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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

By now, I've seen a fair amount of Spanish cult director Jess Franco's films, and, despite his popularity among countless ardent fans, I've always found his works to be a great big grab bag of good and bad all swirling around together like socks in a dryer--mostly mismatched and full of holes, but occasionally wearable.

With 1979's THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME, we see the result of Franco taking his earlier sex-and-horror film EXORCISM (already the result of much tinkering and consisting of various different cuts including a XXX-rated one), re-arranging and repurposing the existing footage, and adding several minutes of new footage to create what he himself considered the definitive version.

Franco stars as Mathis Vogel, who once studied for the priesthood at Notre Dame but ultimately failed the final audition, so to speak, due to the fact that he was a raving loon. 

Now, after years in institutional exile, he returns crazier than ever as your stereotypical "religious fanatic" intent on punishing "sinful women" and becomes a dreaded Jack the Ripper-style serial killer.

Vogel's twisted mind is a maelstrom of conflicting impulses as he stalks and murders women he considers whores (promising that this will purify their souls) while being irresistibly aroused by them.

Franco succeeds in portraying him as a sick, pathetic troll of a man tormented by his own desires while even his former friend in the priesthood denies him the absolution for his crimes that he desperately craves.

He meets and is obsessed by pretty Anne (Franco's lifelong lover and muse Lina Romay) who works for a lurid sex magazine where he submits autobiographical sex stories, and, through her, stumbles upon a group of upper-class swingers who meet regularly in a castle for perverted S&M sex shows followed by intense orgies. 

The rest of the film follows Vogel's stalking and killing of members of the group, usually after he has voyeuristically observed them having sex involving dominant-submissive roleplay.  Romay's fans will enjoy seeing her romping about in various stages, although I found most of the other anonymous, undulating nudes somewhat less appealing.

Much of the violence is surprisingly non-graphic while still managing to be deeply disturbing, especially when juxtaposed with ample amounts of nudity and fevered Freudian sexuality. 

Occasionally, however, there are flashes of more graphic violence that increase the shock value, and, taken as a whole, this must've presented late 70s audiences with quite a heady concoction.

Meanwhile, there's a subplot (mostly from the original version, I think) involving some bickering police detectives on Vogel's trail.  This is meant mainly to show us that the net is indeed tightening around our perverted protagonist as he goes about his murderous ways, although some of the conflict between the veteran French detective and a young hot-shot cop on loan from Switzerland is interesting.


Technically, THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME is the wildly-prolific Franco's standard rushed production--he often burned through several projects at once--filled with quick set-ups, lots of zooming and meandering camerawork, and the occasional evidence of a talented film visualist at work. 

Often Franco simply allows his cinematic mind to wander, resulting in long stretches that may delight his fans while lulling others to sleep.  The story itself is pretty threadbare and dependant upon its outlandish, grotesque imagery and themes for whatever impact it may have on individual viewers.

The new Blu-ray and DVD release by Severin Films is taken from the only known existing copy of the film, a 35mm print scanned in 4K after reportedly being discovered "in the crawlspace of a Montparnasse nunnery."  The various resulting imperfections only add to its visual appeal for me since I find perfect, flawless clarity in a film to be off-putting.  When it comes to old-style exploitation such as this, I like a print that looks like it has been around the block a few times.

I found THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME sporadically interesting but never particularly appealing for either its horrific or erotic qualities. Francophiles, I assume, will find it fascinating.  And still others will doubtless agree with the Spanish film board's assessment of it--proudly touted in the film's publicity--as "an absolute abomination."

