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

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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

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

Sheba, Baby Arrow Video Blu-ray Review

Sheba, Baby (1975) Arrow Video Blu-ray (2016)

Directed by: William Girdler

Starring: Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, D’Urville Martin & Rudy Challenger

Private detective, Sheba (Pam Grier), comes back to her hometown to discover that her father’s business is being threatened by mobsters. Not one to take things lying down, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

IMG_5248Anyone who knows me knows that I love films with women who kick ass and Pam Grier happens to be one of the most kick ass women in the history of cinema. Before watching Arrow’s Blu-ray release I had never seen Mrs. Grier’s exploits in high definition so needless to say, I had high hopes for the transfer and boy IMG_5250they did not disappoint. The transfer is immaculate and is what we’ve come to expect from Arrow.

I liked this movie but it wouldn’t make it into my top five favorite Pam Grier movies. My main complaint would have to be that there isn’t quite enough action and not enough of Mrs. Grier. I don’t mean that there’s not enough screen time, it’s just that she’s not cracking enough heads or blasting suckers away with various over the top guns. There are a few great scenes, like when she wins a fight by hitting her opponent in the face with a pie and then jumping off a boat, but there just isn’t enough of it for my taste.

IMG_5249The special features for this release are not that awe inspiring either. There’s a very short featurette called Pam Grier: The AIP Years that is a look at Mrs. Grier carrier but if you’re a fan of Grier you are probably already familiar with the information presented in it. There’s also an audio commentary with producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson and a brand new interview with David Sheldon. And rounding off the special features there’s the trailer, image gallery, booklet featuring new writing on the film and a reversible sleeve with newly commissioned art by Sean Phillips.

This is the first Arrow release that I can’t fully get behind. I won’t go as far as saying that you should stay away from it but if you buy just one Pam Grier film released by Arrow I’d say go with Black Mama, White Mama.


-DeadRat

Vinegar Syndrome’s Pigs Blu-ray Review

PIGS (1972) from Vinegar Syndrome

Directed by: Marc Lawerence

Starring: Toni Lawrence, Marc Lawrence & Jesse Vint

 

I can recall going into Leisure Time Video as a kid with my father and always seeing the artwork of the Pigs VHS on the shelf and never being allowed to rent it. Twenty some years later and I have finally gotten the chance to see this flick thanks to the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome. I had always assumed that it was filled with Pigs eating people and I am sure my father did too which is probably why he never let me rent it, FullSizeRender-4which turns out really isn’t what was going on in Marc Lawrence’s film.

Zambrini owns a pig farm and roadside café. He is an oddball that isn’t very liked by the people in the town. He is a former circus performer who died in an act and came back to life. He hasn’t been completely normal since then. His two neighbors are tormented by his pigs and claim that they have witnessed Zambrini feeding dead bodies to his pigs at night and are constantly calling the police on him. Lynn Hart stumbles into Zambrini’s looking for a job and a place to stay. Fleeing from her father, Zambrini takes her in. She is very much liked by all the male patrons of the café. She seems like a normal girl just trying to find her place in the world, but we so start to wonder which one of our characters is actually the crazy one.IMG_4890

So Pigs isn’t necessarily the film you are expecting, but what we get is more of a character study. We have one character we are certain is crazy and we witness another possibly going insane. Of course that’s up for you to decide. You do get to see some pigs eating people though, so if that’s what you are wanting, it’s there. For a film that has escaped me for over half my life, Pigs did not disappoint. While it’s not over violent or gory it does deliver in a big way. Some of the best scenes in my opinion are dream sequences or delusion’s, one of them made me think the film was going into another direction entirely. Which if I am being honest, I want to see that version of the film!

IMG_4891Now as I said I haven’t seen the original VHS and I have no idea if Troma ever released it on DVD, but this transfer looks great! That is one thing you always see in Vinegar Syndrome’s BD releases. The sound quality is pretty good as well. The pigs are overly loud for that scare factor, but the dialogue is sometimes a little lower than others or it could’ve just been my son being loud as per usual. I am not sure which, but overall it’s a stellar release. Bonus features include; a really great interview with actress Toni Lawrence, an interview with composer Charles Bernstein, alternate openings, an alternate ending and more!

I am very happy that Vinegar Syndrome released this 70’s gem. It’s been on my list for about as long as I can remember and like I said the film did not disappoint. As previously stated this is not a creature feature with killer pigs, we definitely get something more than that. With an outstanding cast and some man eating pigs, I believe this film will gain a whole new horde of fans thanks to Vinegar Syndrome.

 

Absolution.

Call Girl of Cthulhu Review

CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU 2015 Camp Motion Pictures

Directed by: Chris LaMartina

Starring: David Phillip Carollo, Melissa O’Brien and Nicolette le Faye

 

Anything even loosely based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft and I am 100% on board! I don’t care what it is really. There are so many amazing Lovecraft adaptions out there and some really awful ones as well. This little indie does not fall into that latter category.unnamed

Our hero Carter (Carollo) is a timid, nerdy, artist who is madly in love/lust with a local prostitute, Riley (O’Brien) who he see’s visiting other gentlemen in his apartment building. He is saving his V-card for the right girl and he hopes it will be Riley. His noise musician roommate, Erica (le Faye) and her boyfriend make fun of him for saving himself, but you can tell the two of them have a good relationship with one another despite her douchebag boyfriend. Carter finds himself in an odd, sexless relationship with Riley. She is not only special to him, she’s also very special to the secret society of Cthulhu worshipers. They believe she is the chosen one who will bring their God to earth. Carter and Erica go on a monster filled adventure to defeat the cult and save Riley.

So this little indie is filled with a fun cast, some good comedy and a lot of fantastic special effects! The acting is good for the most part, especially with our main characters. I was really impressed with the use of IMG_4836practical effects. There are some great creature designs and effects in this film that will easily stack up against some much larger budget films. The BD/DVD combo comes with two audio commentary tracks, a great making of featurette, outtakes and tons of features from the Kickstarter campaign.

This film isn’t for everyone and it’s obviously not a Lovecraft film directed by Stuart Gordon or the Lovecraft Historical Society so don’t go into it expecting that. What you will find is a fun little original flick that I think will go down with a bit of a cult status in the indie scene. I think these guys are going to go on to do some great things in the industry.

 

CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU gets Absolution.