Saturday 24 February 2024

Bad Biology (2008)


"Completely Nuts"


If a David Cronenberg film were to be given a frontal lobotomy and then have electrodes wired to its testicles, the result might be something like Frank Henenlotter's BAD BIOLOGY, now  getting a dual format UHD and Blu-ray release from Severin Films.



Jennifer (Charlee Danielson) was born with seven clitorises and is on a constant search for sexual satisfaction. If impregnated she brings to term, and gives birth to, a monstrous deformed baby within a matter of minutes. Meanwhile Batz (Anthony Sneed) was the victim of an unfortunate accident at birth where his penis was amputated. It was reattached but failed to function. Now, through the application of growth hormones, steroids, and erectile dysfunction medication, his penis is enormous and has developed a mind of its own. When the two get together, hilarity of a type only Henenlotter can realise ensues.



BAD BIOLOGY is very funny, but only if you're on Henenlotter's outrageous wavelength. Otherwise steer clear because many will find the subject matter offensive to the point of disgust or just plain silly to the point of ridiculousness. Suffice to say if you liked BASKET CASE or FRANKENHOOKER you'll want to check this out. In fact you've probably already seen it.

If you're a fan of BAD BIOLOGY you'll be pleased to know Severin's UHD transfer looks fabulous and is a step up from the Blu-ray that's also included in the package. Two commentary tracks (one archival with Henelotter and producer R A Thorburn, the other with Henelotter, Sneed and DP Nicholas Deeh) are on both discs with all the other extras on the Blu-ray.



These consist of 'Spook House - Interviews with the Crew and a Retired Detective' which is 30 minutes of chat about the allegedly haunted filming location with Henenlotter, Thorburn, Deeg and others. The retired detective is Frank's brother Dave who has also brought along Zeus the dog for his interview.



'In the Basement with Charlee Danielson and a Basketball' is four minutes of exactly what it says, while 'Swollen Agenda' gives us 12 minutes with Gabe Bartalos talking about his special effects for the film. Sneed and Deeg chat with each other about their careers and the film for a whopping 66 minutes. There's also 32 minutes of behind the scenes footage, Sneed's short film Suck, eight minutes of 'O' faces, a music video and still gallery.



 

Frank Henenlotter's BAD BIOLOGY is out in a dual disc UHD and Blu-ray set and a single Blu-ray edition from Severin Films on Monday 26th February 2024

Friday 23 February 2024

Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)


Who would ever have thought it? One of the most infamous (for a number of reasons which are all gone into in the copious extras on this disc) of the video nasties gets a UK two disc dual format UHD and Blu-ray release from Severin Films.



Tatum (Baird Stafford) is released from his very low budget-looking psychiatric institution having undergone a revolutionary new therapy that we know is bound not to work. Still plagued by nightmares (aha!) he sets off to find his ex-wife Susan (Sharon Smith), bumping people off along the way. At the climax, we see via a blood-drenched flashback, the reason for Tatum's original incarceration.



Adopting an almost Pete Walker-style disdain for the ineffectiveness of psychiatric treatment that kind of makes NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN the sleazy grindhouse FRIGHTMARE of the 1980s, Romano Scavolini's film also goes so far as to suggest that the causative trauma of Tatum's psychosis may be repeated by his own demise. That's not the reason the film got into trouble, though. In the US Tom Savini's name featured prominently on the press materials and in the credits despite him have little to do with the film. In the UK the film was released by World of Video 2000 uncut despite BBFC instructions to the commentary, and they might have got away with it were it not for their accompanying round British 'Guess the weight of a human brain in a jar' competition used to publicise the film. 



Extras (which are on the Blu-ray) kick off with the superb 71 minute documentary 'Damaged' about the life and career of NIGHTMARE's original UK VHS distributor David Hamilton Grant. An infamous character whose life story would likely make a film even more controversial and 'likely to cause offence' than the film itself, this is probably the final word on the man unless he ever surfaces (or is found) to offer comment. Excellent stuff and, if you have any interest in the history of British exploitation cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, this alone is worth the price of the disc.



40 minutes of cast and crew interviews include star Baird Stafford, Simon Nuchtern (production supervisor), Ed French and Cleve Hall (makeup), and Arthur Schweitzer (head of 21st Century Distribution). Writer-Director Romano Scavolini talks for a whopping 71 minutes about his career and the film, while Tom Savini is interviewed to iron out the controversy concerning his alleged participation in the film (his credit is still present on the print presented here). There are also deleted scenes (only a minute or so), a still gallery, trailer, and two commentary tracks - one with Stafford and Cleve Hall, the other with producer William Paul. 



Romano Scavolini's NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN is out in a double-disc UHD and Blu-ray set and also as a single Blu-ray from Severin Films in the UK on Monday 26th February 2024

Friday 16 February 2024

The Wages of Fear (1953)


"In Which Four Men Drive Two Lorries Filled With 200 Gallons of Nitroglycerine Across A Lot Of Very Bumpy Roads"


After its 2017 DVD & Blu-ray release from the same label, Henri-Georges Clouzot's masterpiece gets a 4K UHD release from the BFI.



