MAY 25, 2015

CampBy far the most unexpected thing Troma's put out in years, the two volumes of From Asia with Lust offer a quartet of completely insane, surprisingly effective horror/erotic hybrids that come very close to recapturing the intensity of a golden age Nikkatsu pink film. The best actually comes first with 2014's Camp, directed by Ainosuke Shibata (who helmed two of the other films as well), a deeply creepy, unsettling, and downright shocking saga about two sisters, Kozue and pouting. young Akane, who head out for a weekend getaway in the countryside. Both are still damaged from Kozue's nocturnal rape witnessed by Akane, the full significance of which is only revealed later, and things get worse when their car plows into a huge tree stump. They make their way to set up camp for the night and enter a seemingly abandoned building Hitch-Hikewhere they soon fall prey to a quintet of insane men who had been kept at a hospital shut down for corruption since it kept taking payoffs from rich men to lock away their deranged sons. Now the loonies (who have names like Thanatos, Corpo, and Necro) are free to indulge their nastiest whims, which they accomplish by forcing the sisters into an escalating series of vile games that start off with brandy-spiked tea and soon involve horrific misuse of lighters, oversized plastic bags, and a vacuum cleaner. It's a claustrophobic and nightmarish tale that takes a grim twist halfway through and soon swerves into brutal revenge territory, leading to a completely depraved comeuppance that's impossible to describe here but involves the very unorthodox use of a charred body. Adult model Miyuki Yokoyama is actually pretty solid as she transitions from traumatized victim to avenging angel, and the technical execution is also better than expected given that this was shot for pocket change. A couple of tacky CG effects near the end involving some fire and an arrow really should've been left out, but it's not enough to spoil things. Sharing space on the same disc is Hitch-Hike, an uncredited remake of the 1977 film with Corinne Clery, Franco Nero, and David Hess with Yokoyama returning in the Clery role as Saeko, a woman stuck in a miserable marriage with hard-drinking jerk Yoshio. Their bickering is cut short when they almost run over a hitchhiker who initially bonds with Yoshio over their love of fishing, but things take a dark direction Campwhen the stranger turns out to be a bank robber on the run after a violent heist. On top of that he's also hauling a huge bag of money, which sets the stage for a bloody string of double crosses and paybacks. It's pretty strange to see the Italian cult classic transplanted to current day Japan, but the gambit works for the most part with a few new wrinkles thrown into the story and decent performances from the three leads. The DVD also includes spoiler-laden trailers for both features. Hitch-Hike

Volume two kicks off with Weekend, in which some men seen burying a body at night in the middle of a rainstorm are also busy on their cell phones looking for a new victim. Their choice is Marin, a pretty blogger looking to make it big as a model who answers their offer for a job out in the mountains under the guise of a cosmetics company called Angel Care. She's brought in by a young guy named Jack (complete with floppy bangs) who butters her up with wining and dining as well as a torrid night of passion, but soon she's being recorded, followed, and taunted by the mask-wearing creeps. It's all part of a nasty snuff ring, which leads to degradation and some eventual retribution by our heroine (wearing a French maid outfit, of course), complete with more cruddy CGI fire effects. Director Yoshikazu Ishii isn't remotely as visually interesting as Shibata here, but he makes up for it with a lot of gore and a pretty rousing climax. As far as snuff-themed horror films go, it's an entertaining time killer and you could certainly do worse. Finally we end in Shibata territory again with Lipstick, which takes its title and a dash of inspiration from the notorious '70s rape/revenge film with Margeaux Hemingway. Here our beleaguered heroine is Arina Goto, a model whose sister works behind the scenes keeping her busy with assignments. However, a modeling shoot goes very wrong when a lunatic fan bursts in wearing a backpack and wielding a sharp knife. Security takes him down and she confides her gratitude to the officer in charge, Gotoda, but things get even worse when a rapist in a black ski mask with a machete breaks into her apartment and forces her to perform a fetish routine with her trademark shade of lipstick. Her pleas to the authorities fall on deaf ears, which forces her to fight for her life in a violent rooftop showdown with her tormentor. Not a bad little quickie thriller, this one has a decent amount of visual flair and a very fast pace, burning through its 70 minutes with a high volume of cheap thrills. All of the films are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen in Japanese with optional English subtitles with pleasing visual quality, though Weekend looks the weakest of the bunch.