Special Features:
The Gory Days Of Le Brady – Documentary Short On The Legendary Parisian Horror Cinema
Stephen Thrower On Sadist Of Notre Dame – Interview With The Author Of ‘Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jesus Franco’
Selected Scenes Commentary With ‘I’m In A Jess Franco State Of Mind’ Webmaster Robert Monell
Treblemakers: Interview With Alain Petit, Author Of ‘Jess Franco Ou Les Prosperites Des Bis’
Spanish language or English dubbed with subtitles

Pre-order it at Severin Films
(Release date: April 3, 2018)


Worst Special Effect Ever? "THE NEANDERTHAL MAN" (1953) (video)

Mad scientist Robert Shayne invents a reverse-evolution formula...which he first tries out on his kitty cat.

And then...

Tell me I didn't just see a giant plush toy with fangs.

It is!  It's a giant plush toy with fangs!

I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


Monday, March 19, 2018

ART OF THE HEIST -- DVD Review by Porfle

I'm not a particular fan of the typical heist film, but some of them really do it for me--really good ones such as the original OCEAN'S ELEVEN, the remake of THE ITALIAN JOB (yes, the remake), and now the exciting, suspenseful, and funny ART OF THE HEIST, aka "Fakers" (Indican Pictures, 2004).

I wasn't that thrilled at first during the opening scene in 1911 Sicily when a young artist goes from sketching a nude girl to having sex with her just as her Mafia Don father and his thugs break the door down and turn him into a historical footnote. 

But give this one five minutes or so, because after some opening titles that look like something out of a 60s TV series like "I Spy", the story jumps ahead to present-day England and starts getting interesting.

That's when small-time hustler Nick Edwards (Matthew Rhys) is given five days to pay back $50,000 to urbane but unbalanced baddie Foster Wright (Art Malik in fine form) or have his internal organs rearranged.

Nick stumbles across the Sicilian artist's unfinished sketch (now worth tens of thousands), then hatches a scheme to sell forgeries of it to various art dealers (including Rula Lenska herself) quickly enough so that they don't have time to compare notes. 

This will involve a shy, insecure young artist named Tony (Tom Chambers) and his big sister Eve (Kate Ashfield), a brash bartender for whom Nick carries a torch. 

But when she finds out about the deal, she blackmails Nick for half the take, forcing him to persuade Tony to make more copies to sell to more art dealers, making the whole scheme more likely to explode in their faces. 

Rhys' "Nick" is a likable lowlife with such an optimistic attitude (he's even gotten used to getting beaten up) that when things get messed up enough to make him sweat, we get nervous too. 

In fact, Paul Gerstenberger's keenly-written script is such a slow-burning fuse of nailbiting suspense that the middle third of the film doesn't ease up for a second. Richard Janes' direction is top-notch as well, making the whole thing effortlessly entertaining.

I won't give away just what happens next (not as much as the trailer and DVD notes do, anyway), but suffice it to say that, as in just about all heist films, the intial success of the clockwork perfect undertaking is then quickly and disastrously unraveled. 

In short, Nick loses the money he needs to pay off Foster Wright, the police show up and start arresting people, brawny gangster types show up and threaten to break people in half, and, worst of all, Nick loses Eve.

Can't there ever be a heist flick where they get the money and get to keep it?  Every time I watch one, I'm on edge the whole time just waiting for the other shoe to drop and the good guys--that is, the good bad guys--to lose everything they've worked so hard for at the last minute.  Like that's supposed to teach us a lesson just as we're vicariously enjoying their sudden incredible financial success.

But in this case, their total success would mean a shorter and less exciting movie.  ART OF THE HEIST is at its best once things start to go wrong, making us care about the characters, keeping us in suspense until the very end, and playing the story out just right.  As heist movies go, this one pulls it off like clockwork.

Tech Specs
Runtime: 85 mins.
Format: 2:35 Scope (35mm)
Sound: Dolby Digital/5.1
Country: USA
Language: English
Rating: R
Genre: Action/Romance/Comedy
Bonus: audio commentary, cast interviews, trailers, captions

Amazon video
Amazon DVD


Phantom Henchman in "GOLDFINGER" (James Bond, 1964) (video)

James Bond, Goldfinger, and pilot Pussy Galore are supposed to be the only ones on the plane.

