Kissing Cousins and a Foreboding EVIL Feline in “Seven Deaths in the Cats Eye” reviewed! (Twilight Time / Blu-ray)



“Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” now available on Limited Edition Blu-ra from Twilight TIme!

Set in the 1970s, the aristocratic McGrieff is on the verge of collapse with financial ruin that’ll cost the once respectable family their castle set in a small Scottish village.  Full of intrigue and ominous mystique, foreboding supernatural superstitions surrounding the McGrieff name, but that doesn’t frighten the young London residing Corringa from visiting her aunt Lady Mary’s castle.  Not before too long, Corringa’s mother, Lady Mary’s sister, mysterious dies in her bed and in the wake of her death more bodies are found with their cut throats all in the presence of the Castle’s roaming domestic feline.  Suspects range from Lady Mary herself in desperation for her sister’s sudden fortune to her unstable, gorilla-saving son James to also her in-house doctor lover who’s also sleeping with a live-in promiscuous woman intended for the young James.   Melodrama runs rampant and so does a killer who cuts down McGrieff Castle residents one-by-one in the dark corridors and gothic-laden rooms.

The Gothic-“Clue” of the 1970’s, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is the wildly entertaining Italian-produced giallo horror from the “Castle of Blood” and “The Long Hair of Death” director Antonio Margheriti credited under his more English-sounding pseudonym of Anthony Dawson.  Otherwise known with more animal ferocity as “Cat’s Murdering Eye,” as well as simply “Corringa, or in the native tongue as “La morte negli occhi del gatto, this mad family murder-mystery thriller is speculatively based off a novel by Peter Bryan, an extremely English sounding author whose original novel has yet to be revealed as the adapted base for Margheriti’s film or if a book even ever actually existed on what is more than likely, in my opinion, based off an obscure Italian author’s oral narrative or short story since the country at that time had laxed or nonexistent copyright laws – a method that produced a mass amount of unauthorized piggyback sequels for quick cash in on the popularity.  Either way, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is a thrilling, uncontained, and verbose black letter giallo co-written by Margheriti and Giovanni Simonelli (The Crimes of the Black Cat), produced by Luigi Nannerini (“A Cat in the Brain”), and is filmed in Italy under Capitole Films who appealed to westernized audiences with low-budget popular genre films at their peaks. 

At the heart of the story is Corringa, a progressive and modern Londoner travelling to join her mother and aunt at Castle McGrieff a few days earlier than expected after being kicked out for sneaking out on late nights from her all-girl Catholic boarding school and consorting with boys.  The “Dark Places’” English actress Jane Birkin embodies Corringa’s free-loving and innocent spirit becoming the white sheep amongst the Castle’s broody and plotting inhabitants.  Corringa is thrusted into the happenstance heroine of unravelling a mystery that causes her to freak out upon every discovery whether be the gruesome and distressing visual she walks into to the mere mention of someone’s throat being sliced open that sends her running and screaming into the arms of her cousin James, played confidently cool with a hint of madness in a red herring role by American actor, Hiram Keller.  The “Smile Before Death” actor had a small stint working in the Golden Age of Italian cinema with “Seven Death’s in the Cat’s Eye” being one of those projects, but his role of James is an interesting one as the Lord of the Castle who is considered mad, uninterested in either women or continuing the family lineage, and keeps a former circus gorilla caged up in his room.  One other at a loss and gross side of James, and also of Corringa, is their incestuous affair.  Yes, that’s right, the first cousins get it on like Donkey Kong as they share the bedsheets whilst embroidered in another arcana that’s more in the life and death taboo category.  Yet, all the characters are essentially in some wanton fashioned relationship with each other.  While cozying up to the Lady of the Castle, French actress Françoise Christophe (“Fantômas”) in order to gain favor within lordliness, physician Dr. Franz (Anton Diffring, “The Man Who Could Cheat Death”) also porks the “French Tutor” Suzanne on the downlow for some lust and relaxation.  German actress Doris Kuntsmann plays nomadically alluring to the dark-haired red herring outlier who is hired off the streets from her solicitating sex position by Lady Mary and Dr. Franz to be James’ break from his internal shell, bedfellow companion.  Meanwhile, the promiscuous Suzanna tries to sack up with Corringa in this full house of varied sexual appetites.  The ensemble cast continues with Dana Ghia (“My Dear Killer”), Serge Gainsbourg, Luciano Pigozzi, Venantino Venantini, Konrad Georg, and Bianca Doria. 

