EVIL Comes in Pairs. “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

A top-secret lab, known as the Ark 1 of Jeju Island where The Witch project is being conducted, is raided by ruthless mercenaries armed to the teeth with weapons and an enhanced superpowers resulting from The Witch project.  Eradicating every living person in the tundra camouflaged facility, one teenage girl emerges bloody from the carnage and wanders off into a neighboring snow-covered forest.  She’s rescued by Kyung-hee and her brother Dae-gil who inherited the land from their recently killed father.  The siblings are in a contentious situation of their own with a gangster uncle, Yong-du, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the property, especially when he took care of the previous landowner.  With her Witch powers, the girl helps her kind rescuers to fend off a Yong-du shakedown, but the problems only begin there as the Ark 1 mercenaries are tracking down the girl’s whereabouts to finish what they started and a tactical team, enhanced with Witch powers too, has also been dispatched to eliminate the girl as an unpredictable global threat.  When all forces collide, the Earth will shake in a bloodbath of superpowers. 

A direct, but not an entirely direct sequel to the 2018 high-action Korean thriller “The Witch:  Part I – The Subversion,” writer-director Park Hoon-jung (screenwriter of “I Saw the Devil”) returns with a follows up the long awaited sequel “The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” that promises to be just as excitingly unrestrained with more players in the superpower game culminating to an explosive head that plays out like a hard-hitting Guy Richie storyline of intersecting plot threads except without wisecracking Englishmen.  The sequel follows another, and a handful of others in sperate, funneling threads, like the first installment’s principal character Koo Ja-yoon with insurmountable supernatural abilities except now everyone and their brother can “Twilight”-jump and Wolverine-heal, making the field even-steven to a known extent up until the grand finale.  Park returns as producer as well as newcomer Hyun-woo Kim, producer of “I Saw the Devil” and “Snowpiercer,” with Next Entertainment World and Goldmoon Films serving as production companies.

The sequel does not specifically revolve around first film femme fatale Koo Ja-yoon and turns the focus on a new prodigal Witch who has been cooped up in a lab since birth, hence why the film is not a full-fledged direct sequel as the storyline goes into an offshoot that later intersects. The face of the new witch is played by Shin Si-ah who makes her feature film debut.  When not covered in blood, Shin’s mostly reserved performance opens to light-hearted and childlike wonder as her character is experiences everything for the first time outside the Ark 1 lab.  Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin, “Death Bell 2:  Bloody Camp”) and Dae-gill (Sung Yoo-bin, “Manhole”) take in the girl and become the warm absorption resemblance of family life or a life with romantic interests that can quickly be ripped away at any moment, sending the emotionally teetering girl into battle mode.  However, that sensation of relationships and tenderness hardly translates well on screen.  Perhaps losing some impact in literal translation, the trio’s dynamic retains a goalless fruition of connecting with other people, especially the superhuman powerless ones.  I found more complexities in the two factions seeking the same target – the girl.  Enigmatically opening with the mercenary raid on the secret Ark 1 lab and executing all in their path, we’re not immediately introduced to, and then barely given an introduction at all, is “The Cursed Lesson’s” Chae Won-bin’s mercenary boss lady and her squad of lesser-though of subordinates who all carry this overly murderous confidence with the latter being often measured inside their own group.  The other group is quite the opposite with the official tactical response team deployed by the Witch project head Dr. Baek (Jo Min-soo), a returning character from “The Subversion.”  Compiled as chief agent Jo-hyeon (Seo Eun-soo) and her second-in-command, a South African named Tom (Justin John Harvey). Seo and Harvey have a better act as the exchange is degrading and goofy in a comical manner with Jo as a workaholic lone wolf leader of an elite group of special ops while Tom brown noses his commander with new tech and offers helpful suggestions to which his commander either breaks or doesn’t use the new tech and views him as more of a warmhearted nuisance. Jin Goo completes the principal cast as a high-level gangster boss that would be big time in reality but in “The Witch’s” universe equates to an insignificant goon in a fancy coat. With an entourage of loyal henchmen, Jin Goo rubs elbows with his business smarts to get in bed with a clandestine organization as well as staying alive as long as he can in order to rob property right from under his niece and nephews’ nose. Goo plays the part with sly astonishment as he creates a pompous persona mildly shocked by awesome abilities of a young girl with the strength of 100 men.

