On a dark and stormy night after a school football game, a teacher and three students take shelter at a cottage adjacent to a cemetery. If the cottage wasn’t creepy enough, the sole occupant owner surpassed the bar. She calls herself Miss Leslie, a middle aged woman with an ill-fated story of her friend and mother’s fiery demise from long past and a quirky penchant for making life-size female dolls that set inside an illuminating shrine. Though they feel uneasy about the creepy surroundings, the visitors stay and get cozy, especially with each other, but Miss Leslie has ulterior, deranged motives. Her dolls are not just lifelike, they once were vibrant lives of women Miss Leslie sorely wanted to inhabit their feminine confines of youth and beauty from over the years, but now they are an undecomposable shells, encase in Miss Leslie’s special doll making brew to timelessly capture their lovely physiques. They are also beautiful, yet painful reminders of her failed attempts to transfer her essence into their adolescent bodies.
Every so often you come across a film with a gigantically absurd hard shell cover with the gooey insides of eye-rolling cheesiness and you just have to ask yourself, how in the world did something like this ever come to fruition!? Yet, somehow, someway, these productions of an oddball variety always have an intense allure about them and end up being just one of the coolest rarities to grace the glazed-over irises. Joseph Prieto’s “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” is the epitome of this very phenomena. “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” is an exploitation, nearly softcore porn, horror with a deranged killers with severe mental issues that range from communication with dead to, what can be now construed as antiquated, complications of gender identity. One of the last directed films from Prieto, who also helmed “Shanty Tramp” and “Savages from Hell,” also penned the screenplay alongside longtime collaborator and producer Ralph Remy Jr. The script reads like an insatiable bedside thriller novel, an object of complete obsession through the entirety and well long after being completed; “Miss Leslie’s Dolls’” has a rich gothic lining, a strong sexual appetite, and a timely LGTB subject that involves debate on mental illness or inherited gender orientation.
Not many actors performed in drag. Sure, there was Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in “Some Like It Hot” and there was even Anthony Perkins from “Psycho,” who some might go as far as saying that “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” might draw inspiration from with the whole mother fixation, but only a small faction of fans, especially in the genre, might know Salvador Ugarte. The Cuban born Ugarte has great poise as a woman imprisoned in a man’s body. Miss Leslie just isn’t a deranged killer in drag; the character has deep rooted issues stemming out of not only being a woman embodied incorrectly, but also seeded by an engulfing obsession with capturing beauty to obtain it for herself, an addition from a result of a permanent scarring left behind by Miss Leslie’s homicidal rampage in the character’s history. Ugarte has the mannerisms and the gait down so unerringly that’s the performance is downright creepy, but there was one aspect of womanhood that Ugarte’s masculinity couldn’t mask: his voice. The actor is horrendously dubbed, adding charm to the bizarre concept. Ugarte’s joined by “Little Laura and Big John’s” Terri Juston, Marchelle Bichette (“The Gruesome Twosome”), Kitty Lewis, and Charles Pitts of “Supervixens.”
Contrary to the above, “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” has some drawback. Though the characters might be entertaining and interesting, especially with the Bourbon obsessed and hot for teacher Roy and his terrible gangster accent or the fact that Ms. Alma Frost is a smoking hot, twenty-something year old prude teacher to her pupils who are practically the same age as her, they’re washed over with an aloof mentality, consequently looking past or just blatantly oblivious to Miss Leslie’s obvious male features, her inauspicious ramblings, and the fact she has a shrine of creepy and realistic dolls of women that fill the room with the smell like rot and death. Perhaps too busy running through the cemetery at night in skimpy bedroom garments. Yes, this does happen. On top of that, Miss Leslie harness of occult powers goes relatively unexplored, yet very much utilized as an important portion of the film near the last act. Despite being passively mentioned and rather undercut from more than most of the film, Miss Leslie’s occult mischief is plucked right from left field to further the enigmatic aurora of Prieto’s mystical exploitation.
