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hogsflesh

hogsflesh

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since 19/04/2010

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2019: After the Fall of New York (Blu-ray) 14/08/2017

The year after next is looking grim…

2019: After the Fall of New York (Blu-ray) This 88 Films Blu-ray only costs about £10 at the moment on amazon and at HMV. Post-apocalypse films were big in the 70s and 80s. The Cold War loomed large, and while 70s films tended to be a bit more bleak and depressing, by the 80s things had lightened up. Plenty of films imagined a surprisingly fun post-nuke world of battling mutants, desert combat, urban gang warfare and mullets. The key films were John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, and the Australian Mad Max films (especially the second one, which was hugely successful in the States). And where American genre cinema went, Italian exploitation cinema soon followed, the proverbial low-budget seagull following the Hollywood trawler. An incredible variety of popular genres were imitated by the Italians, most famously Westerns and zombie movies. They made loads of post-apocalypse films, and one of the most enjoyable is 2019 After the Fall of New York. Year: 1983 Director: Sergio Martino More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085125 IMDB user rating: 5.7 The planet has been devastated by nuclear war (20 years before the film, so 1999; I guess Nostradamus was still popular back then). The survivors are infertile, with no new people having been born for 15 years. New York is a rather shambolic urban hellhole full of gangs of variously mutated survivors, who are regularly captured by the evil Euraks for their fertility experiments. The Confederacy (which seems to be the remnants of the USA) learns that the ...

Hitler - The Last Ten Days (Blu-ray) 07/08/2017

The banality of Alec

Hitler - The Last Ten Days (Blu-ray) This Blu-ray is currently £10 on amazon or at HMV. This is a bit of an oddity, and a surprising film to see getting a Blu-ray release. The film’s title pretty much tells you what to expect, and I guess spoils the story. If you’ve seen the German film Downfall (probably most famous for the ranting Hitler video meme), then this is kind of the same. But it’s cheaper, and instead of a Swiss actor who actually looks a bit like Hitler, it stars Alec Guinness. It’s hard to express how weird this is – Guinness was going through a barren patch at the time, with few of his films since the mid 60s having made much of an impact. Within a few years, he’d make Star Wars and Tinker Tailor, which are my favourite things he’s in. But to see him playing Hitler is… well, quite a surprise. (Guinness is not actually the least likely Hitler I’ve seen – that honour goes to Derek Jacobi in a TV miniseries of Albert Speer’s memoirs.) Year: 1973 Director: Ennio De Concini Stars: Alec Guinness More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070184 IMDB user rating: 6.7 The story holds no surprises. Hitler sits in his bunker in Berlin as the Soviet armies close in, ranting and fantasising to his loyal retainers and increasingly harried generals. It all ends exactly as you’d expect. The main question is, who on earth was this aimed at? It’s too low budget to be an effective war film. I guess it was just a vehicle for Guinness, an actor who seemed to love showing off his versatility. Actors like ...

Batman Returns (Blu-ray) 24/07/2017

Burton returns

Batman Returns (Blu-ray) This Blu-ray is less than a fiver on amazon at time of writing. The sequel to 1989's mega-hit, Batman Returns was presumably intended to sell lots of cinema tickets and shift a lot of merchandise, just like the first film. But - presumably as a reward for making so much money the first time round - director Tim Burton was promoted to producer, and now had a lot more creative input. While the first film feels rather like a corporate box ticking exercise (origin story: check, romance: check, wonderful toys: check), the second has a bit more of Burton's personal aesthetic behind it. I'm not really sure how good an idea this is. Burton is often praised as some kind of visionary genius, and I've enjoyed some of his films (Ed Wood is excellent). But his goth-y whimsy and obsession with lonely outsiders gets tired quite quickly - there are only so many 'dark fairytales' a man can take. And Batman Returns is very much a typical Tim Burton film – just listen to the soundtrack. Danny Elfman returns, and reprises some of his themes from the first one, but adds in a whole lot of bibbly-bobbly choral rubbish that was probably left over from Edward Scissorhands. Year: 1992 Director: Tim Burton Stars: Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny De Vito, Michael Keaton More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103776 IMDB user rating: 7.0 Having seen off the Joker and won the trust of police and public in the first film, Batman now has to tangle with the Penguin, a deformed creature who lives in ...

