EVIL Packaged Fresh, Never Frozen. “Raw” reviewed! (Second Sight / Blu-ray)

Brought up on a strict vegetarian diet by her parents, Justine became conscious that one swallow of meat down her gullet might start a chain reaction of life-threatening allergies. Her legacy acceptance into the prestigious Saint-Exupéry Veterinary School would have a set of challenges toward retaining that diet but her older sister, Alexia, who is still studying at the school and is also a vegetarian, would protect her from the intense hazing brought down upon the freshman class. When it turns out that Alexia gave into the temptations of peer pressure and egged her own to digest meat in a hazing ritual, Justine learns that her sister’s shielding won’t stand up against the forces of elder student pranks. From then on, a primordial animalistic behavior slowly transforms Justine from a quiet, awkward, and studious teenage girl into a party animal, an explorer of sexual awakening, and a herbivore whose slipping from her regime. Justine’s craving for raw meat digs deeper into the bone as the overwhelming need to consume human flesh spirals her down into an uncontrollable descent, turning the school’s exuberant hazing knaveries all the more dangerous.

Having been a meat eater all my life, the transition to vegetarian would be a hard-fought war that would likely shed years off my life just as much as eating a thick, juicy cut of a steak seasoned to perfection and medium cooked. After all, the human race is born with tapered canines that rip through the tough flesh and meat first and then pass along the now tendered feed to our molars, our mashers, that would handle the soft, chewy substance for an easy ride down toward our stomach. “Raw” takes that approach one step further, or maybe two or three steps further, by coupling the sudden discourse from meatless to meaty meals that expands into cannibalism with a coming of age and finding one’s place in life story that can be relatable to us all. The French film is written-and-directed by Julia Ducournau, who reprised herself with another body horror sensation with last year’s acclaimed “Titane,” and was shot at an actual veterinary school in Belgium, the University of Liège. Originally titled “Grave” before being upgraded to “Raw,” the film is a production from a conglomeration of studio labels, including the first horror production for Petit Film. Rouge International (“Murder Me, Monster”), Frakas Productions (“Sea Fever”), Ezekiel Film Production and Wild Bunch (“Martyr”) serve as a few of the film’s other coproduction companies with Jean des Forêts, Julie Gayet, Jean-Yves Roubin, Nadia Turincev, and Cassandre Warnauts as producers.

“Raw” is not your typical girl journeying through the trials and tribulations of normal self-discovery.  For this, you need not your typical girl to play centric character Justine.  Enters 16-17 year-old Garance Marillier, the Paris-born actress with an established bond on and off screen with director Julia Ducournau having debut her acting in Ducournau’s 2011 short film “Junior” as a tomboy going through a strange corporeal transformation.  Fun fact:  Marillier has been cast as a different Justine in all three of her collaborations with Julia Ducournau – “Junior,” “Raw,” and “Titane” since 2011.  Marillier soaks into “Raw’s” Justine with not only a transcending behavior pattern performance that takes the freshman from stifled to uninhibited, but the young actress also overhauls a complete body language transformation that sheds Justine’s meek skin, literally displayed on screen, for a more confident and abrasive veneer.  Ella Rumpf (“Tiger Girl”) receives Justine’s inexperienced blossom-hood with an the older, already initiated, sibling having been fostered by rambunctious peers to break the sheltering chains her parents had shackled with and just like true to life sisters, there’s contention.  The vehemence venom between them when they’re on bad terms on screen can stop one’s breath, you can hear a pin drop, yet you still understand their sisterly connection and love no matter how messed up a situation might be, especially when involving boys, such as the pansexual fluidity of Justine’s freshman roommate Adrien, played by Rabah Nait Oufella.  “Raw” rounds out the small cast surrounded by a slew of extras with Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss as mom and dad.

Julia Ducournau has the body horror genre down to the molecular level.  It’s as if the filmmaker studied every film and playbook of David Cronenberg just from researching her various work credits that target to restructure and regress the human condition into something far worse and watching “Raw” unravel a symbiotic relationship between natural and unnatural human development blurs that line of what is considered to be normal so disturbingly good.  Exteriorly, we notice the changes and can almost set a clock to way our bodies react and change over time, biologically and socially, within the context of our environment.  Internally, a whole unexplored set of conditions apply to the unpredictable mindset of transfiguration and that’s where Justine paves an unfounded roadmap for her sudden kick from being a veggie lover to a flesh craver. “Raw’s” undoubtedly an allegory of a young girl’s pubescence and coming of age into her own from, essentially, being on her own exploring her sexuality and exploring new interests as is such with going into university. Ducournau casually strolls through Justine’s drama and tension as much of the body horror overwhelms our morbid curiosity but her angsty complications, still very much underlined even being overshadows, retain a constant line of parallelism in a symbolic reality. Delicate touches of indelicate gore really spice up “Raw’s” entrenching story not for the faint of heart as well as vegetarians.