Network proudly presents “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” on an UK 1080p Hi-Definition, region free Blu-ray home video, remastered from the original film elements once thought to be have been forever lost. The newly scanned transfer came from a surviving print and presented in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The restoration included detailed grain management, the automated and manual removal of dirt and damage, and the correction of major color instability, warp, and density fluctuations. (In full disclosure, Network sent me a DVD-R screener and that is what the following critique is based off of) Though in some frames there flares up some instability, from my perspective, the first act and half really came out well with the vivid, yet natural, coloring. However, once inside Miss Leslie’s basement, woozy blotchy moments of Leslie fiddling around makes the particular scene a bit off putting. The stereo mono track is fair for the 1973 film that has it’s share of distortions and editing pop faux pas, but the dialogue is fiercely prominent, despite the inherent awfully laid dub track, and equally well balanced with ambient tracks. There were no bonus material on the release. Transvestitism horror is quite a rare experience that always has a lasting impression, cerebrally popping visuals of grim visions commingling with the blood, the viscera, and the other supplementary violence. “Miss Leslie’s Dolls” deserved this Blu-ray release and Network did right by Prieto’s obscure grindhouse feature that will sear into your skull.
When a deadly robbery strikes one of Darcy Security Services armored cars, the security company’s chief executives aim to crack down on the already rigorous operational security protocols by implementing vastly unpopular and Union-irritating measures. The hit not only induces change to security procedures, but also opens up a can of worms that forces the hand of the three internal company men, who’ve been planning to steal from inside Darcy Security Services over the last five years, to accelerate their timeline. Their carefully laid out plan quickly becomes complicated when the mob gets wind of their elaborate heist, compelling the small three man crew to work for the crime boss without much of a choice as life and limb come to stake. Now the only thing that can stand between them and millions of dollars are two new Darcy recruits, a highly trained former police officer with a penchant for doing what’s honorable and a gun shy bloke targeted to be a prime suspect in previous armored car robberies.
Based loosely on a pair of actual robbery events authored by novelist Devon Minchin, “Money Makers” bares a ruthless resemblance to hardnose acts of crime as filmmaker Bruce Beresford captivates as the maestro behind the orchestration of Minchin’s book that’s gritty and enthralling on the big screen. The “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Double Jeopardy” director also pens a script full of bloody encounters and unflinching greed that delivers “Money Movers” as the first R-rated feature to stem out of South Australian Film Corporation, a production company that, up until then, co-produced dramas, mysteries, and family films, such as Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “The Last Wave,” with McElroy & McElroy and later co-produced the widely successful Outback horror “Wolf Creek” starring John Jarrett nearly 30 years later.
While numerous characters are subject to suspect and their roles’ intentions are guarded to the very end, the plot, for all intents and purposes, circulates around Eric Jackson, a former champion race car driver who now tenures as a 5-year senior security guard at Darcy’s, played by Terence Donovan. Donovan gives the performance his all with a wide range of subversive behavior. From cool, calm, and collective to feral gumption, Donovan race ends in drenching ferocity that’s fueled by his fellow costars who meet him at his level of performance. The most recognizable face, at least for me, is “F/X’s” Bryan Brown who portray’s Eric’s brother, Brian Jackson. They butt heads with former police officer Dick Martin and his no tomfoolery. The late Ed Devereaux had an old school acting method, very impersonal and straight forward like a John Wayne-type, and that worked perfectly in the role of Martin who befriends the projected patzy Leo Bassett played by “Quigley Down Under’s” Tony Bonner. Bonner’s able to capture Bassett’s unconfident, yet smooth persona that’s complete opposite of his partner Dick Martin, whose confident, but brash. What’s curious about the characters lies under the surface of a domineering male lineup – the women. Not one female character is apparent in a co-lead role and each role has a presumable flaw to them. Candy Raymond is an undercover private eye who uses her body and wits for information, Eric Jackson’s wife, played by Jeanie Drynan, has an absent and naive approach, and a handful of minor roles involving non-verbal girlfriends and late night secretary carnalities. The cast rounds out with Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Alan Cassell, Lucky Grills, Hu Pryce, Terry Camilleri and Frank Wilson.
“Money Movers” doesn’t scream perfection, but plays a major influential part in the infancy stages of violent crime thrillers that paved the way for such films like “Heat” or “Point Blank” and supplies another keystone in constructing the genre a solid foundation. “Money Movers” is bookend with graphic shootouts and peppered with conniving dealings and unsavory characters toward a shoot’em up heist climax that Bruce Beresford was able to depict visually and script confidently. In early scene, the storyboards could have been revised, restructured, or reordered to unearth a clear picture of establishing character backstories and setup that still process a puzzling connection between their nefarious intentions, but the ample storyline corrects course quickly without loosing too much time to ponder about the after effects of the early scenes.
