Category Archives: Film

“TEERY KENDALL AND ORANGE GREEN”— When a Mysterious Man…

“Terry Kendall and Orange Green”

When A Mysterious Man…

Amos Lassen

Meg Skaff’s fifteen minute short film gives us a look into the life of Terry Kendall (Brit-Charde’ Sellers), which clocks in at around 15 minutes, takes a twenty-something young woman who goes about her life in what might be called a typical twenty-something fashion. She works hard at her local supermarket where she is highly thought of. Then a mysterious man (Timothy J. Cox) begins to stalk her at the supermarket and in the park on her days off and Terry feels that her life is beginning to come apart.

As I watched I began to wonder what genre of film this fits into and I realized that I had no answer. It is quite simply a film about a young woman trying to live day-by-day and whose life is changed when she has someone stalking her. Timothy Cox makes an interesting stalker since he looks at anyone’s next-door neighbor and nice guy. He is in no way intimidating so he has to use silence and charm as ways to alarm Terry. While she is at work, he stares at her and continually asks where the chicken breasts are located over and over again. He sometimes smiles and sometimes doesn’t and this drives Terry mad. I can just imagine how nerve-wracking playing such a part can be and Cox pulls it off with aplomb. The insanity also works on the audience as they watch what goes on in the closes supermarket. A confrontation between Terry and the stalker but I will not divulge anything about that. There is something about the originality of the film that pulled me in and there is something that is both horrifying and humorous about what we see. We never know the intention of the stalker or why he chose Terry and dialogue is completely unnecessary as actions here say so much. Sellers is excellent as Terry who is both unnerved by the stalker too distracted by everyday life to let it really bother her. It could be tempting to play this all for high drama, but Skaff and her cast are clearly going for a sense of normalcy here and Sellers projects it perfectly.

Timothy J. Cox never lets on as whether this seemingly charming and clean-cut man is actually dangerous, harmless or just a guy with some kind of special needs. I think that we can predict that Meg Skaff is a filmmaker whose career is just waiting to go full steam ahead.

“WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME”— To Be Herself

“Whitney : Can I Be Me”

To Be Herself

Amos Lassen

We have heard this story many times. A young girl from the hood who has a gorgeous voice is on a very quick rise from church singe to megastar and one of the most successful female recording artists of all time. Along the way, she struggles to overcome controlling family members, music executives, world-wide fame and substance addiction. But there is something more in this story and that is the failure to find a workable balance between the two most important people in her life – her closest friend, confidante and one-time alleged lover Robyn Crawford and her recording artist husband Bobby Brown.

Director Nick Broomfield explores these elements subtly and without putting everything in the face of the viewer. There are no explosive revelations, no interviews with key players like Cissy Houston, Crawford or Brown and there is no emphasis on one singular tragic moment that has already been well-documented and mediated.  Broomfield lets Whitney do the one thing she always wanted to do in life—the chance to just be herself.

Through the use of talking head interviews with many of the other people who closely surrounded Houston and siblings and the use of archival and never-before-seen footage of Houston taken by co-director Rudi Dolezal during her last successful “My Love is Your Love tour” in 1999, Broomfield gives us Whitney Houston’s story from one climactic downfall to the next.

The story begins at her end; an accidental drowning in her hotel suite at the famed Beverly Hilton whilst under the influence of drugs and alcohol.  It then quickly moves to Houston during her last successful tour in 1999 as she emotionally sings her greatest hit “I Will Always Love You” . This then becomes the central thread through which this story is told. Every time we see a happy moment, we cannot help but be saddened by the tragedy that lurks under the surface.

From her early life as a teenage gospel singer under the guidance of her mother Cissy to her discovery by Clive Davis, we see the shy, insecure and self-doubting artist who became greater than herself. One friend says that she changed history for black women and she paid a price to do so.

With her second album, that price became inescapable when media speculation looked at her private life and she was forced to conceal her relationship with childhood best friend and creative director Robyn Crawford.  The film alludes to a more intimate relationship with Crawford but neither the family nor Crawford herself has ever publicly confirmed any romantic attachment and Crawford has never spoken publically about her personal relationship with Houston and Houston’s family have tried to diminish Crawford’s place Whitney’s life.

Crawford’s close relationship with Houston was also a problem for her husband Bobby Brown.  The two hated each other despite Houston maintaining close relationships with them both and they constantly battled over her affections and attentions. By 1999, Crawford had had enough and resigned due to irreconcilable differences.

