Showing posts with label cult films. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cult films. Show all posts

15 November 2013

Blu-Ray Review - Streets Of Fire (1984)

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Action, Crime
Second Sight
Release Date:
18th November 2013 (UK)
Walter Hill
Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Willem Dafoe
Streets of Fire [Blu-ray]

Streets of Fire is directed by Walter Hill and is one of the most absurdly 80s films ever made. It was described as “ a rock n’ roll fantasy” in it’s marketing and I guess it is. It’s kind of like The Wanderers but as a dumb 80s action film with horrible musical numbers and none of the substance of The Wanderers. It was a mega flop but has grown to have a cult fan base so much an unofficial sequel was made.

The whole thing is set in this 80s drenched future that is partly 1950s which gives it an interesting aesthetic. The plot is basically this singer Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) gets kidnapped by the Bombers gang lead by Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) and Tom Cody (Michael Paré) must rescue her. The musical numbers are wretchedly 80s that start and bookmark the film that really ruins the good comic book aesthetic of the rest of the film.

Walter Hill is a very fine director who made films like The Warriors, The Driver, Southern Comfort among others. Streets of Fire is certainly one of his lesser films and owes a lot to his previous film The Warriors. It lacks what made that film so good was your cared about the The Warriors gang and wanted them to get back to Coney Island but in this the performance by Michael Paré lacks any real humanity. The film however features a fun campy performance by Willem Dafoe as the main villain and a amusing cameo from the lead singer of seminal L.A punk band Fear Lee Ving as one of Dafoe’s main cronies.

Streets of Fire is perfectly watchable but Walter Hill has made numerous better films but it has a strange 80s charm at times which saves it from being a total disaster. It’s clear to see why it bombed though because it’s simply not that good and to off kilter at times for a mainstream audience. It was suppose to start a franchise but naturally that didn’t happen until recently with the unauthorized sequel with Paré reprising his role. Second Sight as usual has pull out all the stops with the bonus features including a feature length doc and the original EPK.


Ian Schultz

13 August 2013

Don't Mess With Tony's Hair, Saturday Night Fever Coming Back To UK Cinemas September

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John Travolta is back as Tony Manero. The original uncut version of Saturday Night Fever will be lighting up dancefloors and illuminating screens nationwide on 24 September. It put the subculture of disco on the map and shot Travolta to Hollywood stardom, bringing him an Oscar-nomination in the process. The Bee Gee’s iconic soundtrack then became one of the most successful albums of all time and remains the only disco album to win Best Album of the Year at the Grammys.

This Cineworld Exclusive Special Presentation of the pop culture classic is back on the big screen across 78 cinemas for a one-day special.

"Would ya just watch the hair. Ya know, I work on my hair a long time and you hit it. He hits my hair" - Tony Manero

Every Saturday Tony puts on his wide collared shirt, flared trousers and platform shoes and heads out to the only place where he's seen as a god rather than some young punk. Away from the strobe lights and glitter ball though, Tony’s story as a Brooklyn paint store clerk becomes one of tragic disillusionment, violence and heartbreak. Highlighting issues of gang culture and racial tension, Saturday Night Fever remains a powerful and provocative tragedy that carries as much weight now as it did in 1977.

It is more than just a film that defined the music and fashion of a generation. It is a provocative urban tragedy that will attract audiences old and new upon its return to cinemas.

The Cineworld Exclusive Special Presentation of Paramount Pictures’ Saturday Night Fever screens nationwide for one-day only. So dust off the cobwebs, dig out the old suit , iron the that perfect crease up your trousers but if your too young get your dad's old suit as 24th September is the your body will move once again.

21 June 2013

Jack Hill's Foxy Brown / Spider Baby BluRay Review

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The fantastic Arrow Video has released 2 films by Jack Hill films Spider-Baby and Foxy Brown on blu-ray. Jack Hill has been by called “The Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking” by Quentin Tarantino. Jack Hill like many directors of his generation worked for Roger Corman in the 1960s he made such films for Roger as Pit Stop, The Big Doll House and the notorious The Terror (which Francis Ford Coppola directed bits of as well as Monte Hellman and even Jack Nicholson). Spider-Baby however was Jack Hill’s first real film but wasn’t released for years and was never properly released till the 80s/90s.