With an international cast, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” enlists heterogeneous talent to continuously keep one on their toes surrounding every dead body that winds up throat mangled or moved from the original death stroke spot and Margheriti certainly has a firm grip on our attention between the polyamorous and dissolute sexual anarchy and the tension toned suspiciousness that ceaselessly keeps not only the characters on edge of each other but also rattles audiences anxiously squeezing their pressurized minds wrapped tightly around a castle-sized amount of distrust and suspects. “Seven Deaths of the Cat’s Eye” evokes the mad family subgenre with Margheriti’s family contending to be one of the most psychosexually and depraved group of backbiters and backstabbers of its time. Margheriti and Simonelli’s story is sensationally complex without being terribly complicated by beginning with the death of an unknown man where rats gnaw and eat away his decaying flesh. From then on, the narrative works ever so hard to purposefully not touch upon or identifying the mystery man’s demise until the bitter encounter end with a revealing finale exposure of a shocking killer that speaks volumes on the filmmakers’ intrinsic misdirection, a machination that keeps characters endlessly on the fence with their motives, and a conversation that is indecorous in a gothic setting.

If you’re looking for a different kind of giallo, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is that atypical wild card and now the Antonio Margheriti 1973 film has been released onto a limited-edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time and distributed by MVD Visual. The unrated, region A Blu-ray runs 95 minutes long in a 1080p high-definition resolution, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I wouldn’t say the image is a complete polished look, but the transfer restoration from Rewind Film and the Screen Archives Entertainment has excellent detail surrounding the textural complications of the cast, interiors, and exterior settings, especially the graveyard. There are minor instances of banding around the skin in low lighting and the illuminating contrasts is rather low, leaving quite a few frames in the dark so to say. Although an Italian production, English is the language spoken and amongst an international cast, dubbing over certain performances was more than likely done, but the overall dialogue track didn’t match precisely the image in about a quarter of a second delay on the English LPCM 2.0 stereo track which also very muffled like being underwater. However, the “Cannibal Holocaust” composer Riz Ortolani has a score of majestically inspirational proportions as far as horror soundtracks go with a tingling guitar riff that sits heavy in the pit of your stomach as the master of orchestration compositions brings this feature to ahead with this arrangement. The Italian LPCM 2.0 is a more obvious lips out of synch dub but offers an equally robust Ortolani soundtrack. While there are no bonus features on the release, the Blu-ray package itself comes with a 11-page color booklet with images and an essay by author Mike Finnegan along with a reversible Blu-ray cover art containing images from the film and a snazzy disc cover art designed by Twilight Time. Much deserved and sorely underrated, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is back on the prowl with a new limited-edition release to sink your teeth into.

“Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” now available on Limited Edition Blu-ra from Twilight TIme!

Chainsaws, Tanks, Booger Flicking! So Much Bloody EVIL! “Premutos: The Fallen Angel” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)



Grab “Premutos:  The Fallen Angel” on 2-Disc Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Before the fall of the angel Lucifer, Premutos was the very first angel to fall from heaven.  More wicked and desirous for power, Premutos resurrects legions of the undead to conquer mankind on Earth and throughout the centuries, the ruthless former angel of Hell casts his conduit son to build his army of the dead, but has failed again and again to squash the spirit of man into servitude submission, discarding Premutos back to the depths of Hell to try again at another time.  This time being present day Germany when a young man discovers a book that chooses him to be the emissary of death, paving the way for the rebirth of Premutos, but an arms and ammunition’s enthusiast and his party guests must fight to survive and kill every last zombie and underworld creature thrown at them.

After having reviewed his 2010 existential horror “No Reason,” a need to dive into and experience more the splattering Armageddon of Olaf Ittenbach’s gore shows has been gnawing on my fairly acutely demented subconscious and this past week, I was fortunate enough to receive a newly released extended director’s cut of the director’s late nineties, pseudo creed, blood berserker “Premutos:  The Fallen Angel” and get my corneas dirtied by its unholy high body count.  Doom-estically translated from “Premutos – Der gefallene Engel” and more commonly known in the States as “Premutos:  Lord of the Living Dead,” relies very little on the unrefined visual special effects that were going through a massive evolution with computer advancements pre the turn of the millennium.  “Premutos” is a big practical effects enchilada with exploding bodies, gallons upon gallons of blood, and there’s even a real tank painting the walls and everything surrounding the walls red with a detonation of blood and gut splatter!  Kaboom!  Ittenbach mind-to-movie visualization goes from zero to 1,000 in a blink of a plucked-out eye and nothing stops the filmmaker from his warped creativity and comedy that can take the more puritanical few back a few steps and cause a ruckus of disgust.  “Premutos” is produced by Ittenbach, stars Anke Fabré and André Stryi, and cinematographer Michael Müller with IMAS Filmproduktion serving as principal the production company.