Crawford’s departure during Houston’s last successful tour was a major loss for Houston and a contributing factor in her tragic downfall. With her safe harbor gone, Houston was left in the care of family and associates who are presented to us as self-serving enablers.

Broomfield and his co-director Rudi Dolezi, have tried really hard not to sensationalize her life story, which is almost impossible to do with all of the traumas and dramas that Houston was involved in.  They do, however, focus on the facts and try to dispel many of rumors that followed Houston for most of her adult life. 

Houston’s childhood was full of conflicting standards. Drugs were prevalent at home and even she experimented with them with her two older brothers. On the other hand her mother Cissy Houston, a famous gospel singer was fiercely religious and did not seem to worry about what was going on under her roof.  That very hypocrisy was raised later on when the subject of Houston’s closeted bisexuality was discussed as Cissy could never accept it, even if her daughter’s dependence on drugs was not a problem for her at the time.

Record Label mogul Clive Davis was looking for a voice like hers that he could produce to make pop music that would make her the first ever African/American to crossover to the mainstream charts.  He, therefore, controlled her music choices very carefully and instantly made her a major success and her debut album was the biggest seller one from a female artist.  Houston was therefore happy enough to go along with Davis, but occasionally she would rebel and that’s what the title of this movie tells us.

Everything was going great when Houston went to the Soul Train Awards one night and her changed for ever. Firstly the mainly African/American music business audience booed every time her name was mentioned because they believed she had turned her back on her black roots and sold out.  This was also the night she first met Bobby Brown. 

Some people claim she never ever really recovered from her community’s reaction that night, and this may have propelled her a little faster than ever into Brown’s arms. Brown was the bad-boy of hip hop who was much younger than her and he gave Houston some street-credit and in return, she gave him money, fame and everything else.

There was, however, one major obstacle in the way of the couple’s new relationship which would eventually lead to marriage and parenthood— Robyn Crawford who had been with Houston from day one and served as her Creative Director, Mentor, Best Friend and probably her lover too.  They were as close as two people could possibly be and since she was Houston’s gatekeeper, everyone had to go through Crawford to get to the singer.  The moment Brown was on the scene and Houston insisted that Crawford carry on as before, there was a battle between the two of them to be the keeper of Houston’s heart.

In the footage we see here Brown looks like he was auditioning for ‘boys behaving badly’,  and though no blame is apportioned to him for Houston’s downfall when she became so reliant on the drugs again, it was clear (according to what we see and hear here) that he was a very bad and powerful influence on her.  

By the time of Houston’s last major Tour in 1999, she had become a mere shadow of herself and she struggled to find the energy to get through her performances. She was aided and abetted by her retinue who talked openly of taking drugs with her even though they could see her rapid decline which ended in her death when she was only 48 years old.  It’s just over five years since Whitney Houston died and we are regularly reminded of the date on-screen.

GEORGE A. ROMERO— “NIGHT AND DAWN”

George Romero “Between Night and Dawn” 

Limited Edition 6-Disc Box Set [Blu-ray + DVD]

Coming October 24th from Arrow Video

  

There’s Always Vanilla, Season of the Witch, and The Crazies, made between

Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, showcase the extraordinary versatility

and dynamism of this irreplaceable American auteur… Three films from the late,

legendary horror director, George A. Romero, showing that although he might

have defined zombie cinema, it didn’t define him.

 

Featuring:

Lynn Lowry (Shivers, Cat People)

Richard Liberty (The Mean Season, Day of the Dead)

Will MacMillan (The Enforcer, Used Cars)

Ann Muffly (Knightriders, Creepshow)

Raymond Laine (The Booby Hatch, Sudden

Bill Hinzman (Night of the Living Dead, FleshEater)

 

THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA (1971)

Young drifter Chris and beautiful model Lynn embark upon a tumultuous relationship which seems doomed from the outset.

SEASON OF THE WITCH (1972)

Joan Mitchell is a bored housewife whose dissatisfaction with her humdrum life leads to an unhealthy interest in the occult.

 

THE CRAZIES (1973)

A small rural town finds itself in the grip of an infection which sends its hosts into a violent, homicidal frenzy.

