Forcing Conformity on EVIL is a Violent Cause. “Murder in a Blue World” reviewed! (Cauldron Films / Blu-ray)

“Murder in a Blue World” now available on Blu-ray!  Purchase a Copy Here at Amazon.com!

Nurse Ana Vernia lives in an authoritarian, dystopian world where she just received a commendation for her work, but beneath the archetype of a scrutinizing society seeking to acculturate deviants by way of involuntary electroshock treatments, Ana moonlights in her own violent behavior as an act of mercy. Under the pretense of disguises, Ana seduces men aberrant to the social norms, returns them to her luxurious mansion, sleeps with them, and to then only murder them with precision before they can be subjected to imperious judgement for being different. All the while, societal dissentient David, an exiled member of a brutal gang, witnesses Ana’s exploits and infiltrates her home, her life, to garner incriminating evidence in order to blackmail her for money, but when David is tracked down for his former gang and beaten to near death, he comes ironically under the care of nurse Ana who plans to fix David before his fate before the electroshock treatments.

Get ready to dial high on voltage on the social commentary scale, “Murder in the Blue World” is a fascinating, dystopian look at social disorder. Heavily influenced in more ways than one by Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” the Eloy de la Iglesia 1973 picture was once entitled “Clockwork Terror” in the U.S. to ride the lucrative coattails of Kubrick’s symphony to violence. Also known in other parts of the world as “To Love, Perhaps to Die,” “Satansbrut” (“Satan’s Fiend”), and “La clinique des horreurs” (“The Clinic of Horrors”), Iglesia’s original penned script and title actually “Una gota de sangre para morir amando” (“A Drop of Blood to Die Loving”), co-written with José Luis Garci (“El Teroso”), Antonio Artero (“El tesoro del capitán Tornado”), George Lebourg, and Antonio Fos (“Panic Beats”). The Spanish film goes internationally by many monikers but has one objective and that is to counter the dictation of free-thinking individuals with violence. “Murder in a Blue World” is produced by José Frade under his self-titled production company, José Frade Producciones Cinematográficas S.A.

“Murder in a Blue World” is so much so in the Stanley Kubrick wake, the film stars Sue Lyon who played the titular character in Kubrick’s “Lolita.”  More than a decade later, the “End of the World” and “The Astral Factor” actress enters another emotionally lacerating role of a woman, a nurse, sworn to do no harm who sees that a quick euthanization is the only possible mercy she can offer to spare societal downcast souls from a fate far worse than death in a cold and cruel condemnatory world.  Lyon’s excellent in curating her different disguises and looks, taking on a variety of personas with subtle mannerisms despite how comical or implausible they may appear on screen, such as the idea of being an old, gray-haired woman.  Lyon is fair and small in stature compared to her male counterparts but commands the screen with her confident approach to Ana’s advantageous beauty and eroticism that can turn a gay man straight apparently.  Former gang member David shares her ideology to an extent, to the extent of capitalizing off her nightly murder for mercy escapades in order to survive on the street alone.  Christopher Mitchum, son of the late Golden Age of Cinema actor Robert Mitchum (“El Dorado,” “The Longest Day,” “Scrooged”), plays the nihilistic gangbanger with aversion to any or all rules that tell him how to think.  Mitchum’s impressive motorbike skills are utilized for an impressive chase sequence that incorporates ramp jumps and car crashes at a high speed velocity, a talent Mitchum and film producers utilized often in his other credits, such as “Sumertime Killer” and “Big Jake.”  Lyon and Mitchum don’t have much screen time until later in the story but their interactions are playful, flirtatious almost, but in a predator-prey kind of way and we’re not really sure which-is-which in that shifty relationship.   French actor Jean Sorel (“A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin”) rounds out the three-prong principal characters as a diehard representative of the authoritarian body and a potential love interest for Ana.  Playing Victor Sender, a neurologist experimenting on the criminally insane with electroshock therapy and working at the same hospital as nurse Ana, Sorel is the epitome of the calculating stability and clean-cut coldness of the ruling class that’s doesn’t see what they’re doing to be a unjust, cruel, or even a problem at all. “Murder in a Blue World” rounds out the cast with Ramón Pons (“Scarab”), Charly Bravo (“The Cannibal Man”), Alfredo Alba, Antonia del Rio, Domingo Codesido Ascanio, and Fernando Hilbeck (“The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue”).

