The Devil Is Never Pretentious with His EVIL! “Satan’s Little Helper” reviewed! (Synapse Films / Blu-ray)

Bluray is Currently Cheaper than DVD!  Grab “Satan’s Little Helper” Fast!

Obsessed with his new video game Satan’s Little Helper, where a little boy helps the Satan dispense murderous bloody mayhem, naïve Dougie, sporting his own hot red Satan costume and mask, swears he’ll have a chance to meet Satan himself during Halloween.  Who Dougie believes he stumbles upon is the master of darkness but, in reality, the overactive and imaginative adolescent has discovered a deranged, untalkative serial killer in a Satan costume going house-to-house setting up realistic looking gruesome displays as Halloween lawn decorations.  Feeling slighted when his college-age sister comes home to Bell Island with a new boyfriend unexpectedly, an upset Dougie wants Satan to kill the boyfriend, but the killer insidiously uses the boy as a pawn and works his way into Dougie’s family home and everyone thinks it’s the new boyfriend masked as Satan to impress and please the difficult child.  Set in motion is a flight of wickedness throughout the night on the island town that’s unprepared for the chaos yet to come. 

Jeff Lieberman is already something of a cult horror director amongst fans. Having written-and-directed obscure classics “Just Before Dawn,” “Blue Sunshine,” and “Squirm” within 5 years between 1976 and 1981, Lieberman took horror by varietal storm by dipping his toes into different subgenres and doing moderately well at it., establishing a legacy with re-releases of his films into the new millennia. Though quiet for many years in the realm of horror, Lieberman makes a return with 2004’s “Satan Little Helper,” a killer horror-comedy filled with an innate fear of the unknown with what or who is truly behind that devilish mask. Lieberman wrote and directed the feature with a dark and morbid stamp perfect for the Halloween season. If you’re looking for a good Halloween movie, “Satan’s Little Helper” should be on your short list. Set on the fictional location of Bell Island, which is actually Long Island, New York, “Satan’s Little Helper” is a production of Intrinsic Value Films (“The Last Thing Mary Saw”) and the limited liability company under the alteration of the film’s title with Satan’s Little Company and is self-produced by Lieberman as well as Mickey McDonough, Isen Robbins, and Aimee Schoof with Carl Tostevin serving as executive producer. Screen Media Films waived the theatrical rights route by releasing the insta-cult film directly onto the video market.

Gracing prominently most physical releases with a sinister grin is a dialogue-less and faceless principal character, who with every centimeter of his latex teeth and showing a lackadaisical posture as he turns Bell Island upside down as his own massacring playground, is obviously the serial killer, played by Joshua Annex. Annex spin on Satan Man reaps the story’s benefits by creating a mischievous antagonist to the likes we’ve never seen on screen before despite being playing the murderer behind the mask trope. Annex might be playing Satan but the actor is not playing the titular character, or is her? The double entendre can be interpreted in two ways: the masked killer is actually Satan’s helper on Earth or Dougie, the annoyingly naive brat with an unhealthy infatuation with the Lord of Darkness. Played by a then adolescent Alexander Brickel in his debut performance, Dougie’s only kicks the hornet’s nest even more for not only the residents of Bell Island, but also for his family as the young loutish lad invites the killer his family abode under false pretenses and never revels the truth until it’s too late. Brickel is intense in an aggravating Dennis the Menace kind of way, but the act works all too well with the flanking character players who need to feed off of Dougie’s hellion deposition that all stems from wanting to marry his sister. Is there some kind of symbolism or metaphor there? Speaking of the sister, Katheryn Winnick (“Hellraiser: Hellworld,” “Polar”) levels the eccentricity with normal reactionaries as the sister Jenna. Counterbalancing to make sure her normalcies don’t overstay their welcome is the great Amanda Plummer (“Pulp Fiction,” “The Prophecy”) with sublimely odd mother that only Amanda Plummer could pull off and make it feel right. Stephen Gramham, Wass Stevens, Melisa McGregor, and Dan Ziskie round out the cast.

