DECEMBER 27, 2016

Killer RackIt's hard to believe we've recently had not one but two goofy horror movies about breast implants run amuck, but here we are. Following the release of the micro-budgeted Bangin' Vengeance, the more ambitious Killer Rack marks the return of Slime City filmmaker Gregory Lamberson with even less money to work with than usual. Plastic surgeon Cate Thulu (har har), played by Debbie Rochon, is up to something nasty, which we can deduce right away when she walks out of her office (with a torn piece of notebook paper with "Plastic Surgeon" scrawled on it taped to the door) spattered with blood and ranting in Lovecraftian fashion about how she's going to unleash demons upon the world. Enter Betty (Jessica Zwolak), who keeps a boob chart in her apartment to keep track of her many bust-increasing tactics that never seem to work. Her boyfriend Dutch (director Sam Qualiana) is none too bright and stays surrounding by busty babes at his strip club, while her shrink (Lloyd Kaufman, actually acting here) tries to give her self-image a boost when she keeps getting passed over for promotions at work. Soon she's on the operating table getting new implants at the hands of the mad doctor, and when Dutch tries to cop a feel when she gets back home, he gets a bloody surprise that's just the first in an ongoing rampage of mammarian monstrosities. Intentionally absurd and packed with silly breast puns, this is SOV horror filmmaking at its nuttiest with a script that manages to differentiate itself from the average Troma film thanks to some wittier than usual banter and running gags. The Camp Motion Pictures DVD features as good a transfer as you could expect for a bargain basement production like this, and it's packed with amusing extras including a commentary with Lamberson, Zwolak, writer/actor Paul McGinnis, and producer Rod Durick, who chat quite a bit about the Buffalo, New York shoot while pointing out plenty of in-jokes and covering the inventive special effects combining conventional and CGI effects. A lovably ridiculous 18-minute featurette covers some behind-the-scenes highlights (including that kitschy musical number), while other extras include four quick deleted scenes, a 16-minute "Kill the Bitch" short film (also with Zwolak and McGinnis), a 3-minute "The Camper" short (more of a faux trailer), and a batch of bonus trailers including Slime City, Alone in the Ghost House, Babysitter Massacre, The Basement, Call Girl of Cthulhu, and Scarewaves. Buy from Diabolik

The Jigsaw MurdersRoger Corman's New Concorde didn't try to go upscale too often, but one of their few attempts came in 1989 with the The Jigsaw Murders, a gimmicky mystery that beat out the whole erotic thriller and serial killer crazes of the early '90s by a couple of years. Very weathered TV star Chad Everett (Medical Center) gets top billing here as Detective DaVonzo, who's assigned to a string of murders with dismembered body parts mimicking a puzzle the cops have to use as the primary clue. DaVonzo's partner, Elliott (Michael Sabatino), does a lot of footwork interviewing various leads, while Yaphet Kotto shows up in a glorified cameo as a forensics doctor. The real bright spot here is Michelle Johnson, best known for her sexy debut in Blame It on Rio and her turn in Waxwork, as Everett's daughter, who's involved with a local cheesecake photographer and has more of a tie to the mystery than either of them realize. Lots of cop procedural scenes here keep this from turning into the sleazy American pseudo-giallo you'd expect from the subject matter (the murders are pretty much off screen, sadly, though there is some T&A in those photo sessions), but it all leads to a pretty lively, cut-rate finale at a creek with lots of ridiculous emoting from all of the leads. This one looked pretty cheap and hazy when it first bowed on VHS and was promptly forgotten, but fortunately the fresh HD transfer from Code Red improves things considerably with a slick, colorful presentation that makes the film a bit more enjoyable to sit through. Extras include the theatrical trailer and a "Katarina's Bucket List" mode with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters trying to put a puzzle together and firing out facts about the film including its director, Jag Mundhra, who had done the little horror film Open House and would go on to do such erotic thriller VHS favorites as Night Eyes. Buy from Code Red

The Curse of Doctor WolffensteinThe bizarre state of modern European horror has led to a lot of gory shot-on-video oddities, and to that long list you can now add The Curse of Doctor Wolffenstein. There's certainly some novelty to be found in a small German town setting as the backdrop for a cross between a Paul Naschy-style monster film and a bloody slasher flick, with some partying teens out for a romp in the countryside on the way to a warehouse party as they do shots, make out, and walk in on each other finding creative uses for giant fistfuls of lotion. However, thanks to a car breakdown, they end up stranded in that village where the titular Dr. Wolffenstein has been harvesting victims for decades after an experimental immortality serum resulted in the nasty side effect of his limbs rotting and falling off. Since then he's needed a fresh supply of body parts, which he harvests with his female helper by tying victims to the wall and removing bits and pieces. Very grubby lab scenes, explicit unflattering nudity, lots of screaming, and plenty of practical gooey effects soon ensue. The end result plays like an even gorier (and, at 115 minutes, longer) version of the Hatchet series, with all the pros and cons that entails, so judge accordingly. (For you German gore fans, keep an eye out for a cameo by Olaf Ittenbach, too.) Reel Gore's Blu-ray/DVD set is up to their usual lavish standards for films you wouldn't expect to deserve it, complete with a glossy transfer, a solid German language track with English subtitles, and extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette, a blooper reel, the trailer, a production and promotional gallery, and a bonus short film, "Trapped and Stabbed." Buy from Diabolik

