Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

26 years after the original video nasty outrage the once banned films are widely available  uncut, mostly viewed as a kitsch historical record of what was once found shocking. Pointless controversy is not dead, though, as two obscure horror films have recently been refused certificates by the British Board of Film Classification in an effort to ban their distribution in the UK. Let’s see if they’re any good, then…

Notoriety

Although a ban in the 21st century may be something of an achievement, Googling either film title reveals that any outrage concerns the ban itself rather than the content the films. All news articles are short and evidently the writers don’t consider the subject important enough to watch the films or do any further research. There appear to have been very small outbursts in both the film’s countries of origin, but they seem to be the results of small scale marketing campaigns. Murder Set Pieces’ top claim to fame being several film labs’ refusal to print such a depraved work. 4/10

2009’s Japanese shocker Grotesque distinguishes itself by being the only subtitled horror film to be refused a certificate. Asian horror is normally left fully intact, although Ichi the Killer (2001) notoriously receiving 3m15s of cuts. It has traditionally been the BBFC’s view that the working classes are most likely to be affected by on-screen violence and unlikely to watch foreign language films. Then head James Ferman speaking in 1975 in reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1972):

“It’s all right for you middle-class cineastes to see this film, but what would happen if a factory worker in Manchester happened to see it?”

BBFC must have thought Grotesque to be so shocking even posh folk what can read wood gettin scarred by that scary forin disk. 5/10

DVD editions

Despite the BBFC ban, the ownership, import or distribution of either film is in no way illegal, but all mainstream retailers follow BBFC guidelines and thus will not to stock uncertified material. The Dutch label Cinema Vault’s uncut edition of Murder Set Pieces is however readily available through eBay or Amazon resellers. The sleeve is rather misleading, as the zombie girl is from a dream sequence, but play the movie and the transfer from 35mm looks tremendous on a big telly, with imposing colour palette as the 5.1 soundtrack thumps, squleches and pierces in involving fashion. The movies’ apparently dubious morals, some production in-fighting and unguarded participants make for a riveting and humorous commentary track. The rare Frightfest edition has a poorer non-anamorphic picture but more extras.  Any other editions are heavily censored.  3/5

The proposed UK sleeve design was possibly never destined for the racks of HMV

Grotesque is harder to get hold of, with Malaysian label Keris Video releasing the only English subtitled version of the “unrated directors cut” – the only cut of the film – thus titled in a snipe at the marketing of Hostel (2005). It is possible to wade through the pirate editions to import it through eBay international sellers, but I went for US exploitation specialists Diabolikdvd.com who charge low P&P, accept Paypal and I received my DVD in a couple of days. Customs hassles are possible when importing extreme material, but the worst that can happen is confiscation and I’ve never had any problems at all. The outer box is nicely presented, with an embossed title, but pop the disc in the player and it’s all downhill from there with no extras, low bitrate picture, pixelated subtitles and compressed 2.0 sound. You might wonder why you didn’t save some time and watch it on Torrent instead. 1/5

(note – Diabolik are now selling a different R1 edition, but there are no clues as to its origins or content)

The Films

Murder Set Pieces’ troubled production sees cheap opening credits, with the producers credited under the names of leading Nazis. More questionable taste follows as monochrome 9/11 footage rolls. This could be taken as exploitive or a criticism of the media at the time of filming (2004) when the twin towers were seemingly falling in perpetuity on the current affairs programs. The Nazi theme is ongoing, and could be seen as prejudicial against Germans as the dumb main character reveals himself to be a teutonic Charles Manson quoting, body building, misogynist and serial killer of models and showgirls. Anyone wandering what a young Schwarzenegger might look like slaying sex workers with primary coloured lighting (heavily influenced by Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977)) need look no further. Known only as The Photographer, when he slips into his native German he sounds suitably oppressive, whereas back in English he gives us such gems as;

“It’s ironic. Women suck blood out of men every day. But at the end of every month it leaks out!”

Director Nick Palumbo often uses a pig's mask to signify dehumanisation. Early in the film it is seen waiting in the torture chamber...ready?

Ironic, indeed as a parade of bloody comic book murders play out in the depths of an alternate neon vision of a twisted Las Vegas. The prolonged torture chamber sequences are the films’ most effective as The Photographer seethes and muses in front of his gagged victims and blood stained dolls about the evils of the world. Deft use of editing, and striking flash bulb images cohere the pictures into one powerful vision, and a true updating of the classic slashers of the 70s and early 1980s. Sleaze fans will also be glad to see Leatherface himself Gunnar Hanson play a big fat daughter pimping neo-Nazi gun trader.

Slight trouble in schlock paradise, though, as despite Sven Garrett putting in a genre classic performance in the lead role the other actors are unconvincing non-professionals from the suitably exploitative worlds of adult entertainment and stage school. A couple of poorly executed and irrelevant scenes appear to have been left in for reasons other than for the benefit of the end product. 8/10

Despite a lack of plot being cited by the BBFC as one reason for the ban, Grotesque’s contrite back story is a sweet and simple tale of the meeting of demure young man and woman, contrasted with the torture chamber in which most of the film takes place, as a Lector-esque classical music loving doctor subjects the bashful lovers to “unimaginable” torments, whilst the motif “would you die for me?” is often pondered, reminding one of Bram Stokers Dracula (1992). With most J-horror awash with unnecessary and tedious surreal sequences this is not afraid to nail it off at 72 minutes, and is all the better for it.

