Remember when movies were advertised with some kick ass illustrations rather than some bland Photoshop rendered turd nugget designed to bore you to tears…or just showcase the cast’s faces? Well the makers of 24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters sure as shit do, and over an eighty one minute run time they are bound and determined to show you why this lost art was just so damn cool (and how it slowly is making a much appreciated comeback, thanks in part to the Mondo poster releases commissioned by the Alamo Drafthouse theater in Austin Texas and other niche creative studios and the ultra-obsessive new collector’s market they cater to).
Filled with interviews with both movie poster artists from days past, as well as enthusiasts, and directors and artists that have brought us some of our fav films (including Joe Dante and William Stout), as well as some prime examples of the best art the medium had to offer (plenty of which are from my beloved horror biz), this is one hell of an engaging watch with plenty of fascinating history that most of us are unfamiliar with…including just why the art form grew out of favor (here’s a hint, it involved actor’s egos and the way they are presented in the advertising for a given film).
As for extras on this DVD release you get…fucking nothing. Well, that made my job easier (though if you go the Blu-ray route you do get some interviews and such according to my 2 seconds of research).
Fast paced, with a great emphasis on not only the artists of the past, but those creating modern movie posters, 24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters is an informative, fun, watch jam packed with fantastic visuals and stories that really bring the world of motion picture advertising art to life…just be forewarned, this film may want to make you go out and spend rather large sums of money to make your walls look killer!
In the 1340’s a rural village is ravaged by the Black Death. A young resident of the village, Griffin (Hamish McFarlane) is plagued (hahaha…I am the best) by apocalyptic dreams and visions, which he believes could lead to salvation for his homeland. Gathering a small band of brave men, Griffin sets off into a deep tunnel where they inexplicably wind up in 1980’s New Zealand upon their exit from the abyss. Terrified but undaunted, they nevertheless continue their quest for a divine cure to the blight.
Full of fantastic images (especially those illustrating Griffin’s dreams) and a poignant, near fairy tale element The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey is a rock solid traditional coming of age tale filtered through the lens of the fantastic complimented by a near art house visual acumen. The cast, in particular Hamish McFarlane as our young hero, are fantastic, and the environments presented, both bucolic and rustic to urban and indusrial, are pitch perfect to the narrative elements they are meant to convey…and almost become characters unto themselves. Special mention must also be made to film maker Vincent Ward’s (Vigil) use of color (or lack thereof), with the medieval scenes filmed in a rich black and white that imbues a sense of painterly chiaroscuro contrasted with the rich, warm colors of Griffin’s dreams and the tunnel journey, as well as the vibrant pallet of the city scenes. It definitely evokes a The Wizard of Oz aesthetic which is appropriate due to the journey to a near mythical land in order to find personal salvation.
Along with the feature presentation, Arrow Video have included a few bonuses for our viewing pleasure as well. Included are a brand new informative appreciation of the picture by film critic Nick Roddick, an archival documentary on Ward from 1989, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
If you are looking for a film with both an air of the fantastic coupled with real human emotion and gravitas (not to mention a hint of wit and whimsy here and there), then look no further than The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey; it’s an engaging and well told story with superb visuals and would make for a fine evening of family viewing (regardless of how that “art house” comparison may suggest otherwise).
Things start off with a bang (no, not that kind, get your mind out of the gutter) in Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!, as various gangs shoot it out over a stolen shipment o’ guns. Chipmunk faced private dick Tajima (Joe Shishido) is tasked by the local cops to help track down the missing guns while along the way getting drawn into a violent clash between rival Yakuza clans.
Arrow is back with more Nikkatsu Studios/Seijun Suzuki love. Suzuki and frequent leading man Diamond Guy Jo Shishido team up to deliver a jazz filled, colorful rapid-fire crime flick. What could have been a standard Yakuza film, becomes something special as Suzuki plays with a 60’s Eurospy vibe and a sense tongue-in-cheek, self-referential playfulness. That’s a good thing, many Yakuza crime movies can get bogged down with grim, ultra-serious proceedings. There’s even a wacky musical number where our hero sings a duet. You don’t see that every day in a Japanese crime film!
While not loaded down with features, Arrow gives us some good stuff here. Besides the high definition transfer, you get a trailer, a gallery of stills, a reversible sleeve and the center piece of the features: a comprehensive talk about the film and it’s director with historian and Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns.
Arrow can just keep releasing these Nikkatsu films if they please, because I love them! I’m fascinated by this time period of Japanese cinema, and especially Suzuki’s work. And if you are too, you’ll find a solid release here!
Lisa (Evelyn Stewart), the jet setting wife of a business man, is having an afternoon tryst with her bohab in old London town. Meanwhile her husband’s plane blows up real good (featuring one of the worst miniature planes I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing…Ed Wood would have looked at it and said: “I’m not filming this piece of junk.”) Lisa’s husband it seems took out a life insurance policy, leaving Lisa with…wait for it…one million dollars. She’s rich bitch! Trouble is her husband was getting some on the side himself, and his mistress (and her Omar Sharif looking lawyer) think Lisa killed her husband and want that cash for themselves. To further rain on Lisa’s parade, the insurance company has hunky Peter Lynch (George Hilton) investigating the case…oh, and there is someone lurking in the shadows that has plans for the cash as well…someone with a very sharp blade.
