MAY 16, 2012

WoundA lot of promising directors back in the '80s who cut their teeth on horror films seemed to vanish from the scene once theatrical demand dried up. One good case in point is New Zealand filmmaker David Blythe, who seemed headed for great things with the nifty 1984 film Death Warmed Over. Unfortunately it's been a series of frustrations watching his career since then; he got fired from The Horror Show and helmed some odd half-hearted offerings like the vampire/sci-fi fusion Red Blooded American Girl (and its little-seen sequel) and the simply bizarre My Grandpa Is a Vampire. It's not exactly a return to form, but there are a few points of interest to be found in his 2010 offering Wound, available on DVD from Breaking Glass. The premise here is a unique one, as Tanya (Te Kaea Beri) goes looking for the mom, Susan (Kate O'Rourke), who left her daughter for dead. Oh, but Tanya may actually be dead after all... and Susan, a hermit and recovering incest victim not above exacting revenge on her dad by whacking him with a bat and mauling his nether regions, might be slowly possessed by her new visitor. Part art film and part extreme horror offering with some strong dollops of gore and (extremely non-erotic) nudity, this film doesn't really have the budget to pull off its ambitious agenda but tries enough to remain admirable and sometimes very effective. The DVD looks fine enough if unspectacular with an anamorphic (1.78:1) transfer, a '70s Blythe short film called "Circadium Rhythms," a pair of his music videos, and trailers. Give it a shot if you're up for something a bit different.


LA Is My HometownNow if you want something really different, take a gander over at L.A. Is My Hometown, a 1976 mondo-style documentary in which British pop singer Ian Whitcomb ("You Turn Me On") takes an outsider's look at his new home, Los Angeles. Clocking in at just under an hour, it's a priceless chunk of pop culture with great footage of the hazy, druggy City of Angels during the Gerald Ford era, including a peek at nudie photographers, music producers, classic movie palaces, and more, with a focus on all the British expatriates who have set up camp there. This Scorpion Releasing DVD could be viewed as something of a companion release to their edition of Sextette, since Whitcomb worked on that film as music supervisor and also produced Mae West's insane Way Out West LP (which he discusses in depth on that disc). Here you get to learn more about the man himself and the spirit of the times, and its portrait of British culture assimilating with the Angeleno lifestyle makes for compelling viewing indeed. In fact, traces of this fusion still exist in L.A., particularly in Santa Monica where British-oriented shops and pubs are obvious evidence of this tradition. Some of the colorful people he encounters include photographer (and now big name in porn) Suze Randall and physique photographer Roy Dean, while looks at the more organized Commonwealth organizations in the area don't exactly come off in the most flattering light. Originally this was made for the BBC program Omnibus, which ran from the late '60s to 2003 and introduced everything from ghost stories to experimental docs. It's all much racier than what you'd see on American network television for sure, but more importantly, this is a valuable snapshot of a colorful era. Though it obviously isn't branded as part of Scorpion's line of Katarina's Nightmare Theater titles, hostess Katarina Leigh Waters (also a former British resident relocated to L.A.) is on hand with Whitcomb for a very entertaining commentary track covering the ins and outs of British culture in L.A., meeting the personalities seen in the film, and feeling affection for both sides of the pond. The transfer (1.33:1 but pillarboxing with 16:9 encoding) looks excellent throughout with a fresh new transfer from the original 16mm elements; the disc also includes other British trailers like Puppet on a Chain, Goodbye Gemini, Quest for Love, and of course, Sextette.


Ground ZeroAspiring horror filmmakers have found a reliable friend in recent years thanks to zombies, an easy way to do a cheap and gory project with a solid chance at finding distribution. Sometimes the results can far exceed the limitations of their budgets, while others, well, don't. Easily at the cheapest end of the scale is Ground Zero, a shot-in-SD offering from Shock-o-Rama about a cleaning crew hired to haul a dead body to a warehouse belonging to a bioengineering company. As it turns out, the cargo is a radical extremist infected with a deadly virus, and he may not be all dead anymore. Once they arrive, the cargo starts to thaw out, and the gutmunching begins. Horror short director Channing Lowe gives it a good shot here, and with better equipment the results would probably be easier to appreciate as there are some nice gore effects here along with a few solid performances from the very tiny cast, especially Mike Langer and Sahna Foley as the two cleaners in way over their heads. (The majority of the supporting cast, well, not so much.) The last third in particular really picks up steam and indicates promising things to come, as it sets up a few nice twists and queasy character situations. Just hand these guys better lighting and sound equipment, and they might be onto something. Extras include a 19-minute look behind the scenes (covering everything from digitally augmenting zombie eyes for the actors to more practical effects like squibs and vomiting) and a 10-minute reel of bloopers and making-of outtakes.