The Mummy: Complete Legacy Collection (Blu-ray) 17/07/2017

Mummy ache

The Mummy: Complete Legacy Collection (Blu-ray) This blu-ray boxset is currently £25 on amazon. The Mummy is one of Universal’s less well known classic horror franchises. The original Mummy movie, from 1932, is quite famous, but the four sequels, made more than a decade later, are a lot more obscure. And the Mummy was never invited to any of the monster mash-up movies Universal made later, like House of Dracula, or Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. I’d never seen any of them apart from the original, so was happy enough to invest in this set, even though my expectations were low. The Mummy (1932) This is one of the earliest Universal horror movies. Archaeologists in Egypt find and accidentally revive a mummy named Imhotep. He decides that a young woman in Cairo is the reincarnation of his Ancient Egyptian love, and things go from there. Ancient Egypt was fashionable in the early 30s (although its modish heyday was in the 20s, just after the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb). And mummies had already featured in horror literature – Conan Doyle wrote a couple of short stories, for instance. So it was natural enough for Universal to turn to mummies in their hunt for new horror properties. The film is primarily a vehicle for Boris Karloff, Universal’s premiere horror star. He’s only seen in the bandages for a few minutes at the start of the film – afterwards, the unwrapped mummy poses as Ardath Bey, an aged Egyptian. This was Karloff’s first Universal movie with dialogue – he’d previously only played mute monsters – and he ...

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Blu-ray) 03/07/2017

Every body has a secret

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Blu-ray) This Blu-ray is £12 on amazon and HMV at the moment. So this was a surprise. The director of Trollhunter, a Norwegian knockabout found-footage horror film about guys hunting trolls, has now made a really creepy little movie about morticians in Virginia. There’s been a very welcome resurgence of genuinely good horror movies in recent years, and while this isn’t the best I’ve seen, it’s well worth a look. Year: 2016 Director: André Øvredal Stars: Brian Cox, Emile Hirsch More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3289956 IMDB user rating: 6.8 The police find a house full of dead bodies. Most are clothed and have obvious causes of death. But in the cellar, partly buried, they find the naked corpse of an unidentified young woman. The sheriff takes the body, called ‘Jane Doe’ in accordance with tradition, to father and son morticians Tommy and Austin, who begin the autopsy late one evening. And, er, things don’t quite go to plan. This manages the impressive feat of being both horribly gruesome and a slow-burn scare movie. Autopsies by their nature are viscerally grisly, and we see Tommy and Austin finishing off a previous autopsy, of a hideously burned corpse, before the sheriff arrives. When they get their hands on ‘Jane’, things get quite nasty, but also increasingly weird. Her skin is unblemished, but her ankles and wrists are badly broken, her tongue has been cut out, and her internal organs have been horribly damaged. And as the evidence from the corpse gets ...

Phenomena (Blu-ray) 26/06/2017

Bored of the flies

Phenomena (Blu-ray) This Blu-ray boxset from Arrow is currently £45 on amazon – it might have gone out of print. Dario Argento is revered among certain horror fans, many of whom believe he represents the genre’s artistic high watermark. I understand why people feel that way – his films are always very polished and have a visual stylishness that is missing from most horror movies. Also, he’s Italian, and so are Fellini and Antonioni, so… yeah. Certainly compared to other Italian exploitation directors, Argento seems to be operating on a different level altogether. Personally, though, I’ve always found his films a bit alienating and self-important. His early gialli Bird With the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red are his best films, with Suspiria and Tenebre providing some decent moments. As with most important horror directors of his vintage, his work post-80s is indefensibly poor. But I find most of his 80s films irritating too – Opera is dull, and Inferno is interminable. The only one I hadn’t seen until recently was Phenomena, often regarded as Argento’s last decent movie. Year: 1985 Director: Dario Argento Stars: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087909 IMDB user rating: 6.9 Someone is murdering girls at a boarding school in Switzerland. New girl Jennifer starts getting psychic flashes about the killings, usually while she’s sleepwalking. She also has power over insects, just like all American teens. She and an ageing Scottish entomologist ...