Spider-Baby is a rare slice of “California Gothic”, very few films are with only Psycho and some of Tim Burton’s films. The film is about these 3 children in puberty who are regressing the evolutionary ladder if you will; a backwards Darwinism if you will. They have a chauffeur Bruno played by Lon Chaney Jr. (the one who played The Wolf Man). The title Spider-Baby refers to Virginia because she is obsessed with Spider and hunts and bills bugs and her spider like movements. The film starts with them killing off an innocent postman. Bruno has mean able to keep the dark family secrets hidden all these years but when some cousins Emily and her brother Peter with their lawyer come it is all revealed over a grotesque dinner.

The film is a predecessor to something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which it’s depicted of inbred cannibalistic family even though the cannibalism is all implied. It’s a very strange film with a dinner scene reminiscent of the one in Eraserhead. It’s shot in glorious black and white, which really adds to the gothic weirdness of the whole thing. The film starts a hilarious parody of the Monster Mash sung by Lon Chaney. The film also has an early role for Sid Haig as one of the inbred kids. It has in recent years even been adapted into a musical.

Foxy Brown is a very different film to Spider-Baby. It’s a quintessential piece of Blaxploitation and it stars the queen of Blaxploitation Pam Grier as its title character. Jack Hill is known for many things but probably most for discovering Pam Grier with his film The Big Doll House (which like Lon Chaney sang the title song in that film). Pam’s star making role was in the classic Coffy that Jack Hill also directed.

Foxy Brown was originally meant to be a sequel to Coffy due to its surprise success but American-International Pictures at the last minute decided they didn’t want a sequel. The film is some ways is rewrite the Coffy. Pam Grier plays a foxy mama who seeks revenge on some criminals on what they did to her loved one; in Coffy it was her sister. Foxy Brown it’s her boyfriend who is witness protection (he has had cosmetic surgery) who is shot down by a drug syndicate. She poses as a prostitute to infiltrate the organization. She helps one of the prostitute from a life drugs and sexual exploitation. The rest of the film is all revenge themed set pieces including one of castrating.

The film as expecting is a total hoot from start to finish with Pam Grier killing everyone; she literally hides a gun into her Afro in the climax. It’s normal case the soundtrack for Blaxploitation films to have a great soundtrack and it’s certainly the case this time with music by Willie Hutch who also did the score for the pimpin’ classic The Mack. The film is certainly on par with its predecessor Coffy, it may not quite reach the dizzy heights of that film but it’s a blast. The film like Spider-Baby and Coffy also features a supporting role by Sid Haig who Jack Hill knew since his student days. Tarantino famously adapted the title for his masterpiece Jackie Brown that of course stars Pam Grier.

Arrow Video has put lots of love and care into these releases which a wealth of bonus material with a doc on Blaxploitation, a doc on Spider Baby, interviews with Sid Haig, commentaries by Jack Hil on both films, one of Jack Hill’s short films. Arrow is rapidly becoming one of the best home video companies in the UK and look out for more by them in recent months and maybe some day they can release Coffy.


Ian Schultz

Spiderbaby (1968)
Rating: 18
BluRay Release Date: 24th June 2013(UK)
DirectorJack Hill
CastLon Chaney Jr.Carol Ohmart,Quinn K. Redeker,Sid Haig
Buy Spider BabyBlu-ray

Foxy Brown (1974)
Rating: 18
BluRay Release Date: 24th June 2013(UK)
DirectorJack Hill
Cast:  Pam Grier
Buy Foxy Brown: Blu-ray / SteelBook [Blu-ray]

21 April 2013

Knightriders BluRay Review

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Considering who wrote and directed it, Knightriders (1981) is not the film you might expect. In fact this action / drama by George A. Romero, better know for his notorious zombie gut-munchers, is rather prosaic nay, dare I say, boring.

