Review- Death Wish 2 (1982)

Review- Death Wish 2 (1982)

Due to all of the controversy regarding this film I had to wait until I was living in Australia for a year to see this opus fully uncut. This film still remains cut here in the UK. At the time of the film’s release the BBFC cut over 3 minutes from the film (chief censor James Ferman seemed proud of this and said that it was surely a record) due to two rape scenes contained within the movie.

The vigilante Paul Kersey (played with badass aloofness by Charles Bronson aka ‘The Man’) has moved from New York (the setting of the original movie) and is now practicing his considerable architectural skills in L.A. But after his housekeeper is raped and killed and his already traumatised daughter is subjected to the same treatment Kersey goes back into ass-kicking mode.

02-1

There’s so much to love about this film. Firstly there’s Jimmy Page’s sleazy, unsettling soundtrack. It suits the film perfectly. There are sounds, moods and textures heard that make you want to luxuriant in it’s aural squalor whilst also wanting to run to the shower with a bottle of bleach and a wire brush. Yes, it’s THAT good. The soundtrack was actually nominated for a Razzie in the year of it’s release. As was Ennio Morricone’s score for The Thing. I’m part grinning, part grimacing as I write this…

The movie adores Los Angeles and lovingly shows its sun-drenched beauty but also the rotten underbelly of LA by night. The sequences when Kersey rents a dirty motel room, dresses down and prowls the nocturnal streets to find the scum who killed his daughter are some of the best ever captured on film of inner-city horror and urban decay. They also give the city’s amazing freaks, punks and ‘local colour’ centre-stage. These moments are worth the price of admission alone.

Hell, we even get Charles ‘Sheriff Bracken’ Cyphers thrown into the mix.

deathwish2 35

But the thing I love most about this film is that Winner knew what he was directing. He was making an exploitation film and so the core elements of violence, retribution and gunplay are all exaggerated and amplified. Y’know- EXPLOITATION!

And this is what makes the film so enjoyable- and why Winner was so unfazed by the level of criticism that certain (but not all) critics levelled against the film. He knew that the hacks of the day always (and very predictably) slated films that audiences loved in drive-ins and 42nd Street cinemas. And he didn’t give a toss. He knew what audiences wanted and gave it to them. But rather than creating a rushed piece of crap he crafted a polished film that truly delivered but also had enough room for social commentary.

death wish 3 press book (2 press ads).jpg

It’s worth watching the studio debate on the film that was televised before Death Wish 2’s release. Enjoy Michael Winner’s relaxed, considered and educated response to criticism of the film from the hysterical feminist Anna ‘Rabies’ Raeburn and the show’s presenter.

It’s also worth seeking out the TV programme about film violence that Winner took part in with none other than Mary Whitehouse. Yes, the woman who spoke about The Evil Dead as if it was a snuff film EVEN THOUGH SHE HAD NEVER SEEN IT!

Mary_Whitehouse
Bore off

This is something that exploitation film fans understand- the actual genre and it’s conventions and tropes. We know that The Evil Dead is the horror equivalent of a dark comedy (in places, anyway) with blood by the gallon load replacing custard pies. We also realise that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is just as darkly comedic. This is because we’ve actually bothered to watch such films unlike the blinkered, elitist journalists or moral panic perpetuating self-appointed public decency crusaders.

And Michael Winner knew about this genre of films also. Enjoy his expertise.

4 out of 5 stars

Advertisements

Day 27- 31 Days of Halloween- The Sadist (1963)

Day 27- 31 Days of Halloween- The Sadist (1963)

Three schoolteachers stop at a garage on their way to a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium. Their car isn’t running properly and so they need to look at it and maybe try to fix it. But thats not their biggest obstacle- they come face to face with Charlie Tibbs and his girlfriend- a couple of killers who are accused of murders in Arizona and are on the run. Charlie has a gun and insists that they work on the car so that he can get away in it.

This film is like a play that has been filmed- there is primarily one main setting (the film reminded me of Cujo in that respect). But this doesn’t mean that the film is static and boring. The one setting is used innovatively and this means that the film is directed with verve. There is also a sense of ‘us versus them’ with the schoolteachers in their Sunday best (shirts, ties or a nice conservative dress) whilst Tibbs is looking every part the juvenile delinquent in his denims and sporting a greasy quiff. Tibbs is obviously based on real-life serial killer Charles Starkweather.

Sadist_Charlie_Tibbs.316143315_std

This film is brilliant- will the teachers get away, when and how? The film ramps up the tension and suspense and never lags- theres no scenes that feel unnecessary. The film is also very extreme for its time. It was even rejected by the BBFC when it was submitted for classification in 1964.

Arch Hall Jr in the lead gives an extraordinary performance as Tibbs- the Sadist in the title. His face and facial expressions are almost other-worldly and supernatural as is his portrayal. Quite extraordinary.

arch-hall-jr-the-sadist

Watch out for the poignant scene in which the schoolteachers hear on the radio the baseball game they should be at instead of fighting for their lives.

Theres also some innovative direction within the film- it almost feels like Tibbs’ gun in the first half of the film is an actual character.

CeFIRIBUkAA_E79

I didn’t know about this film until recently. I’m glad I do now. Why isn’t this more widely available on DVD and Blu ray?

Apparently this film is a favourite of director Joe Dante’s- a seal of approval anyone would be proud of.

4 out of 5

louisville-6-31-63-sadist

 

Day 21- 31 Days of Halloween- Patrick (1978)

Day 21- 31 Days of Halloween- Patrick (1978)

A gorgeous slice of Ozploitation that is extremely well made, acted and written. A young man named Patrick is in a coma after killing his parents three years earlier. A new nurse named Kathie has been assigned to tend to him and they strike up a relationship through a typewriter that Patrick can telekinetically control and through the only bodily function that Patrick can control- his ability to spit (one for yes, two for no). Strange things start to happen in Kathie’s life regarding the husband shes recently separated from and the doctor shes just started seeing. Could Patrick be responsible?

patrick3

I love a movie in which the lead character is in a coma but strangely gives a great performance in that state. In fact all of the cast are great and if you’re a fan of Australian TV then you should be able to recognise most of the actors. I recognised the actors who played Captain Barton the Salvo Army man, Evelyn Randell and Irene Zervos from Prisoner Cell Block H.

The setting of the sinister hospital wouldn’t be out of place in an early Cronenberg film. The building seems to constitute another character in this film and a very foreboding one.

MV5BOTA5NDQ1YWQtMDc2ZS00MTNmLWJiYWMtYWMxYzEyY2RmN2E2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_SY344_SX640_AL_

This is a favourite film of Quentin Tarantino, fact fans.

4.5 out of 5

Day 6- 31 Days of Halloween- The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

Day 6- 31 Days of Halloween- The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

Vincent Price’s Dr Phibes avenges the death of his wife by bumping off the culprits with each murder having a biblical connection.

Very camp, very funny and very unsettling- this is one of Price’s best just like Witchfinder General and the Poe films he also made with Roger Corman.

the-abominable-dr-phibes-phibes-and-the-frog-mask

Check out Phibes’ clockwork band- one of the eeriest things committed to celluloid.

drphibes859_copy

Also check out the classic art deco decors and groovier surroundings that capture the early 70s so fantastically.

Caroline Munro appears but only as photos of Phibes’ tragic dead wife.

4.5 out of 5

Day 5- 31 Days of Halloween- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

Day 5- 31 Days of Halloween- Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

Small town vigilantes wrongly accuse a mentally challenged man of attacking and killing a little girl. It turns out he didn’t attack her but saved her from a neighbour’s vicious dog. The vigilantes find this out just after killing the innocent man who is disguised as a scarecrow. Oops. When the local courts offer no justice, the vigilantes start getting bumped off one by one.

This is actually a TV movie and is a cracker. It built up a cult following amongst horror fans and is one of the best horror TV movies ever made.

The film feels authentic and depicts the bloodthirsty lynchmob really well. We see during the course of the film that these people are the true simpletons of the piece. We also see that a group of people who are desperate for violence and maybe more don’t need any justification for it. Its also interesting that the members of the lynch mob are all depicted as being fine upstanding members of the community (the postman, mechanic, farmer etc) whilst being completely hellbent on inflicting their lawless brand of ‘justice’ on someone whos just a bit different.

This film has a great cast that is like a whos who for horror fans. As well as Larry Drake from Tales From The Crypt, Charles Durning who amongst other things was in When a Stranger Calls, John Houseman from the original Hills Have Eyes and Ed Call who played Glen’s (Johnny Depp) father in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The tension in certain scenes is built up to nailbiting levels and the direction and screenplay are top notch. This is the perfect example of a TV movie that was so great that it transcended its medium and was given a VHS and DVD release. And deservedly so. This is brilliant.

dark-night-2

4 out of 5.

Day 4- 31 Days of Halloween- Piranha (1978)

Day 4- 31 Days of Halloween- Piranha (1978)

One sign that you’ve made a horror classic- your film spawns a slew of imitators.

Sometimes one or two of these imitators are witty, knowing and innovative.

Thats what happened here. Jaws made such a splash (pun intended) that there were plenty of rip-offs. Piranha was one such film but was great on its own terms rather than being a pale imitation.

Director Joe Dante said the original screenplay for this Corman produced film was dire. He worked on it with John Sayles and made Piranha into the hoot it is today. Quirky characters, great scenarios and references to other works such as The Creature From The Black Lagoon abound. One lead character plays a Jaws arcade machine at the start of the film. The movie knows exactly what it is and isn’t afraid to shout it out.

Another great facet of the story- its the heroes of the piece who actually cause the near disaster they have to deal with.

The leads are amazing (Bradford Dillman and Heather Menzies) as are the supporting cast that features Kevin McCarthy, Corman regulars Paul Bartel and Dick Miller and Euro scream queen Barbara Steele.

A cult classic and deservedly so.

4 out of 5.

Something Weird

Something Weird

I became a fan of Herschell Gordon Lewis after reading about his work in the RE:Search book Incredibly Strange Films book (if you don’t own this tome then buy it NOW!!! Its been a major influence and point of reference in my cult film adoration).

71iypxbvgtl

Around this time there was an episode of Jonathan Ross’ excellent Incredibly Strange Film Show devoted to Lewis and his work that I lapped up.

I then bought a copy of Two Thousand Maniacs on VHS in Forbidden Planet on first moving to London in the mid-90s. And boy, did it rock my world. Quirky, innovative, funny, full of character and gory as hell.

two_thousand_maniacs_poster_021

From that moment on I became dedicated to buying as much of Lewis’ work as possible. Next came Blood Feast and then She Devils on Wheels. Both masterpieces, both seminal films.

Whats more my other cinematic heroes seemed to hold Lewis up for canonisation just as I did.

tumblr_nxowc0ymoa1u6tbklo1_500
The Pope of Puke meets his hero

I was gobsmacked when I heard that Arrow Video were to release a new boxset of his work. And from what I’ve seen its quite some boxset! Arrow Video go from strength to strength. I’m so glad they treat the films  that I hold close to my heart with the respect and love that I know they deserve.

The good people at Dread Central have just released this boxset unboxing video for us to salivate over-

Heres what is in the boxset via the press release-

The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast
[Blu-ray + DVD – 17 discs] (October 25th)
Limited to 2500 copies!
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis

In 1963, director Herschell Gordon Lewis pulled a cow’s tongue out of an actress’ mouth on camera, and in doing so, changed the landscape of horror cinema forever. That sequence was just one of numerous gruesome gags featured in Blood Feast, the film credited as being the world’s first gore movie. It’s no exaggeration to say that the modern gross-out movies of today owe their very existence to the pioneering efforts of H.G. Lewis. But whilst Lewis is most widely celebrated for his blood-and-guts epics (Two Thousand Maniacs!, The Wizard of Gore et al.), there’s more to the prolific director than splatter.

From tales of sordid photographers (Scum of the Earth) to sex robots (How to Make a Doll), from biker girl-gangs (She-Devils on Wheels) to youths-run-amok (Just for the Hell of It), and from psychic witches (Something Weird) to hard liquor-loving hillbillies (Moonshine Mountain), the filmography of H.G. Lewis reads like a veritable wish-list of exploitation movie madness.

Now, for the first time ever, Arrow Video is proud to present fourteen of the Godfather of Gore’s most essential films (including nine Blu-ray world debuts), collected together at last and packed full of eye-popping bonus content. So put your feet up, pour yourself a glass of good ol’ moonshine, and prepare yourself for a feast – H.G. Lewis style!

Features:

Fourteen of the Godfather of Gore’s finest attractions, newly restored from original and best surviving vault materials
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the features and extras on 7 Blu-ray and 7 DVD discs
Additional 2 bonus Blu-rays featuring 1.33:1 versions of Blood Feast, Scum of the Earth, Color Me Blood Red, A Taste of Blood and The Wizard of Gore [limited editions exclusive]
Additional bonus DVD: Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore documentary [limited editions exclusive]
28-page H.G. Lewis “annual” stuffed full with Lewis-themed activities plus archive promotional material [limited editions exclusive]
Newly illustrated packaging by The Twins of Evil [Feast edition exclusive]

BLOOD FEAST (1963) + SCUM OF THE EARTH (1963)

Brand new introduction to the films by director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Audio Commentary on Blood Feast with Lewis and producer David F. Friedman
Audio Commentary on Scum of the Earth by Friedman
Blood Feast Outtakes
Blood Perceptions – filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) and Rodney Ascher (Room 237) offer their insight on Blood Feast and the importance of Herschell Gordon Lewis
Herschell’s History – archival interview in which Lewis discusses his entry into the film industry including Scum of the Earth
How Herschell Found His Nitch – Lewis discusses more of his early work in nudie cuties and the making of The Adventures of Lucky Pierre
Archival Interview with Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman from 1987
Carving Magic (1959) – vintage short featuring Blood Feast‘s Bill Kerwin
Blood Feast Radio Spot and Trailer

TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! (1964) + MOONSHINE MOUNTAIN (1964)

Brand new introduction to the films by director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Audio Commentary on Two Thousand Maniacs! with Lewis and producer David F. Friedman
Two Thousand Maniacs! Outtakes
Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t Be Wrong – Tim Sullivan (director, 2001 Maniacs) on Two Thousand Maniacs!
Hicksploitation: Confidential – visual essay on the history of the American South’s representation in cinema
David Friedman: The Gentlemen’s Smut Peddler – a tribute to the legendary producer featuring – Herschell Gordon Lewis, filmmakers Fred Olen Ray, Tim Sullivan and Bob Murawski
Herschell’s Art of Advertising – Lewis shares his expert opinion on the art of selling movies and how to hook an audience.
Trailers for Two Thousands Maniacs! and Moonshine Mountain

COLOR ME BLOOD RED (1965) + SOMETHING WEIRD (1967)

Brand new introduction to the films by director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Audio Commentary on Color Me Blood Red with Lewis and producer David F. Friedman
Audio Commentary on Something Weird with Lewis and Friedman
Color Me Blood Red Outtakes
The Art of Madness – visual essay on the recurring motif of mad artists as killers in horror cinema
Weirdsville – film Scholar Jeffrey Sconce on Something Weird
Lewis on Jimmy, the Boy Wonder, his 1966 children’s musical
A Hot Night at the Go Go Lounge! – Lewis’ 1966 dance short
Trailers for Color Me Blood Red and Something Weird

THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (1967) + A TASTE OF BLOOD (1967)

Brand new introduction to the films by director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Audio Commentary on The Gruesome Twosome with Lewis
Audio Commentary on A Taste of Blood with Lewis
Peaches Christ Flips Her Wig! – the San Francisco performer on The Gruesome Twosome
It Came From Florida – filmmaker Fred Olen Ray (Scalps) on Florida Filmmaking
Herschell vs The Censors – Lewis discusses some of the pitfalls involving local censorship and the lengths to which angry moviegoers tried to stop him
Trailers for The Gruesome Twosome and A Taste of Blood

SHE-DEVILS ON WHEELS (1968) + JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT (1968)

Brand new introduction to the films by director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Audio Commentary on She-Devils on Wheels with Lewis
Garage Punk Gore – filmmaker and musician Chris Alexander discusses the films and music of Herschell Gordon Lewis
The Shocking Truth! – Bob Murawski on his lifelong love for Herschell Gordon Lewis and what he has learned from Lewis’ films
Lewis on his 1968 film The Alley Tramp
She-Devils on Wheels Radio Spot
Trailers for She-Devils on Wheels and Just for the Hell of It

HOW TO MAKE A DOLL (1968) + THE WIZARD OF GORE (1970)

Brand new introduction to the films by director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Audio Commentary on The Wizard of Gore with Lewis
Montag Speaks – a brand new interview with Wizard of Gore actor Ray Sager
The Gore The Merrier – an interview with Jeremy Kasten, director of the 2007 Wizard of Gore remake
The Incredibly Strange Film Show: Herschell Gordon Lewis “The Godfather of Gore” – episode of the Jonathan Ross-hosted documentary series focusing on Lewis’ films, featuring interviews with Lewis, producer David F. Friedman, actor Bill Kerwin, etc
The Wizard of Gore Trailer

THIS STUFF’LL KILL YA! (1971) + THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972)

Brand new introduction to the films by director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Audio Commentary on The Gore Gore Girls with Herschell Gordon Lewis
Audio Commentary on This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! by camera operator and Lewis biographer Daniel Krogh
Regional Bloodshed – filmmakers Joe Swanberg and Spencer Parsons discuss the Midwestern roots and work ethic of Lewis’ output and how The Gore Gore Girls represents the shift into transgressive ’70s cinema that would dominate the American horror lan
Herschell Spills His Guts – Lewis discusses his career post-The Gore Gore Girls, why he left the film industry and his role as a leading figure in the copywriting industry
Gore Gore Girls Radio Spot
Trailers for This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! and The Gore Gore Girls

Wow! I need this in my life. Find it HERE if you live in the UK or HERE if you live in the US.

quote-i-see-filmmaking-as-a-business-and-pity-anyone-who-regards-it-as-an-art-form-herschell-gordon-lewis-70-75-13