Category Archives: Film

“LAST GASP”— A Hotel in the Jungle

“LAST GASP”

A Hotel in the Jungle

Amos Lassen

When Leslie Chase (Robert Patrick) builds a huge hotel in the jungle of Mexico, he is watched with suspicion by a local tribe. His workers are suddenly killed according to old tribe rituals; Chase lets his ties with the Mexican government play out. causing a massacre among the indigenous people. One of them escapes and attacks Chase the next evening. When he kills the Indian, an ancient curse is placed on Chase.

Six years later, Chase begins a construction project in Pennsylvania and again some of his workers disappear without a trace. One of these is Nora Weeks’ friend and so she hires a private detective to find her loved one. The detective gets too close to the secret of Leslie Chase very quickly, thus putting Nora is also on the hit list of the cursed.  

From the start, we know who the killer is and why he does the things he does. We can also figure out where the film is going. The film never succeeds in building up tension yet the plot of “The Last Gasp” is told in a competent and straightforward manner. There are horror elements but the story is a too predictable.

“DEATH PROMISE”— A Real Estate War

“DEATH PROMISE”

A Real Estate War

Amos Lassen

Director Robert Warmflash’s “Death Promise” stars Charles Bonet as a Hispanic would-be kung-fu master who battles evil New York City slumlords after his father is killed following an argument with one of the landlords. He is helped by a couple of his buddies.

Charley Roman and Speedy Leacock love training in Martial Arts at the Ridgefield Self Defense Academy in New York City under Master Shibata but something is upsetting their normally peaceful lives. Evil, ruthless landlords are using tactics to get tenants to move out. When Charley’s father, an ex-boxer, tells everyone to stand strong and not give in, the antagonists graduate to more creative and dangerous means to flush out tenants. Responsible for all the trouble is a diabolical planning and zoning board, that is made up of a team of ethnic stereotypes. Jackson, Albano, Mirsky and Engstrom (Black, Italian, Jewish and WASP who want the land a particular building is on. They have Kung-Fu fighting goons to ensure they get it. When Roman’s father is caught in the crossfire, Charley resolves to make the planning and zoning/stereotype board pay and travels to Asia to train even more in Martial Arts. Now with Charley, Speedy and Sup Kim prepared to take on the baddies, a real estate war ensues.

There are some amazing situations and line readings that are unforgettable and the film pays strict attention to technical details.

“RUSH WEEK”— A Slasher

“RUSH WEEK”

A Slasher

Amos Lassen

 Bob Bralver’s slasher Rush Week” takes place on a college campus where a young journalism student picks up on a story when she notices that young women seem to be disappearing after meeting a photographer after hours in the science lab. A killer, dressed in a cape and man mask is stalking the school’s dormitory and killing lonesome females. The killer has a double-bladed axe, but we do not see many of the murders. 

There are a lot of fraternity jokes and teen fart humor and most of the runtime is filled with character development and a romance. The slashings take a back seat early on the mystery is poorly handled and we see through red herrings. There’s a bit of suspense during the final stalking sequence through the school corridors.

It seems women are simply introduced to scream as the hatchet swings and we feel absolutely no sympathy for them. It seems that the slasher elements were simply a sub-plot to allow the story to focus on the romance/dorm plot.

 

“FURIES SEXUELLES” and “PROSTITUION CLANDESTINE”— Uncut and Uncensored

“FURIES SEXUELLES” and “PROSTITUION CLANDESTINE”

Uncut and Uncensored

Amos Lassen

Alain Payet was one of the first, and most controversial, directors/ auteurs who took full advantage of France’s legalization of hardcore sex in the cinema. His films look at the strange and perverse underbelly of Parisian sex culture. These two films are his earliest hardcore attempts to do so.

In “Furies Sexualles”, Marie-Madeleine is a shop girl who, is persuaded by her lecherous boss to give sexual favors to the store’s most affluent clientele. After being fired for refusing one of her customer’s advances, she goes to a seedy bar where she finds solace but that is also a  gathering place for prostitutes. She decides to work as a prostitute and becomes quickly part of a world filled with debauched and hedonistic experiences that threaten to destroy her physically and spiritually.

In “Prostitution Clandestine” Claudine and Martine are two young women who work as but that’s only a cover for their actual profession— they are high class call girls who satisfy the whims and hidden fantasies of Paris’ high society.

Extras include::
• Region Free Blu-ray
• Newly scanned & restored in 2k from their 35mm negatives
• “Richard Allan on FURIES SEXUELLES” – an interview with actor Richard Allan
• Bonus scene from the Belgium version of FURIES SEXUELLES
• Original trailer for PROSTITUTION CLANDESTINE
• Archival articles gallery
• Reversible cover artwork
• Newly translated English SDH subtitles

 

 “NINA WU”— A Webcam Model

 “NINA WU”

A Webcam Model

Amos Lassen

“Nina Wu” is a story of power, control, and the male gaze that looks at Nina, a webcam model, who is forced to compromise her morals and sell her body on screen to land her first big film role. The male gaze has long dominated cinema and here it is clear throughout, with sequences of a silent Nina being frozen again and again in the grip of a man’s camera lens.

