Struggling woman filmmaker Zee Bronson is trying to make what she loves a supportive career. Smoking pot, drinking beer, and living with her grandmother Sam mellows out Bronson’s anxiety of potentially landing a writer-director’s gig one day. When her sleazy producer, Serge, closes a deal with an investor interested in her script, Zee eyes widen with excitement, but her premature celebration quickly turns sour when Serge notes the financer wants someone else to direct her screenplay. A vexed Zee turns to a weird email spam virus that has seemingly appropriated her computer to propose a game of life with superpowers or death. Convincing Serge into joining her, the two unwittingly open a diabolical portal that traps them inside the apartment, subjecting them to battling a demon and persuading them to kill one another. As their relationship dissolves slowly throughout the night, lines a drawn between friend and foe in order to escape the grip of a computer-commanding Game of Power.
There is bottom-of-the-barrel independent schlock done with very half-hearted inspiration and then there’s bottom-of-the-barrel independent film done with A for effort around a difficult to sell single-locale story that includes witty dialogue and humble homemade effects. Some of these mighty, homegrown indies stem from one ultra-eccentric Berlin, Germany physics and prehistoric archeology studied-turned-artful filmmaker Zetkin Yikilmis in her second written and directed feature, “Planet Zee.” Her B-movie, or should I say Z-movie, is the epitome of independent filmmaking in knowing the production’s limits and how to make the most of a film with what little material is available to use, such as a deluging cash flow for big budget grandstanding that’ll get your name on marquees, posters, and regional commercials. Instead, “Planet Zee” is very much meta love and confidence concept toward Zetkin Yikilmis herself, as the title implies, being a woman in a typically projected masculine dominated industry. Yikilmis follows up her sophomore film from an array of micro shorts and her 2019 released debut feature, “Some Smoke and a Red Locker,” incorporating elements of the stoner horror-comedy into her 2021 film that’s self-produced by Yikilmis and her cinematographer husband, Dominic, as well as longtime collaborator S.B. Goldberg.
Zetkin Yikilmis, obviously, stars as Zee Bronson, a bohemian screenwriter attempting her hand at filmic success while having her grandmother live with her in a small apartment. Having surveyed Yikilmis’s micro shorts, her droll act as stoner-chic Zee Bronson imitates far from her other self-applied roles with a sluggish repartee and often tinkering with slapstick with fellow costar Alexander Tsypilev as squalid producer Serge. Yikilmis and Tsypilev’s reconnection after “Some Smoke and a Red Locker” gives way to a natural onscreen dynamic that has experience role reversal, gender role reversal, and to test their association connection. With a tight-fitting shirt that flirts with exposing his slightly protruding belly, Serge fits swimmingly into the cesspool of sexist producers with Tyspilev crafting Serge’s slimy mold with little pinches of details toward the producers first-rate me-first attitude. While Bronson and Serge are the two chief residents of “Planet Zee,” there is often a forgotten third wheel who bookends the narrative. Sam, Zee’s elderly only in looks grandmother played by Trish Osmond who had a small role in Zack Snyder’s “Army of Thieves.” The 1944 born English actress bloomed late in her career that begin in 2014, but that doesn’t stop Osmond from being a dominating player of goodwill toward bizarre films and roles, especially playing ones involving an usually vigorous old woman with underlying uncanniness probably important to the story. Minor characters fill in the rest with small brushes with minor scenes from Roland Bialke and Michael Tietz.