Another reason for the BBFC’s exception to the film manifests itself in an eight minute scene of multiple sexual abuses, at the climax of which the severely disabled heterosexual male victim performs the unlikely feet of shooting his jism several metres, after a job at the skilled hand of Dr Evil. The whole scene is more effective than it deserves due to some skilled acting and effective sound, and whilst rather it may be rather trying, some may suspect sick comedy. This view is borne out by the film’s pantomime conclusion. However, I believe the effect to be the result of a lack of focus and care that can be seen in confused mix of laughs, faux snuff and love story, although all the elements are entertaining enough in their own ways. Fans of pain polemics Martyrs (2008) and Audition (1999) may be find much to like, but this is not nearly as satisfying as the high standards set by either. 6/10

Shock and Gore

As modern movies these two in a fair fight against torture porn king The Passion of the Christ (2004). Although neither film can match Mel Gibson’s maniacal 126 minutes of designer flagellation and slow death, Murder Set Pieces has a pretty good pop, with much hyperreal blood flow courtesy of uber-gore specialists Toetag Pictures, who delight in showing us heavily stylised killing of women in and out of the designer lit torture chamber, with nice attention to detail on the blood stained chains and bones. Felatio from a dismembered head traditionally causes problems at the BBFC as well. The graphic child slaying is hard to watch and I find the use of child actors in this kind of material to be misjudged, as these sequences are either unconvincing or distract the viewer into worries for the actual children, although they are always unfounded as is the case here. 8/10

Grotesque’s signature slow burn torture is inspired by ‘80s faux-snuff originating Japanese Guinea Pig series. The doctor’s quest for carnal satisfaction through sadism knows only the bounds of a limited FX budget, and an eagerness for sexual torture that is at odds with an unwillingness to show genitailia, making for a confusing castration sequence. All is helped along by the decent acting during a variety of censor baiting amputations. A superior finger necklace is shown in all stages of construction. 6/10

Battle of the Chainsaws: The calm Dr Grotesque's use the saw as a surgical instrument may be novel, but Sven Garrett's lunatic weilding and a blistering use of sound just pips it for MSP

Soundtrack

Everything sounds as good as it looks with a superb variety of cues from Tangerine Dream inspired ethereal synth chords to neo-retro grinding and ripping reminiscent of old skool slasher scores. A bit of Goblin inspired prog rock even gets a look in. To its utmost credit it retains its own strong identity throughout, mostly down to the recurring reversed and delayed plucking of the eerie signature piece. Murder Set Pieces also features possibly celluloid’s first and last double lesbian strpiier razor slaying set to bangin’ EBM. 4/5

From the inappropriate slapstick tune of opening credits, Grotesque is punctuated by the annoying and dated use of musical irony. Some of the classical pieces are quite pleasant, such as Puccini during the rejuvenation segment, but the synthesised Elgar late in the film is shockingly poor in every possible aspect. The original atmospheres show clichéd but pleasing use of industrial scrapes augmenting terrified yelps of victims, with some reverberating big drum hits, whose simplicity suggest they are direct from sample libraries. A terrible 80s inspired power rock song accompanies the end credits. 1/5

Result

Murder Set Pieces uses its sexy production values to lure Grotesque back to its pad. Bludgeoned, hog tied from the ceiling and abused for weeks, its confused identity finishes it off as its uncaring makers abandon it to its fate. Outside the battle, both films remain obscurities worldwide, thought to be offensive but so little seen outside their target niche that they offend nobody. Aside from the censors at the BBFC, whom it might be possible to take seriously if they concentrated on their real job which is to provide a valuable age classification guide for parents and cinema goers, instead of indulging in ineffectual cuts and bans based upon inconclusive research, and their own sensibilities. Sensibilities which are evidently fragile and easily poked by warped fantastical works that are an escape from, rather than the cause of, the planet’s many actual problems.

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Deep River Savages

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Notoriety Deep River Savages was the first movie in the outrageous Italian cannibal genre, which may deserve a couple of points, but it has always been much easier to ignore than to find. 3/10

ManFromDeepRiverDVDDVD Edition The only uncut edition is from US company Shriek Show. Surprisingly, the film looks as good as most mainstream movies of the era. Minimal extras, though, notable only for director Umberto Lenzi’s tale of finding a prostitute. 3/5

Film Deep River Savages establishes the all the trappings of cannibal movies – jungle locations, dumb natives, graphic gut munching, killing animals, nudity and unusual sex as well as traffic queue pacing, laughable dialogue and gratuitous aeroplane footage. In a plot is culled from A Man Called Horse (1970) Western hardish man (Ivan Rassimov, dubbed to sound like Richard Harris) ventures into the jungle and is captured by a savage tribe, and after much posturing and ritual earns their respect and joins them;

“You man of tribe!”

The other main influence are the 1960s shockumentary or “mondo” films of Paolo Cavara and Gualtiero Jacopetti, which involved a camera crew going around the world filming various “sick and depraved” lifestyles, especially those of unwestenised tribes, then marketing the resulting footage as drive-in shock fests. Fictionalise, add a dodgy narrative and voila! 3/10

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Director Umberto Lenzi recruited this actress in a brothel

Shock and gore The OK-ish make up FX are sparse, with only one scene of limb chomping cannibalism, which may have been shocking in the early ‘70’s, but is lame compared with most of the other films here. The brief gang rape and ritual sex scenes are very much of the “actors with no clothes wriggling” type. Incomparably more troubling, are the numerous scenes of actual violence against animals, for food and otherwise. Possibly hardest to watch is a mongoose pitted against a cobra in what is presented as a local blood sport. The camera looks impassively as the poor snake’s head is repeatedly bitten into a bloody mess, intercut with a separate scene of Rassimov’s ridiculous soul searching. A true laugh or cry moment. 4/10

Soundtrack Competently made but minimal (as in not much of it) the score traverses the moods of “foreign trip” to “look at this –  shocking, isn’t it?” along with the occasional “wow – mysterious” and “CHASE!” 2/5

Prisoner of the Cannibal God

PRISONER OF THE CANNIBAL GOD

Notoriety Seeing off some stiff competion to become possibly the poorest of the cannibal films, Prisoner of the Cannibal God attempts to draw attention to itself by having original Bond girl Ursula Andress get her kit off, but even that couldn’t save it from obscurity. 2/10

mountaingodDVDDVD Edition The Blue Underground label always impresses for bringing us apparently commercially unviable DVD releases. Here we have a good looking transfer of the film complete with extra scenes “from the private collection of director Sergio Martino.” These include inexplicit footage of what appears to be a native attempting sexual intercourse with a huge pig. During an interview, Martino is contradicted for his untruths concerning the animal cruelty in the film, as well as for his claims that the Malaysian locals were unjustified in protesting against the film’s content, which was against their Muslim religion. It is against my religion, too – and I’m an Atheist. 3/5

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Prelude to one of the worst 98 minutes in cinema history

Film After just a few minutes, an overlong freeze frame established my film-long habit of glancing at the DVD timer. The tedium never lets up as the cannibal-ridden mountain of Ra Ra Mi is ascended by a talentless and greedy band of idiots in their lifelong search for an ever-present pile of shit. 1/10

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The Pooka tribe...perhaps Pooka is Malaysian for papier mache?

