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Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Name that Movie Monday! Challenge #20!


Welcome back to Name that Movie Monday!

It's time for Challenge #20 here at the ol' Arcana! Can you identify this week's mystery photo, scanned direct from The Holecheck Archives? If you think you recognize it, post a comment below. As the week goes on, if no one guesses correctly I'll begin adding some pretty useless hints. Easy, right?

Here ya' go -- good luck!


Solved at last! After seven long months, our reigning champion has finally been identified! Thumbs up to "docvoltage" for recognizing Jess Franco's The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969). The fifth and final entry in Harry Alan Towers' series of pulp adventures featuring Christopher Lee as the titular villain, this one details a preposterous plotline involving heart transplants, frozen oceans and the usual world domination attempts. Not a great film by any stretch, it's still fun enough Saturday afternoon filler, and is helped a bit in the eye candy department by co-stars Rosalba Neri and Maria Perschy, who pretty much steal the show.

Belatedly hitting U.S. screens in 1972 courtesy of International Cinema Corporation, as compared to the Warner Bros.-handled earlier efforts, it didn't exactly light the box office on fire and producer Towers has been quoted saying director Franco effectively killed the series. Obscure label Electric Video Inc. released the film to VHS in 1981 with silly cover art and a transfer that didn't do many favors to its already-questionable reputation. In 2003 Blue Underground performed a minor rescuing act and dropped Castle and its immediate prequel The Blood of Fu Manchu in their Christopher Lee Collection box set, which also house the superior Circus of Fear and a restored uncut The Bloody Judge. All four films look great, are complete, and are packed with a wide array of supplements including featurettes, stills collections, commentaries, trailers, etc. It's well worth picking up.

VHS cover courtesy of Jayson Kennedy's Basement of Ghoulish Decadence.

For a look at our last entry, click here. And don't forget, our Upcoming Releases List (the best on the 'net) is constantly updated, so stop by and preorder some cool stuff!
© 2010 -- Bruce Holecheck. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Coney Island Carnage -- Unseen Sex & Gore from Leonard Kirtman's CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1970)!


A little hyperbolic, for sure, but hopefully you'll dig what we've turned up!

Leonard Kirtman's Carnival of Blood (1970) is an odd duck of a movie -- a pre-slasher slasher heavily influenced by the gore trade of H.G. Lewis. The "plot," as it is, ostensibly follows an assistant D.A. and his girlfriend as they attempt to solve a series of gruesome mutilations centered around a game booth at New York's Coney Island.  In reality, it's just scene after scene of annoying character after annoying character badly improvising their way through extended stretches of travelogue footage, bitching and complaining until they're relieved of a body part or two. Rinse. Repeat.  Its singular mindlessness is actually quite fascinating, and the vintage footage of the popular tourist trap is a great time capsule of an era long gone.  (Bonus points for a pre-Rocky Burt Young as Gimpy, the Hunchback!)

Submitted for a rating in 1970 by the director's Kirt Films International, the MPAA's website states Carnival of Blood was initially branded an R but edited down to a GP rating. I have no idea which version currently survives; I find it hard to believe the entrail-yanking sequence would've ever made it past the censors with anything less than an X!  Did the R cut ever play by itself?  Materials from its 1972 release with Curse of the Headless Horseman show a PG version definitely circulated.  There's currently no nudity, and the choppiness of the violence makes one wonder what exactly we're seeing. 

Gaining a small VHS release in the early '80s courtesy of Wizard Video, the film was rescued for the digital age by exploitation saviors Something Weird Video, who found and transferred a rare 16mm element.  In 2002 they issued a packed DVD replicating its original drive-in double-bill, supplementing it with tons of cool trailers (including a U.S. spot for Hunchback of the Morgue!) and some hilarious Super8 home horrors.

The below images are scanned from my personal collection; the Arcana Archives hold a varied assortment of fifteen 8x10 negatives and a separate caption strip.  Some are simply unused promotional shots, presenting a detailed look at a few of the gore effects that are practically subliminal in the film as it exists now.  The second still down actually has a surprising nipple appearance, indicating the love scene originally went longer than displayed in the final product.  The cop characters seen in the fourth still are only visible in the background of the film proper. Also mixed in are a some behind-the-scenes photos: you can see the make-up artist blacking out the actress' sockets for the eye-gouging segment, the photo of the drunken sailor reveals the crew and lighting stands in the background, and you have to love the actor holding the fake head in place for the funhouse decapitation!  Enjoy!

Poster image courtesy of Wrong Side of the Art.

© 2010 -- Bruce Holecheck. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Return of Name that Movie Monday! Challenge #19!


Welcome back to Name that Movie Monday!