Ground ZeroThe technical limitations of shooting on lower grade video are less of an issue with another horror film, Documenting the Grey Man, another "is it real?" ghost story with a crew exploring a haunted site and finding more than they expected. Yep, it's another spin into Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity/Grave Encounters territory, complete with an opening card explaining how police found one bloody, catatonic survivor at a Pawley's Island, South Carolina home, with the three residents and five other ghost hunters missing. In this case the terror all starts when a cocky paranormal crew goes to investigate the home belonging to the Simms family, a site reputed to be haunted by predatory spirits. As you'd probably expect, the first half is a slow set up with lots of walking around, exposition, people investigating rooms, and so on; however, once night falls and everyone decides to try out a seance, you get a better batch of spooky tricks like inexplicable blood splashes in the bathroom and, of course, night vision mayhem. Some of it is also unintentionally hilarious (especially two characters reacting with hysteria to a doll in the basement and a pretty tacky contact lens effect at the end), but several moments in the final act deliver a decent ghostly chill if you switch out all the lights and get in the groove. At least it's more rewarding than your average episode of a ghost hunting show, and at 63 minutes it certainly doesn't overstay its welcome. The real plus here is the fact that it was made by South Carolina locals, so the regional southern flavor goes a long way to giving some variety and realism to a scenario we've all seen a billion times over at this point. No feature-related extras are included on the Camp DVD, but you do get bonus trailers for Trippin', Red River, The Basement, Interplanetary, Dark Chamber, and more.


Ground ZeroAbsolutely not realistic at all is the scenario for 2033: Future Apocalypse, an interesting sci-fi yarn from Mexican filmmaker Francisco Laresgoiti. Here we have a future police state where the military and a pharmaceutical company have joined forces to take over Mexico City (now called Villaparaiso) and outlaw religious worship. Everyone subsists on an engineered food source called PECTI, and gung ho citizen Pablo (Claudio Lafarga) finds his horizons widened when he discovers an underground order devoted to maintaining the former standards of humanity. Oh, and the father he thought was dead turns out to be an active rebel leader. There's a bit of a Left Behind atmosphere here at times given the premise that a government state will become corrupt without religion (which is highly suspect, to put it mildly), but at least this is far better made than your average Christian sci-fi propaganda piece. (That also means it's far less hilarious than accidental anti-classics like Megiddo: The Omega Code 2.) Anyway, the production values here are surprisingly strong, with some gorgeous interiors and costume designs contrasting with the impoverished and grungy milieu of the rebel forces, and Lafarga does a decent job among a bunch of other actors who might as well be doing a TV soap. The script could've used a couple more drafts as well (especially with a rethink of that ending, which seems to drift off in search of a sequel), but it's still so novel to see an ambitious Mexican sci-fi film that it's worth a look. The anamorphic transfer looks good if not spectacular; it appears to be a couple of generations further from the original source than what you'd expect, but it's colorful and glossy enough to get the job done. The Spanish audio sounds fine in 5.1, with burned-in English subtitles. Extras include the trailer and a stills gallery.


Ground ZeroNow if you are looking for unintentional hilarity, there's plenty to be found if you're twisted enough with the wacko zero-budget torture porn exercise Sexually Deranged. None of the names here ring a bell (Peter Gruber? Penny Nichols?), but what you get is a softcore porn/horror flick about a religious psycho dressed in black who, with an incestuous sister sidekick, likes to abduct women and torment them in his basement. Okay, that doesn't really sound very funny, but you haven't lived until you've seen how he operates. Unlucky goth chicks have to - gasp! - ride topless on exercise bikes in orange sneakers and get hooked up to car batteries, with animated lightning added onscreen as they get (very unconvincingly) electrocuted. It all has something to do with how he wants to "penetrate their souls," when he isn't too busy smacking his sister on the butt and sniffing her shoes. Yeah, it's all about as tacky and tasteless as it sounds, with some ridiculously explicit Hustler-style imagery that should put off any horror fans who stumble into this by accident. It's hard to say exactly who the target audience is for this (unless there's a fetish group out there I'm not aware of), but as terrible as it is, this certainly isn't dull. The anamorphic transfer looks okay considering this was mostly shot in someone's living room and basement with almost no lighting equipment. The only extras for this IE release are bonus promos for titles like Defiled, Faces of Schlock, and Diary of a Sex Offender.


Hillbilly Sex ClanOn a similar note, the Hillbilly Sex Clan Grindhouse Triple Feature meditates on the theme of country bumpkins getting busy in the backwoods. Country Doc features a bunch of yokels whooping it up in a barn, and then the title character shows up to inspect three of the shapliest young daughters of the community. The girls decide to make a return appearance with the next guy to ride up on a horse, while the doc goes off to attend to another female patient. Eventually it all goes into roughie territory with shotgun mayhem, kitchen chair bondage, and a big farmhouse orgy for the big climax. This one looks like it was originally shot softcore and spiced up with inserts, a pretty common but annoying practice at the time; as such it's a stupid but fairly entertaining cheapie that stops dead for grinding close ups every now and then. For some reason this one's vertically squeezed, as if it was 16x9 transferred and then erroneously encoded as full frame for some reason; adjust your TV accordingly. The title feature, Hillbilly Sex Clan, is a retitled new transfer of the home video staple, Daisy Lay, Ozark Virgin, one of the better southern fried porn quickies thanks to a more attractive cast than usual and an atmosphere similar to the softer Harry Novak country cutie films of the time. Virginal Daisy Lay (Maria Arnold from Necromania and The Toy Box) enjoys hanging around the farm and watching her brother (George Peters) cavorting outdoors with random girlfriends. Eventually curiosity gets the better of her, and after dabbling a little bit on a car hood with a mustachioed schmuck, she and bro jump into a foursome on the family couch. It's actually a pretty funny, lively, and short timewaster, and the cast is better qualified than most to pull off some of the sillier dialogue. Finally in Bare Country, a bunch of rednecks have sex with each other. They swap out each other and different rooms in their house, and that's pretty much it. All are full frame and look reasonably decent considering their origins.


The Dick & IAnother familiar staple of early '70s smut is the private eye film, an easy way to have a character wander through a string of voyeuristic scenes without necessitating more than a single actor for a day at a time. You won't necessarily find three of the best examples in the Dirty Detective Grindhouse Triple Feature, but they're pretty accurate ones at least. The scuzziest of the set comes first with Hard Action, a retitling of an extraordinarily ugly tale about a detective who's frustrated wtih the courts constantly releasing the dirtballs he sends off to jail. He decides to send off his three female, gum-chomping assistants (who are also apparently part-time students) into the field to get down and dirty with the cops and crooks who have managed to tick him off so he can... I dunno, get justice or revenge of some kind, which is accomplished by the entire cast having an orgy in a warehouse on a couple of dingy mattresses. The whole thing looks like it's been run through a Xerox machine from 1974, which is appropriate. Second is Harry Hard: Private Dick, a slightly retitled presentation of 1971's Harry Hard, Detective. A familiar entry from Something Weird's Dragon Art Theatre line, this one features Suzanne Fields (Flesh Gordon) in a laughably terrible platinum blonde wig as a rich wife who's being terrorized by a psycho on the phone. She hires tubby detective Harry Hard (Mrs. Stone's Thing's Butch Griswald) to investigate, which means probing a lot of suspects including nurse Maria Arnold. Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheik's Victor Alexander (who got mistaken as Spalding Gray in some credits for a while) also pops up in one of his small handful of hardcore performances, though apparently he only went unsimulated (fleetingly) in Nazi Sex Experiments. Oh, and a loop with John Holmes and Fields (wearing that same wig) is spliced into the middle for no reason. Apart from that one inserted segment, this one actually looks great with a surprisingly colorful, solid transfer, apart from the usual expected specks and nicks here and there. All the better to appreciate the endless displays of terrifying upholstery and a couple of jarringly weird touches, like a hammer inserted in an unpleasant bodily orifice and a bizarre in-camera attempt at a split-screen phone call. Last up is the weirdest one, The Dick & I, a mixture of tripped-out fantasy sequences, random nighttime street footage of L.A., soft and hardcore sex scenes, and some shred of a semi-plot about a private eye named Pete looking into the city's swinging singles scene when he's hired to tail a cheating wife (whom he naturally nails in the final scene of the film). The audio on this one is hilariously awful (expect lots of creaking chairs and some cast members mumbling in thick accents), but it's still a pretty painless way to kill 48 minutes.

Wicked SchoolgirlsSpeaking of pain, it's time for another collection of Avon 7 titles courtesy of the Carter Stevens Avon 7 Collection (which features the "New York Grindhouse" banner on the cover but not the disc). This one's sperad out over two discs, with Stevens participating as usual courtesy of an audio commentary and an on-camera interview. His audio chat track comes with the first feature, House of Sin, which was the last of the three films to be released chronologically (in '82). Featuring "Mistress Candice and her slave David Christopher," this one's culled from an '80s interlaced video master but still in much better shape than earlier grey market compilations. Cannibal Holocaust's R.Bolla/Robert Kerman stars as Marbus, the son of Satan(!), who picks up stranded motorist Long Jean Silver and takes her home while other cast members (including Ashley Moore) do the nasty in a variety of different scenarios. Meanwhile Stevens talks about a number of topics on his commentary like switching over to 16mm from 35 for Avon, working on The Hot Oven, living with five women at a time, the dead stuffed parrot he still has, and the sexual proclivities of his actors. The previous year's Bizarre Styles is a far more random collection of vignettes centered around a brothel run by Vanessa Del Rio (first seen in a lesbian menage a trois doing some private barber work on Annie Sprinkle) where women are trotted out in a fashion show for clients and then sold off for services. Random kink scenes in a sauna and a jacuzzi follow. Not surprisingly, this one's actually presented (again in what appears to be a preexisting video master) in a slightly watered down version missing about four minutes of some more extreme footage (most of it involving Sprinkle); the quality's much better than the dupey versions floating around elsewhere (apart from the very blurry title card), but bear that caveat in mind. Disc two features 1980's Wicked Schoolgirls, a really goofy S&M comedy about a bunch of girls (all of whom look like they passed high school a long time ago) doing stuff like leading a guy in ladies' undied around on a leash atop some newspapers, pleasuring themselves underneath a Matt Dillon poster, and getting involved in a half-baked blackmail plot involving some dirty photos, all to a shockingly good original rock soundtrack. The main character here is the blackmail victim, Giggles (High School Memories' Sonya Summers in her debut), with able support by veteran Ron Hudd (playing her brother, whom she winds up in the sack) and Avon favorite Velvet Summers (also debuting here), who went on to Dr. Bizarro and Tales of the Bizarre. You get another Stevens commentary here (which overlaps a bit with the other one) about his tenure during the Avon days, covering how he wrote a story to cobble together what footage he had and used his earliest footage with Velvet to integrate into the story, along with an amusing 8-minute Stevens video interview in which he briefly talks about discovering and working with some of the more familiar faces in the films mlike Summers and Silver. Also included is a slew of bonus trailers for films like Rollerbabies, Teenage Twins, Double Your Pleasure, Lickity Split, My Mistress Electra, Kneel Before Me, and Prisoner of Pleasure.


Hollywood Merry-Go-RoundBy now we've pretty well established that yours truly isn't much of a John Holmes fan, but his fan base will undoubtedly want to check out the two-disc John Holmes Rare Films collection anyway for a look at some more random early '70s oddities. Not surprisingly, a couple of these appear to be a bunch of random loops stitched together into ramshackle "features," starting off with 1972's Four Women in Trouble (some of which was shot a bit earlier). Basically a smut anthology, it's about how four different women got knocked up and in deep trouble, of course; the first half is mostly softcore with a lot of clumsy grinding from no-name participants (apart from Ron Darby, who pops up in the third story); big John turns up for the last bit as a doctor called in to perform an abortion, followed by a pair of sex scenes climaxing with a tryst with a patient and a nurse on the examination table. Next is Hollywood Merry-Go-Round, a collection of bleached-out loops with Holmes tying it all together as a two-bit movie director who gets involved in a very long mansion orgy and then goes off to direct a sex flick. And that's about it. Disc two commences with the amusing High Fashion Models, in which an aspiring covergirl (Diary of a Bed's Nikki Hess), is first seen cavorting in bed with her boyfriend (George Peters again). She goes off to an assignment for a Holmes, a British(!) goateed photographer running a business with his lover/partner Bea Moore. Rampant lesbianism and group sex ensure before justice is served in the "twist" ending. Big John plays another model scout in the last film, Double Exposure, which starts with him taking photos of and schtupping his secretary, Suzanne Fields (yep, still in that stupid wig). More girls come in to do photo shoots and grind away in his studio before he finally does a couples scenario that goes horribly wrong, leaving to an ironic finale. All four titles look like they've been run over by a truck, but considering their rarity, it's tough to get too bent out of shape. All are presented full frame, with no extras.


