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Archive for June, 2011


Thursday, June 23rd, 2011




LOS ANGELES (June 23, 2011) – Referenced in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 2, LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN (1976) is one of the most violent, censored and unconventional Italian style detective films of its time. The credit goes to both the director Ruggero Deodato, extremely apt at telling stories in a strong tone (he made the infamous Cannibal Holocaust), and the scriptwriter FERNANDO DI LEO, author of the best Italian noir films (Recently released in a DVD boxed set as The Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection – All four films will be available as individual breakouts on July 14 from RaroVideo). Above all, the psychological and behavioral description of the main characters, the two policemen, members of an anti-crime squad who have complete freedom in their actions against crime, had never been seen before. Not only do they not hesitate to brutally kill the criminals they are hunting down, but Alfredo (Marc Porel) and Antonio (Ray Lovelock) do so while maintaining a cynical and light-hearted attitude even in the most threatening situations.

RaroVideo U.S.’s restored version of LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN, will arrive on DVD for the first time ever on July 26. The extensive DVD extras include the documentary entitled, Poliziotti Violenti and a fully illustrated booklet containing critical analysis of the film.

RaroVideo U.S. will also release Pasolini’s THE ANGER on DVD July 26 with extensive extras. Tapping into topics from the 1950’s and the early 1960’s such as racism, the Middle East, Cuba, Stalinism, the Atomic bomb, and the death of Marilyn Monroe it is understandable why the U.S. government has been afraid of this film for so long. The directors and commentators of THE ANGER (1963), two of the most important opinion makers and intellectuals in post WWII Europe, employ documentary footage from this era and an accompanying commentary, in which they attempt to answer, quite elegantly and poetically, the existential question: Why are our lives characterized by discontent, anguish, and fear? The film is in two completely separate parts, and the directors of these respective sections, left-wing film director and poet, Pier Paolo Pasolini and the conservative journalist and film director, Giovanni Guareschi, offer the viewer contrasting analyses of, and prescriptions for modern society. This release is an exclusive, uncut, restored version obtained from the Cinemateque of Bologna.

Both LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN and THE ANGER have been restored through a new digital HD transfer from the original 35mm negatives. **Please note that RaroVideo’s release of THE SECRET OF DORIAN GRAY has moved from May 17 to June 28**

Antonioni’s The Vanquished, Fellini’s The Clowns, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, Adua and her Friends and The Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection are all available now from RaroVideo U.S. The label will continue to spotlight the works of major Italian directors this year with plans to release Carmelo Bene’s Our Lady of the Turks (Nostra signora dei Turchi) and many more rare titles.

For additional information regarding LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN or THE ANGER please contact Christoph Buerger at (323) 868-7611 or christoph@davidlynch.com.

RaroVideo’s eclectic and interdisciplinary approach aims to recognize and publish quality works found in the cinema and visual art world.

RaroVideo U.S. is devoted to producing high-quality DVD, BLU-RAY and VOD releases for American audiences. The partnership behind the company formed in 2010 when Stefano and Gianluca Curti, owners of RaroVideo Italy, teamed with Nico Bruinsma, owner of U.S. DVD label Cult Epics. Stefano and Gianluca Curti started RaroVideo Italy in 1999. Hailed by cinephiles for expertly restoring rare films by influential filmmakers from a wide range of genres, the company has earned an outstanding international reputation for the quality of its high-definition transfers. Its releases are also known for their original uncut versions and exclusive supplemental content as well as the critical analysis and superb booklets that accompany each film. Among the directors featured in the RaroVideo catalog are: Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rosselllini, David Lynch, Derek Jarman, Shinya Tsukamoto, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard, Werner Herzog, Lars von Trier, Lucio Fiulci, Mario Bava, Francesco Barilli, Tinto Brass, Jean Cocteau, Pedro Almodovar and Martin Scorsese to name just a few. RaroVideo was also the first company in the world to release on DVD Andy Warhol’s: The Chelsea Girls, My Hustler, The Nude Restaurant and Lonesome Cowboys. RaroVideo’s U.S. branch is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Price: $29.98 (DVD)
Street Date: July 26, 2011
Pre-Order Date: June 28, 2011
Running time: 95 minutes
DVD UPC: 816018010142
Language: Italian with optional English subtitles
Rating: NR

-Documentary: Poliziotti Violenti, running time 40 min.
-TV advertisement directed and commented by Ruggero Deodato
-Director filmography and biography
-A fully illustrated booklet containing critical analysis of the film
-New digital transfer from original 35mm negative
-Digitally restored and remastered
-New and improved English subtitle translation

