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    Blood Feast (1963)

    Blood Feast begins with a woman (who possesses one of the longest pairs of underpants I have ever seen…I mean they almost reach her arm pits for shit’s sake) being hacked to pieces while taking a bath by a dude with grey hair…and when I say “grey hair” what I mean is “that cheap shit you spray in your hair on Halloween that runs out at the merest pixie’s pecker of a promise of moisture coming in contact with it”. Anyway, that guy is named
    Fuad Ramses and he’s an Egyptian caterer (talk about your niche business) with a side hobby of trying to resurrect an ancient goddess utilizing the body parts of the women he murders (also niche). Add to the mix some detectives that seemingly have not clue fucking one on how to do their jobs (which could apply to either “police work” or “acting”), bargain basement (yet plentiful and definitely ground breaking) gore, over acting the like of which doesn’t even seem legal, history lectures, dodgy accents, and canned music that seems decades out of date (even in 1963 when this film was produced) and you have a recipe (ha ha ha…get it? Because Ramses is a caterer…yeah baby, XIII still has that magic!!) for a damn entertaining time in the ol’ horror biz!

    Look, I’m not gonna mince words, Blood Feast is every bit as amateur and tacky as you can imagine…and therein lies it’s charm. Like the films of the genius Edward D. Wood Jr. (yup, I said it, and I mean it), Herschell Gordon Lewis’ oeuvre is equally threadbare and earnest with an undeniable appeal that just makes the whole affair impossible not to love (or at least appreciate)…plus the dude pretty much invented splatter films, so that’s a huge plus as well.

    As endearing as I found Blood Feast, there are plenty of great bonus material included on this release as well (as is Arrow Video’s usual way). Kicking things off we get a conversation with  filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) and Rodney Ascher  (Room 237) about the impact of Blood Feast and Lewis himself, as well as archival and recent (well, before his death that is) interviews with Lewis (joined by producer Dave Freidman in one segment). Following that we get a short film, Carving Magic featuring actor Bill Kerwin  (who played one of those inept detectives mentioned above)…and yes this is a twenty minute movie about carving a god damned turkey (and a few other meats) the right way…it’s like Youtube from 1959. After that comes forty five minutes(!!!) of Blood Feast out takes that offer a fascinating glimpse (even with dubbed in sound from the feature…there’s no existing sound on these apparently) behind the scenes not often afforded with exploitation flicks from decades past, alternate censored scenes from another Gordon Lewis flick Scum of the Earth (more on that in a bit), and a bevy of trailers and radio spots for Blood Feast and a few other H.G.L. productions as well. Still with me? Good, because this release also features an audio commentary by Gordon Lewis his own damn self along with Freidman, and it’s a lively listen packed with entertaining anecdotes and self-effacing humor. Now remember how I mentioned Scum of the Earth above? Well Arrow threw that pic on this release as well, so we should talk about that briefly…

    Scum of the Earth isn’t a fright flick at all (which may surprise those that only know Gordon Lewis as “The Godfather of Gore”); rather it’s the tale of a teenage girl who is blackmailed into taking a set of racy candids with a photographer that is chummy with a gang of hoodlums whose boss sells such contraband. Along the way you are treated to: giant phone props, shitty (albeit hilarious) acting between “father” and “daughter”, college tuition sweatings,  and that now familiar obscene levels of scenery chewing (with Lawrence J. Aberwood as the mastermind Lang, and repeat offender Mal Arnold, who played Fuad in Blood Feast, being the prize winning examples). It’s sleazy as all get out; but I prefer my H.G.L. firmly in the horror biz…that being said, it’s an entertaining watch, and I’m glad it was included.

    Sleazy, bizarre, and downright tacky Blood Feast is a solid gold piece of exploitation cinema and an absolute essential for anyone that digs on the genre (especially with this feature packed release)!