“Premutos” begins with an epic epilogue, historizing the horrific mythos alongside equally horrifying visual components of Premuto’s death and destruction attempts to conquer man.  When the history lesson ends a transition begins with Olaf Ittenbach himself as a bumbling mama’s boy Matthias coming across the ancient resurrection incantations of Premutos his gun nut father Walter (Christopher Stacey) unearths in his backyard.  Ittenbach plays a wonderful pitiful thumb sucker in contrast to Stacey, who doesn’t look that much older to Ittenbach, as a rugged, hardnose, hard=working ammosexual.  Before we can bask in what could have been a good diatribe, Matthias goes through a painfully metamorphosis of wrapping barbed wire and impaling steel rods to become Premuto’s death commencing son.  Corpses exhume themselves and attack the living to form an army of the fleshing eating undead and descend upon Walter’s birthday party and his wide-ranging personalities in attendance with the snobbish and loud Tanja (Ella Wellmann), Walter’s oblivious wife Rosina (Heike Münstermann), the drunkard Christian (Fidelis Atuma), Hugo’s ex-love Edith (Anke Fabré), and Edith’s ex-love Hugo (André Stryi) who has gone into a meek shell as he marries Tanya to fill the gap in his heart Edith had left.  The whole dynamic is an ostentatious display of vulgarity, a hyper overextension of behaviors that clash in one room before clashing with another over and beyond presences, beyond being the key word in being those beyond our plane of existence.  A blood gushing fight for survival ensues as the partygoers become trapped and only Walter’s arsenal of weapons can blow away the undead into slimy bits of smithereens. 

The closest movie Ittenbach’s “Premutos” reminds me of, with all the zany and quirky hijinks, insanely high body count, a geyser explosion of pouring down blood, and all the unbelievably bilious hoopla yet, all that nonsensical napalm draws you in like a moth to the sweet-smelling flame, is Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive” aka “Braindead.” “Premutos” has that exact same tactless tone and a soaking bloodbath quality with a major stark difference in the comedy style as Ittenbach leans more to a cruder-crass approach with setups involving boogers, penis injuries, and BDSM gags. Somewhere in there I want to say that’s typical German flare, to shock and disgust audiences with eye-adverting and head-turning taboos. The rest of Ittenbach’s is an up-and-down rollercoaster of highs and lows that begins with an expositional illustration, highly detailed and greatly edited, to showcase Premutos’ barbaric backstory up until the title card “Premutos” to where we’re dumped into half-assed cosplay battles still rendering excellent practical effect kills. Ittenbach is supposed to play a man, or rather a man-child, who is the reincarnated wicked herald who begins the end of days for his dark master, Pemutos., but the way Ittenbach structures the aforesaid concept falls upon more experimental means than literal ones and Matthias randomly succumbs to flashbacks of a former life in what looks like medieval times or maybe even early 20th century Europe – hard to tell – where he’s persecuted without reasonable justification until he turns into a large snaggle tooth and demonic monster in his visions. The latter half is where all the action is at with a horde of zombies laying sieged to a ragtag bunch of Germans drinking beer and ridiculing each other. Somewhere in there is also the rekindle of a former love life between Hugo and Edith who have to first regain their lost backbone in a rampage of mowing down the dead by any means possible before the two love-struck lovers rekindle a long-thought-lost relationship. That struggle is Ittenbach’s, about as elegant as he knows how to be, show of an obstacle between the power of love, to put the world facing the destruction of slavery in their path to deliver a blood, sweat, and tears of flesh robust connection of attraction between them that can’t be stopped.

