Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition (1998)

... aka: Night of the Living Dead: Final Version

Directed by:
John A. Russo

Instead of leaving well enough alone or releasing a new remastered version of Romero's masterpiece NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), John A. Russo and many other Night alum got together and decided to film brand new scenes. Blasphemy you say? You would be correct for the most part. This footage (about 17 minutes in total) was then wedged into a shortened cut of the '68 version wherever it would fit for the film's 30th Anniversary release. This new stuff was shot in black-and-white (by original Night cemetery ghoul S. William Hinzman) in an ill-fated attempt to match it to the original. A new music score was the other major change. Hinzman also helped produce and edit while Russo directed, wrote and edited, plus helped finance the project through his company Market Square Productions. Seeing how Market Square was making things like Swimsuit Sensations (1992), SANTA CLAWS (1996) and Scream Queens Naked Christmas (1996) at around the same time, who'd have ever guessed the resulting footage would end up so shitty?

Other Night vets who got involved include Russell Streiner (an editor), Karl Hardman (still photographer and make-up) and Marilyn Eastman (who handled some of the zombie extra make-up). Perhaps the biggest sin of all was that they actually cut about 20 minutes from the original just to make room for the new stuff. For the record, Romero wanted nothing at all to do with this project. He didn't work on it, didn't endorse it and didn't even want his name associated with it, so I'm not going to list him as the co-director out of respect despite the fact he's credited as such on the print. I'm also not going to recap the events of the original as most people already know what goes on there.

The new footage begins at a prison as grave diggers Dan (Grant Kramer) and Mike (Adam Knox), escorted by guard Charlie (Scott Kerschbaumer), carry a coffin to their pick-up truck and load it into the back. Inside the box is the body of a notorious child molester / murderer who's just been fried in the electric chair. In order to skirt any potential controversy, the warden has ordered the men to quietly, secretly deliver the corpse to the local cemetery and bury it without any commotion. Meeting them there are Arthur (George Drennen) and Hilda Krantz (Julie Wallace), the parents of one of the young victims who want some closure, as well as bald Reverend John Hicks (Scott Vladimir Licina). Arthur demands they open the casket so he can see spit on the corpse then he and his wife storm off. After reciting a prayer, the reverend then walks away. And once the corpse (played by Hinzman to connect it to the original) rises from the grave, the two movers jump in their truck and also take off. (This was used as a prologue before Johnny and Barbara arrived at the cemetery.)

Next up we visit a car crash site where a family of four lie dead. The mother and two daughters return as zombies and exit the car while more zombies - including a waitress with her arm ripped off (Heidi Hinzman) and a mangled garage mechanic (Dan Abraham) - start feasting on the father's body. We then get a parade of zombies across the screen from multiple angles. (These shots were blended in with shots of the zombies gathering outside the farmhouse after the truck explosion in the original.)

Adding to the "next day" scenes, reporter Darlene Davies (Debbie Rochon) is interviewing the Reverend about the burial of the killer at the cemetery while, hilariously, an armed posse just shoots zombies all around them. The Hinzman zombie then reappears. The Reverend is bitten on the face while trying to give him a sermon before Hinzman is finally put out of his misery with a shot to the head.

The final new bit is set "one year later" at the Ormsby Medical Center. Darlene arrives to interview the now-even-crazier Reverend, who has somehow not been transformed into a zombie despite being bitten. He claims it was God's intervention and his wounds being cleansed with holy water that protected him. However, he's being held at the center against his will so doctors can study his immune system in hopes of coming up with an antidote. He rails about evil atheists and agnostics, theorizes that the dead are "creatures of Satan" and claims that walking corpses have been possessed by demons. Darlene gets spooked and then rushes out of the room. The end.

While these newly added scenes are probably not all that much worse than what you'd find in most other low budget zombie films from the 90s and 2000s, they stick out like a sore thumb when spliced into Romero's film. Not helping matters any is the acting, which is downright awful for the most part. Licina, who looks like Anton LaVey and also did the new music score, cannot act a lick so of course they give him five times more dialogue than anyone else. Despite being shot in black-and-white, the image is too clean to ever match up to the original. Santa Claws, which was shot in color on 16mm film stock (also by Hinzman), is far grainier and grittier looking than this so perhaps they should have gone that route instead. Or perhaps they shouldn't have gone any route and not tried to enhance something that's perfect the way it is.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Electric Blue 32 (1985)