Hot off the heels of their now out of print limited edition release of “Raw,” Second Sight Films offers a second, standard release on Blu-ray home video. The UK label offers a single disc packaged, region B encoded, BD-50 of a 1080p, high-definition, 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentation, listed at running an average frame bitrate of ~24Mbps. Highly accurate on its bitrate average, the image is well diverse in discerning details without an ambiguous scene or spot in sight. The color often feels muted, dreary, like one long continuous overclouded day that presents an everlasting feeling of dismay. Yet, that isn’t all cinematographer Ruben Impens has to offer with arthouse framing of disturbing imagery and an opening freshman party scene that takes us through the cramp pockets of sweaty, half-naked partygoers in one lengthy, single shot that expels just about everything Justine will face at her time in veterinary school. The French DTS-HD 5.1 master audio superbly distributes the audio tracks with just right levels to accommodate each scene. If there’s a noisy, bass blaring party, the score rightly takes over and the dialogue takes a muted backseat but still clear and intelligible – or so I believe since I don’t understand French, but I can make out the syllables and inflections. Otherwise, dialogue is king and clear alongside an eclectic soundtrack of English indie rock and experimental tracks as well as Jim Williams guitar and industrial synth trek across that’s beautiful and, simultaneously, disconcerting disharmonic. If you missed out on the limited edition, don’t bite yourself as the standard edition as plenty of extra features, including an interview with actress Garance Marillier The Girl Can’t Help It, an interview with producer Jean des Forêts Making Ends Meat, an audio commentary by film critic Alexander West, an audio commentary with director Julia Ducournau and critic Emma Westwood, an interview with Ducournau A Family Affair, the featurette Raw A Votre Gout with Ducournau and Emma Westwood, a conversation between Ducournau and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas Quick Bites, a genre matters panel discussion, an Australian premier introduction and post screen Q&A with Ducournau and Kier-La Janise, and a handful of deleted scenes. The film runs at 99 minutes, comes with well synced English subtitles, and is certified 18 for strong gory images and injury detail. Taste “Raw’s” unseasoned, unadulterated, pure and simple line of hidden truths and manifesting urges that once crossed there’s no turning back as the person you once were, is no longer akin to an impossible burger but a fully tendered hunk of mouthwatering meat freshly cut and ready to sink your teeth into.

The Elfmans’ EVIL Doomsday Droll! “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)



“Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks”, oh my, now on Bluray home video!

A struggling Los Angeles actor finds himself in an intergalactic dilemma when a interdimensional portal opens from his asshole and spits out the obelisk, a large, pointed top icon that holds the key to ruling the universe.  Evil space clowns and extraterrestrial beings rocket toward Earth to be the first to intercept the obelisk and remotely manipulate people to their way to try and snag the long-ago inseminated artefact.  In order to save the world, maybe even the universe, from the catastrophic misuse of the obelisk, the actor calls up on his transgendered brother – excuse me – his sister, a professor with expertise in interdimensional relics, and a pair of beautiful Swedish scientist assistants all the while avoiding biker space clowns, ditzy blonde sex bots, the Chinese mafia, and a secret U.S. government agency from getting their greedy hands on world-dominating or word-destroying ass statue. 

Having sat through and contemplated Richard Elfman’s bizarrely fascinating “Alien, Clowns, and Geeks,” I found myself washed over with deep regret. Regret is not in the one-sit watching of a 90-minute sci-fi comedy about a monolithic sphincter stone being a weapon for universal domination by space clowns and incorporated green men from outer space or the key for green, sustainable energy worth lucrative wealth for possible one out-of-work C-lister. The regret stems from not having watched beforehand Richard Elfman’s first experience with total creative control in his kaleidoscopic chaos a surreal fantasy “Forbidden Zone” from 1980 that has placed the filmmaker on the map as a cult director and the musical film itself retains breath and life through theatrical stage plays across the nation. Nearly 40 years later, the harebrained and mad genius mind of Richard Elfman churns a return to his unadulterated cinematic artform with no producers or studios to infringe upon his certifiable craft. Elfman writes and directs the Unfound Content (Bernie Stern, “What Josiah Saw”) and UnLtd Productions produced Elfmaniac Media production.

