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Archive for January, 2014

Nurse Girl Dorm: Sticky Fingers: DVD Review

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Nurse Girl Dorm: Sticky Fingers (1985)

by Troy Howarth

nurse

Directed by Yoshihiro Kawasaki

Main Players: Jun Izumi, Chiaki Kitahara, Yukari Takeshita, Shu Minagawa

The nurses at St. Elizabeth Hospital are more concerned with sex than medicine and with the aid of their new co-worker Yuki, they begin to explore their sexual fantasies…

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Compared to the stylish and disturbing Sex Hunter: 1980, Nurse Girl Dorm: Sticky Fingers (the original onscreen title translates as Assy Fingers, but we can’t very well have that on display, no can we?) is much more apiece with the usual offering from Nikkatsu.  The tone is light and airy and indeed it is so innocuous that it doesn’t even get into some of the more “transgressive” areas which are so commonly fetishized in these films.  The end product may be mild in some respects, but don’t let that fool you: there’s still plenty of sex on display.

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On the plus side, the actresses assembled are definitely up to the usual Nikkatsu standard.  They approach the material with the right air of tongue in cheek detachment but enter into the sex scenes with appreciable relish.  The film’s main reason or being is simply to allow the viewer to sit back and appreciate their obvious photogenic qualities and on that level, the film is an unqualified success.  There is also an absence of the usual erotic presentation of rape and sexual humiliation which can be so off-putting for some viewers and it could be that the film will appeal on a wider level because of it.

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On the downside, the film is burdened with far too much unfunny comedy relief.  The contrast between the sexually liberated nurses and their anal retentive supervisor is (over) emphasized throughout and the “cute” business with the latter’s bull dog companion being used to keep her horny charges in line isn’t exactly sophisticated comedy.  Director Yoshihiro Kawasaki handles the material competently but unremarkably and while the film clocks in at a mere 62 minutes, it does feel a bit like some of the sex scenes could have been trimmed down somewhat.  Even so, the end result is an innocuous time killer which offers up some beautiful actresses in the altogether; on that level, it’s certainly worth a look for fans of the genre.

Video:

Impulse Pictures continues their Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection with this region 1 release of Nurse Girl Dorm: Sticky Fingers.  The 1.85/16×9 transfer is very handsome.  Colors are vivid, detail is very sharp and the source materials are in terrific shape.  Apart from the inevitable digital fogging, the film is presented fully uncut.

Audio:

The mono Japanese soundtrack is very good.  The memorable synth soundtrack is particularly well served here and the removable English subtitles are easy to read throughout.

Extras:

Extras are limited to a trailer and informative liner notes by Jasper Sharp.

Film: **1/2 out of *****

Video: ***1/2 out of *****

Audio: ***1/2 out of *****

Extras: ** out of *****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khartoum (1966) Blu-Ray Review

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

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Stars: Charlton Heston, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Richard Johnson, Nigel Green
Director: Basil Dearden
Released by Twilight Time

Limited edition of 3,000 units
Available at screenarchives.com

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Road Shows were presented mostly during the sixties as the movie industry’s answer to the growing impact of television. They were usually big spectacles set in exotic locals with major stars and often a supporting cast of thousands. The films were about larger than life people often sprung from the pages of history. Films like Spartacus (1960), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), How the West Was Won (1962), Cleopatra (1963), and many others of that stature got the road show treatment and they were indeed a very big deal when they came out. They opened in a few cites before they went into a wider general release. Frequently there was an overture before the film even started, just like you were at the theatre. Most of them also had an intermission with an Entre-D’act musical section. When you returned from the popcorn stand for the second half of El Cid, Charlton Heston was now seen in a full grown beard, letting you know just how much time had passed with our hero while you were getting something to eat. Often you’d go home with a glossy oversized program. This was showmanship done up with class.  One of the last of these huge motion pictures was Khartoum. It was presented in Cinerama a unique three screen process that lined up three images to create a super image that stretched across the theatre often with a slight curve. Naturally it could have only been screened this way in theatres with the special projection equipment. The version that played in other theatres, television and on home video looks like Cinemascope with those edges rendered seamless.

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What is largely missing from Khartoum is the spectacle. Despite second unit scenes directed by legendary stunt coordinator Yakima Canutt there is just not much action in this film. Early on there is a skirmish that falls flat. Canutt was justifiably famous for his work with horses. He created some jaw dropping sequences such as the one with the rider who jumps down one side of a stagecoach, then crawls underneath it and come up the other side. That bit was lovingly (and dangerously) recreated in Raiders of the Lost Arc (1980). There is a big battle scene at the very end that is well done and has some of Canutt’s hand in it, but it is really far too little far too late.