Perfect for the season, perfect as a cult film, perfect to just be for everyday viewing, “Satan’s Little Helper” has been kept in the shadows far too long and needs to be risen from the netherworld for all to bear witness the unsystematic carnage from someone who just wants to see the world burned. The Lieberman film intoxicates with spontaneity as you never know what to expect or happen next. The script is simple, yet smartly contrived to work as a haphazard horror with a foundation foe with no limits, no boundaries, and no motivation. There’s a relief that there’s no supernatural or actual Satanic force driving the plot and, instead, unravels in a prevailing fashion with an accepted and logical fear that the person behind the mask is not always the person you believe wearing it. While Lieberman’s script does a nice job fleshing out a feature length film where the doesn’t have one single word of dialogue, there are moments when suspicions amongst the family would have or should have come a lot sooner and that stretches the reality some, making act two gummy around the midsection when the serial killer is playing the part of Jenna’s boyfriend. Lieberman caveats Jenn and her boyfriend, Alex, as a pair of studious actors and Alex is just immersed in his role as Satan to please Dougie and while that seems very plausible, how long the act maintained its course did not. Eventually, Lieberman became wise to the Satan costume’s stagnancy and moved the character along into another facade of choice that then goes into a guess who game of deception. An aspect of the killer’s intelligence that makes the character uber-clever and that much more deadly.

“Satan’s Little Helper” is one of Synapse Film’s more contemporary releases that doesn’t require a hefty image upgrade but the new 1080p high-definition upgrade and a supplemental bonus features make this new Blu-ray release very attractive. Presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the AVC encoded Blu-ray craves out a resolute image as expected since the modern film is digitally recorded and hasn’t been affected by the wear-and-tear of age and neglect. Perhaps not as glossy as an expensive Hollywood type production with a late 90’s-early 2000s glaze, gel, or filter, “Satan’s Little Helper” keeps a more than adequate showing of details and a medley of colors amongst is more natural cinematography with a handful of night scenes shot in a day under a dark filter. Only one scene of concern stands out on the ferry pier and in what’s supposed to be a close up of Dougie’s dumbfounded face when meeting Jenna’s boyfriend for the first time has somehow turned into a blown up shot that stretches the image fuzzy and masking the delineation. The English language DTS-HD master audio shows no signs of issues with a flawless and lossless sound design. The clean and clear dialogue raises the bar on Dougie’s testy tantrums and cleans out with the ambient effects toward the killer’s actions to compensate for his lack of chit-chat. Optional English subtitles are offered on this release. Bonus features include a commentary with director Jeff Lieberman, an archival behind-the-scenes featurette, The Devil in the Details making-of featurette that goes into cast and crew interviews with Lieberman, Alexander Brickel (now older and with longer hair), director of photography Dejan Georgevich, and special effects artist Anthony Pepe, a tour of the filming locations guided by Lieberman in Mister Satan’s Neighborhood, and the promotional trailer. The physical release comes in the nifty blackout Blu-ray case with a Synapse catalogue insert in case you want to buy their releases via mailed order form. Synapse Film’s “Satan’s Little Helper” new Blu-ray comes home at the most opportune time during this 2022 Halloween season and is sure to be viewed as a delightful deluge of dark comedy carnage and destruction, some of the best attributes of any good horror film.

Bluray is Currently Cheaper than DVD!  Grab “Satan’s Little Helper” Fast!

Problems Arise When Your Brother is an EVIL Mutant Octopus! “The Kindred” reviewed! (Synapse Films / Blu-ray)

“The Kindred” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

Before the passing of his brilliant molecular scientist mother, scientist John Hollins fulfills his mother’s adamant dying wish to destroy her life’s long work at their old seashore home. She also spills out that he must put a stop to his unbeknownst to him brother named Anthony. John, who followed his mother’s footsteps by becoming a lead geneticist, devotes the efforts of his team to assist in the removal and destruction of the data but the extent of her work was severely underestimated. Digging through journals upon journals and computer data to find any mention of a long-lost brother, John delays the rescinding proceeding. That is until a member of his team is attacked by an unknown creature and that his brother might not be actually human. On top of it all, John’s lab supervisor, Dr. Phillip Lloyd, is hellbent on obtaining his mother’s covert creation and embeds a spy on John’s team to locate it by whatever means necessary. The simple deathbed request has become a monstrously frightening ordeal that will pit brother versus brother and place everyone’s lives in mortal danger with a tentacled creature set loose.

