DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - The Psychic

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Unlike a lot of giallo that make it a point to deliver shocks before settling into a mystery, 1977's "The Psychic" (titled "Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes" on the print) doesn't mind a slower pace. Director Lucio Fulci takes his time with this tale of one woman's struggle with murderous premonitions, gradually working through the layers of the crime and its suspects, trying to make a meal out of the central crisis. It's not a feature that wins on thrills alone, but "The Psychic" is the rare endeavor to actually master a payoff worth waiting for, using stillness to help increase tensions before revealing all in the macabre finale. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Fifth Floor

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Perhaps trying to cash-in on the popularity of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," 1978's "The Fifth Floor" returns to the manic energy of a psychiatric facility, with director Howard Avedis ("Mortuary") steering the effort into more horrifying demonstrations of institutional corruption. "The Fifth Floor" is often caught between its desire to creep out the audience and its attempt to condemn the business of corralling and exploiting the mentally ill, resulting in an uneven picture that fails to make much of an impact, playing more confidently with B-movie hysterics and periodic chases. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Summer Lovers

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1982's "Summer Lovers" is an important offering in the career of director Randal Kleiser, who, up to this point, was a major force in Hollywood. Kleiser was able to acquire the attention of a younger audience, making a box office blockbuster in 1978's "Grease," and surprising many with the staying power of 1980's "The Blue Lagoon." He was positioned for another smash with "Summer Lovers," which uses the formula of young people in lust and love and ages it up some, with Kleiser trying to inch his way into adult-oriented complications. His answer to the relative innocence of "The Blue Lagoon" is to spend time on the nude beaches of the Greek islands, capturing the sexual heat and emotional complications of a love triangle in the middle of paradise. Kleiser can't get past the slightness of the material, which never has enough texture to completely realize such psychological gamesmanship and eventual softening of personal defenses. But the helmer does maintain command over the location, constructing an evocative understanding of bodily freedoms and lustful sway, which is almost enough to secure an inviting viewing experience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 4

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With "The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 4," the titular animal with an insatiable desire for mischief enters the 1970s, facing a world where things are changing in comedy and culture, forcing the production team at DePatie-Freleng to possibly rethink future adventures for the theatrical short star. However, old habits die hard, and this latest assembly of brief adventures showcasing just how comfort the producers were with routine, trying to keep their star busy with random shenanigans that slowly depart from any earthbound logic, going fully cartoon at times just to give something for Pink Panther to do as ideas for these little slices of animated nonsense dry up. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Uninvited

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Writer/director Greyson Clark is one of the more famous names in the B-movie business. For about 25 years, Clark churned out a number of low- budget endeavors, working to cash in on Hollywood and pop culture trends with his own vision for mass entertainment. The helmer of "Joysticks," "Satan's Cheerleaders," and "Lambada: The Forbidden Dance," Clark isn't one for filmmaking finesse, but there's a certain low-wattage pluck to his endeavors. Such minimal expectations should be applied to 1987's "Uninvited," with Clark attempting to make a creature feature on a boat, gifting himself enough isolation to invent horrors plaguing a varied collection of characters. "Uninvited" has the right idea but often the wrong execution, with Clark not quite covering his seams with this effort, getting a little too sloppy at times with surefire ideas for no-budget excitement. Production polish isn't available, but there's always the simple pleasure of a plot that involves roving attacks from a mutant cat. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic

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1975's "Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic" endeavored to continue a tradition that was developing during the 1970s, where producers were getting the idea to bring adolescent issues to prime time television. It was the playground of "After School Special," but such message-minded storytelling was ready to be experienced by a multi-generational viewing audience, giving the concerns of confused young people a prime slot for massive viewership. Films like "Born Innocent" also offered a glimpse of Linda Blair, who became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood after her role as the cursed child Regan in "The Exorcist," gifting the actress continued onscreen agony as she played a runaway, soon graduating to a secret alcoholic in "Sarah T." Brought on for her innocent look and comfort with darkness, Blair delivers a strong performance as the titular juvenile, tasked with communicating the pain and confusion of a youngster caught up in something she doesn't understand and doesn't care to address, while director Richard Donner finds economical ways to convey such growing distress, guiding a collection of dependable actors to back up Blair in this compassionate study of abuse of all kinds. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Kotch

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Making his directorial debut, Jack Lemmon certainly didn't want to risk much with 1971's "Kotch." Instead of reaching into the unknown to cast the effort, he went to frequent collaborator Walter Matthau to star in the picture, also hiring wife Felicia Farr for a supporting role. Lemmon's caution is the smart play, as Matthau delivers a wonderfully animated performance, carrying the production with an atypically optimistic turn as a senior citizen trying to figure out his place in the world, giving Lemmon plenty to work with. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Howling III: The Marsupials