What garnered much fascination with the 2018 film was the Korean dark, neo-noir tone intermixed with the uncanny abilities of a mystery person who can’t remember jack about their past. Park Hoon-jung essentially removes the simplified spine of “Part 1” and transplants it as the basis of “Part 2” with the similar added angles of a destroyed lab that supposedly no one survives but one person ultimately does and a pair of benevolent landowners who rescue, nurse, and essentially adopt the amnesiac girl back to 100% percent. “Part 2′” mirrored storyline is then targeted by at least three different angles represented by each bird-dogging group to add elements of change that include a contrast of comedy and austere posturing, the former being refreshingly novel to the two-film series that promises more to come after an open-ended finale. Returning to the sequel is the insane visual effects of “Twilight”-esque rapid movements and epic fight sequences with large explosions, a cold and bloody violent complexion, and high body count and while that’s all good and dandy for surface level popcorn effects, what’s agonizing is the how sped up they are as if every super occurrent was purposely depressed on fast forward by the power of three. If Park and his creative visual supervisors and gurus could have tempered down every other two moments with instead of having thrown cars, and among other things, seemingly skip multiple frames would have had more of a plausibility impact. The mélange complexity of multiple pursuers armed to the teeth and converging onto an unexpected teenage girl shacked up in a humble abode is a great classical spell of barnstorming besiegement that has the same improbability odds of survival as before betting on David versus Goliath until upended unto the aggressors, with all their guns and knives, who now need a prayer and much more against the prodigal youth with a considerably more amount of Witch power.

A fierce force of controlled power, and unforeseen surprises, the long-anticipated sequel, “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One,” has finally landed post-pandemic. Well Go USA Entertainment, who released the first installment on Blu-ray, has picked up the rights to release the sequel on the high-definition format, presented in a sleek and sharp 16:9 aspect ratio. Virtually no issues with the digital presentation, the Blu-ray’s 1080p heightens every aspect of detail, even to a fault with the wonky visual effects as mentioned earlier. The overall darker lit tone and range can sometimes give off the appearance of softer details but with solid contrasting, the outlining shapes up more so than often and there’s no compression distortion to render an ill-defined texture. The Korean-English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, also available is a Dolby Digital 7.1 Atmos and a Stereo 2.0, delivers a formidable, comprehensible, and frenzy-favorable mix of balanced action and dialogue. Depth perfectly pitches the focus properly while the range fuses together mostly during the fighting sequences until there’s a deep and punch-packed explosion mushrooming into a ball of crackling fire. No evident issues with dialogue and the English subtitles synch well with no flaws. Bonus content features a glossy and sped-cut behind-the-scenes featurette and the theatrical trailer. Physical features include the original Blu-ray snapper case with a cardboard slipcover featuring the same cliff-note touching cover art as the snapper case. The NTSC Blu-ray come region A hardcoded, is unrated, and has a runtime of 130 minutes. Time flies when you’re engrossed in “The Witch: Part 2 – The Other One’s” take no prisoner thriller of transcendent turbulence.

“The Witch:  Part 2 – The Other One” – A Whole New Blu-ray Tale of Intensity.

EVIL Lights Up When Peeling Skin! “Human Lanterns” reviewed! (88 Films / Blu-ray)



Own this beautiful release from 88 Films of the “Human Lanterns”

Two respected and wealthy Kung-Fu masters have a long rivalry, trying to one-up each other at any cost even if that means stooping into their personal life to gain the most public admiration.  With the annual lantern festive approaches, to have the best and brightest lantern would sustain at least a year of gloating over the other master.  When a lantern maker with a retaliation mindset against one of the more boastful masters is hired to make his festival entry, the lantern maker exacts horrifying revenge by fueling their feud behind the scenes. Kidnapping beautiful women who are dear to each master and exploiting their soft delicacies for his crazed creations, the maniac lantern maker turns the village upside down, forcing the local constable into an impossible investigate into the village’s most popular residents when none of the evidence points to the other.