As Vin Diesel once said in 9 “Fast and the Furious” movies, family is everything. “The Kindred,” however, is not a Vin Diesel movie, does not have supercharged, illegal street race cars or even any high-octane action, and definitely pinpoints family to be more of a burden-riddled, hazard to your health kind of deal when the little brother you never knew existed turns out to be a hybrid surf-and-turf creature with a thirst for blood. That’s the barebone synopsis of “The Kindred”, a U.S. bred sci-fiction-horror from the directors of “The Dorm That Dripped Blood” and “The Power” Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow. The 1987 creature feature is penned by the two filmmakers alongside John Penney (“Return of the Living Dead III”), Earl Ghaffari, and “The Exorcist” screenwriter, Joseph Stefano to give the script a little extra supernaturally special to make it stand out. The indie film is a production under the limited partnership of producers Jeffrey Obrow, Stacey Giachino, and executive producer Joel Freeman (“Love at First Bite”) and was theatrically distributed by the now defunct F/M Entertainment.

As a geneticist, “Manhunter’s” David Allen Brooks gives a fairly convincing performance as a strong jawed, blonde haired, and tall statured scientist wearing the now hackneyed glasses to make him appear nerdy and scientific. Honestly, the L.A.- born actor could have gone without the glasses and would have made no difference in the geneticist maven that is John Hollins but on screen, it’s a good look for the part. Yet, all the scientific studies in the world couldn’t prepare what’s to come for the level-headed researcher: a long weekend at the seashore house with direct report whizz-kids and a British acolyte of his mother’s with the blatant hots for him despite his longtime girlfriend (Talia Balsam, “Crawlspace”) tagging along to help with the cleanout. Romantic tensions flare, jealousy ensues, and personalities clash as a house full of emotional cannonballs are being launched in every direction, blinding them to the real threat at hand – a genetically spliced mistake roaming the grounds and full of bloodlust. In its rampaging path are a varied of vaguely hormonal and youthful scientist and administrative blend with a hilarious Peter Frechette (“The Unholy”), the nice guy in Timothy Gibbs (“Witchboard 2”), the Betty Childs from “Revenge of the Nerds'” with Julia Montgomery in a stepdown supporting role, Bunky Jones (“Hide and Go Shriek”), and the dubious dame of Amanda Pays (“Leviathan”) in her best Kelly LeBrock impression. The cast rounds out with a couple of veterans in Kim Hunter (“Dark August”) as mother Hollins and in an almost unrecognizable in appearance but unmistakable in performance from Rod Steiger (“Modern Vampires”) with hair (likely a wig).

“The Kindred’s” promising 80’s creature feature showstopper is marvelously slimy, grotesquely anthropomorphic, and stunningly conceived and manipulated creature effects by a team under Michael John McCracken’s supervision. The palpable, practical special effects works for “The Kindred’s” era that offers technology limited f/x options, but for this type of subgenre to be constructed in the late 80s, “The Kindred” takes advantage of the wide birth of possibilities from makeup to creature mechanics to pyrotechnics, and to be made would have less memorable as just been another bargain-basement botch job of trying to skirt around the cost at the monster’s expense. Plenty of love is poured into showcasing the monster movie madness that includes a watermelon sinking its barbarous tentacles under human skin and an open floorboard cavity into the creature’s watery pit where the hybrid emerges and slinks back into the abyss. While the practical effects menagerie is a gawker’s paradise, I find the story is only a firecracker’s worth of entertainment in comparison to the Yonshakudama-sized starburst that is McCracken’s Kraken-like monster. Rod Steiger plays the obvious mad scientist, experimenting on the recently traumatized who’ve suffered head wounds, with the nefarious creation of mindless, mutants who are held in the basement of his lab because, well, to be a reminder of his failures? How a dying molecular scientist’s genetic splicing-gone-wrong and Rod Steiger’s version of playing God with the “People Under the Stairs” intertwines is either above my intelligence or doesn’t have one ligament of connective tissue to bind them together. Dr. Lloyd often feels like a very separate story, not dovetailed to the slippery and octopus-shaped antagonist John Hollins and his team face. The only smidgen of connection between the two conflicting plot titans is Melissa Leftridge who’s blackmailed by Dr. Lloyd to retrieve a specimen or die from the same exposure that’s mutated the creature under the seashore house. What befalls Leftridge, in itself, is another substory left shamefully abridged given the spectacle transformation of human-to-fish that randomly flares into the fold.