Shock and gore Some brisk editing attempts to disguise the poor makeup, and with the exception of one castration scene there is no satisfaction for gorehounds here. The animal footage is the most repugnant of any of these films. In an attempt to take no responsibility for their actions, the film makers either tie animals causing them to attack one another, or goad animals into unnatural fights and predations and film the results. Combined with the boredom of the rest of the film, the result is not at all shocking, but genuinely depressing. 2/10

Soundtrack The odd Jaws-alike opening music gives way to a plodding hippie colony of a main theme, featuring a poorly tuned brass section which sets the scene in an aptly shambolic fashion. Elsewhere, there are a couple of nicely discordant set pieces amongst the clichéd bongos and hollers. 2/5

Cannibal Holocaust

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST VHS

The original VHS packaging, as inspired by Robertson's jam jars

Notoriety One of the few films where the UK ban is incidental to the film’s global infamy. Director Ruggero Deodato spent a few nights in prison, wrongly suspected of actually killing actors on camera, and a received a suspended sentence for obscenity under Italian law for the animal deaths. Intriguing tales of Columbian death threats also seem to have some foundation. Subsequent to its release, Deodato and many of the actors claim to have had trouble finding work, such is the universal loathing of Cannibal Holocaust. Around the time of the ban schoolyards were alight with tales of “they kill them for real,” which may have been false, but unlike most video nasties the actual film lives up to the lurid promise. Everyone I know who has seen the film remembers it well, and is normally regarded with much reverence along with any combination of love, fear or loathing. Always mentioned during any serious film censorship debate, Cannibal Holocaust almost earns it’s tagline of The Most Controversial Movie Ever Made. 10/10

cholocaustDVDDVD Edition Grindhouse Releasing’s double disc collector’s edition reaps the rewards of a painstaking restoration process, and is unsurpassed in the superb quality of picture and sound. The astonishing collection of extras will provide upwards of ten hours of top viewing for fans, who will consider themselves thoroughly infotained as many of the filmmakers are gathered to offer their opinions on the tirelessly interesting subject matter. 10/10

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Cleverly, a make-up girl sat atop a bicycle seat for the iconic impalement scene

Film Cannibal Holocaust tends to be dismissed as exploitive trash or hailed as a work of genius, and there is some justification for both viewpoints. The story of an arrogant and destructive team of documentary film makers, loosely based on Cavara and Jacopetti, is told in grainy 16mm “found footage” as they reek havoc in the Amazonian rain forest, abusing the natives for shocking footage. Back in the beautifully shot “real world”, anthropologist Professor Munro (Robert Kerman) follows their doomed trail, and the twin time lines and cinematic styles are deftly handled and mutually flattering. A third thread set in New York is less successful, as is the inserted wildlife footage and overacting from extras native to both continents. Deodato shows a genuine interest in the subject matter, and the elaborate tribal rituals seem to have some authenticity, or at least are believable enough to generate a compelling atmosphere. Unusually, the high nudity quotient adds a primal quality. With a bang on 93 minute running time, Cannibal Holocaust survives repeated viewings and is always glinting from the DVD shelf of anyone wishing to have their senses assaulted. 8/10

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Films are more violent nowadays, except this one.

Shock and gore The ingenious FX never overreach themselves, and what is shown  is generally very realistic. A DVD extra showing a recent screening of Cannibal Holocaust portrays typical shocked reactions from those expecting 70s kitsch. The truly brutal sexual assaults are much more likely to have one cringing in disgust instead of the sniggering that might punctuate a viewing of The Man from Deep River, or Deodato’s own Last Cannibal World (1976). Few films of any era are as persistent and enthusiastic in their bloodletting, and the grand set pieces of torture porn mainstreamers Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005) cannot compete. Only The Passion of the Christ (2004) shows a comparably sadistic nature. Indefencibly, archive footage of actual executions is shown, although presented as faked in the narrative. Animal deaths are rife, including a notorious 3 minute sequence in which a turtle is decapitated. Some of the main actors are involved in the butchering of the squirming body, and Francesca Ciardi is seen to vomit in disgust. Some may mistake the headless viscera to still be alive, however death is swift and Cannibal Holocaust’s animal cast are killed humanely, considering the time and place.  However, much thought and talent was employed to make all sequences as vile as possible, and the various components conspire to disorientate, giving the viewer a uniquely disturbing experience. 10/10

holoCDSoundtrack Once again the dual nature of Cannibal Holocaust reveals a sickly main theme from slush-meister Riz Ortolani before turning out musical genius in the piece known as “Adulteress’ Punishment” which contains a beautiful and sorrowful merging of strong early synth bass with mournful strings that are worthy of Samuel Barber. I’ve played the soundtrack CD so often that, corrupted by the experience, I even like the main theme now. Spot the mistake in the film where the projectionist showing the found footage claims to have “layed in some stock music to juice things up a little,” but the soundtrack is as the main film. 5/5

Cannibal Ferox

cannibal ferox videoNotoriety Cannibal Ferox will always be Cannibal Holocaust’s poorer brother, and it tends to be brought up when viewers haven’t seen the latter, or have exhausted conversation about it. However, while it may not be “banned in 31 countries” it has seen its share of bans, cuts and outrage. 7/10

cannibal ferox DVDDVD Edition All DVD prints of the film have a washed out look suggesting the film stock is in need of restoration, or wasn’t great in the first place. The letterboxed Grindhouse edition distinguishes itself with a commentary, where director Umberto Lenzi and star Giovanni Lombardo Radice supposedly argue out the merits or otherwise of killing animals in the jungle, however their vocal tracks were recorded separately. The Sazuma release has a better picture frame, but no commentary. 2/5

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Lorraine de Selle and an opposum. One of these cuties will be hung from a jeep and fed to a snake...