The 'Knightriders' are a group of travellers led by Billy (Ed Harris), the self-styled 'King William', who put on medieval tournaments, complete with craft fairs and jousting for the entertainment of local townspeople. However, despite the best efforts of Billy and his friends to live by the rules of a simpler age, the influences of the 20th century world inevitably puts them under increasing strain, blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

Of the nineteen films Romero has directed during his career to date at least fourteen of them could be considered straight horror films. Which is where the problem lies. Film folk - be they actors or directors - often find it difficult to go against the grain when their career seems to have been largely built on a certain style or genre. Since appearing on the international scene with the classic chiller Night of the Living Dead (1968), Romero had established something of a reputation as one of the leading purveyors of visceral, in-your-face horror. Some would say that he should stick to what he does best, which he on the whole has. However when he has taken the odd diversion it's often been been less successful, as with such dubious outings as the comedy / drama There's Always Vanilla (1971). Unfortunately Knightriders also falls into this latter category.

Not that there's intrinsically anything wrong with the film. It's just in retrospect it's somewhat weird and tedious. After a promising opening featuring Harris in a dreamlike forest sequence, the film takes on a more dramatic mantle focusing on the relationships of the travelling group led by Harris, and the difficulties they face as they endeavour to lead their lives in keeping with the ideals of the court of King Arthur. And this is really where the film comes unhinged. It may, like the medieval jousting tournaments which Billy and the boys reenact for the inhabitants of the towns they visit, be mildly diverting for sixty minutes or so, but it rather outstays its welcome at nearly two and a half hours.

Admittedly the film looks good, and is interesting as it stars Harris in his first lead part along with a major role for the wonderfully broody Tom (effects wizard) Savini and cameo appearance by the master of horror, Stephen King. That it also features jousting tournaments on motorbikes is a plus if only for the novelty factor.

Like the idealistic lifestyle which Billy and his troupe strive for, Knightriders is full of good intentions. Unfortunately, as is also often the case, it ultimately fails to reach the exacting standards it sets itself.

Released by Arrow Video on both High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD, Knightriders comes with a host of extras including cast interviews, theatrical trailer and a reversible cover sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nat Marsh.


Cleaver Patterson

Rating: 15
BD Release Date: 22nd April 2013 (UK)
BuyKnightriders On Blu-ray

28 January 2013

Park Circus To Re-Release Jerry Schatzberg's Digitally Restored Scarecrow

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Park Circus have announced 26th April 2013 sees the UK re-release of Jerry Schatzberg's Scarecrow,starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. Scarecrow has been digitally remastered to celebrate the Palme d'Or winning film's 40th Anniversary.

From professional photographer Jerry Schatzberg won the Palme d’Or in 1973 for this rarely screened eccentric on-the-road American classic, starring the acclaimed duo Gene Hackman and Al Pacino. A tale of intense and newfound friendship between lowly Max (Hackman – stated as his favourite ever role) and Lion (Pacino), Scarecrow is digitally restored and ripe for rediscovery on the big screen.
Opening amidst an isolated backdrop of dusty American landscape, Max, just released from prison, happens upon Lion. A muted meeting at first soon blossoms into the beginning of a new friendship that takes them hitchhiking across America to realise Max’s dream of opening his own car wash in Pittsburgh. Encountering a series of oddball characters along the way, often delving deep into the protagonists’ peculiarities and personal problems, Scarecrow is an intriguing, gritty gem from a significant period of great American cinema.

Scarecrow has been newly restored by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film will open in the UK on 26th April at BFI Southbank and selected cinemas nationwide.

12 November 2012

Christmas Evil DVD Review

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With the approach of Christmas comes the inevitable release of a slew of films joining the ranks of the “Yuletide Slasher”. While you wait for the Silent Night remake to enter cinemas I would like to recommend one X-mas related horror film for your collection. Released back in 1980 under the title You Better Watch Out, Christmas Evil (why did they bother to change the title?) has garnered a cult following and the praise of “Pope of Trash” John Waters, slowly lifting it above the throng of abandoned B-features that populate 70’s – 80’s horror. 