Price: $29.98 (DVD)
Street Date: July 26, 2011
Pre-Order Date: June 28, 2011
Running time: 104 minutes
DVD UPC: 816018010135
Language: Italian and English with optional English subtitles
Rating: NR

-Original Trailer of The Anger (La Rabbia)
-A documentary about the genesis of the film by Tatti Sanguineti entitled La Rabbia I, La Rabbia II, La Rabbia III… L’Arabia – running time 50 min.
- A rare and exclusive short Pier Paolo Pasolini film entitled Le Mura di Sana’a “The Wall of Sana’a”– running time 16 min.
-Extended fully illustrated booklet containing rare Pasolini drawings and critical analysis of the film, included are images of some never-before-seen color paintings and drawings by the contemporary Italian artist, Renato Guttuso
-New digital transfer from original 35mm negative print supervised by the Bologna Cinemateque.
-Digitally restored and remastered
-New and improved English subtitle translation

Damnation Alley: DVD Review

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Stars Jan-Michael Vincent, George Peppard, Dominique Sanda, Paul Winfield.
Director Jack Smight
Released by Shout 2011

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

1977 was a banner year for science fiction films, as were much of the seventies. That year saw the release of Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and lest we get too high minded also The Island of Dr. Moreau (the second one), Demon Seed and The Kingdom of the Spiders. Word was out that Roger Zelazny’s novel, Damnation Alley was coming to the screen. Science Fiction fans tended to be rather well informed and well, well read, too. The genre always tipped back and forth between thought provoking excursions of the intellect and good old pulp action, adventure stories. A favorite sub genre was the post-apocalyptic thriller that included Pat Frank’s Alas Babylon, Thomas M. Dish’s The Ruins of The Earth anthology and Richard Matheson’s classic, I Am Legend. We saw many of these make it onto the local movie theater screens in that fantastic decade. Cornel (The Naked Prey) Wilde’s No Blade of Grass, The Omega Man and the deliciously subversive A Boy and His Dog from Harlan Ellison all hit the screen. It’s no coincidence that these were all adapted from classic Science Fiction books and stories. There was something of a built in fan base to be sure, but more than that these tales came from writers who could really spin a yarn. Many of them wrote tons of stories for the pulp magazines and quite a few became TV and movie screenwriters. These guys could mix heady propositions with action and mayhem as easy as peanut butter and jelly. William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison and many like them have credits scattered from The Twilight Zone to The Outer Limits to AIP double bills you can now find as Midnite Movie DVDs.

Some like Roger Zelazny were a bit miffed at what they did to their work. But that’s show bizz and the books are still the same great books no matter how the films turned out. A writer has paper and how they choose to fill it is up to them. Movies are collaborative and since they are very expensive more than a few folks have an opinion. Will a good story survive that? Sure. But sometimes you have to add a few armor-plated cockroaches.

Damnation Alley the novel has a character named Hell Tanner that is very much a Snake Plisskin from Escape From New York kind of guy. He gets sprung from prison if he’ll agree to a sure suicide mission to take a small select group of people across the stretch of desolate dangerous land between California and the East that has become known as Damnation Alley. Sort of a Mad Max meets the Gauntlet set up. It’s a great bit and with a few tweaks that’s exactly what the movie sets out to do.

Jan-Michael Vincent who’d become a longhaired action movie staple plays Tanner. George Peppard fresh from the TV series Banacek re-teams with director Jack Smight who’d done a few episodes with him. They’re stationed in the air force’s top-secret bunker with the doomsday missiles and are the ones that actually push the buttons for the counter strikes that wipe out much of the world. The remaining few are left to be led by the hard drinking Mayor of Shark Town himself, Murray Hamilton. A careless fire blows up all but our duo and Paul Winfield (Gordon’s War) who spent most of his time painting flowers and plants on the sides of the bunkers. These tough guys drive a supped up warrior Winnebago across the wasteland to find the last remaining vestige of civilization. This is no Lost in Space vehicle. The Landmaster, as it’s called, turns from a flexible middle, can drive up a 90 degree hill, plows over rocks, goes in the water and carries a heavy arsenal – and a shower. This baby really rocks, too. You can see it trucking along with the triangular three wheels to each side of the axle design courtesy of Dean Jeffries. Jeffries is responsible for many of the coolest cars in pop culture including The Green Hornet’s Black Beauty, the moon buggy in Diamonds Are Forever, and The Monkeemobile. He built the Batmobile and also designed those iconic energy tubes for the Enterprise ship in Star Trek.

