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Film Masters’ latest Blu-Ray is a double-disc package sporting two Roger Corman-produced efforts from the early ‘60s – features that comprised countless public domain releases on other formats over the years. The headliner is THE TERROR (80 mins., 1963), which found Corman at his “thriftiest,” utilizing sets from his AIP hit “The Raven” for a quickie shot in a couple of days. Jack Nicholson plays a French soldier who comes across a strange aristocrat (Boris Karloff) as well as a ghostly young woman (Sandra Knight) in a movie that’s sometimes confused as being part of Corman’s classic cycle of Edgar Allan Poe movies, but still offers low-budget thrills with more style than you might anticipate.

Credit for that extends to Francis Ford Coppola, who by most accounts finished the picture, which Corman ended up self-releasing outside AIP. As such, “The Terror” fell into the public domain and endured many substandard releases across VHS, laserdisc, and DVD. This Film Masters presentation doesn’t hail from reported MGM vault elements that exist but rather a print that nevertheless looks pretty good here (1.85), with a high bit-rate, solid compression and a thankful lack of noise reduction (which plagued an earlier release on Blu-Ray from the “Film Chest” label).

Supplements add some welcome insight into the unique production of “The Terror”; these include a commentary from C. Courtney Joyner and Steve Haberman plus Howard S. Berger and Kevin Marr’s visual essay on Corman. Adding even more value is a second disc including Corman’s earlier indie, THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORSagain in its own high-def transfer that looks quite excellent given previous public-domain releases of the title that we’ve seen before. The 1080p B&W image displays little processing and natural detail, and short of a restoration of the OCN, probably is as good as the picture will ever look.

Extras on this second disc include a commentary by Justin Humphreys and star Jonathan Haze, and part two of Ballyhoo’s documentary “Hollywood Intruders: The Filmgroup Story,” which is presented here with two companion booklet essays the icing on the cake to this affordable, recommended Film Masters package.


OCN New Release Wrap

Canadian International Pictures has brought cult movie buffs a memorable ‘70s release this month: EAST END HUSTLE (91 mins., 1976), a punchy effort from director Frank Vitalee that’s been resurrected in nothing less than a 4K UHD with HDR10 enhancement.

This highly-rated B-movie from the Great White North stars Adree Pelletier as a hooker who strikes out from her pimp boyfriend and decides not only to leave him and the profession behind, but liberate a bunch of his employees – including new arrival Anne-Marie Provencher – in the process. Now, this isn’t exactly “Death Wish” or “Taxi Driver” – like a lot of these Canadian-made films from the early/mid ‘70s CIP has released so far, “East End Hustle”’s finer qualities come through its atmosphere, location filming and sense of mood, all with a distinctive flair separating it from comparable American exploitation outings. Yes there are some early feminist-centric social aspects one can read into the movie, but I enjoyed taking this trip back to a different time and place as much as the final 15 minutes or so when the movie’s “marketable” revenge elements finally come into play.

Newly scanned and restored on 4K UHD with HDR10 (1.85, mono), this is a pleasantly filmic presentation of “East End Hustle” with extras including a commentary with Paul Corupe and historian Jason Pichonsky; new interviews with the director; a talk with Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, who initially distributed the film in the U.S.; conversations with writer Bill Brownstein on Cinepix; plus an audio interview with composer Len Blum, better known as a screenwriter who collaborated with Ivan Reitman on several films, including “Meatballs” and “Heavy Metal.”

The other new CIP release, a Blu-Ray restoration of THE CHRISTMAS MARTIAN (65 mins., 1971), is an unfathomably bizarre early ‘70s Canadian kids film about an alien – who doesn’t look like one – who decides to come to Earth and shoplifts from a small-town store. Yet, this seeming extraterrestrial is a benign entity whom a couple of kids attempt to help get home before the local cops decide to put an end to his weird attire and goofy attitude once and for all.

“The Christmas Martian” is a fascinating glimpse of low-budget, “homegrown” Canadian filmmaking circa the early ‘70s. On any kind of critical level it nearly makes “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” look like a big-budget piece of Hollywood filmmaking, but for anyone with an interest in its era – or who possibly ever encountered this movie before – CIP’s 2K remaster (1.85, mono) from the original camera negative offers a good-looking image. Both English and French versions are included along with Paul Corupe’s commentary; all 15 trailers from the “Tales For All” series, producer Rock Demers’ series of films that launched with this picture; interviews, booklet notes and reversible cover art.