Through the veneer of bare budget and puerile comedy, “Planet Zee” puts together a couple of ugly statements well versed like a stain amongst the film industry but only brought up more recently during the #MeToo movement and seen as ingrained into industry as par for the course. Yikilmis mentions in the dialogue that as a woman filmmaker she fears oppressive struggles in forming a passionate career in creating art, her art being satirical comedy-horror motion-pictures, insinuating female-driven aspirations are often squashed by misogynistic viewpoints akin to the British journalist and author Christopher Hutchinson’s claim that women are not funny because they are pretty and do not need to appeal to men through humor. Yikilmin writes pitting herself, as Zee Bronson, against a sleazy and dismissive producer who exploits her with pretense friendship, mirroring the real-life exploitation of certain long-standing, fundamental moguls who instead of being held responsible for distasteful chauvinistic corruption, held women’s careers in the palms of their hands with a conniving, convincing promise of blacklisted ruinous slander or unfounded gossip if unethical compliance to their advances were denied. In lighter terms of the film’s satire, Yikilmis uses the situation as an allegorical parallel of who really has control over the story – the creator or the producer. As the creator, Zee Bronson yearns to maintain creative rights in telling her tale whereas the producer gives into the meddling whims of the highest bidder, reaching for the dollar signs that illuminate over their eyes. Serge’s me-first persona during the game offers no collaboration as he literally pushes down Zee for the faint prospect of survival and causes more harm than beneficial good. Look past the stock electricity effect visuals, polished lens flares, and the cheaply made demon getups and you’ll see inside “Planet Zee’s” fiery core, a passively seething call to overcome the darker side of a biased film industry.
Explore the terrain of Zetkin Yikilmis’s “Planet Zee” now on Blu-ray home video a part of the Darkside Releasing, as feature #24 on their Darkside Collection line, and distributed by MVD Visual. Shot and released in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, “Planet Zee” isn’t breathtaking with nearly the full 97-minute runtime inside Zee’s tight apartment living room, aka Yikilmis apartment where many of her shorts were filmed, and so the 1.78:1 aspect ratio is overkill or wasted on nothing spectacular aside from the trippy wallpaper or the bone-curtain that linger the background. In truth, “Planet Zee” could have been shot in a 4:3 for better framing inside a vertical inclined ratio. The full high definition, 1080p output does look good in the details. The trippy-cladded apartment and warm toned outfits pop with robust color. Though not labeled on the Blu-ray back cover, the release offers a DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix and despite being produced in Germany with Germany actors, the original language track is in English thick with a dialect accent but overall adequate and clean in delivering dialogue. Ambient effects often feel just as distant or separated from the visual trunk as their digitally rotoscoped onto the frame. Special features include a behind-the-scenes that actually isn’t anything relevant to behind-the-scenes material with a couple of rehearsed statements on set from Alexander Tsypilev pretending to be scared of Zetkin Yikilmis’s feigned dictator-like direction. Other bonus content includes a string through of Zetkin Yikilmis’s micro-shorts with Yikilmis serving as a host in between and a woman in horror trailer reel. “Planet Zee” is an unpretentious good time. Small, yes. Limited in budget, yes. Unknown cast, yes. Yet, where the film lacks with high dollar density it makes up for in free reign creativity and breezy humor that becomes a middle finger to inequality and duplicity.
Sylvia Kristel. A name that is synonymous to eroticism. Kristel paved the way in mainstreaming seductive romances of softcore exploits, helping to elevate the provocative genre out of the depths of sleaze and into a more exotic trashy novel for the big screen. In her titular role in the “Emmanuelle” franchise coursed an arousing path of sexual freedom, uninhibition, and became the sumptuous and worldly window in private fantasies. Playing the role for nearly two decades didn’t stop Kristel from other high profile and lucrative projects with an array of filmmakers as well as her roles pre-“Emmanuelle” that molded the Netherlands actress into a sexual icon rather than object of male fantasies. Cult Epics acquires four films – “Playing with Fire,” “Pastorale 1943,” “Mysteries,” and “Julia” – that even though didn’t have Kristel set as a principal lead still showcased her range within the constraints of a minor, but certainly not insignificant, performance.
