The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield (1968) [Blu-Ray]

One of the most bizarre pieces of Mondo exploitation, “The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield” is archival footage of the model traveling the world that was intended to be cute for the sake of a weird travel documentary focusing on Manfield. Sadly though when Mansfield died she was further exploited by the trio of directors Charles W. Broun, Jr., Joel Holt, Arthur Knight all of whom used stand ins (the movie shifts awkwardly from black and white to a color shot of her stand in), old footage of her frolicking, and a voice over actress who came on board to narrate as Ms. Mansfield.

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In Search of William Beaudine

For too many years, filmmaker William Beaudine’s reputation was maligned with false stories of sloppy work and a “one-shot” approach to shooting. In reality, Beaudine was a talented and versatile creative artist who began his career with D.W. Griffith, directed such icons as Mary Pickford, Jean Harlow and W.C. Fields, and worked in the British film industry and for Walt Disney.
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The Violent Years (1956): Special Edition [Blu-Ray]

This is the story of Paula Parker, a petulant prepubescent princess whose depravities produced a plethora of death and deception. For shame, parents of Paula Parker, you dare not look after your teen daughter in the age of the fifties where crime was rampant. For the first time on Blu-Ray, it’s also a worthwhile title for collectors thanks to AGFA, “The Violent Years” is one of the many infamous baby boomer products of fear and hysteria that warned of a world filled with darkness, crime, debauchery, and premarital sex. Make no mistake, your teen would smoke the marijuana, and tongue kiss way before they matured in to upstanding citizens.

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X-Rated Alley: 100 Girls By Bunny Yeager (1997) [Blu-Ray], Nurse Diary: Beast Afternoon (1982) (DVD)

Many Nikkatsu Roman Porno films tend to integrate sub-genres within their basic frame works of being soft core pornography. While their movies inject frames like crime thrillers, dramas, and romance comedies, every one of these installments garner some long and drawn out sex scene involving petting or molestation. The same can be said for Impulse Pictures’ “Nurse Diary: Beast Afternoon” which is from the Roman Porno library but is deep down a pinku version of a giallo film. Folks that are typically turned off by Nikkatsu films just may find this in their interest.

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Drive-In Massacre (1976) [Blu-Ray]

Stu Segall’s attempt at a horror movie is only seventy minute in length but feels like it goes on for an eternity. Resembling a really cheap and gory cop drama, “Drive In Massacre” is painfully paced and poorly plotted with a tone that is literally all over the place. Sometimes it’s a slasher, sometimes a murder mystery, sometime it tries to be a true crime drama, and other times, it opts for comedy. How are we supposed to take our heroes at all seriously when, in an effort to infiltrate the murderer targeting drive in couples, one of the officers decides to dress up as a woman? What is the intent behind “Drive-In Massacre”? Are we supposed to consider it a satire that was way ahead of its time? Was the director aiming for something in the vein of “The Town that Dreaded Sundown,” except it’s all confined to a local drive in?

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Sinful Cinema Series: The Abductors (Volume 1) [Paperback]

sinfulcinemaCombing the landscape of obscure cinema is tricky. It’s a journey that will often leave you with a lemon if you’re not careful. Author Doug Brunell’s reasoning for the “Sinful Cinema” book series makes a lot of sense as spotlighting certain movies that not many authors out there would be willing to spotlight is a neat idea. If you’re someone who wants to visit films that are completely out of the ordinary, author Doug Brunell seems intent on delivering spotlights for films you wouldn’t normally see discussed in most books about film. Sure, you can probably find summaries and brief essays about something like “The Abductors” in a review compilation, but author Brunell devotes an entire book to it. I’ve been a fan of Brunell’s since his days on Film Threat, so it’s fun to see him releasing a series of books for film lovers old and new.

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Red Christmas (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

redchristmasA mother wants to have the best Christmas ever with her family.  During the traditional day, tensions come to a boiling point when a stranger shows up at their door and wants to kill them all.  This sets the mother on a warpath to protect her brood.