 

We like it because:

 

When George A. Romero passed away in July, the film world didn’t just lose its beloved ‘King of Zombies’, but also a groundbreaking and fearless innovator who inspired not only generations of genre directors, but also experimental and guerilla filmmakers for whom he laid down the template.

 

The three films collected in this box set – two early Seventies ‘lost films’ and a classic plague panic thriller – show there’s more to the legendary director than simply gut-munching ghouls. The comedy romance There’s Always Vanilla, psychological thriller Season of the Witch, and infection horror The Crazies – all filmed in and around Pittsburgh – serve to display the broader thematic concerns and auteurist leanings of a skilled craftsman too often pigeonholed within the genre; that said, The Crazies is one of his strongest horror offerings, with memorable performances from Lynn Lowry and Richard Liberty.

Romero managed to inject his films with subtle social allegories, nuanced examinations of the human condition, and just the right amount of black humor, so that they were immediately recognized as his and his alone. The box set showcases the director feeling his way towards the mainstream and showing a formidable assurance in three very distinct genres.

 

This fantastic box set includes brand new restorations of the three films, a lavish 60-page booklet featuring new writing on this fascinating chapter of Romero’s career, a wealth of extras including interviews, featurettes and behind the scenes documentaries, reversible sleeves for all three films featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork, and a beautifully designed and striking slipcase featuring an iconic image of the man himself.

 

Limited Edition Contents:

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

– English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

– Reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

– Limited Edition 60-page booklet featuring new writing on the films

 

THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA

– Brand new 2K restoration from the original negative

– Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford

– Brand new interviews with actors Judith Ridley and Richard Ricci, producer Russ Streiner and – sound recordist Gary Streiner

– Digging Up the Dead – The Lost Films of George A. Romero – archive interview with Romero looking at his early films There’s Always Vanilla and Season of the Witch Trailer

– Trailer

 

SEASON OF THE WITCH

– Brand new 4K restoration from original film elements

– Alternate extended cut

– Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford

– When Romero met Del Toro – celebrated filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro sits down with George Romero for this candid career-spanning conversation

– The Secret Life of Jack’s Wife – archive interview with actress Jan White

– Alternate Opening Titles

– Trailers

 

THE CRAZIES

– Brand new 4K restoration from original film elements

– Brand new audio commentary by Travis Crawford

– Romero Was Here – featurette revisiting The Crazies filming locations in Evans City, PA

– Never Before Seen BTS footage

– 2016 Q&A with Lynn Lowry from Abertoir Film Festival

– Alternate Opening Titles

– Trailers

“NAPLES ’44”— A Memoir of Naples, Post World War II

“NAPLES ’44”

A Memoir of Naples, Post World War II

Amos Lassen

Benedict Cumberbatch reads the words of British soldier Norman Lewis, whose remarkable memoir of post-World War II Naples are the basis for this haunting evocation of a ravaged land that later regained its place as a city of infinite charm. Lewis entered Naples as part of an invasion of Nazi-occupied Italy. His memories of a ravaged land and his return many years later are seen here with great wit and wonderful charm. Filmmaker Francesco Patierno uses riveting archival war footage with clips from movies set in Naples from the 1950s and 60s (featuring Marcello Mastroianni, Alan Arkin, Ernest Borgnine) to remind us of a city that was as much a victim of the war as was any individual person, but that has come back to life.

This documentary is based on the book by Norman Lewis with Benedict Cumberbatch as narrator. On September 9, 1943, British security services official, Norman Lewis, together with the Fifth Army, landed in Salerno and, after days of bitter fighting, arrived in a Naples which had been liberated just hours before they arrived. Naples was a city in ruins, laid out flat by the Nazi occupation. There was no running water, electricity or food. In the months that Lewis stayed there, he found an unimaginable, terrible and fascinating world, which he described in detail in his travel diaries which later became a book and were published in 1978 and it was considered to be one of the ten books on the Second World War.

“Naples ‘44” is a meticulous collage of archive footage from the Second World War, films on liberated Naples and footage of Naples today set to the text of Lewis who would go on to become one of the greatest memoir writers in British literature. Along with the archive footage, documentary sequences and glimpses of rare photos, there is material from the archives of the Istituto Luce and from American and British archives.

