Expectations Lead to EVIL in “The Cool Lakes of Death” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

Set in the early 1900s, Hedwig’s childhood is filled with love, wealth, and innocence, but when her mother dies suddenly at the hands of typhoid, life turns complicated as death, draconian religious teachings, and an uncompassionate home clouds Hedwig’s mind on what exactly her relationship with men and with God should look like.  Punished for self-pleasure and scolded for her belief in fantasies, Hedwig enters adulthood as a conformist seeking to marry a well off man and have children in what was supposed to be the perfect union that reveals in sexuality the secret to marriage.  Prim and proper on the outside but a child on the inside, Hedwig misjudges her affairs with men and indulges in a pretense relationship with them.   When she finally finds happiness with a renowned pianist and the two have a child together, Hedwig’s hold on reality snaps as the child dies a few days later, sending the once elegant Hedwig into a tailspin of unhinged mental stability, drug addiction, and prostitution. 

“The Cool Lakes of Death” is the adapted film based off the Netherlands novel from the dual profession novelist and psychiatrist, Frederik van Eeden, entitled Van de koele meren des doods, which closely translates to “The Deeps of Deliverance,” a psychological period piece and melodrama with themes on the antiquated God-fearing expectations of a 19th century young woman, the solidity of marital unions, and a woman’s sexual liberation.  “The Cool Lakes of Death” is the follow up directorial from “A Woman Like Eve” director, Nouchka van Brakel,” off a screenplay written also by Brakel and co-written with Ton Vorstenbosch.  The exquisite tragedy of a woman submerged in societal misconceptions of love that can’t be forced and the mutuality of pleasures is yet another Dutch production from producer Matthijs van Heijningen and his company Sigma Film Productions, who have overseen a handful of Brakel films including “The Debut” and “A Woman Like Eve.”

Understanding the mixed emotions of a young girl in the throes of self-discovery, with a pinch for the dramatic flair, Renée Soutendijk gives a prismatic performance, glistened in a stringent social dogma, of hope and pity.  The Netherlands actress, who had the role of Miss Huller in the 2018 “Suspiria” remake, the inundated Hedwig, friends call her Hetty, who has inexhaustible amount of hope in her search for passion, but insurmountable roadblocks and obstacles corrupt Hetty’s mental processor.  Soutendijk’s elegance has a soft innocence to it, a naïve virtue that contrasts bleakly against the subtle and not so subtle influencers of Hetty’s life and Soutendijk really opens our eyes when Hetty’s full blown crazy in a clear and precise moment of snapping her rationality like a dried and brittle twig.  The performance digs at you and Brakel exploits the worst (good cinematically) parts of Hetty’s break that has her be a wild, naked woman thrashing, spitting, and puking in a locked room of a psyche ward, injecting needles into her arm night after night after selling her body to unscrupulous men, or even stuffing her newborn baby into a duffel bag and heads off to sea to search for her husband Gerard, a subdued, appearance concerned gay man that never cared physically for Hetty, played by Adriaan Olree in his debut performance.  Hetty comes across two other lovers; one a flyby and compassionate artist Johan (Erik van ‘t Wout), who would have matched her passion, but not her social status, and, eventually, she finds much of what she seeks in a renowned concert pianist Ritsaart (Derek de Lint, “When A Stranger Calls” remake), who refuses to admit their relationship in fear of scandal and ruin of his career.  Along the way, Hetty listens more to her blinded heart than she does her logical mind when intaking sound advice from advocates of her wellbeing as Ritsaart’s best friend Joop (Peter Faber, “A Woman Like Eve”), her best friend Leonora (Kristine de Both), and a hospital nun (Claire Wauthion) attempt to steer her toward a happier existence. 

I really can’t get enough of Hetty unable to secure her ideal happiness.  That might sound a little inconsiderate but what is a perfect relationship?  Brakel explores how an sought ideal can turn into a damaging expedition for the white whale.  Instead of being the ill-fated, hellbent Captain Ahab, Hetty’s land based monomaniacal drive of fairytale love becomes her ultimate downfall, sinking her deeper into the depths of despair, loneliness, and a cataclysmic separation from reality.  Gerard wasn’t perfect because he secretly longed for men, Johan didn’t have the right social stature for a lady of her status, and Ritsaart kept their love hidden below the public eye.  There’s a quite a bit of feminism loitering around in that last statement with a touch of selfishness to no fault of Hetty’s and all circulate back to some sort of suppression whether it’s sexually or emotionally umbrellaed by patriarchal doctrine, discourse, and discipline.  The culture toxicity is so severe that the older generation of women are beguiled by it’s power to be controlling others themselves under the thumb of a male-dictated society as we see in Hetty’s Governess in tattling on her pupil’s every move to her wimp of a widowed father.  “The Cool Lakes of Death” is a beautiful disaster in almost a sing-songy narrative delivered by director Nouchka van Brakel’s mighty delicate touch. 