ItsBlogginEvil says check it out, the extended director’s cut of “Premutos: The Fallen Angel” on a 2-disc Blu-ray released by Unearthed Films and distributed from MVD Visual. Coming in at number 6 on the Unearthed Classics banner, “Premutos” is neatly packed and presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio on a region A BD50. Full high definition and 1080p specs apply to the now 24-year-old feature shot on an Arriflex with 16mm stock and the results are immaculate from a pristine transfer. Palpable, yet palatable, amount of grain over top a sustainable image that sees almost zero artefact issues and the tactile textures are greatly fine in the details. Hues don’t exactly pop but display more naturally up until Ittenbach’s gothic and surreal side envelopes him into the swirling of smoke and backlighting to create otherworldly glows and Cenobite-like torments. The release comes with two audio options: a German DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound and a German 2.0 PCM. The 5.1 has excellent fidelity and outputs a work into all channels as the background chattering, especially in the bar scene, gives off the sensation that people are talking behind you. That signal flows every explosion and weapon discharge with strength and prevalence throughout. Dialogue is also strong and prevalent despite much of the gibberish that comes out of the characters’ mouths. English subtitles are available and sync well with accuracy intact but can be fleeting at times and hard to keep up with. The second disc is a compact disc of A.G. Striedl soundtrack which I found to be the most disappointing and lossy aspect in listening to lo-fi grunge and hard rock that provides no boost to chaos on screen. Other special features included on the Blu-ray alone are the original cut of the film with an English dub and original German language, the extended making of “Premutos,” the early years of Olaf Ittenbach, a photo gallery, and trailers all stowed inside a new cardboard slipcover. “Premutos” may be soaking in its meaningless, hellish narrative but it’s an unforgettable slaughter-ride through body, blood, and bone, a genuine practical effects wet dream made into gruesome reality and keeps surprising you at every frame.

Grab “Premutos:  The Fallen Angel” on 2-Disc Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

EVIL Ditches Satan, Picks Up a Camcorder. “Midnight 2: Sex, Death, and Videotape” reviewed! (SRS Cinema / DVD)

“Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape” now available on DVD!

The sole survivor of the murderous, devil-worshipping cult family, Abraham Barnes, continues to kill under a new outward show as amateur videophile recording everything and everyone to gain their trust.   Instead of harboring his mother’s dark intentions of eternal life, Abraham simply thirsts for killing, documenting his premeditated methods using a camcorder.  When his latest victim goes missing, her friend initiates an investigation with a police detective, but Abraham is always recording, always one step ahead of them both, always on the hunt.  With the trap set and the play button pressed, the blood-lusting survivor of the maniacal, serial killing Barnes family preserves a lineage legacy of death. 

Screenshot from AGFA

Ten years after releasing his moderately successful All-American shocker, “Midnight,” John Russo returns with the Barnes family.  Well, at least one of them in the 1993 release of “Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape.”  Also known as simply just “Midnight 2,” the secondary title references the widely popular 1989 Steven Soderbergh film of sexual testimonial video-tales in “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” starring James Spader and Andie MacDowell.  The sequel gives way to a new motive and theme that’s very different from the satanic panic aspect of the original.  “Midnight 2” enters the mind of a serial murderer with every calculated and cold thought and whim that crosses the killer’s mind laid out in detail to paint a compulsive picture. Behind the scenes, conjuring up resources to make the sequel exist as it stands today, is “Dead Next Door” and “Robot Ninja’s” J.R. Bookwalter, the head-honcho in production and distribution of his own created company banner, Tempe Entertainment. Bookwalter, who also wears the director of photography and editor hat on this film amongst others, produces the Russo sequel that was shot on location in Bookwalter’s home city of Akron, Ohio.

If you’re expecting or anticipating seeing John Amplas (“Martin,” “Day of the Dead”) return to the Abraham role 10 years later, be prepared to be severely let down as Amplas does not return for “Midnight 2.” Instead, profound schlock horror screenwriter and composer, Matthew Jason Walsh, brings a whole new peculiarity to Abraham Barnes and I’m not just talking about his face or mannerisms. Walsh, who penned such David DeCoteau C-list gems as “Witchouse,” “Young Blood, Fresh Meat,” and “The Killer Eye,” goes face-to-face with the camera in a hybrid performance as lead actor and lead narrator of his own exposition into his own executions. Being a sociopath is never fleeting from Walsh who can sink into the sardonicism of the Abraham character naturally as one of the two only traits to carryover from the original film with the other being a killer. Aside from a boat load of archival footage and a verbal recap of nearly the entire first film, the whole Devil-worshipping aspect of the Barness family is dropped in favor of a more undisclosed truth in the hidden agenda of a person who thrives off the hunt and the kill. Abraham goes through verbatim his daily, stalking routine in a publicized manner of videorecording everything and everyone to capture as much detail as possible as well as capture their last moments. Russo does throw in escape clause caveat for Abraham in that if he meets the right girl, the love for her will be strong enough to break him away from killing and possibly start a family and while Russo plays into that tangent a little with Jane (“Killer Nerd’s” Lori Scarlett), nothing much more materializes significantly as a romantic conflict that circles back to that subtheme. Russo ultimately gives in to a more cat-and-mouse game with Jane’s worried friend Rebecca (“Chickboxer’s” Jo Norcia) and the detective who rather slip into Rebecca’s pants than actually solve the case in a stiffer than roadkill performance by Chuck Pierce Jr. (“The Legend of Boggy Creek”).