When the film opens, we see an elderly man from behind as he walks through some woods, where he finds a watch that must have belonged to one of the many allied soldiers to have died during the fighting. The idea here is an emotional return of Lewis to modern-day Naples, in search of people places and images of Naples as it was in 1944. Norman Lewis had a number of duties, one of which included finding trustworthy informants. This brought him into contact with the heart of the people, and his shrewd, alert, detached yet tremendously sympathetic point of view are seen in a world where values were turned upside down. Naples was a city exhausted by famine and illness, decimated by bombs and she remained whole only because of her citizens’ faith in miracles and survival. We see images in continuous flashbacks between places of the past and the present and they come together between scenes of bombings, migration, tears, the black market and people getting by, with moments of bitter laughter.

Lewis and  the images we see do not hold back on the moments that changed him and these are very moving. Lewis was 35 when he was posted from North Africa to newly liberated Naples in September 1943 and Naples was devastated physically and morally from Fascism, severe bombings, the Nazi occupation, and then the Allied takeover. Assigned to investigate all manner of misbehavior by a populace whose social fabric had been torn to shreds, Lewis did so with sensitivity and affection. Even with Cumberbatch’s warmly voiced intonations, the words often lose their beauty and power since the documentary has no sense of rhythm; it simply moves along, jumping from humbled aristocrats to middle class women prostituting themselves to Neapolitan kleptomania without the pauses necessary to take it all in. It is not likely that anyone who see this film will forget it anytime soon.

“COMPANY TOWN”— Saving the Town

“COMPANY TOWN”

Saving the Town

Amos Lassen

Crossett, Arkansas is a small rural town that has been polluted by Georgia-Pacific, one of the nation’s largest paper and chemical plants. It is owned by Charles Koch and David Koch. They produce Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper, and Dixie cups. Neighbors work for the mill and they are sick with cancer. Crossett or Company Town represents hidden towns across America that are battling illnesses and pollution by big business.

Crossett is in the heart of Trump’s America and while a Koch Industries plant is making residents sick, a gutted Environmental Protection Agency, is costing people their lives. This is a story that represents communities across the country battling illness and pollution by big business and a gutted EPA. We get a look inside one man and pastor’s fight to save his town.

Environmental regulations kill jobs. If companies wouldn’t have to spend money on such nonsense, they could afford to hire more people. This is a consistent narrative coming out of the right-wing media in this country, and one that’s heavily promoted by various nonprofit organizations funded by Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers and their company, Koch Industries, have also paid out millions in lobbying expenses  and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars  to politicians willing to fight various forms of environmental regulation.

They might think that it is all about business but the people of Crossett, Arkansas, a small town just north of the Louisiana state line totally disagree. Georgia-Pacific, a paper-products company acquired by Koch Industries in 2005  is the only employer in the community. Of course, there’s not a huge demand for employment in Crossett since many of its residents are sick and some are living on respirators while others have cancer. They are pretty sure that pollution from Georgia-Pacific is causing all of this illness, but many don’t want to speak up since they work for the company.

“Company Town”, the film speaks up for these people. Director and producer Natalie Kottke-Masocco came across Crossett while working on the film “Koch Brothers Exposed” and she decided that the people of Crossett need their story told as well. She’s focused not only on the town’s residents, such as Pastor David Bouie, but also on the environmental experts.

In June, Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the billionaires Charles and David Koch, launched a new corporate public-relations campaign called “End the Divide” to advance the notion that Koch Industries is deeply concerned by growing inequality in America. An ad for the campaign urges viewers to “look around,” as an image of an imposing white mansion is replaced by one of blighted urban streets. In the ad we hear that “America is divided” “government and corporations picking winners and losers, rigging the system against people, creating a two-tiered society with policies that fail our most vulnerable.”

This message was surprising, coming from a company owned by two of the richest men in the world, who have spent millions of dollars pushing political candidates and programs in favor of unfettered markets and who oppose government intervention on behalf of the poor. The ad features a cast of downtrodden Americans of all colors and creeds. To portray corporate greed, it includes a shot of a Wall Street sign, followed by a smug businessman looking down at the camera, dressed in a flashy suit and tie. Dickie Guice, who worked as a safety coordinator at a large Koch-owned paper plant in Arkansas, says that the company did have to go to such lengths. Instead of scouting America for examples of social neglect, the Kochs could have turned the cameras on their own factory.