So who's that guy standing behind Goldfinger in the doorway?

There are further glimpses of him during the scene, but his presence is never acknowledged.

He is, without a doubt, one of the most useless henchmen in movie history.

I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Special thanks to Mark Redfield. Thanks for watching!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

5TH STREET -- DVD Review by Porfle

It looks like it's going to be yet another variation on the classic revenge thriller, but 5TH STREET (Indican Pictures, 2013) veers its way through enough unexpected twists and turns to keep us both guessing and thinking.

Writer Eric Arthur Martinez stars as Joe Montoya, a chiropractor whose loving relationship with wife Sarah (Anne Leighton) is about to be blessed with child.  But while hunting for a new house, they enter a way-wrong neighborhood where Sarah is shot down in the middle of a sudden gang hit.

Before you can say "Death Wish" the newly-widowed Joe, now mad with grief, gets armed and forms a plan to find out who was responsible for the killing so that we can enjoy some good old-fashioned bloody payback.  He even enlists a couple of dads who've suffered similar unavenged losses as his crew.

The story chugs along as expected for awhile.  It's a slowburn that we know is building to something while keeping us pretty occupied even during a few slightly draggy spots.  Making it all the more watchable is the solid direction by Alex Meader, who delivers a quality indy film that looks good.

While Joe and his guys work their way up the criminal food chain, we see the big fish Beto (Christian Monzon), a cold-blooded narcissist who does business in sadistic fashion that even has his own men in fear of what he'll do next. 

But even Beto is a loving father, which is just one of the ways 5TH STREET screws around with our expectations.  Joe himself meets a vivacious young lady named Jessica (Annie Fetchu) who works with troubled kids, and from her he's reminded of how even the good ones can go bad due to unfortunate circumstances rather than some inherent evil. (A flashback to Joe's own childhood is harrowing enough.)

So at just about the point where the usual revenge flick would be shifting into top gear, violence-wise, this one eases back and offers some food for thought.  Mind you, there's still some satisfying (though mainly non-graphic) violence against the bad guys here and there, without which I'd have felt really cheated.  But the causes and consequences of it all are thoughtfully explored as well. 

Making things more interesting is the presence of a cop, Detective Gonzalez (Joe Voltierra), who suspects Joe of being behind some recent bad-guy deaths and starts shadowing him and his friends. 
This subplot conjures still more legal and moral ambiguity for both us and the characters to ponder.

Performances are fine and, for the most part, pleasingly realistic.  The film is above-average in all technical aspects including good production design and an effective musical score.

I'll admit, there will always be a place in my DVD player for a bit of the old mindless ultra-violence as far as revenge tales go.  But in the case of 5TH STREET, it's nice to see how such a loaded premise can develop in ways other than the usual lather-rinse-repeat fashion.

Tech Specs
Runtime: 93 minutes
Format: 1:78 HD
Sound: Dolby SR
Genre: Action/Crime
Country: USA
Language: English


VERY Visible Cameraman in "Bad Boys" (Sean Penn, 1983) (video)

I watched "Bad Boys" a bunch of times on cable in the 80s. 

But I never noticed this until it was pointed out to me.

It's during the big fight between Sean Penn and Esai Morales.

VERY Visible Cameraman!

I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


Saturday, March 17, 2018


IMDb calls it "the original rapid fire sketch comedy show." Which is exactly what drew me to the first season when I was a kid--one relentlessly silly joke after another, coming at us pretty much non-stop until the very last second of the show.  No guest vocalist singing sappy love songs, no June Taylor dancers, and best of all, no discernible bounds of taste or restraint.

ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON, a 7-disc DVD set from Time-Life, shows us how the free-form, surreal, unstructured, utterly and unabashedly silly conglomeration of sight gags and creaky one-liners continued with even more abandon into the show's third year without any sign of running out of steam.

If anything, by this time the show had really found its footing and established a solid basis from which to go off in any direction they chose at any time. None of the show's regular features are ever in the same order, and sometimes the intro doesn't occur until five minutes in or more.