Screencap from AGFA

I wonder how much ‘Midnight 2″ is actually from the mind of John Russo or if it’s more of the J.R. Bookwalter show in calling the shots from the producer’s director’s chair as the film feels very much like Bookwalter’s usual fare, a SOV, DIY, home brew production of local Ohioan talent. “Midnight 2” also goes from the backwoods suburbia of Pittsburgh to the concrete structures of Akron, leaving behind any remnants of Abraham’s satanic past in the ground along with his dead siblings, but the sequel very dutifully leans into us with a heavy archival footage recap with Walsh narrating the entire damn thing. I kid you not, the recap is approx. a third of the runtime and so essentially, “Midnight 2” is a two for one straight-to-video special. Granted, the archival footage remains in its untouched up state so don’t expect the Severin grade video quality. In one way “Midnight 2” is discerned to be more of a Russo film is the very hesitancy of graphic, blood-shedding violence. Bookwalter’s a bit of gorehound in making some gruesome grisliness out of the singles from a Podunk stripper’s Kmart thong. There’s none of that imaginative ingenuity here with a surprising severe lack of that adored shot-on-video nastiness common of its era, especially from the likes of John Russo in filing a rated 13 release according to the DVD back cover, enervating “Midnight 2” as a inferior sequel that tries on a new pair of shoes but ends up limping with a lame gait.

Screencap from AGFA

Russo might always be remembered for his contribution to the start of the “Living Dead” franchise. The cult legendary filmmaker surely found modest success with his first directorial run with “Midnight.” Yet, “Midnight 2” will have a tough time keeping out of the celebrated shadows of Russo’s credits, but the indie, underground horror label SRS Cinema pulls back the shrouding curtain with a newly released, MVD Visual distributed DVD featuring two cuts of the film. Fitted with a retro look and ghastly illustrated cover art, a superb upgrade from the VHS cover, the region free DVD is presented shot-on-video in a 4:3 aspect ratio on both cuts. Essentially, both cuts are the same with reworked scenes and narration with the except of the 90-minute rough cut having extended archival footage of the first film. The main version runs slimmer at 72-minutes. The lossy image quality abides within both versions with a flat color palette that, at times, had a singularity about its choice of unflattering hue, compression macroblocks consistently flare up, and dimly discernable innate tracking lines with video recording destabilize the image. The anemic English Language single channel mono mix is a bottom of the barrel budget sound design and that was to be expected. Dialogue does come over clear enough but lacks vigor and crispness as there is just too much electrical interference shushing in the background. Depth’s a bit awkward too with the actors conversing in the background but have foreground decibel levels. Aside from the two cuts of the feature, the only other bonus content is the theatrical trailer and other SRS home video trailers. “Midnight 2” works as a standalone in a different shot-on-video horror light but is crammed with unnecessary recapping on a story built around the destined, convoluted conjecture of a homicidal narcissist and his videotape addiction.

“Midnight 2:  Sex, Death, and Videotape” now available on DVD!

Do EVIL, Get Dead! “A Day of Judgment” reviewed! (Severin Films / Blu-ray)



1930s rural America – the dejected town priest resigns his congregational duties after failing the local townsfolk who have all but returned to the Church and reclaim their faith in the savior lord Jesus Christ and God.  On his exit of the town’s border, the priest crosses paths with a shadowy figure riding an austere wagon and holding a scythe.  A town full of heartless schemers, adulterers, swindlers, and murders have their unforgiving stories told that leave their fellow townsfolk, their friends, and even their families left suffering in their wake.  The shadowy figure tracks each sinning stray down to face retributing judgment.  The righteous and terrible punishments send the unsavable souls to an eternal existence in Hell.

The Grim Reaper cometh. Screen cap courtesy of Severin.