The emits more than 1.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals each year, including numerous known carcinogens. Georgia-Pacific says that it has permits to operate the mill as it does, and disputes that it is harming local health and safety. As far back as the nineteen-nineties, people living near the plant have described noxious odors and corrosive effluents that have forced them to stay indoors, as well as what seems to them unusually high rates of illness and death. Guice blames the mill’s owners, and described a corporate cover-up of air and water pollution that he says is “poisoning” the predominantly African-American community.

Guice made his début as a whistle-blower in a new documentary film. Natalie Kottke-Masocco, the film’s director, and Erica Sardarian, its co-director, spent some five years in Crossett, and over time they coaxed Guice to go on camera. Guice started working at the Crossett plant in February, 2011 and his story is all fact.

Kelly Ferguson, the director of public affairs for Georgia-Pacific, said that the company disagrees with Guice’s “claims and misrepresentations.” And she wrote in an e-mail that “Mr. Guice was never an employee of Georgia-Pacific. He only worked for the contractor that hauled and spread the wood ash and paper fiber sludge.” Ferguson also stressed that the company’s disposal of its waste is “permitted and has been inspected by state and federal regulatory agencies.” “I don’t know where Mr. Guice’s information comes from,” and to dispute the claim that the mill was harming the health of residents, Ferguson cited a report released in June by the Arkansas Department of Health, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that found no evidence that the drinking water in Crossett posed a public-health hazard. An accompanying study of the air is pending. But Kottke-Masocco says that the water study tested only the public water system, not wells used by families on streets closest to the mill, where clusters of illness have caused local alarm. On one short street, South Penn Road, eleven of the fifteen houses have been stricken with fatal cases of cancer.

I could continue summarizing here but there is really no point since it is clear where this is going but to see this on film is an eye-opener.

Our whistle blower might be the first eyewitness to speak out and on the record, but he is not the first to raise concerns about the Koch-owned factory in Crossett as we see in this film. Crossett residents have limited political and economic leverage. Georgia-Pacific accounts for much of the town’s employment. “If Georgia-Pacific were to die, Crossett would die. Georgia-Pacific is a big taxpayer in Arkansas, too. That’s why everybody turns their back on this.”

“It took me a while to figure out it was a total cover up. And it took me a while to figure out this was all pollution and this was all poison… I feel for the community, yes I do. They have been poisoned forever and no one’s doing anything about it.”

On a personal note, I lived in Arkansas for seven years before moving to Boston but I have never been to Crossett and never heard a word about what was going there until this film. Now that is a cover-up.

“IN THE SHADOW OF WOMEN”— Infidelity

“In the Shadow of Women” (“L’ombre des femmes”)

Infidelity

Amos Lassen

In this black-and-white tale of Parisian infidelity comes from French director Philippe Garrel, we see an exercise in the primary language of cinema. Pierre and Manon are documentary filmmakers whose marriage is falling apart as they struggle with infidelities. Pierre and Manon scrape by with odd jobs. When Pierre meets young trainee Elisabeth, he falls for her, but wants to keep Manon at the same time. Then Elizabeth finds out that Manon has a lover. When she tells Pierre, the time comes for difficult decisions all round.

Garrel uses the characters’ stodgy, formal language to betray their self-consciousness. Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) and Manon (Clotilde Courau) split directing and editing duties. Pierre specializes in setting up a camera, sitting just behind it, and asking questions, and Manon idealizes her husband as a probing cine-journalist. She brags to her mother (Antoinette Moya) that Pierre isn’t like other interviewers in that he often stays silent after a subject finishes speaking to prompt them to fill the uncomfortable void, ignoring that literally every journalist who has ever lived has used this technique.

Pierre should be overwhelmingly thankful that anyone would tolerate his mediocrity. Instead, he finds himself bored with Manon’s fawning attention and turns his sights on Elisabeth (Lena Paugam), an American in Paris who delays recognition of the man’s emotional weakness by having a purely physical relationship with him. As obvious in romance as he is in his work, Pierre avoids the onset of guilt by bringing home flowers, a gesture so clichéd that even Manon calls the gift a “cheater’s classic” with a lighthearted tone that is just ambiguous enough to make her husband nervous.

For the most part, however, the film derives much of its humor not from the efforts of the couple to keep their affairs hidden, but in the jealousies that arise between the characters. When Elisabeth spots Manon out with her own lover, she feels a bizarre pang of jealousy, as if it reflects poorly on her to cheat with a man whose wife would cheat on him. But her reaction pales in comparison to that of Pierre, who fearlessly charges past self-awareness to go against his wife for failing to live completely up to her role as his totally devoted servant. He uses his own moral failure to throw his idealistic image of her into sharper relief.