“Playing With Fire”
In a madcap Paris where sex trafficking is something of a sport, a wealthy French banker learns his daughter has been kidnap and threatened to be tricked out or burned alive if the kidnappers’ ransom isn’t paid. Quickly learning that another woman has been mistaken for his daughter, a wave of relief bestows him to be cautious about future attempts on his daughter’s safety. The banker hires a private detective to protect his loveliest of assets, offering to escort her to a local safehouse with the promise of sanctuary, but the P.I. is operating incognito being really one of the leaders of a surreal and lavish brothel who now has the banker’s beautiful daughter in his possession. Or is it her who possesses him?
Unlike any other exploitation-comedy you’ve likely ever seen, the 1975 released “Playing with Fire,” aka “Le jeu avec le feu,” is a wacky deep-dive of surrealistic sex trafficking from French writer-director Alain Robbe-Grillet whose obsession with prostitution rings and other filmic eroticism pursuits extends back within a decade later with “L’Immortelle,” aka “The Immortal One,” and “Successive Slidings of Pleasure.” A French production of Arcadie Productions, Madeleine Films, and Cinecompany, “Playing with Fire” masters the avant-garde art of making light of a grim topic that results in a pull of emotions. Robbe-Grillet draws out the shocking aspects of sex slavery while also encouraging a smirk or a chuckle at the whimsical characters and shooting techniques weaved throughout a burlesque narrative. Robbe-Grillet also plays with the theme of dualities with a number of the principal characters having two or more versions of themselves: Philippe Noriet plays not only the banker father Georges de Saxe but also a voiceless sleaze erotically interacting with the banker’s daughter in a very Freudian concept between father-daughter relations. His daughter, Carolina (Anicée Alvina), disguises herself as the thin-mustached private detective to thwart future any attempt at an abduction and there’s also the identity mishap with the similar looking woman mistakenly kidnapped by the ringleader. Leading us into Jean-Louis Trintignant as the ringleader Franz constantly in a revolving door switch-a-roo façade into the private detective. The presence of duality doesn’t stop being a present throughout, continuing with the banker’s butler who is also a whorehouse patron without affirmation that they’re the one and same person. Before their illegal banishment in the mid-20th century, Brothels were widely dispersed throughout Paris, but not until the Nazi occupation absorbed the houses of ill-repute that seared a bad taste of deviant humiliation and sordid disgust into the mouths’ of the French populace and Robbe-Grillet taps into that once time of unrest by splicing in a pair of isolating scenes of goose-stepping Nazi soldiers with one of the moments garmenting Anicée Alvina in uniform and marching in the ranks, suggesting a more sinister subplot afoot in the storyline. Kristel plays one of the women snatched by Trintignant’s efficiently devious Franz with virtual a voiceless performance in what’s only a symbol of strength and beauty that sets perversion ablaze as she’s taken through the motions of essentially onboarding her into slavery whoredom. “Playing With Fire” can be at times difficult to keep up with the Alice in Wonderland-like surrealism and the character dualism but persists unwaveringly with a multi-faceted narration of deceit, eroticism, and comedy full of perversions and random outbursts akin to satirical skits that make this film unpredictable yet enjoyable to behold.
During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, a quaint Dutch farming village lives day-to-day alongside soldiers and German sympathizers known as National Socialists (NSB) to the Nazis, traitors to their fellow Dutch countrymen. When the Nazis learn of and round up all the dissidents and Jewish heritage people living in hiding on an adjacent, ferryboat island, a small band of unorganized resistant fighters determine the local pharmacist, a NSB member, to be the Nazi collaborator responsible for the treacherous leaking of information because his son impregnates an island village girl, teetering toward the fascist movement when mocked by her peers for her involvement with the pharmacist’s son. Inexperienced in the execution of traitors, the bungling resistance fighters learn just how difficult planning a murder can be when their scheme falls apart in a small village where everybody knows everybody.