What was once considered to be a Christian-centric educational project had turned into a Christian-centric damnation of horrors in the quasi-anthology “The Day of Judgment,” where the sinners of sin town deviate from the Godfearing path and into a vat of immorality and ungodly aberration.  “The Day of Judgment,” occasionally under the U.S. bootleg title of “Stormbringer,” is the one and only directorial from C.D.H Reynolds (aka Charles Reynolds), an academic educator turned briefly to film working under the legendary, North Carolina based Earl Owensby Studios that produced the 1981 released film.  The script is penned by Owensby Studios’ regular writer, Thom McIntyre, who inked the film between a pair of genre credits, including the incarcerated grindhouse actioner “Seabo,” also known as “Buckstone County Prison” a few years earlier and a snippy flick of a pack killer Rottweilers terrorizing a mountain resort in “Dogs of Hell” a couple of years later.   Owensby, obviously in regard to his own studio work, took part as the fire and brimstone tale’s producer along with associate producer and longtime “Power Ranger” director Worth Keeter curating the final touches as the creative architect of the script’s grimmest portions or more line as the assistant director of adding the bleaker, bloodier fates of the sinners.

William T. Hicks. Screen cap courtesy of Severin.

“A Day of Judgment” has a non-linear anthology-like structure that swings back and forth between different character scenarios of wickedness.  You may meet one character at the very beginning of the story and don’t meet them again, until you’re already through having sent a good chunk, if not all, of the sinners to Hell in a handbasket.  But McIntyre hones in well on setting up nicely each character’s backstory, those who the priest crosses paths with as he exits the town and delivering their ultimate demise (with an assistant from Worth Keeter’s gloomier approach).  The director himself Charles Reynolds plays the crestfallen Reverend Cage in a classic expository preacher riding out of town and crossing paths with soon-to-be-troublesome townies in William T. Hicks (“Death Screams”) as a greedy and heartless bank owner, Careyanne Sutton and Larry Sprinkle (“Trick or Treat”) as man slaughtering, pretense adulterers. Toby Wallace as the hometown disparaging mechanic scheming to steal the family business out from his parents noses to sell, Helene Tryon (“Dogs of Hell”) as the frettingly kook and paranoid old lady poisoning the local children’s pet goat, and Brownlee Davis (“Wolfman” ’79) as the delusional and disgruntled former employee of his best friend looking for a finality in revenge.  “A Day of Judgment” had this weirdly transitional acting style for an 80’s released horror that resembled the Golden Age of cinema through the 1950s and 1960s where everything is loud and pronounced without much reflection, pause, or change in tone.  Though the style sticks out like a sore thumb, perhaps Reynolds made a shallow attempt to recapture the 1930s as which the narrative period is set.  The acting isn’t terrible but is more staged and reactionary to the course of events.  The cast rounds out with Carlton Bortell, Richard Dedmon, Inga Dennis, Denise Myers, Jerry Rushing, Harris Bloodworth and Fred Roland.

C.D.H. Reynolds as Reverend Cage. Screen cap courtesy of Severin.

Earl Owensby produced films were not known to be big box office hits as they coursed the grindhouse, drive-in theater circuits with relatively unknown talent nearly strict to the back pockets of the Owensby Studios and still meeting profitable margins on low budgets.  “The Day of Judgment,” which doesn’t feel like a grindhouse film, carried meager success by way of production design and wardrobes alone.  Give credit where credit is due with an Owensby film that can dole out a variety of era appropriate automotive roadsters and specific period garments for the illusion.  Some sets are dressed scarcer than others with lots of blank spaces and sparse knickknacks to build upon the 1930’s décor but the overall impression is quite effective, transporting one out of the 80’s and into the depression era the narrative frequently suggests.  I also favored the non-linear anthology of individual hell bound circumstances as that structure rendered “A Day of Judgment” as a whole rather than a pie sliced into six-even segments with a common core connection that, at times with other films, individual stories can feel untethered to the main theme.  In today’s times, “A Day of Judgment” is severely antiquated but the more “bleaker” character demises often landed with underripe special effects and a fair amount of cheesiness that’s a Loony-Toons illustrated representation of Hell that looks more like Wile E. Coyote’s Southwest American desert home.  I was anxiously awaiting the beep-beep of Roadrunner, speeding across the screen, and the drop an ACME anvil on top of the sinners’ melons. 

Helene Tryon being dragged to Hell. Screen cap courtesy of Severin.