Acapulco GoldOne of the least likely movie stars of the drive-in heyday in the mid-'70s was Marjoe Gortner, a charismatic, curly-haired young evangelist who headlined an Oscar-winning documentary and then went on to star in such films as Earthquake, The Food of the Gods, and Starcrash. His bug-eyed, intense acting style seems worlds away from what we're used to today, which makes his starring vehicles all the more fascinating now. Case in point: Acapulco Gold, a loose and breezy PG-rated comic action film about pot smuggling in Hawaii. The vibe here feels like a less T&A-obsessed Andy Sidaris film with Marjoe starring as Ralph Holyoake, an L.A. insurance salesman on vacation who gets erroneously ID'd as a drug smuggler. Twenty millions dollars' worth of the titular (real) strain of weed is what's at stake as here when he's framed by a nun(!) at a Mexican airport who asks him to transport a piñata filled with smack, which leads to a brief gunfight and lots of confusion. Now some real smugglers want to get that valuable stash from Hawaii to Mexico, with Ralph used a distraction for the feds to get it through after he does a stint in the slammer. Randi Oakes (future star of CHiPS) provides the obligatory eye candy for what amounts to a nice vacation for everyone involved, complete with a fun soft rock soundtrack by Craig Safan (who went on to score Angel and The Last Starfighter). This one's been available on home video on and off for years including a mediocre full frame DVD from Trinity, but the best-looking edition by far is the limited Code Red Blu-ray featuring a fresh, very vibrant widescreen transfer from what appears to be the immaculate original negative. Director Burt Brickerhoff appears for a 13-minute featurette looking back at the making of the film, with the rest of the disc filled out with trailers for Running Scared, The Devastator, The Sicilian Connection, and (of course) Family Honor. Buy from Screen Archives or Code Red

WeedSexual Encounter GroupSpeaking of ganja, you'll find out more than every thought you'd know about it in Weed, the headliner of a Vinegar Syndrome triple feature spotlighting the early documentaries of adult filmmaker Alex de Renzy. A heavily edited 97-minute version of the 1972 film premiered on DVD as a watermarked co-feature on Something Weird's release of The Acid Eaters, but this is the full, unexpurgated version at last with a fresh new transfer (1.33:1 as originally shot, though keep your remote handy as it's flagged for 16:9 playback). From an opening showing a government commission doing a study on the effects of cannabis to a string of interviews about "the grass story" with various users, dealers, vets, anti-war protestors, and other folks on the street. Lots of coverage about it's farmed, smoked, and distributed makes this a fascinating film that's about as far from exploitation as you can get and proof that de Renzy was much more than your average pornographer at heart. It's actually a bit surprising this got released considering how much it shows about getting pot past customs safeguards, though of course that info is way out of date now (and almost irrelevant given how fast legalization is taking effect). The two-DVD set continues with a pair of earlier examples of de Renzy's more sexual documentaries including 1972's Innocents Abroad (also shown as Innocence Abroad), which plays like a white coater look at the sex industry throughout Europe. The title doesn't even appear until a third of the way through the 94-minute feature, which kicks off with interminable dark, muddy footage of a live sex show before finally zipping all over Holland, France, and other countries, occasionally touching on how local pot-smoking kids and stranded Americans can get pulled into the lifestyle. The weirdest moment comes late in the film with a balcony-eye view of a stage show involving a naked woman chained to a curtain next to a fake skeleton, which is about as random as everything else on display here. Far more focused in de Renzy's earliest surviving film, 1970's Sexual Encounter Group, a peek at a California sex therapy group with a bunch of free love practitioners lounging around a pool, chatting about the issues of the day, and, after clambering up the noisiest wooden stairs in history, getting sex tips through a variety of exercises and "sensitivity drills" under the guidance of future Behind the Green Door star George S. McDonald. This one's actually quite the fun time capsule as it introduces most of the participants and gradually builds up to the big encounter session, in which the wall-to-wall nudity segues into hardcore for a few minutes. Unfortunately the majority of the soundtrack no longer exists, so the last hour or so is scored with tracks used in the director's other films. It's a shame given that the flower power lingo here is a lot of fun judging from what remains, but this is still a welcome title to have with a shockingly good transfer for what could have easily been an entirely lost film. Buy from Diabolik

