Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990)

Directed by Albert Pyun

Captain America is the number one movie in the box office three weeks in a row and with me being a Marvel Comics aficionado, a lot of people have been asking me if I’ve seen it and what my thoughts are on it. Well, I have seen it and here are my thoughts on Captain America… from 1990.

The movie starts out in 1936 fascist Italy, when a young boy is forced to watch his whole family get brutally gunned down by Italian soldiers. He is then brought to a secret laboratory for experimentation in order to create a super soldier. Now, let’s pause for a moment to reflect on this sequence. Even though this movie is rated PG-13, it was obviously intended for kids/young teens. Why in the hell would you start your movie out in fascist Italy in the Thirties? With a kid watching his entire family brutally murdered?? AND THEN getting experimented on by evil scientists??? It’s like the filmmakers thought they were making the Schindler’s List of superhero movies. The saving grace of this scene is the stop motion skinless rat. It’s pretty great. So, the kid ends up becoming the Red Skull. During this process, one of the scientists has a change of heart and she escapes to America. Years later, World War II starts up and the government needs a hero. With the help of the former fascist Italian lady scientist, the super soldier program is started and they find the perfect candidate in gimpy Steve Rogers. Most depictions of Steve Rogers pre-Captain America has him being small, skinny and weak. This movie has him walk kinda funny.

He obviously goes through the super soldier process and just as everyone starts congratulating each other, a Nazi spy disguised as a “Special Observer” shoots and kills the Italian science lady in the greatest “PSYCHE! I’m totally a Nazi, dickweeds!” sequence in all of film.

It’s from this point on, the movie becomes an Adam West 60s Batman schlockfest. Cap makes his way to the Red Skull’s castle hideout only to get his ass handed to him and then is strapped to a giant missile and fired off at the White House. Well, Cap kicks the shit out of the missile and sends it off course to the frozen wasteland known as Canada. He gets frozen for a couple of decades and somehow wakes up at the same time the Red Skull plans on kidnapping the President. It’s not the greatest story but its mostly faithful to the source material. I say “mostly” because why the HELL is the Red Skull Italian? He’s always been German in every depiction of the character. There is no reason for him to NOT be German. I just have no clue why the filmmakers would make the bad guys Italian when it would be so easy to make them Nazis.

My favorite part of the movie is Captain America’s secret weapon. No, it’s not his shield throw. It’s him feigning sick then stealing a car. He does this twice in the movie. The first time I thought it was funny. The second, I thought it was hilarious! His whole trick is the pretend to feel sick, insisting the driver to pull over. He walks like 10 feet away and when the driver goes to check on him he runs back to the car and peels outs. Captain America, the symbol of everything great about America, stealing cars. Symbolism.

The crazy thing about this movie was that it actually has recognizable actors in it: Darren McGavin (Kolchak, The Old Man from A Christmas Story), Michael Nouri (Flashdance, The Hidden), Ned Beatty (of Ned Beatty fame), Ronny Cox (Total Recall, Robocop, Beverly Hills Cop). Oh yeah, AND they got Matt Salinger. You know: Matt Salinger. The actor. Never heard of him? Well, you’ve heard of his dad, J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye. Matt got his first break in Revenge of the Nerds and this was supposed to be his big break. Unfortunately, despite a bunch of press and a big ad campaign, Captain America was shelved for 2 years and quietly released on VHS in 1992 thus putting Matt’s career on ice (see what I did there? Captain America humor!)

This movie isn’t bad if you embrace the shlocky-ness. They had a decent enough budget and the movie was evenly paced. It was directed by Albert Pyun who also made Cyborg, Vicious Lips, Kickboxer 2, 4 and the upcoming Kickboxer 6; all pretty entertaining movies. Captain America is on par with the other superhero movies of the time and much like those films, it just doesn’t stand the test of time. If you can embrace the cheezy-ness of the movie then it can be fun.

Oh! And in case you were wondering, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is kick-ass. Go see that after watching this one.