“Ren pi den long,” aka “Human Skin Lanterns,” aka “Human Lanterns” is a grisly Kung-Fu murder-mystery that’ll make your skin crawl right off from your body. The stylishly colored and ethereally varnished 1982 Hong Kong film is written-and-directed by Taiwanese director Chung Sun (“Lady Exterminator) that blended the likes of a giallo mystery into the well-choreographed martial arts mania with the profound Kung-Fu screenwriter, Kuang Ni (“The One-Armed Swordsman,” “The Flying Guillotine”), co-writing the script alongside Sun. While not as ostentatiously gory or as cinematically profane as the 80’s released Category III certified films that rocked Hong Kong audiences, and the censor board, with shocking, gruesome imaginary and content, “Human Lanterns” does sit teetering on the edge with mostly a tame Kung-Fu feature that quickly turns into the blistering carnage of a basket case, or in this a lantern maker, who uses hiding as a double entendre. “Human Lanterns” is a Shaw Brothers Studio production executively produced by the oldest of two brothers, Rumme Shaw, and, then new to the Shaw Brothers’ board of directors, producer Mona Fong.

“Human Lanterns” starred two the renowned names in martial arts films from the 1970s and well into the 1980s with “Fist of Fury” and “The Swordsman and the Enchantress’s” Tony Liu as the impeccably arrogant Lung Shu-Ai with a self-image to protect more than the women in his life and “Bloody Monkey Master” and “Return of the Bastard Swordsman” Kuan Tai Chen sporting a sweet mustache as Lung’s longtime rival, Tan Fu. Shu-Ai and Chen have really spot on, well-versed, fight sequences together braided into their play off each other’s character’s haughty personas. While behind the curtain of overweening and defiance between the two masters, Chao Chun-Fang unceremoniously sneaks into the fold by happenstance as Lung offers him money for the best lantern this side of the lantern festival. Lung and Chao Chun-Fang, played with a demented, idiosyncratic duality from Leih Lo (“The Five Fingers of Death,” “Black Magic”), another master in the art of fighting in his own style, have an inimical past…well, at least thought so by Chun-Fang. In a sword dual over a woman, Lung defeats Chun-Fang and purposefully scars him above the left eye, causing him the inability to look up, and while the lantern maker has stewed for many years, training all the while to be the best fighter, his tormentor Lung Shu-Ai has nearly all forgotten about the incident and found trivial enough to ask Chung-Fang to make him a lantern and offer him out for drinks for being old buddies of yore. However, this yard pulls the wool over the eyes of self-centered, the upper class, and the unruffled nonchalant as Chung-Fang takes advantage of the Kung-Fu masters naivety and uses the rival as a screen to cover up his kidnapping deeds of the women in their lives, played by Ni Tien (“Corpse Mania”), Linda Chu (“Return of the Dead”), and Hsis-Chun Lin. “Human Lanterns” rounds out the character list with a hired assassin in Meng Lo (“Ebola Syndrome”) and a competent but out of his league village constable in Chien Sun (“The Vampire Raiders”).

The look of “Human Lanterns” is often dreamy. No, I don’t mean dreamy as in gazing into the strong blue eyes of your tall and dark fantasy man. The dreamy I’m speaking of is produced by cinematographer An-Sung Tsao’s luminescence that radiates of background and the characters through the wide range of primary hues. Tsao’s colorful and vibrant eye doesn’t clash with the vintage era piece consisting of impressively detailed sets, a costume design plucked straight from the 19th, and hair, makeup, and props (which I’ve read some of the blades were authentic) to bring up the caboose of selling the completed package of delivering a spot-on period film. When Leih Loh dons the skull mask, an undecorated and unembellished human skull, with wild, untamed hair sprouted from every side of the eyeless mask, Loh transforms into a part-man, part-beast jumping, summersaulting, leaping, and seemingly flying through the air like a manically laughing ghost. The visual cuts petrifyingly more than described and if you add an extensive amount of Kung-Fu to the trait list, “Human Lanterns” has a unique and unforgettable villain brilliantly crafted from the deepest, darkest recesses of our twisted nightmares. “Human Lanterns” has a wicked and dark side that balances the more arrogantly campiness of Lung and Tan’s hectoring rivalry. When Lieh Loh is not skinning in his workshop or Lung and Tan are not bullying each other into submission, there’s plenty of action with the heart stopping, physics-defying martial arts that just works into the story as naturally as the horror and the comedy. With shades of giallo and fists of fury, “Human Lanterns” is Hong Kong’s very own distinctive and downright deranged brand of good storytelling.

