On the streets of London’s Whitechapel district, women are afraid to walk the streets alone at night and angry mobs have begun to turn their backs on the police’s ineptness on catching a killer. Jack the Ripper is what the people of London label the maniacal murderer who, with surgical precisions, guts his victims and leaves their lifeless bodies on the dark, dank cobblestone streets. Scotland Yard Inspector O’Neill is joined by his friend and American counterpart, a New York police officer named Sam Lowry, to hunt down and stop Jack the Ripper’s killing spree. Deeper into the investigation, the officers are informed that the suspect they track would have medical background with a skilled blade hand, but even with that information, Jack the Ripper alludes authorities. Lowry’s romantic involvement with a young woman named Anne Ford, whose under the ward of the notable Dr. Tranter, might be very connective tissue between the constabularies and the secretive medical society needed to crack the case of the notorious Jack the Ripper before he strikes again!
Jack the Ripper is a real and iconic villain that not only terrorized the streets of London, but had later graced the screen many times over from Bob Clack’s 1979 thriller “Murder by Decree” to the 2001 Allen and Albert Hughes gothic and graphic “From Hell,” starring Johnny Depp. Before the production of those films, before Jack the Ripper really had any kind of footprint in cinema, Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman directed the 1959 mystery-thriller “Jack the Ripper” from a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster and Peter Hammond based off the theory that Jack the Ripper had a medical practice history. Baker and Berman’s film hit the controversial market from right out of the gate with grisly and ghastly murders, for the circa 1950s, and bared topless actress frivolously to insinuate the lady drunkards, the showgirl dancers, and the lone walking women as ladies of the night. Prostitutes would have been burden the selling of an already certifiable X film from the BBFC and the MPAA. However, the filmmakers constructed alternate cuts, shorting the grisliness to just grim and sheathing bare breasts with articles of clothing in shot for shot censorship. Only on the continental, aka French, version does a truly uncut and complete film live to excite, but instead a complete feature, the unmolested scenes are only available on the bonus features of the Severin Films’ release. That’s not to say that the U.S. and British versions are a complete waste of time. The classic time is utterly timeless and gripping that offers up immense amounts of whodunit suspense, implied sensationalisms, and an adequate take on how incompetent law officials can be exhibited when politics and women are afoot. Plus, the U.S. version, bought and presented by legendary producer Joseph E. Levine, comes with a brassy score by Jimmy McHugh and Pete Rugolo. The British version, also known as more of the approved director’s cut of the film, is scored by Stanley Black.
Tall, handsome, and walking into another country like he owns the land, detective Sam Lowry is introduced at about 10 minutes in, standing at a bar and reluctant to be rough and tough with a mob ready to lynch him for potentially being the Ripper because of his inquiries. Lowry’s charming persona with the women, like the bar maiden and Anne Ford, are only offset by his complete incompetence to be a police detective. Lowry does absolute zilch investigation and, instead, goes out on a date with Dr. Tranter’s niece and makes snarky comments at a merciless, ready to judge horde of scared Whitechapel residents. American hunk Lee Patterson stands out amongst the gothic rich atmosphere to the point where’s he, like his character, is an outcast and Patterson’s talents could only take him so far into a gloomy, morbid narrative that was unwilling to accept his chiseled chin and starry eyes. Eddie Byrne fit the mold better than Petterson as the Scotland Yard Inspector at rope’s end with not only Scotland Yard, but also the rest of London. As Inspector O’Niell, Byrne, who went on to star in “Island of Terror” and “Devil’s Darkness,” humbly accepts his restraint as the Irish born actor takes a wallop from all sides and still remains calm, collective, and ever present on the task at hand with a character being beat from all ends of the spectrum. Anne Ford opposites Lowry as the potential love interest who has come of age, as she notes a few times, to takeover temporary responsibilities at the hospital where her uncle performs dire surgeries. Being oppressed by her own family and seeing London being ripped a part by its own people, Anne latches onto Lowry, an outsider, to find a connection or a release from sullen cloud that hangs over Whitechapel. Unfortunately, Betty McDowall is sorely overshadowed by many of “Jack the Ripper’s” formidable characters and that Anne is not wholeheartedly written though her character is important to the story. Even the showgirls sizzle in more ways than one than does McDowall whose kept in check by Lowry, doused with someone’s problems, and only given an allusion of her worth in a moment of fright. Ewen Solon (“The Curse of the Werewolf”), John Le Mesurier (“The Jabberwocky”), Barbara Burke (“Blood of the Vampire”), Denis Shaw (“Curse of the Werewolf”), Bill Shine (“Burke & Hare”), and Anne Sharp (“Murder on the Campus”) round out the cast.
