Thursday, November 29, 2007

BLACK ROSES (1988) d. John Fasano

Reviewed by Simon Oakland

Even if you've never seen BLACK ROSES before, if you're old enough to have lived through the '80s you'd almost certainly know of it as "that video at the rental store with the 3-D packaging". I personally was never suckered in by the gimmick, as back in the day I loathed 80s pop culture in general and heavy metal specifically. It was plain as day to me that BLACK ROSES just wasn't going to be my cup of tea. Yet flash forward nearly 20 years and somehow through the cosmic power of nostalgia (or possibly the power of brain damage and the onset of dementia) I have learned to take this kind of stuff with a grain of salt and have even gone so far as to now enjoy some of the cheesy, camp value inherent in the era and it's music. The same, however, cannot be said of my fellow compatriots here at Saturday Fright Special. Seeing as how I was the only one in our group that "got" the majesty and splendor of the über-masterpiece that was ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE (starring rock god Jon-Mikl Thor), it was only fitting that I should be the one to review this, director John Fasano's follow up hair metal feature, now available on DVD courtesy of Synapse Films and Ryko distribution.

In the town of Mill Basin, parents are up in arms over the upcoming series of concerts to be performed by the popular Heavy Metal band Black Roses, who strangely have never appeared in public before. Why is it that they have chosen Mill Basin, a quiet little hamlet, of all places to be the starting point of their worldwide tour? Is it just to fine tune their performance as they claim? Or is their agenda more insidious in nature?

Well.. Yeah! No real surprise there. Nor is it any surprise that Synapse has done wonders with BLACK ROSES, either. I'm not the kind of guy that would buy every DVD they release, but whenever I get wind that Synapse has acquired the rights to a film I love, I can sleep well in the knowledge that it's in the right hands. No, what surprised me is that unlike ROCK 'N' ROLL NIGHTMARE, this actually looks and feels like something that could've gotten theatrical distribution at one time. Bigger budget, bigger cast, less excessive van filler... the silly, fake looking, animatronic hand puppet demons are still here, but at least they're not so shoddy as to look like people are fighting against Halloween masks on coat racks and Play-Doh ninja stars. Plus, BLACK ROSES features an early role by the guy who played Big Pussy on THE SOPRANOS. How could you go possibly go wrong with this purchase?

Definite keeper.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

THE NUDE VAMPIRE (1969) d. Jean Rollin

Reviewed by Simon Oakland

Self proclaimed sleaze merchants The Salvation Group (probably best known in the U.S. for their "Redemption" line of videos and for featuring modern-day models in S&M lesbian vampire garb as misleading cover art) have switched distributors from Image to Ryko and have just released the latest in their long line of classic Jean Rollin titles: THE NUDE VAMPIRE, his second feature film. Like all of his movies, THE NUDE VAMPIRE relies heavily upon atmosphere and rather bizarre erotic imagery. Plotting is secondary, so much so that by the end of the 88 minute runtime I had such difficulty remembering exactly what it was all about that I had to consult the back of the box in order to write this review. Now, you could take that as a slight against Rollin's work, but in fact I can't help but really enjoy his stuff, even if at times it makes me fall asleep. (Well, Monsieur Rollin, when you overload your films with dreamlike imagery what the heck do you expect to happen?)

From the back of the box: "THE NUDE VAMPIRE is centered on a doctor's obsessive desire to find immortality by replicating the blood of a female vampire he is holding captive."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Actually I couldn't have said it at all! Is that what was happening? Dear lord. I guess I was too distracted by all of the gyrating topless chicks to notice, but in all honesty, as long as you have that and a keen sense of mis-en-scene, who really cares about plot? Talk about eye candy! Hoot!

Image-wise, this release looks great...if you're viewing it on a standard definition television. If you're one of the lucky souls who own HD (I'm not) then you're bound to be disappointed as the picture looks a bit soft and lacking in fine detail on my computer monitor. It's also apparent from the lack of an anamorphic transfer that this is merely a port over from a region 2 release several years old. THE NUDE VAMPIRE is up to DVD standards circa 1999, but definitely not for 2007. The original French soundtrack is also strangely MIA from this package.

Overall, do I recommend this release? It depends. If you've seen Jean Rollin before then you know what to expect. If you haven't, then I have a word of advice: Don't go into THE NUDE VAMPIRE expecting to be as frightened or as creeped out as you might be from any other horror movie. Despite it's dark subject matter it's very much an "art" film, more in tune with the work of Luis Buñuel than Dario Argento. But that said, this DVD could be better, but it could also be much worse.

Purists among you who have all region players will probably want to seek out the PAL release which includes the original French dialogue. Everyone else will have to settle with what we see here and, sadly, I'm guessing that it will be a long time coming before we see a substantial upgrade over this domestically.