On this second of four Sylvia Kristel features is the Spieghel Filmproductiemaatschaappij of “Pastorale 1943” which makes more prominent the Nazi regime, is set with a backdrop of a Nazi occupied Netherland town and has a cameo role of young and dashing Rutger Hauer (“Blind Fury,” “The Hitcher”). Netherland writer-director Wim Verstappen, whose had a few titles released previously from Cult Epics, such as “Obsessions” and “Blue Movie,” develops a script out of the World War II drama novel from author Simon Vestdijk with black comedic undertones and a tinge of corrosive sexuality and released the film in 1978. Pastorale, or Pastoral, refers to the typically calm and idyllic country life which the complete opposite in 1943 Netherlands with all of Europe and East Asia engulfed in war; however, this story takes place in its own corner of the world with a mini, damn near microscopic, war waged between the Nazis occupation along with domestic NSB collaborators and the inhabitants resisting against the encroaching fascism that has plagued revenue crops and instilled an authoritarian culture, such as mandating the teaching of the German language to students in Dutch schools. Kristel’s involvement with Verstappen’s “Pastorale 1943” is about as much as her involvement in “Playing With Fire” with a minor role that’s still a keystone piece to the narrative. She plays Miep Algera, a local schoolteacher disparaged by her neighbors and colleagues for having romantic relations with a Nazi officer, but has she really fallen for the officer or is she secretly conducting counterintelligence for the resistance? “Pastorale 1943’s” two-part story plays heavily embroiling and embroidering characters in the first half to the point of instituting a cornerstone character but when the narrative pivots, to the darker side of implied Nazi exterminations and the fumbling through the execution of a rightfully innocent man, Verstappen homes in on Frederik de Groot as the artist Johan Schults whose Germanic surname causes him much strife amongst his Dutch brethren but to prove himself, Schults takes charge, along with an equally green execution squad of resistance politicians, to murder the NSB collaborator, a local pharmacist Poerstamper (Bernard Droog). The Academy Award submitted “Pastorale 1943” can be light and funny then turn quickly on a dime into wartime darkness and director Wim Verstappen’s vision pops with epic World War II fascism atrocities, confined to one part of the world and without the explicit voyeurism of genocide.
After the strange suicidal death of a man named Karlson, Johan Nagel arrives to the coastal town where the death occurred. Immediately, Nagel stands out from the supercilious eccentric residents with his mustard yellow suit and fur coat, dispensing small cigars and money to everyone and every service as if they were infinite, and exhibits his own brand of strange behavior, especially with amorous feelings between two women and an unlikely friendship with a dwarf who has accepted his neighbors’ belittling jabs for humorous pleasure. As his behavior declines, Nagel’s presence unravels the coiled, seemingly impenetrable, barriers around his friends, his enemies, and his romantic pursuits that reshape their properties for the better at the dangers of his own sanity and life.
Finally, we’re at a point in the Sylvia Kristel collection where the titular star is in a lead role with this demolition of concrete idiosyncratic personalities melodrama entitled “Mysteries” from Dutch filmmaker Paul de Lussanet, based off a novel “Mysterier” by Knut Hamsun, with Sigma Film Productions as the production company. Kristel plays the steely Dany Kielland who becomes the infatuation of Nagel in an oppositional performance beautifully deranged and conducted by Rutger Hauer. The hot-and-cold and on the brink of frustration relationship between Kielland and Nagel is as resolved as an unfinished breakfast left to waste and void of complete nutrition as both characters digest morsels of desire only to explode in a frenzy of loathsome disgust in an unsavory, brittle dynamic only Hauer and Kristel could produce on screen. The other love interest involved, yet hardly feels as such until the last half hour, is an aged and more humble Martha Gude portrayed by “Last Night in Soho” British actress Rita Tushingham complete with a poor-looking frosty-colored wig. Kielland and Gude represent the two-side of society – rich and poor respectively – stuck mastering a stanch stance of an indeterminate state that Nagel barrels into and knocks down the status quo, like a bowling ball to ten pins, for the better of the coastal town. None of what Nagel does seemingly makes any sense and that’s very true to Hamsun’s novel in the unconventional, and probably unintentional, methods of Nagel’s erratic influence. “Time Bandit’s” David Rappaport debuts in his first feature film as Grogard, an achondroplasia character bulled by most of the town’s residents due to his disorder. Grogard anecdotally tells the story as “Mysteries” narrator, as if reading straight from Hamsun’s novel, the recollection of Nagel’s dichotomic behavior and, at the same time, Nagel also being a mentor, protector, and a friend that pained Grogard to watch his friend whither to death in fit of emotional exhaustion. “Mysteries” borders arthouse cinema, adaptive faithfulness, and pristine melodramatic performance that sound good in theory but not always translate well to the screen, leaving more of a perplexing impression on the whole purpose of rendering Knut Hamsun’s novel into film in the first place.