“Jack the Ripper” is a classic, literally and physically. The scaled down sets of the Whitechapel area bring to life the tenebrous soil of 19-century London. The elegantly painted backdrops of tall mast ships enshrouded by synthetic fog paint an archaic picture of how movie magic has progressed over the decades. Attention to detail in the set construction and the flavor of time period customers brought a sense of authenticity that nostalgically harps on the once was that now only exists as recorded cinema history. “Jack the Ripper” casts a forgotten beauty in the barbarism. By today’s standards, “Jack the Ripper” would be written off as banal and uninspired by critics and audiences, but if you can imagine yourself in 1959-1960, Robert Baker and Monty Berman just blew your mind with onscreen taboos and in America, Joseph Levine’s technicolor blood scene, with a duration of only a few seconds, would be the viral talk of the town.
Severin Films presents “Jack the Ripper” onto a region free, 1080p Blu-ray for the very first time anywhere! Complete with two cuts of the film, the British and American version, Severin presents both in their released aspect ratios of a lossy standard 1:33:1 in the British version and 1.66:1 in the American version, both in B&W with a pop of technicolor in one scene in the American version. Severin’s transfer is perhaps the best we’ll see from an original print that’s laced with scratches, but a bit more light, or some brighter contrast, sheds some light in the inky corners while managing a rich appearance that’s not monochrome or sepia. The English 2.0 audio track maintains an equal quality with some static in dialogue and ambient tracks. Jimmy McHugh and Pete Rugolo’s brass-heavy score thunderously pack the scene that surely takes the lead amongst the tracks. Bonus features include snippets of the continental versions with the extended violence and nudity and the audio commentary with Robert S. Baker, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, assistant director Peter Manloy is extracting and interesting helmed by horror historian Marcus Hearn. Also included is an interview with the author of “Jack the Ripper” The Murders of the Movies” Denis Meikle, “The Real Jack the Ripper” featurette, theatrical trailer, and poster and stills gallery. Exposed and disclosed, the various faces of Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman’s “Jack the Ripper” now have a hi-def upgrade and though a full continental version eludes this release, Severin provides the cliff notes in order to not overcook the same story a third time.
Cecile and Brigitte have served two of their twelve month sentence for inappropriate sexual acts involving prostitution and stripping. International authorities, including an American Senator, remove the two ladies of the night from their incarcerations and have them audition a private and provocative dance routine that will spring them from prison life and place them into a contract for hire that the pair of beauties find difficult to refuse. Cecile and Brigitte use their God-gifted talents to slip undercover as a pair of lesbian dancers in order to spy on Mr. Forbes, the Flamingo club owner on the Canary Islands who moonlights as a sadistic sex trafficker. Forbes kidnaps, rapes, and then, with the help of his wife Irina Forbes, hypnotizes well-known and famous women to be the ever faithful lovers of Mr. Forbes wealthily clients and to stop the egregious trafficker, any smoking gun evidence must be photographed for the international police to make a move on an arrest.
Jess Franco is the maestro of guilty pleasure shlock and the 1980 violently erotic, crime drama “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” is no different inventoried with ubersleaze spiced in folly comedy and tense sadism. The sort of mixed bag genre film only writer-director knew, and understood, how to achieve on a minuscule budget level in hastily conditions, but “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties,” whether designed or by chance, stemmed from the combination of old and new footage, re-edited out of the original title, “Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo,” and told a slightly different tale with slightly rearranged character backgrounds and graphic scenes, and featured two different locations that were later labeled Las Palmas of the Canary Islands to tie it all together. Severin has included both versions on a limited edition Blu-ray (“Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties”) and DVD (“Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo”) release to experience both versions.
Franco’s long time common law, then legal in 2008, spouse Lina Romay, under pseudonym Candy Coster stars as Cecile in really a non-seductive, non-promiscuous, and only pinched with erotica role. Unlike Romay’s “Bare Breasted Countess” (aka “Female Vampire”) role, Cecile undercuts the erotic tone with more gratuitous comic and threatening nudity. Relishing into a staple of erotica are all of Romay’s supporting cohorts consisting of “Zombie Lake’s” Nadine Pascal, “Women Behind Bars'” Joëlle Le Quément, Susan Hemingway of “Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun.” Interesting enough, Hemingway isn’t credit in either version of the film. Pascal offers playful dilly-dally while practically be nude throughout whereas Quément slips into a deeper carnality with an unhinged relationship with her sex trafficking husband Mr. Forbes while Hemingway just provides a taken-advantaged vessel to plunder her dignity, soul, and body for easy money. Surrounding the gorgeous vixens are ruthless, dirtbag men played by Claude Boisson as the club owning sex trafficker and “Elsa Fräulein SS’s: Olivier Matthot as the sleazy American Senator Connelly. The role with the most opaqueness between the two versions of the film goes to Mel Rodrigo as Milton, the club’s gay artist organizer with an existential crisis and a quick to rebel attitude.