This Australian horror film is written and directed by Craig Anderson who starts by building a family with lots of issues and strife between its members.  Most of their issues are the same as a lot of families while others are more unique.  This family cares for each other against these odds and when all hell breaks loose, their bonds are tested.  The writing here develops this family well and then brings some original kills to the table but the characters are not the most likable so it’s hard to root for them.  This is all well directed for most of the film so the few issues seen here and there are not entirely awful, but the film lacks a bit in fun.  Sadly, the killer’s motivation feels a bit preachy at times, making his condition a bit of a case of one too many things in the story.  The way the killer is portrayed is unfortunately a bit grating and not really menacing.

The cast does ok with the material but it’s hard to tell if their characters were written that way or if they were directed to do this or if the way they act leads to this, but almost all the characters come off as unlikable and just disagreeable, selfish people.  From the looks of things, it seems to be a combination of the three with other factors added to those.  Knowing that Dee Wallace can play mother so well, her performance here is not as expected which may be due to putting too much hope on her.  She is good, but some angles of her character are so dislikable, it’s hard to look over those.  The rest of the cast being less familiar, they did not have as much expectations put on them, yes they still come off as dislikable to despicable as well.

As Red Christmas is a slasher, the kills and their effects are of high importance.  The kills here are good with some original ones.  However, the effects are decent at best with some pieces being not so good to just bad.  The make-up and prosthetics on the killer look a bit like Toxie, with a low budget look and even somewhat of a family resemblance.  Also an odd choice is how the kill set pieces are shot.  In some cases, the lighting makes it hard to see what is going; on while in other cases, the shaky cam is nauseating, making the viewer look away and miss out on the scene.

This film has a lot of potential, but does not go for it.  It has good ideas for kills with effect that are just not good enough to support those ideas.  The characters are not people the viewers can get attached to.  The killer is one of those that could have been good but his background and reason to kill make him hard to get into or behind.  This reviewer wanted to love this as the last few years have given us so many good holiday themed horror movies, but even after giving Red Christmas as much slack as possible, it’s not a movie that can be considered good.  A few good scenes here and there do not a great movie make.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.

The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974): 2-Disc Special Edition [Blu-ray/DVD]

swingingcheerleaders_blurayWith how light hearted and sexual “The Cheerleaders” movie series is, I’m surprised how dramatic Jack Hill’s sequel “The Swinging Cheerleaders” is. It has its sexually charged moments, but it’s very much a sterner dramedy about a group of beautiful cheerleaders walking in to trouble. As a means of writing an article for a University paper, young Kate joins the local cheerleading squad in hopes of finding some sort of scandal for publishing. When the local coach and school dean becomes involved with gamblers and gangsters to rig football games, events go from bad to worse when Kate decides to alert the squad.

Meanwhile the other cheerleaders on the squad are dealing with their own problems and personal turmoil. There’s the beautiful Andrea, who is tricked in to becoming a part of a gang bang after refusing to sleep with her boyfriend to keep her virginity, and young Lisa who learns the hard way that the man she’s dating is involved with another woman. From there the movie jumps back and forth through various sub-plots and culminates in to the ultimate central plot where the football team and cheerleaders learn about the illegal gambling and decide to take matters in to their own hands.

“The Swinging Cheerleaders” is more of a drama than a comedy, but has a slew of really entertaining and fun moments, including when one of the football players decides to avenge young Kate, and the climactic battle between football players and crooked cops that ensue in a warehouse. The legendary Jack Hill’s direction is very much evident in the film, displaying his unique sense of pacing, his great use of the limited budget, and his keen understanding of the youth of the period and its penchant for rebellion. “The Swinging Cheerleaders” is a tonal shift in the series, but a damn fine drama comedy with a great sense of humor.

Featured from Arrow Video is a brand new restoration, offering up a crisp new version of the film. The new release comes in both DVD and Blu-Ray presentations, along with a reversible sleeve, and a neat collector’s booklet which include liner notes, vintage articles about the film, and full color stills with all of the cheerleaders present.

Among the extras, there’s a great nineteen minute Q&A with director Jack Hill, and actors Colleen Camp and the beautiful Rosanne Katon (my favorite of the cheerleaders!) recorded at the New Beverly Cinema in 2007. There’s an audio commentary with writer-director Jack Hill which was recorded specifically for the Arrow Video release, and a brand new interview with director Jack Hill. Finally, there are two archive interviews with cinematographer Alfred Taylor, and another archive interview with Jack Hill and Johnny Legend. Finally, there a small series of TV spots for the film.