Film

“Just stay put, shitface!”

A risible NYC drug plot kicks off Cannibal Ferox, and is revisited throughout the film as a few disembodied Cannibal Holocaust refugees act abominably. More hilarity ensues in the main jungle plot as an over-overacting Radice and his dubbing accomplice get the cream of the diabolical lines, adding an extra layer of mania to the wacky plot, and the film rock n’ rolls apace, despite a lack of violence in the first half. The cannibals themselves are worth a mention for their ever present  bewilderment and disinterest. Cannibal Ferox is consistently “so bad its good,” a rare trick that is impossible to pull off intentionally. It quickly becomes clear that Lenzi is not into humour when corkers like;

“The mythical lie of cannibal ferox was only an alibi to justify the greed and cruelty of the conquistadors!”

pass without a hint of a smirk. 6/10

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“Hot pussied little whore” Zora Kerova in her infamous death scene that defies the laws of both physics and biology

Shock and gore

“Do you get off on ecology, eh, twat?”

Funny it may be but Cannibal Ferox proves itself to be something of a wife beating clown when it comes to the numerous acts of violence against animals. With the vegetarian natives employed as amateur slaughtermen, a poorly shot turtle scene attempting to emulate that of Cannibal Holocaust is not such a horrific spectacle, but is pointlessly cruel as the wretched beast’s flipper is dismembered prior to decapitation. The animal scenes also tend to have poorly conceived links to the plot, which would be funny, were not the punchline a needless and painful death. Back in the comforting world of actors and red paint, there are numerous nicely bloody set pieces, well done for the low budget but not in the same league as the arresting standards set by Cannibal Holocaust, with the old “long arm with no hand” trick used for one of Radices’ several amputations. 7/10

cannibalferoxCD

Cannibals, zombies and synthesisers...can't go wrong

Soundtrack The toe tapping hummable funk of the main theme complements the naive bleeps and synthetic grinds that accompany the gore scenes in a score that is the essence of video nasties. It is so enjoyable that one worries that the fun police might turn it off. Highly recommended is Blackest Heart Media’s CD, which contains the restored Cannibal Ferox score, as well as that of Zombi 2 (1979) and some humorous cover versions by the CD’s producers, interspersed with some choice dialogue from the film. One particullar favourite;

“There’s something I can’t figure out.”
“What’s that?”
“I don’t know!”

5/5

Cannibal-scores

What a bunch of reprobates we’ve had this round, with Cannibal Holocaust being an easy winner, a true classic of confrontational cinema that munches up the embryonic, the inept and the copycat joker to become Battle of the Nasties highest scorer ever. A cannibal viewing session is watching a little window of history, as the format would be unfilmable nowadays. The portayal of natives as dumb savages would be seen a racist untruth, as opposed to naive folly, although it is worth noting that the Westerners are generally shown as hostile invaders, at a time when such forward thinking was often the preserve of the bearded and beaded. Thankfully, the animal violence would also not be tolerated – although it is somewhat ironic considering society permits industrial scale cruelty of modern intensive farming, as well as the televisation of such entertainments as the Grand National. There is talk of Deodato making a new cannibal film, but it will certainly be a different experience as these jungle jollies are safely buried away in the archives.

Earlier this week those zany funsters at the British Board of Film Classification refused an 18 certificate to Japanese shocker Grotesque (2009), effectively banning its distribution in the UK.  Quaint, as upon searching for an import DVD copy, curious gorehounds of all ages will be faced with numerous offers to download the film for free…not exactly the oppressive world of 1984 is it? 25 years ago, trying to obtain banned horror films could be a months long, seedy ordeal, often the only prize a VHS video cassette featuring a compilation of snowstorms. But are those old films, viewed on DVD today, likely to deal viewer emotional damage, or induce a torture-porn-yawn? Find out as two do battle in…

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Notoriety

The worldwide controversy of Cannibal Holocaust (1980) assured anything its director, Ruggero Deodato, put his name to would be associated with unpalatable scenes of brutality. Three of his works made it to the banned list, including House on the Edge of the Park (1980) which was refused a (then correctly named) British Board of Film Censorship X certificate for cinematic viewing in 1981, on the grounds of the prolonged scenes of sexual violence that dominate viewing  Even so, the video was largely ignored by the tabloids and wasn’t popular. However, its UK DVD re-release in 2002 has given it the longest period of BBFC cuts ever metered out, standing at an incredible 11 minutes and 43 seconds! Impressive… 5/10

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Far from a racist role model, Jesse Lee Kane is seen drunk, his trousers secured by rope

The banning of Fight For Your Life is more baffling. Containing little graphic violence, this appears to be the only film ever banned in the UK for the use of racist dialogue. Whilst the language is jarring, at least to begin with, it is unclear why this was singled out for particular attention. The only character to use racist insults (which ascend the scale right up to “coon”) is an escaped convict, rapist and murderer clearly shown in a negative light, and is seen to be punished at the films’ conclusion. Possibly, the DPP were concerned that children may use the movie might be used by some as an A-Z of racial abuse. There are also inter-racial sex scenes which may have caused offence to the undoubtedly white censors. The film has not been resubmitted for classification so remains effectively banned, although it would surely be passed without a problem now. 3/10

DVD editions
Video Nasty icon David Hess

Video Nasty icon David Hess

Media Blaster’s R1 House on the Edge of the Park has an excellent transfer of the film along with extensive interviews with the truly strange trio of star David Hess, Italian speaking director Deodato and bereaved actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice. Hess rules the day – always top value, he discusses his difficult childhood, alcoholism, rugby prowess, real on-screen sex with co-star Annie Bell and his wife’s brief  role in the film as “rape victim 1,” although the latter makes him a little edgy. Deodato has previously accused Hess of on-set blackmail concerning his fee, but they seem friendly enough now. 4/5

