This Week in Home Video: The Hangover III, Much Ado About Nothing, All-Night Horror Marathon, and the sounds of Giallo in Toronto
This Week in Home Video previews all the latest Blu-ray, DVD and on-demand titles hitting the street this week, plus lost gems, crazed Cancon, outrageous cult titles and the best places to rent, buy, talk or see movies in Toronto.
The Hangover Part III (Warner Bros.)
Leading off a week of mostly poor-to-middling home video selections, this excruciating final part of the Wolf pack trilogy is a smug, laugh free affair, mostly sullying whatever goodwill remained after Part I.
Diehards will be pleased with the extras that include: "Replacing Zach: The Secret Auditions", Outtakes, "The Wolfpack's Wildest Stunts", "Zach Galifianakis in His Own Words" "Pushing the Limits", "Inside Focus: The Real Chow" and Extended Scenes.
At least they have upheld the fine tradition of using roman numerals to denote crap sequels like Hostel Part III, Superman Part III and Friday the 13th Part III.
Much Ado About Nothing (eOne)
Joss Whedon's low key black and white b-side to his coloured-with-crayons action movie The Avengers is a noble attempt to do something smart after something so dumb. While adored by his sycophantic fanbase and Grade 10 English teachers who now have another easy go-to in-class movie, sadly this pretentious self- serving makes even Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby seem restrained. Stick to Marvel please Joss.
After Earth (Sony)
Will Smith's dopey valentine to Scientology is the kind of amusing disaster that is the future stuff of bad movie nights. Two and a half hit wonder M. Night Shyamalan manages to write off another multi-million dollar budget like it was a rental car, and the less said about Jaden Smith and his immensely annoying "performance", the better. For the truly brave, watch this on a triple bill with Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and Battlefield Earth.
The Purge (Universal)
Scary masks and shades of A Clockwork Orange do not a good movie make. A moderately interesting premise - a future where for 12 hours a year all crime including murder is tolerated - is ruined by shouty acting and confused editing and some kind of dime store moralizing.
American Horror Story - Asylum (20th Century Fox)
All 13 freaky episodes from the second season of American Horror Story - easily the eeriest TV show since the halcyon days of The X-Files. Asylum finds the madhouse known as Briarcliff home for the criminally insane overrun with everything from demonic possession to alien abduction, skin wearing psychos and 80s babe Jessica Lange as ball crushing Sister Jude - truly the stuff of nightmares. Extras include "Welcome to Briarcliff Manor", "The Creatures", What is American Horror Story: Asylum?, and deleted scenes.
New Girl - Season 2(20th Century Fox)
Zooey Deschanel's carnival of quirk continues with this popular batch of 25 episodes featuring guest appearances from Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Reiner, and the late lamented Dennis Farina. Special features include audio commentary on the classic episode "Cooler", and extended version of episode "Virgins", deleted scenes and a gag reel.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (20th Century Fox)
Pulpy 1960s' cold war submarine hokum plays like a blissed out, live action cartoon. Directed by "master of disaster" Irwin Allen, this glossy studio film was turned into a weekly low-budget Sci-Fi TV series that is crying out for a Blu-ray release - reoccurring villains included a time travelling Leprechaun, lobster men, waxwork dummies and killer clowns - but this slice of wartime propaganda fits the bill nicely.
Fantastic Voyage (20th Century Fox)
At one time in line to be remade by James "Piranha 2" Cameron before something called Avatar came a calling, this eye-popping schlock concerns a submarine full of scientists being shrunk to the size ofamoebas so they can travel into the body of a dying patient. Stars gorgeous 60s babe Raquel Welsh and legendary British scene stealer Donald Pleasance and remade countless times.
4 All Night Horror Marathon Volume 1 (Scream Factory)
Scream Factory's inaugural "Horror Marathon" quadruple bill drops just in time for the ghoulish season. Mixing old and new, serious and slapstick horror, this is like renting 4 VHS tapes with scary covers from the local Mom & Pop back in the day. First up is the frenzied What's the Matter With Helen?, starring Debbie Reynolds and Shelly Winters as showbiz sisters caught up in a living hell; The Godsend is a creepy low key British horror that delivers more chilling ambience than strait-up gore; The Vagrant finds sweary 80s Bill Paxton hamming it up along with genre hard-man Michael Ironside; The Outing rounds out this collection with stop motion genie terrorizing a museum in lockdown. Quality varies but the eclectic selection of rare titles makes it a worthwhile curio.