On the surface, director Eloy de la Iglesia carves a rib right out of Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” with themes of exquisite, unprovoked violence sparked by the very basis of rebellion against authority. Not to also forget to mention the elaborately dressed gang of four, the electroshock treatment that aims to cure the criminal cerebrum, and the dystopian, futuristic guild with hints of fascism. “Murder in a Blue World” is a mixture that’s two-third post-Kubrick and one-third part pre-Paul Verhoeven, the latter reaching into fascist imagery as well as extreme commercialism that has surely inspired the “Robocop” and “Starship Trooper” director. Blue wellness drinks and panther-primitive men’s underwear are just a few the commercials fabricated for Iglesia’s coloring of an influential culture as the filmmaker uses the motif to symbolize and parallel brainwashing that becomes more severe when the government attempts to force a cure for criminality down incarcerated individuals’ throats. Even David announces to the world in multiple scenes how he doesn’t care what others think and he’s a free thinker. Homosexuality, prostitution, and physical imperfections suggest master race ideology amongst the domineering class hierarchy. Those who Ana seduce, as well as David, struggle in poverty and are considered inferior though not explicitly mentioned in the story. Iglesia integrates his trademark graphic violence, closeups of stabbings and throat slitting, but only really visualizes post-third act climax to keep more of an implied violence, off screen, and quickly edited to maintain an unclear vagueness of what’s right and what’s wrong in what Ana’s accomplishing.

A phenomenal companion piece and second bill to Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” Eloy de la Iglesia’s “Murder in a Blue World” finds Blu-ray love with a high definition, 1080p release from the genre film eternizing Cauldron Films. The Blu-ray debut is a 2K restoration of the 35mm transfer that has held up fairly well over the decades to only show pockets of wear and tear. Presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio, there’s no edge enhancement or digital noise reduction to clear out the natural stock grain, leaving the picture quality with more texture. Skin tones are, for the most part, natural and popping color grade doesn’t stray too far from its integrity until one brief scene goes full Oompa-Loompa orange before reverting back to normal. Light scratching is common throughout but not obtrusive to the viewing. Two audio options come with the release, an English dub dual mono and a Spanish dub dual mono. Since the cast is comprised of American, French, and Spanish native actors, neither track appears attractive from a lip-reading and audio-hearing perspective. Preferably, I went English dub as Sue Lyons and Chris Mitchum monopolize the lion’s share of screen time. There’s quite a bit of hissing and popping on the single channel output that can render dialogue almost indistinct but passes with a D+. The English subtitles synch well and show no sign of inaccuracy or grammatical issues. English SDH captions are available as well. Special features include a 2008 archive interview with Chris Mitchum, an interview with dubbing guru Ben Tatar Dubbing in a Blue World, a video essay read by Spanish Gothic film and literature scholar Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes who dives into the themes and constructs of Iglesia’s film, audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger, the VHS cut of “Clockwork Terror” in 720p standard definition, and image gallery. The physical release comes in a clear Blu-ray snapper with a colorfully illustrated cover art that is reversible with one of the more notable and beautifully shot scenes on the inside. With a runtime of 97 minutes, the release is region free and is unrated. “Murder in a Blue World” receives a gorgeous Blu-ray restoration and debut as it’s an eclectic work of inspired and pioneering visual art from one of Spain’s most individualist directors.

“Murder in a Blue World” now available on Blu-ray!  Purchase a Copy Here at Amazon.com!

A Single Spool of Film Can Make the Filmmakers EVIL Enough to Murder. “Naked Over the Fence” reviewed! (Cult Epics / Blu-ray)

“Naked Over the Fence” on 2-Disc Blu-ray and CD set!