The only version of Fight For Your Life is on the Blue Underground label, whose dedication to bringing truly obscure films to DVD is clear from the commentary track, where the label’s Bill Lustick reveals the weeks spent tracking down original negative. Entertaining stories of low budget film making ensue from writer Straw Weisman and director of photography Lloyd Freidus . 4/5

The Films
Worldwide marketing for House on the Edge of the Park focused on sexual images

Worldwide marketing for House on the Edge of the Park focused on sexual images

Last House on the Left (1972) has inspired many a dodgy horror title to describe the location of an abode. House on the Edge of the Park rips one more off by employing David Hess to essentially reprise his role as king sociopath Krug. Although the park of the title is New York’s Central Park, the film was shot in Italy in Deodato’s usual documentary style – disinterested until something vile happens, when everything livens up somewhat. Having ramped the blood and guts up to the max in Cannibal Holocaust, Deodato turns to sexual violence for the thrills on offer here. House on the Edge of the Park really does push the boundaries with multiple prolonged rape scenes shot in a style not dissimilar to Emmanuelle (1974) and other soft porn of the era, with beautiful Italian actresses decked out in designer lingerie waiting to be torn off. In one particularly crass and confusing sequence, a female character seduces her would-be rapist whilst edits are made to the second attacker lovingly stroking his victim’s nipples with a straight razor. Although I believe the film has no message and exists only to make money, it could easily be interpreted that the filmmaker’s view is that rape is an erotic and enjoyable experience for both perpetrator and victim. A select few films from the 1970s adopt a similar attitude, for example in Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973) a rape is portrayed as mutually enjoyable, and the slapping of women by strong male leads was commonplace, famously in the much earlier Gone with the Wind (1939). Pretty young women with money were at particular peril. A cultural shift making abuse against women always taboo makes these sorts of scenes look ridiculous today, but House on the Edge of the Park is not laughably inept in the same way as Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977) or the more well intentioned I Spit on Your Grave (1978). Those who enjoy having their moral senses attacked will find much outrageous pleasure here, and in its more vibrant moments House on the Edge of the Park delivers some killer blows. But the bulk of the film is a lifeless affair As the slow story meanders towards an incredible “twist”, the dubbed actors awkwardly tiptoe around the screen, perhaps genuinely intimidated by David Hess’s commanding psychopath persona. 5/10

The fight is over for one home invader

The fight is over for one home invader

The concept behind the Fight for Your Life was to make a standard single-location exploitation movie, but to feature excessive racist language to inflame mixed-race audiences, and give the film a punch above its weight at the box office. The film flopped though, with many theatre owners put off showing the film, fearful of fuss and hassle. More depressing than the verbal gymnastics is the usual Hollywood depiction of black characters not in this case as criminals, but as possessing personalities based upon Martin Luther King’s public image. In this case they are the impossibly “dignified”, as the script often reminds us, with Robert Judd as a steroidal Mandela-lite. The criminals are led by Jesse Lee Kane, played by William Sanderson who would go on to many big roles, including as JF Sebastian in Blade Runner (1981) and more recently in Deadwood on telly. His performance here is entertaining, but the simple script does not allow anything more than pantomime villanary. His henchmen are Asian and Latino, but once again there is no significance, as their nationalities are only vehicles used to court controversy. Fans of retro exploitation sleaze such as Death Wish (1974) will be happy as the film leers and horses around for 86 minutes. But with much repetitive dialogue and no involving characters – just one offensive one – it is an unrewarding experience. 5/10

Gore

Lacerations by razor aside, there is little gore in House on the Edge of the Park, instead the film visuals rely ondisplays of female pubic hair and a powerfully manic David Hess for shocks and scares. 3/10

A non-existant FX budget mean the bludgeoning of a child and an impalement on glass in Fight for Your Life just look silly and the only terror is verbal. 2/10

Soundtracks

Deodato regular Riz Ortolani uses a sickeningly sweet acoustic guitar melodies and a Martini ad of an orchestra to give a lullaby flavour to House on the Edge of the Park. The effect, in particular during the afore-mentioned rape scene, is bizarre and apparently completely unsuitable for the subject matter. Perhaps Deodato, understandably, disliked the music and so used it as a weapon to make the viewer nauseous. Or possibly the intended effect is to copy fellow Italian Dario Argento, who used Goblin’s child-like arrangements to eerie effect on productions such as Profondo Rosso (1975). Still, as the main attraction of the film is disbelief at what your eyes are seeing, it’s nice that your ears can enjoy the same sensation. 2/5

Fight for Your Life’s theme song may be a fun Shaft-alike, but the rest of Jeff Slevin’s score is the type of generic soundtrack that could easily be mistaken for the incidental music from 80’s kids adventure show, The A-Team. 2/5

Result

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Fight for Your Life might spout forth from the racist dictionary, but as it does so House on the Edge of the Park ties it to the loser’s chair, taunting and torturing in a contest fought by two productions with little to offer but cheap shock tactics. However, the latter’s truly offensive nature that wins the day, its low score belying a partially successful attempt to be one of the nastiest of nasties.

JVeyes

This was to be an article about how pleased I was with my improving health, however my eye reached new levels of agony ten days ago with agonising abrasions to my cornea hitting double figures in one night.

I, Casualty 

When I eventually got to Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital Emergency Eye Clinic, the impressively skilled and efficient doctor said my cornea was like “patchwork”, and after applying anaesthetic, scraped the whole top layer clean off! This left me in a fucking world of pain and effectively unsighted for a couple of days while it grew back again, and only today am I able to use a computer long enough to do anything other than waste five minutes looking at bicycle components and blog stats. In fact, there has been very little to do at all. Unable to face sunlight or TV for a week, I just had radio and CDs for company in the daytime.