With an all new 4K high-definition remaster of the unrated print, Synapse Films doesn’t hold back their Blu-ray release of “The Kindred” that’s presented in 1080p, open matte 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio.  The AVC encoded picture quality caters to the upscale class from a nearly mint transfer print.  The color is vivid, and details come through nicely with every bit of goo and glop spewed from the creature.  Any kind of issues with compression are either minor or non-existent in the 93-minute runtime and this is typical high-level execution as on many of Synapse’s upgraded and first-time ever on HD released products.  The English language DTS-HD 5.1 master audio surround sound cuts a vigorous soundtrack with ample range.  Depth is not really tested since most of the action is in the foreground but never does the action top the dialogue that remains free from obstruction and imperfections.  Optionally, the release offers the original theatrical 2.0 mono soundtrack as well as English SDH subtitles.  Ample bonus features on the unrated release include a commentary with directors Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter that’s moderated by horror journalist Steve Barton, a near full length making-of featurette with directors and writers John Penney and Early Ghaffair in Inhuman Experiments that digs into genesis and principal photography, never-before-seen on-set compilation footage of Michael McCraken’s creature effects, a still gallery and storyboard concepts, TV and promotional spots/trailers, and the original theatrical trailer.  The physical release comes with a blackout Blu-ray snap case with a Synapse catalogue insert.   For a middle of the road creature feature, Synapse knocks the release out of the park, elevating by particularizing the details with care that makes the pint-sized “The Kindred” feel monolithically 100 feet tall.

“The Kindred” on Blu-ray at Amazon.com!

The Reining Bullies Get the EVIL They Deserve! “Massacre at Central High” reviewed! (Synapse / Blu-ray)

“Massacre at Central High” is Grade A Exploitation!

David just transferred to Central High School, reuniting with his good friend Mark, but Mark is no longer a part of the outcasted crowd at his new high school as he has joined Bruce and his pals to be the apex elite in the school’s lopsided social hierarchy.   Refusing to abide by the relentless and ruthless bullying, attempted rape, and intended bodily harm, David stands up for the oppressed with firm and actionable rebuke.  Bruce and his gang don’t take kindly to David’s opposing behavior and purposefully cripple him to teach him a lesson in disobedience punishment under their sovereign thumb, but what doesn’t kill David makes him a retribution killer as he begins his one-by-one takedown of the disparaging upper-class.  When there are no more bullies left at Central High, the once oppressed turn into the oppressors and it’s up to David to continue the cleanse of megalomanias.   

Now here’s a unique take on the revenge thriller that doesn’t involve the conventional concepts of a slaughter escapade return from being nearly raped to death or to exact revenge for the untimely and heinous murder of a loved one at the hand of sociopathic other.  “Massacre at Central High,” written and directed by the late Netherlands filmmaker Rene Daalder, is the sociopolitical, slashereseque picture from 1976 that is just as parentless and bizarre as it is cold in its exaggerated truth of undiplomatic ways.  Also known as “Sexy Jeans,” the Italian X-rated interposed cut, “Massacre at Central High,“ is Daalder’s second feature behind his 1969 exploitation and organized crime thriller “The White Slave” that tells the story of one man’s righteous crusade turns into a bungled mess with him being intertwined in a scheme to sell unsuspecting young Dutch women into sexual slavery.  Daalder’s sophomore film might not be as controversial, but certainly maintains that provocative and erotica bravado under the otherworldly shadow of an ultra-angsty high school veneer.  Filmed in and mostly around Los Angeles’s Griffith Park that included an abandoned private high school in Burbank, “Massacre at Central High” is produced Harold Sobel (“Very Close Quarters”) with Jerome Bauman serving as executive producer.