We know that time and circumstances can stifle the l magic and leave husbands and wives moving in different directions and thus is exactly what happens in “In the Shadow of Women”. Pierre becomes bored with the filming of their new documentary about the French resistance as well as with Manon’s neediness and begins a strictly sexual affair with Elisabeth who works at a film archive. Manon lives in the shadow of her husband even though her mother has told her that he is not worth sacrificing her life for. We learn that Pierre is convinced that a husband has the right to have sex outside of marriage. However when he learns that Manon is involved with another man, he loses it and ends their relationship.

We see the pain and confusion of a marriage rocked by affairs and with the end of the film, we see how couples can heal the wounds of betrayal and begin anew. There is a dry sense of humor here and as we move toward the end, there is a comedic sense of remarriage that in its own way invalidates all that we have seen. Yet, through it all, the women never get too tripped up by the narcissistic cowardice of their men. The title may suggest the self-pity of men like Pierre who feel themselves inadequate, but in the end, we see that people like him should feel lucky to even be allowed to be anywhere at all.

“WHITE SUN”— A Mirror to Post-War Society

 

“WHITE SUN”

 A Mirror to Post-War Society

Amos Lassen

Writer/director Deepak Rauniyar’s “White Sun” opens Friday, September 6 in New York at The MoMA and Friday, September 29 in Los Angeles at Laemmle Music Hall.  It is a unique look at Nepal, a nation whose citizens are at a crossroads.

When his father dies, anti-regime partisan Cha travels to his remote mountain village after having been away for almost ten years. Little Pooja is anxiously awaiting the man she thinks is her father, but she’s confused when Chandra comes with Badri, a young street orphan who is rumored to be his son. Chandra must now face his brother Suraj, who was on the opposing side during the Nepalese civil war. The two brothers cannot put aside political feelings, even while carrying their father’s body down the steep mountain path to the river for cremation. Suraj storms off in a rage, leaving Chandra with no other men strong enough to help. Now under pressure from the village elders, Chandra must seek help from outside the village to obey the rigid caste and discriminatory gender traditions he fought to do away during the war. He searches for a solution in neighboring villages.

 Chandra comes hard up against the traditions that the Maoists have tried to overturn, and finds resistance against changing them. The central point of contention in Chandra’s village is how to give a respectful funeral to his deceased father, the late mayor. Chandra (Dahayang Rai) clashes with his brother Suraj (Rabindra Singha Baniya), who is loyal to the now-defunct monarchy, and with the Hindu priest (Deepak Chhetri) and other traditionalist villagers, creating some very funny moments. What we really see is modernity clashing with custom, especially when Suraj drapes his deceased father’s funeral shroud in a royalist flag. Just getting the corpse out of the house and to the river is bitterly contentious.

Chandra and others like him believe in change and that traditional law is unfair to everyone else while others like Suraj still defend the older generation, even if they agree some rules were discriminatory. Because they had no mercy for opposing parties in the past, their past now haunts them.

Because of war, gender roles in Nepalese society has changed for good. Because men went to fight either against the regime or for the regime, women were forced to take care and responsibility and there is a post-war generation of strong women in Nepali society. Chandra’s father’s body is a metaphor for the old constitution and royal rule. Consigning it to the past, to history, is difficult. There is a struggle to get the old man’s corpse out of the house and this shows how life has become harder even on smaller issues.

The violent conflict between royalists and Maoists cost 16,000 lives between 1996 and 2006 and resulted in a triumph for the insurgent leftists. narrative. With near-documentary cinematography, we are taken into the village of Nepaltra, where war and exile have removed nearly all adult males apart from scatterings of traditional-minded elders. Over several days, the film follows the dead body and complicated progress downhill to the riverside setting where, according to local ritual, his corpse must be cremated. there are strict rules regarding who is allowed to touch, carry or even walk past the body and these reveal the persistence of long-standing gender and class prejudices — just what Maoists like Chandra fought to wipe out. But the old ways die extremely hard, as Chandra realizes when he makes the journey from the capital Katmandu when summoned by his ex-wife Durga (Asha Magrati). Durga is the unsung heroine of the tale. She is a resourceful woman who takes responsibility and action upon her own shoulders when the men around her prove to be unable to do something for whatever reasons.