The Blind Leading the Partially Sighted

The radio populated my mind with bilge by likes of Gordon Brown, Michael Martin and hysterical commentators, their faux assertive voices feigning outrage at Daily Telegraph revelations concerning expenses claimed by Members of Parliament. My understanding of the situation was that MPs were underpaid (many times lower than their potential value in the private sector) and by way of recompense received very comfortable living expenses. Which seems fairs enough for working 16 hours a day job from which you might well get ceremoniously sacked from every 4-5 years. MPs were also clearly happy about the situation as they voted to keep it that way ten months ago. Disclosure is the only recent change. All the current mock-apologising and rehearsed grovelling is exactly what I dislike about politicians. The sums of money concerned are miniscule on a national scale – I care not if I inadvertently spend an incalculably small amount of tax on a “flat screen TV” (what other sort can you buy?) – I just dislike lies and opportunism. David Cameron is surely the worst case. As in the tragedy of Baby P, or any other real or imagined crisis, he jumps into every media op yelping “change…change…change”, morally posturing in an attempt to adopt a leaders’ role with “strong” words, but only caustic self-interest at heart. Perhaps he would like it if MPs returned to being unpaid, so, like in the good old days, only rich Conservatives could afford to take on the job? Or perhaps he believes that highly paid and morally dubious consultancies should be undertaken, as is already the case with many of the shadow cabinet. The present Government may be rightly unpopular, but Cameron led Government would be ruinous. Meanwhile, I wish an end to the fuss.

Noise is Off

With most music radio (with the exception of the excellent D&B shows on 1Xtra) living in retro-pop tedium, and the computer off-limits, I turned to CDs. Listening to music eyes shut and in pain is pretty intense and not altogether enjoyable. I got extremely pissed off listening to hardcore CDs – apart from the odd decent track the lazy programming seemingly abandons the listener while noisy-yet-dull sequences repeat. Classical music is more interesting, picking apart the various textures and guessing the intent of the composer, but any visualising made me move my eyes (ouch!) and any searing climaxes and overtly high pitched violins just made me think of my eyelids growing teeth and ripping ripping ripping!!! THE RIPPING…

Total Downer

After a week I had signs that could easily be mistaken for serious clinical depression. The constant pain had made me irritable and preoccupied, my inability to do anything useful lowered my self-opinion and physically I was weak due to zero exercise. All those symptoms left with the worst of the pain, but it is easy to see how lazy GPs mistake the symptoms of physical distress for mental illness and dish out the anti-depressants. This short experience has underlined the opinions I outlined in my earlier Prozacrap post.

Fit as a Frequency Modulator

It is a shame about my eye, as otherwise I’ve been really getting back to full fitness. I will write a full explanation of my chest illness on the main site when I’m sure it’s gone, but it would seen that I had a long-term muscular problem which was confused with the symptoms of oesophagitis, which I also had and ran concurrently for around a year. As a result, the muscular illness went untreated while the oesophagitis was believed to continue after it was cured. Now I’m normally pain-free except for if I bash my chest hard, lift very heavy objects or eat too much. As cycling generally doesn’t involve any of the above and as such I’ve managed regular rides, including a couple of 60 milers, which I’m very pleased with as six months ago I could barely wheel the bike from the garage without discomfort. I’ve also lost quite a few of the 104kg I was hulking last year. As my body gets more agile, as does my mind and I’m now pretty well zipping round music software program Cubase 5. I’m doing a couple more remixes and cover versions and I hope to be technically competent enough to concentrate on content and make some works of note by the year’s end. Meantime, here a couple of visual treats I was enjoying before the ripping…

Recommended

martyrs1Shamefully, my knowledge of French horror starts and stops with Switchblade Romance, but I’ll certainly be checking out more after watching Martyrs, out on DVD on Monday following a limited UK cinematic release. Forcing mainstream film media into namechecking Ichi the Killer and Italian gobble ‘em up Cannibal Holocaust, due to the extreme violence, it is unfortunate that a film such as Martyrs – made to communicate and understand pain – should get confused with those that glower over it. This is an unexpectedly emotional study of long term physical and mental sufferance, and memories the film comforted me after my latest eye injury. Best viewed knowing little about it, this is one of my favourite films of all time in any genre.

miner_xboxboxartXbox 360 owner burrowing into community game downloads may discover gem Miner Dig Deep, a superbly addictive mine building collect ‘em up featuring a shopful of earth moving powertools. Fans of Toolbox Murders will be disappointed by the lack of underwritten female characters to use them on, though. Around four hours top entertainment for less than £2, this is one internet purchase that really will make you gasp as your shaft grows huge!

 

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Whilst some may scoff at the idea that a society can be improved by banning horror films, the British Department of Public Prosecutions saw things differently, and in 1984 outlawed the ditribution of 39 films. Now they are readily available on DVD and violent crime is perceived to be spiralling out of control. Coincidence? So today, how many of the 39 are truly likely to deprave and corrupt? Find out in…

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Notoriety

dkoriginalThe Driller Killer (1979) is widely revered as video nasty royalty, possibly the best known of the 39, with the bloodied bearded face of the iconic VHS sleeve enticing a generation to stare longingly into video store frontage. Vilified by the media, the film became tabloid legend and in 1990 it’d be scoring a perfect 10. However, the film was to become a victim of its own infamy, as casual viewers watched the video re-release and TV showings through the 90s. They would soon wander what the fuss was about, and why such a film should be banned. Hoping for 90 minutes of gory cheap thrills, and getting something more akin to Scorsese-lite, the curious left disappointed. The truth was out. 8/10 

The Toolbox Murders (1977) saw little outrage here, although the UK DVD release quietly lacks the 1m46s cut from it’s 2000 BBFC submission. Much more publicity was had in the US, though, for its apparently misogynistic violence. Covered on mainstream TV shows such as 60 Minutes and Donahue, the marketing was spot on. The cash-in chain was completed by a remake in 2004. 5/10

DVD editions

2008’s uncut UK edition of The Driller Killer features an alright transfer of the film, along with a commentary by, and shoddy filmography of, director Abel Ferrara. A cheap package, the sleeve looks like it was knocked up in Photoshop in somebody’s lunch break. Ferrara fans will prefer the double US DVD featuring his early short films, but it is a relatively expensive collector’s item. 2/5

Blue Underground have lovingly restored The Toolbox Murders, and reunited various members of cast and crew for decent extras. Forget the truncated UK Vipco release. 4/5