88 Films lights the way with a new high-definition Blu-ray of the Shaw Brothers’ “Human Lanterns” from the original 35mm negative presented in Shawscope, an anamorphic lensed 2.35:1 aspect ratio that more than often displays the squeeze of the picture into the frame. One could hardly tell the upscale to 1080p because of the very reason I explained in the previous paragraph of the airy An-Sung Tsao façade that softly glows like bright light behind a fog. Nonetheless, the image quality is still stunning and vivid, a real gem of conservation and handling on this Blu-ray release. The Mandarin dubbed DTS-HD 1.0 master audio is synched well enough to the action for a passing grade. The foley effects, such as the swipes and hits, are often too repeated for comfort, but adds to “Human Lantern’s” campy charm. The newly translated English subtitles are synchronous with the picture and are accurate but, in rare instances, come and go too quickly to keep up with the original language. The release comes not rated with a run time of 99 minutes and is region locked at A and B. Why not go full region free is beyond me? Licensing? Anyway, special features include an audio commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast On Fire Network, “A Shaw Story” interview with then rising Hong Kong star Susan Shaw who talks about the competitive and easy blacklisting Hong Kong and Tawain cinema market, “The Beauty and the Beasts” interview with in story brothel mistress played by Linda Chu often harping upon not wanting to do nudity despite directors begging her, “Lau Wing – The Ambiguous Hero” interview with Tony Liu that comes with its own precaution title card warning of bad audio (and it is really bad and kind of ear piercing) as the lead man really regales his time on set and in the industry between Golden Harvest Productions and Shaw Brothers Studios, and rounding out the main special features is the original trailer. The package special features is a lantern of a different color with a limited edition cardboard slipcase with new artwork from R.P. “Kung-Fu Bob” O’Brien, a 24-page booklet essay entitled “Splicing Genres with Human Lanterns” by Barry Forshaw accompanied by full colored stills, posters, and artwork by O’Brien, a double-sided fold out poster, and reversible Blu-ray cover art that can be flipped from the same, yet still awesome, O’Brien slipcover art to the original release art. The new 88 Films’ Blu-ray set conjures a renaissance satisfaction like none other for a highly recommended, genre-ambiguous, vindictive affray.

Own this beautiful release from 88 Films of the “Human Lanterns”

The Best Spies Seek Thrills When Taking Down EVIL! “Deathcheaters” reviewed! (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

If Anyone Can Hide from the Grim Reaper, It’s the “Deathcheaters” on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

Vietnam War brothers-in-arms Steve Hall and Rodney Cann banded together well after the fighting was over and channeled all their pent up energy into being adrenaline junky stuntmen for movies, television series, and commercials as a living and as a lifestyle.  When the two Australians are duped and setup into a high speed chase and a daring rescue mission by one of their country’s own clandestine government agencies in a ploy to test Steve and Rod’s daredevil abilities, they pass the qualifying assessments and are offered an espionage job by agency head under the pseudonym of Mr. Culpepper who has no other incentive to provide other than the job to be the most challenging, death-defying operation to gorge on by two extreme sport enthusiasts.  Unable to resist, the stuntmen embark to a secret base on a remote island of the Philippines where they’ll dodge bullets, explosions, and over 100 guards to fight their way in and out to obtain classified documents for their country.

“Deathcheaters” became the third viewing adventure involving the actor-director combination of stuntman Grant Page and director Brian Trenchard-Smith that falls right in between “The Man from Hong Kong” and “Stunt Rock” and clearly delineates an understanding that Grant Page was a genuine fascination for Trenchard-Smith who sought to take the daring stuntman out of solely stunt role and puree him into a leading man role, showcasing Page’s hang-gliding, dune buggy, and skyscraper falls,  for the director’s second feature film released in 1976.  And, then, there’s John Hargreaves who we will dive into his there-but-not there presence later on. “Deathcheaters” is an ozploitation action-comedy that fulfilled two of Trenchard-Smith’s obsessions – stuntmen and spy films – from a story by the director and penned to script by Michael Cove and is produced by Trenchard productions alongside a conglomerate of production companies, including “Mad Max’s”  Roadshow Entertainment (a subsidiary of Village Roadshow), D.L. Taffner (“Ghost Stories”), Nine Network Australia, and the Australian Film Commission.