Running gags intentionally drive already-flimsy jokes into the ground during the course of an episode.  One-liners that would've had vaudeville audiences groaning are delivered in quick succession as though they were comedy gold, scoring the occasional bullseye. 

Bloopers abound; like Red Skelton before them, these people realize that the mistakes are often funnier than the scripted material, and their performances are so loose and uninhibited it's often hard to tell the difference.

Comedy duo Dan Rowan (straight man) and Dick Martin (giggling sex-crazed wacko) are a couple of straight-looking but silly guys in suits who co-opt just enough of a seemingly modern attitude to appeal to the "kids" while also playing up to the older drink-in-hand, wife-swapper crowd as seen in the regular "Party" segment that plays like an episode of "Playboy After Dark." 

It's all a weird combination of pseudo-hip and cringe-inducingly corny humor that pretends to be "with it" but really pokes fun at the counterculture, hippies, etc.  Still, there's a distinctly liberal slant to the show's humor although today much of that humor would be considered very politically-incorrect.  Topical references to such then-trending things as "Myra Breckinridge", the Viet Nam war, air pollution, and the space program abound. 

Other familiar segments are "Mod, Mod World" (where we see the famous bikini girls with one-liners painted on their bodies), "Laugh-In Salutes", "The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award" (usually awarded to some current political or social pariah), "The Joke Wall", and "Laugh-In News of the Past, Present, and Future."  These offer an excuse to have jokes follow a particular theme for awhile until chaos takes over again.

The returning cast is comprised of solid comedy pros such as Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, deadpan announcer Gary Owens, Judy Carne, Ruth Buzzi, and the hilarious Jo Anne Worley (the "Laugh-In" women are way more talented than the ones on the later SNL, save perhaps for Gilda Radner). Flip Wilson is such a frequent guest as to be a semi-regular. 

Newer cast members include kewpie doll Pamela Rodgers, mildly amusing Brit comic Jeremy Lloyd, and token black castmembers Teresa Graves and Byron Gilliam, who are consigned to doing the usual 70s "jive" humor most of the time.  (Graves would later score her own classic series "Get Christie Love!")

My favorite newer castmember is the wacky, eye-rolling Alan Sues, thanks to his aggressive, flamboyantly-gay persona and regular characters consisting of perpetually hungover kids' show host Uncle Al ("The Kiddies' Pal") and bell-ringing sportscaster Big Al ("Oh, I just love my tinkle!").
The show scored lots of big and not-so-big guest stars eager for a chance to look hip and be silly, including Ringo Starr, Eli Wallach and wife Anne Jackson, Diana Ross, Carol Channing, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Sid Caesar, Debbie Reynolds, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Monkees Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, and Mickey Dolenz, comic Jackie Leonard (a natural for the show with his old-style burlesque humor), Sonny and Cher, Lana Wood, Peter Sellers, Buddy Hackett, Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, Phyllis Diller, Michael Caine, Romy Schneider, Mitzi Gaynor, and many more.

Especially noteworthy in this, the third season, is the debut of Lily Tomlin and her trademark characters, precocious little girl Edith Ann ("And that's the truth") and brash, snort-laughing telephone operator Ernestine ("Is this the party to whom I am speaking?")  Tomlin went on to become a post-"Laugh-In" comedy superstar, but those of us who remember her debut here will find these episodes quite nostalgic. 

One thing that appealed to me about the show as a kid is its similarity to a live-action issue of MAD Magazine with its grab-bag abundance of satires, parodies, song spoofs, running gags, and blackout comedy bits reminiscent of Sergio Aragones' cartoons that filled the margins of every page. 

ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON is just such an immersive experience in sublime silliness that you'll want to watch from cover to cover. 