Before he was the four-eyed face of the franchise where it was cool to be square in “Revenge of the Nerds,” Robert Carradine landed one of his first principal roles in Daalder’s “Massacre at Central High” as free-lovin’ hippie, Spoony. Though Spoony is an activist idealist and gets two chicks, the half-brother of David Carradine wasn’t in the star lead though he certainly had the presence and the state of mind to withstand it. Instead, Derrel Maury enveloped the role David that seeks vigilante justice to a bunch of entitled school bullies lead by Bruce (Ray Underwood, “Jennifer”) with Craig (Steve Bond, “The Prey”) and Paul (Damon Douglas) being a part of his gang. Maury’s deep eyes and good looks make him a shoe in to be one of the top-predators to join Bruce’s paleoconservative circle and, as David, his personal connection with good friend Mark (Andrew Stevens, “The Terror Within”) who eggs, basically begging and pleading, David continuously to join or face the consequences of Bruce’s wrath. The acting and dynamics between this already complicated group of late teens is basic in its formulaic high school turmoil but also very disturbing on many levels that puts the boys-will-by-boys mantra into a whole new comfortless light. We all know characters like Bruce and his lackeys from High School where guys like him think the student body pledges allegiance to their unofficial rule; Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, and Damon Douglas do a phenomenal job of letting you hate them for who they portray with characters who are not beneath attempting the rape of two female peers in broad daylight and in one of the classrooms. To provide another twist to this tale, Bruce and his gang are not the real antagonists in the story but rather just a part of a bigger, broader discernment that’s infectious as it is dangerous in the realm of political power and hierarchy. Kimberly Beck is the angling love interesting that teeters between good friends Mark and David and “Friday the 13 Part IV: The Final Chapter” actress ultimately doesn’t become the focal purpose to David’s revenge (remember, this isn’t a typical revenge narrative) as Beck more than spurs jealously with her feelings for David as well as become eye candy with gratuitous and beachy full frontal nudie scenes. “Massacre at Central High” rounds out the cast with Steve Sikes (“Horrid”), Tom Logan, Jeffrey Winner, Rainbeaux Smith, Dennis Kort, and Lani O’Grady.

The sociopolitical aspect of “Massacre at Central High” is by far the most compelling with the story’s uncompromising subcomponents of teenage high school perils. The fact that are zero parents introduced into the mix makes Daalder’s narrative that much crisper in its poignancy as these children are left to fend for themselves in like some bizarro version of William Golding “Lord of the Flies” that dives into similar themes such as groupthink mentality, social organizations that reshuffles into a lemming trajectory, and even outlier themes comparing Bruce’s gang to Nazism. Behaviors turn on a dime for the worst and bring out the worst when the opportunity to govern the school affairs leads to an asymmetrical power struggle. Even David, our hero of the story, isn’t immune to the adverse effects of change when pushed beyond reasonable reaction after having his leg crushed and he left maimed by Bruce. To David, this turning point reduces down below differentiating the difference between morality and immorality as he views them as equals to right-the-wrongs and to be a way to level out toward equity for all, a quality that’s been an attribute to David’s pre-murderous existence ever since transferring to the school, but the all-around good guy couldn’t rub off the impartial view of the world to others and so he finds himself in a continuous solo crusade of course correcting. “Massacre of Central High” isn’t as austere as “House of the Flies” as its facade is campy and contrived in an artificial manner. The parentless environment disintegrates principles right at the door in “Massacre of Central High’s” biodome of guttersnipes and that sections off this gem from other exploitation ventures in a must-see good way.

Enroll yourself for September 13th releasing of “Massacre at Central High” on Blu-ray home video from Synapse! The spectacular course offers a region free, AVC encoded BD50 Blu-ray that presents the feature in 1080p at a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the take on the director’s approved 35mm remastered presentation is tight, detailed, and utterly clean. Color palette is warm but diverse with a great bit of contrast where needed, such as the nighttime skinny dip and love-makin’ beach scenes. Virtually free of wear and imperfections, the impeccable transfer dodges four and half decades of negative ageing with great delineation to show for it. The original English DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack is the only audio option on this release and is more than adequate with the same clarity as the picture. There’s quite a few, ACME-ish style explosions, a tumbling rocks scene, and spates of variable automobile revs, exhausts, and engines to quench an audiophile’s interest with a broad ambient range. With the original soundtrack comes Tommy Leonetti’s clashing lead melodic and easy listening track “Crossroads” that sticks out like a sore love song thumb in the background of murderous revenge. Newly translated optional English subtitles are available. The bonus material includes an audio commentary by “The Projection Booth” podcaster Mike White interviewing cast members Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Derrel Maury, and Rex Steven Sikes. Also included is an archived audio interview with director Renee Daalder with horror historian Michael Gingold, Hell in the Hallways making of featurette with new recollection interviews from the cast and cinematographer, fellow Netherlands native Bertram van Munster, theatrical trailer, TV, and radio spots, and a still gallery. The film is rated R and has a runtime of 88-minutes. “Massacre at Central High” focuses more on detonation than detention as bodies pile high in this explosive dog-eat-dog hatchetjob of unsupervised minors gone wild.

“Massacre at Central High” is Grade A Exploitation!