Rape VictimsBack in '07, After Hours unleashed the uneven but definitely memorable Grindhouse Hostage Collection. Well, good things come to those who wait, so now we have the Grindhouse Hostage Collection Part 2, which doesn't actually feature much in the way of hostages but plenty in the way of (thankfullly very unconvincing) rape scenarios. Case in point: our first film, Rape Victims, an Avon production earlier seen as another Dragon Art Theatre title. This one's actually pretty entertaining (albeit not erotic at all unless you have very odd tastes) as married woman Bonnie (Ursula Austin) tries to recover from memories of being sexually assaulted (by David Chase and Martin's Roger Caine) by seeing a therapist (Ultramax). Other patients there share their stories as well, including David Williams who was attacked by Vanessa del Rio! You really, really won't believe how it all turns out. Second is another winner, High School Reunion, a twisty tale about a prostitute who wants to go to her high school reunion (of course) but worries about what her old classmates will say. As it turns out, all five of the women who show up are a bunch of kinky liars who indulge in things like sex with stocking-masked rapists, sex in leopard-skini outfits in tents, and, uh, sex with young strange men doing work at their houses. Again this one has a surprise ending, too. Last we have A Rod for Revenge, in which San Fernando Valley businessman Rick Cassidy comes home to find his wife cheating on him with Ric Lutze, who takes off. Cassidy decides to get even by grabbing a pistol and forcing everyone in Lutze's family to have sex with him at gunpoint, after which he returns home to have a threeway with his wife and another woman that takes a really violent turn. This one doesn't seem to be listed in the filmographies of any of the performers (unless it's buried under another name; help, anyone?), but it's a pretty twisted little number obviously cranked out in a day or two. You've gotta assume Rene Bond must've been busy shooting something else that weekend, since this would have been right up her alley. All in all, though it doesn't really work as typical porn, this is one of the more worthwhile After Hours collections if you like violent '70s exploitation mixed with some graphic sex, bonkers plot twists, and lots of vintage New York and L.A. scenery.


How To Make A Sex Movie"We've got a whole lot of groovy things" promise the leads from the titular first film in the How to Make a Sex Movie Triple Feature. And they ain't kiddin', as the two male chatterboxes who run their own homemade porn industry out of their office (which looks a lot like the same set from that '70s smut standby, Hillbilly Honeymoon). Anyway, these two guys bring a bunch of aspiring actresses in for a job, talk them into stripping down and sitting on some sofas, and teach them how to do the deed on film by running a stag loop. This has to be the yappiest film ever released by After Hours, as the characters babble nonstop about making their movie over both the stag screenings and their own performances; everyone looks incredibly stoned, too, which just adds to the weird vibe. Feature #2 is Hard Luck Pal, which chronicles the daily doings at Hardon Productions run by Lee Frost regular Michael Stearns (Zero In and Scream), doing a rare hardcore appearance here before moving to legit fare like Battle for the Planet of the Apes. After spending the morning coupling with his girlfriend, he goes to work and puts together the day's production by wrangling up some talent (including familiar faces like Heather Starr and William Howard) for the latest production, which climaxes with a dark orgy in an empty warehouse. Not bad as far as early '70s cheapies go. Finally in My First X Rated Movie, a hippie chick (who looks eerily similar to Emily Blunt from some angles) does a solo audition on the ugliest couch you've ever seen. She gets the job and performs with a lot of people (and toys) while that couch gets scattered all over the room. And that's it. Again all are presented full frame in what appear to be new transfers; apart from some missing frames and the usual damage, it's all pretty decent as far as forgotten films from that era go.

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