Every year, Patrick departs his boarding school for a short holiday with his father and relatives at his grandmother’s idyllic lakeside house. While riding the train en route to his grandmother’s, he encounters an older, yet beautiful, blonde woman inside the passenger carriage car and before he can firm up courage to act upon his sexual brimming hormones, the blonde is swept up by an older gentleman right from under his nose. Come to find out, the blonde woman is actually his father’s girlfriend in a completely open relationship when it boils down to sex. Anxious about his own insecure sexual appetite, Patrick finds himself surrounded by the perversions of his family and friends, leaving the young man hesitant and nearly impotent in bedding the woman he actually cares about, a longtime friend Julia who lives next door to his grandmother.
On the heels of “Emmanuelle,” Sylvia Kristel follows up with another licentious freedom film in Sigi Rothemund’s “Julia.” Also known as “Summer Girl” or “Die Nichte der O,” the German production from the Lisa-Film company is the earliest film on the 1970s collection with a release in 1974 and is the only other screenplay on the collection next to “Playing with Fire” that is not adapted from literature. Instead, “Julia” is a wild romp ride of young sexual exploration and the anxieties that accompany it from an outlandish and witty script by Wolfgang Bauer. “Julia” might not be based off a book, but the story is certainly an unapologetically open book about the insignificance of virginity, polyamorous affairs, lesbianism, voyeurism, and the sexual rite of passage into adulthood with the young and naive principal Patrick, or Pauli as credited, played by the late Ekkehardt Belle who passed away in January of this year. Opposite Belle, Sylvia Kristel obviously dons the titular role of Julia. Inexplicably voluptuously different from the other three films on the collection, Kristel radiates a sexual aurora perhaps infected by proxy of its release soon after “Emmanuelle” as Kristel obvious branches out to more sensible dramatic roles rather than the decor of a German sex comedy such as “Julia” that galvanized by its free-for-all eccentric caricatures including an operatic, overweight, and perverse uncle Uncle Alex (Peter Berling, “When Women Were Called Virgins”), a highly aggressive lesbian in Aunt Myriam (Gisela Hahn, “Devil Hunter”), the house maid Silvana who Myrian seduces with whipped cream and has piano-top sex (Christine Glasner), and his polyamorous father Ralph (Jean-Claude Bouillion, “The Sextorvert”) and girlfriend Yvonne (Teri Tordai, “She Lost Her…You Know What”). Comparatively flimsy next to “Emmanuelle” as a sexual journey and coming of age film but “Julia” is a hot-to-trot sex comedy with funny bits as well as sultry naught bits too.