Hardcore (Blu-ray) 19/06/2017

"Oh my God, that's my daughter."

Hardcore (Blu-ray) This blu-ray release from Indicator is £15 on amazon and at HMV. This is a very entertaining but extremely silly film about LA’s seedy porno underbelly. It was written and directed by Paul Schrader, who ensured his film immortality by writing Taxi Driver, but whose efforts outside of Scorsese’s shadow have been – to put it mildly – ‘mixed’. They range from an embarrassing sexed-up remake of Cat People to The Canyons, the film that put Lindsay Lohan in a threesome with a porn actor. Hardcore feels like Schrader decided to take the most memorable scene in Taxi Driver – where Travis drives around New York’s porn district monologuing about rain and stuff – and spin it out into a film of its own, but set on the West Coast. Year: 1979 Director: Paul Schrader Stars: George C Scott More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079271 IMDB user rating: 7.0 (this is a very overrated film generally) Jake is a successful small-town businessman and an extremely devout Calvinist. His daughter goes away to some kind of religious camp over Christmas, and promptly vanishes. Frantic with worry, Jake hires a seedy private eye to track her down. It is quickly established that the daughter, Kristen, has appeared in a porno film, and Jake descends on LA like a Biblical plague, determined to find his daughter before she… um… makes more porn, I guess. So it’s kind of a less action-y version of Taken. It says a lot about how attitudes have changed that appearing in porn was literally the ...

Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection (Blu-ray) 12/06/2017

Dractacular

Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection (Blu-ray) This is currently £30 on amazon and in HMV. It will come down in price in a couple of months, though. This is a blu-ray collection of Universal’s classic Dracula movies from the 30s and 40s, one of several classic horror collections they’ve released in the last few months. Dracula was more-or-less the first supernatural horror movie made in the US. In silent horror films (before the phrase ‘horror films’ had even been invented), seemingly magical/ghostly events always turned out to be the work of humans, as in Phantom of the Opera or The Cat and the Canary. Dracula was a bit of a gamble, as no one knew if an American audience would take to an actual, honest-to-goodness vampire. Universal acquired Dracula as a vehicle for their silent horror legend Lon Chaney. Unfortunately, he died. So the studio hired Bela Lugosi, the Hungarian star of a successful stage version of the story. Tod Browning, the top American director of sort-of horror movies in the silent era, was loaned from M-G-M. Ultimately, Dracula was so successful it spawned an entire cycle of early-talkie horror movies at Universal and other studios. It is, in many ways, the first true American horror film, so has a special place in my heart. Dracula (1931) The film itself is a disappointingly mixed bag. It follows aspects of the novel, although it swaps some of the characters around. The first 20 minutes – when Renfield the estate agent visits Castle Dracula – are very good. There’s an uncanny stillness, and the ...

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (Blu-ray) 05/06/2017

'Beyond describing'

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (Blu-ray) This BFI release is £25 on amazon at the moment. It feels a bit dumb to try to give a star rating for a film like this – watching it is not enjoyable, but the film works very well, was released with the best of intentions, and has historical importance. I’ve given it five stars for that reason, but whether I recommend it is a different matter. The specific criteria really don't apply - I only filled them in because I had to. The film This is a difficult film to watch. It’s a British documentary that was partly made in 1945 from footage shot by Allied cameramen as they liberated concentration camps in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Poland. It consists of some of the most horrifying material I’ve seen. The film was intended to act as a record of what the Allies found, and also to shame the German people into rejecting Nazism. It wasn’t completed in 1945 – it was decided that it might alienate the German population, who were needed to help rebuild Germany. The beginnings of the Cold War meant the Brits and Americans were keen to get the Germans on their side. The film was shelved, and was only completed a couple of years ago by the British Film Institute and Imperial War Museum. Publicity for the restoration focused on the fact that Alfred Hitchcock had a fleeting involvement in the film, but producer Sidney Bernstein (later founder of Granada TV) seems to have been the main creative force behind it. The decision was made to present the documentary as closely as possible to ...