Though charming in its own delectable unchaste ways, Jess Franco deploys a haphazardly glued story inflamed with by chance moments shrouded with psychosexual tendencies. Sexually ostentatious and manic, “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” wildly pivots like an out of control sprinkler, spitting lustful filth, jovial comedy, and menacing suspense everywhere while still, by way of only Franco can accomplish, accurately hitting the intended mark of downright Eurotrash entertainment. A shocking, yet hardly noticeable, factor of the director’s is his film withholds any large amounts of blood or gore; in fact, gore is absent and the blood is sparse, especially during the girls-on-girl torture scenes involving bondage, a switchblade near the hind parts, and a cinder-weaponized cigarette, but the element that sparks gritty fortitude in those same said scenes, shot intently with fraught close-ups and well positioned shadows, could culminate a subversive tone that ultimate could convey a scene without words.
Severin’s limited edition 2-disc release of the Eurocine produced “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” has rightfully been graced with the Blu-ray treatment. The release also has the Spanish edit version of “Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo.” The Blu-ray is a 1080p encoded AVC transfer presented in a near stand definition aspect ratio format from a restored into HD, uncut print. The overall color palette appears fairly washed with only some segments, especially peering out over the water or inside tight quarters, stand out with rich color. Darker scenes are heavily splayed with turquoise that, again, give the washed overlay, but the richness of the shadows with grindhouse print grain is stellar. Franco’s struggle with focusing, as part of technical self embattlement or as part of an against-the-grain auteur, are prominent throughout. The two LCPM 2.0 tracks are dubbed only in English or French and while not tracked in the native Spanish, either track will serve as a palpable substitute despite the English track being transcribed awfully cheesy and the French track with consistent hiss. Bonus material includes “Two Cats in the Canaries: An Interview with Jess Franco” is an undated interview with Franco recalling his love for the Canary Islands and being a genre maverick. There’s also a 1993 interview with long time Franco composer Daniel White conducted by “Cannibal Hookers'” Donald Farmer, a thorough analyst of Franco and “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” by Stephen Thrower, location outtakes, and a theatrical trailer. While “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” is not the best example of Jess Franco’s credits, the vicious erotic thriller is arguably ambitious and epitomizes the style of the legendary filmmaker with sultry, fringed performances and an unforgettable narrative lined up in a one-two punch package from Severin Films!
Albert’s just another lowly speck among the multifaceted masses of New York City. The lonely street hotdog vendor barely scrapes by in what could be considered a life, earning next to nothing to keep him on life support in the city that never sleeps. To impress a beautiful girl, a girl of his dreams, Albert accepts a position offered to him by an eccentric photographer and hopes to learn about creating art with a single click of a photographic camera, but Albert becomes the obsessive fixation of the photographer’s next breakthrough exhibit. Albert’s simpleton nature and the photographer’s edgy intensity pushes the aspiring artist to lure women into offbeat modeling sessions in the away photographer’s NYC flat. When he can’t retrieve the inspirational art out of his models, a frustrated Albert goes to extreme lengths to ensure his art is performed to his particular, elementary taste.
“Bag Boy Lover Boy” is the 2014 inaugural feature film debut of director Andres Torres who is one of the few directors out of countless others able to resuscitate the compellingly frightful grit of New York City long ago. I’m talking about the era of pre-Rudy Guiliani New York City in the 1980’s where graffiti splayed walls and the blue fluorescent of dilapidated charm was present on every grid blocked street. Torres, along with co-writer Toni Comas, supplements one of a kind character personalities very appropriate to inhabit the sinister ladened Big Apple. Characters who aren’t dolled up or even genuinely beautiful. Those characters who are easy on the eyes don’t have the inner soul to match, residing in them an defect of some sorts that makes “Bag Boy Lover Boy” feel all too real.