Beautifully curated for the first time ever release in the United States of all four films is Cult Epics’ “Sylvia Kristel: 1970s Collection” on Blu-ray and DVD. The 4-disc, uncut Blu-ray, which was provided for coverage, is region free, limited to 2500 copies, and perfectly packaging to extol praise upon the robust early career of Sylvia Kristel. Presented in European widescreen 1:66:1 (with the exception of “Playing with Fire” which is displayed in an anamorphic 2:35:1), each film is newly scanned in 2K from the original 35mm elements as well as been restored. Transfers for the most part are exquisitely pristine, each harboring their own mise-en-scene mélange, but some are better than others with “Mysteries” sitting at the bottom rung of showing slightly a few more scratches and one-or-two single frame damages that flame up through the reel briefly. “Julia” also has minor scratches, but that’s really the extent of the issues with the image quality on this restored visual released with a rich color palette and textures redefined for a better palpability. Compression issues are virtually non-existent and there are no tinkering enhancements or cropping used to skirt transfer limitations. I am in awe of the audio output of the 1920kps bitrate, transmitting the highest audio quality possible for each release through either DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 or a LCPM 2.0. Dialogue clarity comes through cleanly with French in “Playing with Fire,” Dutch and German in “Pastorale 1943,” and German in “Julia.” “Mysteries” sounds a bit muddle sometimes due to the consistently background popping interference, but the Dutch language still pulls through strongly and discernibly. Each film comes with optional English subtitles. Special features are aplenty with audio commentaries by Tim Lucas, Jeremy Richey, and Peter W. Verstraten, new and vintage interviews and promotional footage with cast and crew on ‘Playing with Fire,” “Pastorale 1943,” and “Mysteries,” a poster and still gallery on each release, and original theatrical trailers. Outside the disc contents, the collection’s rugged cardboard boxset housing unit consists of a 4-disc snapper case with vintage-still collage cover art, a 40-page illustrated booklet with color pictures and an essay on all four films written by Jeremy Richey, and a cover art poster by Gilles Vranckx. Total runtime is 429 minutes, enough to get your Syliva Kristel fill and then want more…much more. The “Sylvia Kristel: 1970s Collection” lauds the actress’s versatility of performances and ability to work with any director from any country and fans who love “Emmanuelle,” or of just Kristel, will undoubtedly fall in love with this Cult Epics comprehensive look at the Dutch icon’s outermost filmography.
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.
After his return from a lengthy time abroad, Mark finds himself in a contentious and spiteful relationship with his skittish wife Anna unveils her infidelity. Unable to pry any kind of information from her before her sudden disappearance, Mark results to all the stages of grief and heartache: denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Anna comes-and-goes from Mark and their son’s life, but their spats continue, increasing in anger and violence which each encounter. Mark hires private investigators to track down Anna’s whereabouts. He evens confronts her flamboyant and Zen-mastering lover. But when Mark comes face-to-face with Anna’s sinister secret, a sub rosa affair unlike anything Mark has ever seen, he will go to unimaginable lengths to protect the wife he obsessively loves.
Polish filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski’s “Possession” spans over a number of parallels that, in abstract theory, reflect social political matters of a post-war, Berlin wall divided Germany and the personal matters of Zulawski as a mirror of his ugly and bitter divorce from actress Malgorzata Braunek. The 1981, Berlin shot, inimitable horror is a speeding melodramatic bullet train racing down a tracklayer of surreal rails and planks, ripping toward destruction with two turbulent people who about to slam, engine first, into an unforeseen mountain façade of towering despondency. That unforeseen mountain takes form from the tug-a-war of within, materializing duplicity, in every sense of the word, unnaturally. Frederic Tuten cowrote the emotionally florid and easily post-grad thesis dissecting film with Zulawski that was French mounted by Gaumont Film Company under producer Marie-Laure Reyre. Two other French companies, Oliane Productions and Soma Films, co-produced.
Watching Mark (“Jurassic Park” and “Event Horizon’s” Sam Neill), and Anna (“The Tenant” and “Diabolique’s” Isabelle Adjani) go at each other’s throat in a vicious cycle of matrimony madness can be in itself, maddening. Neill and Adjani radiate such loathing and desperation that’s seeing the two interact could possibly ignite World War III right there in the heart of Germany. What makes the contentious and hyperventilating scenes more interesting and alluring are the actors’ stage-like, full of hyperbolic melodrama, performances that somehow don’t quite register as the feisty interactions playout in what can only be concluded being pinpoint precision. Even Heinrich (“A Young Emmanuelle’s” Heinz Bennent”) is blatantly over-the-top with erratically wild movements of his body during scenes of emotional and physical struggle. Zulawski and “Possession” embraces the international cast with individual methodology on acting from Britain, France, Germany, and with even Zulawski who’s Polish and though you know the film is set in a divided Berlin between East and West Germany, there’s never this sense that “Possession” is strictly locked down to be anything but German. Aside from the Berlin Wall and some signage, maybe even the architecture, the multinational cast thins out the inklings of thinking, “oh yeah, this is filed in Germany!” “Possession” cast concludes with Margit Carstensen, Shaun Lawton, Johanna Hofner, Michael Hogben and Carl Duering.