Batman (1989) (Blu-ray) 29/05/2017

Bat rubbish

Batman (1989) (Blu-ray) This Blu-ray is a few years old now, so should be quite cheap – amazon says £8, but second hand sellers have it for more like £3. So having recently read a cultural history of Batman, I decided to revisit the Tim Burton movie for the first time in many years. I probably shouldn’t have bothered. This was the most successful film of all time when it was released (although that’s not saying much, as records like that get broken on an almost annual basis). Its popularity is absolutely baffling to me now. It is not a good film in almost any way. I liked it when I was 15, but I liked a lot of things back then that wouldn’t pass muster now, like Transvision Vamp, and self-abuse. Year: 1989 Director: Tim Burton Stars: Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Michael Keaton More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096895 IMDB user rating: 7.6 (crazily high) The story is pretty familiar – a rich guy, Bruce, dresses as a rubber bat to fight crime at night because his parents were murdered. He romances a journalist called Vicki, and squares off against the Joker, a criminal with a clown-like face who tries to poison Batman’s hometown, Gotham City. The oddest thing about the film is that it was perceived at the time as having obliterated the legacy of the camp 60s TV show. Because, frankly, it’s almost as camp and over-the-top as the Adam West version, but not nearly as likable. This isn’t the dark and gritty Batman everyone said it was – it’s a short guy in a rubber suit fighting a ...

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray) 22/05/2017

This technological terror you've created

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray) This blu-ray is £15 in HMV or on amazon. Another year, another Star Wars film. This will supposedly be the case until human life is finally snuffed out. Rogue One was enormously successful, and continued the critical rehabilitation of the Star Wars saga after the catastrophic prequel trilogy. It’s the first of the one-off movies that are to be set in and around the existing main Star Wars saga. It’s set just before the opening of the original Star Wars (which has been renamed ‘A New Hope’ by morons, but for me will always just be called ‘Star Wars’). Year: 2016 Director: Gareth Edwards More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3748528 IMDB user rating: 7.9 You remember the text crawl at the beginning of Star Wars? This film basically acts that out – the Rebel Alliance discovers the existence of the Empire’s Death Star, and a team of agents has to go and recover the plans in order to save the galaxy. Inevitably, a story like this is going to lean heavily on what viewers already know from the existing films. Probably the main criticism of Rogue One is that it has no real existence of its own – it would be entirely meaningless without the context of the franchise it slots into. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for anyone, but does no one else get the feeling that western culture is effectively eating its own tail now? All the new blockbusters are based on decades-old franchises, and we slurp them up like that guy in Oldboy eating the octopus. If all our new films ...

Phantasm 1-5 Collection (Blu-ray) 15/05/2017

Horror with balls

Phantasm 1-5 Collection  (Blu-ray) This limited edition boxset from Arrow films is £70 on amazon at time of writing. Phantasm is a venerable horror franchise that never quite made it to the kind of public recognition of Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street, but which has a fairly passionate cult following. It’s not a slasher movie franchise, like most long-running series, instead having an oddball sci-fi premise. It’s villains are an unusually tall undertaker, and his flying silver balls. The first film in the series is a classic. It’s also increasingly obvious as the series wears on that the first Phantasm was an unrepeatable fluke – subsequent instalments are as weak as the original is strong, and director Don Coscarelli’s other films have been uninspiring, in spite of some good ideas. Phantasm (1979) Phantasm is about 13-year-old Mike, who uncovers sinister doings in the local funeral home – corpses are mysteriously vanishing, locals are being murdered, and an unusually tall mortician seems to be the focus of everything. Mike has to convince his sceptical older brother Jody to help him unravel the mystery and stop the Tall Man. Jody’s friend Reg, an ice-cream vendor, also gets involved. One of the main reasons Phantasm is so good is that the characters seem like real people – you can imagine them having lives outside of the story. Jody and Mike’s parents have recently died, and Jody is having to act as his kid brother’s legal guardian. Mike is paranoid about being abandoned, and has taken to following ...