Along the way they stop in Las Vegas. There is a neat scene where they all play the slot machines and we hear the sounds of a happy crowd mixed in. It’s a fantasy but easy to get caught up in their momentary respite from the lonely road. Even tough ass General Peppard
cuts loose. There they discover another survivor, Dominque Sanda. She was spared since some smooth talking jerk took her to the bomb shelter to have his way with her. She has nice hair, a French accent and screams a lot. They also pick up Jackie Early Hayley (Breaking Away) who’s a wild kid who is very good at throwing rocks. Most of the time they drive like a family in an enormous RV, only the skies are a constant wash of psychedelic swirls and storms. There is not a lot of action here. At one city they make a pit stop in, they encounter hordes of non-squashable vicious cockroaches. We see some nice motorcycle riding up stairways, down halls and a very cool jump from a freshly broken window to a nearby rooftop. The other action portion comes in the form of what looks like post-apocalyptic hillbillies. They all tote shotguns and want to have a little one on one time with Dominique.

Though we do get to see the Landmaster’s arsenal blow up some buildings, there are long stretches that just roll along. Jan-Michael Vincent has a likeable presence and carries any scene he is in well. Early on he and Paul Winfield’s character establish a nice rapport. Both have quit the military and share an easy-going deal with each day as it comes attitude. Unfortunately that does not get developed very well. George Peppard does an odd southern accent and smokes cigarettes incessantly. Where does he get all those smokes? The effects are pretty poor but that doesn’t really bother you in this one. Initially when we seen Jan-Michael riding his motorcycle around giant scorpions it almost looks like they brought in Bert I. Gordon of Colossal Man fame to handle the job. However as we see the fireworks blanket the sky in a variety of colors and then get a look at those mean cockroaches everything is ok. There are some very harsh edges when characters appear in front of other screens. Yes, it is hokey and not up to the level of others films made at that time, but there is a feel about this film that makes that fine. You jump in that cool big-wheeled vehicle and enjoy the ride, that’s all. This is second tier science fiction here. This is not one of Charlton Heston’s films and if you let George Peppard do the driving it’s a nice trip. Again, that Landmaster is so cool to watch and you know it really works, too!

Video – Shout presents the film in the original 2.35:1 cinemascope ratio, anamorphically enhanced in what is by and large a very nice viewing experience. You can see changeover dots in the upper right hand corners on some of the reels and there are some scratches but this is not bad at all. The scenes outdoors in the natural light look terrific. Once the special effects start things get dodgy but it is true to the way the film looked in theaters. Those were the choices the production made. There is grain and a sense of overdrive to some of the colors but that’s how this film was shot. The print also appears to have been nicely washed, shaved and prepared for the transfer.

Audio –You get two channel stereo, dobly digital mix and DTS, all in English language with no subtitle choices. If you select the DTS Matrix choice, everyone in the neighborhood is gonna know you’re watching another one of those films with all those explosions again! Jerry Goldsmith’s familiar sounding score hits all the right notes. That track really rocks and has some nice separation of sound. There are others tracks that are fine, but if your rig can support this one go for it.

Extras – No chapter stops, trailer, TV spot and commentary with the producer, Paul Maslansky. There are three featurettes. Survival Run is an interview with co-screenwriter Alan Sharp. Much of what he says he did in polishing the script, he did very poorly and this is not very rewarding. Next is Road to Hell with producer Paul explaining that this was his first production. It really shows and he is a dull speaker. The last one, Landmaster Tales is a very nice chat with Dean Jeffries who designed and built the vehicle that is the real star of the movie. He works in a story about Steve McQueen. This guy is a wonderfully creative designer and it’s a treat to spend this segment’s time with him. I would imagine that most viewers would elect to watch these after seeing the film. Each one is padded out needlessly with too many scenes from the film we just saw. Shout has done a better job on these with other releases.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic

DVD – Good

Movie – Good

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin



Resonnances (2011): DVD Review

Monday, June 13th, 2011








Synapse release 2011
Directed by Philippe Robert
With Vincent Lecompte, Patrick Mons, and Sophie Michard

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

This is a French film made with a very low budget that has some nice ideas going for it. It generated a low-grade buzz when it came out, causing some chatter at the Festival Mauvais. However rather than grabbing a theatrical distributor it hit DVD in Europe about a year later in 2008. It is finally making its appearance on these shores courtesy of Synapse.