Umbrella Entertainment re-releases “Money Movers” on a PAL DVD home video. The region free DVD is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Definition is key as the colors are, for lack of a better word, washed, but the clear cut outline that produces a sharp finish image grants this release of “Money Movers” a seal of approval that isn’t asterisked with blatant enhancements. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is on point with clarity in the dialogue and properly aligned, volumed, and untarnished ambiance. What’s interesting about “Money Movers” is the lack of a score that forces the viewer, subconsciously, to hone in more acute to the characters and their brazen actions. Bonus material includes “Count Your Toes – a making-of featurette with writer-director Bruce Beresford and cast members Bryan Brown, Terence Donovan, Tony Bonner, and Candy Raymond. There’s also the theatrical trailer and Umbrella Entertainment’s propaganda material. One of the first to be up on a prestigious pedastal of heist films, “Money Movers” is a violent, toe-cutting, experience armored with a great cast of acclaimed actors and filmmakers in this Ozploitation classic.
In a time of Kings and nobility, a traveling beggar roams the open landscape. However, this man is no ordinary vagrant, but is the leisurely wary Devil reincarnated into the flesh, walking amongst mankind with one goal in mind: seeking pleasure by any means necessary. From pillaging to cheating and lust to murder, the haughty Devil has embarked on an oppressive journey as Mr. Leonardo, encountering all walks of life and swindling them of their morality and of their wealth. He’s joined by a young and poor servant boy, Tomas, as a traveling companion, schooling the God fearing lad in man’s corruptible virtues and exploiting their naïve or sinful nature. Though being a powerful immortal in true form, as man, the Devil can succumb to sickness, injury, and even death, but still maintains certain metaphysical abilities to provide an edge over those he bamboozles. In his mischievous encounters on Earth, Leonardo comes to realize that man might just be more immoral as the Devil himself when the Devil, in human form, can’t inflict as much havoc as the unscrupulous attributes of a profane mankind.
“The Devil Reincarnate” is worth it’s weight in ducats for all the Paul Naschy fans. Also known as “El Caminante,” not a literal translation with an interpretation as The Walker, the Paul Naschy starred, co-written, and directed film, under his birth namesake of Jacinto Molina, is a staggering approach toward the exhibition of humanity at it’s complete and utter worst in a cloaked slither of an Naschy anecdote that even the Devil couldn’t top man’s relentless and unremitting cruelty. Naschy’s pessimistic views, much which I’ve always agreed with, illuminate all that was, is, and will be wrong with human race and despite how barbaric and nasty his character, Leonardo, might be portrayed, Naschy manages to be essentially one of the only directors to make the Devil an anti-hero of sorts.
Paul Naschy is Spain’s most recognizable horror icon, recreating many of the iconic monsters and macabre films in his native land. Leonardo is a different sort of character for Naschy, one that doesn’t hide behind a mask or makeup, revealing a full-blown Naschy assortment of just him. As himself in Leonardo, he’s plays a terrible, down-right rotten bastardo who even belittles himself as a simpleton to lie and steal from wealthy aristocracy. Leonardo is smooth, skillful, charming, intriguing, and brutish much like I would imagine Paul Naschy would be in real life. Alongside Naschy, David Rocha portrays Leonardo’s servant companion, Tomas, and Rocha provides a youthful exuberance that translate to onscreen, giving Leonardo companionship, aid, and also assists in being the Devil’s experimental subject to see how long and how much the Devil can instill the dastardly advice and actions into the young man. “The Devil Incarnate’s” concupiscence fully enflames with some of Spain’s more provocative actresses such as Eva León (“Bahía blanca”), Adriana Vega (“The Night of the Executioner”), Blanca Estrada (“Horror of the Zombies”), and “Night of the Werewolf’s” Silvia Aguilar, whose bare rear-end is splayed on many of the film’s iconic posters and the limited edition Mondo Macabro Blu-ray cover with an upside down cross etched into her left butt cheek.