... aka: Electric Blue '32'
... aka: Electric Blue 32: Too Hot to Handle
... aka: Electric Blue Presents Too Hot to Handle

Directed by:
Robert Veze

The Electric Blue series – a video magazine featuring nude centerfold models, softcore vignettes, cars, sports, travelogue footage, movie clips, celebrity nudes and other things deemed appealing to most heterosexual men – debuted in the UK in 1979. The series would become a resounding success in Europe and one of the top selling video series' of the entire decade. They churned out one tape after another until the late 90s. There were at least 53 numbered Electric Blue tape releases in the UK as well as off-shoots like “Best Of” videos, Sex Model Files, Reader's Wives, Girls in Uniform and other specials that pushed the total number of video releases well into the hundreds. The series was so popular that there was even a 1982 theatrical release; Electric Blue: The Movie. These videos were released on their own Electric Video label, which also began acquiring and distributing adult titles (both R and X rated) from the U.S. and other countries, which were then promoted on the various EB tapes.

What's extremely confusing about these is that the UK Electric Blue releases are not the same as the U.S. Electric Blue releases despite them sharing order numbers and some footage. In other words, the original Electric Blue 001 in the UK, which was hosted by Fiona Richmond, is not the same as the original Electric Blue 001 in the U.S., which was hosted by Marilyn Chambers. Only furthering the confusion, Electric Blue releases in other countries like Germany and Australia were also different. Some were censored and cut down to as little to half an hour apiece (the full versions ran about an hour) and various scenes were shuffled around from tape to tape. For instance, a scene from the third UK Electric Blue series may end up in the seventh U.S. Electric Blue and then the tenth German Electric Blue. It's nearly impossible to keep track of and makes establishing a coherent database for these a chore. The current listings on IMDb and most other websites are pretty much a mess of false information.

Here in America, the initial Electric Blue releases were distributed on VHS on the Kenyon Video label but the tapes apparently didn't sell as well as they did in Europe so they were discontinued fairly early on. However, the series continued on the Playboy Channel and ended up going up to at least entry #57. While the numbered UK versions were made for decades and all were released on VHS, the U.S. versions were all released in a five year window lasting from 1983 to 1987 and most have never been made available on home video. The American scenes were filmed on both coasts. Most of the top West Coast porn stars of the time appear in vignettes while others feature people who also acted for New York-based exploitation directors like Chuck Vincent, Frank Henenlotter, Tim Kincaid, Ernest G. Sauer and Roberta Findlay. Credits list both (Jim South's) World Modeling Talent Agency out of Sherman Oaks, California and Jane Hamilton Productions out of New York City (I didn't even know Hamilton / Veronica Hart even had her own agency at one time) for supplying models.

The U.S. Electric Blue 32 is what we'll be reviewing here today. Dubbed "Too Hot to Handle," this features a framework story set in a smoky and red-tinted hell. Hence why it's even on this blog to begin with. Cosgrove and his assistant Raven (Laurie Smith) are horned demons whose job it is to make sure none of their subjects is ever satisfied. He calls her "the lowest, the filthiest, the most disgusting creature I've ever laid eyes on!" while she considers him "a walking spittoon." That's their idea of foreplay. White-suited, cigar-smoking angel Jasper comes down to complain that they're not meeting their quota and heaven's getting too crowded. He then demands they start increasing the number of hellbound souls.

The latest sinner to walk through the gates of hell is Daisy Diddleman (Penthouse Pet and U.S. series regular Krista Pflanzer), a large-breasted bimbo who was killed when her vibrator short-circuited and exploded. Despite the fact she has a low evil quotient, she's desperate to earn her horns and is assigned the task of corrupting an Earth soul. But first we cut to a vignette called "Damsel in Distress" starring Michelle Bauer as the titular damsel. Set in Northern France, Bauer is a woman on holiday who's renting a country villa that's rumored to be haunted. While out riding her horse, she's thrown off, knocked unconscious and then has a romantic fantasy involving the knight on horseback (Jay Sterling) who rescues her. Bauer started with this series back in 1981 when she appeared under the name "Felicity" in the UK-produced #6 and #7. She went on to appear in many more of these and shot scenes for both the UK and U.S. versions.