In a dead end village in South America, four men decide to risk their lives to try and earn enough money for them to escape. They are Mario (Yves Montand), Jo (Charles Vanel), Bimba (Peter van Eyck) and Luigi (Folco Lulli). When oil drilling by an American company ("Wherever there's oil there's Americans" says Luigi in one of the lines cut for the original US release of this one) results in an increasingly uncontrollable fire, the only thing that can put it out are multiple timed explosions to cap it. Unfortunately the nitro-glycerine needed to do this is some distance away, is unstable, and the only way to get it there is over treacherous rounds in two trucks with little suspension.



Clocking in at 153 minutes, the first hour of THE WAGES OF FEAR is given over to establishing the main characters and the town they have found themselves stuck in. William Friedkin's 1977 remake SORCERER spends some time going deeper into each man's backstory, but here we stay in the village and that works fine. Once the lorries are underway the film becomes superbly tense, with absolutely no let up until the final shot.



The BFI's UHD disc in 4K (2160p) in HDR compatible Dolby Vision. All the extras from the previous Blu-ray release have been carried over, including Adrian Martin commentary, interviews with assistant director Michel Romanoff, Clouzit biographer Marc Godin and Professor Lucy Mazdon (68 minutes in all) and the Guardian Lecture with Yves Montand.



New to the UHD disc are a new 13 minute video essay by Nic Wassell, and 30 minutes of 'Treasures From the BFI National Archive'. These include THEY TAKE THE HIGH ROAD (24 minutes) about cement transport in Scotland in 1960. It's a beautifully preserved colour film featuring a number of classic lorries from the period including AECs, ERFs and Leylands. If you're into that then you'll also want to watch the five minute silent short about Thornycroft all-terrain six wheelers. Finally there's a snippet (32 seconds) of an oil fire checked by explosives from 1928.


Henri-Georges Clouzot's THE WAGES OF FEAR is out on 4K UHD from the BFI on Monday 19th February 2024


Thursday 15 February 2024

Deliver Us (2024)



"...From This?"


A group of Zoroastrians are slaughtered and skinned so that the intricate tattoos that foretell of the coming of both the Messiah and the Antichrist can be preserved. Meanwhile, in a remote Russian convent a statue of Mary weeps while a nun develops bloody stigmata.



It's barely got started and DELIVER US is already doing well in the 'no idea what's going on but this looks entertaining' stakes. Things get even better when we learn that the nun we saw is pregnant with twins who she claims talk to her and say they are the promised Messiah and Antichrist. Television broadcasts are issuing news bulletins about an impending solar eclipse and there is the suggestion that disease is spreading across the world. Can DELIVER US maintain this frenzied level of Eurotrashtastic fun?

Unfortunately, no it can't. (Booooo!)



Discount store Jared Leto-style hipster Catholic priest Father Fox (co-writer, co-producer, co-director and star Lee Roy Kunz, from which we shall infer nothing just yet) is despatched to the convent to find out what's going on. There he meets Cardinal Russo (Alexander Siddig who is the best thing in this but that's not hard) and one-eyed, leather apron-wearing pistol-packing Father Saul (Thomas Kretschmann) who turns out to be a villain. Yes that's right. Who would have guessed? 



Our two heroes have to save the nun from Father Saul. She gives birth on a train. They all hole up in a remote part of Estonia. The film gets slower. Father Fox's pregnant girlfriend turns up and says they are problems with the oil company she runs. The film gets slower. And sillier. And slower. Every now and then there are dream sequences to give the film a bit of a boost. It doesn't work. Eventually the film sputters to a halt by which time all the goodwill DELIVER US will have engendered amongst fans of this sort of thing in its opening act has been well and truly exhausted by some incredibly poor pacing. Oh, and a lot of the dialogue is so mumbled even the subtitling machine couldn't work out what was being said, but some of the poor thing's attempts were more entertaining than the action onscreen, so if you do end up watching this one try it for yourself. In fact I can already see the bad film fans itching to rent this one. In the meantime here's the trailer:





DELIVER US is out on Digital from Altitude Films on Monday 19th February 2024

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Werner Herzog: Radical Dreamer (2022)


"Fine Profile of a Living Legend"


Thomas von Steinaeker's documentary of the iconic German film-maker is getting a Blu-ray release from the BFI. 

It was always going to be difficult to provide a summary of the man and his work in 90 minutes, but von Steinaeker does an excellent job of getting Herzog himself to do most of the talking, taking us through important moments (and locations) from his childhood and then talking a little about most (but by no means all) of his films.

As such RADICAL DREAMER provides and excellent introduction to Herzog and his films, such that you don't really need to have any prior knowledge of him to enjoy this and find it supremely educational. You also don't necessarily even need to know who the other interview subjects are, but chances are you'll have heard of Robert Pattinson, Christian Bale and Nicole Kidman even if you're not so familiar with Wim Wenders or Volker Schlöndorff.