Rick, who runs an arcade business and is a pigeon enthusiastic with a dovecote on his building’s rooftop, attends his friend’s Karate competition with another good friend, a schoolteacher and his tenant, Penny.  Learning that his Karate friend, Ed Swaan, has developed a romantic relationship with Netherland pop-singer Lilly Marischka and will have a small role in an upcoming movie with the star, shooting in building adjacent to Swaan’s Karate studio, Rick doesn’t think twice about it until Penny catches glimpse of naked photography happening in the very same building.  Rick is sent that night to investigate, and witnesses Ed and Lily uncomfortably being persuaded to take part in a private viewing porno and nearly escape with their lives when they rescind their participation and are chased by two low-life goon twins.  Ed and Lily’s nudie film now threatens them with scandal and as Rick pokes his nose into the production team’s business, innocent lives pay the price to keep the film in the blackmailing and profit seeking hands of the filmmakers. 

A cult comedy-thriller for the ages, “Naked over the Fence,” aka “Naakt over de schutting,” is a murder-mystery monkeying with spirited jest from the Amsterdam-born filmmaker Frans Weisz. The screenplay treatment comes from Weisz familiar writers Rob du Mee and the late Rinus Ferdinandusse, who penned the novel of the same Netherland title from which the story was adapted and who had passed away back in July of this year. Both writers have worked with the director on respective projects, such as “The Burglar” and “A Gangstergirl” before “Naked Over the Fence.” Set in and amongst the close quartered housing of Amsterdam and along the river of the Amstel, Weisz very much incorporates the intertwining the compact of the brick-and-mortar and the expanse of a widened landscape flow of the surroundings into tongue-and-cheek situational micro comedies that sometimes has you forget your watching a rather cynical and entangling murder mystery involving shady pornography, blackmail, and murderous foul play. Parkfilm and Cinécentrum N.V. are the production companies behind the film with Rob du Mee producing and Gerrit Visscher as associate producer.

Initial previewing presumptions about “Naked Over the Fence” might fall along the lines of being a highly erotic comedy because of not only the film’s suggestive title and the half-naked actors halfway over a fence on one of the original poster artworks, but also the fact that Sylvia Kristel as one of the principal stars.  Kristel is far and wide known for her continuous provocative performances as the lusciously licentious title character in the erotically charged “Emmanuelle” mega-series that has expanded decades since the 1970s.  “Naked Over the Fence” is not that kind of movie.  Not even close.  There are moments of skin, conservatively from Kristel, and subtle and not so subtle scenes of sensuality coursed throughout but the Weisz film notes as one of the Netherlands’ actress’s first films of her career before “Emmanuelle,” exploring her range as a scared pop singer backed against into a career stemmed quid pro quo before becoming an embedded typecast of the erotic genre. Kristel perfectly complements as a beautiful, delicate, yet reserved in strength starlet alongside arcade owner and staunch friend Rick (Rijk de Gooyer, “Rufus”) and her new beau, a large karate dojo owner Ed (Jon Bluming, Paul Verhoeven’s “Turkish Delight”). As much as an odd couple as they’re describe, Gooyer and Bluming are greatly well-received on screen as a dynamic duo attempting to outwit shady porno makers, blackmailers, and merciless murderers as if the contest to the film reel is a game with that swashbuckling, self-assured attitude as two amateur sleuths. The one character I thought was a little out of place was Penny, played by Jennifer Willems as a schoolteacher renting a room in Rick’s arcade building but is also a good friend of both men. Penny feels solely like an object used to force the hands of Rick and Jon when trouble arises and never actually does any leg work in tracking down the film reel. Willem performs to the best of her extent in a role that doesn’t obtain much action until the unique action chase at the end. Willem, Gooyer, and Bluming have all worked with previously with director Frans Weisz on “The Burglar,” alleviating beforehand any undue first meet jitters and that translate tremendously on screen. “Naked Over the Fence” has an ensemble cast of color characters, each one more interesting than the next, that include Jerome Reehuis, Tom Lensink, Adèle Bloemendaal, Jerry Brouer, and mustache and curly perm identical twins Lodewijk and Hans Sijses as a pair of cronies.