There is an interesting smash up of genres here. At first we’re introduced to a group of guys that seem pretty insular, however on this day they are going out with the girls. They seem as ill prepared for this as The Three Stooges walking down the block carrying daises for their sweeties. There are planning a nice camp out in the woods with a cook out meal. To bring home just how unprepared our fellows are we see that each of them has brought along a huge bag of charcoal and no one has picked up any actual food or drink. It’s kind of cute watching these guys stack the big bags of briquettes into the back of a car.

When the guys meet the girls, it’s clear one has a budding romance that’s just begun to bloom. He doesn’t quite know how to water it. Another guy is fun, but the most interesting one is obsessed with video games and wants nothing to do with the clingy girl that is talking to him. He calls her tuna instead of Tina. The girls are smarter, especially the new squeeze. You imagine she is going to learn that her new beau is not quite the one for her. That’s our cast.

Now we get an escaped murderer on the loose. How many times have we heard about this just when the kids are out driving on a desolate dark night. Coincidence, n’est pas? It’s a French film. Naturally while on the way to the camp our guys run out of gas. The car comes to a complete stop. One of the guys journeys into the ink black night and returns to persuade them to push the car up and down the hills into him in a convenience store / gas station he spotted. They fill up but no one is there. They go inside to pay and fail to notice the attendant strung upside down and bleeding out into a big bucket. There is our murderer casually asking for a ride. Sure, hop in. The plot could use a new wrinkle.

On the way to the campsite we get the third and final element of our story. Apparently there is some huge worm like space creature living under the ground that has developed a taste for take out humans. This thing tosses their cars about and stalks them for the rest of the picture. It can’t see but it can sense movement. Like the worms in Tremors? Sorry, next question. It has tendrils that reach out and grab you in a leafy clutch. Like in The Ruins? Sorry, next question. Oh, like the monsters we see on the SyFy Channel made out of CGI? Okay, yeah like that. Don’t worry, there is a prologue that explains this so it all makes sense – not really. To give this film its due, there are some clever sequences like the one set in a massive junkyard filled with cars. These cars are like the monster’s empty lunch boxes. The kids run through the cars as the earth ripples up beneath the ground chasing them. Some of that is nicely played and there is some good tension built up as the creature hunts the kids down. There are even a few glimpses of the monster that look pretty decent, even for TV movie computer work. The smash up of the three genres sorta works and you can almost actually get caught up in the story, especially as the last two characters are left to match wits with the ravenous monster.

Unfortunately this film simply looks awful. So much of the film takes place outside at night. With a very sub standard camera and little to no lighting we are left squinting at the TV trying to make out what the hell is going on. Whatever interesting ideas director Phillippe Robert has are ultimately shot in the foot by the atrocious camera work and horrid lighting. Given that the equipment was not all that professional it is still no excuse when a fellow like Kevin Smith can use a few credit cards and turn out a black and white film like Clerks that is perfectly watchable. Mr. Smith knew you had to be able to see and hear the film to enjoy it. I’ve read some good things about the director’s debut here but the look of this film is surely one of the reasons why we have not heard much from Mr. Robert since this film came out.

I always find myself rooting for the underdog filmmaker who can achieve a lot with a little. From Edgar Ulmer’s 1940’s poverty row flicks all the way up through something like Hunter Prey. That was a great science fiction film that hit DVD recently. Sandy Collora constructed a gripping tale that played like an extended episode of The Outer Limits. All he had was a few actors and a large stretch of sand that doubled for a planet in outer space. It was shot outside in natural light and looked fine. He did however get himself a terrific costumer who made the two warriors look fabulous. Phillippe Robert wrote, shot and directed this one. This has to rest on his shoulders. Others who have worked with limited budgets have fared far better.

Video – The transfer appears loyal to the non- anamorphic standard def source so Synpase is not at fault here. If you really want to see this one, squint away and maybe turn all the lights out and draw the shades, too. Honestly, this looks terrible. The beginning scenes before they get into the woods have that washed out soap opera quality.

Audio – French 2.0 and 5.1 track with English subtitles. The titles were fine, even adapting soccer for football. Dialogue was clear and the little foley f/x were okay. This plays very much like a TV movie and does not carry the kind of robust cinematic experience viewers may be expecting when they look at the cool cover of the creepy plant monster squeezing a damsel in its leafy tendrils.

Extras – Trailer and chapters. However you do get the neat cover painting. It made me want to watch it.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic

DVD – Poor
Movie – Fair

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Sex and Black Magic: DVD Review

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Sex and Black Magic (1980)

by Troy Howarth

Written and Directed by Joe D’Amato; Starring Susan Scott, Richard Harrison, Lucia Ramirez, Mark Shannon

Paul (Richard Harrison) is an anthropologist studying a primitive tribe; his wife, Helen (Susan Scott) becomes fixated on a young girl in the tribe, Haini (Lucia Ramirez)….