For the first time in North America and single in a trilogy of Nouchka van Brakel releases from Cult Epics, as well as in a trilogy boxset, the 1982 downcast drama “The Cook Lakes of Death,” arrives on DVD and Blu-ray home video.  The New 4k High-Def transfer is scanned from the original 35mm negative with an impeccable and nearly blemish-free restoration.  The film is presented in the European matted widescreen, 1.66:1 aspect ratio, with plenty of good looking natural grain and a softer image in the trashy romance first act then to a harsher, grittier quality during the time of her ruin under the eye of Theo van de Sande who ventured from the Netherlands to the U.S. later in his career and worked on Joe Dante’s “The Hole,” “Little Nicky,” and “Blade.”  A couple of whip pans into deep focus shots enrich the production, a technique that has served Sande in his later work.  The Dutch language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossy audio is as good as this title will ever see without an actiony framework.  Dialogue is completely discernible with well synched English subtitles.  A few pops in the span but no major damage to the audio to speak about in length.  Soundtrack has barrier moments of muffled penetration.  Not too many special features to touch upon with the theatrical trailer, a poster and sill gallery, a 1982 newsreel unearthed from the Polygoon Journal archive, and a reversible Blu-ray cover. “The Cool Lakes of Death” is young and naïve adolescence transitioning into womenhood only to be tripped up every step of the way; Hetty’s eager to blossom turns to withering as the underdog in life’s kennel and Brakel’s purificatory rite of passage beautifully disembowels hope and dreams in a dreamy fashion until finding faith in life come full circle, well almost, in commencing with both feet standing into adulthood.

“The Cool Lakes of Death” on Blu-ray Home Video at Amazon.com

Sometimes, The Choice Itself is EVIL. “A Woman Like Eve” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)



Eve is a stay at home mother of two who ensures the house is in tiptop shape and that dinner is promptly on the table for her working husband, Ad.  When Eve has a break down at the Mother’s Day family dinner table, Ad purchases her a train ticket to enjoy France’s sun and sand with her best friend, Sonja.  There she meets an alluring woman, Liliane, living freely and humbly in a commune.  An attraction flourishes between them after Eve returns to home to the Netherlands and can’t stop thinking of her time with Liliane.  Soon, they become romantically involved with Liliane travelling back and forth from France and that sets the stage for conflict as Ad discovers his wife’s yearning desires for Liliane to horrid and confusing for their young children not to mention also their marriage.  Eve is caught in the middle between the woman she desperately wants to be with who still lives in the commune and her children she can’t deal to part from in a tug-a-war of emotions wrought by a failing marriage, society perceptions on lesbianism, and damaging court room battles for children custody.

When thinking about the history of LGBTQ+ films and the filmmakers behind them, director Nouchka van Brakel’s “A Woman Like Eve” should be at the top of any film aficionado’s list despite flying, unjustifiably, under the radar for decades as the Dutch film makes a profound statement with, at the time, unmapped gender fluidity of the 1970’s timeframe that included the women liberation movement that sought to free domesticated women from the limitations of household responsibilities, it cracked the barriers on what constitutes as healthy union between two people, and dove into the intricate internal struggles of a keystone person being pulled between two very different lives of family dynamics.   Co-written alongside Judith Herzberg, the 1979 romance drama, natively titled “Een vrouw als Eva,” has a very different kind of evil than the werewolves, vampires, zombies, serial killers, and ghosts typically showcased in our reviews and that is those narrow-mindedly frighteningly submerged in antiquated traditions peered through the perspective of a feminist director in Brakel.  Matthijs van Heijningen, who produced Dick Maas’s elevator-horror “The Lift” and also Brakel’s prior work on “The Debut” and later work on “The Cool Lakes of Death,” produces the Dutch tale under his indie banner, Sigma Pictures.”

