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Kicking off a terrific and, of course, highly varied slate of new releases for Vinegar Syndrome this month is a 4K UHD of SHOWGIRLS (131 mins., 1995, NC-17), director Paul Verhoeven’s much-maligned opus which stars Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon in a silly, cliched story of a girl who rises to fame and fortune but finds out, when she gets to the top, that she never should have bothered trying. The formula is nearly as old as cinema itself, but the raunchiness was turned up by Verhoeven and his “Basic Instinct” writer Joe Eszterhas to a degree that quickly relegated this heavily-hyped picture to being a camp experience for a niche audience.
The first (and last?) NC-17 release from a major studio, ”Showgirls” was the movie that you had to flash your ID at the door or else a group of 13 year-old ushers wouldn’t allow you in. Still, for a movie that promised tons of T&A and sexually frank dialogue, I found it stunning when the matinee I attended – back when I was in college – was filled with elderly couples that looked like they wandered in from the nearby nursing home.
Verhoeven set out to — okay, I’m not sure what he or Eszterhas were smoking when they concocted this romp, but just the same, ”Showgirls” provides a fair degree of entertainment, even if the picture isn’t ever as sexy, titillating, or unintentionally funny as you wished it would be. More often than not, despite its occasional bits of profanity, the movie is rather routine, with Berkley — who actually was more appealing back on “Saved by the Bell” — and Kyle MacLahlan both giving flat, one-note performances. Only Gershon was able to parlay this project into bigger success elsewhere (in the Wachowski Brothers’ lesbian thriller “Bound”), while Robert Davi generates a few laughs in a supporting part.
Even if “Showgirls” failed to deliver on its intended goods in theaters, at least it has weathered the storm somewhat on video and is dating a bit better now that expectations are gone. It’s a visually stylish film filled with athletic, good looking (often naked) bodies, assembled by a team of pros coming in near the peak of their cinematic talents – it might just baffle you why the folks behind the biggest worldwide box-office hit of 1992 chose this material for their follow-up.
“Showgirls” has managed to generate a decent cult following over the years, and if you’re one of those fans – or simply up for another look at the picture – Vinegar Syndrome’s spectacular 4K UHD boasts a glitzy HDR10 presentation (2.35) with high detail and lovely color. Both 5.1 and 2.0 sound options are on-hand, and extras on the included Blu-Ray offer a mix of new and archival supplements. Among the fresh additions are a new interview with Eszterhas, who believes the film was too campy and shouldn’t have gone for an NC-17; editors Mark Goldblatt and Mark Helfrich; cinematographer Jost Vacano and performance lighting designer Peter Morse; actress Rena Riffel; and “Midnight Mass” podcast hosts Peaches Christ and Michael Varrati. A 2016 Pathe interview with Verhoeven is also on-hand – one wherein he takes the blame for Berkley’s abrasively “staccato” performance – along with extras from MGM’s assorted older releases including David Schmader’s commentary track.
One of the greatest of all the giant monster films from the golden cycle of the ‘50s/’60s, GORGO (77 mins., 1961) was a movie many of us recall from both TV airings and an endless flurry of home video releases during the heyday of cheap, public domain VHS tapes. None of these releases approximated the original Technicolor hues featured in this King Brothers production – but now Vinegar Syndrome has released a 4K UHD of “Gorgo” that’s going to feel, for many of us, like the first time you’ve truly seen the movie.
A miraculous HDR10 (1.85) grading of the original 35mm camera negative awaits fans here, and the results are a tenfold improvement even over the previous “good” release of the movie on Blu-Ray from VCI. Reds, blues, the glittering lights of Piccadilly Circus, and contrasts are all enhanced immeasurably here, offering a beautifully rendered presentation of what “Gorgo” must’ve looked like in theaters back in its day. It’s a spectacular achievement with crisp detail and clear mono sound, benefiting the superb Angelo Lavagnino score.
Vinegar Syndrome’s UHD also includes a Blu-Ray, isolated music/effects track, a new commentary plus an interview with Stephen R. Bissette; an extended version of the Ballyhoo documentary from the VCI release; Benjamin Craig’s 2009 short “Waiting for Gorgo” along with a featurette related to Craig’s effort; the “Gorgo: The Monster From the Sea” video comic book; plus the trailer and ample photo/promo galleries. Highly recommended!
A box-office success in spite of its unholy mash-up of other, better genre movies (be it “The Exorcist,” “The Amityville Horror” and “Halloween”), THE BOOGEY MAN (82 mins., 1980, R) is the kind of film only a slasher fan of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s could love (or even tolerate). Ulli Lommel’s film is basic in its construction – troubled siblings find themselves haunted by a mirror, years after the boy murdered their abusive stepfather – and offers all the hallmarks of its time: a goofy synthesizer score, bloody murder sequences (here designed by Craig Harris), a hackneyed plot, and one Hollywood veteran in the form of John Carradine.
Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K UHD again boasts a peerless HDR10 encode (1.85) with mono sound, two commentaries (one from Kat Ellinger, another featuring editor Terrell Tannen); and a Blu-Ray featuring a 40-minute interview with Suzanna Love; additional interviews with Tannen, cinematographer David Sperling, actress Catherine Tambini, and camera operator Jurg V. Walther. An archival talk with Lommel is also on-hand along with the trailer and TV spots.
Also New on 4K UHD from Vinegar Syndrome this month for horror fans are two independently-made horror efforts, both from the “Sooner State.”
TERROR AT TENKILLER (88 mins., 1986) is an Oklahoma-lensed slasher with a killer moping around a rural lake cabin where vacationing college students are hanging out. Another superlative VS transfer on UHD capped with HDR10 (1.33) with the original mono sound should make this atmospheric, “hometown”-type of genre exercise a worthwhile view for hardcore slasher devotees. Special edition features offer a new commentary with actors Kevin Meyer and Mike Wiles, plus an interview with the duo, full Making Of documentary, trailers, a 1982 short from the group, “Divided We Fall,” plus behind-the-scenes footage and its own commentary track.
NIGHT SCREAMS (85 mins., 1987) is another Oklahoma-shot outing concerning a high school jock who’s ready to play football for those Sooners until a party goes wrong…as in seriously, completely wrong. Co-writer/producer Dillis L. Hart’s movie is definitely off the rails and it had reason to be, since the movie’s more straightforward original cut was augmented with stock footage and other material that added nuttier elements to its final theatrical version. Both are included here in this three-disc Vinegar Syndrome release, with the theatrical version in 4K UHD with HDR10 (1.85, stereo), and the shorter “pre-release version” offered in its own Blu-Ray. Extras include commentary by director Allen Pone and cinematographer Eric Anderson; an 80-minute documentary; and an intro to the original cut with Hart and executive producer Richard Caliendo.
The title says it all: KILLER CONDOM (118 mins., 1996) boasts H.R. Giger as a creative consultant (with his name in a prominent credit box) in the comically off-kilter telling of a genital-consuming condom on the loose in Manhattan and Italian cop “Luigi Mackeroni” on the case. Martin Waltz’s adaptation of Germany’s adult comic books receives a full-on Director’s Cut on 4K UHD with HDR10 (1.85, 2.0 German stereo with English subtitles) as well as the theatrical version (running 10 minutes shorter) on Blu-Ray. Extras include a new commentary with Waltz and FX supervisor Jorg Buttgereit; new interviews with Waltz, Buttgereit, editor Simone Klier, stars Udo Samel and Adriana Alteras, a 2003 Waltz short, archival interviews and the trailer.
Finally, martial arts star Cynthia Rothrock’s work has been represented on a number of recent Vinegar Syndrome titles, with the grizzly, gut-punching UNDEFEATABLE (95 mins., 1993) now turning up on 4K UHD with HDR10, newly restored from its original camera negative. This is an interesting later Hong Kong import from director Godfrey Ho featuring Rothrock as a former gang member trying to go straight when a ruthless street fighter begins murdering women who resemble the wife who walked out on him. A brutal final fight is one of the key elements to this mix-up of martial arts and suspense-thriller, presented here with a new Rothrock commentary plus its different, alternate cut “Bloody Mary Killer” sporting a Brandon Bentley talk and Cantonese/Mandarin audio. Other extras include interviews with Ho, cinematographer Phil Cook, Rothrock, actor Don Niam, assistant director/actress Donna Jason, and visual essays by Chris O’Neill (comparing the two cuts) and Samm Deighan and Charles Perks (on Rothrock’s career).
International Terrors From Vinegar Syndrome include Polish filmmaker Piotr Szulkin’s APOCALYPSE TETRALOGY, which includes four sci-fi features produced between 1980-86 from the director with commentaries on two pictures by Samm Deighan and Michael Brooke, plus visual essays on Szulkin’s work by Jonathan Owen and Andrew Nette (1.66/1.85, mono, Polish with English subtitles) in Vinegar Syndrome’s two-disc Blu-Ray set…from Spain comes VILLAGES OF THE DAMNED, a compilation of Spanish terrors from the early ‘70s, all newly restored with 4K transfers by Vinegar Syndrome on Blu-Ray. Offered here are Pedro Olea’s “The Forest of the Wolf,” Silvio Narizzano’s “The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling,” and Gonzalo Saurez’s “Beatriz.” The two-disc set includes an interview with Olea, “Sky” actress Jose Lifante, and a film historian intro to “Wolf” (1.66/1.85, Spanish with English subtitles).