Who better to be your leading man of action versus the opposing forces of interplanetary evil than your own flesh and blood?  Richard Elfman casts his son, Bodhi, to take the lead as struggle actor Eddy Pine, crestfallen by his recent television series cancellation that derailed his promised financial success and famed lifestyle.  Bodhi Elfman plays to the tune of comic-action star fairly well, delivering perfectly timed high-pitched screams when prompted while still conveying a suave persona as a smooth-talking ladies’ man that bags one-half of the Swedish scientist twins, Helga Svenson (Rebecca Forsythe, “Replace”), to be the perfect combination of brains, beauty, and junkyard Kung-Fu.  Helga, and her sister Inga (Angeline-Rose Troy) are assistants to the great and all-power, well…not all power, (German?) Professor von Scheisenberg in a likeable, rememberable performance from “3rd Rock form the Sun” sitcom actor French Stewart.  In this favorable group of eclectics, world-saving heros, my personal favorite is Jumbo, the politically incorrect, yet well-represented, LBGTQ sister of Eddy Pine played the large frame build of Steve Agee (“Suicide Squad”) who, like a good chunk of Eflman’s cast for the film, takes on a dual role as a God-fearing goon dressed in a giant chicken suit for his boss Fritz the two-timing German clown (Nic Novicki, “The Sinners.”) The circus-esque troupe continues to careen toward Earth in a prototypical rocket ship full of clowns, literally, in what can be seen as an offshoot homage to “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”. The rocket is captained by “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise actor Martin Klebba, but the boss in the big shoes, clown shoes that is, is worn by the late Vern Troyer (“Pinocchio’s Revenge”) in his last role, a role royal bestowed upon him as Emperor Beezel-Chugg. Granted, much of the emperor is played through Nick Novicki’s Fritz as Beezel-Chugg sends his conscious down to Earth to beat out the aliens from obtaining the obelisk. “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” has a monster supporting cast for an indie film that rounds out the list with Richard Elfman’s wife Anatasia Elfman in various roles, George Wendt (“King of the Ants”), Malcolm Foster Smith (“Parasomnia”), Marco Antonio Parra, Victor Chi, Andre Ing, Erwin Stone, and Raul Colon.

If “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” sounds to you like an unfurling Warner Bros. ACME production full of dropping anvils and pseudo-tunnels, you’re not alone. Elfman’s romping comedy is chockful of clowns, cigars, and sex tropes, mostly elements pulled from the director’s hyperactive brain and basking recreations that fit his outlandish selfhood. The film very much fits the man behind the camera as an off-color, atypical, crude humored, red-headed fireball zipping-and-zagging in a multitude of directions. Yet, despite the frantic antics and the crazy characters, “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” retains its composure as a three-act tale of redemption where one man can be the hero of his own destiny depending on the path he chooses in his seemingly despondent life where he’s lost his career, his mother’s a slutty crackwhore, and a large stone has expelled itself from his anus, creating a rift between a difficult decisive choice of short term wealth or long term doom. Pulling much of his science fiction inspiration from the 1957 “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” Elfman manages a vast, epic showdown of invading alien threats against an unsuspecting human contingent with very few locations, zipped to to-and-fro with comical orchestration, that usually fashions a feeble story structure of sitcom-syndrome weariness, but not with these colorful characters with their unconventional and unmethodical praxis that defy all logic and sensibility. Off the bat, “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks” has menial building blocks but, if you stick with it, the film does grow on you, stimulates the endorphins of your inner child, as a live-action recollection of a Saturday morning cartoon but for adults.