-Thomas Reinert

Monday, April 28, 2014


Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
1972 (both of them)
Part One: 95 mins.  Part Two: 86 mins.
DVDs released by Synapse Films

There is a genre of films knows as "The Avenging Angel" or more academically as "Rape-Revenge" films.  Typically, films of this nature involve a woman (or group of women) being taken advantage of.  Most often, this is physical and sexual in nature.  The famous films you've probably seen or read about are the controversial I Spit on Your Grave, the brilliant Ms. 45 or more recently Tarantino's Kill Bill.  But, there are plenty more that don't get discussed.  I find these films extremely fascinating.  Perhaps it's the idea that revenge is justice or the complicated relationship that these women have with revenge.  When done well, these films have a way of getting at tough subjects, while being entertaining exploitation films.  Ms. 45, for instance, does a wonderful job of getting at feminist theory of the early 1970s and pulling it to it's logical conclusion.  If all men are complicit and guilty as a whole by just being men, then targeting all of them is completely fair.  When shown literally, however, the audience eventually turns away from the heroine and questions the validity of it.  Or, maybe something about these films reach into my innate male-ness and offer some kind of guilt-relief from just being male.  Or, perhaps, I just like to watch attractive ladies chop up bastards.  Whatever it is, they get at something deep in my psyche.

What Yamaguchi has done with his Butterfly series is sidestep the regular victim-to-heroine storyline and put us up front with a tough woman who suffers no fools.  While not technically following the basic formula for an Avenging Angel film, I argue that these films still work within the genre and should be considered some of the best ever made.


Nami Higuchi (played by the beautiful Meiko Kaji) has been imprisoned for dominating a Yakuza boss with a big time knife.  She cut that fool open before noticing that his wife and child were nearby.  Her remorse is instant and ends up getting her caught.  So, she begins the film in prison.

To her astonishment, the widow of the man she killed pleads for her early release. She is so moved by this, Nami begins to work as a hostess in a club (brothel) and offers much of her earnings to the widow, who is too ill to work.

Along the way, she begins to build a life within the club, befriending the owner / madam.  When the Yakuza decides to call in their debt, the madam has no choice but to accept their demands.  Nami must step in to save the madam.

What is so great about this film is the patient timing and eventual payoff.  While I expected a typical rundown of horrible things done, then retribution handed out liberally.  Instead, what is special about this film is the measured tone that Yamaguchi has.  The film is completely under his control, each moment being carefully put together to build a case for Nami.  At the same time, I love that the climactic scene near the end of the film takes place at a billiards table.  This scene is so great.  Yamaguchi's editing provides a great tension and gravity.

The pacing may seem a bit slow for a film like this, but Yamaguchi sets it all up perfectly.  It almost has that same vibe as Unforgiven.  Though the final moments are drenched in blood, until that point, Nami's fate seems entirely up to others.  But, when she does finally take matters into her own hands you can tell there is absolutely no way she will accept defeat.


Part two begins in a van.  You know that's always a bad sign.  I mean, really.  Outside of that cool van that your uncle tooled around in when you were young, have you ever seen good things happen in vans?

The van is full of ladies in the back.  Said ladies are being transported to Yakuza HQ for assignment to a wretched life of prostitution.  The woman sitting in the passenger seat (Miyoko) wants none of that, so first chance she gets, she puts a foot into the driver's noggin and makes a run for it.  Unlucky for her, she's kind of slow and runs funny.  Lucky for her, Nami stands atop a bridge watching the water go by when this scene happens upon her.  

Nami hands these three men their asses and takes Miyoko into her custody, thus starting her troubles with the Yakuza in part two.

The tone and pacing of part two is a bit different.  Where part one is moody and has a bit of a plodding pace, part two is brighter, funnier and moves along more briskly.  It's also got Sonny Chiba, which pretty much means its awesome no matter what.  

Nami has become a professional gambler, and is damn good at it.  She works her way into the Ginza gambling scene, making friends with Ryuji (Chiba) as she goes.  When the Yakuza starts getting greedy and demanding control, they mess with the wrong duo.

The Release
Synapse is a company that seems to know exactly what they want and they do it right.  The transfers on these films look gorgeous.  Colors are bright and the prints are cleaned up beautifully.  They also have great artwork, with reversible cover art being the original posters for the series (shown above).  Interviews with the filmmaker and trailers, etc...  You can't go wrong with these.  And, who else would have put them out?

-J. Moret

Friday, April 25, 2014


This week, Matt and John discuss the SOV art disaster, HEAVY METAL MASSACRE.  You should watch it because you get to see a stuffed owl stare at the camera for five minutes while Electric After Burner Band plays, it's good.

You can subscribe on iTunes or you can listen here:
Check out this episode!

-J. Moret

Monday, April 21, 2014


Directed by Douglas McKeown
81 mins.  Shot on great 16mm Technicolor.
Elite Entertainment Millenium Edition Blu-Ray release, 2012

It gets no better than low budget monster movies where a lady gets her face bit off in a dingy basement, a girl gets decapitated and tossed out a window, blood sprays awkwardly on light-bulbs, and science geeks make-out. Thus, the reason for THE DEADLY SPAWN being spectacularly awesome.