“Naked Over the Fence” might be a pulp novel coursing loosely as a glib tongue in cheek but the complexities the film assume merits cult-worthy cachet. The adaptational flow of a novel story, its wildly entertaining and diverse performances, and its bold direction deserve accolades upon its accolades. The very beginning sets the tenor of the film on the Amsterdam rooftop with tracking shots that are simply amazing, smooth, and precise toward the working up of Rick waiting for his named pigeon friends to return, the Ferenc Kálmán-Gáll cinematography and Ton Ruys editing is remarkably accomplished as the intercut composite between Rick peeping through the fence and the boiling-to-conflict back-and-forth conversing of the pre-setup porn scene that lead up to the film’s title of Ed and Lily hopping climbing over 6 to 7 ft wooden fence is tip-top execution, and the extended tram chase is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in a bird-dog chain of scenes as the two trams zip down the engrooved track lines on the streets of Amsterdam while making it whimsical and parlous with excitement. there’s real production money financially backing the uncontained and mutable story and it shows right from the get-go to the very end with only a handful of key instances where the digression of the certain level of high-dollar antics can only be done at a lower quality and that drags down Weisz’ flair quite a bit. An enjoyable romp of Dutch cinema, “Naked Over the Fence” ossifies friendship, loyalty, and morality over the forces of tit-for-tat evil.

Proudly continuing their restored release of Sylvia Kristel films, Cult Epics presents “Naked Over the Fence” onto a 2-disc, region free Blu-ray home video set with a newly restored high definition 4K transfer from the original negative. Virtually unscathed by time, the original negative beams with vitality in its showcased 1.37:1 aspect ratio, upgraded into an improved compression rate to hold all its detailed wonders for the full 91-minute runtime. The stable picture and natural, unwavering coloring persists with a consistent color palette. Other than complimentary natural grain of the stock, there’s no obvious instances to fault the image quality that’s above exemplary. The Dutch language tracks come with two audio options: a LPCM 2.0 and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Both render audibly clear and emphatically enough with the DTS providing a little ambient and dialogue boost with a cleaner track of the dub Dutch language. English subtitles are included and don’t have an apparent errors and synchs well with the pace. Special features include an audio commentary by biographer Harry Hosman, a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette of unpolished footage of scene takes and director Frans Weisz at work with his cast, a 2014 Dutch audio interview with Frans Weisz that includes English subtitles, an interview with composer Ruud Bos from 2015 that includes performances with the B-Movie Orchestra, a promotional gallery, Sylvia Kristel trailers, and a 2nd disc, included only in limited edition, 1000 copy sets, of the exclusive compact disc Soundtrack by composer Round Bos. The physical bonus material with the limited-edition release is cardboard slipcover and a reversible cover art that includes the original poster art and a list of the score’s 16 composed track list. I adore the quirkiness and relish in the story’s transgressional diegesis and now with this stellar new and improved Blu-ray release of the Netherlands’ “Naked Over the Fence,” the perfect movie does exist.

“Naked Over the Fence” on 2-Disc Blu-ray and CD set!

Comic Book Vigilante Takes on Evil! “Robot Ninja” review!


The television adapted bastardization of his beloved illustrated Robot Ninja leaves comic book artist Lenny Miller with a bad taste in his mouth. His disgust with the direction angers him to part ways with the project, leaving the televised rights in the hands of a careless and uninspired studio crews and execs, but that won’t stop Miller’s creative juggernaut of the captivatedly violent, robot vigilante. Inspiration takes heart-rending form when Miller happens upon a roadside abduction and rape of a young couple where his attempt at a rescue ends tragic with the couple being brutally murdered and him severely injured, but with the help of his good inventor friend, Dr. Goodnight, the frustrated comic-book artist becomes the Robot Ninja, just as depicted in his comics, with a vengeful plan to hunt down the assailants and put a bloody end to their wrongdoing reign of terror. A good first night out ends with one thug dead and an ego boost for Miller, but Robot Ninja’s actions don’t deterrent crime and, in fact, crime hits back hard when not only Robot Ninja becomes the target, but also his friend Dr. Goodnight and innocent bystanders.

