The Swinging Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review from Arrow Video

The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) Arrow Blu-Ray Review

 

Kate, played by Jo Johnston, is a feminist, hippy, journalism student who infiltrates the schools cheerleading squad in order to write an expose The-Swinging-Cheerleaders-Arrow-Videoon the how cheerleading degrades women. While digging up dirt on the whole football/cheerleader culture she discovers a plot by the coach, the dean, and a math teacher to fix the games in order to win big money. Along the way Jo discovers that the cheerleaders aren’t all bimbos and realizes her hippy boyfriend is a scumbag.

I’m a big fan of Jack Hill. Spider Baby is one of my all time favorite movies. The Swinging Cheerleaders is a very different type of film. It fits in with the goofy sex comedy genre but unlike other classic sex comedies, such as Porky’s, there is much less emphasis on the sex. There is definitely a fair share of breast and we get a glimpse of male bush but that really isn’t what the movie is about. There is a great scene which Jack Hill talks about in the special feature in which one of the football jocks beats the snot out of a hippy. It’s quite The-Swinging-Cheerleadersamusing and very poorly choreographed.

The brand new 2K restoration from original film materials is decent but not great. A lot of the football scenes in the movie are particularly bad but I think this was probably just because how it was filmed. Overall nothing to write home about.

As for special features there is an audio commentary by writer-director Jack Hill, recorded exclusively for this release. Then we have a brand new 8 minute interview with Jack Hill in which he talks about his carrier. Nothing new here if you’re a fan of Mr. Hill but interesting for the casual viewer. Next up is an archive interview with cinematographer Alfred Taylor. This is extended parts of an interview he did for the Spider Baby DVD. It’s has some interesting facts but boy is he boring to listen to. There is also an archive interview with Hill and Johnny Legend. If you know and like Johnny Legend, then you won’t be disappointed by this. In true Johnny Legend form this interview is not very conventional and is basically a fan interviewing Jack Hill. It is also The-Swinging-Cheerleaders-reviewthe most interesting interview on the disc. Rounding out the special features is Q&A with Hill, and actors Colleen Camp and Rosanne Katon recorded at the New Beverly Cinema between a double bill of Switchblade Sisters and The Swinging Cheerleaders. The Q&A is quite interesting, but I recommend listening to it and not watching it. It is recorded from the audience with audience members frequently framing the screen and the shaky camera work which tends to get nauseating. Think of a parent filming their child’s recital while drunk. Also included on the disc are TV spots and the usual reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.

Overall the movie is goofy and is worth a watch if you’re a fan of the genre or a fan of Jack Hill but otherwise I’d say it’s safe to skip it. If you are a fan of Jack Hill, I highly recommend it just to see the range of filmmaking that Mr. Hill produced throughout his carrier.

 

-DeadRat

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Return of the Killer Tomatoes Arrow Video Blu-ray Review

Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)

 

I saw Attack of the Killer Tomatoes many years ago and don’t remember much about it other than not particularly liking it. As a result I didn’t go into this movie expecting much and even with my lowered expectations I was wildly disappointed by this movie.

unnamed (9)The movie takes place many years after the first one and the world is now tomatoes free and they are only available on the black market. A mad scientist (John Astin, The Adams Family 1964) has discovered a way to transform tomatoes into whatever sort of person he wants by adding some chemicals and playing music. He makes everything from huge shirtless Rambo types to his lovely assistant (Karen M. Waldor, Cannibal Woman in the Avocado Jungle of Death 1989) who eventually escapes and goes to a local pizza guy, Chad (Anthony Starke, Nowhere to Run 1993) for help.

I was immediately annoyed by the movie because it starts like a Creature Feature or Elvira movie with a host introducing the film. This gimmick is rarely done well and unfortunately it was not accomplished here. After the opening shenanigans we get to the actual movie and it starts off somewhat promising but never ends up pulling off what it was trying to accomplish. And unlike its predecessor, unfortunately, there is no giant killer tomatoes.