Jon Wächter, a director-actor with behaviors not too alien to that of his character, centers himself as that very bag boy, lover boy of Albert, the awkward citizen with a one track mind and living to fulfill no dreams, hopes, or goals. Wachter owns his role by giving no hints of aspiration to fortune or achievement until Albert meets the cynical Ivan, appropriately casted with New York City-based actor Theodore Bouloukos, is able to hone in on the streets’ muckiest ground level and incorporate a Ron Jeremy charm that’s shrouded sleazy, but devilishly smart. Ivan draws out of Albert a simple interest, a hope to create art through photography, but Ivan has other, more prosperous, plans for the gullible nitwit as model in his own artwork. Albert’s mind focuses solely on photography and not modeling, placing Ivan in a rather haste position to con his centerpiece with poor words of self-worth advice and filling Albert’s head with misogynistic directions when Ivan goes through his rather rough motivational spiel during shooting gigs. Albert then can’t separate reality with his newfound dream that puts “models,” played by Teena Byrd (“Ninja Versus Vampires”), Sarah O’Sullivan, and Adrienne Gori, in harms path. Kathy Biehl, Karah Serine, Tina Tanzer, Marseille Morillo, and Saoko Okano make up the rest of the cast.
What I found most interesting in Torres film is Albert’s perception of himself. After a couple of, what he thinks are successful, shoots with the women he lures and drags up to the Ivan’s flat, Albert perceives himself as this eminent rockstar, exhibited very boisterously in a fantasy scene within Albert’s dingy one room apartment. What’s really ironic about the whole story is that Ivan honestly could deliver every bit of the wealth, women, and respect he promises to Albert and with these promises, he could obtain Lexy, the girl he hopes to win over, but with such a narrow mind, unable to go beyond to foresee a positive future, Albert self-destructs into infamy with only some non-permissive nudity polaroids to show for it. Torres and Comas Shakespearean-like comedic tragedy concept is a consistent conundrum for each and every one of us, not just the slow and low like Albert, but for us who think in the short term, despite whether what we accomplish now might not be a desire or may not be our sole purpose in life. Even peering into Albert’s erratic, overly-exaggerated, if not visually stimulating, mind stories are not to different from what perhaps the rest of us experience.
Severin Films presents the EXU Media production of “Bag Boy Lover Boy” for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray home video. The region free, not rated, gorgeously illustrated Blu-ray is presented in full HD 1080p. The image quality boasts vibrant colors and really exemplifies the naturally gross visual aspects of New York City streets. Various skin tones come out nicely unfiltered and untouched, especially the pasty Wächter and the olive skin of Tina Tanzer, with only brief moments of filters to accentuate subversive content. The dual channel English stereo isn’t half bad. Even though English is not Jon Wächter’s first language, the Sweden-born actor’s dialogue is clear and coherent. The rather mixed bag soundtrack and the Barbara de Biasi score have boastful fidelity and remarkable clarity. Extras include a meaty audio commentary from director Andres Torres, Theodore Bouloukos, and editor Charlie Williams, The Student Films of Actor Jon Wächter: “Got Light” and “The Never-Starting Story,” and the film’s trailer. “Bag Boy Lover Boy” is surrealistically realistic while being slightly exploitive and courageously risky. A satirical film with the proper fortitude to challenge our judgements about life and the paths chosen while leaving an uncomfortable aftertaste of profligate opportunities. Torres also leaves with us a film that we’ll never forget.
New York City hospitals are being terrorized by a crazed maniac or maniacs stealing the body parts of the deceased and local authorities are discovering the half eaten remains of torn apart bodies in the streets. When a medical orderly is caught in the act of cannibalism by nearly devouring a corpse’s heart and then commits suicide by diving out high rise window, the Doctor’s assistant and leading anthropologist Lori Ridgeway recognizes the tattooed symbol of Kito on the orderly chest, a symbol from a long forgotten tribe in the Moluccas Islands. Worshipping a cannibal God, the primitive tribe still practices the form of anthropophagy. Lori’s colleague, Dr. Peter Chandler, has been placed on a research team to root out New York City’s recent cannibal problem and when the Kito symbol clues him and his team of a possible lead, an expedition team forms to travel to the Moluccas Islands in search of the existence of inhabitants. Dr. Chandler rendezvous with a long time acquaintance, Dr. Obrero, whom has lived on the islands for years. When Dr. Obrero arranges a boat and his right hand man to accompany the expedition, Dr. Peter Chandler and team step foot into a hellish nightmare, bloodied with unspeakable and aggressive cannibal acts. Just when nothing could be worse than flesh hungry cannibals, hideously disfigured zombies frighten even the primitive locals. The island holds a dark secret and Dr. Chandler aims to unveil it no matter the cost!