Enter the maniacal mind of Richard Elfman with the MVD Visual Blu-ray release of “Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks.”  Presented in a widescreen, 16×9 aspect ratio, the digitally recorded video has no telling compression issues onto the AVC encoded pressing.  Most of the superimposed cartoony special effects are simply just that due to stylistic choices or budgetary constraints and, either way, add they greatly add to Elfman’s carnivalesque approach to clowning around.  The English 5.1 surround sound discerns no apparent issues other than a slight tuning leveling issue when someone screams as pitch level goes muted a bit.  Other than that, dialogue is clean and clear.  The music genius of Danny Elfman (“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Beetlejuice”) and newcomer Ego Plum, who brings with him a melody of cartoonish influences and unconventional inspirations, create a unique sound that attests to “Alien, Clowns, and Geek’s” upbeat and caricature antics.  Optional English subtitles are available.  Special features include behind-the-scenes interviews that give the cast and crew their 5 minutes recollecting works with castmates, Richard and Danny Elfman, and their total overall experience, a quick and fast-paced interview from Richard Elfman who quickly disgorges his ideas and desires, along with his heartful opinion, about the film, the music video for Ego Plum’s “Mambo Diabolico,” which you can see at the end credits, and the original theatrical trailer.  “Mambo Diabolico” is definitely a good description for Richard Elfman’s far side sci-fi comedy that’s too Ed Wood for even Ed Wood himself.

“Aliens, Clowns, and Geeks”, oh my, now on Bluray home video!

A Gondola Ride of EVIL! “Gore in Venice” reviewed! (Full Moon Features / Blu-ray)

Check out “Gore in Venice” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

A man stabbed to death in the abdomen. A few feet away, a drowned woman, pulled from an adjacent Venice canal, wearing no underwear beneath her dress. A double murder of a husband and wife has baffled a young, hardboiled egg-eating Inspector named De Pol, but the inspector knows one thing for sure, drugs were certainly involved. As the inspector digs deeper into the horribly confounding case, he learns that husband and wife were into a wide variety of kinky perversions that may have led to their untimely demise. Unable to make sense of some of the case’s facts and as more bizarre murders flare up all over town, De Pol leans on the behavior expertise of the department’s medical examiner as well as anecdotes by key suspects to piece together a prurient plot of perversion-killings sought to be handled quietly and quickly before tourists catch wind of what’s happening, and more dead bodies are discovered in the unparalleled canal-laden landscape of Venice.

Sex, drugs, and eggs run rampant on the walkway bridges and watery canals of the beautifully conglomerated Venice, Italy in Mario Landi’s “Gore in Venice.”   Also known by other titles such as Giallo a Venezia, Mystery in Venice, and Thriller in Venice around the globe, the “Supersexymarket” and “Patrick Still Lives” director Landi helms one of the more controversial Italian crime mysteries to come out of the golden age of giallo horror during the turn of the decade of 1979.  A script that houses a hellbent killer in super cool and reflective aviator shades, a sex-crazed married couple, and a detective racking his brain to connect the motive dots is the last treatment penned by writer Aldo Serio in what’s a non-linear, flashback driven, sordid piece of salacious culprit candy that’s more sexually explicit than is a whodunit thriller.  “Gore in Venice” is one of the few productions of Elea Cinematografica produced by Gabriele Crisanti who has produced “Satan’s Baby Doll, “Malabimba,” “Burial Ground:  The Nights of Terror,” and many others notorious for their sleazy and gory controversial content.

In the cast’s lead of this Italian production is an American actor.  The California-born, “Weapons of Death’s” actor Jeff Blynn has lived in Italy for much of his career and had become tapped to play youthful inspector De Pol, an arrogant prodigy of Venice sleuths with a habit of constantly cracking open and eating hard boiled eggs in the office, out of the office, at the crime scene, during the questioning in suspect’s home, and in just about every single scene Blynn is messing with an egg in a symbolic gesture of trying to trying to crack a strange case is to crack an egg strangely.  Blynn’s pale complexion, large perm afro, and thick caterpillar mustache make him stick out against his Italian counterpart costars that include Leonora Fani (“The House by the Edge of the Lake”) and Gianni Del (“Sex, Demons and Death”) as the deceased wife and husband, Flavia and Fabio.  Fani and Del’s impeccable Euro traits are flaunted all over Venice as sexual maniacs, exhibitionists, and voyeurs who take their relationship to the next level every time they step outside their character’s love nest full of erotica books and wall-to-wall mirror bedroom.  However, trouble in paradise sends the couple hurling toward jagged rocks with salacious orgy photos involving a prostitute (Maria Mancini), a drug-dealer named Marco (Maurizio Streccioni), and Flavia’s best friend Marzia (Mariangela Giordano, “Killer Barbys”) that omits no one from the suspect pool.  Not even Flavia’s ex-lover, a cartoonist Bruno Neilson (Vassili Karis, “An Angel for Satan”) is safe from Inspector De Pol’s investigation.  Unlike traditional giallo films, we’re already privy to the killer, a voyeuristic madman (Andrea Caron) with slick aviators and a complex hardon to kill everyone involved in the orgy and it’s up to Del Pol and his troupe of professional colleagues and chums, who provide not only the vigor (“Private House of the SS’s” Eolo Capritti’s gung-ho assistant to the inspector) but also sage, scientific guidance surrounding sexual deviancy (“Satan’s Baby Doll’s” Giancarlo Del Duca as the case’s pathologist).