The Set-up:
So, some sweet dudes are camping when a "red hot" meteorite crashes near them.  They then get dominated by a creature from the shadows.  Next up, an older couple wants to get going on a trip, but they need to check the hot water heater first.  Dude goes down to the basement: dominated.  Before-mentioned lady goes down to the basement: dominated by getting her face bit off. 

From there, we get introduced to a semi-sweet old couple, a ten year old (Charles) who is obsessed with monster movies, his brother (Pete) the science major, a grumpy cat "who is crazy," and two more college science nerds.

An element that manages to work extremely well in the film is the weather and temperature.  A large thunderstorm is making its way through, and it permeates every outdoor shot.  The sound of rain and thunder are constantly in the background.  Lighting fires and bundling up provide a real sense of how cold it is.  There is also the sound of dripping water through the basement and on the outside.  The film "feels" cold and wet.  (Though it was actually shot during one of New Jersey's longest droughts) And, that, in a way, is far more affecting than any monster effects.  

But on the topic of monster effects, they are awesome.  This is especially true when you think of the time it was made.  There were no books or websites to help you figure out which materials should be used or ways to make it.  Grotesque little slugs scurry in the water, lit only by a flashlight, attacks are seen in shadow and there is a certain mystery to the creature, until we get about a half-hour in.  After that, Charles finds the monster and her victims in the basement, and the jig is up.  We get to see it all.  He's basically a worm with three heads, arms, and a shit ton of teeth.

And then, the most amazing scene I've seen in a movie for a long time: the old lady lunch scene.  We all know how old ladies loved to get together in 1983 to gossip, share recipes and enjoy one another's company.  Well, think of how awesome that is once you include killer slugs.  

PDVD_035.BMP (640×480)
Filmed mostly in Gladstone, New Jersey for basically nothing, this impressive and super fun film is everything that I love about super low-budget monster films.  The gore is hilarious, the monster design is super inventive, the ambience is effective, and the acting is... adequate.  The effects are super ambitious and awesome.  So, most highly recommended. 

The Release:
The film looks great on the blu-ray release, but I'm going to recommend the DVD Special Edition release that was put out by Synapse.  What Elite has done is take a lot of the special features and transfer that Synapse put together and just re-release it as a Blu-Ray.  They've added one audio commentary.  Pretty shady.

"Don't Try It, Gary"

-J. Moret

Friday, April 18, 2014


This week, Matt and John discuss the unexpectedly great zombie comedy, REEL ZOMBIES.  The subtle humor and witty filmmaker won us over, in spite of ourselves.

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or you can listen here:
Check out this episode!

-J. Moret

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: LUST FOR FREEDOM (1987)

Director: Eric Louzil
Produced by Troma Films
92 Minutes
2014 Vinegar Syndrome Release

Typically, when I think of Troma, I think of Mutants, Sgt. Kabukiman, Monsters, low-brow comedy and frankly, movies that I don't typically want to watch. Troma always seemed to make absurd movies, simply to make absurd movies. Although I can appreciate many of their efforts, to me, getting comedy, sci-fi, horror, etc. to work in the context of a single film is an extremely difficult task for a filmmaker.

You've never seen anything like THIS before.
Lust For Freedom isn't what Troma is known for but it is still a hybrid film. It's a mixture of a Revenge movie and a Women's Prison flick. I have seen many negative reviews of this film and I think this is why. It isn't typical Troma, and it doesn't quite scratch that Revenge flick feel or the Women in Prison movie nerve.

I think it's a pretty great movie. There's no winking at the camera that is present in many Troma productions. Everything is played straight and the characterizations of the cast come straight out of exploitation stereotypes. The big scarred up Evil Indian. The wiener dude with the crossbow, The evil doctor and his. . . cowboy assistant. . . you know, the usual.

The plot centers on Gillian Kaites. The film opens with narration by Gillian.. She and her boyfriend are cops partaking in a sting operation. He is killed and she just wants to escape her life. Gillian is pulled over near the Mexico-California border by Sheriff Coale. Coale takes her in for questioning about a hitchhiker she picked up. But little does she know she will be framed for drug possession, imprisoned indefinitely, and be up for sale in the flesh trade.

The driving character trait of Gillian is guilt. She feels that when she was an undercover cop, "Cops were dying all over the place and all I could do was act like a woman" (Yes, this is an actual line of narration in the movie). Throughout most of the film she is a powerless, victim to the corrupt correctional system. In the end, Gillian is challenged by the oppression. Her life sucks, but she becomes the advocate for the women with something to live for.