Undoubtedly, “Deathcheaters” stars Grant Page as the relationship unattached and cocky Rodney Cann whose only other interest besides bedding the single ladies is his enamored basset hound, Bismark.  Cann’s best friend, Steve Hall, is newly hitched to Julia who more-or-less disapproves of her husband’s risky vocation.  “Long Weekend’s” John Hargreaves plays the cheeky Steve Hall with sarcastic charm, matching his complement stunt partner and while Hargreaves has the chops to pull of the persona, the late Sydney born actor is well behind the curve when matched up with Grant Page.  Page is a stuntman playing a stuntman while Hargreaves is an actor portraying to be a stuntman and, unquestionably, that delta shows pretty radically when Page is driving the dune buggy, is descending rapidly from a tall building, or scaling a rock cliff without a harness and Hargreaves is relatively stationary.  Hargreaves has his moments but is greatly overshadowed by the veteran Page.  Before she was Brian Trenchard-Smith’s wife, “Stunt Rock’s” Margaret Gerard was John Hargreaves on screen romance who is vocal but wishy-washy on her husband’s exploits, even on the highly dangerous, international espionage mission assigned by the enigmatic Mr. Culpepper (Noel Ferrier, “Turkey Shoot”).  “Deathcheaters” round out with Judith Woodroffe, Drew Forsythe, Annie Semler, and Vincent Ball.

“Deathcheasters’ falls on the heels of the martial arts success of “The Man from Hong Kong” and is another stunt celebratory film from the ozploitation director with a penchant for large explosions and need-for-speed car chases.  All the stunts were perfectly poised in design and well executed.  Trenchard-Smith isn’t at all afraid to have the camera right in the middle of the action, strapping the 16mm camera to whatever plausible to place the audience in the action with the heroes.  As much as Trenchard-Smith goes full throttle with a tour de force, the same tricks become a little stale after, unfortunately, having previously watched “Stunt Rock” and “The Man from Hong Kong” that also featured self-set wet-gel fires, hang gliding, free falling, and among others aerobatic and dangerous acts that are seemingly in Page’s limited bag of showstopping routines.  There’s rarely anything new in “Deathcheaters” that warrant an awe response and that can be cliched, tiresome, and overall detrimental to the experience unless you’ve never seen a Trenchard-Smith film. If you’re one of those people never to have popped in one of his films, don’t expect “Deathcheaters” to be gritty, tough-as-nails, spitfire. Many of Trenchard-Smith’s earlier films, including “Deathcheaters,” sells solely on the witty, clean banter and a knack for the implied something really terrible happened to the bad guys with nothing ostentatiously explicit in the demise category. “Deathcheaters” can be wholesome, light, and aromatic of a repartee trashcan, but you get some great stunt work, explosions, and a car chase from this 1970’s Australian picture.

Like “The Man from Hong Kong” and “Stunt Work,” “Deathcheaters” too receives the Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray honor bestowed upon it from Umbrella Entertainment as spine number 10. Newly scanned in high definition 4K for the first time, John Seale’s cinematic vision has never looked better in this region free release, presented in standard widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The original vault materials held up nice enough to warrant a clear picture with only a few, brief blemishes. The super 16mm shot film, blown up to 35mm, often still feels ever so lightly flat in contour definition and in color; yet all the scenes look naturally aboriginal from the masters. The English language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 mono is a naturally lossy single speaker audio mix that doesn’t exact full representation of the action on screen though robust in fidelity. Dialogue perceives feebler during exterior scenes as capturing dialogue competes with the elements due to poor boom placement or just inferior equipment. Like the other releases, bonus features are nicely packed with a newly extended interviews with Brian Trenchard-Smith, Grant Page, and John Seale from the Not Quite Hollywood documentary, a new audio only interview Remembering “Deathcheaters” with executive producer Richard Brennan, new liner notes from Trenchard-Smith, a 2008 commentary with the director, executive producer, and leading lady Margaret Gerard (listed as Margaret Trenchard-Smith), Trenchard-Smith trailer reel, theatrical trailer, and a Trenchard-Smith directed bonus feature in “Dangerfreaks – The Ultimate Documentary.” The clear snapper case is housed inside a cardboard slipcover and inside the snapper’s liner is a 16-page comic book adaptation from Dark Oz, much like Umbrella accompanied with “Stunt Rock.” “Deathcheaters” shows its age but still pulls out all the stops with amazing stunt choreography and gave way to Grant Page being solidified lead man material, even with his corny one-liners, and simultaneously building upon Brian Trenchard-Smith’s early career in a niche field of being obsessed with overachieving, arrogant, and unafraid stuntmen.