Really the best part of the movie is George Clooney who plays Chad’s best friend. It’s amusing to see him so young and with such a ridiculous hair cut but it’s also seems like he had fun making the movie.

The 2k transfer is good but it’s really nothing to write home about. There a few overly grainy parts and I probably wouldn’t have killertom5noticed so much if I had actually been enjoying the movie.

This disc is not heavy on the special features but we get a brand new audio commentary with writer-director John De Bello and a brand new interview with star Anthony Starke. The interview with Anthony Starke was an incredibly pointless interview that really just had him talking about hanging out with George Clooney. It also comes with a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin and a fully-illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver.

Overall this is my least favorite Arrow release and one I most certainly won’t watch again. Again, I don’t really remember the first one but I imagine that if you liked that one you’ll probably get a kick out of this one. Otherwise I’d steer clear of this release and that pains me to say because I so truly love Arrow’s releases.

 

-DeadRat

John Carpenter Vinyl Review from Sacred Bones Records

Assault on Precinct 13/The Fog

Halloween/Escape from New York

Sacred Bones Records

2016

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John Carpenter is easily considered to be one of the greatest directors of all time. It is an earned reputation, as he has shown that he can make amazing horror, action, and sci-fi films. Sure some of his later films were a little off (to put it nicely), but his hits make up for those.

As renown as his films are, his film scores are equally as impressive. I’ll never forget the first time I rented Halloween, and hearing the theme song for the first time. I knew I was watching something great, based on the opening music.

Recently John Carpenter and a live band, have gone on tour performing these classic themes, along with new stuff from the Lost Themes albums. I (and Exorcast CEO The Beard), got to see his stop in Pittsburgh. The performance was great, and getting there was an adventure.

To celebrate John Carpenter performing live, Sacred Bones Records has released two 12 inch singles, Assault on Precinct 13/The Fog and Halloween/Escape from New York.

Both singles are available in three flavors: a picture disc, black vinyl, and colored vinyl. The colored vinyl for Halloween sold out really fast, so I picked up the black vinyl for that release, and got the colored vinyl for Assault on the Fog.

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Both releases are played at 45 rpm, and sound great. Everything sounds clean and crisp. Both Assault and The Fog sound really close to their original score. They both sound more fuller, but it isn’t a drastic change. The same can be said for Escape from New York. Halloween on the other hand, really benefits the strongest from the band.

There has been some terrible renditions of the Halloween theme over the years, like the rock guitar version in the theatrical part 6, or the orchestra version in H20. Neither worked, but with this release, this is the best Halloween has ever sounded. Yeah, even against the original. The theme really benefits from the dual keyboard approach and added drums. I don’t know the extent of Carpenter’s involvement in the new Halloween, but they must use this version of the theme.

Even though the other themes don’t sound that different, that doesn’t mean there isn’t improvements. Escape has always been a bluesy rock track, but now is more dynamic. The Fog is just as creepy as it was in the film. Like Halloween, Assault comes in with a two keyboard attack and drums.

The packaging is also very well done. The front and back show a different image related to one of the films, done in black and shiny silver.

So with these being the best sound versions of the themes, these releases are a must have right? Yes and no.

These were both released on the same day and are a little expensive. Preordering I was able to get them for around $16 each. That comes out to $8 a song. Personally, I didn’t notice anything that really would have hurt these being combined into one release. They were selling different colored editions of these singles at the concert, but were $20 each. I know vinyl isn’t cheap, but I just want to give everyone a heads up what is on these.

So again while these are phenomenal releases, they are pricey, but they are the best sounding versions of the themes. While I don’t regret picking these up, and will get others if they are released, just know you can get the Lost Themes I or II for $19 each on Amazon. Those have more tracks and are longer length releases.

If you do pick these up, you will not be disappointed. Also if you get a chance to see Carpenter in concert, definitely don’t pass that up.