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Much like the numerous films based on "The Amityville Horror," "The Howling" has also inspired a franchise where the installments have very little to do with one another, going down their own path with different producers and behind-the-scenes talent, trying to use brand recognition to lure viewers back into the depths of low-budget horror entertainment. Writer/director Philippe Mora certainly couldn't be faulted for trying to change his approach to the series, with his "Howling II" entering production with a certain attempt at menace, ending up something wacky and crudely exploitative, a far cry from Joe Dante's 1981 achievement. Unwilling to accept the results, Mora returns to action with "The Howling III," which doesn't have anything to do with the previous chapters, retreating to the wilds of Australia to contort werewolf myth into a cinematic offering that's greatly influenced by its surroundings, emerging with a genre romp that's more humorous than horrifying, and rarely does it make much sense. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - A Climax of Blue Power

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There's a category of sexploitation called "roughies." These are darker endeavors that merge the graphic highlights of adult cinema with a degree of violence, playing into shadowed corners of stimulation that are often better off left unexplored. 1974's "A Climax of Blue Power" is an example of a roughie, but one that's mindful of audience expectations while trying to deliver a more concrete tale of mental illness run amok. It's a highly bizarre movie, but that's the point, with director Lee Frost stepping inside a disturbed character to capture his concept of fantasy and his capacity for harm. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Suburbia

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Penelope Spheeris is one of the only filmmakers to attend Punk University. The helmer of the 1981 documentary, "The Decline of Western Civilization," Spheeris spent a substantial amount of time covering the punk scene, getting into the subculture to dissect its music and fanbase, trying to understand what made the movement tick. Such an education clearly dominates the creation of 1983's "Suburbia," with Spheeris heading back into the mud pit of neglected youth, this time using dramatics to help sort through young characters trying to make sense of their rotten lives. "Suburbia" has the electricity of "The Decline of Western Civilization" at times, but it's also clumsy work from an inexperienced writer/director, with Spheeris getting carried away with tragedy and confrontational behavior, trying to make a point about generational hostility that never comes together as profoundly as she imagines. It's a helluva time capsule, but not something that's particularly heartbreaking. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Bloody New Year

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Norman J. Warren is a maker of B-movies, working with minimal budgets and locations to crank out horror and sci-fi endeavors, sometimes mixing the genres, as found in 1977's "Prey." For 1987's "Bloody New Year," Warren returns to the confines of a small setting to arrange a tradition haunting, staging the action inside a hotel on a remote island. The outside world remains at bay in the tale, giving the helmer an opportunity to arrange a steady stream of stalking and attack sequences, presenting the English production a chance to play in the "Evil Dead" sandbox for 90 minutes. Screenwriter Frazer Pearce sets up a spooky situation featuring persistent ghosts, bringing in a small band of youngsters to experience the fight of their lives, and Warren supports with a spare, somewhat slow, but engaging screen nightmare, clearly enjoying himself as he organizes various survival challenges while maintaining an eerie sense of ghoulish discovery. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

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While the collaboration may have seemed odd on paper, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" benefits wildly from the disparate screen energy of stars Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Joining forces to portray a pair of con artists, the actors are the main attraction of the feature (which is a remake of "Bedtime Story," a David Niven/Marlon Brando endeavor from 1964), which does well with offerings of deception and faux charm, but the movie handles superbly when it's trying to be silly. Such comedy chess may seem impossible to play with these men, but Martin and Caine deliver some of their finest work in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," with director Frank Oz creating a farce sturdy enough to let the talent (joined by the late Glenne Headly) run with extremes, yet somehow remain on Earth with sly lines from screenwriter Dale Launer. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Splatter University

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As slasher cinema rode a wave of popularity in the 1980s, anyone with basic budgetary means wanted in on the lucrative potential of the subgenre. Troma Entertainment was no different, trying to make 1984's "Splatter University" a player in the kill-em-all game, giving the feature a push as the next big thing in slaughterama entertainment. Director Richard W. Haines ("Class of Nuke 'Em High") tries to do his duty as a helmer of B-level hellraising, coming up (with the help of multiple screenwriters) with a decidedly formulaic take on murder, turning to a collegiate setting to unleash a knife-wielding killer on the students and staff. "Splatter University" provides some jolts with graphic special effects and a genuinely surprising conclusion, but Haines has no coin to work with, forced to keep stylistics to a bare minimum, while storytelling is generally ragged, fighting confusing detours and limp characterization while he tries to mount a successful whodunit, and one that's covered in blood and guts. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Plague Dogs

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Director Martin Rosen wanted to make animated films for a slightly older audience, eschewing the lure of creating cartoons for all ages, trying to craft something distinct for crowds craving a more sophisticated look at the storytelling art form. 1979's "Watership Down" turned out be a hit for Rosen, with his gamble to craft a more severe tone for his adaptation of Richard Adams's celebrated novel paying off, creating a legion of fans that remains to this day. Pressing his luck, Rosen returns to Adams for his follow-up, taking on the considerable challenge of bringing "The Plague Dogs," his 1977 book, to the screen, and doing so with even more attention to the reality of dramatic entanglements for the main characters. If "Watership Down" was mildly unsettling, "The Plague Dogs" is likely to put many viewers into the fetal position, though Rosen manages such bleakness with wonderful artistry and voice talent, giving this summation of animal cruelty and survival need texture and soul as it deals with unthinkable horrors facing its cast of stressed animals. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Youngblood