The Italian gaillo DELIRIUM (102 mins., 1972) has been newly scanned and restored in 4K (1.85, mono, Italian with English subs) and presented on Blu-Ray by Vinegar Syndrome in a stacked Special Edition. Commentary with Eugenio Ercolani and Troy Howarth is available plus Vanessa Polselli’s portrait of her director father, Renato Polselli; an archival interview with actor Mickey Hargitay; historian Luca Rea discussing Polselli’s work; a new interview with writer Ernesto Gastaldi; an archival interview with Polselli and Hargitay; and the 86-minute, alternate American version of “Delirium” sourced from its sole surviving video source…Gerard Ciccoritti’s Canadian slasher PSYCHO GIRLS (97 mins., 1985) is a completely insane mid ‘80s genre effort from north of the border, brought to Blu-Ray (1.33, mono) in a 2K scan from its 35mm interpositive. New extras include a commentary with Ciccoritti and dp/editor Robert Bergman; interviews with both; a talk with art director Craig Richards; and an audio conversation with historian Paul Corupe.
From Brazil come two over-the-top “women in prison” films that make their North American counterparts look positively tame by comparison. The double-feature Blu-Ray AMAZON JAIL 1 & 2 includes the 93-minute “Amazon Jail” from director Oswaldo de Oliveira as well as Conrado Sanchez’s “Amazon Jail 2” (74 mins.) which veers even further off the beaten path into a mix of the T&A prison and crime drama genres. Both features have been restored in 4K (1.66) with Portuguese language tracks, English subtitles, Favio Vellozo’s commentary on the first film, interviews with cast members Elizabeth Hartmann and Vanessa Alves, video essays and more…Adrian Edmonson and Rik Mayall (“Drop Dead Fred”) star in GUEST HOUSE PARADISO (90 mins., 1999) as the proprietors of a horrendous hotel attempting to put on a show for the “Nice family.” Mayall and Edmondson spearheaded the UK group “The Comic Strip” and worked together here for the last time on a very strange picture with occasional laughs, gross-out gags and star cameos including Bill Nighy and Simon Pegg. Fans of their humor will be the most receptive, needless to say, to this 1999 film, restored in 4K (2.35) in Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-Ray with a new interview with Pegg, archival featurette and outtakes included for fans.
Please note – all discs written up here are currently on-sale at Vinegar Syndrome’s website, often with collectible limited slipcovers.
OCN Partner Reviews
Canadian International Pictures New Releases: Mireille Dansereau’s DREAM LIFE (96 mins., 1972) marked the release of the first Quebec theatrical feature ever directed by a woman. A singular, offbeat picture tracing the friendship between two women (Liliane Lemaitre-Auger and Veronique Le Flaguais) working in local film production, their desires and relationship with men, “Dream Life” makes for a fascinating view, incorporating montages, dream sequences and documentary-styled interactions between its lead duo. Celebrating its 50th Anniversary on Blu-Ray (1.66, mono, French with English subtitles), “Dream Life” has been restored in 2K from the original 16mm reversal and 35mm internegative. Supplements include interviews with Dansereau reflecting not only on this movie but also her career; three of her short movies, including a 1996 piece that was finished for this disc; and trailers…A blue collar Montreal couple look for reparations from wealthy “Uncle Arthur” in filmmaker Denys Arcand’s DIRTY MONEY (100 mins., 1972), the first of his loosely connected “Canadian crime trilogy” that functions as a contemporary noir with North of the Border sensibilities. CIP’s Blu-Ray boasts a 4K scan from the OCN (2.35) preserving the scope aspect ratio of the film with a historian commentary and new interviews with Arcand and Cinematheque quebecoise director Robert Daudelin on-hand. There are also a handful of audio interviews with cast members and trailers…Newly available is Paul Lynch’s THE HARD PART BEGINS (87 mins., 1973), the story of a country singer dealing with all kinds of personal issues. The 4K restored transfer (1.85) on CIP’s Blu-Ray is strong and extras include commentary from Lynch; another commentary with historians Paul Corupe and Jason Pichonsky; an interview with Lynch and assorted featurettes; Daniel Kremer’s tribute to the director; an alternate ending; audio interviews with crew and cast; and more.