It's time for Challenge #19 here at the ol' Arcana! Can you identify this week's mystery photo, scanned direct from The Holecheck Archives? If you think you recognize it, post a comment below. As the week goes on, if no one guesses correctly I'll begin adding some pretty useless hints. Easy, right?

Here ya' go -- good luck!

The Swedish shinobi strikes again!  Fred Anderson (Ninja Dixon) plucks his second win by identifying Umberto Lenzi's Eyeball (1975).  Unjustly maligned by most, I think the film serves as one of the director's most enjoyable romps; it's a sleazy, slash-happy giallo concerning a ragtag group of tourists -- a lesbian photographer, a shady priest, a cheating wife, a slutty schoolgirl, and more! -- having their numbers trimmed by an ocular-obsessed psycho in a red rain slicker.  And, of course, it's all set to an infectious Bruno Nicolai score.  What's not to like?  Snobs, I tell you.  

Eyeball received its belated Stateside release in 1978 courtesy of exploitation magnates Joseph Brenner Associates, Inc., who saw fit (as usual) to rework the title sequence and speed up the tempo by deleting some extraneous investigation footage.  It was a badly cropped version of this edit that hit the VHS scene in 1985, adorned with some of the most boring cover art you're likely to see, from JBA's usual standby, Prism Entertainment.  (My first knowledge of the film actually came from the cross-promo inclusion of its awesomely trashy trailer on the Prism tape of Pete Walker's Frightmare II.) 
The earliest DVD on the scene was the 2002 Labyrinth des Schreckens (Labyrinth of Fright) disc from Germany's Marketing Film, which featured an anamorphic transfer of the original European version in its full 2.35:1 ratio, along with some stills and a trailer.  (Seeing the film properly presented definitely boosts one's opinion!)  This print was later recycled for the 2004 rerelease from X-Rated Kult Video.  There's also a 2007 Italian disc from Pulp Video, though I'm unsure if this offers an upgrade or not.  For some inexcusable reason, there hasn't been a domestic DVD release to date, a situation that desperately needs to be remedied. (Severin? Midnight Legacy? Synapse? Anybody?!  Somebody start a petition!)

As always, the poster image comes courtesy of Wrong Side of the Art.  The newspaper ad was swiped from Fred Adelman's highly recommended Critical Condition.

For a look at our last entry, click here. And don't forget, our Upcoming Releases List (the best on the 'net) is constantly updated, so stop by and preorder some cool stuff!
© 2010 -- Bruce Holecheck. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You Can't Handle the Tooth -- Mondo Macabro's Pete Tombs on the Films of Jess Franco


Back in 2004, I met up with Mondo Macabro's Pete Tombs and Andy Starke, who were in town working on the supplements to their then-upcoming DVD of Parts: The Clonus Horror. Over the course of the night, as we guzzled beer and chowed down Ethiopian food, conversation inevitably turned to film and my personal Mondo Macabro wishlist.  Pining for the likes of Robert de Nesle-produced Franco fare, especially Lorna the Exorcist and The Perverse Countess, Pete chimed in, "Oh, we know where the rights are..."

Six years later, my favorite label has just issued a superlative edition of Jess Franco's classic, Sinner: The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac -- an easy inclusion for my upcoming Top Ten DVDs of 2010 list -- finally wrestled free of its tangled rights nightmare.  In celebration, here's a little chat with Pete about the obscenely prolific director and the effort put forth to do his films up right.  

Cinema Arcana:  What is it about the films of Jess Franco that, for all his faults, makes his output so alluring?

Pete Tombs:  I guess Franco is someone who always went his own way.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but there's usually something memorable, in even the smallest of his films. Sometimes just a scene, sometimes just the mood or atmosphere.  It has to be said that there are many who don't like what he does and to try to defend him from the critical brickbats of his detractors is not a task I would wish to take on.  (Not that he needs me to do it!)  What was it Donovan sang?  "Someone's opinion of moonlight..."

CA:  What are your personal favorites?

PT:  The Francos that I find most memorable are Lorna the Exorcist, Sinner, Eugenie, Diabolical Dr. Z, Shining Sex...

CA:  The Robert de Nesle-produced films have had a notoriously rocky road to their DVD debuts.  What exactly did you have to go through to get this deal made?

PT:  I could write a book about the travails we went through to get the de Nesle films licensed.  But I won't.  I'm happy to let the bad memories fade.  Let's just say that there were numerous personal, legal and financial hurdles to jump and at one point it seemed like new hurdles were being added every week.  Anyway, who cares at the end of the day?  We got a couple of them out there and they're good ones.

There are some interesting extras on both.  We get Stephen Thrower's thoughts on the films and on Franco - ahead of the mammoth and essential book-length study he's currently working on.