“Robot Ninja” is part one of an unintentional two part review segment about directors disowning their own cinematic handy work for X, Y, or Z reasons and while “Robot Ninja” was initially discarded by “Dead Next Door” writer-director J.R. Bookwalter due to poor post production that was essentially out of the filmmaker’s hands and a work print negative thought to have been lost for eternity, Tempe Entertainment foresaw the awesome potential for the late 80’s automaton avenger in an dual format ultimate edition after a unearthed work print surfaced and back into the Bookwalter’s hand to mend and correct his sophomore feature film! Forget Iron Man. Ignore Captain America. Incredible Hulk who? “Robot Ninja” is one of the only true comic book heroes from illustrations to to take a stand against crime passionately and not because if you have great power, there’s great responsibility.

Robot Ninja is the epitome of the combo character that could sway into either hero from the 1980’s, like in Paul Verhoeven’s “Robocop” and Amir Shervan’s “Samurai Cop,” or could even swerve straight up into the villain category though I have no examples floating around near the inner layers of my cerebral cortex, but the Robot Ninja bordered the very blurry gray lines of anti-hero status whether intentionally or not from the perspective you examine. The Robot Ninja character potentially could have set fire to the combo character direct-to-video cult underworld, but fell rather hard and flat on its face in the deadfall of the netherworld instead. None of film’s flaws or woes never sat its hampering weight upon the goldilocks graced shoulders of Michael Todd, who portrayed the clawed hand titular character. Todd’s enthusiasm for the role is beyond necessary, a real A for effort, into powering on Lenny Miller’s illustrated crime combatant. Lenny, aka Robot Ninja, vows to destroy, or rather disembowel, the local gang led by the ruthless Gody Sanchez, a she-devil aimed to please only one person – herself. Maria Markovic, another actor that’s in J.R. Bookwalter’s “Dead Next Door” circle, find herself in the antagonistic role in one of her sole two credits. Markovic’s acting chops are about as stiff as a board, but being surrounded by the right kind of thugs in James Edwards (“Bloodletting”), Bill Morrison (“Ozone”), Jon Killough (“Skinned Alive”), Rodney Shields, and Michael ‘D.O.C.’ Porter, Gody Sanchez is able to achieve par-level black heartedness. “Robot Ninja” round-kicks an uppercut class of actors such as Floyd Ewing Jr., Michael Kemper, the original Dick Grayson Burt Ward (“Batman” television series), the one and only Linnea Quigley (“Return of the Living Dead”), one of Sam Raimi’s entourage buddies Scott Spiegel, and Bogdan Pecic and the good Dr. Goodnight.

Without doubt, “Robot Ninja” was destined for the direct-to-video market and the quality of work obviously shows, but with flaws aside, the obscure 79 minute feature still manages to be a part of Bookwalter’s “Dead Next Door” universe full of gore, violence, and a distain for human nature despite briefly disavowing “Robot Ninja’s” mucked up existence for years. Subtempeco EFX, comprised of David Lange, Bill Morrison, and Joe Contracer, don’t exactly go cheap when Robot Ninja’s dual blades pierce and pop eye balls inside the skull of some punk or when Lenny’s patching up his injuries without as much flinching in pain, the open, surely is infected wound just pulsates with exploded flesh and blood. Bookwalter’s direction is hazy at times around the beginning with the dynamic between Lenny and his publisher that feels stagnant and irrelevant; however, the comic book scenes interwoven into the meatiest part of the story, the Robot Ninja action, is remarkably cool for a late 80’s budget gas.