Her director is a profile of every “difficult” male genius in the canon, making Nina do whatever brings him results he wants. We understand here  that cinema has historically been a way for men to enact their desires – both on and off screen.

Wu brings depth to her character even with her frequent silence and submission to the men around her. She fights every indignity she faces quietly and realistically. The most depressing thing is she is not mistreated out of malice but simply because the men around her can get away with doing so.

Nina (Ke-Xi Wu) is a country girl who leaves the small-town theatre for the big city lights of Taipei. Struggling for years to secure a role beyond an extra in a short film or commercial, we meet here in her urban apartment as she makes dumpling mix and prepares her routine streaming broadcast, where desperation pays off in the form of love credits.

When her agent contacts her out of the blue for a meaty role, she accept the fact the film is a cheesy period spy romance with a full-frontal nudity scene.

Before she accepts the role,  we see Nina as selfish and shallow and it is hard to feel for her. There is a lot of promise here but I had the feeling that it was by and large unfulfilled.

Nina achieves her long term goal but at a very high price. Her abusive director who engages in physically abusive techniques to get a performance from Nina and at one point she is almost killed when oil barrels on a barge explode, throwing her into the sea. But Nina gets through it and becomes a star. It’s then that she finds herself haunted and taunted by a mysterious young woman (Kimi Hsia) who appears in her dreams and possibly even in her reality. Returning to her hometown, Nina is unable to escape this figure who seems to represent some sort of shame or guilt.

Basically this is a rape-revenge thriller that never offers its heroine a shot of revenge. We get the sense the that Nina is losing her identity as fiction, reality and dreams come together. By the end I wanted to re-watch the film to see if I missed clues throughout.  

“WHITE SHADOW”— An Albino in Tanzania

“WHITE SHADOW”

An Albino in Tanzania

Amos Lassen

 Director Noaz Deshe’s “White Shadow” is a violent, Tanzania-set story about Alias, a young albino male (Hamisi Bazili). He faces the terrible reality of being an albino in Tanzania, where witch doctors pay good money for limbs and organs of human albinos.

Alias is the prey and the hunters are a group of men who sell albino meat and entrails to witch doctors.  In a traumatic early sequence, Alias witnesses the murder of his albino father (Tito D. Ntanga) when a group of men come at night and cut off his limbs so they can sell them. Shot in almost pitch-black darkness, the limited visibility and loud shouting and wailing only give us a sense of horror and dread.

After burying the remains of his father, his mother (Riziki Ally), tells him that he has to leave with a man, Kosmos (James Gayo), who we learn is his uncle. She can’t take care of him alone, and he’s at risk just as his father was. His uncle puts him to work on the heavily trafficked streets of the big city, selling CDs and sunglasses, but Alias is unhappy and finally ends up in a home with other albino children, including Salum (Salum Abdallah), who claims he’s a witch doctor too, though his colleagues keep stealing his clients.

The reappearance of Kosmos, who’s heavily indebted to some local hoodlums who beat him at every occasion, finally puts the hunters back on track for Alias and the film reaches its conclusion.

“THE COLUMNIST”— Getting Away with Murder

“THE COLUMNIST”

Getting Away with Murder

Amos Lassen

Femke Boot (Katja Herbers) who is also known as The Columnist, is a procrastinator. She should be working on her second book but she can’t concentrate because she’s too busy checking Twitter. Femke is distracted by all the negative responses she receives on social media and wastes most of her time killing everyone who calls her a c*nt. Being a serial killer takes up time but in Femke’s case, it is inspiring and it seems that all the good ideas come to her every time she takes it out on someone that wishes her dead.

“The Columnist” is an irreverent comment on online abuse and the line between free speech and hate speech. Femke’s killings are so ridiculous that, often it is easy to believe they come from her imagination. It seems that being a serial killer is as easy as writing an opinion column and if Femke gets away with everything, it is because Internet trolls manage t0 get away with their threats and violent behavior.

The film wastes no time and jumps right into the story with great energy. The subplot regarding Femke’s daughter, who believes the murderer is her mother’s boyfriend seems like a wasted.

Femke has been living with her boyfriend for several months. When explaining to her daughter why she wants her to try to make the situation work, she says that he makes her happy and this sums up a good deal about who she is: a nice, respectably attired middle class woman who writes articles about soft boiled eggs and thinks the world would be a better place if we could all simply make the effort to get along. She’s haunted by snarky comments and lurid descriptions of sexual assault that men post about her on the internet. However, she is quickly running out of calmness and reasonableness.