The Films

The Driller Killer is more interesting than your average slasher, featuring a charismatic lead played by a young Ferrara, who would go on to make such films as The King of New York (1990), Dangerous Game (1993) amongst many others, even directing a couple of episodes of Miami Vice. Temperamental artist Reno, driven insane by lack of money and a rock band moving in upstairs, buys a Porto-Pak (an amusingly TV advertised battery back-pack) for his electric drill and goes on a rampage against New York’s homeless population. In a change from most films featuring oil paintings, Reno’s look to be genuinely brilliant, leaving one not quite sure whether he’s your usual loser artist, as the script would suggest, or some kind of visionary. In one particularly manic episode Reno addresses his girlfriend (who criticises the time he is taking over a haunting bison study) thus;

“Since when did you become such an expert on painting? What do you know about painting anyway? I’ll tell you what you know about painting, man. You don’t know nothin’ about painting, man. You know what you know about? You know how to bitch, and how to eat, and how to bitch and how to shit. But you don’t know nothin’ about painting!”

Lots of fun, this type of dialogue is not standard video nasty fare, and indicative of Ferrara’s work to come in the brilliant Bad Lieutenant (1992). He clearly had much more interest in the likes of  Taxi Driver (1976) and Mean Streets (1973) than anything from the horror genre. Despite such flourishes, though, The Driller Killer remains a fundamentally slow experience due to long periods with little action and sloppy editing. Had it played as a 45-60 minute short it would’ve been great, but then perhaps Ferrara would’ve been denied his break, and the world his subsequent work. 5/10

The Toolbox Murders is undiluted exploitation trash, made to cash-in on the success of the vastly superior (and not banned) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which producer Tony DiDio claims he would not watch unless he was “being paid.” A red and white-striped balaclava wearing Cameron Mitchell (a Hollywood star before turning to low budget films and alcohol) kills women for the first half hour, before the film mutates into a god-awful teen detective drama, with script and plotting reminiscent of a poor episode of Quincy. The makers evidently remain cynical as ever; on the commentary star Pamelyn Ferdin gushes over Mitchell’s performance, despite earlier admitting to never having watched the completed film. 3/10

Gore

Porto-Pak at the ready, the lovable Reno drills out a handful of hobos, with a few visible holes and bright blood splatters. 4/10 

Murders from the toolbox: Battery powered electric drill (Porto-less, with a flexible bit) 5/10. Claw hammer 4/10. Philip’s headed screwdriver 3/10. Nail gun (administered to woman masturbating in bath) 6/10. Glove (suffocation) 1/10. Mark deducted for nothing happening for 45 minutes and re-added for the ending gives us an average of 4/10.

Soundtracks

“THIS FILM SHOULD BE PLAYED LOUD” heralds a static screen at the start of The Driller Killer. Doing so reveals a lot of background hiss. Some nice antique synths score the killings, and there is extensive footage of punk band The Roosters, who play the kind of bad-Blondie much loved by NYC locals. One of the songs is very reminiscent of the B52’s Planet Claire(1979), which is also takes the bassline from Henry Mancini’s theme from Peter Gunn (1958). 3/5

No such interest for The Toolbox Murders – just mundane title music and minimal scoring. 1/5

Result

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The Driller Killer may not live up to the controversy or bloody promise of the title, but it stands as an interesting early work of a great film maker-to-be. The Toolbox Murders was made purely for financial gain, and while the first half hour may bounce along merrilly baiting the censors, the cynicism of the film’s remainder still leaves one feeling short changed even 32 years after it was made.

 

 

 

In an attempt to vanquish evil from 1980s society, there was much talk of blowing up Russian cities. However, a more immediate threat was posed by video cassettes of obscure horror films. 39 of them were banned, but like Russian cities, they survived, many now standing proud on DVD. But are they really shocking filth or just tedious bollocks? Find out in…nasties2top-revision

 Notoriety 

Tastefully known as SS Experiment Camp (1976) in the UK, this has become the best known exponent of the Naziploitation (Nazi exploitation) genre, and outraged newspaper articles coupled with half-decent marketing and distribution made this a must-see for 80s schoolchildren. However, the smoke and mirrors of outrage dissolved to see an uncut UK DVD release in 2006. 8/10

Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977) remains theoretically banned in the UK as no company has tried to release it for 25 years, thus avoiding reclassification. It is little known despite the bonkers title. 5/10

DVD Editions

Both films are reviewed here are US R1 releases on Exploitation Digital label. SS Experiment Camp boasts a reasonable transfer of the film with a bare minimum of extras. The short interview with director Serge Garrone reveals an affable gentleman whose opinions on World War Two would suggest this work to be a low budget precursor to Schindler’s List. Which isn’t quite the case. 4/10

Respect to anyone with the tenacity to restore a film like Gestapo’s Last Orgy, but the post-production is quite shoddy, especially the audio which could have easily been cleaned up. English or Italian languages are offered, but no subtitles which again could have been cheaply done. Otherwise, only a few lobby cards and trailers are present. One of the trails (for Convent of Sinners) fades out and repeats itself, but another, for Porno Holocaust, features hardcore sex,  just to make up for it. 3/10

The Films

The Naziploitation genre was tiny, with around ten films slithering their way from Italy in the mid-70’s, some may know of it through Rob Zombie’s spoof  trailer Werewolf Women of the SS, part of Grindhouse (2007). SS Experiment Camp is quite typical, with a microscopic budget the shocks are derived from nudity, gurning reaction shots and poorly written dialogue which constantly reminds the viewer how terrible the whole thing is. The tortures on offer are claimed to be based on reality, but appear to be constructed from scrapped household appliances and wallpaper paste. Snail paced, the story is pretty non-existent, but the boredom is relented late on when the Commandant attempts an operation to steal a subordinates’ testical. Camp indeed. 2/10

There aren’t actually any members of the Gestapo in Gestapo’s Last Orgy, with the Nazi secret police force replaced by the usual SS costume rentals. Any further attempts to take the film seriously are thwarted early on with a grand line up of the usual nubile concentration camp inmates and their Nazi guards indulging in a scene of mass Reichsrape, complete with ridiculous “for the Fatherland” voiceovers, as the naked actors visibly strain to keep from touching genitals. The sequence brings to mind The Producers, had the protagonists opted for an X-certificate film rather than a stage play. The film lurches direction to contain a long section aping George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, and its study of power between the Smith and O’Brian characters. The Room 101 scene is copied, only here part of the rats is played by an elite infantry of…gerbils! Anyone with a passing knowledge of rodents will find it hilarious, as the Commandant strokes the cute furry pets and talks of their love of human blood, eyeballs and brains. Camper still… 3/10

Gore content

With budgets this low, special FX are wisely kept to minimum but are very poor when present, with implausible make-up showing unlikely body functions punctuated by confusing edits. 2/10 apiece.