The overall message in “A Day of Judgment” is clear that sin and crime doesn’t pay, and the wrath of God’s retribution will come down hard in the form of a scythe.  Severin Films presents up a new Blu-ray, scanned in 2K of the original interpositive print now in full 1080p HD resolution of the widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Preserved pristine and having virtually no wear from age, “A Day of Judgment” is an amazing picture to behold for its first Blu-ray release with heightened resolution that extricates more details than possible than any other release can provide, especially when those other releases are the official VHS and DVD bootlegs. Here the color grading excellently pops with deeper hues of prime colors to provide more life into the death that’s onscreen. One thing to note about the release is the immense phosphorescence glow around whites and other lighter colors that can be eye-catchingly distracting when a piece of white paper becomes the main focus due to a conspicuous radiance. Other than that, the picture is clean, the grain is healthy, and no obvious signs of alterations to enhance the visual spectrum. The English language mono audio track, though emitting crystal clarity without any audio blemishes, is not terribly clear on whether Severin went with Dolby Digital or the DTS-HD. Other listings on the web offer up “A Day of Judgment” with a dual channel DTS-HD Master Audio while the back cover displays the Dolby Digital logo with a detached written description as a mono track, which coincides with Severin’s official site. With the film’s outmoded ingrained technology, Dolby Digital would be, to me, the obvious format that produces higher quality sound using a lower bitrate. Special features include a pair of new Severin exclusive interviews with British author Stephen Thrower of “Nightmare USA” in The Atheist’s Sins and snippet interviews from Worth Keeter and Thom McIntyre in Tales of Judgment. Final spec notes on the Blu-ray are a region free coding and has a runtime of 97 minutes. Stuck in stasis of prim and conservatism, “A Day of Judgment” has become this oddball labeled slasher of the 80s era that aimed to explore new and unusual stories and techniques on every avenue, but still leaves this impression of Bible-thumping Christian values that serve as a stern warning for all ye sinners!

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A Concentration Camp of Desecrated Flesh and Pure EVIL. “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” reviewed (Blu-ray / 88 Films)

After nearly escaping war criminal charges for his role as Commander of a bordello operated Nazi concentration camp that mistreated and murdered multiple thousands of Jewish women, former office Conrad Starker meets his lover Lise Cohen, a former Jewish prisoner of his he fell fond of during their time of occupation, at the same barbaric camp now in vacant ruin. Alone together and wandering the grounds, Lise recalls her first arrival at the camp and how the then ruthless Starker made it his mission to break Lise of her guilt-based nihilism by exacting cruel torture upon her and those close to her in camp. Commander Starker’s direct reports, a dominatrix SS officer named Alma and a sordid Lt. Weissman, serve as his deviant and sadistic right arm, assisting him in striking fear into his new pet project. While troves of Jewish women are being raped by a slew of German soldiers on leave, as well as being tortured and even tested as a source of delicacy, Lise’s alleviated guilt turns her to play Starker’s game, making her become his own mistress, but Lise will never forget the camp atrocities at the hands of the Gestapo.

Never in my life would there be the time I salivated over the thought – dang, what a poignantly awesome title. Far from a generic, uninspired appellation that has completely captured my attention, lured me in like a fish by a dangling sex and exploitation worm, is the 1977 Italian-made Naziploitation “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy.” Understanding that the Cesare Canevari written-and-directed exploitation extravaganza is fabricated fiction from the mind of the Italian filmmaker sexploitation films such as “The Nude Princess” and “A Man for Emmanuelle,” and amongst other popular genres of that particular Italian era, there still lies a contrite underlayer deep inside my bowels for knowing “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” is inspired by a baseline of truths – aka – the rounding up of Jewish people, forcing them into work and slavery in some sort of servitude compacity, and ending their lives as many were murdered in concentration or extermination camps by incinerations while still alive; all of which are displayed in graphic detail by Canevari in his film. Also known as the “Last Orgy of the Third Reich” and co-written with fellow “The Nude Princess” collaborator, Antonio Lucarella, no words can describe the depictions of Aryan abomination better than Canevari with a display of a wide-range of depravities from the master race in this shocking Cine Lu.Ce. production that Canevari produces.

Only two main characters span the narrative’s timeline between the active war and in the post-war clampdown of former Nazi officers.  We’re first introduced to Commander Conrad Starker (Andriano Micantoni aka Marc Loud, “LSD Flesh of Devil”) in an unofficial capacity as a voice over of a heated war crime trial rages over his driving around a small village before arriving at a dilapidated camp to meet with his beautiful lover, Lise Cohen, an introductory feature film role for then model, and presently a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Daniela Poggi (aka Daniela Levy, “Olga O’s Strange Story”).  From then on, the story goes back-and-forth between the camp horrors from most of Lise’s perspective and her present day melancholy strolling through the now empty camp.  Just between these two, a burdensome and destructive self-contained bubble ignites a prudent connection for a means to an end, whether be Commander Starker’s from merciless lust to love or Lise’s reversal of her exploitation to gain a survivalist’s upper hand by playing right into Micantoni’s sadistic impulses.  Micantoni and Poggi, despite their vast difference in age with Micantoni in his mid-50’s and Poggi in her early 20’s, have shuddering, knee-buckling chemistry in the more abhorrent scenes, one particular involving the fellatio act on a German Lugar.  There are other various scummy characters and if you like girls in uniform, the Doberman-loving Alma (“The Stepdaughter’s” Maristella Greco) is as beautiful as she is a gestapo femme fatale.  Greco’s domineering performance matches her male counterparts in enthusiasm but with a bonus side dish of sultry sadomasochism that can’t be forgotten as Alma whispers her viperous tongue into the camp Commander’s ear (while also sticking the blunt side of her whip into his rectum – ooph!).  “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” is a perverse party with respectable size cast, including roles played by Fulvio Ricciardi (“Killing of the Flesh”), Vittorio Jorderi (“Gang War in Milan”), and Caterina Barbero (“Raptus”), enlarged by a grand amount of extras from German soldiers to the Jewish women creating the allusion of an inhuman love camp.