If you are a seasoned Herzog fan then you'll still find the above's comments providing fascinating insights. His relationship with Klaus Kinski is touched upon for long enough for anyone to take home the fact that Kinski frequently acted like a madman and that Herzog obviously did an excellent job of either controlling that madness, or throwing it straight back at him. Probably the best compliment RADICAL DREAMER can be given is that it had me checking my shelves to ensure my Herzog collection was complete because it's been too long since I've watched one of his movies.

Extras on the BFI's Blu-ray consist of an extra 15 minutes of interview footage, a gallery of poster art from Herzog films, and a trailer for the documentary. There's also THE COLONIST, a short film from Robert A Smith whom Herzog mentored. It's an atmospheric piece with some striking landscape visuals and filled with vivid colour and well worth spending ten minutes watching. The first pressing of the disc also comes with a booklet featuring new writing on Herzog. Here's a trailer:




WERNER HERZOG: RADICAL DREAMER is out on Blu-ray from the BFI on Monday 19th February 2024


Friday 2 February 2024

Inside aka A l'intérieur (2007)


Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury's debut feature, and one of the films that formed part of the 'New French Extreme' cinema movement of the late 2000s, is getting a special limited edition Blu-ray release from Second Sight.



Four months after surviving a car accident that killed her husband, Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is heavily pregnant to the point that her doctors are planning to induce her. The night before that happens, however, she is visited at her home by a woman (Beatrice Dalle) who has plans to take Sarah's unborn baby for herself, even if it means drenching the house in the blood of numerous victims to do so.



All these years later, it's surprising to see how many of the French extreme films (including HAUTE TENSION, also release by Second Sight, Pascal Laugier's INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND and others) have a strong fairytale element to their gory proceedings. Here Dale's psychopath behaves like the evil witch who has been promised the heroine's baby and has now come to collect and even now, 16 years after it was released, the amount of blood and gore that's caused by her machinations may well be a bit much for some to handle. 



It's an intense and exacting watch for sure, and while Bustillo and Maury have made other movies, the best probably being LIVIDE and the worst possibly LEATHERFACE, INSIDE remains their most extreme contribution to horror cinema. Second Sight's Blu-ray is, as one would expect, a huge improvement on the old DVD release, and there is a bunch of new extras as well.



First off are two new commentary tracks, one from Anna Bogutskaya in which she contextualises the film within both French horror cinema in general and the cinema extreme movement in particular before moving on to the making of the picture. The other commentary by Elena Lazic, on the other hand, is considerably more scene specific.



There are new interviews with Bustillo and Maury (31 minutes), Paradis (15 minutes), DP Laurent Barès (19 minutes, producer Franck Ribière (22 minutes) and stunt coordinator Emmanuel Lanzi (15 minutes) as well as a 15 minute piece by Jenn Adams in which she describes how she was able to relate her own experiences with pregnancy and delivery to what happens in the film.

The limited edition also comes with a rigid box, a 70 page book and six collector's art cards.



Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury's INSIDE is out from Second Sight on Blu-ray in both limited and standard editions on Monday 5th February 2024

Wednesday 24 January 2024

The Eternal Daughter (2022)



"A24 Art House Gothic - And Very Good, Too"


After premiering at the LFF in 2022 and its subsequent run in cinemas last year, Joanna Hogg's atmospheric mood piece gets a Blu-ray release from the BFI.



Julie Hart (Tilda Swinton) arrives at a remote Welsh country hotel with her mother Rosalind (Swinton again) for them to spend a few days together. Julie is a film-maker and plans to spend the daytime working on a new writing project. 



As time goes on it becomes apparent that there is nobody else staying at the hotel. It also seems that Julie's mother used to live there and she tells Julie how the rooms have changed since she was a resident. Things get stranger, culminating in Rosalind's birthday when the bringing in of a cake leads to revelations.



THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER has a very slight plot but makes up for it with a lot of very well done gothic atmosphere. Hogg films both interiors and exteriors from just the right angle and with just the right amount of lighting (or lack of it) to suggest extreme creepiness. In fact if Mike Flanagan hadn't already recently remade THE HAUNTING for Netflix the thought of Joanna Hogg making it would have been most welcome. 

Swinton is excellent in both roles (no surprises there) and the film gets bonus points for having her character reading the original Robert Aickman-edited Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories at breakfast. Like Aickman's own stories, THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER is more about gradually building a sense of unease than delivering shocks, so you'll be best rewarded if you go in not expecting the kind of blood and thunder one might associate with the term 'Gothic', but rather something that's going to get under your skin and keep you thinking about it for days afterwards.




Extras on the BFI's Blu-ray include an excellent commentary track with Hogg and production designer Stéphane Collonge which discusses some of the inspiration for the film (NIGHT OF THE DEMON, THE INNOCENTS) as well as many of the details about how it was made. Another audio track provides audio description which more discs should have. There's a 35 minute Q&A with Hogg and Swinton and a separate, 76 minute conversation with Hogg which covers her entire career. You also get PRESAGES, an 11 minute short film with Hogg narration. Finally the disc comes with an informative booklet featuring essays by Catherine Bray and Hannah Strong, and an interview with Hogg by Roger Luckhurst.


Joanna Hogg's THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER is out now from the BFI on Blu-ray and Digital