Durga’s main priority is the education of her young daughter Pooja (Sumi Malla), a goal complicated by uncertainties over the lass’s paternity — though Durga makes it clear that neither Chandra nor his brother Suraj is the biological father. The long-simmering conflict between Chandra and Suraj becomes physical as they transport their father’s body down towards the river. Ten-year-old Badri (Amrit Pariyar), a war orphan forced to grow up very fast by cruel circumstances he barely comprehends, watches this all. 



While adults argue about dogma and ideology during the funeral, youngsters Pooja and Badri show the way with believable, inspiring and frequently humorous actions that ignore the bickering and point cautiously to hopes of greater national harmony in the future.

“THE SLAYER”— Is It Real… Or Just a Dream?

“THE SLAYER”

Is It Real… Or Just a Dream?

Amos Lassen

Kay is an artist who is having weird dreams about a monster. She tells her boyfriend about it, but he doesn’t believe her and he doesn’t seem to care. They plan a trip with another couple to a remote island to get away from it all. When they arrive, Kay notices that the house they are to stay in is the same one from her dreams. Before long, people start dying one by one. 
As a storm batters the island, Kay begins to sense that a malevolent presence that is stalking them at every turn. Is she losing her mind, or are her childhood nightmares of a demonic assailant coming to terrifying life? 

Kay (Sarah Kendall) was depressed before they set out on this vacation and that was probably because as a child, she has suffered from nightmares about a monster coming after her. This is the same dream she has now as an adult. In reality, it might have something to do with the company she keeps. Therefore the vacation is suggested and she goes even though she does not really want to. Once the arrive, she is bullied and ridiculed causing her to break down further and becomes convinced she has seen parts of the island in her dreams.

The cinematography and lighting keep the film in near darkness. Often, it’s hard to tell just what the is going on. It seems to me that writer/director J.S. Cardone missed a good change to make this a terrific movie rather than one that is only interesting on parts.

Special Features include:

– Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative

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

– Original Mono Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)

– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

– Audio Commentary with writer/director J.S. Cardone, actress Carol Kottenbrook and executive in charge of production Eric Weston, moderated by Ewan Cant

– Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues

– Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Robert Folk

– Nightmare Island: The Making of The Slayer – documentary featuring interviews with J.S. Cardone, Carol Kottenbrook, Eric Weston, producer William Ewing, director of photography Karen Grossman, camera operator/2nd Unit DOP/still photographer Arledge Armenaki, special creature and make-up effects ceator Robert Short and “Slayer” performer Carl Kraines

– Return to Tybee: The Locations of The Slayer – featurette revisiting the shooting locations on Tybee Island, Georgia

– The Tybee Post Theater Experience – join the audience of the Tybee Post Theater (one of the film’s key locations) for this very special home-town screening of The Slayer! Includes event introduction, feature-length audience reaction track and post screening Q&A with Arledge Armenaki and Ewan Cant

– Still Gallery

– Original Theatrical Trailer

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new liner notes by writer Lee Gambin

“THE DEAD NEXT DOOR”— The Zombie Squad

“The Dead Next Door”

The Zombie Squad

Amos Lassen

“The Dead Next Door” is a gory, energetic, love letter to ’80s horror films. Almost every character is named after a horror filmmaker or character and the very loose plot (which often feels like a random series of interconnected sketches) is a semi-comedic take on plot elements pulled from George Romero’s holy zombie trilogy.

In the middle of Ohio, an undead plague has broken out, requiring order enforced by the Zombie Squad, an elite military unit that is sent out to slaughter as many monsters as it can while helping civilians, led by Raimi (Pete Ferry). Making their way to Dr. Moulsson (Bogdan Pecic), the unit comes into contact with a serum that is intended to stop the outbreak. In trying to use this serum, we go an extended hunt for the whereabouts of a missing doctor and his daughter. Instead of discovering a solution to the world’s ills, the Zombie Squad is confronted by Reverend Jones (Robert Kokai), a cult leader in command of a redneck army, who wants control of the zombies for his own evil use.

We follow the Zombie Squad as they encounter large numbers of the undead around Ohio, mowing down as many of the flesh-eaters as possible as they go from house to house. Action isn’t tight, but director J.R. Bookwalter keeps the blood coming, highlighting various make-up and gore creations that are extremely graphic and creative.