    The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975)

    – Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca

    Sergio Martino’s The Suspicious Death of a Minor begins with an underage prostitute, giving a dude the cold shoulder at some dance thing (apparently she’s got no time for love Dr. Jones…even though she’s paid for just that sort of thing). We learn she’s on the run from a strange man following her, and when our pint sized prostitute makes it back to her crappy apartment (located somewhere between Crime Alley and Flea Bottom) said man (who resembles a young Harvey Keitel cosplaying Dirty Harry) is there waiting for her with a straight razor. It turns out the dude she gave the brush off too is Inspector Paolo Germi (Claudio Cassinelli), an undercover cop on the trail of drug runners and white slavers. Paolo takes it upon himself to find the girl’s killer and bring down this crime syndicate by any means necessarily.

    Imagine The French Connection, Dirty Harry, and a giallo mixed together with some wacky comedy bits and you’ll get a feel for The Suspicious Death of a Minor. It doesn’t sound like that should work, yet it does thanks in no small part to the combo of director Sergio Martino and writer Ernesto Gastaldi. The two brought us three amazing gialli: The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971), Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), and All the Colors of the Dark (1972), so they definitely have the chops for a film like this.

    Also adding to the film’s pluses is Claudio Cassinelli’s portrayal of rouge cop Paolo is infinitely charming, even though he can be a real hard ass at times. He’s one of the most like-able giallo characters I’ve seen in a long time. Also of note is the fantastic score from Luciano Michelini. It combines funky ‘70s cop music with Goblin’s Deep Red score and is insanely fun!

    We also get some bonus material on this Arrow release including: a new audio commentary by Troy Howarth, and a new interview with co-writer and director Sergio Martino. Both are informative and make a nice supplement to the film.

    All together this release of The Suspicious Death of a Minor is another fine dive into the giallo pool by Arrow. If you dig the bright red blood of Italian horror, you’ll want this puppy in your collection!

    Red Christmas (2016)

    When widowed Diane (horror icon Dee Wallace) gathers her amazingly dysfunctional family at her large as balls rural estate there is absolutely no telling what kinds of wacky ass, uncomfortable, things may happen. Well, one thing no one could have counted on was for a deformed, filthy ass stranger to show up (Cletus by name). To make matters worse, ol’ sickly c-man claims to be the now grown fetus that Diane aborted way back when that has somehow survived. This gets Cletus the bums rush right back out the way he came in. Not content to merely let the door hit him where the good lord split him, Cletus returns with a bloody vengeance and begins hacking up the fam six ways to Sunday! Who will survive this fractured family fracas?!!

    Comprised of whacked out characters, unique setting (a big home in New South Wales…definitely not your cabin in the woods where most films of this ilk are set), and that whole ballsy take on the hot button abortion topic; Red Christmas is definitely an off-kilter watch. The ensemble cast are strong, with Wallace giving her usual, dependable performance with a blend of fragility and spunk that makes us root for her (unless you really get your panties in a bunch about abortion…in which case why in the ever loving turd would you watch this picture?!!) and the rest of the performers playing their various absurd roles to the hilt.

    Speaking of absurd, this film manages to both take itself seriously, and have it’s tongue planted firmly in it’s cheek. There are moments of real horror that fit right in with the stalk n’ slay genre, but there is also a love of the surreal. Take for instance the lighting of the film which at times looks like it was straight from a Mario Bava flick, but one that was lit with dime store Christmas tree bulbs…it’s a dazzlingly neon, horror comic book cum Woolworth’s Holiday window display that really creates a dream like quality to the affair (as do the fog shrouded locales).

    As for what comprises the bread and butter of these affairs, the kill scenes, we do get some unique set pieces that utilize a blender, umbrella, and more…but the actual gore and grue are on the light side. This actually surprised me a bit, because with everything else that surrounds these scenes I expected an over-the-top blood bath with the walls running red with our beloved red sauce. It certainly doesn’t detract from the film, but it was an odd are to show restraint in a fright flick such as this.

    As for the extras present on this Blu-ray, we kick things off with a commentary from writer/director Craig Anderson. It’s a lively listen and explores the production of the film to great effect with nary a trace of those dreaded “dead spots” where folks forget to talk about the film at hand. Following that we get interviews with Dee Wallace and actor Gerard O’Dwyer. Bringing up the rear are a blooper reel, deleted scene, and a mini-interview with Anderson (which is just for fun, so don’t go in expecting any hard hitting journalism).

    In short, Red Christmas does exactly what a great grindhouse picture should; it examines a social topic of the day, turns it on it’s head and makes it into something absurd and shocking!

    The Devil’s Honey (1986)

    When your film begins with a rock solid two plus minutes of some dude (Johnny by name) playing a raunchy saxophone ditty in front of a lens smeared with a metric ass ton of Vaseline before shoving his tongue down some dame named Jessica’s throat you can just guess you are in for unmatched sexy time. And when the second round of sax begins, this time played directly into Jessiy’s va-jay, you know you are in for unmatched sexy time…not to mention countless instances of your jaw hitting the floor…and believe me, Lucio Fulci’s The Devil’s Honey delivers it all in spades!

    So after whatever the hell that was I described above runs it’s course we are introduced to a doctor that digs on banging prostitutes (especially ones that paint their crotches with red nail polish…yeah, I just don’t even…) and treating them like dirt after he performs a Herculean three seconds of sex, much to the chagrin of his long suffering wife. Anyway, before long the good doctor is called in to operate Johnny after he sustains injuries assing around on his motorcycle. Well as fate would have it, the doctor gets distracted during surgery (thanks to his wife demanding a divorce) and Johnny goes tit’s up, causing Jessica to swear revenge. So how will this dangerous game play out? Well, with tons of sex obviously…but yeah, there’s some vengeance type shit in there as well because Jessica is as insane as she ever was horny…so that’s really saying something. Blood licking, pant’s peeing, dog food related sado-masochism, photo shoots involving guns in lady parts, and so very much more combine to make this the can’t miss family film of the decade!

    Raunchy, sleazy, full of “soft focus”…The Devil’s Honey is exactly what you would expect when you hear the phrase “erotic Lucio Fulci picture”. The women are beautiful and constantly naked, the sex is plentiful, there is a perversion present, and a sadistic undercurrent is prevalent but never off putting. The revenge elements play out nicely as well before coming to a not unforeseen climax (I mean c’mon, there was really only one way this thing could end given the previous hour and nineteen minutes, though that’s all I will say about that in the hopes you will check this craziness out for yourself).

    As enjoyably sleazy as the main feature is, our randy pals at Severin have saw fit to throw in quite a few bonus features to sweeten the pot for anyone that purchases The Devil’s Honey. First up are a series of interviews featuring actors Brett Halsey and Corinne Cleary, producer Vincenzo Salviani, and composer Claudio Natili. Following that we get an excellent and ultra-informative discussion of the film from Stephen Thrower and an audio essay by Fulci expert Troy Howarth that examines the cinematic trends that led to the flick’s creation. Bringing up the rear are an alternate opening sequence, and the film’s trailer.

    Bottom line; if you love off-kilter erotic thrillers with large quantities of naked female flesh and/or criminally unkempt nether regions than The Devil’s Honey will definitely be right up your alley!

    Dawn of the Dead (2004)

    As folks go about their daily events a mysterious outbreak of zombie-fuckin’-itis breaks out and turns the dead into bloodthirsty, flesh eating ghouls hell bent on chowing down on the human buffet. So begins Zack Snyder’s take on the George A. Romero masterpiece Dawn of the Dead. As things look more bleak, a disparate group of strangers hole up in giant shopping mall and attempt to hold off the nightmares that encroach upon their refuge. Who lives, who get’s turned into fast food, and will any of them “have this by the ass?” will remain a mystery until you plunk your own damn ass down and watch the flick!

    Look, I’ll admit I was about as excited to see a remake of Dawn of the dead in 2004 as I would be to find a dog turd in my cup of coffee, but I soldiered out and watched the movie…and you know what? I loved it! It was at both times familiar enough to satisfy this gut muncher aficionado, and different enough to not seem like a re-tread (regardless of it’s remake status). The picture is filled with exciting cinematography (that seemed really fresh at the time, even though now the various ramping effects seem tired), good ol’ gore and shocks (the pregnant lady is a real stand out…and I won’t blow the outcome of that here), dynamic and diverse characters rather than the one-note cardboard cut outs that sometimes populate modern fright flicks, and a quirky soundtrack that works insanely well with the insanity being displayed in typical Snyder doom and gloom fashion and the snappy patter provided by scribe James Gunn (standouts are the “muzak” version of Don’t Worry Be Happy that plays as our heroes enter the mall after having hell visited upon them, and Richard Cheese’s lounge cover of Disturbed’s Down With the Sickness as our protagonists live it up in the mall as chaos rages outside). Most importantly, the film still plays really well thirteen years after it’s release with little in the way to date it…a major plus in my book.

    As much fun as I had with the flick (and mention should be made that you are given both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film in this release spread out over two Blu ray discs), there are a veritable shopping cart’s worth of extras on this version which come in two flavors; fresh meat and left overs. Starting with the new, you get interviews with actors Ty Burrell and Jake Weber, writer James Gunn, and special effects artists David Anderson and Heather Langenkamp Anderson (yup, it’s who you think it is). Ported over from previous releases of the film you get: an audio commentary with director Snyder and producer Eric Newman, deleted scenes (also featuring commentary by Snyder and Newman), a featurette on the film’s head exploding effects, a spotlight on the unique zombies on screen, a look at the special make ups utilized in the movie, two short companion pieces that open up the world of the film, a silly mockumentary claiming that the film used real zombies, a look at the film’s storyboards, the film’s theatrical trailer, and a stills gallery.

    This version of Dawn of the Dead will in no way replace or eclipse the original, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t entertaining and horrific in it’s own right and well worthy any zombie lover’s time!

    Land of the Dead (2005)

    Since we just feasted our putrid peepers on Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release of Dawn of the Dead, let’s keep a good thing going and check out their companion piece; a new Blu-ray edition of George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead!

    Land follows the adventures of the rag tag crew of the tank like vehicle Dead Reckoning who are charged with foraging for supplies among the zombie hordes that threaten Fiddler’s Green…the high-rise luxury dwelling of the elite of Pittsburgh after the undead apocalypse. Well, before you can say “class struggle”, a member of the Dead Reckoning team is denied entry to the high life after retiring his service so he steals the vehicle and the rest of the team is charged with ending the threat to the upper class all while dealing with the advancing hordes of intellectually evolving zombies lead by the most advanced of all; Big Daddy.

    There isn’t much I can say about Land that won’t seem completely superfluous. This is full on Romero, with all of the social commentary, strong character interaction, and yes, grizzly gore we’ve come to know and love just delivered on a huge scale (this was the highest budgeted of all of Romero’s Dead films). The film is fast paced, engaging, and most of all fun, and serves as a worthy swan song to the expanding Dead series before it went way smaller scale and more intimate with the subsequent chapters Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead.

    Like with Dawn up yonder, there are both old and new special features to be had here, so let’s start with the fresh and shiny, shall we? New to this release are: a commentary on the film’s unrated cut (both theatrical and unrated versions are present on this Blu-ray release) by zombie performers Matt Blazi, Glena Chao, Michael Felsher, and Rob Mayr (who all provide an interesting perspective on the film’s production), as well as interviews with actor John Leguizamo, Robert Joy, Pedro Miguel Arce, Eugene Clark, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks, and Jasmin Geljo. In the “you may have seen it, but it’s still cool” department we get: an audio commentary from Romero, producer Peter Grunwald, and editor Michael Doherty, Dream of the Dead, the “making of” documentary for Land (that features both commentary from director Roy Frumkes and deleted scenes), deleted scenes from Land, a featurette detailing Shaun of the Dead‘s Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s involvement with the film, 3 featurettes that focus on the movie’s visual and make-up effects, a brief look at work in progress footage of the digital zombies used in the production, story board to finished scene comparisons, a short “making of” piece (yes we get two on this release), and a tour behind the scenes by Leguizamo, the film’s theatrical trailer, and a photo gallery.

    If you love Romero or zombies in general, this is an absolutely essential release, and while Land of the Dead never gets the acclaim of the first three film’s in the series (Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead respectively) it’s every bit as entertaining and socially relevant.

    Daniel XIII
    Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

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