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The construction of the narrative really comes down to two people in conflict. Charlton Heston plays the British General Charles Gordon who has freed the slaves of the Sudan. He’s presented as a hero to the people there. On the other hand is the religious zealot, Muhammad Ahman played by the extraordinary Laurence Olivier. He calls himself Mahdi, The Expected One and fully intends to take over his region, his continent and possibly more than that. First Heston has to content with a cadre of politicians in Britain that want to appear to help fight this man but really do not want to get involved. They send General Gordon down there largely as a large scale public relations show. The officers who support the General all dress in a bevy of sharply tailored military suits blanketed with tassels, medals, braid and bling. Heston even has this remarkably textured outfit with two different shades of black that this Blu-Ray really shows off. The Mahdi’s camp is festooned with opulent colors, too. The landscapes are spectacular. Each time we get a glimpse it really is breath taking. One wishes that even more scenes would have been staged in daytime exteriors as a lot of the sequences have that shot in a big studio feel to them.

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What we are left with for the bulk of the picture is a series of interior scenes with people talking. As you watch Olivier with his long flowing robes and frankly ridiculous amount of make-up to make him look the part his words start to flow. He makes the most of the part giving nuance and resonance to his blocks of dialogue. You find yourself appreciating his skills and marvelous ways of diction. Still, it’s just two guys talking and the conflict is not very dramatic. The big question is will Gordon leave the city when The Mahdi attacks or will he stay to be killed. Gordon believes that his death with be more meaningful than The Mahdi’s life. After nearly two hours we don’t get much of a last reel battle. The whole thing, though gorgeous looking feels a bit of a sham. Where’s the spectacle?

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Video – 2.76:1
Colors and landscapes are exquisite. Details are very strong. Facial features are faithfully rendered so well you can even see the excess make-up on Olivier.

Audio – DTS 2.0 in English with subtitles offered in English SDH The entire sound has a full sumptuous feel to it. Cordell’s orchestrations rise and swell with emotion. Much of the film is taken up with dialogue and the soundtrack features a sound design technique that puts a little bass in the mix to give Heston’s words some gravitas. This is a very clear track. The instrumentation gets a very nice treatment here with the flavors of the orchestra all easily apparent.

Extras – Twilight Time signature isolated track of Frank Cordell’s score, Commentary with Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman.Trailer

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

Blu-Ray – Excellent

The Shadow (1994) Blu-Ray Review

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

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Stars: Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller, John Lone, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, Jonathan Winters, Ian McKellen
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Released by Scream Factory

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

What this 1994 adaptation of the old radio serial does gets right is an adventurous pulpy feel for the material. The Shadow made his first appearance in a series of stories published in magazines that were printed on paper so cheap that the entire genre of adventure serial was typically referred to simply as the pulps. His exploits became very popular during the golden age of radio serials. That tone is in fine form here.

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The movie is set post World War One in New York in all its period decadence. However the film is lit brightly and done up in a series of very bold colors. At times it has the look of the campy sixties Batman TV show. But the costumes and set design are strong enough to hold us in. The plot is very simple. Genghis Kahn comes back to modern times to wreak havoc. He comes out of an iron tomb that is sent to The Museum of Natural History on the West Side. Awakened he too posses telepathic powers and mind control just like the Shadow. His plan is to get a kindly old scientist to build a bomb that will blow up the city. The scientist’s daughter is a knock-out blonde with a touch of telepathic abilities in her genes. She’s also got a crush on Lamont Cranston and when she finds out he is the Shadow we get the requisite romantic angle to the story. While not a classic superhero the Shadow does have the ability to protect his thoughts into people’s minds as well as the read them. Other than that he’s got a pair of blazing automatic pistols that he fires in tandem like Chow Yun-Fat in his Hong Kong Films.

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The first appearance of The Shadow is marred by indistinct images. Baldwin in costume is introduced in a blur of fog created by poorly executed optical effects. Had that been real fog in a truly dark night that scene might have really been something. Instead we get bad reveal of a character that turns out to be quite entertaining throughout the picture. However the film moves at a very fast pace and is full playful confrontations and some imaginative staging and photography. Peter Boyle plays The Shadow’s chauffeur in the guise of a taxi driver who drives him all over town like Ernest Borgnine did for Snake in Escape from New York. Jonathan Winters is on hand as the police commissioner. Baldwin looks the part and exudes a nice quiet assurance. He handles the mind control bits well, too. The only shortcoming in the part is more of a technical nature. The Shadow’s legendary eerie laugh is supposed to overwhelm you and sneak up on you. It doesn’t take advantage of the sound medium very well at all. That’s a real shame. If you have heard any of the old time radio serials that sinister signature voice was capable of sending shivers down your spine as well as signaling the beginning of another great adventure.