Three Aussie imports comprise the latest Umbrella Blu-Rays hitting North America through Vinegar Syndrome. “Mad Max” favorite Bruce Spencer stars with David Argue, Gia Carides and Amanda Dole in the 1982 hot-rodder MIDNITE SPARES (89 mins., 1982), which sports some terrific car chase sequences late in the game. Umbrella produced a full-on Special Edition here (1.85, 2.0) with a producer commentary, uncut soundtrack, visual essay on director Quentin Masters from David Del Valle, deleted scenes, a Cannes promo reel and more…Sam Neill gives an enjoyable performance in the black comic, Coen-esque DEATH IN BRUNSWICK (109 mins., 1988), John Ruane’s intriguing blend of genres about a cook whose relationship with his nightclub’s barmaid (Zoe Carides) leads to murder. Umbrella’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1/2.0) offers a commentary with Neill and co-star John Clarke; another commentary with Ruane and dp Ellery Ryan; a retrospective documentary; deleted scenes and more…Newly released is a double feature of Brian-Trenchard Smith’s DAY OF THE PANTHER and STRIKE OF THE PANTHER (aprx. 90 mins. each, 1988), both restored in 4K on Blu-Ray from their original 35mm interpositive elements (2.0 DTS MA, 1.85).
From Deaf Crocodile comes the label’s acclaimed restoration of Jiri Barta’s wild stop-motion rendition of THE PIED PIPER (53 mins., 1986). This stark, impressionistic tale offers no dialogue in its dark tale of a plague-haunted city dominated by Gothic architecture; absolutely not for kids, “The Pied Piper” is a must-see Czech import, preserved here on Blu-Ray alongside a restoration of a 1982 Barta short, “The Vanished World of Gloves.” There’s also an archival 1985 Making Of, a new interview with Barta, booklet notes, and a commentary by Czech film expert Irena Kovarova…Another striking animated import is also new from Deaf Crocodile this month: HEROIC TIMES (79 mins., 1983), an adaptation of a 19th century Hungarian poem that employs a fascinating mix of styles from standard animation to oil painting. Adventurous animation fans should check this 4K restoration (1.37) out on Blu-Ray with Deaf Crocodile’s superb extras including commentary by Samm Deighan; an essay from professor Jennifer Lynde Barker; video interviews; and three other shorts by director Jozsef Gemes…Deaf Crocodile’s latest is VISITORS FROM THE ARKANA GALAXY (88 mins., 1981), an utterly off-the-wall live-action sci-fi fantasy from Croatian animator Dusan Vukotic that offers loads of shenanigans, creatures and alien visitors to spare. Five of Vukotic’s shorts are also included in the Deaf Crocodile Blu-Ray (1.37, mono) with a Samm Deighan commentary and essay from Jennifer Lynde Barker.
Factory 25 Releases: Todd Rohal’s THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM (82 mins., 2011) paints a memorable portrait of a young priest who tracks down a high school buddy while on a forced sabbatical. Their canoe trip turns surreal in an occasionally funny and quite odd little film now on Blu-Ray from Factory 25. The Blu-Ray (1.78) includes outtakes, supporting shorts, a music video, commentary and a 32-page booklet…Filmmaker Robert Greene lovingly looks at small-town wrestling competitions in FAKE IT SO REAL (91 mins., 2011), a documentary following North Carolina wrestlers as they prep for a big show. Commentary from Greene and wrestling journalist David Shoemaker highlights Factory 25’s Blu-Ray with wrestling promos, a podcast interview, 20 page booklet and deleted scenes offered on the supplemental end…The rock group “Material Issue” saw its prospects for success cut down when singer Jim Ellison committed suicide. The new doc OUT OF TIME: THE MATERIAL ISSUE STORY (68 mins., 2023) offers an examination into the tragic death of Ellison and its impact on the surviving band members in a feature from Balin Schneider. Factory 25’s Blu (1.78, 5.1) includes a 1991 sound check, 24 page booklet, and extended interview with musician Matt Pinfield.
Yellow Veil Pictures New Releases: Coming in late September from Yellow Veil is Jagoda Szelc’s MONUMENT (108 mins., 2018) which has been coupled with the director’s TOWER: A BRIGHT DAY. Short films, Szelc interviews, introductions from the director on both movies, 1080p (2.35) transfers and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ booklet notes grace the double-feature Blu-Ray…Now available is FALCON LAKE (100 mins., 2023), Charlotte LeBon’s film mixing teen romance, a coming of age story, and supernatural terror. Two featurettes and trailers are included in Yellow Veil’s Blu-Ray (1.37)….The lost art of direct-to-video erotic thrillers is the subject of Anthony Penta’s documentary WE KILL FOR LOVE (163 mins., 2023), which hits Blu-Ray with commentary, deleted scenes, essays, and appearances from the likes of B-movie auteurs Jim Wyonorski and Fred Olen Ray, actor Andrew Stevens and more (1.85).