“A Woman Like Eve” would not have been as provocative with thickly layered nonconformist and spirited topics without the compelling performance of the film’s two leading ladies in Monique van de Ven (Paul Verhoeven’s “Turkish Delight”) as Eve and  Maria Schneider (“Last Tango in Paris” costarring Marlon Brando).  Van de Ven captures a woman tormented by not only what “proper” society, society being her friends and family, tells her to be, but also distresses going against the grain of her innate guilt and nurture for her two small children during a time of emotional transition that impels her to pursue a relationship with not just any other person but another woman.  That other woman being Liliane, an established outlier of what’s considered normal as a lesbian living how she wants in an outskirts commune, and while Schneider’s performance treads lightly through what should be mountains of emotions, especially in a role that has a foundation of someone been out of closet, doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and has tethered a line of security to her soul fulfillment center, Liliane still maintains as the steady constant that never wavers from who she is and what she wants.  Toss in the German born and “A Bridge Too Far” actor, Peter Faber, and you can see the gunpowder burn for miles in tense and uncomfortable discourse when Eve confides into Faber’s character, Eve’s husband Ad, about her proclaimed love for another woman and then we witness Ad patronize her with what he calls an epidemic of woman independence and shrugs her true feelings like scraping foods scraps from a dinner plate and into the trash. Faber can get downright ugly with the homophobic bigotry that begins to carousel Eve’s ebb and flow of having any kind relationship with her separated husband until justice system proceedings for children custody. Marijke Merckens, Renée Soutendijk, Anna Knaup, Truus Dekker, and Mike Bendig round out as the support characters caught is the web of Eve’s love affairs and legal issues.

Feminist filmmaker Nouchka van Brakel depicts tremendous themes of a woman’s status in what could have been a universal position for women all over the globe. Seen as only housekeepers, dinner makers, and children bearers or caretakers, women were placed at a standstill after suffragists fought for the right vote at the turn of the 20th century but that fire inside them stayed lit and you can see that with Eve in the opening scenes as she’s longing and looking for something more than to be a house wife. She eventually obtains something more with love for Liliane, the second theme Brakel implements extends upon unfettering women is with lesbianism. Lesbianism is shown to bring down shame upon family, friends, and even just society in general as Eve was offered no solace from those she had a prior relationship with after coming out, a choice seen as a radical and an integration part of that women’s independence movement. Brakel wanted to explore uncharted passion between woman and woman and, in doing so, lifted the curtain on on various foremost concepts that are still…still being talked about today where inequality in the workplace through sexism and salaries still wage a battle of the sexes and homosexuality is still too taboo for even the modern day system. “A Woman Like Eve” has surely inspired and been of homage in more modern pieces, such as “Blue is the Warmest Color,” and should be exhibited more educationally on it’s abundance of relatable themes and not just be another work of unseen cult fiction but be rather a praised film of realism based on nonfiction.

To watch Eve toil in her new life is like climbing Mount Everest; it’s a long, arduous journey with challenging, sometimes spirit crushing, obstacles to overcome in order to reach the top, but once above the cloud, the tooth and nail fight for what’s finally yours and yours alone can be worth it. Unfortunately for Eve, her cumulus glass ceiling is poignant. “A Woman Like Eve” importance is shamefully overlooked and that’s why I’m grateful Cult Epics has brought Brakel’s film, for the first time, on DVD and Blu-ray in North America. Basing this review off the Blu-ray release, clocking in with a 103 minute runtime, the newly restored high definition transfer from the original 35mm print, shown in 1.66:1 aspect ratio, looks respectable from a moderately preserved transfer. An occasion scratch and some real delineation issues with night scenes factor in only little impact when the story is shot mostly in bright daylight and is well light all around with lots of natural grain. No cropping, compression artefacts, or enhancing was detected and the coloring appears very natural without any overcorrecting or mistakes in the primary or secondary hues. The new Dutch/English/French language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 renders dialogue clearly and positioned as the foremost track with a solid sync with the error-free English captioning. There’s a slight lower key hum throughout and some crackling and popping but none of those are a hinderance to the viewing. As far as bonus material, the region free, unrated release contains a 2020 interview between Brakel and film journalist Floortje Smit at the Eye Filmmuseum, a poster and still gallery, and the theatrical trailer on a dual-layered disc. The limited edition package includes new and original cover art on a reversible case sleeve. Probably seen as antiquated celluloid, I see Nouchka van Brakel’s LGBTQ proud and woman empowering film, “A Woman Like Eve,” as historical treasure dug up by Cult Epics, carefully spit-shine restored, and encapsulated forever on physical media for all to enjoy.

Purchase “A Woman Like Eve” on Blu-ray or DVD

Classy Brothel Girls Bring Dirty EVIL Secrets to “Madame Claude” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

A high end Paris brothel ran by the influential Madame Claude sends the most beautiful and sophistical women to wealthy and powerful dignitaries all over the world to satisfy their most sexual desires.  Her lucrative business becomes a governmental target seeking to collect back taxes on the illicit business.  However, the French government is the least of her worries when a playboy-aspiring rake and amateur photographer snaps photos of Madame Claude’s clients in compromising situations that can be ruinous to their status.  The CIA becomes involved when unscrupulous business dealings involving an American and Japanese companies connect to Madame Claude and her potentially persuasive young women after rumored photographs put the Madame Claude in the middle.  Two governments, big businesses, a jet setting brothel, wealthy socialites and a nosy photographer become involved in lies, secrets, and the potential for murder.