-Dance Commander Matt Hatfield

When not reading Sutter Cane or Exorcast reviews, you should read my Twitter feed @cerial442.

Blood Bath Blu-ray Review from Arrow Video

Blood Bath Arrow Video Blu-Ray Review

Arrow Video has really blown me away with another incredible release. This isn’t just a set of four movies but it tell’s the crazy story of Roger Corman taking one movie and spawning three from it.

hqdefault-2Disc 1 (Operation Titan & Portrait in Terror)

First up is Operation Titan which is the film that started it all. It’s basically an art heist/murder mystery with not much to offer. It is fairly well made, but really nothing special. I really understand why Roger Corman wasn’t happy with this movie because it never would have survived at the drive-in and as a result it would make him very little money. This brings us to the next incarnation of the film, Portrait in Terror, which is a re-cut of Operation Titan that has a new score and some added scenes.

 

Disc 2 (Blood Bath & Track of the Vampire)

Blood Bath is where the film transforms into some great shlock. This movie was the result of giving the movie to Jack Hill (Spider Baby, 1967)
and then to Stephanie Rothman (
Terminal Island, 1973). Jack Hill made a rough cut of the movie and then it was handed over to Stephanie Rothman. The movie has nothing to do with Operation Terror and Portrait of Terror and are only connected by the footage that was reused and some of the same actors. Instead of a whodunit, the movie has been transformed into a bizarre and campy vampire flick and in true Jack Hill form, he cast Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects, 2003) in a role. Interspersed with the vampire story is some amusing and very tongue in cheek scenes of beatnik artists trying out some new forms of painting. Sid Haig plays one of the beatniks and is really the highlight oblood-bath1f those scenes.

What spawned from Blood Bath was Track of the Vampire, which was the extended TV cut of the film. A few parts are taken out, but much more is added. Blood Bath runs only 62 minutes while Track of the Vampire clocks in at about 80 minutes. This cut of the film makes it a bit more ridiculous than Blood Bath. The best example of this would be the incredibly bizarre chase scene that turns into an underwater vampire attack.  It’s unintentionally funny and goes on for what
seems like forever. It is by far the best scene of aquatic blood sucking that I’ve ever witnessed.

Arrow really doesn’t mess around with the special features on this set. Portrait in Terror, Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire all have brand new 2K restorations that all look quite good. Operation Titan has been reconstructed with original film materials and standard definition inserts so it understandably has the worst picture quality out of the bunch. Although the picture is overall rather impressive, the sound is not. There is some aggressive background static throughout.

The first special feature in this set is, The Trouble with Titian Revisited. It is a brand new visual essay by Tim Lucas about the history and production of all four films. This feature is truly great, and not just a half assed featurette. Mr. Lucas originally penned a three part article in Video Watchdog and has now turned it into a feature length documentary. It’s incredibly interesting and informative that goes in depth about the production, complete with side by side shot comparison. The amount of information and insight in this documentary rivals many film images-2classes I’ve taken.

Next up is a very short interview with Sid Haig called Bathing in Blood that was recorded for this release. This interview is so short that it’s almost unnecessary. But if you’re into hearing Sid Haig talk very quietly than check it out. We also get an even shorter archive interview with Jack Hill.

As part of the limited box set you get a beautiful double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artworks and a great limited edition booklet containing new writing on the film and its cast by Peter Stanfield, Anthony Nield, Vic Pratt and Cullen Gallagher. There is also Outtakes from Track of the Vampire, scanned from original film materials and the usual reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford.

I can’t recommend this set enough. Weather you’re a fan of Corman or Jack Hill, a fan of cheesy vampire movies, or just interested in a truly unique piece of film history, this set is for you. For about $35, you get 4 movies plus a feature length documentary. Blood Bath and the documentary alone are worth the money. And I implore you to pick up the limited set because the poster and book are very much worth it.