Sonar Radiation is Music to the EVIL’s Ears! “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” reviewed! (Synapse / Blu-ray)



Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie!  Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!

After having a run-in with a beautiful woman, Edna, at a gas station who accidently wrecking his motorbike, Manchester antique dealer George offers to drive her car to her destination in the country, her sister’s place in Southgate, and then borrow the car to continue on toward his appointment in Windermere.  However, upon their arrival in Southgate, Edna’s husband Martin has been brutally murdered and the police immediately suspect the two urbanite out-of-towners George and Edna of coming the heinous crime.  In reality, the recently dead in a mile radius has their nervous system reactivated and directed to kill the living by a new sonar radiation technology aimed to destroy crop pests.  With the police and the dead on their heels, George and Edna seek to expose the truth to the world before its too late and the experimental new pesticide’s range is extended to cover more ground. 

Hitting the stop button here before we dive into our review of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue.”  If you’ve never seen the Jorge Grau directed 1974 flesh eating zombie film then drop everything – you’re work, your kids, your winning lottery ticket worth millions – and take the next one hour and 33 minutes to enjoy the graphically gory, social commentary horror that not only cashes in on the George Romero “Night of the Living Dead” gamechanger undead horror but also rivals Romero’s film in story and in full, gorgeous color.  “The Legend of Blood Castle” director Jorge Grau helms the Spanish-Italiano co-produced script penned by Sandro Continenza (“Uncle Was a Vampire”) and Marcello Coscia (“Teenage Emmanuelle”) and was provided to Grau by “The Eroticist” and “Don’t Torture the Duckling” producer Edmundo Amati who wanted to make a Romero-esque flesh-eating zombie film of his own.  Also more widely known as “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie,” “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is co-produced by Manuel Pérez and is a co-production between Star Films and Flaminia Produzioni Cinematografiche.

Hot off the presses of Italian action-crime dramas, Ray Lovelock (“Emergency Squad,” “Almost Human”) finds himself playing an antique merchant holding up shop in the metropolitan area of Manchester, England and as George Meaning, the relatively undisclosed personal experience as an antique merchant, Lovelock gets into character not on the business end but when the shopkeeper goes on holiday in the country, riding his motorcycle Windermere where he has arranged a meeting with some very important people that never flesh out in the end. Speaking of flesh, don’t expect the leading lady Cristina Galbó (“The House that Screamed”) to provide any as the panicky Edna Simmonds on her way to her sisters (Jeannine Mestre, “Count Dracula”) for an intervention toward her sister’s severe heroin use. Much of the only flesh to be hand in “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” is that is which ripped from the bodies and stuffed into rotten, undead mouths. In itself, the entire scenario between Edna and her druggie sister is a compelling enough story to warrant attention in accumulating a sense of sisterly betrayal and a sacrificial compassion to do the right thing despite the consequences. However, that pathway, no matter how distressingly prominent it may seem, does not carry over into the main plot points of an experimental pesticide treatment involving sonar inadvertently raising the dead to be superhuman zombies. Between an Italiano (Lovelock) and a Spainard (Galbó), who not throw in an American while we’re at it with Massachusetts born Arthur Kennedy (“The Antichrist”) to be the aging local inspector keen on pinning every murder on youthful urbanites with their hippie ways and satanists beliefs. “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” fills out the cast with José Lifante (“Night of the Walking Dead”), Vincente Vega (“Historias para no dormir“), and “Flesh+Blood’s” Fernando Hilbeck as the foremost feared zombie.

