Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Taxidermia" DVD (director: Gyogy Palfi)

Wow! This 2006 Hungarian film is a visionary masterpiece of weird surrealism, with enough shocks and entrails to please even jaded gorehounds. And with a keen sense of visual splendor, director Palfi has crafted a stunning world flush with lush color, ingenious camerawork, and unlikely characters. After you've seen "Taxidermia", there's no doubt you've seen a work of cinematic art, but the subject matter remains both grotesque and repellant. 

Spinning tales over three generations, the film opens with a jittery and annoyingly neurotic Hungarian military man who does some rather filthy things with meat, an obese woman, and a makeshift hole in a wooden shack. I'm not sure exactly what his ability to  shoot fire from his cock means, but it's certainly memorable. He fathers a son by another man's wife, which leads into the film's second "part". 

Fast forward a couple of decades later, and this son becomes a competitive speed-eater, and meets a similarly obese woman. After many gross-out scenes of gluttony, man and woman spawn another child. The child becomes a skinny taxidermist, and his grisly hobby gets even weirder from there. 

The film is almost entirely in Hungarian, so the dialogue was lost on me. Nonetheless, "Taxidermia" is a wonderful and stunning work of dark humor and bodily obsession that begs for further attention. Don't miss this work of startling originality. And, with a soundtrack by respected electronic artist Amon Tobin, you're in for a treat in the audio department, too. (Regent Releasing)

"Frontier(s)" DVD (director: Xavier Gens)

Under a shaky facade of political awareness and portending France's return to right-wing politics, sadistic French splatter-torture film "Frontier(s)" succeeds only in melding "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" with "Saw" or "Hostel". Sure, it's gritty, dirty, and absolutely packed with buckets of blood and hacked limbs, but the story feels awfully familiar. And the mid-film melodrama of a love confession is silly and totally unnecessary.

Set in modern-day France, a team of young Parisian thieves, while on the run to Amsterdam, aim to relax for a night in a roadside "hotel" and meet some lovely lasses who aren't shy about "tending their needs", and for free. Forward a bit (not a problem, as the sex scenes aren't very impressive) and our protagonists end up in an abandoned mine system in the middle of nowhere. They are pursued, tortured, and imprisoned by a former Nazi war criminal and his hackneyed "family", with an aim to create a "pure race". Blood, guts, torture, grime, chains, pigs, circular saws, a nasty Achilles-tendon get all this. Too bad there's not much else here to recommend. (Lions Gate)

Toy Dolls - "The Album After The Last One" CD

This veteran UK punk act is still going strong, and "The Album After.." contains all the prerequisite sneer and beer anthems you'd expect from a gang of English punk hooligans. With clear production and lead snarler Michael Algar(aka Olga)'s raspy, streetwise vocals, it's a faithful return to classic punk stylings. 

Not ones to be into politics or social issues, Toy Dolls focus more on topics like "Molly Was Immoral", "B.E.E.R.", "Kevin's Cotton Wool Kids", or "Don't Drive Yer Car up Draycott Avenue". Fans of fun-loving, anthemic pop punk should give these old pros their due, as this is pretty smokin' stuff. (Secret Records)

"Midnight Meat Train" DVD (director: Ryuhei Kitamura)

Having been a fan of Clive Barker's short stories for many years, I was curious to see how this adaptation played out.  "Midnight Meat Train" was a disastrous theatrical failure, but don't let that discourage you. This film, directed by highly-regarded Japanese director Kitamura, is a starkly original, highly visual horror gem that deserved so much better.

Using creative camera work and plenty of gooey (digital) gore effects, Kitamura envisions a dark, monochromatic underground subway for his principle setting. Bradley Cooper stars as a struggling photographer who gets himself accidentally involved in a subway assault, and subsequently with a strange subway serial killer with a shocking secret. 