Part biography, part fiction, “Madame Claude,” also known as “The French Girl,” is the 1977 released erotic and political thriller based off the real Madame Claude, Fernande Grudet, as her life of prostitution management and scrutiny unfolded before the public eyes in the mid 1970’s.  Erotically and elegantly sexy with gorgeous women groomed into lust and ensnared into the lion’s den of exchanging powers, “Madame Claude” became the third film from the immensely successful erotic French director, Just Jaeckin, following 1974’s “Emmanuelle” and 1975’s “The Story of O.”  Jaeckin, pressured by his financiers to continue his success in the highly sought eroticism, returns to the randy genre, but this time with a story to his liking, one that is embroiled in the background of a bribery scandal involving aerospace company, Lockheed, at the heart of it. From a script by crime-action writer André G. Brunelin, based off the book of memories of Madame Claude by Jacques Quiorez, Jaeckin splices visual elements of each story together to form not only an arousing sexual lamination but also a cloak-and-dagger tenser of a film. Shot primarily in Paris, with minor shoots in the Bahamas and Washington, D.C., especially the scenes on the faux White House, “Madame Claude” is a production of Orphée Arts of Paris with Claire Duval on as executive producer.

While the titular character is the obvious centerpiece, Jaeckin mingles the characters around each other in a game of espionage chess toward the endgame of checkmate. Keystone to everyone’s problems is Madame Claude, played by renowned French actress and early onscreen sex object, Françoise Fabian, who previously had roles in the paranormal pubescent horror, “Expulsion of the Devil,” a more comedy-friendly brothel film, “Holiday Hookers,” and among many other films predating 1977, but not until later in Fabian’s career did show rocket to success, playing older, more aligned, women that strongly championed feminism, such as portraying “Madame Claude” who used sex as a means to gain control and power of men, and pushed it to the brink of the era’s cinematic limits. “Horsehead’s’ Murray Head plays the photographer schmo, David Evans, making Madame Claude’s life complicated. An about town ladies man, Evans goes to each of Claude’s girls one-by-one and, for some reason or another, they invite the handsomely charming, but brutish, amateur porn photographer into their bedrooms, sleeping his way into blackmail scheme that will bring down the most powerful brothel head in all of Paris while also lining his pocket with not only money but power among the socialites who treat him like the village idiot. Head’s nails down the fast-and-loose aspect of Evan’s personality that treats his stratagem like a game he’s already won, but when the government agencies come knocking on doors, Head about faces Evan’s waggish incompetence to a frightened man looking around every corner for danger. It’s wonderful to see Head interact with Klaus Kinski (“Nosferatu the Vampire”) and Marc Michel as a ridiculed subordinate in an examination of social status as Kinski and Michel flaunt expensive taste and lavish orgies in lieu of decency, but it’s Murray Head, playing the fool with cemented proof that would put all them of into shame, as the aspirer to their life of luxuries. The beautiful Dayle Haddon (“Cyborg”), Vibeke Knudsen-Bergeron (“Spermula”), and Ylva Setterborg stun in just a handful of the very elegant, and very naked, women acting as Madame Claude’s international bound employees. Other cast of characters in “Madame Claude’s” game of lies and spies include Robert Webber (“Death Steps in the Dark”), Jean Gaven (“The Story of O”), François Perrot, André Falcon, and Maurice Renot.

Following his films “Emmanuelle” and “The Story of O,” Jaeckin’s “Madame Claude” strays into an atypical kind of formulaic eroticism downplaying the sexual excursions and discoveries for a more typical crime drama affair. Jaeckin’s directorial abilities can take you on an exotic tour around the world and onto the fleshy planes of some of the most gorgeous and provocative women to ever grace the screen. Yet, “Madame Claude” trims substantially the skin with a more precise execution to be more of an oil lubricating the machine rather than the gear that actually operates the mechanism to entail sex as a misused tool for motivation and bribery. These scenes of fleeting eroticism outright shine Just Jaeckin’s proclivities with mirrored reflections and becoming lost in the entanglement of sexually enflamed bodies and these scenes outright shine Jaeckin’s intent on delivering a corkscrew crime drama with double-dealings, wiretapping, and counterintelligence gathering as what unfolds isn’t clearly delineated between Madame Claude, David Evans, the French and U.S. Governments and the Lockheed scandal that actually becomes sidetracked at times by the infiltrated sex-training of Madame Claude business as the brothel head has to train an alternative misfit new girl and send her to the Bahamas work trip shortly after a quick one-night-stand initiation with one of the Madame’s trusted former beaus. We wholeheartedly become more intrigued and fascinated with Madame Claude’s feminist principles, recruiting subjugated women to use their sexuality to dominate and become wealthy in the process. In more than one scene, Madame Claude flaunts self-admiration in transforming star-crossed girls into young women fortune bound with their promiscuous ways. Madame Claude’s murky backstory caresses her complexities of anti-man without detail delving into the turning point catalyst that made her become who she became to be, an affluent Madame, other than a seemingly emotionally and controllably invalidating romantic experience with a long time friend and business companion, Pierre (Maurice Renot).