                The film opens on Christmas Eve 1947 where two brothers watch their father dressed as Santa deliver presents to the house, young Harry later sneaks down stairs to find his father, still dressed as Santa, fondling his mother and Christmas is changed forever. Jump forward thirty years and Harry is a desk Jockey at a production-line toy factory, disgruntled at the lack of Christmas cheer in his fellow employees and obsessively listing the deeds of the local children in his “Naughty” and “Nice” books. Slowly Harry slips into an obsessive rage-driven Christmas nightmare where he deals out his own brand of Christmas justice.

                The first thing that one can’t fail to notice is that, for a film left in the side-lines, Christmas Evil is actually well-shot and directed, sure there’s some crude editing and naff moments of action but on the whole the film has more rewards than flops. After style the story impresses with a much more toned down approach to carnage than expected. The film isn’t a blood bath start to finish, its collected and well-paced, letting us into Harry’s life and introducing us to all the assholes he meets every day, so that there’s always a sense of, rather than being a psychopath, Harry is just a troubled guy. Considering character construction along with the garish colouring and keen social commentary, Christmas Evil plays out like Falling Down by way of The Grinch and Peeping Tom.

                Brandon Maggart’s genuinely superb performance is the keystone of the feature, without his ranged approach the film could have dwindled but thankfully there’s enough conviction, misery, and alienation to build a believable psychopath. Most films never quite pull of the inception of a murderer, but Jackson’s careful scripting allows Maggart moments of bombastic absurdity then grounds him with poignant moments of total isolation. But that’s not to say the film takes itself too seriously, there’s a self-awareness that helps make the piece easier to swallow. Also,  a young Jeffrey DeMunn (The Walking Dead, The Mist) appears as Harry’s brother and makes for enjoyable viewing, especially towards the finale. The only criticism of his performance would be he’s not used nearly enough.

                Jackson’s film has received flak over the years for being anti-Christmas but the film seems more focused on the commercialisation of Christmas as opposed to an attack on the holiday itself. A sharp eye for the trashy quality of Christmas imagery and the miserable, at times pointless, bizarre functions of the holiday push the film beyond the reach of a crappy B-film. This is a film at once ridiculing the Santa myth (Santa Clauses at police line-up) and celebrating it, whilst dragging the whole Christmas ordeal into a sewer of madness and mayhem.

                This review is in no way the product of low expectations; it’s a reaction to something genuinely sharp, a real gem amidst the cascade of trashy horror escapades, plus it culminates in probably one of the best horror climaxes I’ve seen, an ending which seals the deal on the brilliance of Jackson’s festive chaos. Well written, well crafted, with a great lead performance, Christmas Evil is a beautifully constructed cult terror tale with a keen eye for cultural satire, if you’re looking for the perfect Christmas movie then look no further.

Scott Clark


DVD Re-release Date: 12 November 2012 (UK)
Directed ByLewis Jackson
Cast: Brandon MaggartJeffrey DeMunn ,Dianne Hull 
Buy:Christmas Evil [DVD]

Christmas Evil by CellpanTv

5 October 2012

Blu-Ray Review: Who Dares Wins

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From famed British action producer, Euan Lloyd comes Who Dares Wins, patchy, all star action thriller.
Starring The Professionals' Lewis Collins, Judy Davis, as well as screen icons Edward Woodward and Richard Widmark, Who Dares Wins was one of Lloyd's last features. Here we are told of an SAS trouper infiltrating a group of radicals who plot to launch an attack upon the American embassy where several key dignitaries including the US Secretary of State, are staying.

The main issue with Who Dares Wins is its completely stodgy screenplay, which was surely felt dated even upon its 1982 release.  Feeling more like right wing Conservative propaganda commissioned by Margaret Thatcher, than an entertaining action film - you would be forgiven for siding with the terrorists here (well that would be if they were not so inept). It is a struggle to get past the concept that this is a terrorist group that wants nuclear disarmament, but they went to achieve this through the detonation of a nuclear bomb - someone needs rethink their plan. 