ETR Media’s new releases include the documentary DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH YOURSELF (93 mins., 2023), a look at musician and SF punk rock vet Justin Pearson. Over 20 minutes of deleted scenes are included in ETR’s Blu-Ray along with additional live performances (1080p, 2.0)…XYZ Media brings horror fans Andy Mitton’s THE HARBINGER (90 mins., 2022), the story of a mask-wearing demon haunting a woman who travels to NYC in order to help out her nightmare-plagued friend. Commentary, a written conversation on the film, deleted/extended scenes and a 1080p (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA) are on-hand in XYZ’s Blu-Ray…THE OUTWATERS (110 mins., 2023) attempts a psychological study of four campers who experience possibly horrific occurrences in the Mojave Desert. A short film and epilogue to the movie are included along with commentary and an essay booklet in ETR Media’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA)…Video game fans will want to check out SLOPE’S GAME ROOM: SEGA THE COMPLETE HISTORY VOLUME 1 (aprx. 6 hours, 2018-21) featuring 10 documentaries taking video game fans behind the scenes into the creation of 10 Sega designed classics. Over two hours of bonus features include commentaries and featurettes (1.78, 5.1/2.0) in ETR’s Blu.
In FULL TIME (93 mins., 2023), Laure Calamy gives an excellent performance as a single Mom trying to take care of her kids, get to her hotel job, and interview for a better venue of employment – with a transit strike throwing a wrench in all of her best laid plans. A fast-moving and straightforward film with Calamy’s sympathetic, harried performance at its center, “Full Time” is new on Blu-Ray this month from Music Box Selects (5.1 French with English subtitles, 2.39). The disc includes an interview with director Eric Gravel, a Filmmaker Q&A, isolated score/sound design track and the trailer…Kani has produced a 2K remaster of Mike de Leon’s WILL YOUR HEART BEAT FASTER? (104 mins., 1980), the comedic tale of a Yakuza soldier who slips a cassette into the possession of an unknowing pop singer. “Restored and revised” audio tracks are included in Kani’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 2.0) along with De Leon’s 1982 short “Aliwan Paradise,” interviews, an archival 8mm Making Of, plus a restoration of the 1947 Philippines drama “Miss Philippines” (99 mins.)…Circle Collective’s Blu-Ray release of WHAT DOESN’T FLOAT (69 mins., 2023) profiles a group of New Yorkers all unhinged in today’s post-COVID world in an offbeat drama. Luca Balser’s film hits Blu with a 1080p (2.39) transfer, 2.0 sound, commentary, behind the scenes images and more.
Dekanalog Titles: Actress Asia Argento’s second feature was an adaptation of THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS (97 mins., 2004), K.T. Leroy’s book about dysfunctional residents of America’s heartland. The excellent ensemble cast includes Jeremy Renner, Winona Ryder, Peter Fonda, Ornella Muti and Argento herself, who plays a woman who engages her son in her turbulent life as a sex worker. Commentary by Argento and producer Chris Hanley leads the supplemental section in Dekanalog’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA)…Also new from Dekanalog, FUGUE (102 mins., 2018) is a striking drama about a woman who, after a two year disappearance, is reunited with the husband, young son and parents she can’t remember. Director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s film debuts on Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1) from Dekanalog with a director interview, trailer, and Brooklyn Q&A on-hand.
Amanda Kremer’s GIVE ME PITY! (80 mins., 2022) follows “Sissy St. Claire” as a TV entertainer whose latest live special goes all wrong. Sophie Von Haselberg stars as the fictional star and is on-hand in Utopia’s Blu-Ray commentary with Kremer. Rehearsal videos and photo galleries are also included…RIMINI (115 mins., 2022) finds a washed-up rock star named Richie Bravo struggling to stay afloat in Rimini, balancing working for tourists with a dementia-riddled father and adult daughter all taking a toll on his fragile existence. The trailer, booklet notes and a CD soundtrack are contained on Big World Pictures’ Blu-Ray release (1080p, 5.1 DTS MA)…Mark Savage’s HITMAN’S HERO (87 mins., 2000) features Paul Moder and Kevin Hopkins in an Aussie indie about a contract killer and family man struggling to reconcile the two ends of his work. Commentary from Savage, video storyboards and press clippings are on-hand in Darkstar’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 2.0 stereo).
NEXT TIME: Kino Lorber’s first discs of Fall! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!