Cult Epics sustains another forgotten classic into a celebrated Blu-ray release with a new 4K HD transfer of “Madame Claude” from the original 35mm negative, supervised by the original cinematographer, Robert Fraisse. Housed on a BD50, the region free release maintains the impeccable coloring under Fraisse’s soft glow with no cropping or undue enhances that tries to put out fire with gasoline and, aside from a discolored yellow-greenish, translucent stripe, perhaps a loose film roll, during the opening scene, the image quality is clean and pleasing in it’s natural 35mm grain. The English and French language audio tracks come with three options: LPCM 2.0 mono, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The DTS-HD Master Audio had the highest marks, slightly topping Dolby Digital stereo with a little more gusto in the pipes. Audible dialogue is clean and forefront, but the engineered dubbing laid over Murray Head and, even, the self-dubbing of Dayle Haddon can be off-putting at times when actors’ voices seem to not be sharing the same vocal space with others on screen. French composer Serge Gainsbourg’s lounge, yé-yé score tuned into that erotic soufflé of light and airy pop music that can be often dreamy with singsongy female vocals, complimenting the softer, sexier side of Jaeckin’s film while also playing into period melodies of the 1970’s. Cult Epics always has down right with resurrecting obscure erotica for not only quality sake but also to arm the hell out of the releases with bonus material. Included with “Madame Claude” is an audio commentary by Jeremy Richey (author of the upcoming book entitled Sylvia Kristel: from Emmanuelle to Chabrol), a high definition, Nico B. produced interview with director Just Jaeckin from 2020, the vintage French theatrical trailer, a promotional photo gallery, and Cult Epics previews. Not the most sensual film shot by the renowned maestro of venereal visuals, Just Jaeckin explores his versatility by acclimatizing familiarity with new horizons surrounding brothel delights with shadow games and the new 4K Blu-ray from Cult Epics is the one, and only, way to experience it all in “Madame Claude.”

Cult Epic’s “Madame Claude” on Blu-ray. Available at Amazon – click the poster!


EVIL Hatches a Plan Against EVIL! “Death Laid an Egg” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

The Chicken farm and trading association industry lies on the fringe of near collapse and poultry scientists are hastily working on a solution experimenting with chicken embryos to create more meat for a nosediving commerce, but that doesn’t concern farm owner Marco whose more interested in having an affair with his wife’s young and beautiful cousin, Gabrielle, as well as moonlighting in his perverse side hobby of killing prostitutes at a hotel room.  Marco’s wife, Anna, who runs the farm single handily with the assistance of newly purchased machines, is ignorant of Marco and Gabrielle’s more-than-casual dalliance.  When a genetic modification accident produces the bulbous, meaty parts of live chickens without the heads, necks, and wings, the chicken association sees this changing event as the potential saving grace for chicken farmers everywhere and a financial reconciliation from foreboding ruin, but Marco wants nothing to do with the horrors of livestock manipulations and abominations.  Unable to understand his hesitation, Anna’s frustration is compounded by an anonymous note about Marco’s “affairs” with prostitutes that sends a simmering love triangle into a deadly internal coup.

What came first, the Chicken or the Egg?  In Giulio Questi’s inverted giallo thriller, “Death Laid an Egg,” the insoluble question parallels another question, who is deemed more sordid, an unchaste husband with a decadent desire for killing prostitutes or those conniving a plot involving murder to expose his vices and overthrow his wife for total control of their budding chicken farm? The 1968 Italian Giulio Questi and Franco Arcalli (“Tis Pity She’s A Whore”) written collaboration roosts at the edge of being an Italian murder mystery because of the atypical structure not terribly familiar to the genre and it’s fandom. Instead an unknown, gloved hand killer with a switchblade reflected with gleamingly terrified eyes of a barely clothed young woman screaming at the very top of her lungs, “Death Laid an Egg” is an Italian-French coproduction between Summa Cinematografica, Cine Azimut, and Les Films Corona.