What makes Jorge Grau’s take on the living dead canon so impressive is not only the social commentary story that seeks to deconstruct ecological progression as an ironic destructive poison to the Earth and its inhabitants and the striking moments in gore effects from the team of Juan Antonio Balandin, Luciano Byrd, and Giannetto De Rossi (of Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi”) that have remained timeless in holding up and rivaling against many of today’s gruesome effects, but also the terror-inducing sound design that combines Giuliano Sorgini’s funky-spook with Antonio Cárdenas zombie-vision resonances of heavy breathing and resonating heart thuds that cues the lurking of an undead lurker.  The effect is potent and full of imminent danger when included into Grau and cinematographer Francisco Sempere’s (“Death Will Have Your Eyes”) perfectly framed shots of the Romero-esque zombie lumbering toward their prey in an unstoppable hunger to kill and eat and, sometimes, convert to their infant-legion inside-and-out of the zombie perspective.  Along the lines of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue’s” environmental theme is the juxtaposition of big city and countryside in regards to their pollution levels in the opening credit scene where George rides out of Manchester through the degradation of the masses who are popping pills, wearing face masks (like in today’s COVID climate), numb to shock (in the scene where a naked protestor runs in front of stalled traffic for peace and the motorists are blank to the moment), passing by death and polluted nuclear smoke stacks.  Once the lead George reaches the countryside, he removes the scarf covering his nose and mouth and breathes in fresh air with a smirk on his face.  From then on, the story moves forward with a cautionary tale of ill-fated modern progression, such as urbanism, seeping into a natural landscape and causing death and destruction, leaving an poignant aftertaste in the inevitably of man’s ignorance will kill us all.  Grau’s film is a good candidate to be a promotional movie for the dramatic effects of climate change in today’s campaign for ecological change to reduce our carbon footprint.

Synapse brings “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” home onto a Blu-ray home video, restored in 4K from the original camera 35mm negative that includes the authentic and intact opening and closing credit sequences. The region free, AVC encoded release is presented in 1080p high definition of a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the picture is the gold standard of presentation with a vivid and stable color palette, controlled DNR without any posterization, and greatly detailed without an inkling of lossy image quality. Two audio mix come with the release – a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound remix and the distinctive to the Synapse release the original English theatrical mono mix. Though nice and nostalgic in the original English mono mix, the clarity and robustness of the channels on the DTS-HD track is by far superior with its reformulated by Synapse lossless quality and fidelity, especially in that aforementioned sound design by Antonio Cárdenas. The English dub on Ray Lovelock can be off-putting at times but the track is still beyond the best of the two available audio options. English SDH subtitles are available. Extras include two audio commentaries by author and film scholars Troy Howarth, Nathaniel Thompson, and Bruce Holescheck, a feature length (89 min) documentary Jorge Grau – Catolonia’s Cult Film King that explores the lift and films of director Jorge Grau, The Scene of the Crime is special effects and makeup artist Gionnetto de Rossi discussion on the film, another de Rossi feature of the SFX artist at a Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films in the UK (43 minutes), the theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and a sleek black snapper case that wouldn’t be complete with a Synapse catalogue booklet. If you’re a diehard zombie genre fiend, Jorge Grau’s “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” must be at the top of your personal video collection. If it isn’t, kick yourself in the shin really hard and then check out Synapse’s gorgeous release of the Spanish-Italiano production that’s worth every second of your life viewing.

Don’t Let the Sleeping Corpses Just Lie!  Grab a copy of “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue” at Amazon!

Two College Girls Are Subjected to EVIL’s Violations Below Deck. “White Slaver” reviewed! (Impulse Pictures / DVD)

Two college girls are abducted and brought aboard a small yacht by a sex trafficking white slaver. Bound and covered, the young girls have no idea where they’re being taken or what’s in store for them by their three kidnappers, but the captors’ perversities are clear when the girls are forced to strip naked and submit to multiple sexual depravities against their will. When one abductor sympathizes with their ordeal, he attempts a dangerous escape plan to save the girls from a sex slave fate, but his degenerate cohorts have other plans.

If you have an unallocated 60 minutes of your life to spare for a below deck X-rated roughie, “White Slaver” would be all-aboard lecherous pleasure cruise to kill time. The anonymously directed “White Slaver” is the quintessential 42nd Street fare regularly spanked to on every other corner theater established with luminous marquees or neon signs lighting up salacious keywords and acronyms, like Sex or XXX, inside the once infamous The Deuce stretch of New York City. Also known as “White Slavers,” the pornographic roughies, like the 1974 released feature, are typically scarce in background and information due in part to the pocket change budget and low on the totem pole unknown sex studs and starlets engaging in mediocre debauchery in the single sticky setting of steerage, an appropriate term for cheap seat patrons. Bookend by the title and the end title, “White Slaver” is claimed by none, recognized by few, and holds no designation for a production company or even who produced the one-hour fornication of the seas.