Being that this was my second sit down with Andrzej Zulaski’s “Possession,” the first being Second Sight Films’ DVD release over 10 years ago, you begin to fathom the pattern of surrealism Zulaski aims to bombard viewers with through incessant bickering and an unspoken love-and-hate undertone. The doppelganger theory that’s attached itself to “Possession” from over the years warrants merit because those in a relationship on the precipice of implosion always wish the other person to be a better version of themselves, of who they want them to be, or of who they fell in love with in the first place. One can’t go deep into the doppelganger theory without totally exposing all of “Possession’s” secrets, surreal or not, and that infestation of preference takes shape for Zulaski as, ironically enough, a shapeless creature. The desire is tremendously powerful for Anna she can’t avoid being away from it for long stretches of a time, popping in to her and Mark’s old apartment for just enough time to have Mark stir the pot with his own manifested infernal creature, himself. Anna, an extremely passive woman, rarely confronts Mark about her infidelity and is always Mark who has to extract that information with every tooth and nail. “Possession” will forever be hailed a film that can analyzed over and over again without ever finding a concrete interpretation and, you know what, we can live with that.
As I said, last time “Possession” was visited by these aging eyes was over a decade ago on a UK DVD. Now, I had the fortunate opportunity to sit down with a new Blu-ray release from Australia. Umbrella Entertainment, in conjunction with The Film Institute (TFI) Films Production, releases a single disc, full 1080p Blu-ray, registered as their volume #11 on the spine, as part of the banner’s Beyond Genres collection. Presented in European widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio, this “Possession” release has a giant leap of negative exposure in comparison to Second Sight’s DVD, retreating away from a more natural and textural palpable transfer, full of detail and good amount of grain, to a blue-tinged headscratcher with a higher contrast that renders details and shadows nearly wiped out. The transfer is also conveyed with slight damage seen in approx. minute 14 with a vertical scratch and some image destabilization that makes discernability dematerialize right before your eyes near minute 44 and 57. The English language DTS-HD 2.0 master audio renders better with cleaner tracks seeing little-to-none hissing or static. The dialogue’s apparent and unobstructed thought slightly isolating without much depth. Despite some limited capacity with the dual channels, “Possession’s” more adrenalized scenes/ranges – i.e., speeding car flip, shoot outs, apartment explosion – sound effective and robust. Special features include an archival audio commentary with director Andrzej Zulawski and co-writer Frederic Tuten, an archival interview with the late Zulawski The Other Side of the Wall: The Making of Possession from 2011, a U.S. Cut of the film with a following featurette Repossessed, a location featurette A Divided City, the musical compositions in an interview with composer Andrej Korzynski The Sounds of Possession, an interview with producer Christian Ferry Our Friend in the West, a poster analysis, and the international and U.S. theatrical trailer. What’s presented by Umbrella is the fully uncut 123-minute version in a region B-code format though, weirdly enough, rated 18. Another weird note about the release is the back cover credits are displayed in French on the cardboard slipcover housing the reversible DVD artwork featuring a new illustrated snapcase cover art by Simon Sherry. I’m a clear fan of “Possession’s” clear ambiguity despite being not sure positive about the new Blu-ray release. Zulawski’s tale of corrosive dissolving of wedlock definitely fits the Beyond Genres banner and is a fine edition to Umbrella’s celebratory bank of classic horror.
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.