The Dead RoomJust barely clocking in long enough to qualify as a modern feature film is the New Zealand horror offering The Dead Room, which flings just about every ghost story cinematic trick at the wall over its 78 minutes of existence. Mostly shot handheld with an aggressively manipulative sound mix, it's the tale of a supposedly haunted farmhouse where a raven-haired psychic named Holly (Laura Petersen) arrives with a pair of doubting researchers (Jed Brophy and Jeffrey Thomas). The first hour or so follows their spooky investigations of the property with observations like "The air feels different," in between random house shaking and banging. Though it doesn't try to revinvent the wheel, the film does pay off with some entertaining ghost/demonic gags leading to an ambiguous ending that will either delight or infuriate most viewers. Considering the vast majority of the film is restricted to only three actors, it's a fascinating experiment soaked in atmosphere that aims higher than usual and makes for an efficient time waster if you want something eerie that won't require a terribly strict attention span. The IFC Midnight acquisition looks great on Scream Factory's Blu-ray release, which features a wonderfully immersive sound mix; the only relevant extra is the original theatrical trailer. Buy from Amazon

Carnage ParkAnother IFC Midnight / Scream Factory release that pushes the definition of horror a bit further is Carnage Park, which relocates the '70s backwoods survival shocker to the sun-parched desert courtesy of writer/director Mickey Keating (who followed this up with the very different Polanski homage, Darling). Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills) has a limited but juicy role as a psychopathic sniper who sets his sights on the newest arrivals in the isolated title region, a pair of failed bank robbers and their hostage, Vivian (Ashley Bell), who ends up locked in a duel to the death in the middle of nowhere. (Yep, it's the same crime movie turned horror film switcheroo seen in From Dusk Till Dawn and Witching and Bitching.) Again this one doesn't really offer a new spin on the material per se (though it tries with some odd time-jumping trickery), but some committed acting and stylish scope photography make this a minor but diverting movie equivalent of a cheap, puddle-deep pulp novel. It's also a nice showcase for Bell, who does some fine scream queening here and could really excel in a slasher throwback movie if some casting director felt so inclined. The Blu-ray edition of this film (also available on DVD) looks as striking as you'd expect, with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 English audio (with optional English or Spanish subs) keeping you on your toes with sniper bullets popping out of the rear channels when you least expect it. (A 2.0 option is also included, but it's way less fun.) The sole extra is the theatrical trailer. Buy from Amazon

The Exotic Dances of Bettie PageSince the home video renaissance of burlesque films, the reigning queen of vivacious peek-a-boo kink has undeniably been the cheerful and intensely sexy Bettie Page. Some of her work for photographer Irving Klaw is commemorated in HD with The Exotic Dances of Bettie Page, a compendium with titles like "Return of Teaser Girl," "Betty's Clown Dance" (which finds her gyrating with a creepy clown doll), "Waltzing in Satin Scanties," "Tamourine Dance," and "Betty's Lingerie Tease Dance." The 8mm films have all been newly transferred, meaning they look about as good as they could for scrappy cheap short films, including two reels of dance shorts separated between the more demure lingerie-oriented ones and the naughtier topless and less covered ones. Also included is the 22-minute "Bettie Page Uncovered: The Private Life & Photographs" conversation with Page's nephew, Ron Brem, shot in Florida at a photo exhibit with a discussion about her personal life outside of the photographer's camera. A hi-res photo gallery also covers some of Page's variety of work including some of those trademark light bondage and spanking shots. The Blu-ray from Cult Epics is packaged as usual in an embossed slipcase. Buy from Amazon

Orgy of the DollsDrawing clear inspiration from Joe Sarno's Young Playthings, the '70s storefront XXX cheapie Orgy of the Dolls is the kind of thing that must have had raincoat crowds scratching their heads instead of their crotches. Clocking in just under an hour, it's an odd little smutty fantasy about a magical shop whose owner, "The Professor," lures in young women to turn into props at his doll shop where all of the ceramic inhabitants occasionally come to life and indulge in various sexual scenarios. The sight of people in rouge and doll costumes having orgies on the floor of what looks like a giant doll house is certainly a novelty, and its presentation here from After Hours is certainly a welcome (albeit still splicey) upgrade from the rare VHS edition that popped up in the early '80s. The film is paired up as part of a double featured (presented by 42nd Street Pete, complete with liner notes) with the far more anonymous Bordello Girls, another storefront quickie about a brothel whose madam (billed as Mimi Douché) gets off on shooting Super 8 records of her clients' sexual encounters, mostly performed by no-names apart from Shaun Costello. Previously released from Something Weird as part of its Dragon Art Theatre series (paired up with the superior The Best of Everything), this is an utterly anonymous but not unenjoyable programmer with wall-to-wall sex scenes and a little bit of meta commentary when the possibility of using the filmed sessions (which appear to be old loops anyway, including appearances by John Leslie and Darby Lloyd Rains) as releases on the adult film market. As usual the release comes with a huge batch of promos for other 42nd Street Pete and After Hours release. Buy from Amazon