Leaf Blower Massacre"When autumn arrives, no one survives!" That's the tagline for Leaf Blower Massacre, an amusingly lo-fi 2013 Dirty Sanchezslasher short from T-Nasty Productions about... yep, a guy in a motorcycle helmet running around terrorizing people with a leaf blower. How he manages to keep finding power outlets for the title weapon is anybody's guess, but he starts off by attacking a couple in the middle of a suburban street. Then some arrogant trash bags sitting around playing poker (and listening to a rinky-dink cover of Jesus Christ Superstar!) before the killer starts hanging around outside. Running just over 12 minutes, it ends pretty abruptly and feels like the start of what could have been a slasher serial but still offers a high amount of grungy amusement in its short running time. Director Anthony Cooney also appears as one of the poker players (and his toddler son makes his debut, too), and the effort to bring the aesthetic of Nail Gun Massacre to a new millennium is a heroic endeavor, to say the least. Also included on the disc are a pair of extra super-short horror films, the odd two-minute Expired (directed by Jonathan DeQuattro) and the 10-minute, Troma-esque The Walking Retard, which was probably shot in one afternoon and features Cooney as the title character. Also included are the trailer and bonus ones for Boundaries, The Funeral Home, and Luscious Goes to Nevada, plus an audio commentary with Cooney and cinematographer/editor/producer Josh Stephenson about the tricky autumn shoot, the music, and the joy of throwing leaves at actors without power sources around. The 24-minute Dirty Sanchez, also from 2013, keeps the spirit of shot-on-video homemade horror alive with a nasty yarn about a gardener (Rob Romero) who sits around spouting nonstop profanity and puffing on cigarettes as he complains about getting paid two dollars to cut some weeds. Finally he snaps and shoves a pair of gardening shears in the mouth of his housewife boss, then goes on a stalking and killing rampage while wearing a plastic mask and calling himself the Dirty Sanchez. (Don't worry, the regular perverse meaning of the title has nothing to do with the film.) Be sure to check out the end credits for special thanks to Lucio Fulci, Charles Band, H.G. Lewis, George Romero, Abel Ferrara, Captain Kangaroo, and Speedy Gonzales. Cooney and cinematographer/editor Michael Wayne Johnson also turn up for an audio commentary talking about the intended grindhouse aesthetic of the film, the level of improvisation, and the DIY gore effects. Also included are an endless deleted scene with an actress sitting in a chair watching and commenting on Leaf Blower Massacre, a six-minute gag reel, a gallery, and trailers for both Cooney films along with Ovulation and Cyclical Effect.


Cosplay Fetish Battle DronesMore a piece of performance art than an actual film, the psychedelic video freak out Cosplay Fetish Battle Drones basically updates the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers template to a modern-day hipster setting with a ton of hyper-colorful computer animation straight out of a '90s Mind's Eye video. Director Gregg Golding pretty much hurls every idea in his head at the screen to create a film so aggressive and bizarre it's bound to find a cult somewhere, as well follow six folks (Golding, Carly Jean, Nathan Moore, Liza Matthias, Samuel Vasquez, Leland Mapp) who are bestowed with superpowers to fight off a tumor plague that's spreading among the shared unconsciousness of the population, and there's an alien that's made to look like a piece of furniture, and then they become crime fighters called the Struggled Reagans (the film's overseas title), and a big robot gets involved along with an aspiring serial killer, and... yeah, this one really isn't meant to be watched with a completely clear head. It's fast, it's loud, and it makes precious little sense, which is evidently how it was all designed. Golding also contributes an oddball audio commentary, with other extras on the CAV DVD including the red band trailer, a completely bizarre Q&A with the director after a screening in Toronto, a VOD trailer, and a podcast from distributor Collage Films.


Evil Ways of LoveA look at the "idiosyncrasies of human behavior," Evil Ways of Love sends out so many mixed messages you'll be completely dizzy by the end. This pre-Deep Throat hardcore feature comes loaded with pilfered funk music and almost wall-to-wall narration rambling on about our main character, "Andrew W.," who went through a major life change "a few days after his fiancée jilted him for another guy." He's dumped his savings into a houseboat in Florida (called the "Evil Ways, thus the title) that's turned into a vehicle for him to seek gratification in the "arms of one girl after another." We start off with Andy bringing a blonde minx onto his boat so she can apparently straighten up the pretzel bags and lunch meat on his Formica dinner table, after which she jumps in the shower only to find him sprawled out naked and ready on the bed. She's more than willing to oblige, though our narrator has already labeled him as a "woman hater" and a "sadist" for reasons that never become remotely apparent. The narrator keeps claiming to be an impartial observer trying to understand this behavior but repeatedly turns on the subjects, especially when four additional party-goers show up to smoke pot on top of the boat. Naturally that leads to everyone swapping partners left and right until the 64-minute running time has been achieved, at which point the voiceover calls all these people "lost souls adrift on a sea of life" because sex without love is like "a boat without power." Err, okay. If you can get past the scolding soundtrack, this one's actually very entertaining with an avalanche of gaudy early '70s fashions and enormous hairstyles, some pretty decent sex scenes, and that aforementioned fuzz guitar-laced soundtrack (with a few cues that will sound pretty familiar to R&B fans). Though there are no credits whatsoever, this was inexplicably included (with eight minutes missing) as part of Alpha Blue Archives' Gerard Damiano triple feature with Meatball and Can't Get Enough; it's highly unlikely Damiano was behind the camera despite the Florida setting as it doesn't look or feel like his work at all. The 2015 Impulse DVD is taken from far better and more complete material; colors are quite good, and apart from some damage at the opening and closing and a couple of bumpy reel changes, it's in solid shape and correctly presented full frame. The sole extra is a 23-minute sampler of Impulse's extensive 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection line.