 

-DeadRat

Taxi Driver LP Rewiew from Wax Work Records

Taxi Driver

Waxwork Records

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We are in a vinyl resurgence, but it has been going on longer than you think. Especially if you are into punk and hardcore. The soundtrack boom however, is more recent. One of the label’s that had a hand in this is Waxwork Records. I learned about Waxwork due to their Chopping Mall release. I’m not a fan of the film, but the artwork and the hot pink colored record, felt like something I must have. That’s what made me a fan of theirs, and currently own all of their releases.

Waxwork as a label has gotten bigger and bigger. Having released soundtracks for films such as Friday the 13th, Trick ‘r Treat, and Goosebumps. Another huge release for them is the subject of this review, the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece Taxi Driver.

The Taxi Driver score is conducted by Bernard Herrmann, famously known for his score to Psycho. Taxi Driver was his final score before his death. The score is haunting and really adds to the despair we experience with Travis Bickle. It’s downbeat and ominous, and really sets the tone of the film. While it is not really a soundtrack you would put on for a fun listening evening, it is great to listen to on a rainy somber day, waiting for the sun to shine.

This release from Waxwork shows why they are one of the best soundtrack companies around. The score is presented on two LPs, each being image3-2180g. This was released on two different color options; a taxi cab yellow, and a white, yellow, and black tri-color. The tri-color one is the one I picked up, but both look amazing. The release sound really good, as well. Many will argue over the benefits of 180g vinyl, but I’m in the camp that states it does sound better. It sounds clean, real clean. Clean like my conscience.

In addition, this is the first time the score has been released in it’s entirety on vinyl.

So with the complete score, great sound, and a good looking LP, that should be enough right. Waxwork always goes above and beyond for their releases, and this one is no different. The artwork was done image2-2by Rich Kelly. We get gatefold artwork depicting one of the more bloodier scenes, that would be great on it’s own as a poster. Finally, we get liner notes by Martin Scorsese himself.

So listen you screwheads, if you are a fan of the film, you need this release in your collection. This is the definitive version of the soundtrack, it sounds great and has fantastic artwork. Suck on this.

Buy it here: http://waxworkrecords.com/products/taxi-driver

 

-Dance Commander Matt Hatfield

By the time you read this, I will hopefully not be dead. You can also listen to me twice a month on the CinemaVillainy podcast.

@cerial442

Hired to Kill Blu-ray Review from Arrow Video

Hired to Kill (1990) Arrow Video Blu-ray Review

 

Mercenary, Frank Ryan, played by Brian Thompson (Cobra, X-Files) is a no frills badass that doesn’t take shit from anyone. He is hired by an old associate, played by George Kennedy (Naked Gun, Cool Hand Luke), to lead a team to travel to Cypra and rescue a prisoner. This mission is unlike any other mission that frank has carried out; he will have to pose as a gay fashion designer and his team will be seven lethal ladies posing Hired to Killas fashion models. When Frank and his team arrive they are faced with a rather unusual and ruthless leader, Michael Baratos, played by Oliver Reed (Venom, The Brood). Together, Frank and his team reap chaos on all whom cross them.

Every time I watch a Nico Mastorakis movie he moves up a few places on my list of favorite directors. This movie has everything you could want in an early 90’s over the top action flick. It has a freakishly muscly leading man who frequently isn’t wearing a shirt, lots of guns, nudity and explosions, and some insanely ridiculous lines. There is also Oliver Reed, with one of the best mustaches in the history of cinema.

This movie really puts a spotlight on the fact that Brian Thompson should have stared in more cheesy action pictures. He really shines in the role and it would have been great to see him mugging in the lead of action films. The movie also highlights Nico Mastorakis’ ability to make the best of every penny of his relatively small budget. Granted this is a larger budget than Mr. Mastorakis was used to, it wasn’t much imagescompared to more popular action movies of the era. And even with the non-stellar budget, he managed to make it look as good as movies with twice the money.