Dekanalog’s latest is THE TAKING (76 mins., 2021), an interesting documentary from director Alexandre O. Philippe examining Monument Valley’s placement in American filmmaking, advertising and pop culture, and its actual standing as a part of Navajo territory. Philippe is interviewed in Dekanalog’s Blu-Ray along with an essay from Scout Tafoya, the short “The Spot,” a 1080p (1.85) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound…Coming later this month from Dakanalog, Gillian Wallace Horvat’s I BLAME SOCIETY (85 mins., 2020) is a post-modern look at the death of American indie cinema of the early 21st century, where filmmaker Horvat stages a comeuppance for people who’ve wronged her and her career. A self-referential and playfully “meta” project from Dekanalog with their Blu-Ray (1.78) featuring a 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack, 1080p (1.78) transfer, commentary from Horvat and cinematographer Olivia Kuan, several of Horvat’s shorts and a booklet intro from “Heathers”’ Daniel Waters.

Factory 25’s release of Tyler Taormina’s HAPPER’S COMET (62 mins., 2023) celebrates the filmmaker’s follow up to “Ham on Rye,” offering a series of vignettes from Suburbia U.S.A. set in the middle of the night. Offbeat but strikingly visual, this is another unique work from the director, presented on Blu-Ray (1.78) with another Taormina short and the trailer…Rick Charnoski’s WARM BLOOD (88 mins., 2022) is also new from Factory 25, the story of a teen runaway in Modesto, California circa the 1980s, and based on the real-life diary of a young girl on the outskirts of both the town and society itself. Factory 25’s Blu-Ray includes a 1080p transfer (1.78) and assorted extras.

Alain Resnais’ LA GUERRE EST FINIE (121 mins., 1966) features the great Yves Montand as a Communist soldier still running a number of missions – with identities to match – decades after the Spanish Civil War. Genevieve Bujold plays a young student and fledgling anarchist who rekindles his political pursuits in this starkly shot French film (1.66), new on Blu-Ray from The Film Desk featuring an interview with Resnais by Robert Benayoun, writing from critics like Andrew Sarris, and Resnais and Robert Hessens’ 1949 short “Guernica”…Kani Releasing brings American viewers the Chinese import JOURNEY TO THE WEST (117 mins., 2021), a modern take on a classical story with lots of laughs and human insight to spare. Kani’s Blu-Ray includes an intro from director Kong Dashan, a 24-minute interview with the director, trailers and a promo video, a 1080p transfer and English subtitles.

Deaf Crocodile Films’ latest Blu-Ray, CAT CITY (96 mins., 1986) brings movie buffs another strange, striking animated work from overseas: this one a Hungarian film from director Bela Ternovszky set on a planet where cats and rats have joined up to eliminate mice, and a mouse secret agent (yes) who takes on a criminal cat gang in an age AMM (“After Mickey Mouse”). Eastern European viewers have apparently long considered this a cult favorite – now audiences in the U.S. can judge for themselves. Certainly there’s no denying the care and restorative work performed here by Deaf Crocodile (1.37, 2.0) with the extras including interviews, a commentary from critic Samm Deighan, three other shorts from Ternovszky, plus featurettes…Also new from Deaf Crocodile, BENNY’S BATHTUB (41 mins., 1971) is a bizarre animated offering about a boy who follows a tadpole into a bathtub, where singing Mermaids and musical numbers await. A weird, off-the-wall Danish outing presented here in a spectacularly restored transfer (1.37) with ample supplements, including three episodes of the Danish TV series “Circlen,” also animated by Jannik Hastrup, plus an hour-long video interview with Jastrup, two commentaries and booklet notes from Steve Ryfle.

Another strong video game documentaryPRETENDING I’M A SUPERMAN (71 mins., 2020), examines the genesis of skateboarder Tony Hawk’s cultural apex: the video game smash “Tony Hawk Pro Skater,” which became a multi-console franchise spanning iterations of sequels and imitators. ETR Media’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 2.0) includes director’s commentary and extensive extras, making it a must for gamers…Yellow Veil Pictures’ newest Blu-Ray, ASHKAL: THE TUNISIAN INVESTIGATION (92 mins., 2022), preserves Youssef Chebbi’s look at a pair of police officers probing a mysterious, charred corpse. An alternate ending, interview with Chebbi and other extras are included in the new disc (1.66), while THE RUNNER (41 mins., 2022) is a short, experimental film from “dark synth pop duo” Boy Harsher (Joe Matthews and Augustus Miller). Ample extras on Yellow Veil’s Blu-Ray include VHS short movies, music videos and interviews with the duo.

Larry Clark’s MARFA GIRL (106 mins., 2012) and his 2018 sequel MARFA GIRL 2 (77 mins., 2018) have been paired on a new Blu-Ray from Darkstar Pictures. These two character dramas set in rural Texas include 1080p (1.85 on the original, 2.35 on its follow-up; 2.0/5.1) transfers, a photo gallery and trailers…Darkstar has also lined up PIG KILLER (122 mins., 2000), the true, wild tale of unhinged Robert “Willy” Pickton, a pig farmer who killed some 50 women during his reign of insanity. Jake Busey stars in Chad Ferrin’s film, new on Blu-Ray with deleted scenes, a Q&A, interviews, screen tests, a 1080p (2.39) transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound.

Utopia’s Blu-Ray of SQUARING THE CIRCLE (THE STORY OF HIPGNOSIS) (101 mins., 2022) is photographer Anton Corbijn’s debut feature documentary – a profile of Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, a creative force whose studio, Hipgnosis, was responsible for framing some of the most memorable and popular album covers of all-time. Musicians like Roger Waters, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel and many others appear here paying tribute to the duo in this terrific documentary that should be a must for music fans. Commentary with Corbijn and Powell is included along with a photo gallery and deleted scenes (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA).

Umbrella’s new Blu-Ray couples a pair of Australian shlockers: the gross-out NIGHT OF FEAR (53 mins., 1973), combined here with INN OF THE DAMNED (118 mins., 1975), a relatively more esteemed affair with Dame Judith Anderson and Joseph Furst playing the owners of a strange, broken down old inn on the edge of a rainforest – one which bounty hunter Alex Cord soon wishes he never stepped into. Both movies feature 1080p (1.85, mono) transfers with loads of extras, from extended “Not Quite Hollywood” interviews, commentaries and plenty more for American horrorphiles newly discovering these Aussie oddities…Also out from Umbrella is TOP KNOT DETECTIVE (89 mins., 2016), an offbeat look at how the infamous Japanese series “Rinin Suiri Tantai” came to Australian shores, not to mention the cult series itself. Extras, a CD soundtrack, commentary and more are all included in Umbrella’s Blu-Ray (1.77).


Horrors in 4K

THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (111 mins., 2023, R; Universal): Almost inexplicably bad, misguided continuation of the original “Exorcist” showcases all the worst attributes of writer/director David Gordon Green, who followed his decent 2018 resurrection of “Halloween” with a pair of horrendous sequels – and alas, this one has more in common with the latter than the former.

“Believer” chronicles a dual-possession of young girls with one distraught father (Leslie Odom, Jr.) seeking help not from just a Catholic priest but experts from a grab-bag of faiths – plus a returning Ellen Burstyn – that spits pea soup in the face of William Peter Blatty’s original book and William Friedkin’s film, not to mention its assorted follow-ups.

Even the worst of those sequels isn’t as misfired as “Believer,” which comes off like Universal, after paying millions for franchise rights from Morgan Creek, then plastered on top of a barely Netflix-level, generic horror movie. Production values are surprisingly low, camera work is flat, and the scares telegraphed from miles away – the result was a shocking misfire that’s reportedly left Universal puzzled as to how to handle any subsequent follow-ups for a series they spent some $400 million (!) to obtain the rights to.

Universal’s 4K UHD of “Believer” (1.85, Dolby Atmos) is out December 19th featuring a handful of featurettes, plus the Blu-Ray and a Digital HD copy.

Also new from Universal is their other big horror release from the fall – one which commercially more than doubled the worldwide box-office of “Exorcist”: FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S (110 mins., 2023, PG-13), the low-budget, also Blumhouse-produced adaptation of the popular video game franchise. This one, a thriller set in a sort of Chuck E. Cheese From Hell, finds Jush Hutcherson as a night security guard at what he thinks is an abandoned theme restaurant where its supposedly dormant animatronic animals are actually, in fact, very much alive.

The game series has been a massive success amongst younger viewers and this feature is aimed right at that core audience – resulting in a picture that doesn’t offer much engagement for casual viewers, with director Emma Tammi’s pacing coming off as stodgy and few suspenseful moments on-hand. That said, there’s loads of fan service with game creator Scott Cawthon having written the story and co-authored the script, and the picture manages to contain its horrors in an appropriately PG-13 form for its target demographic.

Universal’s attractive 4K UHD includes HDR10 (2.39) enhancement with Dolby Atmos audio, two featurettes, the Blu-Ray and a Digital HD code.


Also New & Noteworthy

PET SEMATARY: BLOODLINES Blu-Ray (87 mins., 2023, R; Paramount): Pedestrian follow-up to the recent “Pet Sematary” remake serves as a prequel to the Stephen King story wherein a young Jud Crandall first runs afoul of the supernatural forces that haunt his small Maine town. Nothing much doing here except genre vets David Duchovny, Henry Thomas and Pam Grier reduced to serving in a technically competent but narratively deficient rehash, despite the late ‘60s period setting. Paramount’s Blu-Ray includes Dolby Atmos sound, a 1080p transfer, digital code, and over 50 minutes of cast/crew interviews.

DUMB MONEY Blu-Ray (105 mins., 2023, R; Sony): Craig Gillespie helmed this serio-comic look at Keith Gill’s nutty desire to save Gamestop, improbably turning it into the hottest commodity on the stock market, before a group of billionaires conspire to take him and his supporters down. It’s not quite “The Big Short” but this adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s book “The Antisocial Network” falls along similar lines, using a big ensemble cast – Paul Dano as Gill, with Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Shailene Woodley and Seth Rogan in support – in a fast-moving film that hits the needed dramatic beats but comes off as little more than perfunctory in the end. It’s all watchable but doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression, something confirmed by “Dumb Money”’s anemic box-office returns. Sony’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) is now available sporting two featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary by Gillespie and a Digital code.

Film Movement New Releases: New on DVD for December from Film Movement, Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary INTO THE WEEDS (98 mins., 2022) is a highly compelling look at the fight between groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and massive corporation Monsanto, the producer of Roundup, which he took to court for causing his Non-Hogkin’s lymphoma. The lawsuit provides all the drama in a well-made feature on DVD with bonus featurettes, a 16:9 transfer and 5.1/2.0 sound….Also new on DVD, BEFORE NOW & THEN (103 mins., 2023) is the acclaimed Indonesian import from director Kamila Andini about a plantation owner’s wife (Happy Salma) and her relationship with his younger mistress (Laura Basuki). Andini’s earlier short “Following Diana” is also included in Film Movement’s DVD (2:1, 5.1/2.0 Indonesian with English subtitles).

THE WANDERING EARTH II Blu-Ray (174 mins., 2023; Well Go USA): Sprawling Hong Kong sci-fi drama, set in a future where the sun is dying out and mankind is left to literally move the Earth for another destination in the solar system. It’s a character-driven picture that serves as a prequel to the events seen in the earlier “Wandering Earth,” with HK stars Wu Jing and Andy Lau offering grounded human support to the genre surroundings chronicled here. Well Go’s Blu-Ray, out December 19th, includes a 1080p transfer, Dolby Atmos sound (Mandarin) and an English dub plus English subtitles.

ANCIENT ALIENS – Season 18 DVD (7 hours, 2023; Lionsgate): Now that we know UFOs do exist (the where, what, or how remains to be seen), shows like “Ancient Aliens,” History’s long-running series, have taken on added significance. This 18th season of the series offers 10 episodes (1.78, 2.0 stereo) scattered across two discs, taking viewers on a tour from a turn of the (20th) century Kentucky prophet through modern day UFO hunters. Lionsgate’s DVD is now available.

ULTRAMAN VS. ALIEN BALTAN – Battle Kaijuo Series 02 Blu-Ray (aprx. 9 hours; Mill Creek): Blu-Ray compilation includes 11 movies and a pair of movies from the Ultraman franchise, including Ultraman, Return of Ultraman, Ultraman 80, Ultraman Max, Ultraman Kids, Ultraman X: The movie and Ultraman Cosmos: The First Contact.  The disc is now available in stores.

 

NEXT TIME – The Holiday Gift Guide Part 2! 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! 

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Comments (1):Log in or register to post your own comments
Inn Of The Damned is interesting. An outback version of The Bloody Benders, with a rather anachronistic lesbian hot tub scene.

I had a beat up VHS of this years ago. I would probably welcome an HD upgrade of this.

Greg Espinoza

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