Come Under My SpellVinegar Syndrome continues to plumb the corners of the filmography of oddball porn director Carlos Tobalina (aka Troy Benny) with an offering of two of his more frivolous outings. Though the premise of 1981's Come Under My Spell could have been offensive, the treatment here is so silly and lighthearted you can't help but go along with it as a foreign exchange student, Fernando (Fernando Fortes, who usually worked behind the camera for Tobalina doing camera work or sound), deeply wants to score with women like his new buddy Dave (Blair Harris) but can't seem to find anyone willing to jump in the sack with him -- especially the sexy pizza delivery girl (Connie Peterson) with a "Tit for Tat" t-shirt who slaps a pizza pie in his face when he tries to cop a feel. At a used book store Dave Lady Dynamitecomes across a how-to manual on hypnotism, and it does the trick right away as Fernando mesmerizes the pizza girl and Dave into a threesome. From there things escalate through a string of carnal encounters to the big climax, a wedding reception in which Fernando poses as a wedding photographer to instigate a full-on hypnotized orgy. However, everything has a price and soon Fernando meets an unexpected fate complete with a hilarious "shock" ending. Fortes and Harris make for a fun team as Tobalina's typical overlit, flat photographic approach becomes an asset here with the anonymous hotel rooms and rented spaces turning into comic strip tableaux with the amusing, sexy encounters firing at a fast clip throughout the running time. Paired up on the same disc is Lady Dynamite, a vehicle for softcore starlet turned hardcore pro Colleen Brennan cast here as a ticked-off wife who learns she's contracted the clap from her two-timing husband (Shone Taylor). She decides to walk out on him and sow some wild oats herself, including a torrid session with one of her best friends (Harris again) on a boat, a lesbian orgy, and a living room free-for-all with some female pals and a bunch of male strippers. Can she go back to her old life again, or have things been changed forever? Basically this is a great showcase for Brennan, who's in virtually every scene and vivacious as always, and again it's all harmless fun complete with an infectious funky score. Tobalina also pops up in cameos in both films as a doctor, weirdly enough. Both transfer looks exceptional as usual with gorgeous color, satisfying 1.78:1 framing, crystal-clear mono soundtracks, and a slick appearance never bestowed on hardcore films in decades past on home video. Theatrical trailers are included for both films.


Ribald Tales of CanterburyFar Tastymore typical of '80s theatrical adult fare is Ribald Tales of Canterbury, a (comparatively) lavish production written by and starring Hypathia Lee and directed by the very prolific Bud Lee, her husband at the time. This was their second film together (following Tasty, which is also included on Vinegar Syndrome's DVD in what amounts to an unbilled double feature), and the 1985 film is a fun twist on the English lit staple (previously filmed as a scandalous art house comedy by Pier Paolo Pasolini) as a bunch of travelers to Canterbury swap dirty stories. Unsimulated sex aside, it's actually less raunchy than the source material as a group of travelers on a pilgrimage to Canterbury tell (and participate in) a variety of naughty stories, with a number of familiar faces popping up along the way. Both Lees appear (not together) along with Mike Horner (who gets the two best scenes, first with Debra Lee and then with Hypathia), Colleen Brennan again (in a scene-stealing bit as the Lady of Bath), Marc Wallice, Buffy Davis, Peter North, Josephine Carrington, Cheri Janvier, and Beverly Bliss. A nice, bouncy score helps things along, and the colorful costumes and fairly ambitious production design give it a nice, elegant ambiance, reminiscent of some of David F. Friedman's softcore period films from the previous two decades. Lots of fun to be had here. The old Caballero tape and DVD editions were nothing special with fuzzy detail and truly awful audio, but the Vinegar Syndrome disc does it right with a sparkling fresh transfer, proper framing, and a ton of great extras including a Bud Lee commentary moderated by the label's Joe Rubin (pretty much running through his relationship with Hypathia, anecdotes about pretty much every performer, and stories from the industry during this transitional period), plus a 10-minute video interview in which he talks about how Hypathia got into the industry as a dancer in Springfield, Illinois and some pretty funny stories ("Roooned!") about both films on this disc, including how "actor" Buster Cherry got his sole adult gig here. As for Tasty, it's an amusing little romp about a radio station called KNUT about to go under unless they come up with a radical change in format -- which comes when leading DJ Tasty Tastums (Hypathia) leads the charge in sex-oriented programming including love advice and on-air boinking. Basically it's an excuse for a bunch of free-form sex scenes with Stacey Donovan, Ashley Welles, the popular Kristara Barrington, Gail Force, Steve Drake, and Scott Irish, with Horner and Hypathia teaming up again (yet again for the best scene) for a crazy, neon-lit spoof of a Pat Benatar music video. Again the transfer looks immaculate and blows away those moldy old VHS copies by a few hundred miles.