Another thing I like about this movie is how they handled Frank Ryan pretending to be gay. They really could have played it as offensive but Instead of him acting like a stereotypical effeminate gay guy, he was just gay. He acted the same as before but now he just pretended to like men. The only time his homosexuality comes into play is an incredible scene with Oliver Reed, where they end up kissing. So I give props to Mr. Mastorakis for keeping it classy.

hiredblu00004As we’ve become accustom to, Arrows new 2K restoration of the film looks incredible. The restoration was approved by Mr. Mastorakis so I guess we can expect great quality. The blu-ray also features an audio commentary with the editor of the film, Barry Zeltin, an interview with Brian Thompson, the film trailer, still gallery, reversible cover sleeve, original screenplay and a fully illustrated booklet with new writing by critic James Oliver. But of all the special features, by far the best is “Hired to Direct” which is an almost half hour long featurette of Nico Mastorakis talking about the making of the film. The featurette is very informative and interesting and you really get the idea of how much he cares about his films. I really could watch Mr. Mastorakis talk about his movies all day.

This movie is a must for any fan of cheesy action movies, Nico Mastorakis or Arrow Video because it really showcases all three areas. I really hope that Arrow continues to release more of Nico Mastorakis’ movies and it’d be really swell if they did a box set with some of his lesser-known titles and included an entire bonus disc of interviews with him. So go buy a copy and watch it ASAP.

 

-DeadRat

The Zero Boys. Arrow Video Blu-ray Review

The Zero Boys (1986) Arrow Video Blu-ray (2016) 

Directed by: Nico Mastorakis

Starring: Kelli Maroney, Daniel Hirsch, Tom Shell & Nicole Rio

The Zero Boys are ragtag group of paintballers who take their sport very seriously. The film opens with a very dramatic battle scene between The Zero Boys and their rivals in a staged battleground. After their glorious victory, The Zero Boys and their female companions head to the the_zero_boyswoods for a bit of drinking, practice and relaxation. Just as they start settling in, one of them sees a girl running through the woods and the group goes to investigate. They come across a creepy cabin and soon they realize that they will be facing off against their deadliest enemy yet.

I love Nico Mastorakis first film, Island of Death, but I had never seen The Zero Boys. The films are very different and if you go into this thinking you’re going to get Island of Death than you’ll be disappointed. That being said, this movie was great. I knew nothing about the movie before I started watching it and based on the main menu on the Blu-ray I was expecting an action movie so when the slashing began I 1461524731_2was pumped. The movie is almost Red Dawn meets Friday the 13th and yes, that’s as awesome as it sounds. There is almost no blood in the movie yet still manages to be quite brutal. The acting is also above par for this sort of flick. It’s nothing great but it’s not the usual crap you come to expect from 80s slasher movies. Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet) is not surprisingly the best of the protagonist and Joe Estevez (Beach Babes from Beyond) plays a really great psycho.

As for the special features, there’s a brand new 2K restoration of the film, approved by writer-director Nico Mastorakis. The transfer is good,
but not great. Most of the move is clear and sharp but then there are scenes which are very grainy. If it was consistently grainy than it wouldn’t be as bad but the stark contrast between the scenes can be somewhat distracting. There is an audio commentary with star Kelli Maroney, 1461524731_1moderated by Shock Till You Drop’s Chris Alexander which I will most definitely be listening to in the near future. The best special feature is, Nico Mastorakis on… Nico Mastorakis, which is Mr. Mastorakis interviewing himself. It’s a little under a half hour long and it is as informative as it is bizarre. There are also brand new interviews with stars Kelli Maroney and Nicole Rio. And then we have the usual theatrical trailer, stills gallery, fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys.

This release is definitely worth your time and money. Mastorakis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite directors and hopefully Arrow will continue their great treatment of his movies.


-DeadRat