Format: DVD/7 Discs
Running Time: 1413 minutes
Genre: TV DVD/Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Stereo
Street Date: March 20, 2018
DVD SRP: $39.95
Bonus features: exclusive new interview with Lily Tomlin, and the featurette "Still Laugh-In -- A Tribute to George Schlatter".

Read our original coverage HERE

Read our review of the complete first season HERE


Friday, March 16, 2018

Same Actor, Two Characters: "The Sons of Katie Elder" (John Wayne, 1965)(video)

It's common for an actor to play multiple parts in a fantasy or comedy film such as "The Wizard of Oz", "Dr. Strangelove", or "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

But not so common in a relatively realistic film such as the John Wayne western "The Sons of Katie Elder."

Here, familiar character actor Karl Swenson plays two totally unrelated characters.

First, Swenson is the local bartender.

Later, Duke summons Old Doc Isdell to tend to his wounded brother.

And Old Doc Isdell is played guessed it...Karl Swenson. 

Same actor, two unrelated characters.  Totally random!

I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


Olive Films' April 2018 Releases: "JOE", "HOPE AND GLORY", "MERMAIDS" on Blu-ray and DVD

Olive Films' April 2018 Releases: "JOE", "HOPE AND GLORY", "MERMAIDS" on Blu-ray and DVD

JOE                  DVD
CAT:                 OF1409
UPC:       887090140911
SRP:                 $24.95

JOE                  BD      
CAT:                 OF1410
UPC:       887090141017
SRP:                 $29.95

PREBOOK:        3/27/18
STREET:           4/24/18

(Taxi Driver, Young Frankenstein, TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond)
(Dead Man Walking, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Atlantic City)
(Chances Are, The Air Up There, TV’s Dark Shadows)
(They Saved Hitler’s Brain, The Madmen of Mandoras)
(American Gigolo, A Touch of Class, The Onion Field)

Directed by
JOHN G. AVILDSEN (Rocky, The Karate Kid, Save the Tiger)

Joe, directed by Academy Award winner John G. Avildsen (Best Director, Rocky – 1977) and written by Academy Award nominee Norman Wexler (Best Screenplay, Joe – 1971, Serpico – 1974), would capture the nation’s zeitgeist.

YEAR: 1970
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio; Color

“I’m the ‘Joe’ everbody’s talking about,” heralded movie print ads for director John G. Avildsen’s (Rocky) film Joe, proving that there’s truth in advertising. The modestly budgeted film would go on to become a multi-million-dollar box-office success, garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay.

Peter Boyle (TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond) stars as Joe Curran, the titular everyman and unabashed hippie-hater. Joe, who equates hippies with everything un-American, finds a kindred spirit in Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick, Chances Are), an advertising executive who makes Joe’s acquaintance at a neighborhood bar, boasting that he killed a drug-dealing hippie (Patrick McDermott, The French Connection). Bill, pressed for facts by the intrigued Joe, recants saying that he was merely joking. But when a news report confirms the incident, vigilante justice akin to Taxi Driver is set in motion.

Joe, directed by John G. Avildsen, written by Norman Wexler (Serpico) and featuring the screen debut of Susan Sarandon (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), also stars Audrey Caire (They Saved Hitler’s Brain), K Callan (American Gigolo) and K Callan (American Gigolo).

CAT:                 OF1407
UPC:       887090140713
SRP:                 $19.95

HOPE AND GLORY        BD      
CAT:                 OF1408
UPC:       887090140812
SRP:                 $29.95
PREBOOK:        3/27/18
STREET:           4/24/18

(Ryan’s Daughter, White Mischief, Blow-Up)
(Braveheart, Gandhi, The Hill)
(The Big Blue, Breaking the Waves, Dogville)
(Four Rooms, Mona Lisa, A Prayer for the Dying)

Directed by
(Deliverance, Excalibur, The Emerald Forest)

John Boorman, the writer, director and producer of Hope and Glory, would receive Academy Award® nominations – Best Director, Best Screenplay (written directly for the screen) and Best Picture - for his work on the film.