Fast Cars Fast WomenAnd let's stick with the '80s a bit longer with one of the weirdest of Vinegar Syndrome's Peekarama double features, which encompasses the entire directorial output of one Scott McHaley. We begin with the ambitious car racing melodrama from 1981, Fast Cars Fast Women, which packs a whole lot of action (of all kinds) into 77 minutes. Kay Parker was at the peak of her post-Taboo career here when she starred as Molly, the queen bee of a group of female pro race car drivers including Casey (Carolyn Jackson) and Kristy (Sylvia Benedict). All three women are known to get in each other's pants, sometimes in the shower, but the local syndicate is putting pressure on them with sometimes deadly tactics to try to keep them in line. Meanwhile more than a few men get involved off the track including Kevin James (as the lucky mechanic), Starshp Erosa brief appearance by Bill Margold as the business suit-clad track manager, the legendary Ron Jeremy, and one-shot actor Rocky Balboa (where'd they get that name, hmm?), who deserved more of a career. The race sequences are actually pretty good, and it also offers a fascinating look at the sponsorship and compromises that go into surviving the sport with a nifty early feminist slant of sorts as well. This was issued on VHS from Essex and later bootlegged in ragged, censored form as part of an Alpha Blue Archives set dedicated to Parker. However, the Vinegar Syndrome disc is the one you want as it's complete, correctly framed, and looks gorgeous; there's also a trailer and whopping 16-minute reel of alternate softcore versions with different takes for most of the sex scenes. Also on the disc is McHaley's much weirder debut film, 1979's Starship Eros, which is even shorter (67 minutes) and belongs to that weird, surprisingly prolific subgenre of Star Wars porn imitations. This time we even have a C-3PO lookalike named Quasar, a robot aboard the title ship inhabited by an all-female crew in the futuristic year of 1995. Commander Lily Rodgers leaves behind her boyfriend (Mike Ranger) to explore the stars, as well as her shipmates like Becky Savage, Holly Joy, and Tara Flynn, with Quasar doing his duty when they need some variety. And... that's pretty much it. The whole thing is incredibly goofy and not exactly erotic unless you have a '70s George Lucas fetish; needless to say, the eccentricity value should make this one a hot commodity among collectors. This one's never hit home video at all before (probably due to that robot mask) but looks excellent here after some pretty tattered opening credits. The trailer is also included for this kooky rarity along with a 2-minute audio intro by producer Wesley Emerson for what seemed like a virtually lost item a few years ago.


Snow HoneysStretching the definition of a feature film to the breaking point is 1983's Snow Honeys, also released as Turbo Sex, which slaps together a bunch of loops tied together with a sort of framing device at a ski lodge. Both Ken Starbuck and Kara are tromping in the snow, clearly out of breath carrying their skis and trying to improvise as they talk to the camera about all the hot scenes in their new movie, which happens to have the exact title of the one you're watching. They're only getting ten bucks "and 900 deferred" for the project, which is then presented as a bunch of arbitrary scenes starting off with Rhonda Jo Petty and David Blair getting to it after some afternoon gardening. Two of those ubiquitous loops with Mike Horner as Superman (his logo slightly adjusted and name bleeped out a la Ms. Magnificent) are also included in all their idiotic glory, including a semi-roughie scene with Kandi Barbour and Horner being doubled by John Holmes in close ups. You also get a weirdly mean-spirited lesbian scene with Becky Savage ("Go ahead, dog breath!"), and a bunch of arbitrary cutaways to bits with Seka, Lysa Thatcher, Jesie St. James, Mike Ranger, Suzanne McBain, John Leslie, Desiree Cousteau, and more. It's all very disorienting, especially when Kara and Starbuck start talking without any audible dialogue as they're going to town inside the ski lodge, but the whole tapestry is fascinating as one way of cobbling together something from a lot of plotless short films. The Impulse disc features a reasonable transfer from a print that varies wildly depending on the source; the wraparound footage actually fares the worst as it looks like it was spliced in the middle of a garbage dump, while the recycled ones actually fare just fine.


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