THE BLACK MUSEUM Presents:
Black Glove Ballads: The Art of the Italian Giallo Soundtrack
Lurid lectures for the morbidly curious. Named after Scotland Yard's infamous murder exhibit, the Black Museum returns to Toronto just in time for Samhain's fall of fear.
This week's lecture is entitled Black Glove Ballads: The Art of the Italian Giallo Soundtrack 1965-2001 and comes courtesy of Rue Morgue contributor and KQEK.com publisher Mark R. Hasan, who shares with us The Black Museum's thoughts on the best giallo movies currently on DVD.
Alongside spaghetti westerns, erotic dramas & comedies, and sci-fi flicks, during the 60s and 70s Italian filmmakers also dove into a genre known as the giallo - best described as a type of film noir where visual style, operatic violence, and provocatively photographed European beauties were packaged into sometimes arresting, often insanely plotted tales where the killer's modus operandi was not as important as horrific murder sequences.
The titles below may be my current Top Five, but it's a list certainly in flux, given there are many gems I've yet to see, and many more that await a DVD / Blu-ray edition in North America.
Blood and Black Lace / Sei donne per l'assassino (1965)
Considered the godfather of the slasher film, Mario Bava was a great cinematographer who reluctantly moved into the director's chair during the 50s, and with Blood and Black Lace (available from VCI as a 2-disc Special Edition DVD), he conceived an elegant murder mystery with a plot stripped down like its pretty victims. Models are brutally killed in clever ways, and poor Eva Bartok and Cameron Mitchell try to cope with the loss of pretty colleagues and clients. A highly influential work for its murder set-pieces and extraordinary colour cinematography make this a must for giallo, slasher, and connoisseurs of stylish horror. Carlo Rustichelli's exotic jazz score is sublimely lurid.
Deep Red / Profondo rosso (1975)
It's a tough toss-up between Dario Argento's feature film debut, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970) and this more aggressive shocker in which a jazz pianist / teacher (David Hemmings) and a nosey reporter (Daria Nicolodi) try and make sense of the puzzling killings which may involve someone they know.
With a spiritual medium hacked to death in the first 20 minutes, Deep Red maintains an unrelenting tone of measured suspense, oddball clues, and outburst of bodily mayhem, neatly underscored by a breakthrough prog-rock score from Goblin. The album became a chart topper in Italy and made Italian rock, Argento, and the giallo important exports.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Blue Underground. By marvelous coincidence, original members of Goblin will perform themes from their classic giallo, horror, and pro-rock works this Friday at The Opera House.
Bay of Blood / Ecologia del delitto (1971)
Perhaps the second most influential Mario Bava film is Bay of Blood (also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve) because of its close similarities to Friday the 13th. Inhabitants of a lakeside resort die painfully in Bava's incredibly black horror comedy. Mixing operatic melodrama with a baffling plot, the main draw is the way calm interludes are followed by garroting, piking, scything, and an outrageous axe to the face. Unheard of gore for 1971, with a sleek score that's part rock, jazz lounge, and exotica from Stelvio Cipriani. The film was recently reissued on DVD and Blu-ray from KINO.
Who Saw Her Die? / Chi l'ha vista morire? (1972)
Lesser-known director Aldo Lado crafted this very unnerving thriller in which a sculptor scours Venice for the killer of his beloved daughter. Using excellent locations that often far from the standard tourist routes, the film's edginess comes from a surreal Ennio Morricone score using children's choir, and the traumatized father played by a severely gaunt George Lazenby. Booted from the James Bond franchise after the otherwise superb On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Lazenby's personal health gives his role extra gravitas, and Lado goes for inner rather than outer madness. With Anita Strindberg, former Bond villain Adolfo Celi, and that lizard-torturing red-haired girl from Deep Red. Available from Blue Underground.
Lizard in a Woman's Skin / Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (1971)
Prior to establishing himself as the auteur of peculiar horror films with zombies, inter-dimension portals, and people experiencing grievous eye trauma, director: Lucio Fulci made this strikingly photographed thriller in swinging London, and like his compatriots, he nabbed some prime talent from the United Kingdom, including Stanley Baker as an Inspector and character actor Leo Genn.
The real star is one of European cinema's most beautiful actresses, Florinda Bolkan, plus striking Anita Strindberg. With trippy visuals, girl-girl touching, and a psychedelic score by Ennio Morricone, this has slowly and deservedly grown in stature as a classic genre entry, and one of Fulci's best works. Originally slated for DVD reissue by Shout Factory but recently cancelled, the film is still available on the prior Shriek Show edition. (The label also released the now-OOP 2-disc Special Edition with both rated & unrated versions.)
- Mark R. Hasan (2013)