If Anyone Can Hide from the Grim Reaper, It’s the “Deathcheaters” on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment!

EVIL Should Have Never Pissed Off One Uncontrollable, Raging Chick! “Jolt” reviewed! (Amazon Studios / Digital Screener)



Intermittent Explosive Disorder.  It’s an unstable condition Lindy Lewis has lived with her entire life where the little annoyance can set her into a murderous rage.  High levels of cortisone give her extra stamina, increased strength, and an endless stream of undaunted courage.  Mix all of that with her antisocial behavior and a variety of special, military grade, skillsets, Lindy can be one of the most deadliest humans if you happen to piss her off.  To control her temperament, an unorthodox psychiatrist designs an self-inducing electroshock harness that provides Lindy at jolt of electricity to snap her out of a potential bloodthirsty rampage, but when she finally finds a man pleasing in every way , a man who can keep the volatile emotions at bay, his sudden murder sends her into a vindictive slaughter of anyone involved with his death. 

“Shoot’em Up” meets “Crank” in Tanya Wexler’s unbridled tempest, “Jolt, that features an eclectically (and electrifying) international cast dropped into a graphic novel noir of femme fatales and organized crime.  The “Relative Evil,” aka “Ball in the House,” Wexler directs the 2021 released revenge narrative from a vivacious script penned by Scott Wascha as the writer’s debut feature length credit.  Filmed oversees in Bulgaria, “Jolt” is a melting pot of explosions, street fighting, and Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn under the production banner of Avi Lerner’s typically entertaining, yet hit-or-miss Millennium Films in collaboration with Busted Shark Productions, Eclectic Pictures, Nu Boyana Film Studios, and the “2001 Maniacs” series’ Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman company, Campbell-Grobman Films.

As if she never stopped playing the sleek vampiric werewolf huntress, Selene, of the “Underworld” franchise, Kate Beckinsale is stunning.  And I don’t just mean her timeless and ageless beauty as the English actress, who is living her best life at the latter half of her 40’s, proves that age is just a number in executing a physically demanding role with nearly every scene involving stunt work.  Unlike the gun-toting Selene, Lindy Lewis prefers her bareknuckle combat and a car battery alligator clipped to an old man’s genitals to get what she’s after.  Beckinsale plays the role beautifully equipped with a sharp, snarky tongue that’s pretty damn funny, well-timed, and consistently befitting to the Lindy’s personality.  “Jolt” has many colorful characters played by interestingly elected actors.  “Suicide Squad’s” Captain Boomerang himself, Jai Courtney, finds himself as the unlikely sedative lover, Justin, to counteract Lindy’s explosiveness.  The Australian actor, who is more than a decade junior to Beckinsale, fills in “Jolt’s” ranks alongside the gruffy-raspy voiced Argus Filtch, I mean David Bradley (“Harry Potter” franchise), as the top-tiered bad guy who stamp-approved the hit on Justin.  Along the way, a pair of tenacious detectives pursue the wrongly accused Lindy as a welcoming pair polarized on how to bring in their suspect that isn’t based off corruption with “Orange as the New Black’s” Laverne Cox as the by-the-book cop and “Snakes on a Plane’s” Bobby Cannavale as a cop with a softer side for the pursued.  “Jolt” rounds out with Ori Pfeffer (“Shallow Ground”), Sophie Sanderson, Susan Sarandon (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) in a minor role, and versatile Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) as the electroshock harness inventor and psychiatrist, Dr. Munchin.