Honestly, “The Devil Incarnate” is exemplary of near perfection. Through the journeyman storyline, the performances maintain the highest caliber inside the realm of horror-comedy with Naschy at the helm, steering the multi-façade Leonardo with charisma, magnetism, and callous barbarity. Supporting cast complete Leonardo’s monstrous persona with pinpoint precision by shifting actors and actresses into diverse walks of life who then churn out comical, chilling, and overall controversial performances that spill into horror subgenre territories, like Nunsploitation for example. The powerful theme is an unfortunate, yet timeless blemish on human culture and society. Cheat, steal, and murder are the core elements conveyed by the filmmaker to suggest that the Devil doesn’t need to take form to stir up mayhem, but that there’s a little bit of the Devil inside us all to complete his bidding in a war against God. Story references the renowned biblical tale of Adam and Eve and the Devil’s temptation that ultimately curses the human race, bestowing upon them with original sin. There’s plenty of sin motifs to go around along with phallic notions through the Devil’s own wandering agenda that’s intertwined with leagues of potential disobedient individuals and shamed religious turncoats to paint a gloomy landscape of man’s most horrid shortcomings.
Mondo Macabro and CAV Releasing presents the unrated, non-limited edition of Paul Naschy’s “The Devil Reincarnate” onto a region free, 1080p, BD25 Blu-ray home video with a brand new 4k transfer from the film’s negative and displayed in a widescreen, 1.66:1 aspect ratio. For a negative from 1979, the transfer aims to please with hardly little-to-no damage or other deterioration flaws, no awkward cropping, and no tinkered enhancements detected. Coloring is flattering despite the hint yellowish tint. Some of the darker scenes lose sharp definition do to poor lighting, but there are breathtaking landscapes, especially when Naschy is strung up on the cross, with a vivid, natural aesthetic to the release. The Spanish Dolby Digital LPCM mono, at 24fps, with optional English subtitles packs quite a wallop with robust scuffles, clanking of swords, and a clear rendering of Ángel Arteaga’s zany and harrowing compositions. The extras include an introduction from Paul Naschy, exclusive interviews with costar David Rocha and Naschy’s sons, Sergio and Bruno Molina, a tour of Paul Naschy’s study and home, and exclusive audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of various horror historical directors and moments in cinema. There’s no contest. “The Devil Incarnate” is, without a single seedling of doubt, the best film of Paul Naschy’s extensive body of work and it’s a film that reinstates an immense amount of melancholy into the soul when regression is setting in that human beings never have been and never will be better than the Devil himself.
Three hundred million yen and Yakuza boss Anjo have disappeared without a trace. Anjo’s most deadly and most sadomasochistic enforcer, Kakihara, and the rest of the Yakuza gang embark on a torture-riddle search and rescue to find their missing boss. After unrightfully torturing and mutilating a rival Yakuza leader, Kakihara learns through a trail of mayhem of a fierce killer known as Ichi and after being exposed to Ichi’s grisly handiwork first hand, a usually stagnant and emotionally detached Kakihara becomes stimulated and eager to go one-on-one with a formidable foe like Ichi, who could possibly bestow upon him gratifying pain to feel something other than emptiness. Ichi’s eviscerating destruction isn’t totally in his control as the sexually-repressed and candidly disturbed overall nice guy is being coerce through psycho-manipulation by Jijii, an old man seeking retribution against the Anjo gang. With blades projecting from his shoes and his skill at martial arts, the timid Ichi becomes the ultimate killing machine when brainwashing takes him over the edge into a hysterical fit of rage that leaves guts and blood to paint the floor and walls.