Private PrivateAnother dose of 42nd Street Pete can be found in the two-disc 42nd Street Pete's Dirty Movies set, a compendium of storefront features and random odds and ends. It's confusingly labeled as 42nd Street Pete's Sleazy Grindhouse Vol. 2 on the actual menu screens, which means this was probably listed under that title before someone noticed another, completely different release had already gotten that name instead. Things kick off with the weirdest and most interesting film, Bananas, which uses banjo-pluckin' country music and exotic European standards to accompany the exploits of a guy cutting a porno movie at home on his Moviola. A blonde nymph shows up and goes for his boxers just as he's getting worked up by his day job, only for his wife to come home and spoil the fun after her grocery shopping. Or does she? Random sex scenes ensue involving the wife, "my wife's little kid sister" (who also gets ID'd as her "babysitter" for some reason), and a sex scene on top of a commuter plane before the narrator promises further adventures of our hero, "Johnny Gonad." It's pretty repugnant as far as sex film material goes (wait till you see how they explain the title), but as a wacko '70s film with a soundtrack bordering on the avant garde, it's pretty wild. Something Weird issued this is very damaged form as a Dragon Art Theatre double feature with Inside Pussycat, but this fresh transfer is much, much better with actual color. Next up is Party Games, a retitling of the plotless film Games Adults Play. It's one of several orgy quickies made by early '70s adult regular Tommy Toole (see also The Group and Turn-On Orgy) as a couple of one-on-one sessions at a suburban house turn into a dozen people or so rutting on the carpet in the living room. Scored with pseudo-Burt Bacharach music, it's definitely not a look at real swingers (as Pete postulates in his intro) but a pretty typical homemade project from the industry's early feature days. An 18-minute "Outtake Orgy" is a bonus batch of silent outtakes from a softcore film featuring Uschi Digart doing what she does best. Private Private was one of the earliest Something Weird Dragon Art Theatre staples (paired up with Tender Flesh), and here it gets a fresh but still battered transfer with some footage missing from the beginning and ending. It also has what looks like a completely unrelated loop involving a crystal ball fortune teller and an interracial orgy spliced in at the beginning, which is made even more confusing by Pete's intro in which he calls this a "lost" film now presented on "volume one" of the Sleazy Grindhouse series. Confused yet? Anyway, the movie itself features Ric Lutze (funnier than usual) as a private eye with the munchies who gets lured by a femme fatale (Rene Bond) into a scam involving a bank heist and blackmail. 1971's Weekend Roulette is another oddball early porn effort about a neighborhood where everyone seems to take turns hooking up with each other all day, from a tryst in a swimming pool to a lesbian couch session to some loving in kitchen. It all turns out to be a prelude to a big swingers' party that night where everyone plays strip poker and then plays a variation on truth or dare on a big Twister board in between sex sessions and stag movie screenings, leading up to a really unpleasant twist ending. Finally you get a short film called "Breakfast in Bed," which is basically two silent loops slapped together for a 28-minute short. Buy from Diabolik or Amazon

Silk Satin & SexThe ongoing line of Vinegar Syndrome Peekarama double features soldiers on with one of its least plot-heavy releases to date, starting off with the self-explanatory Silk, Satin & Sex (or as it's called on screen, Silk Satin Sex) from 1983. Vanessa Del Rio pretty much steals the show (as she tends to do) in this sort-of anthology about a lingerie company where the newest door-to-door sales ladies get together to swap stories about how sexy undies turned their love lives upside down in the best way possible. And that's about it. Body painting, hypnosis, and amateur burglary figure in the spicy scenarios with other participants including Jessie St. James, Tiffany Clark, Mai Lin (who really gets into her bathtub scene here), and the usual male suspects including Jerry Butler and Paul Thomas. The film by "Lawrence Talbot" (ha ha) isn't shot with the greatest visual sense but it looks pretty solid on this DVD release, with the theatrical trailer thrown in as an extra. Rounding out the double feature is the straight-to-video Turn On with Kelly Nichols, in which the porn vet and star of The Toolbox Murders gives sex tips with the aid of her sex-positive buddies giving demonstrations amidst a record amount of soft filtering and gauzy video effects. Also directed by Talbot, it plays like a more explicit version of those Playboy "couples" VHS releases that crowded shelves back in the '80s with other stars like Taija Rae giving their all, or at least as much as you can tell through the fuzzy photography. Buy from Diabolik


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