The late Aristide Massaccessi (or Joe D’Amato, if you prefer) was an old hand at horror and sex movies, so it only made sense that he would combine the two.  Sex and Black Magic (originally titled Orgasmo Nero) was one of his attempts at fusing the two, and in some respects it is one of his better efforts.  That’s not to say that it’s a particularly good movie – it isn’t – but it is at least more entertaining than many of his other pictures.

The vaguely racist/sexist scenario deals with a white couple who ‘adopt’ a black native girl and use her for their own sexual gratification.  Of course, the film tries to rationalize this by suggesting that the girl brings it on herself by seducing the middle aged Helen, which drives Paul into a fit of machismo fury, but the argument is, to put it mildly, unpersuassive.  Truth be told, it’s unlikely that a lot of thought was really put into any kind of sexual politics in the first place – Massaccessi simply saw it as a good opportunity to indulge in some sleaze, so sleaze is what the viewer gets – and lots of it.  This isn’t one of the director’s hardcore efforts, though it definitely pushes the limits, with at least one graphic depiction of oral sex.

The sultry Susan Scott (aka Nieves Navarro) does her best to retain her dignity while playing a cliche character.  It’s interesting that, as is so often the case, the notion of a middle aged woman looking for sexual gratification is presented in a judgmental manner – whereas when the men do it, it’s just boys being boys.  In any event, Scott was already in her 40s when this picture was shot, and while she clearly doesn’t look so youthful as she did in, say, All the Colors of the Dark (1972), she remains a bewitching and sensual presence.  That the film manages to generate any heat at all is due largely to Scott, who throws herself into the various sex scenes with sensual abandon.  Hardcore starlet Lucia Ramirez (who also appeared in D’Amato’s straight horror romp Horrible, aka Absurd, 1981, in addition to his hybrid of hardcore sex and gore, Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, 1980) plays the ‘native’ girl, Haini, and she, too, seems at home exploring sex on celluloid.  Expatriate American actor Richard Harrison puts on a stolid face as Paul, the ambiguous ‘hero’ of the proceedings.  Harrison had done a slew of Italian pepla and Spaghetti Westerns, but he seems out of place in a film such as this.  The notorious Mark Shannon makes an unbilled appearance during a fantasy sex scene; Shannon was also a key participant in D’Amato’s other caribbean themed sex and horror films of the period, including the aforementioned Erotic Nights of the Living Dead and Sesso Nero (1980).

Truth be told, the horror elements of Sex and Black Magic are limited to some half hearted voodoo rights and a little ‘light’ cannibalism – as such, horror buffs might feel a bit cheated in the long run.  Much of the runnig time is devoted to sex scenes and ‘scenic’ views of the island locales.  The final twist is particularly predictable, though one can tell D’Amato was really hoping to pull the rug out from underneath the viewer.  Technical credits are adequate, with Alberto Spagnoli (who shot Mario Bava’s feature film swansong, Shock, 1977) contributing some blandly pretty photography and Stelvio Cipriani offering up one of his less memorable soundtracks.  Diehard Susan Scott fans will definitely want to check it out, however – she has ample nude scenes and seems to enjoy playing a predatory cougar-type in so many sex scenes; more than anything else, it’s her willingness to give herself to the camera that makes this otherwise tepid film worth tracking down.


Sex and Black Magic makes its US home video debut via this decent release from One 7 Movies.  Given One 7′s tendency to release crap quality editions from a VHS source, one can’t help but wonder if they were able to utilize the same transfer as the now-OOP Italian DVD release.  In any event,  the disc offers a decent 1.78/16×9 transfer.  Colors are a bit muted, and there’s a good amount of print damage, but on the whole it’s  a very watchable presentation – certainly better than most of their other releases to date.  Alas, the opening and end titles have been completely redone for some reason – that the new titles are video generated is painfully obvious, and the final shot suffers in particular as a result.


The mono Italian soundtrack is acceptable.  There’s some hiss and background noise evident in quiet stretches, but Cipriani’s score and the dialogue do not suffer as a result.  Removable English subtitles are also included.


Extras include an alternate take of the Richard Harrison/Susan Scott love scene (it was apparently not used because you can briefly see Harrison’s penis), alternate hardcore footage (which would have increased Shannon’s, erm, presence in the film considerably), the original end credits, and a photo gallery.

Film: **1/2 out of *****

DVD: **1/2 out of *****