Finally! The definitive 2-disc edition of Aquarius Releasing’s “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” aka the Italian cut “Zombie Holocaust,” from the Flora and Fulva Film production companies, has been released and, oh, how glorious the Severin Films release is with a super sleek Blu-ray reversible cover art – “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” title as the main cover and “Zombie Holocaust” title on the reverse side – and the high definition gore that hasn’t been gooier and oozier than ever and all in thanks to the upscaled 1080p full HD resolution transfer. Uncut with eye-gouging effects, eviscerated and mangled bodies, and packed with a slew of medical terrors and oddities, the Marino Girolami’s directed video nasty from 1980 just might get itself banned once again by the international censorship boards.
The schlock runs thick through a plot that’s eerie similar to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (aka Zombie 2) with many of the locations and sets repurposed for the Girolami picture involving exotic land cannibalism, a mad scientist, and, you guessed it, zombies. Yet, “Doctor Butcher M.D.” rightfully receives being a detached entity, an “Annabelle” to “The Conjuring” of sorts, even when both films star Scotland-born leading man Ian McCulloch. With uncanny and grisly disemboweling special effects that turn a stomach inside out and give you a reason to make use of that barf bag provided by Severin Films as a bonus insert, some death effects didn’t go quite as planned such as, in example, when the cannibal orderly dives out a multistory window and the stunt-dummy loses an arm when crashing onto the floor. The next scene has the actor, with arm intact, lying in a pool of blood. Another scene involving Doctor Butcher and his cranium saw nearly doesn’t sell the effect when the saw itself isn’t spinning at all during close ups of a cranium cap removal. However, none of these miscues matter as the rest of the special effects trumps any other gore film of this decade.
The American bought rights to “Zombie Holocaust” were destined to be re-edited as the film had to bulk up on Americanized tastes, slightly targeting specific, well versatile audiences of New York City’s infamously sleazy and exploitive 42nd Street, which is now defunct. The additional and pointless scenes that were intercut from a scrapped Roy Frumkes’ horror anthology, “Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out, at the beginning of the film didn’t transition seamlessly enough to cause an unfavorable reaction, but only added on to the powerful zombie train that spawned from George A. Romero and the Living Dead films. The antics of Terry Levene, an American producer and 42nd Street icon, led to guerilla marketing, an overlapping score from the late “Blood Sisters'” composer Walter Sear, and the superbly cut trailers had guaranteed butts in the seats at Levene’s, amongst others’, circuit theaters. Plus, the T&A from cult Italian actress Alexandra Delli Colli might have had something to do with putting butts in seats as well.
The story hadn’t changed much between the alternate film versions of the Romano Scandariato screenplay and the story itself is wound looser than a turn of a century Gary Busey. Thin motivations drive characters to do the stupidest things possible such as go on an expedition to a cannibal island, go to a cannibal island without state of the art weaponry and more bodies than a modern day NFL football roster, or go straying away from the safety of your group to stroll through the island’s bush alone. The obviousness is aggravating to say at the least, but omit the blatant stupidity of the characters and no one would die a horrible and gruesome death that fastens our morbid tastes to the screen. The story’s spontaneous and adventurous nature appeases thrills of a long-lost culture on an island of hell that’s ready to be explored and re-discovered and ready to taste fresh blood and organs once again.
Severin Films have outdone any previous release of the reconfigured “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” and the original “Zombie Holocaust” when discussing the video presentation. The 1080p performs at a high bitrate with a vibrant display of natural colors that diminish much of the natural grain and negative damage and exhibits finely tuned and leveled darker tones from the original 35 mm negative; a HD presentation that, and this goes without saying, naturally outperforms the the transfer from Shriek Show’s “Zombie Holocaust” DVD release in the early 2000s. The English DTS-HD Master 2.0 audio mix on “Doctor Butcher, M.D.” performs greatly without many given distortions or loss of audio while the “Zombie Holocaust” on disc two has the same DTS-HD Master option, but also gives an alternative with a linear PCM Italian only audio mix without subtitles. Walter Sear’s Stateside score and Nico Fidenco Italiano score tribute their respective nations clearly through the mastered audio mixes with Fidenco’s score surfacing here and there on the Aquarius Releasing edit. Severin Films provides an impressive list of new bonus material on each disc, with the first disc having insightful interviews with Aquarius Releasing’s Terry Levene, editor Jim Markovic, filmmaker and documentarian Roy Frumkes, “Temple of Schlok’s” Chris Poggiali, Gore Gazette editor and Butcher Mobile rider Rick Sullivan, and Gary Hertz all discussing their involvement “Doctor Butcher M.D.” and their ties to 42nd Street. The second disc focuses more on “Zombie Holocaust,” interviewing male lead Ian McCulloch and McCulloch sings “Down by the River” in another segment, FX masters Rosario Prestopino and Maurizio Trani, actress Susan Buchanan, and a look at New York City then and now piece where “Zombie Holocaust” shot certain scenes.