While it sounds like I’m singing high praises for Wexler’s film that does indeed have an amazing cast, quick wit performances, can be funny, and great action, I find “Jolt” to be lacking that little Je Ne Sais Quoi as the French would say.  Maybe the breakneck speed story that follows an illogical and nonsensical means of progression overloads the system to where you fry out your organic circuit boards trying to keep up with Lindy’s investigative warpath.  Aside from the fact that figuring out what happened to poor Justin is no mystery, an overexploited trope spanning from every era of cinema, our heroine also nonchalantly strolls right into the middle of crowded street fights, police stations, and in and out of explosions with every aspect of her hell hath no fury like a woman scorned purpose seeming too easy without anything rewarding stemming from difficulty that surrounded her, leaving no tension to salivating over or achieve relief from her impossible no way out scenarios.  Even when Lindy is easily captured, tied to a torture chair, and still mouthing off to her captor, the bad guys still let her go…on purpose!  (enter mind blowing up here)  Speaking of things going boom, the limited visual effects work renders like a cheaply made for television spectacular, especially with the explosive finale ofan inferior inferno ball of combustion and flames composited over top the endgame skyscraper locale.  I have never loved and hated a film as much as I do “Jolt” and will have to wait until the – assumed – pipelined sequel to break this torment of indecision.

What might be considered to be vague and entertaining euphemism for addiction, “Jolt’ is high powered narcotics injected right into the sensory nervous system.  The Millennium Films feature will broadband across Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service on July 23rd under the Amazon Studio’s banner.  “Krampus” director of photography, Jules O’Loughlin, brings a chic and symmetrical contemporary noir to the look, using a not so severe fisheye lens to emphasize centered characters while wrapping the fluorescently lit background ever so slightly around them. Best scene is the torch lit brawl, tinted in a blue-purple shade, that makes for a simple yet grander cockfight. The steadycam work anchors down more of the fast paced punch’em, kick’em fight sequences which is a credit to O’Loughlin in making the scenes work for the audiences instead of the audience working to make out the scenes. Dominic Lewis caters the soundtrack’s pulsing electro score that does the trick by keeping up with the whiplash pacing, but barely sneaks in there as Lindy’s anthem to clean house. “Jolt” leaves Lindy’s book entirely unfinished with a well-knowledgeable human wrangler in Susan Sarandon to segue audiences into a possible sequel that will start off looking not too promising for our asskickin’ heroine. While there are no post-credit scenes, there is a slightly humorous, slightly minor character fulfilling bonus scene to looking for mid-credits. “Jolt” needs a little jolt itself in some areas of considerable concern, but the fast paced action doesn’t bore, the clever wit has endless sardonic charm, and there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.

Watch “Jolt” on Prime Video coming July 23rd!  Dropping This Thursday!

Two Movies, One EVIL. “House of Cruel Dolls” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

A perverse gang of sex traffickers kidnap beautiful women to be prostitutes for a hidden away bordello, known as the House of the Lost Dolls.  Gaston, a bordello regular, falls for sex slave Yvette and together they make a great escape to free Yvette from the gang’s clutches.  Yvette’s harrowing ordeal is given to the police.  What ensues next is the dispatching of secret agent Sigma to track down and eliminate the ruthless gang, but finding their hideout won’t be that easy as espionage tactics and killer assassins lie in wait around every corner, but agent Sigma will do everything in his power to see an end to their depravity. 

What a wild mashup of manipulation to work in a spy thriller around a sordid exploitation!  That’s the only way to describe French filmmaker Pierre Chevalier’s sleazy action-action thriller “House of Cruel Dolls.”  Also known as “The House of the Lost Dolls,” “The Panther Squad” director and A.L. Mariaux, one of “The Sexual Story of O” Jesús Franco’s pseudo names, penned 1974 released screenplay fills in the blanks with archival footage from the 1967 espionage flick “Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather,” starring “The Vampires Night Orgy’s” Jack Taylor.  Judging by the colorful, multi-national, grindhouse titles and the crew involved, you can bet on the “House of Cruel Dolls” to be a licentious and violence riddled romp, swanky in sexual severity and coarse with an untamed plot.  As a production of Eurociné, one shouldn’t be surprised of “House of Cruel Dolls’” shameless nature with the once legitimate Marius Lesqeur storytelling company that ventured into mass producing cheap, seedy classics, more around the uncomfortable context of Naziploitation or WIP (Women in Prison), with such films as “Angel of Death,” “Jailhouse Wardess,” “Hitler’s Last Train,” and “Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg,” as well as other European exploitations in “Diamonds of Kilimandjaro” and “Female Vampire” to capitalize on the rise of erotic in the 1970s through the 1980s. 