At the epicenter of this switcheroo intrigant and strange triangular love affair are Marco, his wife Anna, and Anna’s younger cousin, Gabrielle, and only one of them, one of the three inside and out of the chicken farm, don’t entangle themselves in illicit activity.  French born actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant, stars as the diverging Marco with infatuating love sickness for his wife’s secretarial cousin, Gabrielle.  The “So Sweet… So Perverse” and “Malevil” star emits a pressurizing performance, ready to melt down and volatilely combust, when Marco agitatedly paces between Anna (Gina Lollobrigida of the French versions of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” of 1956) and Gabrielle, played by a relatively newcomer to the silver screen from Sweden in Ewa Aulin (“I Am What I Am”) to traverse from an old love to a new love despite the possibility of losing his entire livelihood.  The two female principles’ distinct personalities make for a great Trojan horse of shocking betrayal that goes against the grain and against the proverb that blood is thicker than water and Questri exploits with hard unstrung scenes of choppy segues that leave behind granular clues to their intentions in an almost abstract, auteur series of events.  When the love triangle because a quartet and actions become clearer with the clarity in advertisement specialists, Mr. Mondaini’s, underhanding involvement, a role shrouded in apprehensive mystery by Jean Sobieski, the enigma dissipates rapidly into a more tempered narrative of ill-tempered acts.  None of the four actors are cherished with equivalent screen time, orbing around more Marco’s ping-pong, zig-zag unconventional philandering and Gabrielle’s supporting role as Anna’s relative confidant, and this creates a visceral tension in the forefront of a economic crisis in the chicken farm market.

Giulio Questi always seemed to be pulling back the, excuse the pun, yoke to never let “Death Laid an Egg” fully nosedive into a blaze of a gruesome glorified giallo full of sleuth paranoia and scantily-cladded female victims stalked, hunted, and, eventual, murdered, but the Italian film, which saw a fair share of censorship cuts bordering around those aforesaid attributes, had no pretense about being a part of the traditional sense of the genre in the first place.  I wouldn’t even consider Questi’s film a typical example of the giallo’s Poliziotteschi subgenre though may have been more of a byproduct of the time period with the chicken economic crisis being a metaphor for the socio-political unrest, known as Years of Lead, that began in Italy in the 1960s.  The story’s crestfallen poultry association and it’s desperation for a godsend out of the newfangled embryotic manipulation procedures parallel, or perhaps even dominate, the plotline with a subplot coiled around Marco and Anna’s estranged life together in an allegorical fashion; the bastardization of genetically altering embryos is forcing the chickens’ hands to unravel a certain, horrible way and the same can be said for Marco and Anna who succumb to duplicitous external forces manipulating their every move toward an outcome that’ll likely destroy and takeaway not only their nest egg farm but could also cost them their very lives.  “Death Laid an Egg” does present a substantial amount of sexualization where Questi focuses, and sometimes lingers on, the half-naked portions of the actresses bodies.  The established Gina Lollobrigida and the up-and-coming Ewa Aulin, plus a handful of bit role prostitutes, show a fair amount of skin without ever baring the tongue-lapping essentials with Questi, in a stream of elegance, captures their shadowy curvatures and even loiters on the more publicly unpopular parts of women, such as around the abdomen or the shoulders, while obscuring more private areas with on set censoring, perhaps due in part of the Italian censor boards guidelines of the time.  In a feverish attempt to unclog Giulio Questi’s inscrutable character exploits, “Death Laid an Egg” shrouds itself with pygmy themes of obsession between death, lust, and control that tip-toe over a cracking, crackling egg shell in a rouse of debauchery indiscretions.

Releasing on a very special edition Blu-ray release, genre label Cult Epics proudly issues a limited edition, Hi-Def package of “Death Laid an Egg” with two versions of the Giulio Questi avant-garde giallo on a region free BD50, a 105 minute director’s cut and a 91 minute alternate international giallo Plucked version. Both versions of the film went through a 2K HD scan from the original 35mm negative, that’s been preserved quite well, renders a touch of pristine celluloid with hardly a flaw in it’s crisp technicolor perspicuity amongst the natural, stressed grain in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation. The Italian-English mono 2.0 LPCM casts a lively track across it’s broad audio spectrum with clear, forefront dialogue leading the charge with the purposeful and prosaic ambience and the harshly dissonance of viperous synth-and-string soundtrack from Bruno Maderna in strong supporting roles. Bonus features are aplenty with no only the alternate Plucked version of the film, but also with exclusive content such as a director’s cut commentary with Troy Howart & Nathaniel Tompson, a review by Italian critic Antonio Bruschini, a final interview with Giulio Questi entitled “The Outsider,” the short film by Questi “Doctor Schizo and Mister Phrenic” from 2002, with English and Italian language trailers, a reversible sleeve, and a limited slipcase printed with Fluoro inks! “Death Laid an Egg” dispenses more than just an effectual variation of giallo being also an odious bullet piercing the ramifications of modern technology and played on the blinding perversions of the weak minded that became the seeds that sowed their own ruin.