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It wasn’t much of a war, but SS Experiment Camp wins by virtue of reputation. However, I found Gestapo’s Last Orgy to be marginally more crass and ill-conceived making it the less boring watch of the two. I supposed with a shed load of beers and a couple of mates with an interest in exploitation flicks and film censorship, a Naziploitation viewing session might make for quite a fun evening – Reichsgerbils and all. But be prepared for the biggest disappointment about both films: ZEE LAK OV KOMEDY GERMAN AKKSENTS!!! NINE GOOT!!! DAS IST KAPPUT!!!

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In 1984 the British Department of Public Prosecutions issued the Video Recordings act, outlawing 39 horror films released on video cassette. The tabloid press labelled them the “Video Nasties.” Most of these films have now returned uncut on DVD, but, a quarter of a century on, are they worth the bother? Find out as two films selected for their similarities fight through four brutal catagories in…battlelogojpeg

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Notoriety

I Spit on Your Grave is king here, having received outright bans in various countries and the current UK DVD release is still missing 41 seconds. Mostly due to its title and ingenious marketing, which had very little to do with the film itself, this has become one of the most notorious nasties. 9/10

Last House on the Left is not widely known to those unfamiliar with the horror genre, lacking in a title of shock and awe. The “keep repeating, it’s only a movie” tagline may produce a comforting wave of nostalgic outrage in a small sector of the moral majority, though. 3/10

DVD Editions

Bizarrely, I Spit gets the THX certified treatment in the R1 Millennium Edition meaning this uncut print of the 1976 film looks fantastic, a commentary from bonkers director Meir Zarchi which goes some way to explaining his misguided and misunderstood attempt to strike a blow for rape victims, and film critic Joe Bob Briggs who at some points gets close to realising how risible the movie is. Also the usual trailers etc which are of some historical interest. 8/10

The new British Ultimate Edition of Last House lives up to its name with exhaustive extras that can provide months or a one very long night of entertainment, depending on the viewer’s enthusiasm levels. Three discs are rammed with facts and interviews surrounding this fascinating film. A personal favourite part being the interviews with star David Hess, who tries painfully hard not to be like his on-screen persona, whilst paradoxically being employed in the hope that he does so. Adding to the hilarity is co-star, and latterly porn producer Frank Lincoln who rejects this work as amoral, inexplicably citing it as responsible for “eighty rapes in America.” He insists he had a “great time” during production, though. Add interviews with Cagney and Lacey’s Martin Kove and you’re in for featurettes as eccentric as the film itself. Shot on blurry 16mm, the film looks about as good as its likely to for the foreseeable future, and so any HD version would be pointless. The inaptly named Carl Daft gives a heartrending account of his battle with the BBFC to give the UK an uncut DVD release. 10/10

The Films

Meir Zarchi claims I Spit to be made as a reaction his seeing a gang rape victim, ignored and bloodied in a police station, and so around a third of the running time is a rape scene, a third whilst the protagonist exacts revenge and the other third is spent asleep. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity, but Schindler’s List it isn’t and the single offensive thing about I Spit is that such a poor film should be made about the upsetting subject matter. The script, which he gleefully proclaims to have been written in 20 minute intervals during his commute, is very, very poor with the all the characters behaving strangely with no insights into anything at all. The editing, which Zarchi performed himself over the period of a year, is tortuously slow, embarrassing the actors (who appear to deal well with a difficult task) as they are shown walking and shuffling, filling long gaps between lines of silly dialogue, the lack of musical soundtrack heightening the effect. The only way to view this film without suffering suicidal tedium is as a comedy – a few friends and beers and retarded character Mathew’s assertions that he “can’t come”, or lead rapist Johnny’s reasoning that his actions were “what any man would have done” are hilarious. 2/10 

Contrastingly, 1971’s Last House on the Left is far from boring and gallops through its 83 minutes with the enthusiasm of some loosed steroidal stallion. I would take issue with the film’s commonly perceived status as the first slasher movie, as the characters are far in advance of the masked cartoons of the genre. The acting as all the artistic qualities far outweigh the $90,000 budget and first-time director status of Wes Craven as well as a crew experienced only in the making of documentaries enhance rather than limit the making of what was an experimental film. The violence can be genuinely affecting and depressing, evoking a time of the Manson murders and Vietnam as the tale which is on the surface one of good and evil, but occasionally slips into one of the futility of conflict. The folk music of the soundtrack provides a distracting lyrical aside to the action, its humour misplaced here, but the more avant garde pieces during the murders are quite effectual, which the naïve clangings and synth squelchings producing a surprisingly chilling atmosphere to the fraught scenes of abuse. This film far outguns its status as “video nasty” and this is as good as real-world horror gets. 9/10

Gore content

I Spit contains little blood letting, and whilst the famous castration scene is reasonably effective the other deaths are laughably poor. The elongated rape scene contains a few hair raising moments, but more due to the ill-treated subject matter and consistent screaming than anything else. 3/10 

Last House is also remarkably free of gore for a work so tirelessly pursued by the censors, but what little there is enhances a harrowing view. 4/10

Result

Last House slays I Spit by four points, remaining a classically powerful piece of horror cinema as opposed to a curio which, like many of the nasties, may well have been forgotten were it not for attempts prevent its distribution.

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