So, who is the cast that comprises up the porn that makes a debasing mockery of the severity of sex trafficking? Well, who the hell knows? Only half the cast is credit on the back of the DVD cover and same credits are listed on IMDB.com and a deep rooting search, inserting every possible name combination one can think, through the search engines of the world wide web has come up with exactly diddly-squat. While in the early beginnings of the gilded age of porn, “White Slavery” doesn’t exactly have the cream of the crop of the then industries top shelf A-listers like Joey Silvera or Vanessa del Rio. Instead, we there’s a guy with two first names, Bill Scott, a white slaver in a sweater with an average porn-stache. In the most rigid, uninterested, lack of enthusiasm performance I’ve seen from a male performer in a long time, Scott’s blank expression sums up his own bag of tiresome tricks as he slums through his scenes with brunette #1 (uncredited first kidnapped college girl) and brunette #2 (uncredited Jim’s sleazy, tits-out, beer drinking, bi-sexual boss). Frankly, the female cast are appealing with a variety of taste to accommodate. Brunette #1 is a slim figured beauty, toned in all the right places, with an innocent face. Brunette # 2 contrasts #1 with a more butch approach and a thicker physique. The third woman, listed as Devon Mayer, is a blonde bombshell with a small waist and buxom chest and while Scott gets his licks in with both brunettes, Mayer is sexing only, who I assume is her husband, Jim Mayer as the two share a couple exclusive bowline knots, if you get my sailing terminology drift. Mayer on Mayer is a better, more enticing, combination in its well-rounded package. There’s also another unknown character with the sexless scene sex slave trader who purchases the girls at a staggeringly deal at $1000/each. In the 1970s, inflation was at an all-time low.

If you’re the average wanker looking to get off by any means possible, even on old JCPenney lingerie circulars, “White Slaver” will do the job. If you’re like me, someone who needs a little more substance and depth in their viewing pleasure coinciding with their kinky pleasure, “White Slaver” is a sinking blow to the stern with little diversity and a shell of a premise. All the skin-on-skin action happens inside the small yacht’s tight quarters that houses two segregated rooms, containing two beds, and a couch in one of them and all being used for carnal embarking. This makes for crammed cinematography to limit shots to only a few positions and severe closeups of the of the hairiest and dimple-laden hind parts and though those scenes are inherently a part of porn’s shooting culture, as they are indeed the money shots, not every damn scene has to be the width and height of my television. At least believe in the illicit sex trafficking premise, despite the morally insensitive nature of trading people for purpose of sex-lining one’s pockets. The hapless girls of “White Slaver” initially vocally counter their abductors with verbal threats and pleas for an unharmed release, but when the clothes come off and boat starts to rock, the two female sex slavery victims are all about it. When everyone’s sexed out, the girls go right back to playing pawns. While watching this wishy-washiness transpire, the lost appetite of a struggle against a mean brute before he has his way with her kills the enticing narrative that now lacks crucial roles for its very own, stay afloat, survival.

Amongst a sea of countless pornographic celluloids, “White Slaver” is definitely an interesting commodity of low-end rarity unearthed in modern times than it ever was inaugurally for the pleasures of jacks looking to unload in the middle of a theater. The provocative Synapse label off-shoot, Impulse Pictures, releases “White Slaver” onto a region free DVD home video, presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio of its 35mm film. Though I’m sure Impulse Pictures presentation is the best we’ll ever see of “White Slaver,” the transfer suffered moderate trauma of wear and tear with evident film lacerations, blemishes, dirt, scratches, and even some light infiltration during processing. Also, an indication of the process mishandling is the exposure of the perforations. The sprocket holes of the 35mm stock swerve in and out of the picture due to either the introduction of light during the process or a sever misaligning of the stock in the camera reel but, either way, it’s annoying to see a rounded-rectangle box enter the frame at varied points. Not much to gain here with a flat color palette with lower deck love surrounded by nothing but awfully antiquated wood paneling and cupboards. The English language Dolby Digital single channel whispers the limp and zestless dialogue not because of the mono layer but because the amount of camera roll and static interference by shoddy recording equipment dampens the entire vocal spectrum. Special features include feature chapters and 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection with the flipping of projection audible only reels of similar, rare, era-related porn, included peep shows are “Vogue,” “Good Help Isn’t Hard to Find,” and “Liquid Plumber.” Obscurity and obscenity can’t always be a substitute for quality, but Impulse Pictures remains a steadfast platform for the little guy, even if that little guy is a forgotten morsel of American sleaze, with their newest rediscovered relic, “White Slaver.”

“White Slaver” on DVD courtesy of Impulse Pictures