Perhaps director Takashi Miike’s finest work, the 2001 Japanese blood bath “Ichi the Killer” is a must own for any film aficionado teetering on the razor wire between crime dramas and gory action flicks that might be on the viewing docket for then night, but certainly a must-see for all film lovers at some point in time. Miike’s stone cold, chaotic style of filmmaking embraces the story’s unwavering havoc that blisters with ruthless brutality between two very different, black and white characters with one thing in common – being good a killing. Based off the manga penned by Hideo Yamamoto and from the adapted screenplay by Sakichi Sato, Miike crafts the most disturbing elements of mankind and brings them to the forefront in a simple story of revenge. On one side, there’s Kakihara, a scarred-face Yakuza enforcer with a very rich violent history to the extent that he’s become numb to his own existence in the world and then there’s Ichi, a reclusive cry-baby stemmed from being mentally fed graphic bulling stories of battery and rape in a memory built upon languishing lies. Vastly different, well-written characters opposite the spectrum and both are good at dealing death, but one aims to dish it out and the other yearns to stop his carnage, and that compelling core element is immensely fluffed by extreme violence in a way that only Miike can deliver it.
But for a film like “Ichi the Killer,” Takashi Miike had a little (hint of sarcasm) help from his gifted cast in making this project a cult success. Before this actor was Hogun in the Marvel Universe’s “Thor” franchise, Tadanobu Asano shaped up the psychotic enforcer Kakihara and the usually dark featured Asano reconfigures his appearance to put life into the character who sports blonde, wavy hair, a frothy complexion, and small hoop piercings at the corners of his lips to keep the slits from opening to expose the entire gaping jaw which is used as a defensive weapon. Opposite Asano is the Tokyo born Nao Ohmori who perfectly subjects himself to being a wimpy human shell with an explosive inner anger. The two men have only a small amount of screen time together and that requires them to build their character’s standout personalities. Complimenting their performances is an amazing support cast, including Shin’ya Tsukamoto (“Marebito”), Miss Singapore 1994 Paulyn Sun, Hiroyuki Tanaka, and Suzuki Matsuo.
“Ichi the Killer” is simply magnificent where it vulgarly touches upon various themes, mostly human flawed that also destines opposing counterparts together. Aside from the graphically realistic violence, Miike’s film hits upon other attributable tangents, among them some are just being plain gross, but these aspects are undeniably important to the story. Themes ranging from sexual suppression and female inferiority to sadomasochism and severe obsession top the charts in a heap of motifs throughout. Accessorial blood and other bodily fluids are extravagantly portrayed, spraying across the room with jettison entrails or dripping from potted plants to a cloudy puddle below during in a voyeuristic rape scene, to get the clear sense of an adult manga inspired chockablock exploitation and crime drama.
Well Go USA presents “Ichi the Killer” on Blu-ray in a newly restored 4K digital transfer of the director’s cut; a task undertaken by Emperor Motion Pictures in 2017. Presented in a widescreen 16:9 (1.85:1) aspect ratio, the film starts off with a blurb about the history of this particular digital restoration and transfer that asserts director Takashi Miike’s approval for release. Well Go USA’s rendering resembles much of the previous Tokyo Shock Blu-ray with subtle differences such as a slightly more aqua tint to the picture coloring and also much like it’s other Region A Blu-ray counterpart, a bit of noise is present in the restoration, but still the better detail of the two. The Japanese stereo 5.1 DTE-HD Master Audio surround sound has an bombastic soundtrack, but dialogue remains on the softer side where relying on the English subtitles is crucial. No issues with timing or accuracy in the subtitles. Surprisingly, the only extras included on the Well Go USA release is an audio commentary with director Takashi Miike and manga artist Hideo Yamamoto, still gallery, and the trailer that undercuts this releases’ purchasing value and might as well hunt down for the out of print Media Blasters Blu-ray, if extras are a must. Even still, “Ichi the Killer” has been resurrected in North America again and the release technically sustains growth amongst the mass of releases around the world. The lack of special features is disconcerting, especially being a restored director’s cut, but “Ichi the Killer” can stand on it’s own as a gracefully sanguinary masterpiece. Look for the Blu-ray to hit retail and online shelves March 20th!
In the midst of a deranged serial killer’s escape from prison, Four Delta Omega sisters enter a school raffle to represent their sorority and end up winning an all expenses paid hotel suite complete with a luxurious hot tub. As student bodies fall in the maniac’s wake, the sisters flight toward fun times before taking notice how many of their friends and fellow students become unfortunate slashed-up victims and just when things are getting wet and carnal, the killer checks in, crashing good times, and making mince meat out of the lucky winners and their boyfriends.