YEAR: 1987
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio; Color

Hope and Glory, John Boorman’s (Deliverance) autobiographical film is a nostalgic and gently comic remembrance of England during the turbulent Blitz as seen through the eyes of 10-year-old Billy Rohan (Sebastian Rice-Edwards). While the beauty of the aircrafts and tanks holds endless wonders for the young boy, others know all too well the destruction they bring.

Navigating difficult times are mother Grace (Sarah Miles, Academy Award® nominee for Best Actress - Ryan’s Daughter, 1971), who finds herself head of the household when her husband is drafted; Billy’s sister, Dawn (Sammi Davis, Mona Lisa), whose romance and pregnancy with the dashing Canadian airman Corporal Carrey (Jean-Marc Barr, The Big Blue) is yet another challenge for the stoic Grace; and George (Ian Bannen, Gandhi), Billy’s curmudgeonly grandfather whose idyllic country home will open Billy’s eyes to a whole new world.

Written, directed and produced by Academy Award® nominee John Boorman (Director and Best Picture - Deliverance, 1973; Director, Screenplay and Best Picture – Hope and Glory, 1988), Hope and Glory is photographed by Academy Award® winner Philippe Rousselot (A River Runs Through It - 1993), costumed by two-time Academy Award® nominee Shirley Russell (Agatha – 1980, Reds – 1982) with production design by two-time Academy Award® nominee Anthony Pratt (Hope and Glory – 1988 shared with Joanne Woollard, Phantom of the Opera – 2005 shared with Celia Bobak).

MERMAIDS       DVD    
CAT:                 OF1411
UPC:       887090141116
SRP:                 $14.95

MERMAIDS       BD      
CAT:                 OF1412
UPC:       887090141215
SRP:                 $29.95


PREBOOK:        3/27/18
STREET:           4/24/18

(Moonstruck, Silkwood, Mask)
(Heathers, Beetlejuice, Stranger Things)
(The Addams Family, The Ice Storm, Black Snake Moan)
(Mona Lisa, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Long Good Friday)
(Sixteen Candles, Vision Quest, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken)

Directed by
RICHARD BENJAMIN (Racing with the Moon, My Favorite Year, The Money Pit)

The seriocomic Mermaids features inspired performances by Academy Award® winner Cher (Best Actress – Moonstruck, 1988) and Academy Award® nominees Winona Ryder (Best Supporting Actress – The Age of Innocence, 1994; Best Actress – Little Women, 1995) and Bob Hoskins (Best Actor – Mona Lisa, 1987).

YEAR: 1990
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio; Color

Mermaids, directed by Richard Benjamin (My Favorite Year) and based on the novel by Patty Dann, features Academy Award® winner Cher (Actress - Moonstruck, 1988) as Rachel Flax, the eccentric matriarch of the Flax family that includes daughters Charlotte (Academy Award® nominee Winona Ryder, Supporting Actress - The Age of Innocence, 1994; Actress – Little Women, 1995), an awkward, quirky teen torn between her personal devotion to becoming a nun (despite being Jewish) and her longing for romance, and Kate (Christina Ricci, The Addams Family), a nine-year-old whose interest in swimming may be a result of an inherited gene from Rachel’s one-night stand with an Olympic contender.

This dramatic comedy also stars Academy Award® nominee Bob Hoskins (Actor – Mona Lisa, 1987) as Lou, Rachel’s latest flame, and Michael Schoeffling (Sixteen Candles) as Joe, a convent handyman and Charlotte’s love interest.

Mermaids was scored by Academy Award® winner Jack Nitzsche (Music, Original Song – An Officer and a Gentleman, 1983), photographed by Howard Atherton (Fatal Attraction), costumed by Academy Award® nominee Marit Allen (Costume Design – La Vie en Rose, 2008) with production design by Academy Award® nominee Stuart Wurtzel (Art Direction-Set Decoration – Hannah and Her Sisters, 1987).