We also get, for the first time as far as I'm aware, an interview with Gerard Kikoine giving us his memories of Robert de Nesle and working on the Franco films.  Lots of interesting stuff there, much of it new to me.

CA:  You've talked a bit on blogs and messageboards about the problems with the original elements to Lorna the Exorcist.  What sort of shape were they in?  How did you manage to piece together your final transfer?  Is there any more unseen footage besides the legendary dildo bit?

PT:  The Lorna negative supplied to us (and so far as we can see, the only materials available) had been edited by de Nesle and turned into a porno movie.  And it looks like whoever did it threw away or misplaced the footage they cut out.  Certainly we couldn't find it.  However, thanks to the indefatigable Lucas Balbo we were able to locate some rare 35mm prints of the film.  To our great delight, both contained scenes that had not been in any of the video versions of the film we had seen, which meant that we were able to reconstruct what we believe to be the original near 100-minute cut of the film that was widely thought lost forever.  Some of the material is in pretty poor condition, but we spent a small fortune doing as much as we could to make it watchable - and I think it looks very good now.  Some of it looks spectacular.  There are a number of extra scenes and lots of extended bits that will be new to viewers in this version.

CA:  With Sinner now available and Lorna on the slate for January, what else can we look forward to from Mondo Macabro in 2011?

PT:  Our next release is a complete contrast to the Franco films.  It's Strip-Tease - the 1962 French film starring Nico, of Velvet Underground fame.  This has never been issued on any form of home video before and has only been rarely seen since its initial release.  For Nico fans (and I hope there's a lot of them out there!) this will be a must buy.

Thanks, Pete!  The photos of Jess on set come courtesy of Mondo Macabro.  For more Mondo Macabro news, check out their website and blog.

© 2010 -- Bruce Holecheck. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 26, 2010

In Search Of... #1: William Grefe's THE DEVIL'S SISTERS (1966)


Welcome to a new occasional feature here at Cinema Arcana, one I decided to call In Search Of... (In tribute to my favorite childhood cryptozoology show, of course.)  In it, we'll be documenting currently "lost" films through whatever means I have available in the Archives -- photos, pressbooks, trailers, etc.  Granted, sometimes I may only have a single still or newspaper ad, but it's the thought that counts, right?

For the inaugural outing (unless you count our previous Love Cave query), we're taking a look at William Grefe's The Devil's Sisters (1966).

The film is closely based on the then-recent exploits of "Las Poquianchis," a pair of Guanajuato-based sisters who lured Mexican women to their remote hacienda with promises of waitressing or housekeeping employment. Instead, they were beaten, forced into prostitution and hooked on drugs; when they couldn't perform their duties any longer, they were murdered.  Grefe's effort apparently doesn't pull its punches; women are wrapped in barbed wire, corpses burned, rape and knifings aplenty...  It certainly seems darker in tone than his ludicrous one-two punch of Sting of Death and Death Curse of Tartu!

Released at the tail-end of 1966 by distributor Thunderbird International (though the AFI guide suggests it played Miami earlier in the year, a claim that seems unlikely given the production schedule of the aforementioned pair of horror flicks), The Devil's Sisters was reissued in 1968 by Trans-International Films under the title Sisters of the Devil.  Unfortunately, not much has been seen of it since.

Presented here are a group of photos from the film, the only pictoral evidence I know of.  I have thirteen 8x10 still negatives (and separate caption strips) in the Archives, though most of these scans are taken from their accompanying positives (some of which are way too contrast-y for my liking, but I don't have a proper negative scanner yet).  Enjoy!

So what hopes do we have that Grefe's The Devil's Sisters will turn up some day?  In a recent posting at the Cinehound Forum, the director had this to say:

"Of all the films I have directed, The Devil's Sisters is the only one I have no print, video or DVD of. I have looked for over 25 years, with no luck. But just recently, via the internet, I discovered a collector in Germany who has a print and am currently in negotiation to purchase said print. If I am successful, we will be putting out a DVD. The one problem is that the last 8 minutes of the film is missing...

"If, for any reason, you know any film collectors or companies that might know where we could obtain a print, DVD or video, please let me know. This film was released big in Germany and other parts of Europe, the German title being Die Schwestern (Sklavinnen der Eotik), also released under the title The Psychedelics. It was also released about 15 years ago on video."

Further postings by collectors claim no knowledge of the supposed video release, but that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't out there somewhere. Hope springs eternal.

(For some newspaper ads and a look at the film's pressbook, be sure and check out Temple of Schlock's "Endangered List" case file.)

© 2010 -- Bruce Holecheck. All Rights Reserved.