Words hurt Femke and we, in turn, root for her revenge. Even though she delivers speeches about the awfulness of censorship, she’s ready to enforce her own form of censorship in private.

Ivo van Aart’s film shows that Femke despite her hypocrisy and the risk that she’s killing the wrong people needs our support. Yet, van Aart never makes it easy for her. Even the most unlikeable of her victims has some humanity but Femke shows little concern for her own family. What starts as revenge becomes a hobby, satisfying some other need.

Herbers gives a brilliant performance but there are issues with which she must deal: her daughter is dealing with censorship at school, raising questions around the need for authority and where power should lie. Her boyfriend’s playful approach to being stereotyped, may mean that he’s overlooked vulnerabilities and all of the targeting of individuals does nothing to resolve the deeper problems of a society.

The film makes a contribution to a public conversation which frequently refuses to admit nuance at all. We watch Herbers transform from a woman who is defeated by comments and simply pleading for people to understand that words hurt even when they’re said online, into someone who channels her anger into something sinister.

We get a look into the repercussions that hate spewed online. Filled with dark humor, this is a clever film that shows both sides, where those who torment others from their computers are cowardly and that there is no way to silence them without societal consequence.

“DEATH HAS BLUE EYES”— A Paranormal Thriller


“DEATH HAS BLUE EYES”

A Paranormal Thriller

Amos Lassen

When local gigolo Chess (Chris Nomikos) greets his vacationing friend Bob Kovalski (Peter Winter) at Athens airport, the two set out on a series of scams and erotic dalliances that will take them to an elegant wealthy woman, Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin), and her daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi).

Geraldine blackmails the two men into acting as bodyguards for Christine who possesses telepathic abilities. After fleeing from a series of assassination attempts, it soon becomes clear that Geraldine herself might not be quite who she seems and the two men become caught up in a political conspiracy of international consequences.

Filmmaker Nico Mastorakis gives non-stop car, bike and helicopter chases, beautiful girls with guns, softcore sex scenes, psychic thrills and Cold War political intrigue all set against the landscapes of 1970s Greece. The film, for the first time, comes to us in a new HD master in both widescreen and full-frame versions.

Bob and Ches are both con men and they spend most of their days pulling off petty scams and/or trying to get with hot women. One of their favorite scams is to dine in fancy hotel restaurants and pass themselves off as hotel guests and charge the bill to a random room. One day this con job goes wrong when the room they tell the waiter to charge the bill to is revealed to belong to the two women sitting at the table next to them— Geraldine Steinwetz and her sexy, blonde daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi). Geraldine and Christine seem amused rather than angry and don’t care to report the incident, but Bob gets a bit freaked when Christine reveals that she knows his name and his way of operating. He gets the distinct impression that she can read his mind. It is here that the story starts.

There are many wacky highlights and especially two stand-out sequences. The first one comes when the constantly horny Bob tries to hook up with a voluptuous blonde stripper named Debra, who invites him to come to her club to watch her “dance”, but once he gets there he finds the place deserted. Debra suddenly appears behind him – wearing a tight blouse shirt that is barely able to hold her breasts and she pulls a gun on him. A strip tease ensues. The other scene also involves Bob. He hooks up with a sexy race car driver (Marie Elise Eugene) and as the two of them are getting hot and heavy, Christine uses her psychic abilities to connect to Bob’s mind to see what he’s up to, and for whatever reason Bob is unable to continue with the lovemaking. He then picks a flower from a bouquet on the table and places it in his disappointed lover’s rear before sitting down in a corner to sulk.

The film has beautiful cinematography and stylish camera angles and good car stunts and plot twists in the final third. This is a really strange film that seems to be more intriguing than it is.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  Brand new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director

  High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation

  Two versions of the film: the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version

  Original mono audio

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  Exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis

  Exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi

  Dancing with Death: tracks from the Death Has Blue Eyes original soundtrack

  Original theatrical trailers

  Image gallery

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger

“SWITCHBLADE SISTERS” — A Wild Girl Gang

“SWITCHBLADE SISTERS”

A Wild Girl Gang

Amos Lassen

Jack Hill’s Switchblade Sisters is a bad film about a group of bad girls doing some really bad things. A film like this can no longer be made in the politically correct world we live in. 

The  story is simple and utterly unbelievable. Maggie (Joanne Nail) proves herself in a fight and becomes a member of the Dagger Debs. Soon after, she is raped by Dominic (Asher Bauner), the leader of the Silver Daggers, who convinces himself that she is the girl of his dreams. This creates plenty of tension between Maggie and Lace (Robbie Lee), the leader of the Dagger Debs, who has been dating Dominic. Meanwhile, another girl, Patch (Monica Gayle), who dislikes Maggie, realizes that the drama could be a great opportunity for her to get rid of the gang’s newest and unusually popular member and its leader. 