Budget horror filmmaker Chris Greenaway gets his hands into the sisterhood horror genre with his 2016 written and directed tongue-and-cheek horror-comedy “Hot Tub Party Massacre.” Campy. gratuitous. Schlocky. Greenaway has covered all the bases of a satirical slasher sporting a killer wielding a small garden cultivator – “cultivator” is a good title or moniker for another campy slasher as long as you put the proverbial “the” in front of it. Instead, we get the Canadian cult no-so-classic “Hot Tub Party Massacre” because nothing says killer party than an actual killer at your party and here the party is wet and wild with an escaped maniac on the loose, ready to randomly slice and dice the unscrupulous and individualistic sisters of Delta Omega sorority.
While there’s not a sole headliner to Greenaway’s film, like a Jamie Lee Curtis to Laurie Strobe or a Neve Campbell to Scream, the sorority girls attending the bubbly hot tub affair function as a collective headlining mass of alternative women. In alphabetical order, Amanda Nickels, Erin Hyndman, Jynx Vandersteen (“Father’s Day”), and Sarah Foster each represent Delta Omega’s finest in their respective personas as popular, bookworm, party (or slut?), and goth. The quintessential tropes to any routine slasher star as surprisingly benevolent with their upbeat attitudes and gracious acceptance of all kinds of people. When Hyndman’s nerdy Bethany states she probably shouldn’t attend trip, party girl Brandi, aka Vandersteen, counteracts with you’re one of us, a Delta Omega, and only the best become Delta Omegas. Their stalker, the elusive serial killer, is played by Mark Kiazyk trying to do his best Michael Myers impersonation from the chest down, as he’s frequently screened. Kiazyk’s has the look, a face of pure hatred, and I wish that was more prevalent as it’s a face for television. Rounding out the cast are Delta Omega boyfriends Danny Warren and Ken Wright, “Rust’s” Corey Taylor as a school spirited University newscaster, “you’re all doomed” guy Nicholas MacDonald, and the indie scream queen Brinke Stevens making her bit cameo.
“Hot Tub Party Massacre” is essentially one big homage to the enshrined horror flicks and pays it’s respects to, as aforementioned, Halloween with the killer. Also gives a head nod to Friday the 13th Part II in which a couple are jointly impaled in a very similar frame-by-frame sequence. Even one of the official poster concepts is a direct take from “Slumber Party Massacre” and perhaps the Delta Omega is a sign of respect to another Brinke Stevens’ classic, “Die Delta Die!” Greenaway’s “Hot Tub Party Massacre,” by title alone, is not a serious horror film looking to ripoff the foundational slashers, but relishes in a lighthearted satire that begins in a realm of Zuckeresque that loses the visual gag steam at the tail end. The montage of gratuitous nudity of Amanda Nickela, Jynx Vandersteen, and Sarah Foster notch up the “Hot Tub’s” antics in fleshing out the skin craving viewers who can’t get enough of blood and boobs. Awarding this feature as a good film, as a pivotal staple in horror, is an extreme over exaggeration and a poor case of judgement, but consider only chocking “Hot Tub Party Massacre” up to being Chris Greenaway’s ode to the archetype slasher genre.
Ron Bonk and his Sub Rosa Studios, along with MVDVisual, proudly present “Hot Tub Party Massacre” onto DVD that absolutely belongs right in SRS’s arsenal of cheap and outrageous horror. The Full Screen 1.33:1 presentation is what it is, an unmatted sign of low resolution and blotchy, patchy image quality. The 2.0 audio track is a seesaw of fidelity where some aspects of the dialogue are barely audible and then the high pitched shrieks, and their are many shrieks, could pierce ear drums through popping static noise. There wasn’t an expectation of par level video-audio quality, but the due diligence is to publicize, not necessarily criticize, that of the DVD technical contents. The DVD cover is straight out of a photo shoot with a round, thong-cladded booty and long legs very shapely in front of an in ground hot tub. FYI – the hot tub in the movie is above ground and in a hotel. Bonus features include commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes footage (that contains more nudity, by the way), and trailers. Chris Greenaway’s “Hot Tub Party Massacre” has a premise of a short-lived concept that has been run through the kitty-grinder more than once over, but unquestionably is a honoring low-rent tributing spoof of cult classic works that obviously inspired the Canadian horror filmmaker.