such an exciting feature on his very first production. Exploding bridges, exploding cars and an innumerable amount of wrecked automobiles, Howard certainly didn’t pick a very “easy” movie for his first time in the director’s seat. The young director even handles tension exceedingly well as he stages a game of “chicken” between a Rolls Royce and a helicopter in a sequence that looks to put an end to our characters. This scene in particular has always been the single image that defines Grand Theft Auto and is one that will likely remain in the public conscious longer than anything else in the production.


The Conclusion
This isn’t a perfect movie, not by any stretch of the imagination. That broad comedy can and potentially will drive the audience batty. The time spent away from the leads in Ron Howard and Nancy Morgan could very well prove to be an issue as well. However, I have to give credit where credit is due, amongst the number of action-comedies that feature such huge ensemble casts, Grand Theft Auto remains one of the most entertaining. Give it a look and check out the Ron Howard Action Pack, since you really can’t beat the deal!




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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