Own SE of “Death Laid an Egg” on Blu-ray!

The Maestro Delivers Us From EVIL! “P.O. Box Tinto Brass” and “IsTintoBrass” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Cult Epics)


Tinto Brass, whose very name is synonymous with erotica cinema, presents a tantalizing series of letters and videotapes, written and recorded for him by adoring women executing their most sensual fantasies, exploiting their carnal desires, and giving the director a peak into their wet dreams. Brass’s lovely young assistant retrieves numerous submissions from his P.O. Box and as Brass scours through the countless correspondences, attempting to penetrate through the mundane to find that special something from his female fans, the stories become animated from text to short film visuals that involve spread eagle voyeurism, reluctantly desiring wife swapping, and a little husband and wife role playing to spice up their drab marital sex life by incorporating home movies. Each woman is able to confide in the maestro who harbors a gift for delivering classy and joyous erotica to not only the cinema market, but also into his admirers’ private lives.

While America became gradually engrossed by the Showtime syndicated erotic drama series, “Red Shoe Diaries,” hosted by “X-Files” David Duchovny that showcased unconnected sensual stories from women who bared it all in heated encounters with male companions, the Italians’, who were experts in erotica cinema that this time, had their very own, slightly more explicit, version released in 1995 in full-length feature form, cleverly titled “P.O. Box Tinto Brass,” from director, and as titular presenter, the erotic master himself, Tinto Brass. Originally titled “Fermo posta Tinto Brass” in the native dialect,” “P.O. Box Tinto Brass” arrives on a new and restored 2-disc Blu-ray release from Cult Epics and acts as a celebration on not only the filmmakers’ immensely arousing body of work, but also a celebration on the director himself who has the uncanny ability to unearth the hidden away desires in all from his tongue-and-cheeky intimacy story arcs that relieve suppression for exploration of our natural sexual ambitions without the culpability instilled by taboo cultures. Granted, some of the material presented might feel dated and not as salacious as every John and Jane Smith can now utilize their God-given bodies to amass a modest fortune across the world wide web of sex, but to understand today’s culture, which still seems a fair share of sexually oppressive forces, we must look at Tinto Brass’s gift in normalizing what once was bedroom only material. Brass, who sport smoking a signature cigar throughout the film, uses his platform and becomes the vessel of expulsion to remove the privacy and shaming barriers that hinder healthy sexual appetites and, literally, creates a tactile representation of sexual jubilee with little-to-no seething judgement other than that of the character’s own restrictions. There are a ton of Brass trademarks shots that include, but not limited to, the hairy vulvas, a playfulness toward the vagina, exhibitionist flaunting, loads and loads of butt and breast angles in and out of clothes, elaborate location patterns on a grand, maybe art deco, scale, and, perhaps his most notable trademark, the expansive range of setting up elegant shots reflected off mirrors. As a whole, “P.O. Box Tinto Brass” brings a lighthearted and free atmosphere that’s uninhibited and sexy during and between each segment and while Brass is no doughy-eyed David Duchovny, I would be remiss in the lascivious eyes of Tinto Brass if I didn’t mention that after immersing ourselves in the “P.O. Box Tinto Brass” anecdotes, me and my wife had the most passionate, free verse sex we ever had since we’ve tied the knot 8 years ago, an experience that’s akin to an economically-friendly version of sex therapy. Thank you, Maestro!

This leads us into the second disc of this Cult Epics epic release with a 2013 documentary, entitled “IsTintoBrass,” from a longtime Tinto Brass colleague and good friend, Massimiliano Zanin, who delves more into Brass’s political, experimental, and monumental work compositions that shaped the director into who is now the renowned eroticism auteur with a belief and a slogan that the ass is the window into the soul. Thought being born, bred, and flourish as an Italian filmmaker, “IsTintoBrass” speaks volumes about his French influences and his life guiding time at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris where he met Henri Langlois and Lotte H Eisner who exposed Brass to rare, unseen films His time Cinémathèque Française afforded him praise on his first films, such as “Who Works Is Lost” and “Attraction,” that were to the likes of French directors like Jean-Luc Godard and were labeled as a blend of part French New Wave movement and pop cinema. Zanin guides us through Brass’s continuous battles with censorship boards whose biggest problem with his filmic formations was not the nudity, but the supposed transgressions against conventional cinematic norms, especially with “Salon Kitty” that was an atypical example against the latter half of his career and used sex as a means of power of another person. His entrenched struggles didn’t end there as the documentary also shed lights on filmmaker’s most controversial work, “Caligula,” which became not his work due to a an underhanded producer who decidedly desired more sex than story and fought Brass, in more than one court of law, for the rights. Notable friends, colleagues, and film critics go through the eclectic Tinto Brass timeline, recalling and reexamining his decisions and aspirations into a multinational praise of his work. Some of these speakers included Franco Nero (“Dropout”), Helen Mirran (“Caligula”), and Sir Ken Adams (“Salon Kitty”). Plus, there is plenty of T and A to go around,