In between her feeling sorry for herself and the realization that she can no longer sit idly by while her fellow women are tortured, lots of sweet stuff happens. Wrestling matches to the death, torture, karate fights, lesbian sex, again, the usual.

There is a very clouded and confusing feminist undertone to the film. Gillian herself is the catalyst to thwart the evil male sex trade. Even though she was once a very strong, skilled, Police officer at one point, she was not willing to stand up when her fellow females were being raped, tortured, traded, and shot with crossbows. She wakes up to the fact that these men are evil and essentially starts the prison of fire and kills a bunch of dudes with an AK-47. It rules.

Not sure why so many reviews of the film are negative. Not sure what people were expecting. It's a fun exploitation film. Just by it's very nature it's not for everyone. If you're into trashy low budget movies. . . that do not feature monsters or mutants or poor attempts at comedy; but feature plenty of sweet 80's babes, big evil rapist Indians, pseudo male hating revenge,  and greasy crossbow dudes. This one's for you.


One of the most important and wonderful things about this film is the inclusion of Grim Reaper on the soundtrack. Apparently they were Troma fans and offered some of their music to be used in Lust For Freedom. . . Including their song, Lust For Freedom.

The easiest way to describe Grim Reaper is as a more melodic version of Iron Maiden with arguably a more talented (and much more hideous looking) lead singer. Not to mention, much worse song structure and musical talent displayed. Regardless, Grim Reaper still kicks ass. Very much a sign of the times. If you like 1980s metal, you'll like Grim Reaper.

This video features many clips from Lust For Freedom

Two of their tracks are featured Rock You To Hell and Lust For Freedom are both prominently featured in the film. And by prominently featured I mean PROMINENTLY. Rock You To Hell is played at least seven times. Lust For Freedom is played at least four (I sort of stopped counting). . . It's truly incredible how well these songs work within the context of the film, and when they play, you know something gnarly is going to happen.


First and foremost, the disc packaging is wonderful. The art looks like it was re-purposed art assets from a UK VHS release of the film. The assets are recolored and placed in a very 1980s styled layout. There are no logos or names on the front it's just a full cover of art, which looks fantastic. It's an overt attempt at looking "80's" but for this film, that style really works.

The UK Video release cover
The video quality is pretty good overall. Vinegar Syndrome's releases (of the 5 or so that I have seen) typically look quite good. Lust For Freedom in particular is a film that I am sure that the original film assets were likely not well cared for. The video quality is the best it can be. Purchase this disc (or any Vinegar Syndrome release really) with confidence.  They don't just push out any old garbage transfer.

As for features, there are a few. There is an interview with Troma's own Lloyd Kaufman. . . and he has a band aid on his head. . . the interview is insightful and interesting. He gives an overview of the production and how the project became a Troma Production and discusses the business end of the project.

Headwound and Mace Windu
There is also a Director's commentary on the disc. For the most part it's alright. There's a lot of hemming and hawwing that was annoying early on. Overall, it's worth a listen and typically movies of this ilk do not receive a commentary, so I can't really complain too much.

Overall, this is a fantastic package and well worth your time. I think it's important to support companies that take time pride in preservation of genre films and the benefits of physical media. Especially as we trudge further into the Digital Age. Vinegar Syndrome is doing great work and deserve a lot of credit.

- M. Johnston

Vinegar Syndrome - Lust for Freedom (NSFW)

Lust for Freedom on Amazon

Monday, April 14, 2014


THE-DEVILS1.jpg (1864×1403)

Directed by Ken Russell
111 mins.  Color.

17th Century France sucked.  Cardinal Richelieu, the plague, lice, religious wars...  Sounds like Detroit.  And, like Detroit, sometimes Priests need to use dead alligators in a sword fight.

Ken Russell is perhaps best known in the States for his surrealist experimentations of the late 1970s and 1980s.  Films like Altered States and Lair of the White Worm are brilliant and flawed, and widely available.  Available, but largely treated like exploitation trash.  You can generally find them for a dollar on VHS at Goodwill or your neighborhood record store.  There should be better releases of these extremely interesting films.

Russell's fascinating 1971 film is what many call his masterwork.  However, shadowed by the deep controversy, it saw little to no distribution.  Officially Rated X by the British Film Institute, it was distributed by Warner Brothers in the United States.  The controversial nature of the film has always left them at a loss, and they have been afraid of it since the beginning.  It was originally released shredded beyond recognition, with multiple scenes completely removed.

The controversy of the film really lies amongst the intersection between sex and religion.  Likewise, WB feared criticism of the church would be terrible for ticket sales and might create picket lines.