Violence is important to Bookwalter, and he needs the distractions at times, because the screenplay both explains everything and explains nothing. It is probably best to watch the film as a series of genre highlights.

In 2015, Bookwalter and the rest of those who worked on the film met to bring a Blu-ray release to fruition including copious extras that could not be realized for the DVD release. These include:

Disc 1 (Blu-ray)

* 2KRestored Feature in 4:3 Original Aspect Ratio (1.33:1, 78 mins.)

* 2K Restored Feature in 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1, 78 mins.)

* DTS HD-MA 5.1 Surround Original Cast Mix

* DTS HD-MA 5.1 Surround Classic Dubbed Mix

* 2015 Audio Commentary with producers J.R. Bookwalter, Jolie Jackunas and Scott P. Plummer

* “Restoration of the Dead” Featurette (19 mins.)

* Capitol Theatre Screening Q&A (12 mins.)

* The Nightlight Screening Q&A (16 mins.)

* Behind the Scenes Footage (19 mins.)

* Deleted Scenes & Outtakes (7 mins.)

* Storyboard Gallery (27 mins.)

* Around The World Gallery (4 mins.)

* Behind The Scenes Gallery (9 mins.)

* Production Stills Gallery (6 mins.)

* Tempe Digital Trailers: The Dead Next Door (2015 Version), Platoon of the Dead (2009), Poison Sweethearts (2008)

Disc 2 (DVD)

* FIRST TIME ON DVD! Standard-Definition Presentation of 2K Restored Feature in 4:3 Original Aspect Ratio (1.33:1, 78 mins.)

* NEW! 2001 Foreign DVD Audio Commentary with writer/director J.R. Bookwalter and makeup FX artist David Lange

* NEW! Richards Returns: An Interview with Actor Scott Spiegel (5 mins.)

* NEW! Akron Location Tour with James L. Edwards (5 mins.)

* FIRST TIME ON DVD! Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Original Cast Mix

* FIRST TIME ON DVD! 2015 Audio Commentary with producers J.R. Bookwalter, Jolie Jackunas and Scott P. Plummer

* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Classic Dubbed Mix

* 2005 Audio Commentary with writer/director J.R. Bookwalter, actor Michael Todd and cinematographer Michael Tolochko, Jr.

* 20 Years in 15 Minutes (16 mins.)

* Video Storyboards (8 mins.)

* Video Pre-Shoots (6 mins.)

* Auditions (14 mins.)

* 2000 Frightvision Reunion (6 mins.)

* Three Miles Out Music Video (3 mins.)

* Tempe Video Trailers: “The Dead Next Door”, “Kingdom of the Vampire” (1991), “Ozone”, “The Sandman”, “Polymorph”.

Bonus Feature from the Blu-ray called “Restoration of the Dead” which goes into the extensive work done to restore the film.

“ERIK THE CONQUERER”— Treachery, Heroism and Forbidden Love

“ERIK THE CONQUERER”

Treachery, Heroism and Forbidden Love

Amos Lassen

In 1961, director Mario Bava made “Erik the Conqueror” a swashbuckling epic about treachery, heroism and forbidden love. Set in786 AD, invading Viking forces are repelled from the shores of England, leaving behind a young boy, Erik, son of the slain Viking king. Years later, Erik (George Ardisson), raised by the English queen as her own, becomes Duke of Helford. Across the sea, his brother Eron (Cameron Mitchell) assumed leadership of the Viking horde and sets his sights on conquering England once again, setting the two estranged brothers on a collision course that will determine the futures of their respective kingdoms.

A power-hungry English general betrays the Vikings and a battle soon follows.  It was during this that the two orphaned sons of the Viking king were separated.  Erik was found by the Queen of England and raised as her own.  Eron was found by his own people and when he becomes an adult, he leads the Viking army into battle against England.  In the end, the two brothers realize they’re flesh and blood and team up to fight the evil general.

 

The film is beautiful to look at and has scenes of gore that are quite vivid when we see a mother and her child speared together. The script is quite original providing a number of action scenes with consistently strong pacing and an exciting climax with a solid ending. The cinematography gives the film both a mythical and dramatic feel (particularly in the climactic assault on the castle).

Special features include:

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

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

– Original Italian and English mono audio (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)

– 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 Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava – All the Colors of the Dark

Gli imitatori, a comparison between Erik the Conqueror and its unacknowledged source, The Vikings

– Original ending

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

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Kat Ellinger