Mass Effect Andromeda (Xbox One) 24/04/2017

A galaxy far, far away

Mass Effect Andromeda (Xbox One) This game is currently around £42 to buy new, but given that it’s not been that well received, I imagine it will be down to around £30 within a couple of months. Mass Effect was a hugely enjoyable science fiction RPG trilogy from Bioware which, for me, was the defining single-player experience of the Xbox 360. OK, they screwed the ending up, but all in all, it was completely absorbing and had a rare emotional heft for a video game. It created memorable alien races, had an appealing aesthetic, and was fun to play (a few kinks notwithstanding). So now, with the next generation a few years in, they’re re-launching the franchise. (Although according to internet rumour, most of the people involved in making the original have moved on to other things. Bioware Montreal is not the Bioware of old.) The results are, to put it mildly, patchy. Why Mass Effect? The main problem with the game is that it exists at all. Mass Effect 3 may not have had the best ending of a multi-part video game story, but it did have a definite ending. Or rather, endings. The problem is that the player could choose from one of three or four different end results. So a direct sequel to Mass Effect would be impossible, as it would force the developers to accept one of the possible Mass Effect 3 endings as canon. This would piss off all the fans who went for the other endings. And pissed of Mass Effect fans are a surprisingly noisy bunch. So they’ve come up with the ingenious wheeze of having a hundred ...

The World at War (Blu-ray) 13/04/2017

Never before in the field of human conflict

The World at War (Blu-ray) This set is currently, released by Network, about £50 on amazon (although I’m sure it was cheaper when I bought it, so shop around). There’s an older Blu-ray release from Fremantle, which carries the subtitle ‘The Ultimate Restored Edition’, but that crops a huge chunk of the image off and should be avoided (it’s also more expensive). The World at War is an iconic documentary series that was first broadcast on ITV in late 1973. There are 26 episodes, each lasting around 50 minutes (they had fewer ad breaks in those days, so each episode fit into a one-hour slot). It tells the story of the Second World War, from Hitler’s coming to power in Germany, to the start of the Cold War. Most episodes tell the story chronologically, although some focus on one aspect of the war and follow that from beginning to end (Atlantic convoys, for instance). Episodes feature a mixture of footage from the war and talking head interviews. Laurence Olivier narrates it, as he was probably the most famous ‘classy’ actor in the world at the time. His narration is very good, with a slightly sardonic edge – I don’t think I’ve seen anything that justifies Olivier’s monumental reputation (he was primarily a stage actor), but this is certainly better than most things he was putting his name to by the early 70s. That said, some of his pronunciations are just weird (‘strarfed’ for ‘strafed’, ‘feeted’ for ‘foetid’. And I’m not sure I could even attempt to convey how weird his pronunciation of ‘Ukraine’ ...

Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast (Blu-ray) 03/04/2017

Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror

Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast (Blu-ray) This set from Arrow Video – containing 10 Blu-rays and 8 DVDs – is supposedly exclusive to amazon, where it costs around £90 at the moment. It can usually be found on ebay too, for a little more than that. It’s a limited edition, so may one day sell out. The director Herschell Gordon Lewis was a legendary exploitation filmmaker active in the 60s. He churned out cynical movies for regional drive-ins. He's famous for inventing the 'splatter film' - horror movies that foreground outrageous acts of dismemberment, in which the plot is a mere afterthought. Lewis’s films are generally cheap, cheerful and short, and if none of them could be described as 'good' with a straight face, some of them are certainly fun. That said, it was a bit of a surprise to see Arrow release an expensive boxset of Lewis's work. It doesn't include all of his films, but there are 14 of them, along with a huge number of extras. The box itself is a hefty old thing, about the size of a cereal packet, but much heavier. (I guess the idea is that it contains a 'feast' of Lewis's films, just like a packet of corn flakes contains a 'feast' of corn flakes.) A more expensive, even more limited edition was also produced, but sold out very quickly - I did buy that, but it was preposterously large and unwieldy, so I sold it and bought the smaller one instead. Anyway, only six of the films are proper gore flicks, with the others being made up of Lewis's (generally less exciting) other work (some of which still have ...
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