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"Youngblood" was released in 1986, during a time when Rob Lowe was enjoying plenty of attention for his extreme good looks, pushed into the role of a teen dreamboat after his turn in "The Outsiders," while his appearance as the hot sax-wailing underachiever in "St. Elmo's Fire" transformed him into a star. It's hard not to see his role in "Youngblood" as an effort to butch up his screen appeal, participating in a junior league hockey drama that has the actor being authentic, romantic, and involved in several fights, even losing a tooth along the way. It's not Lowe's finest hour as an actor, but he does what he can with the feature, as writer/director Peter Markle is caught between his desire to showcase the rough ins and outs of the sport as it's played in the corners of Canada, and producers who want something along the lines of a chillier "Karate Kid," putting the star in an underdog position, requiring help from wizened elders. Markle has his creative successes here, but he's also pulled into the black hole of melodrama one too many times, diluting the real flavors of the material, which are always found on the ice, not in the heart. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - There's Nothing Out There

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The primary takeaway from 1991's "There's Nothing Out There" is how it predates 1996's "Scream" when it comes to self-aware horror films, making it uncomfortably clear that the Wes Craven production pulled things from writer/director Rolfe Kanefsky's work to help build what would go on to inspire a genre reawakening, this time finding movies armed with newfound marketplace consciousness. Perhaps Craven did steal from Kanefsky (it certainly looks to be the case), but such industry theft isn't the point here. "There's Nothing Out There" came first and did the frantic "horror rules" business a bit better, offering structure and comedy to a creature feature that gleefully spanks cliches to create a madcap survival romp. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Plague of the Zombies

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A longstanding home for horror entertainment, Hammer Films finds fertile creative ground with 1966's "The Plague of the Zombies," finding frights from the zombie genre. Tales of the undead are common today, but over 50 years ago, such an uprising was a unique treat, giving screenwriter Peter Bryan a shot to shake up the norm and present a movie that tries to play by Hammer rules, but shows more hustle when it comes to chills, also filling out this world with impressive technical achievements to support the black magic mayhem that slowly unfolds. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Saturday the 14th

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When "Airplane!" was released during the summer of 1980, it became a massive hit (the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year), inspiring Hollywood to attempt to replicate the formula with other genres. The obvious choice for a prolonged pantsing was the horror genre, with another screaming success, "Friday the 13th," managing to shock the industry and become something of an event film for teenagers. Slasher entertainment was ripe for the mocking, and one of the first titles out of the gate was…not "Saturday the 14th." Despite its enticing, silly title, the endeavor offered a hard pass on all things Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, with writer/director Howard R. Cohen ("Space Raiders," "Time Trackers") electing to make an Abbott and Costello picture for the disco age, trying to revive dormant slapstick interests for a comedy adventure that utilizes horror, but doesn't quite satirize it. It's a very broad effort from Cohen, who seems convinced that all he needs to sell the wacky viewing experience is game actors and hoary jokes, leaving true sharpness of wit and timely targets to other productions. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Fiend

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Writer/director Don Dohler has enjoyed cult appreciation for his limited filmography, praised for his fierce independent spirit, finding much of his work captured on his own property, utilizing whatever's nearby to create sci-fi/horror pictures for nearly three decades (he passed away in 2006). 1978's "The Alien Factor" gave Dohler a career, solidifying his love for creepy tales of extraterrestrial invasion, with the no-budget endeavor generating attention with B-movie addicts. Dohler follows up his scrappy debut with 1980's "Fiend," which, if possible, looks even less produced than his previous effort, literally making the feature in his own basement, trying to stretch a reported $6,000 budget into a suitable chiller. "Fiend" makes "The Alien Factor" looks like a David Lean production, providing only the barest of directorial finesse and production coin. Dohler attempts to shape another tense meeting between worlds with his screenplay, but he's mostly made a talky endeavor that's low on scary stuff and personality, spinning its wheels while stuck in the mud pit of lethargic storytelling. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blind Date

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1984's "Blind Date" (not to be confused with the 1987 Blake Edwards feature) attempts to pull off a giallo-style atmosphere in the tight confines of Greece, with writer/director Nick Mastorakis liberally lifting from the Italians while setting up a playground of big screen sex and murder is his own backyard. The change is location is interesting but a little awkward, as is much of "Blind Date," which tries to be a techno-thriller without aiming high enough when it comes to sci-fi devices, and the serial killer side of things isn't particularly planned out in full. Mastorakis has an idea for a suitable chiller and he's determined to see it through, masterminding a whodunit that has no defined protagonist, just a pool of morally bankrupt people chasing each other around Athens, with one pushing mental illness into acts of barbarity. It's an odd movie, and one that's intermittently entertaining for those who are willing submit to Mastorakis's dented imagination for cutting-edge terror. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com