Tempe Entertainment have outdone themselves with the region free ultimate edition DVD and Blu-ray combos set of “Robot Ninja” with a “painstakingly” restored 2k film scan from the original 16mm A/B roll cut negative and presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio. The picture is night and day compared to previous VHS and DVD releases that underwhelm director J.R. Bookwalter’s vision. The vast color palette of various lighting and color schemes during the dream sequences have been gracefully corrected and the contrast has been restored to lighten up the much of the darker, almost unwatchable scenes. Good looking and unobtrusive natural grain from the 16mm stock and the re-edit makes a difference that finally seems cuts together without causing some confusion. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound is entirely new construction from Bookwalter and the lossless tracks have ample range and depth, balanced nicely throughout, and have little-to-no distortion or other imperfections. English and Spanish subtitles are also included. A slew of bonus material on both formats include audio commentaries from J.R. Bookwalter, Matthew Dilts-Williams of Phantom Pain Films, producer David DeCoteau, James L. Edwards, Scott Plummer, David Lange, David Barton, Doug Tilly and Moe Porne of The No-Budget Nightmare. J.R. Bookwalter also has a 21 minute segment about the whole start-to-finish journey with restoring “Robot Ninja,” a Linnea Quigley retrospect on her small role experience in the film, an interview with Scott Spiegel, a location tour with Benjamin Bookwalter, “The Robot Ninja” fan film from 2013 with introduction by director Johnny Dickie, artwork and promotional material, behind the scenes gallery, production stills, “Robot Ninja” unmasked featurette, rough cut outtakes, TV show promo, newscast outtakes, the original VHS release trailer, and Tempe trailers, plus much more. Lets not also forget to mention the stunning cover art by Alex Sarabia, Carol Chable, and David Lange and a new title sequence also by David Lange. Tempe Entertainment’s ultimate edition of “Robot Ninja” is a thing of beauty that should be seen by all who love campy, Sci-Fi horror flicks with grisly skirmishes and intense tragedy in every corner. The restoration work “Robot Ninja” is founded on absolute love, a rare concept seen for direct-to-video features so you know this film must be something special – a true redemption story.

Restored "Robot Ninja" on DVD!

Reading Evil! Starship Troopers book review!

starshiptroopersbookLike Paul Verhoeven’s intergalactic warfare movie Starship Troopers where mankind battles an arachnid army known as “Bugs?” Did you know that Starship Troopers is based off a novel of the same title and was published in the late 1950s? Well if you did not know, now you do! Written by a former naval lieutenant Robert Heinlein Starship Troopers bares little action similarities to the novel’s more recent movie counterpart.

Juan Rico decides to join the service against his parents’ wishes and embarks from a private in boot camp to non-commissioned office to finally commissioned officer. Rico’s backdrop is war; an intergalactic war with a nasty enemy known as the “Bugs,” an arachnid species that can calculate and that can strategize with the help of a brain caste pulling all the strings.

Johnny Rico getting slapped...on the ass.

Johnny Rico getting slapped…on the ass.

If you’ve seen the movie, the plot pretty much describes the movie, right? Most of the Heinlein’s novel follow’s Juan “Johnnie” Rico’s career through the trials and tribulations of Service, from boot camp to being a lieutenant, in becoming a citizen, but the action and bloody mess that was experiences on the big screen was not translated from the book as most of the Mobile Infantries whom were killed in action were described as “buying the farm.” You can’t blame Heinlein as this book was written in 1959 mentally constructed as a totally different mind set than from our generation. The words on page are seriously outdated and can be technical for the most of the novel due to Heinlein’s military background.

The novel touches more upon the power suits which make an appearance in Starship Troopers: Marauder (“Marauder” is a name of one of the many power suits). These suits give Rico and the other M.I.s a superhuman ability and give them an even playing ground with the Bugs. I rather prefer no power suits as like in Verhoeven’s film that make the bugs seem like an unstoppable force. The novel does delve a bit more into the Bug society and hierarchy as well as how the Bugs reproduce endlessly. Much of James Cameron Aliens was inspired of Heinlein’s novel in the aspects of “Bugs” and their being a Queen to produce the “warrior Bugs.”

Brain Bug and Carmen

Brain Bug and Carmen

Heinlein touches mainly on civic duty and the social norms of a military lifestyle through the confines of war. We live through Juan Rico much like we live through Johnny Rico in the movie, but don’t expect to read much about Johnny Rico’s companions. Ace, Carl, Carmen, Dizzy Flores, Sargent Zim are a few characters that you might remember from the film that are in the book, but Ace, Carl, Carmen and Dizzy are brief mentions that probably span no more than a page and half out of 260 plus pages. Zim is all through bootcamp and near the end of the novel. Instead, Juan Rico encounter various people and ranks that stem from privates to cadets to sergeants to generals.

Starship Troopers can be an interesting read for anybody with a military frame of mind or a curiosity for it. But don’t expect the chaos of battle scenes or the gore of the arachnid M.I. slaughter. Robert Heinlein’s novel will not be everyone, but a good read none-the-less.