There's all kinds of splatter here, a little sexuality courtesy of the lovely Leslie Bibb, and a storyline that keeps you guessing. Vinnie Jones effectively plays the bloodthirsty subway butcher with a calm and cold narrow-mindedness. Why audiences sit through second-rate rehashed horror is beyond me, especially when there's wondrous films like this. Don't ignore "Midnight Meat Train", as it's one of the better horror films I've seen in recent months. (Lions Gate)

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Ilsa - Harem Keeper Of The Oil Sheiks" DVD (director: Don Edmonds)

This quick 1976 sequel to the legendary trash-cinema icon "Ilsa - She Wolf Of The SS" doesn't fully lose the plot, though it does seem to scale back a wee bit on the "naughtiness". No matter, as "Harem Keeper" has plenty of nubile breasts, blood, and weird tortures to please fans of raunchy grindhouse/exploitation films.

Re-casting the awesome and stunning Dyanne Thorne as Ilsa is a great move, of course. Here, seemingly right after the fall of the Third Reich, Ilsa finds herself in the Middle East and a liaison to a powerful oil sheik. Ilsa is responsible for training and "breaking" his sex slaves, and she does so with her usual unflinchingly icy hand. But when an American military commander comes to visit, she falls for him, despite his being "the enemy". We see a softer side of the chilly Ilsa, as well as a few less-severe sex scenes.

Sleazy highlights include explosive diaphragms, forced sex with a leper, tarantulas inserted into face masks, chastity belts, and forced silicon buttock implants. What other film can offer all of this, I ask. 

Sure, the storyline is little more than an excuse to parade out lovely young women and show some jiggle, but there is a tale here. The sets and scenery are actually fairly convincing, and even the acting is, well, adequate. Despite the inherent silliness of the premise, "Harem Keeper" is a fine example of trash cinema, and a classic in it's own right. (Cheezy Flicks)

"Ilsa - The Wicked Warden" DVD (director: Jess Franco)

The third in the infamous "Ilsa" series places the cold and calculated Ilsa (reprised again by the inimitable thunder-chested beauty Dyanne Thorne) in a South American mental asylum/prison for women. Aided by her companion, Juana (the gorgeous and sexy Lina Romay), Ilsa cruelly tortures and experiments on her "patients", even selling explicit films of them being raped by male prisoners for extra "blood money".

Released under a variety of titles ("Wanda, The Wicked Warden", "Greta The Torturer", and "Greta - Haus ohne Manner"), this reissue apparently shows signs of editing, though little is lost from my point of view. There are still plenty of jiggling breasts, lesbianism, and a relatively high sleaze quotient -- the norm for director Franco's oeuvre. 

Ilsa herself seems a secondary character here, as Romay and the lovely Abbie Phillips (played by Tania Busselier) steal the show. The acting and script are pretty unremarkable, but seriously, do you expect or need such artfulness from Franco? His fusing of the erotic and the inhuman is paramount here, and disciples of classic Euro-trash cinema shouldn't be disappointed. (Cheezy Flicks)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Neil Young - "DVD Collector's Box" 2xDVD

Comprising two previous documentary titles ("Neil Young Under Review 1966-1975" and "Neil Young Under Review 1976-2006"), this well-done set provides a fairly comprehensive critical appraisal of one of Canada's most beloved (and perplexing) musical icons. 

The first disc details Young's early days with Buffalo Springfield, his work with Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and his early post-folk solo career. Disc two highlights his later solo career, and his collaborations with Crazy Horse, Devo, and Pearl Jam, among others. Both DVDs are individually-packaged and simply housed in the "DVD Collector's Box" slipcase.

As with most of Chrome Dreams' unauthorized documentaries, there are plenty of "talking heads" -- critics, biographers, writers, and associates, to narrate and analyze the recordings. With plenty of live footage and splices of music, this is an entertaining and engaging set, essential for serious Neil Young fans, and enlightening for those not so familiar with his extensive and widely-varying body of work. (Chrome Dreams)