Next up we meet Homer Jones, whom Cosgrove calls a "pusillanimous pussywillow" and a "petrified powder puff." In other words, he's too nice of a guy to ever end up in hell. Because she wants her to fail, Raven makes sure Daisy is given the near-possible assignment of corrupting him. The story is then interrupted with a British vignette taking a look at "Party Palaces," described as a place for R&R where "singles in the know" play "adult party games." The games include strip poker, "grab bag," costumed Twister with people dress like cavemen, Hawaiian girls and Indian warriors and another card game where the top prize for the winner is "Get Laid." Seeing how UK nude models like Marie Harper and Charlie Dean are featured we can assume this isn't a real activity people partook in in the 80s. (For the record, these scenes are all snippets from a separate 1985 UK EB release called Adult Party Games).

We return to poor Homer, who is sitting around being miserable when he's visited by Daisy, clad only in a red cape. She whisks him away in a cloud of smoke to his favorite night club "The Flesh Pit," where he always strikes out, only this time he's mauled by every girl there. Angry at Daisy's success, Raven sends a few devil men to pose as bouncers to throw him out. Homer is then transformed into a glamour photographer but right when he's about to score with a model, Raven sends her devil girls Dulcie (Gina Carrera) and Pippi (Paula Harlow) to interrupt the proceedings. She does about the same routine when Homer is turned into a rock star and in bed with a couple of groupies, only this time she sends her gay friend Lance to do the dirty work, which leads the girls (including Lois Ayres) to shriek "Oh God! This guy's a flamer!" before storming out. Will Homer ever find true love? Will Daisy ever earn her place in hell?

In between the main story we get a number of shorts, including a "Critic's Corner" review for the porn film Pink Champagne (1979), a segment on downhill skiing, a "Fantasy Girl" segment about competitive best friends at an all girl's health club who fight over a lifeguard and "Cool Hand Lizzie" featuring Monique Gabrielle as a biker babe / pool hustler who has sex with her opponent. The winner gets to take on Julia "I'm the cousin of Dolly" Parton, who appears for all of five seconds.

For what it is (a showcase for female nudity with some goofy comedy and misc. stuff), this is actually pretty entertaining. The hell sets are decent, the dialogue is sometimes amusing, the cast look like they've having fun and there's a certain upbeat charm to the whole silly thing. Smith - known only as a hardcore performer - is surprisingly good in her role as the she-demon and should have done more mainstream films. I'm not sure who the actor playing Cosgrove is but he's also pretty good. Pflanzer, whose most notable part was getting naked then butchered in the 80s slasher Cheerleader Camp, does the cute airhead routine adequately enough. For soft erotica, this was a lot more pleasant and engaging than most of those "erotic thrillers" that saturated the market in the 90s.

Despite being listed on many websites as "adult" this features no X-rated content whatsoever. I've seen plenty of R-rated B movies with just as much nudity. Director Veze went on to make some other entries in the series and the dumb T&A comedy Bikini Summer (1991), which enjoyed frequent cable runs in the 90s and probably made a fortune. The current IMDb listing is completely wrong. They actually don't even list #32 and instead stuck the cast for this one under Electric Blue 34.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Gerorisuto (1990) [filmed in 1986]

... aka: ゲロリスト

Directed by:
Shozin Fukui

A young woman (Chiemi Endô) dressed in black is seen acting strangely on a playground swing and then a subway. Nearly three minutes of this 12 minute short are then dedicated to her throwing up some kind of white substance all over the ground. Then it's back to the subway where she runs from the pursuing camera, jumps on and off the seats, writhes on the ground and probably scares the hell out of the other subway passengers. She then runs through the busy streets, gets an ice cream cone, drops it, screams, storms off, hassles some guy, screams some more and finally has all of the bewildered bystanders standing around laughing. Is the girl going insane? Having a mental breakdown? Possessed by some demon or evil spirit? On drugs? I guess that's up to you to decide. Can't say that I really cared either way. Since it's frequently out of focus, was filmed with a shaky handheld camera on grainy 8mm and in a guerilla filmmaking style (right down to real people who happen to be around when they were filming staring right at the camera) and frantically edited together that apparently makes it Experimental Art™ for some viewers. To me it was 3 minutes of puking and 7 minutes of a girl running around shrieking like a lunatic. I didn't find it the least bit interesting on either a thematic or aesthetic level.

Fukui achieved some minor cult fame later on with his cyberpunk / "splatter-punk" features 964 Pinocchio (1991) and Rubber's Lover (1996). Prior to that he made the seldom-seen crime-thriller Metal Days (1986), which he made when he was still in college, and a handful of other shorts like Scourge of Blood (1984), involving a punk stabbing a man and runs just three minutes, and the 33-minute "experimental cyberpunk" film Caterpillar (1988).

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