If Tinto Brass didn’t have a stroke in 2010, Zanin’s documentary wouldn’t have been made three years later as it’s a highlighted tribute of one remarkable Italian filmmaker’s life achievements stemmed from something as terrible as a life threatening ailment; yet, that’s how these things usually go, right? A retrospective acknowledgement, usually overwhelming positive in general, of a great artist whose work is greatly admired, frequently in a posthumous manner. In this case, Zanin saw fit to encase a historical record on Tinto Brass before meeting his maker, beginning with a really vigorous look into his inspirations at the Cinémathèque Française, chalking up much of his earlier work to his time spent looking through reels upon reels of avant garde films, but then Zanin quietly fades out of the path that elevated Brass as the cherished erotic connoisseur. Zanin’s story takes this awkward tangent to only skim the surface of Brass’s erotic films, which is strange since Zanin’s known and collaborated with Brass the last 20 years, about 13 years when this documentary was released, and penned a pair of his Brass’s saucy scripts, “Cheeky” and “Monamour.” Yet, the last 20, if not 30, years is surprisingly fleeting in Zanin’s capsulated effort to immortalize Tinto Brass. Still, the overall film is perhaps more endearing than Tinto Brass would have ever imagined, especially as brash and as perverse as his image portrays him outside the parameters of the filmic dome. Inside that dome, Brass has obtained throughout the decades a following of professional admirers and adoring fans who see him for what he truly is, himself. “IsTintoBrass” isn’t a gratuitous or perverted exhibition of an old man’s horniness; it’s an intoxication of what it means to actually be free from the repressive nature of censorship, the rapturous high of being an unchained artist, and being an obsequious master craftsman of cinema.

Cult Epics delivers a 2-disc limited edition Blu-ray of Tinto Brass’s “P.O. Box Tinto Brass” and Massimiliano Zanin’s “IsTintoBrass.” “P.O. Box Tinto Brass” has been newly restored and re-mastered in 4K high definition from the original 35mm negative and presented is a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture is absolutely stunning that revels in the burst of primary colors Brass was keen to implement. The details and the tones on the naked skin flesh out every beauty mark, fiber of hair, and every pore. Typically, Tinto Brass films run purposely a little soft to create a dreamlike, if not fantasy-like, setting to obtain a jovial mood setting for the uninhibited moments, but the details are still strong throughout. “IsTintoBrass” is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from a 2K transfer scan of digital video, aside from the snippets of Brass’s work. Video presentation is like crystal that obviously wouldn’t distinguish any kind of transfer anomalies because there wouldn’t be any. The Italian language 2.0 Mono LCPM/DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (“P.O. Box Tinto Brass”) and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround (“IsTintoBrass”) are clearly discernible in all regards, especially in the Tinto Brass directed feature form ’95 with a clarity in the speech, a softer ambience that supports the dialogue rather than be level with it or overwhelm it, a range that mingles to support the dialogue as well. English subtitles are available on both discs. To smooth off any rough edges is a score by Riz Ortolani (“Cannibal Holocaust”) with a vibrant, cheeky score that fits perfectly into Brass’s wheelhouse of curvy, adventurous women. Bonus features on the first disc includes a 2003 interview with Tinto Brass who gives a brief background on his cinematic start, poster and photo gallery, and the trailer. Disc 2’s bonus material includes an interview with writer-director Massimiliano Zanin providing his reasoning for this documentary, a Tinto Brass achieve photo gallery, a couple of short interviews praising Brass’s passion, and trailers The package is also a work of art sheathed inside a cardboard, black and blood red slipcover and inside the casing is a 48-page booklet of Gianfranco Salis stills from the Tinto Brass achieve which are beautiful and almost Playboy-esque. To experience Tinto Brass is invaluable enough, but to experience his films in high definition is without a doubt worth it’s weight in gold with the powerhouse release of “P.O. Box Tinto Brass” and a retrospective documentary “IsTintoBrass” from Cult Epics!

Check out the LIMITED EDITION “P.O. Box Tinto Brass” release!