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Often the camera lets Baldwin slink back into the shadows where he disappears. Occasionally his shadow is animated and in one flourish his cape unfurls much like Bela Lugosi’s transformation from a bat into Dracula in Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein. When Baldwin is doing his telepathic mind hypnosis the lights drop save for a band across his eyes much like films of the thirties and forties used to do. However on the whole it is simply too over-lit to evoke any kind of Film Noir aesthetic. The street scenes of New York City have a nice sense of that thirties era, though everything is just too bright and clean. Everyone’s clothes look like they just came from the dry cleaners and every set looks liked the maid just left. The writers and director chose to lay this film in a campy fun mode that falls well in line with the kind of visual treatment that Warren Beatty gave his version of Dick Tracy (1990). The presentation is purposefully full of pop-out colors and sports a bright comic strip feel. Still a fun flick to see but The Shadow needed more of the dark shadows that grace films like Christopher Nolan’s Batman films to really be The Shadow. Still this is a very enjoyable film with a terrific supporting cast.

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Video – 1.85:1
With the brief exception of some murky indistinct scenes of The Shadow’s first appearance on the bridge, this is an overall excellent presentation. Colors are very strong and bold. They frequently stand out in the richly detailed period production design. Facial features are clear and skin tones all natural. Some f the lighting and colors schemes are intentionally over the top and for what they are, they look great.

Audio – DTS 5.1 in English, Subtitles offered in English.
Dialogue and music are always clear. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is evocative of the era and supports the film well. However the nightclub scenes feel like you are not there are at all with everything done by foley and added in later. While the effects generally stay in the background there is a sequence with Baldwin running through the nighttime streets into Chinatown that features a very immersive surround-scape

Extras – New interviews with Director Russell Mulcahy, Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller, Production Designer Joseph Nemec, III., Director Of Photography Stephen H. Burum and Writer David Koepp, trailer

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

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Sex Hunter 1980: DVD Review

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Sex Hunter: 1980 (1980)

by Troy Howarth

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Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda

Main Players: Erina Miyai, Ayako Oota, Teruo Matsuyama, Seru Random

Miki receives an invitation to join the private dance academy run by Akiko.  Once there, she finds herself subjected to various sexually degrading acts…

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Sex Hunter: 1980 is one of the more disturbing and stylish erotic films from the legendary Nikkatsu Studios.  The film appears to have been influenced somewhat by Dario Argento’s landmark horror film Suspiria (1976), with its private ballet academy setting and stylized imagery, but the film goes in for excesses of a sexual, rather than supernatural, nature.  The film wallows in fetishism, incest, bondage, rape and assorted other “goodies” but remains peculiarly compelling due to its melancholy tone.  Unlike some of the other Nikkatsu offerings, which reduces sexual violence and the like to the level of a joke, this one is played deadly seriously – and it’s all the more effective because of it.

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The film is well directed by Toshiharu Ikeda, who would go on to direct the cult favorite Evil Dead Trap (1988).  Ikeda brings a great deal more visual aplomb to the film than usual for this sort of thing – he makes excellent use of the scope framing and often composes in depth so give added interest to the imagery.  He also doesn’t shy away from the kinkier aspects of the material.  One especially potent sequence depicts Miki being repeatedly violated by overflowing bottles of Coca-Cola, which are shoved into an area not designed for soda consumption, and eventually results in a veritable flood of regurgitated soda… It’s a nasty scene and Ikeda doesn’t pull any punches in realizing it.  The general theme of degradation of innocence is explored in full, with Miki ultimately transformed into a very different person because of all the humiliation she is forced to endure.

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Sex Hunter: 1980 is not for viewers with delicate sensibilities, but those who can put its excesses into context will no doubt have a good time with it.  It helps that the attractive cast appears to be game for anything, delivering convincing performances while engaging in the various kinky highlights with unrestrained aplomb.  The end result is by turns unnerving, uncomfortable and yes, even erotic.  It remains one of the most striking and memorable films from the entire Nikkatsu cycle.

Video:

Impulse Pictures continues their Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection with this release of Sex Hunter: 1980.  The region 1 release is presented in its original 2.35 aspect ratio and is enhanced for widescreen TVs.  The transfer is sharp and colorful throughout and is presented fully uncut – with the built-in caveat of digital blurring which is always the case with these Japanese erotic films.  The print is in excellent shape and the mastering is up to Impulse’s usual standards.

Audio:

The mono Japanese soundtrack is clean and clear.  There is no hiss or distortion and the removable English subtitles are easy to read throughout.

Extras:

The only extras are a theatrical trailer and liner notes by Japanese cinema historian Jasper Sharp.

Film: **** out of *****

Video: ****1/2 out of *****

Audio: ***1/2 out of *****

Extras: ** out of *****