As noted in the previous paragraph, “Gore in Venice” is less giallo than one would expect despite an alternate title denoting the film as such in Italy as “Giallo a Venezia.” Does the killer have gloved hands? Yes. Is Landi’s film stylish enough to pass criteria? Absolutely. Does “Gore in Venice” live up to the eponymous title? Blood flows freely. Yet, why doesn’t “Gore in Venice” feel like a traditional giallo? One of the more clinching reasons is the mystery dissolves roughly halfway into the story by exposing the unmasked, unconcealed killer, trailing off from that unsolved perplexity of who the killer might be at the conclusion. However, one could argue that though the killer is revealed, the question of why all the carnage still remains, leaving the giallo more or less intact. Violent tropes aside, Landi’s film abundantly saturates itself into carnal exploits that linger on-and-on more than necessary to get the point across. These scenes of masturbation, public exhibition, and raging erotic zigzag along a blurry, indistinct line of pornography, coming (and coming!) away from the intended murder-mystery subgenre with more skin and slaughter. That’s not the say “Gore in Venice” fails to live up to the moniker as the kills are as grisly as implicitly promised with a large blade to the vaginal cavity, one poor soul gas drenched and lit up like a bonfire, and a one gal having the naked legs cut out right from under her complete with an extreme closeup of the sawing pellicle perfection. Whether because of Mario Landi’s direction or Aldo Siro’s script, the explicit eroticism eats way too far into the story that, in turn, ultimately betrays any kind character development aside from the tragic perversive arc of Fabio and Flavia. Inspector De Pol often skirts around much of the action being only an investigator continuously trapped in the accounts of other people’s tales of debauchery and always one step late to the crime scene party that baffles his keen scrutinizing eye. I’m not one to deprecate graphic sexual content, especially in works that display actual fondling and masturbation in their art, but “Gore in Venice” mildly entertains as a low-end giallo albeit a spectacularly vivid and vehement blood show in front of the unique waterways of Venice.

Under one of the more slapped together and detailed shrouded cover arts I’ve seen this year comes “Gore in Venice” onto Blu-ray home video as one of the revisited classics purchased and redistributed by Full Moon Features. The Blu-ray is an AVC encoded, region free, 1080p presentation of an uncut (and uncensored) remastered feature exhibited in a full frame 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The Full Moon back cover mentions the transfer was compiled from the best available materials, but, honestly, the original 35mm print looks great with only sparse dirt specks and an occasional frame omission. Details look good as well despite the flat coloring. The Italian language LCPM 2.0 and 5.1 offer nearly identical outputs with no real composition distinction between the two others than a slightly more complex background track of motorboats ripping through the canals. There are no bonus materials with this feature only release that’s house in a standard blue snapper case and a red on black, cheesy, Eurotrash cover art for the 99-minute film. Libidinous with a capital L, expect more of sesso e depravazione with profound tidbits of gore than an engrossingly intelligent crime thriller in Mario Landi’s “Gore in Venice.”

Check out “Gore in Venice” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Bestest EVIL in the Whole Wide World! “Clifford” reviewed! (Ronin Flix / Blu-ray)



“Clifford” is the Best Comedy of 1994 and Now on Blu-ray!

10-year-old Clifford wants to go to Dinosaur World in Los Angeles.  I mean, really, really, wants to go to Dinosaur World and will stop at nothing to get his heart’s desire, even if that means intentionally grounding his parent’s plane destined for Hawaii.  Clifford’s parents, on the verge of strangling their own relentless mischievous son, concocts a care plan that includes reaching out to Uncle Martin, an out-of-touch, workaholic, kid-adverse L.A. resident looking to impress upon longtime, child-longing girlfriend that he adores children.  It’s a win-win for everyone, even Clifford who’s chances to ride Larry the Scary Rex rollercoaster at Dinosaur World have significantly increased.  The perfect plan is swimmingly going well until Martin’s boss throws him a deadline curveball that sidelines Clifford’s theme park trip, breaking his promise to a more than impish little boy who has declared life-ruining war against the Bestest uncle in the whole wide world.

Yes, finally!  “Clifford” has arrived onto Blu-ray home video and just like that that mischievous little brat comes back into our nostalgic hearts.  The 1991-filmed, 1994-released PG-rated comedy is written by “Back to School” duo Steven Krampmann and William Porter and directed by Peter Flaherty, director of “Who’s Harry Crumb?” and Martin Short’s pseudo-late night talk show series “Primetime Glick.”  If you don’t see Krampmann or Porters’ names in the pre- and post-credits but notice Jay Dee Rock and Bobby van Hayes scrolling by than that’s because the writers used pseudonyms to quietly disown the finish final film that was embroiled in questionable approaches such as hiring Martin Short, a then 40-year-old comedian-actor, to portray a 10-year-old boy.  Yet, the bizarre comedy that has a talented cast as well as a demented and twisted side to it has gained a rather quiet cult following.  Larry Brezner (“The ‘Burbs”) and Pieter Jan Brugge (“My Demon Lover”) produces “Clifford” and is one of the last releases to trickle out from Orion Pictures before their unfortunate bankruptcy. 

Through extremely creative measures to ensure Martin Short can sell the physicality of a prepubescent boy on screen, “Clifford” is one of the former SNL performer’s best and memorable roles amongst his arsenal of personalities.  The naughtily tormenting persona with a Devil’s grin and absent eyes for sympathy brings Clifford to a level that’s analogous to a fixated horror villain setting a target goal of destruction, mayhem, and chaos. No one is safe from Clifford’s duplicitous trajectory, not even Uncle Martin played by the late, great Charles Grodin (“Midnight Run”) who provides his standard uptight and exasperated character at first but slides into a sinister nihilism when push beyond the point of return. Short and Grodin are centric to the story, phenomenal dynamically, and funny at very second despite how antiquated the content and comedy is at 30 years old. Seeing Short play a little boy doesn’t even register he’s a grown man in an adolescent role and that’s how good Martin Short can massage the material in his favor. You see Short, you see he’s a kid amongst the rest of the cast, you see his childish exploits, and, yet, none of that is troublesome, bothersome, or even a tiny bit weird as you’re drawn into an overexaggerating, yet highly relatable, parenting hardships in negotiating with out of control, scheming children and the pure, unabashed wackiness of Martin Short who, in my mind’s eye, is essentially in a step-down version of his iconic Ed Grimley personality. Bringing down Short’s antics and Grodin’s disgruntled demeanor is the measured Mary Steenburger (“Back to the Future III, “Powder”) subduing, in a good way, audiences as Uncle Martin’s lowkey love interest to bring us down from the eccentric shenanigans. The casting is overall tight on those three leads but Dabney Coleman (“Dragnet”) becomes the sleazy bigwig wedging between his employee, Uncle Martin, and Martin’s girlfriend, Richard Kind (“Stargate”) searching for patient with his insufferable Clifford, Jennifer Salvidge (“Evolution”) as Clifford’s yielding, but equally as exhausted, Clifford’s mother, and “Little Monster’s” Ben Savage as a troubled youth set to follow Clifford’s footprints.

How does “Clifford” hold up to today’s comedies? Rated PG, the 1994 film lacks the big hitting criteria that ultimately slaps stricter rating labels right onto the trailer and home video covers, that ultimately bring in audiences with sex, violence, and harsh language, but “Clifford” isn’t a kids’ film per se and subtly lands more adult oriented and sexually suggestive one-liners and scenes that wouldn’t fly by today’s standards. In fact, I personally believe the entire production would have been scrubbed if the first casting choice for a young boy was a 40-year-old man. Movies like “Clifford” are relics that should be treasured because we’ll never see comedy like this again and that’s what makes “Clifford” a part of cult cinema. “Clifford” doesn’t need itemized fixings to be a great story and to possess substance to be a phenomenal film. Instead, the idiosyncrasies of the plot and the singularity of talent glue the first draft of the inane script together in its finished product, rewinding that chunky gray and white brain matter and the bits of skin, tissue, and tufts of hair back into and onto the head after having its top blown thinking, how the hell do we pull off this script? The first two acts are character building and about the dynamics of two conflicting temperaments that ensue a series of tit-for-tat jail landing pranks and a slew of grating and passive insults, suggesting a character-driven, quirky slapstick story of growth and understanding between the two sides. However, the third act shows another, unexpected side of “Clifford” that revels in Uncle Martin’s vindictiveness after having his mind and spirit broken by a child’s chastising for breaking a promise and Flaherty goes big and berserk with the Larry the Scary Rex rollercoaster (which looks amazing to ride to this date) to which the calamity of events culminates an epiphany for one of them, abetted by the fact a run amok mechanical dinosaur nearly chomped down on a human-sized snack.

“Clifford’s” mischief and mayhem in hi-def never before has looked so good on this new U.S. release Blu-ray from Ronin Flix in association with Scorpion Releasing and MGM. The region A, 90-minute release is presented in 1080p and in an anamorphic widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and much like the Blu-ray’s front cover of blown-up headshot closeups of Martin Short and Charles Grodin and a crumbling two-story home that’s not a component in the film, the picture quality also appears to be a bit stretched, leaving details slightly scattered and marginally pixelated. The transfer print is without a doubt clean and discernable but retains the original, untouched up MGM anterior. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is the only audio option that provides a good mix and balance of dialogue, chaos, and everything else in between to come together for a gratifying dual channel audio alloy. In extreme instances of bickering, high level pranking, and even the clamorous and deep dino-discharging climax, much of the details remain intact and clear without losing distinctiveness. The Ronin Flix Blu-ray is a feature only release with no software or hardware bonus content. With or without bonus features, the film itself is worth the cinematic calories as “Clifford” shines as arresting tale full of laughs, heart, and anarchy and is a hellraising life-amenity that shouldn’t be lived without.

“Clifford” is the Best Comedy of 1994 and Now on Blu-ray!

EVIL is Always the Quiet Ones. “Forced Entry” reviewed! (Dark Force Entertainment / Blu-ray)

“Forced Entry” on Blu-ray Available from Amazon.com and MVDShop.com

On the outside, Carl is a mild-mannered and a bit of a simpleton who works as a mechanic at the corner gas station.  On the inside, Carl’s an unstable, sociopathic rapist and murderer with chauvinistic patriarchal tendencies.  His grisly exploits rock the small New Jersey town but as life continues on so does Carl’s misguided perception that the women who cross his path want him.  As a mechanic and a rapist, Carl continues in getting his hands dirty even when the exceptionally beautiful housewife, Nancy Ulman, drops off her husband’s car for repairs.  With Nancy’s husband out of town, Carl creates an unfounded fantasy of being the one and only that can please her right.  As his obsession swells, Carl’s pushed over the edge into a no-turning back captive scenario by holding Nancy bound and hostage in her own home as he attempts irrationally and violently his case for bestowing his flawless companionship to her. 

Throughout nearly the entire history of cinema, the adult industry has remade blockbuster film titles into triple X spoofs.  “Beverly Hills Cox,” “The Penetrator,” “Clockwork Orgy,” and “Forrest Hump” are a few titles that come to mind.  But have you ever heard of a porn remade into an actual movie?  Of course, there’ve been a few biopics surrounding controversial cog players of the adult industry machine, such as with mainstream biopics that expose the lives of starlet Linda Lovelace of “Deep Throat” with Amanda Seyfried as the titular character and the notoriety of porn filmmakers Artie and Jim Mitchell in Showtime’s “Rated-X,” starring real life brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  Never in my existence on this tectonic plate shifting Earth have I’ve ever bear witness to a porn being remade into a film marketed on retail shelves to the general public.  That’s the backstory behind Jim Sotos’s 1976 debut feature “Forced Entry” based off Shaun Costello’s 1973 stag film of the same name and starred that “Deep Throat” connection with Harry Reems as well as Reems costars Jutta David (“Sensuous Vixens”), Nina Fawcett, and Laura Cannon (“The Altar of Lust”).  Also known more uncommonly as “Mr. Death” and “Rape in the Suburbs to more commonly as“The Last Victim,” Henry Scarpelli adapted the script out of the X-rated context but kept much of the aggressive themes, changing the gas station attendant from a Vietnam shell-shocked maniac to delusional maniac stemmed from abusive mother issues.  Sotos and Scarpelli also serve as producers under the Kodiak Film production company. 

“Forced Entry” stars a then fresh faced Tanya Roberts.  The late “A View to a Kill” Bond girl and “The Beastmaster” actress received her start as the slightly frustrated, but overall pleasant, housewife Nancy Ulman who must fight for her life when Carl, under the wonderfully wild and violent guise of “Heated Vengeance’s” Ron Max, breaks into her home to fulfill his ferocious fictious fantasy.  The contrast Nancy and Carl is extremely key to “Forced Entry’s” modest success as the story plays out in both perspectives with more lean on Carl with a far more interesting mindset, internalizing monologues of desires and anger.  While Tanya Roberts is hardly stimulating on screen as routine wife and mother, concerned a little on her husband’s sudden indifferent behavior, she exhibits a stark normalcy that makes Carl’s actions flagrantly deviant with the anticipation that Nancy will be too submissive or afraid to fight back.  Ron Max is no David Hess but instills a disturbing, looney bin creeper who, most frighteningly of all, could be your neighborhood grease monkey mechanic.  Like Roberts, another yet-to-be-famous actress has her brief moments of screen time as Carl’s hitchhiker victim.  “Robocop” films’ Nancy Allen finds herself riding shotgun with a serial murder-rapist even before going face-to-face with the telekinetic prom queen, “Carrie,” in a blink and you’ll miss her thumb lifting and chitchat-disparaging segment to give Carl more depraved depth.  Billy Longo (“Bloodrage”), Michael Tucci (“Blow”), Vasco Valladeres (“Bad”), Robin Leslie, Frank Verroca, Brian Freilino and Michele Miles.

Color me easily impressed by the novelty of the basis of a porn plot being transposed into a more accessible outlet for audiences.  Pushing that novelty aside, “Forced Entry’s” plot is simply stitched together to make Carl this really bad guy by fashioning situations that indulge his impulses – a stranded woman motorist out in the middle of nowhere, a female hitchhiker talking back to him in his own car, a girl with high cut shorts pumping gas station air into her bike.  Though often disjointed in the story’s framework and for some reason, Carl’s face is initially pointlessly concealed for the broken down motorist attack, helpless moments like these, plus the crazed internal monologuing rationalizing his actions, pushes Carl’s chances of being stopped next to nil with audiences.  How will a happy homemaker, trapped in her own home, be able to survive crazy Carl?  That’s where the story really begins with the first moment he laid eyes on Nancy and as he rolls out the imaginary carpet of playing house with her, we begin to see how attached he becomes to the idea as he strays away form his normal off-the-cuff methods that has served him well until this point.  Much of the shock value comes from the climatic finale that determines Carl and Nancy’s fate with a slow-motion shot full of cacophonous screaming to bring a definitive effect to an unexpected turn of events.  “Forced Entry” is more Spinell “Maniac” than it is Hess “Last House on the Left” but not as well-known and has unformulaic structure that strolls too comfortably between the lines of shocking consternation.

Dark Force Entertainment and MVD Visual distributes this notable unconventional remake onto another Blu-ray home video, but this new and improved version of the film that includes nearly additional ten minutes of footage into the original 73-minute director cuts of the previous 2019 Dark Force Entertainment prints under the Code Red label. This longer version adds back in more of the sexually graphic material and is 1.85:1, anamorphic widescreen, presented in a 2K scanned transfer with a 1080p output from the original 35mm negative material of the US theatrical release. Granted, some of that footage, such as the snatching of the bike girl, is nearly impossible to discern much beyond an unrefined image. The coloring throughout is inconsistent and unstable with clear fluctuations in hue flickers and a few scenes early in the film suffer from conspicuous wear damage. However, I suspect this transfer to be the best of the best to date and is not all a waste of viewing space with much of the image holding up strong. The single audio option is an English LCPM 2.0 mono is not the cleanest with clearly noticeable crackle and static throughout and overtop a muted dialogue track. Tommy Vig’s (“Terror Circus”) score nabs more support than the others in the audio output. Special features include the full-length 88-minute VHS minute version from standard definition video so don’t expect the highest resolution if you’re looking for more sordid footage in an essentially quantity over quality version. The blue snapper case does have a limited edition stark black and yellow/orange cardboard slipcover. The new scan runs at 83 minutes in length in the region free and rated R Blu-ray (updated from the original PG rating when reexamined by the ratings board…go figure). Not just another rape-revenge notched into the controversial subgenre’s hole riddled belt, “Forced Entry” agitates suspicion in the most harmless of unsuspecting, quiet-natured nobodies as it only takes one to be the filthiest troublemaker hidden right under our trusting, naïve noses.

“Forced Entry” on Blu-ray Available from Amazon.com and MVDShop.com