The film is broken into multiple episodes in which the girls  are frequently angry. There is plenty of macho talk and quite a few fights but the exchanges are quite simple. This is probablythe reason why the film has a huge fan base. The talk is rough and the acting quite bad, but the static in the air feels real. There are plenty of scenes where the girls basically go into overdrive mode and get pretty wild.  The guys are either horny or stupid. The girls easily take care of them but only because the story needs them to.

“Switchblade Sisters” is a little movie, full of all the lurid teases, off-the-cuff production values, and relevance that make exploitation movies cultural time capsules. These high-school gang girls are an urban lot who confront their beloved male counterparts in the Silver Daggers, the sadistic and predatory lesbian prison matron, the rival gang who’s moving into their school territory, and the black female revolutionary who quotes Chairman Mao and has stored firearms in an abandoned police station. It moves along at a fast clip that staves off any concerns about the plot’s sillier aspects and uneven performances.

Filled with sharp, clever dialogue and tongue in cheek humor, this is a grindhouse classic!

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

  Original uncompressed mono audio

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

  Brand new audio commentary by historians/critics Samm Deighan & Kat Ellinger

  We Are The Jezebels, an archival documentary featuring director Jack Hill, producer John Prizer, casting director Geno Havans, production designer B.B. Neel, stunt coordinator Bob Minor, and stars Joanne Nail, Asher Brauner, and Chase Newhart

  Gangland: The locations of Switchblade Sisters, an archival documentary in which Jack Hill and filmmaker Elijah Drenner revisit the shooting locations of Switchblade Sisters

  Jack Hill and Joanne Nail at the Grindhouse Film Festival, a 2007 archival interview with the director and actor

  Interview with Jack Hill, Robbie Lee, Joanne Nail, an archival 1990 s interview with the director and stars in conversation with Johnny Legend

  Galleries of behind the scenes stills, international posters, video covers, and lobby cards

  Theatrical trailers

  Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Heather Drain

“A GHOST WAITS”— No One is Alone

“A GHOST WAITS”

No One is Alone

Amos Lassen

In “A Ghost Waits”,  a family are driven from an isolated, affordable house by a spectral presence. We meet handyman Jack (MacLeod Andrews), who fixes up vacated properties for the next tenants. He is something of a phantom himself who is forced out of his own apartment while his building is being fumigated and is homeless. He begins a kind of marginal existence, caring for places where he has no emotional or financial investment. He’s disconnected from humanity.

Muriel (Natalie Walker) is a pale-faced ghost who looks and haunts Jack with objects that move when he’s looking away, strange sounds in the night, disturbing dreams. She is happy when he’s driven from the house, but softens when he comes back because he literally has nowhere else to go and they start talking.

Director Adam Stovall, who also co-wrote the screenplay with star Andrews and Matt Taylor gives nods to classic ghost films but “A Ghost Wait has its own personality. Shot in chilly monochrome, it stresses pale whites rather than stark shadows that creates a limbo-like atmosphere for a relationship between living and dead specters.

Muriel, like Jack, has a remote boss who doesn’t feel obliged to explain the point of the job she’s doing in the house. The acting is exceptional as Jack is intrigued by Muriel and asks the questions that anyone would ask of a ghost.

Jack has not had a great deal of luck when it comes to romance. He travels from place to place to deep clean houses in preparation for sale but it could be that he’s just never met the right woman. The house he’s been assigned to clean now as apparently never met the right owner since several families have left it quickly probably because  it’s haunted by a hardworking, proud ghost who is determined to maintain her record. However, Jack’s reaction to her is not what she’s used to.

 “A Ghost Waits is a meditation on the futility of existence. Muriel, the ghost, becomes increasingly frustrated by Jack’s failure to notice her poltergeist activity and what Stovall’s film does is slowly transform into the story of a man discovering meaning somewhere he never expected to. Before long, Muriel has given up on subtlety and starts confronting him directly, but he’s just not scared and it soon becomes clear that love is in the air. There’s just one problem – Muriel’s boss.

This a wonderful example of what’s possible on a small budget with just a little imagination.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation

  Original uncompressed stereo audio

  Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

  Audio commentary by writer/director Adam Stovall

  Audio commentary by Adam Stovall and MacLeod Andrews

  Audio commentary by the cast and crew

  Humanity and the Afterlife in ‘A Ghost Waits’, a new video essay by Isabel Custodio exploring the film’s themes and cinematic forebears

  Eight interviews with cast and crew moderated by critic and programmer tt stern-enzi

  Interview and post-film Q&A with Adam Stovall moderated by Alan Jones at Frightfest Glasgow 2020

  Outtakes

  Easter eggs

  Theatrical trailer

  Image gallery

  Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Sister Hyde and original artwork by Julie Hill

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann