Category Archives: Film

“THE GIRL FROM THE BROTHEL”— Child Exploitation

“THE GIRL FROM THE BROTHEL”

Child Exploitation

Amos Lassen

Mia (Llaria Borrelli, who is also the director and co-screenwriter) is a French photographer who is suffering from boredom and her life in the middle class of Parisian society and decides to surprise her husband, Xavier (Philippe Caroit), by flying to Cambodia where he is working. She has an ulterior motive and that is to talk him into beginning a family, something she has always wanted. After arriving, she sees her husband in a brothel having sex with Srey (Setha Moniroth), an eleven-year-old girl.

Mia immediately decides that has to rescue Srey and take her back to her village from where she was abducted. She comes to terms with Sanan (Sen Somnag), the owner of the brothel and it is “a repulsive bargain”, in which allows herself to be used as a sex object to a governmental official in exchange for the freedom of Srey. She and Srey then set out for the Srey’s village. What she does not know is that Srey has smuggled out two other young girls (Daa and Malin) and that they stole money from Sanan. Mia realizes that their situation is quite dangerous and that she and the girls will be haunted down. Yet, Mia does not stop and with the additional responsibility, she continues on with the hope of returning the three young girls to their Cambodian villages. As they get closer to freedom, they realize that life should be and can be a celebration.

When Mia saw her husband with the child in the brothel she is shocked that she passes out and when she regains her senses, she walks around the Cambodian slums in a state of shock, both about her husband and about the exploitation of children of both genders. She is determined to get Srey out and back home but does not have enough money to purchase her freedom from Sanan. The only alternative that she has is to submit to prostituting herself and this brings her into using cocaine (once a terrible habit of hers).

Once that is over she and Srey are on their way to the village when she discovers the other two youngsters and instead of stopping, she assumes responsibility for the girls but she is now forced to travel only on back roads. Her husband is concerned that he cannot make contact with her and has no idea that Mia saw him with Srey. He knows she is Cambodia and he certainly knows that she once had a problem with cocaine so he contacts the police to report that she is missing. Sanan is notified by the police as well but he has connections there and informs Munny (Vanyoth Lay), a corrupt policeman, that the other girls were missing and so Munny sets out to find her.

As they travel Daa becomes ill and Mia manages to get her to her mother in her village where she dies of septicemia. At the funeral, Munny finds Mia and arrests her but when he realizes that she is helping the children, he lets her go and she continues on traveling by canoe and going into the jungle up to Malin’s village and becoming excited Malin calls out to her mother who refuses to take her back causing the boat to turn away.

They finally get to Srey’s village but Mia weakens and suffers from cocaine withdrawal and exhaustion and now adult and child must draw on the other’s strength. Reaching the village, they find Sanan waiting for them.

This is a rough film especially for those of us who have never had to face something like this. I was stunned by what I saw her and the sheer intensity of the film made me glad to live in a country where something like this does not happen on a large scale. Yet the cinematography is gorgeous and the acting is fine all around. I do not think that anyone can watch this film and not be affected by it. This is what moviemaking should be all about.

“KIJU YOSHIDA: LOVE AND ANARCHISM”— Three Films

“Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism”

Three Films

Amos Lassen

“Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism” brings together three works from the late sixties and early seventies making it a loose trilogy that is united by their radical politics and an even more radical shooting style.

The work of director Kiju Yoshida is one of Japanese cinema’s pleasures. Yoshida started out as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before making his directorial debut at age 27. In the years that followed he produced more than 20 features and documentaries but most of them have until recently remained unseen in the English-speaking world.

This collection brings together three works from the late sixties and early seventies that exhibit radical politics and an even more radical shooting style. In “Eros + Massacre” made in 1968 (presented here in both its 169-minute theatrical version and the full-length 220-minute director s cut) tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist (and free love advocate) Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists. Their stories interact and intertwine, resulting in a complex, rewarding work that is regarded as Yoshida’s masterpiece.

“Heroic Purgatory” pushes the cinematic language of Eros + Massacre further by presenting a bleak but dreamlike investigation into the political discourses taking place in early seventies in Japan. It begins with a Eiko, a 20 year old student at Tokyo Design College, interviewing Mako, the daughter of Itō Noe, the Japanese anarchist and feminist of the Taishō era. The film juxtaposes the past with the present: Itō’s life, and her relationship with the anarchist Ōsugi Sakae, is intercut with scenes depicting Eiko’s life and that of her compatriot Wada. Interested in the ideas of Itō and Ōsugi, Eiko researches their lives and practises Ōsugi’s principle of ‘free love’, and her free-spirited approach to her own sexuality leads to her being investigated by a detective who believes her to be a prostitute. In some sequences, the past bleeds into the present, with characters from the past appearing in scenes set within the present.

“Heroic Purgatory” (1969) begins with a young man, Asahi Heido, murdering an elderly man, later revealed to be Yasuda Zenjiro, the head of the Yasuda financial cartel. Shortly after, revolutionary writer Kita Ikki receives a communiqué from Asahi in which Asahi claims to have acted on the ideas presented in one of Kita’s books, ‘Outline Plan for the Reorganisation of Japan’. A disciple of Kita’s, Nishida Mitsuki, coordinates a cabal of military and naval officers with the aim of assassinating the Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior. Whilst Kita is on the periphery of this uprising, having no direct part focuses on an engineer, Shoda, and his wife Kanako. The lives of this couple are disrupted by the appearance of a young woman, Ayu. Ayu claims that Shoda is her father. Ayu’s arrival heralds the appearance of a number of men who claim to be her father. This event causes Shoda to reflect on his past as a militant youth, the mysterious ‘Plan D’ which involves the abduction of ‘Ambassador J’, and also carries us into the future – to 1980, where Shoda and his wife are interrogated by the press in a kaleidoscopical sequence which seems almost like something concocted by Fellini.

“Coup d’etat” (1973) takes us back to the past for a biopic of Ikki Kita, the right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the government in 1936. Yoshida considered this film to be the culmination of his work and when it was finished, he retired from feature filmmaking. It has a much more ‘concrete’ approach to its narrative, though comprehension of the events taking place perhaps depends on the viewer’s familiarity with the historical events on which the film is based.

These films are connected by, aside from their political themes and experimental photography, the presence of Yoshida’s wife, Mariko Okada. The three films collected in Arrow’s new Blu-ray boxed set are from this era of Yoshida’s filmography.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3,000 copies)

High definition digital transfers supervised by Kiju Yoshida

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations for all films

Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio on all films

New translated English subtitles on all films

Yoshida …or: The Explosion of the Story a 30-minute documentary on Eros + Massacre with contributions from Yoshida and film critics Mathieu Capel and Jean Douchet

Introductions to Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by Yoshida

Newly-filmed discussions of Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by David Desser, author of Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave, recorded exclusively for this release

Scene-select commentaries by David Desser on all three films

Heroic Purgatory theatrical trailer

Coup d’etat theatrical trailer

Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm

Illustrated 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films by David Desser, Isolde Standish (author of Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s) and Dick Stegewerns (author of Kiju Yoshida: 50 Years of Avant-Garde Filmmaking in Post-War Japan)

 

 

“THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES”— A Legend

“The Red Queen Kills Seven Times” (“La dama rossa uccide sette volte”)

A Legend

Amos Lassen

The House of Wildenbrück has a legend that every 100 years, one of the girls of the family will murder her sister, then the murdered sister will return from the grave to kill 6 times before murdering her sister but these are course stories from a long bygone time, with little relevance for today or do they? It wasn’t that Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) had accidently killed her sister Eveline in a minor struggle, and it’s only thanks to her sister Franziska (Marina Malfatti) and Franziska’s husband Herbert (Nino KordaI) that none of this got out and Eveline’s corpse was in the basement of the house. Shortly afterwards, the girls’ granddad (Rudolf Schündler), who did not know of Eveline’s demise (like everyone else, he thinks she has emigrated to the USA), dies from a heart attack after having seen “the Red Queen” which is the killer’s disguise according to legend. Now that could possibly be explained away as the about-to-die imagination of an old man, but soon enough, at the fashion house Kitty works at, more and more people start to die, and to make it worse, Kitty’s (married) boyfriend Martin (Ugo Pagliai) is the key suspect. What we know about him makes him the perfect suspect.

The giallo genre is known for far-fetched stories and this one is really off the wall. After all, the giallo genre is filled with silly stories that don’t necessarily make sense. However, they do deliver thrills, gore and sex.

The movie revolves around the curse or the legend of the Wildenbruck family. Early on in history, feuding of medieval sisters – the Black and the Red Queen – resulted in the death of one of them, who, according to legend and in 1958, Grandpa Wildenbrück tells Kitty and Evelyn, two of his young granddaughters, (in perhaps an unwise move) that the curse is due to repeat itself in 1972 – when the two girls will have undoubtedly grown. He tells them not to worry about it, even after one of them decapitates her doll with dagger in front of a painting of the two queens, she says “Whenever I look at that picture I go funny inside!”, we know that the legend lives.

When we move forward to 1972, Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) is now a successful fashion photographer, working for a ‘far out’ fashion house, Springe Fashions. However, it appears that history is indeed repeating itself, as Kitty is hiding a dark secret. During a fight, she accidentally killed sibling rival Eveline and this was seen by the other sister, Franziska and her husband, Herbert. To cover up for Kitty, they hide Eveline’s body deep in the basement of Wildenbrück castle.

Kitty pretends that Evelyn has emigrated to America even to her fiancé Martin who just happens to have a in an asylum on the edge of town … Pretty soon, someone wearing a red cape and white mask is carving up the models and workers of Springe Fashions with a ceremonial dagger. 

Special Features Include

Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation

Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless DTS-HD Master Audio)

Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack

New audio commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman

Exclusive interview with actress Sybil Danning

New interview with critic Stephen Thrower

Archival introduction by production/costume designer Lorenzo Baraldi

Dead à Porter archival interview with Lorenzo Baraldi

Rounding Up the Usual Suspects archival interview with actor Marino Masé

If I Met Emilio Miraglia Today archival featurette with Erika Blanc, Lorenzo Baraldi and Marino Masé

My Favourite… Films archival interview with actress Barbara Bouchet

Alternative opening

Original Italian and English theatrical trailers

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

“THE ASSASSIN”— An Ordinary Man Doing the Out of the Ordinary

“The Assassin” (“L’assassino”)

An Ordinary Man Doing the Out of the Ordinary

Amos Lassen

“The Assassin” is a small-scale film that bears some debt to the French new wave cinema that were being produced by Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and others.  It is very much an intimate tale; the story of an ordinary man trying to do something a little out of the ordinary, and the effect that it has upon his life, if any.

Alfredo Martelli (Marcello Mastroianni) is a moderately wealthy playboy who runs an antiques business. When his wealthy mistress and benefactor, Adalgisa (Micheline Presle) is found murdered, a series of events follows.  The evidence all points to him as the killer: he was the last person to see her alive, he owed her a large amount of money and he is all set to marry the young, rich and dumb Nicoletta (Cristina Gajoni).

Martelli is arrested by the police and questioned by the Commissioner Palumbo (Salvo Randone) and he tells him that Adalgisa had been content with their casual relationship and had even gone so far as to suggest the marriage to Nicoletta as a way of prolonging their affair.  On that last night he claims that they made love and then he left her.  Marcello Mastroianni faces up to the Italian justice system in The Assassin and director Elio Petri uses the murder as a way to focus on Martelli’s egoism.

Flashbacks show a variety of ways in which Martelli treated other people badly.  He buys stolen goods from a desperate housebreaker for a small sum and then sells them to aristocrats at a vastly marked up price.  He taunts a drunkard trying to pull an insurance scam thus causing the man to kill himself in a fit of depression.  He fools a shy maid into taking off her clothes by persuading a lecherous friend to pose as a doctor and most important is that he treats his mother with disrespect.  After each instance he’s shown to be momentarily regretful but continues to do the same over and over. We get the idea that even after the trauma of being imprisoned he will just go back to his old ways, and even use the temporary discomfort and notoriety to further extend his selfishness.

During the police inquiry, he examines own conscience. His excuse is that the morals of the day were not around when he was growing up and he was very influenced by earlier times and he mentions the influence that existentialist philosophy has had on him. While the increasingly Kafkaesque police investigation proceeds, it becomes less and less important whether Martelli actually committed the crime as his entire lifestyle is what is really on trial here.

At the core of this film is murder mystery where the police are quick to rush to judgment and in the process they forever change an innocent man’s life. The bulk of this film is told via Martelli who a few minutes into the film is brought to the police station and spends the majority of the film there. Once in custody he is put through a series of usual interrogations in hope of breaking him and ultimately forcing him to confess. Most of the back-story is related via flashbacks that retrace the events as Martelli remembers them. Fortunately for the protagonist the police take him to the scene of the crime in hope of jarring his memory and this inadvertently leads law enforcement to the truth they were so desperate to fabricate.

The film is a visual feast. Mastroianni uses all of the right emotions as his character tries to maintain his sanity as his world crumbles around him. Another performance of note is Salvo Randone as the police commissioner is also excellent. The rest of the cast does a fine job in propelling the plot forward.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

2K digital restoration from the Cineteca di Bologna

Uncompressed Mono 2.0 PCM Audio

Elio Petri and L’Assassino, an introduction by Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone

Tonino Guerra: A Poet in the Movies: Nicola Tranquillino’s documentary about the great Italian screenwriter

Theatrical Trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the film by Petri expert Camilla Zamboni, Petri’s own critical analysis of 1950s Italian cinema, plus a selection of contemporary reviews

“THREE BROTHERS”— A Family

“Three Brothers” (“Tre fratelli”)

A Family

Amos Lassen

After the death of his wife Catarina, elderly farmer Donato (Charles Vanel) sends telegrams to his three sons informing them that their mother has died. The three sons who live in different parts of Italy all have different walks of life. The oldest son, Raffaele (Philippe Noiret), is a judge in Rome and has become involved in cases against members of paramilitary groups. It’s gradually revealed that Raffaele has had threats against his life made by these groups, and has seen friends and colleagues have been gunned down by their members. Raffaele’s wife (Andrea Ferreol) and a teenaged son (Cosimo Milone) worry about his safety. The second son, Rocco (Vittorio Mezzogiorno), lives an austere life working at a corrections institute for young men in Naples where he counsels and takes care for the youths, trying to steer them away from crime and association with militant groups. The third son, Nicola (Michele Placido), works in a factory in Turin and has become involved in labor movements. Raffaele fears that Nicola’s attitudes legitimize the actions of leftist paramilitary groups. Nicola is estranged from his wife and he arrives at his father’s with his six-year-old daughter Marta (Marta Zoffoli). Marta soon develops a warm relationship with her grandfather as she explores his farm. Donato finds that Marta’s being there connects him to his deceased wife in some way.

Director Francesco Rosi uses the family as a template through which to see contemporary Italy. When the film begins, Donato is seen wandering through the fields and is interrupted by an elderly woman. They speak and she vanishes and we learn later that she was a spectral image or memory of his wife. Much later and after being seen looking through a series of files and photographs showing judges and policemen who have been slain by paramilitary groups, Raffaele experiences what we presume to be an extended dream sequence in which he witnesses the murder of a friend, a fellow judge, at the hands of a young man and woman on the streets of Rome. Shortly afterwards, Donato dreams of his honeymoon, his young bride (Simonetta Stefanelli) buries her feet in the sand, playing dreamily before realizing she has lost her wedding ring. Donato helps her look for it in the sand; the couple are framed together, Donato’s young wife’s back to a wagon and Donato’s horse on the left hand side of the frame.

It’s a strange, almost surreal image owing to the presence of the horse on the beach. Finally, Rocco experiences the film’s most strange and symbolic dream sequence in which guns littering the streets and the young men of his correctional institute try to sweep the streets clean before money begins falling from the skies. The dream sequences become increasingly abstract and symbolic as the picture moves towards it conclusion, with Rocco’s dream – the final such sequence of the film – making explicit the connections between youth, disillusionment, poverty and violence.

The narrative of the film is simple and offers an opportunity for the three brothers, who together with their father represent different values, conflict and regions of Italy, to come together at their family farm and engage in a series of dialogues that highlight their seemingly irreconcilable differences. The strongest focus is on Nicola, his spoiled marriage, and how his militancy is perceived by his two brothers and his sense of alienation from his home along with his daughter Marta’s relationship with her grandfather and her own father’s childhood home.

At the end of the film Raffaele, Nicola and Rocco are forced to admit that they are of each other even though they are different in their views of the world. On the morning of their mother’s funeral, the three brothers awaken in the farmhouse. Rocco goes to the kitchen to make coffee. He looks out of the window and sees Raffaele and Nicola in the courtyard and at the funeral, they cry heavily, each seated a strong distance from one another but united in their grief at the passing of their mother but disconnected from one another and either unable or unwilling to offer support to their brothers. Viewers are left to wonder whether the experience will bring them together. We assume that this will not happen but we definitely see a coming together of grandfather and child. This suggests a connection between Italy’s past and the present.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

2K restoration from original film materials

High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD presentations

Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)

Optional newly translated English subtitles

Archival interview with Francesco Rosi

Original theatrical trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring an essay by Professor Millicent Marcus, a 1981 interview with Rosi and a selection of contemporary reviews (first printing only)

“THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT THE GRAVE”— An Unusual Giallo Film

“The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave” (“La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba”)

An Unusual Giallo Film

Amos Lassen

 When Evelyn came out of the grave, Lord Cumberland completely took leave of his senses. He had been married to Evelyn and it is quite possible that she had been unfaithful and he blamed himself a little for her death. Now with the pressure of his guilt and her guilt, he has been having a rough tile his new wife, Gladys—especially after the ghost of Evelyn started to appear outside his bedroom windows or dressed as a maid dispensing warm milk from the kitchen.

“The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave” is an Italian-made British horror movie. It is an unusual and distinctive giallo from Emilio Miraglia. The supernatural is simply a storytelling device that is used for dealing with the themes of the principle themes of obsession, mental illness, and sexual perversion. The supernatural elements work extremely well with a visual filled with gothic atmosphere. This is a story of death, decay, sexual depravity, blackmail and moral emptiness. Set it a castle, we see the cold stonewalls and corridors of a gothic past. It also offers a metaphor for the mental fragmentation and fluctuating psychology of the central character Sir Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen). Although the film is set in the countryside of England, the film makes no attempt to disguise the fact that it was shot in mainland Europe.

The film opens with an attempted escape from an asylum that sets up the theme of mental instability we are invited to see the way Sir Alan spends his evenings. This consists of luring redheaded whores back to his castle with promises of cash and kinkiness. The kinkiness consists of a surprisingly well-equipped torture chamber, and before long Sir Alan is thrashing his guests into oblivion with a bullwhip. When his victims are dying from a knife wound, the camp sadist content really takes over and we see that this is Sir Alan’s own brand of personal therapy for the fact that his unfaithful wife Evelyn died in childbirth (or did she?). Sir Alan’s mind is shattered by hallucinations, flashbacks to his naked wife indulging in her affair, and an obsession with women with red hair. Anthony Steffen easily switches from affable and charming to a cold-hearted sadist and murderer.

When Sir Alan marries Gladys (Marina Malfatti), sightings of Evelyn become more frequent and the bodies began to stack up. The set pieces are of particular note, especially the peculiar death of the blackmailing Albert, and the grisly fate of the wheelchair ridden Aunt Agatha. The narrative structure first explores Sir Alan’s murderous mental fugues, and then switches to a ghostly tale of the supernatural and finally ends up in the more familiar confines of the giallo.

Sir Alan is a wealthy psychopath and there are many who are envious of him. The film is extremely stylish and with its bizarre subject matter emerges as a highly distinctive giallo. This is a film of unlikely contrasts, but ones that offered a route into a brand of gothic giallo that few filmmakers dare to use. It combines gothic and giallo conventions in a rich and thematic manner. Few gialli possess both the rot and smell of the grave and the camp modernity of a vacuous and artificial world of wealthy aristocrats and scheming relatives.

After the death of his wife Evelyn, Lord Alan Cunningham suffers an intense breakdown and after being released from an institution, he spends his time by picking up sexy women and bringing them home to his castle. After tormenting a sexy nightclub performer who does a sexy strip routine involving a coffin, he decides to take the advice of his physician friend, Richard (Rossi Stuart), and take a second wife, Gladys in record time. Unfortunately things get even worse as inexplicable murders take place at his country estate.

This film has plenty of perversity to keep things interesting. We get ludicrous plot twists, unscrupulous characters, sexual debauchery and a solid dose of murder to make this quite a fun viewing experience. The screenplay is wonderfully

bizarre and the story goes back on itself time and time again. At the beginning, we’re sure this is a psychological story about a sexually depraved man (and it is to some extent), but it soon becomes an atmospheric ghost story before settling on a twisty murder mystery. The end result is, a schizophrenic narrative in that none of the stories are wrapped up as adequately as possible.

Director Miraglia makes fantastic use of his castle setting, managing a number of moments that are undeniably creepy. The sweeping camera, surreal imagery and textured lighting helps to cover up some pretty comical lapses in narrative sense. The actors handle the outrageous material perfectly: Anthony Steffen is creepy, hilarious and sympathetic as the deeply disturbed central character who becomes convinced that his wife’s ghost is tormenting him. Marina Malfatti is sexy bride, who slowly discovers that something is dreadfully wrong with her new husband (but then she married him in less than a day after their first meeting!). The actors give a great deal of color to their roles.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations

Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless DTS-HD Master Audio)

Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack

New audio commentary by Troy Howarth

Exclusive introduction by Erika Blanc

New interview with critic Stephen Thrower

The Night Erika Came Out of the Grave exclusive interview with Erika Blanc

The Whip and the Body archival interview with Erika Blanc

Still Rising from the Grave archival interview with production designer Lorenzo Baraldi

Original Italian theatrical trailer

Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

“THE ZODIAC KILLER”— Tabloid Horror

“THE ZODIAC KILLER”

Tabloid Horror

Amos Lassen

Tom Hanson’s “The Zodiac Killer” was made with the idea that it would help capture the real Zodiac Killer but that failed and instead the movie is one of the most æ outrageous and compelling tabloid horror films ever made.

Who was the real Zodiac Killer? Knowing this may not help you understand the film but nonetheless it is interesting. A man went around killing people in the streets with a gun, except for when he did it in the daylight with a knife. There were questions as to whether this was one man or multiple people.  The killer(s) sent out letters detailing the crimes in a weird code that was related to the Zodiac symbols.

The plot of this movie is barely there and is about a postal worker goes around shooting people in their cars. It opens with a disclaimer by “San Francisco Chronicle” reporter Paul Avery who describes the movie as a public service and we soon see that it is somewhere between a nasty exploitation film and realistic true-crime drama. The film opens with two murders. In the first a cab driver is shot in the head (an actual murder committed by the Zodiac Killer). This scene is followed by a young girl on a bike being tackled and stabbed to death by the same murderer (but this did not really happen). Like the Zodiac killer himself, one side is as entertaining as the other. The true-life-inspired murders have more attention to detail and shocking realism, so they’re easy to spot and they are disturbing but the outrageous fake murders seem improvised on the spot and are more humorous than anything else. Whoever the Zodiac was, he scared the San Francisco area for almost ten years, striking with no warning, without reason, and with no preference to the race, sex, or age of his victims. If there was one good thing to come of his killing spree, this is it.

There is very little known about. It is rumored that he owned a string of pizza places before he went into film.

“The Zodiac Killer” is a true-crime expose that attempts to provide a theoretical rationale for San Francisco’s famed late-60s Zodiac murders. Accordingly-yet-surprisingly, the film sticks close to the facts yet is filled with contradictions. There are many absurd details. It is filled with strange tangents, a disdainful attitude and weirdness and it does this within a framework of factual events. I can’t say any more about the plot because it would ruin the viewing experience so you will just have to decide for yourself. I had a great time watching it.

Special Features include:

– New 4K scan from the only surviving 16mm blow-up elements!

– Commentary track with Tom Hanson, Manny Nedwick, and more!

– Interview with director Tom Hanson and actor Manny Nedwick!

– Tabloid-horror trailers from the AGFA archive!

– Liner notes and director Tom Hanson interview by Chris Poggiali of TEMPLE OF SCHLOCK!

– Reversible cover art!

– Bonus movie: ANOTHER SON OF SAM (1977)! New 2K scan from a 35mm theatrical print!

“COPS VS THUGS”— Action and Social Commentary

“COPS VS THUGS”

Action and Social Commentary

Amos Lassen

“Cops vs Thugs” is considered by many to be director Kinji Fukasaku’s greatest single-film achievement in the yakuza genre. Since I do not see many yakuza films so I must take their word for it did keep me on the edge of my seat. It is a realistic modern crime drama. Set in 1963 in the southern Japanese city of Kurashima, detective Kuno (Bunta Sugawara) is supervising a detente between the warring Kawade and Ohara gangs. Best friends with Ohara lieutenant Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata), he realizes that there are no clear lines in the underworld, and that everything is just a different shade of gray. However, when random violence disturbs the peace, an ambitious, by-the-books lieutenant (Tatsuo Umemiya) comes to town causing Kuno’s fragile alliance to crumble. Greedy bosses and politicians alike use this opportunity to off their enemies, and Kuno then faces the painful choice of pledging allegiance to his police force badge and keeping a promise that he made to his brother. In Fukasaku’s world, there’s no honor among thieves or lawmen alike, and the only thing that matters is personal honor and duty among friends. 

Fukasaku’s direction and an all-star ensemble cast gives us an exciting, and deeply moving film about cops and criminals. It explores not only the darker side of the criminal underworld, but also corrupt society that allowed it to flourish, blurring the lines between straightforward depictions of good and evil and showing a far more complex and morally ambiguous society than in other films.

The Kawade gang is supported by congressman Tomoyasu, while the Ohara group has the local police force on its side. Kenji Hirotani is the acting leader of the Ohara group and he planned a scam over the purchase of some land, with the police force ignoring this. However, boss Ohara comes out of prison a changed man and wants to legitimize the organization. When a new straight-laced lieutenant, Kaida, is brought into the police-force things really are shaken up.

There is no one lead character and the various threads gradually fall into place leading to a dramatic and tense stand-off finale. The acting throughout is superb, with good characterization and realistic characters with complex moral ambiguities. Cops who are on the side of law and justice now, once lived on with the help of the black market as children in the post-war years when there was no other choice. We can only wonder if they are any better than those who enjoy the hospitality of gangsters because of the current economic situation. The press is vilified for its hypocrisy, reporting in the interests of justice (or perhaps just filling newspaper space to sell ads and compromising their integrity to please their advertisers).

The direction does not hold back on anything. There are, scenes of rape, brutal stabbings, decapitations and violent gang warfare in order to show a corrupt and morally bankrupt society where there is little difference between those who break the law and those who are supposed to be uphold it. This is a sad piece of social commentary under the guise of a brutal and violent action thriller.

The Ohara crime family was founded in 1946 and ruled the city until an underling named Miyake broke away to start his own family. Chaos reigned until Miyake was killed in 1958 and Ohara was sent to prison. Two years later, former Ohara gangster Tomoyasu quits and is eventually elected a city assemblyman. We pick things up in 1963, with Ken Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata) in command of the Ohara family, Katsumi Kawade (Mikio Narita) in charge of the former Miyake gang, and Tomoyasu playing one side against the other — but favoring the Kawade family for the financial rewards he accrues.

The plot kicks into motion with a land deal that brings out the greedy monster in the gangsters. When a war breaks out between the gangs, Fukasaku kicks it into an insane gear. This It’s a heightened view of street-level action, with social criticism of post-war Japan knitted into the fabric.

Special Features include:

– High Definition digital transfer 

– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations

– Original uncompressed mono audio

– Optional English subtitles

Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane

– A new visual essay on cops & criminals in Fukasaku’s works by film scholar Tom Mes

– Theatrical trailer

– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Patrick Macias

“EVIL ED”— Laughing at Chaos

“Evil Ed”

Laughing at Chaos

Amos Lassen

“Evil Ed” opens with a scene of Edward Svensson (Johan Rudeback), a film editor sitting in front of an editing machine. He seems to be having some sort of mental breakdown and when the head of the movie studio, Sam Campbell (Per Lofberg), enters the room to tell him to knock it off, the editor puts a grenade in his own mouth and pulls the pin. After being covered with gore, the studio head promptly fires the deceased editor. (You might want to reread that sentence).

The studio head realizes that he needs his movie – (the latest in a franchise called Loose Limbs) and hires mild mannered Ed to do the final cut. Disgusted by the displays of graphic violence in the movie, Ed removes the most offensive parts until his boss screams at him out for getting rid of the best parts of the movie. Now Ed has to repeatedly view those scenes over and over and he begins to lose his mind.

Ed becomes evil and delusional and begins to take cues from the movie’s killer and begins to recreate his own murderous scenes in real life. During his psychotic rampage, he terrorizes the studio’s employees, the studio head’s family, a couple of thugs that pick the wrong time to break into his house, several doctors and a few members of a special commando force.

The plot starts promisingly enough, using the first twenty minutes to establish Ed as a character and detailing his eventual dive into madness. But once Ed loses it, the movie becomes a bunch of loosely connected scenes that serve to both honor and parody older horror films.

“Evil Ed” is distasteful and executed badly but it is great fun. It becomes a very bloody skit that reflects filmmakers’ zeal for the horror genre but that also clearly exceeds their grasp of dramatics or satirical wit. It was made by people who have an obvious affinity for gore and manages to both poke fun at the genre while delivering a stylishly clever little film that’s heavy on bizarre creatures and dismemberment.

When Ed spends his days and nights gore, these disturbing images are having their way with his mind, causing him to experience rather horrific hallucinations involving deformed mental patients, wild-haired psychos, and adorably grotesque creatures that reside in his refrigerator. When his boss stops by to check on Ed’s progress, things get a bit out-of-hand and Ed has completely lost it. Chaos ensues with a lot of black humor.

I love this movie especially its tongue-in-cheek approach to 80’s horror. Ed himself is a riot and watching his descent into madness is both harrowing and hilarious (It reaffirms what countless parents told their kids regarding horror films: “They’re gonna rot your mind.”) Ed’s mind certainly rots, resulting in his somewhat jaded mission to rid the world of those who would enjoy such debauchery. The violence is bloody and raw but never disturbing and is actually hilarious. There is a lot of gory jokes to keep us laughing. It is a love letter soaked in blood to the horror films of the 80’s and it has now been released in a three disc special edition.

Special Features include:

3-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

– Two versions of the film!

– Original Stereo and 5.1 Audio Options

– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

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

– Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film

DISCS 1 & 2 (BLU-RAY + DVD) – THE SPECIAL ED-ITION CUT

– World premiere of the newly-extended version of the feature [95 min]

Keep ‘Em Heads Rollin’ – making-of documentary

Reconstructing Edward – featurette on the creation of the Special EDition cut

– Deleted scenes

– Bloopers

– Teasers and Trailers

– Still Gallery

DISC 3 (BLU-RAY) – THE ORIGINAL CUT [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]

– Original Cut [93 mins]

Lost in Brainland – never-before-seen extended 3 hour version of the making-of documentary

– PLUS OTHER SURPRISES!!!

“THE CLIMBER”— A Career Criminal

“The Climber” (“L’ambizioso”)

A Career Criminal

Amos Lassen

A hungry young man aspires to be a career criminal and begins working at a warehouse for a gangster. Because he is both ruthless and dependable, he begins to move up the ladder of organized crime.

Pasquale Squitieri’s 1975 film “The Climber” is a good look seventies Eurotrash. It stars Joe Dallesandro and Stefania Casini who were two of the most beautiful people in the movies. They were also a couple at the time and that lends their scenes together something a little special.

Squitieri made a series of these Italian crime films in the early to mid seventies and his direction is pretty sharp here. This is not a great film but it’s an entertaining one. It also has a few surprising moments including a brutal and prolonged stabbing scene and a very odd, and surprisingly moving, final five minutes.

Here is a thriller that is full of brawls, fistfights, shootouts and explosions. It follows in the tradition of gangster classics as it charts the rise and inevitable fall of small-time smuggler Aldo (Dallesandro). Beaten and abandoned by the local gang boss after he tries to skim off some profits for himself, Aldo forms his own group of misfits in order to achieve revenge.

Special Features include:

Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original negative

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations

Original Italian soundtrack in uncompressed PCM mono with optional newly-translated English subtitles

Alternative English-language soundtrack with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Little Joe’s Adventures in Europe, a brand-new interview with Joe Dallesandro on his numerous European film appearances during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Roberto Curti, author of Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980