The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail is a rock solid ‘70’s giallo. It has everything you could want in the genre; smoking-hot Eurobabes, George Hilton, a ridiculously twisty plot, gorgeous locals, dubbing that leads to hilarity, a funky score by Bruno Nicolai, stylish direction from Sergio Martino…and plenty of the red stuff flowing in all its garish glory.
Besides the beautiful, HD visual upgrade Arrow has provided for this, we get: Italian and English tracks, an udio commentary with writer Ernesto Gastaldi, moderated by filmmaker Federico Caddeo (in Italian with English subtitles), trailers, new interviews with star George Hilton and director Sergio Martino, a reversible sleeve, a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Rachael Nisbet and Howard Hughes, and a biography of star Anita Strindberg by Peter Jilmstad, new analysis of Sergio Martino s films by author Mikel J. Koven, and a new video essay by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films.
If you’re interested in getting into the giallo genre or watching a murder mystery with heavy leanings into the slasher genre…or if you’re like me and want to see every giallo every made, grab this scorpion by the tail quick!
Guest Reviews on Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! and The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail by Shane Migliavacca
Street Mobster (1972)
Ol’ Okita (Bunta Sugawara) is one classy dude…you know the kind that likes to get stabby with a knife and sell girls into prostitution…and he’s the hero folks! Anyway, the former mentioned pastime of Okita’s spells his downfall as he he tries to stick it to the Takigawa yakuza family after they attempt to extort his gang for cash. Long story still long, Okita goes to prison, and when he gets out decides to form a new gang…and unbelievably strike up a relationship with one of the lovely ladies he sold off to the ass trade. After stirring ye olde shite pot with his old Takigawa rivals, our hero has to join forces with the Yato family in order to enact “Operation Save Ass” if ya know what I mean…but we all know that union is going to go south…and it does, which results in even more violence in Okita’s life…will he be able to make it through with his ass featuring only one crack?
Directed by Japanese New Wave giant Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Message From Space), Street Mobster is one hell of an edge of your seat, aesthetically chaotic, journey into violence. On hand we get the visual punctuation so famous from Fukasaku, and the movement he helped spearhead, including rapid fire editing, frenzied zooms, frantic hand held photography, sudden changes from vivid color to stark black and white, off-kilter dutch angles…all of which aide and abet a story that while rooted in gritty street crime, comes off as pure surrealist melodrama.
As off the rails crazy/cool as the main presentation is, those beautiful lovelies at Arrow Video have thrown a few bonus bones our way on this Blu-ray release including: an info packed audio commentary from Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes, the film’s theatrical trailer, and a still gallery.
If you are lookin’ for a flick equal parts vicious and visually stimulating, look no further than Street Mobster; it’s a full on frenzied joy ride into a off-the-wall world comprised of babes, bad guys, and bloodshed!
Night of the Virgin (2016)
Uber-nerd Nico (Javier Bódalo…in an impressively cartoonish performance) is dead set on losing his virginity on New Year’s Eve…and it seems like that is precisely what will happen when he encounters Medea (Miriam Martín) a Super Coug on the prowl who invites him home to her ultra filthy, bug infested apartment (but hey, any port in a storm, amirite?). Once there he engages in awkward dancing, gets a lesson in the history of the Nepalese Goddess Naoshi, and finds a cup of period blood in the bathroom…which he tastes (all as one does). Before long, Madea’s recently estranged boyfriend, Spider (Víctor Amilibia) arrives at her door demanding entrance after being whipped into a frenzy by some fake fuckery…and there he remains as blood mixes with semen (don’t ask…but there is underwear involved) and we discover that a child must be born to Naoshi via Madea or all life will end…but that may be a bit complicated as she is starting to resemble a lump of rotten hamburger…but all may not go as expected with that pregnancy anyway!
Depraved, degenerate, disgusting…Night of the Virgin is a fright flick that is certain to satisfy gore hounds (and we’ll get back to that in abit), but there’s much more to this fright flick my dear fiends! Comprised of primarily one set and featuring three main actors, Night of the Virgin is a study of what can be achieved with a minimum of budget, but a maximum of originality. rather than the ghost or slasher romps we generally get when intentions are good but budgets are low, here we get laughs, off kilter characters (played to gloriously surreal perfection I might add) and a rich mythology that leads to an end result that can best be described as H.G. Lewis’ Bloodfeast by way of David Cronenberg; it’s a rich pageant of blood, barf, babies (of the unholy variety)…all presented with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
On the ol’ flip-flop, this is a picture that features a demon baby, so you know that tyke is going to go through some harsh treatment…so if seeing a puppet infant get put in dangerous spots makes you cringe, consider yourself well and duly warned! Additionally, the special features on this DVD release are extremely light and feature only a slideshow and some trailers.
To wrap it all up for ya: Night of the Virgin is one part body horror to one part ancient religious curse sprinkled with a liberal dose of humor among the horror and really shouldn’t be missed by any horror hound that likes their fright flicks as surreal as they are gore soaked!