Considering that Who Dares Wins was inspired by a real event (the Iranian embassy siege in 1980), it feels completely unrealistic and unbelievable. Reginal Rose's screenplay also spends far too long focussing on Captain Skellen (Lewis Collins) infiltration of the terrorist group which verges on being completely tedious. At a bloated 125 minutes, the only particularly exciting sequence is the embassy raid - the key set piece of the film.

This sequence sees director Ian Sharp come into his own, showing a clear flair for the action scenes. Here bullets fly, smoke bombs are detonated and the previously wooden leading man, Lewis Collins gets a chance to shine as an action star. The raid sequence has not aged too well but in a film as patchy as Who Dares Wins, it is manages to become the most exciting sequence in the film.

 Fortunately appearances by the completely watchable Edward Woodward as a grandstanding police commander and Richard Widmark as the US Secretary of State, keep things reasonably entertaining. However, these are simply supporting roles with most of the screen time falling to Collins and Davis, who are rather part bland leads.

Being the top distributor that they are, Arrow Video have also included the more entertaining low-budget Italian feature The Commander (starring Lewis Collins, Lee Van Cleef and Donald Pleasence) on the release, which is worth a look.
Who Dares Wins is a forgettable, often hit or miss affair. Despite, the energetic embassy raid  in the film's latter half and two watchable supporting turns from Widmark and Woodward - there is not much else worth watching this stodgy feature for. 

Andrew McArthur


Starring:Lewis Collins,Judy Davis,Richard Widmark ,Edward Woodward
Director: Ian Sharp
Release: 8/10/12
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Buy Who Dares Wins: Blu-ray [1982]

5 August 2012

A Force Of One Blu-Ray Review

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★★★ 1/2

Anchor Bay take us back to the genesis of an icon, in A Force Of One, one of Chuck Norris' first major starring roles. Now remastered on Blu-Ray for the first time, alongside The Octagon, get ready for your very own Chuckfest.

So there's a little problem. During a routine investigation, a crack narcotics team (excuse the pun) is taken down one by one by a karate chopping serial killer. Like all reasonable minded people, the police chief decides that all officers should be fully trained in martial arts. But who could train them? Oh, only Chuck Norris. That's right, Chuck Norris, in the form of karate expert Matt Logan.

Unfortunately, Matt's reluctance to get involved is finally broken, when his adopted son becomes the karate killers latest victim. Soon Matt driven by vengeance is thrust into an epic battle of good, evil and face-kicking.

Regardless of how dated the film may appear - courtesy of Chuck's huge moustache (which dates back to the early 1800s) and surfer hair style, it is hard to deny that it looks good on Blu-Ray. You haven't seen Chuck Norris kicking someone until you have seen it in high definition. Norris, who choreographs the film does a stellar job arranging the fight scenes with a sense of realism and precision, never looking contrived.

A Force Of One is an interesting hybrid of the martial arts feature with the police thriller, which proves to be a refreshing alternative to a simple cop drama or martial arts movie. The concept is silly, police officers being trained in martial arts? Why aren't they just given bigger guns? But that is all part of A Force Of One's seventies charm. Part of the joy of watching a film like this is that it does not take itself too seriously, with everything simply aimed to entertain the viewer.

Part of A Force Of One's pulpy charm comes from Ernest Tidyman's (Shaft, The French Connection) gritty screenplay. Whilst fun for the most part, Tidyman also captures the sense of tension and foreboding that every good crime thriller should come equip with. This paired with Paul Aaron's surprisingly violent direction - especially in the film's final showdown between Chuck and the karate killer, creates a highly memorable watch.

Praise must also go to Chuck's competent acting ability as well as his expert choreography. We feel that Logan is a man driven by revenge and hurt, with Norris also managing to have some fun with the role - particularly through the relationship between him and his colleagues.

A Force Of One is a surprising entry in Chuck's back catalogue. A somewhat silly concept proves to be a bloodthirsty, well executed fusion of the martial arts feature and a gritty cop drama. Norris choreographs with a strong sense of realism and manages to both convince and entertain in the role.

Andrew McArthur

Stars: Chuck Norris, Jennifer O'Neill , Clu Gulager
Director: Paul Aaron
Release: 6th August (UK)
Certificate: 15 (UK)