“Ilsa:  She Wolf of the SS,” “Love Camp 7,” “S.S. Experiment Camp,” “Nazi Love Camp 27,” “Achtung! The Desert Tigers,” S.S. Hell Camp.”   I’ve seen my fair share of Nazisploitation and, aside from Tinto Brass’s erotica-elegant “Salon Kitty,” Cesare Canevari’s wartime rape and ravager hails to be one of the more distressingly twisted and disturbingly beautiful entries in the exploitation subgenre.  For Canevari, every scene counts by not making every scene gratuitous.  Yes, “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” has it’s preposterous moments where sex-crazed Nazis aggressively dominate unarmed, vulnerable women, especially when they decide to soak an unconscious naked woman in brandy and set her on fire to taste pork-like flesh; however, even in that instance of out of left field cannibalism, the atrocities are all in the name of progressing Germany in the wake of victory and to leave nothing to waste in Germany efficiency when utilizing inferior races, whether for labor or food, after Germany has conquered opposing forces.  Most of the second and third acts returns back to Earth with smaller scale plot devices surrounding Lise and Conrad locking horns in a battle of wills to extract fear from Lise’s, mostly nakeda nd suspended, fearless body.  “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” can be said to be a film about challenging will power, enduring strength, and patience and for when the opportunity is right for the taking, strike while the iron is hot.  Or, for many, Canevari’s lopsided carnal lark can be viewed as a wicked sex fest reaped from the backs of other the people.   Canevari rides that thin line and never pushes the gratuitous full monty  down our throats.

For the first time on Blu-ray, anywhere, “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” arrive onto a remastered in 2K transfer scan Blu-ray from UK distributor 88 Films who have crossed regions with one of their first North American releases!  Still currently banned in the UK, the stored film’s Blu-ray, remastered from the original print negatives, is region free and in full 1080 high definition, presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The restoration is frankly flawless.  The composition of skin tones and textures and contrasting hue scheme offer a perceptible palate of every shadowy contrast and infinitesimal detail, especially in the impeccable facial diversities.  The release has offers two restored audio options:  An English dub 2.0 DTS-HD master audio and an Italian DTS-HD master audio with in-built English subtitles.  Both tracks share an ambient and soundtrack equality quality through the dual channel stereo; however the original Italian track is inherently smoother with the dialogue with accurately synched English subtitles. The Blu-ray snap case comes with reversible cover art, original poster art are in the inside along with a mini poster of the same art as one of two inserts. The other insert is a 21 page booklet brimming with stills, different country posters, and an essay from film historian Barry Foreshaw entitled Taking on the Censors: Italian Excess. All of this limited edition tangible goodness is housed under a limited edition cardboard slip cover with new art by illustrated Richard Davies. Inside the coding on the BD50 is also a work of art with audio commentaries by Italian film experts Tony Howarth and Nathaniel Thomason as well as a separate commentary with critic and author Samm Deighan. Special features also include an alternate Italian ending (rather an extension of the feature cut), an interview with Pierpaolo de Sanctis on Remembering Alberto Baldan Bembo the soundtrack composer, an interview with Luigi Cozzi in One Thing on His Mind in regards to director Cesare Canevari, and the English trailer. Movies like “The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” are completely in bad taste beyond a shadow of doubt. Luckily for me, and perhaps those reading this review, we’re a tasteless bunch of sleazy celluloid purveyors glad to see 88 Films praise Cesare Canevari’s most controversial and infamous film with a snazzy new Blu-ray treatment.

Don’t Miss Out on Owning 88 Films’ “The Gastapo’s Last Orgy” on Blu-ray!