The Eurociné played the popular casting game of hiring American actors to star in their oversees produced films, but for “House of Cruel Dolls,” the hiring of an America actor doesn’t go as typical as you would have thought.  Instead of signing Oregon born Jack Taylor to be the leading man stopping a ring of evil sex traffickers, Chevalier, along with “Nude for Satan” editor, “Luigi Batzella,” spliced together Jack Taylor’s Italian-made spy thriller “Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather  fit into the extremely graphic and perverse scenes of rape, gang rape, and perversion narrative of the barely sticky adhesive “House of Cruel Dolls.  There’s actually one scene where Taylor’s character and partner run down a flight of stairs on a boat, but topside is definitely Taylor, but down the stairs inside the boat is a different actor with an extremely bad wig.  Co-starring, more or less, with Taylor are a blend of Italian and French actors from both stories that not necessarily share the same screen with their leading man.  The French actress Silvia Solar (“Cannibal Terror”) does share actual screen time with Taylor as the infiltrating villain in the cloak-and-dagger film whereas Sandra Julien (“The Shiver of the Vampires”) mingles deep undercover in the lion’s den of the sex trafficking master of ceremonies, Rasly, played by “Blue Rita’s” Olivier Mathot staged in actual “Cruel Dolls” territory.  Rounding out the patchwork cast is Magda Mundari, Raymond Schettino, Gillian Gill, and “Shining Sex’s” Claude Boisson (credited as Yul Sanders) who can’t seem to scratch his inch for lusting over helpless dames. 

I’ve seen worse cut and paste fuses of different 35mm reels and some not so terrible, yet oblivious a stretch at the seam, “Caligula” comes to mind with the inserted hardcore snippets, but “House of Cruel Dolls” flows and flows pretty well considering the rough segue cuts that blend the 1967 film with the 1974 film without much era style or stock degradation differences.  However, what Chevalier, and also most likely Franco, accomplished with their film had more attributes toward being a hardcore adult movie than being an action packed espionage thriller with prolonged and gratuitous sex scenes.  For example, Gaston rescues Yvette from sex slavery horror after a short-lived shoot out during the opening segment, the pair drive their way to the police station but stop along the way to cool down under the forest trees, lay out a blanket like they’re having a picknick, and have sex before going back to rushing to the authorities.  Plus, also experiencing Claude Boisson uncontrollably salivate over tied up and drugged women and easily make them look feeble as he ravages them is a trope norm of that character in the adult industry.  Plenty of skin makes “House of Cruel Dolls” a surefire sexploitation attraction, but much of the nudity is one-sided with the women baring everything while every man, except for one, keeping his clothes while committing the sleazy act and cinematographer, Gérard Brisseau, remains tight on focusing on two parts:  the clothed humping rear of the misogynistic rapist and the women’s bare nipples being forcibly suckled on. This makes the scenes not pungently powerful but more monotonously dull stuck on loop.  The latter is really laid on thick for the first act, saturating the skin-laden setup with Yvette’s escape and her flashback of how she become a lost doll in the lost doll brothel, but once Jack Taylor makes the scene, the action really starts with solid fight sequences that could rival the Sean Connery era James Bond.  However, you really receive a good chuckle when the big boss dies and story cuts-to Gaston and Yvette, hanging around Gaston’s pool, hugging and smiling that the gang has been wiped out in a drop off, that’s-a-wrap ending that table any coda gratification. 

For the first time released in North America and on Blu-ray home video, Pierre Chevalier’s “House of Cruel Dolls” comes uncut and remastered in Hi-Def, 1080p from the original 35mm transfer by our friends over at Full Moon Features as part of their Eurociné Collection.  Presented in a matted 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the pristine transfer really comes through without really a hint of damage or over the years degradation.  The color palette dices through the natural grain copiously vivid where needed to be character garments, hair, and vehicles.  Contrast has a whispery air about, heavenly almost, throughout without squashing too much of the textures.  The forced Dub English language audio tracks come in two formats – Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 and 5.1 surround sound.  Prepare to have side-splitting, cringe-worthy reactions to the incredible horrendous dubbing of baritone grumbling through the lossy audio tracks.  Even the Jack Taylor impersonator has a different dub than the actual Jack Taylor. Bonus features include trailers of other Euro cult titles. Considering being the only release in North America, “House of Cruel Dolls” is a rubbernecking sight to behold as the Eurotrash epitome of the Eurociné scene of the 1970’s, worth the price of admission just for that.

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