The film begins with this title card
Historical Fact.

There is generally nothing that bothers me more than stuff like this.  "Based on a True Story" is such rubbish.  Offering the idea that what you are seeing took place is preposterous.  Embellishments, score and drama are what make great film, not historical fact.  Yet, in this circumstance, it provides for a sort of grounding because what you are about to see is so over the top, it works as a reminder of the true absurdity of the mixing of power, religion and politics.

The film concerns Father Grundier, excellently played by Oliver Reed, a womanizer priest who has been made steward of a fortified town that is strategic to Cardinal Richelieu and the King's plans to remake the kingdom without protestants.  At the same time Sister Jeanne, a tortured physical performance by Vanessa Redgrave, has fantasies of being with Grundier.  When she learns of his secret marriage to another woman and refusal to be her confessor, she accuses him of witchcraft.  Seeing the situation as politically expedient, Richelieu sends an exorcist and they begin a charade of witch-hunting and debauchery.

Period pieces, when done properly, have the ability to step outside of our own time and see contemporary situations more clearly.  The Devils, from set design to acting to script, is truly impressive in this regard.  The sets seem almost futuristic, which is both off-putting and extremely smart.  It takes away the stuffiness of the "period" and makes the film seem almost timeless.

The Goods:
I have been looking for a good copy of the film for awhile.  The options are limited.  The VHS is heavily edited and expensive and the Region 2 DVD is also a bit pricey.  So, I ended up with the Euro Cult release, which is unedited.  There are two very interesting documentaries on the DVD.  However, the quality of the transfer is quite poor, but that is a bit unavoidable as there are no elements good enough to make an HD transfer.  So, this may be the best we ever get...

Set Yourself Up:

  • This is an early 1970s art piece, so put yourself in that head-space.  Some of the score is a bit wild and some of the performances are over the top.
  • I had an egg sandwich and coffee in a cold basement while watching it.  That seemed to fit pretty well.
- J. Moret

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: DEADLINE (1984)

deadlineVHS.jpg (222×400)

Directed by Mario Azzopardi
90 mins.  Color.
Paragon Video Production VHS  (seemingly a bootleg copy...)

Steven Lessey is a horror writer who is very concerned with not looking like an ass.  He's entirely physically and emotionally absent.  His semi-adorable daughter is concerned that he works too much.  His wife hates his guts.  His son wears a bow tie.

Steven is a pseudo-creep, as presumably all people fascinated with the macabre are...  He's a stand-in Stephen King or Clive Barker.  While talking with his daughter, he imagines a woman showering and then being flooded with blood from the faucet.  And, his most recent film is about an evil goat that psychically uses a giant farm machine to tear a man to pieces.  And, it is even cooler than it sounds.

When Steven goes to discuss his book in a college class he's questioned about the socially degenerative nature of creating horror novels and images.  The idea of being socially responsible and using horror as commentary plagues him.  While this conversation happens, images of Lessey's horror flash in and out: a young brother and sister strap their grandmother to a bed and start her on fire and a nun pulls a severed arm out of the ground.

Steven is suffocating in horror schlock.  He's wrapped up in conversations about art against gore and smut against real inspiration.  The problem is that he's deeply tied to the money and the contracts.

Nazi punks, cocaine, hangings and madness continue.

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evil goat.

Deadline is truly one of the more cerebral and interesting horror films I've seen in a long time.  My original expectations of the film were of a very easy, schlocky mess.  I am so pleasantly surprised to see that instead it is an insightful, difficult film.  The closest thing I can compare it to is perhaps the first forty-five minutes of John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness.

As is so often the case, the marketing for the whole film is absolutely off-base.  The cover is a bloody hand on a type-writer, hoping to bring in the gore crowd.  But, that gets it all wrong.  This is a slow-paced pseudo-intellectual piece.  Likewise, the description makes the assumption that Steven's descent into madness is about his writing.  It is all just so misleading.

As things fall apart and get incredibly dark near the end of the film, the themes and characters become more and more complex.  In the end, its up to the audience to bring it together and make sense of it, leaving this particular audience member extremely satisfied.


  • If you can, watch this one in a big old drafty house
  • Set expectations at: SERIOUS
-J. Moret

Friday, April 4, 2014


candyman1992dvd.jpg (838×464)

This week, Matt and John discuss the once-heralded, now somewhat-ignored 1992 film, CANDYMAN.  Historical context, Tony Todd with a hook and alligators in the New York City subways make this one a pleasure to talk about.

You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or you can listen here:
Check out this episode!