Monday, January 31, 2011

Latest Acquisitions - January

Well, the holidays have ended and most of the gift cards have been redeemed for all kinds of movie goodness.  Perhaps I went a little overboard on the purchases lately, but I don't think so...

Blu-ray Update

Starring: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
Directed by: Kevin Costner
Music by: John Barry
Special Features: Audio Commentary with Kevin Costner and producer Jim Wilson, Audio Commentary with director of photography Dean Semler and film editor Neil Travis, Military Rank and Social Hierarchy Guide, Real History or Movie Make-Believe, A Day in the Life on the Western Frontier, Original Making-of Dances With Wolves, The Creation of an Epic: A Retrospective Documentary, Dances Photo Montage with introduction by photographer Bill Glass, Original Theatrical Trailer and More. 

Look for an upcoming special features comparison on Dances With Wolves.

Starring: Dylan McDermott and Stacey Travis
Directed by: Richard Stanley
Music by: Simon Boswell
Special Features: No Flesh Shall Be Spared Documentary, Incidents in an Expanding Universe: Early Super 8 version of Hardware, The Sea of Perdition (short film), Rites of Passage (short film), Richard Stanley on Hardware 2, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Audio Commentary with director Richard Stanley.

Disc 1: Kelly's Heroes
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: Brian G. Hutton
Music by: Lalo Shifrin
Special Features: Theatrical Trailer.

Disc 2: Where Eagles Dare
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton, Ingrid Pitt
Directed by: Brian G. Hutton
Music by: Ron Goodwin
Special Features: Vintage Featurette - On Location: Where Eagles Dare, Theatrical Trailer.

Laugh It Up Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy
Disc 1: Blue Harvest
Special Features: Audio Commentary with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, Blue Harvest director, producers, writers and editors; A Conversation with Star Wars Creator George Lucas; Once in a Lifetime: The Making of Blue Harvest; Animatic Version of Blue Harvest; Family Guy Star Wars Clip Show; Uncensored Audio Track.

Disc 2: Something, Something, Something Dark Side
Special Features: Audio Commentary with executive producers Seth MacFarlane, Mark Hentemann and David A. Goodman, writer Kirker Butler, director Dominic Policino and actor Seth Green; The Dark Side of Poster Art Featurette, We Have A Bad Feeling About This Table Read and More.

Disc 3: It's A Trap
Special Features: A Very Special Message from Darth Stewie, Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, Drawing with Peter Shin, Sock Puppet Outtakes, It's A Trap Animatic, Making the Scene, Audio Commentary.

Starring: Bradford Dillmann, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele, Paul Bartel
Directed by: Joe Dante
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Special Features: Audio Commentary with director Joe Dante and producer Jon Davison, Behind-the-Scenes Footage, The Making of Piranha Featurette, Bloopers and Outtakes, Trailer with commentary courtesy of Trailer From Hell, Still Gallery of photos and posters, Behind-the-Scenes still gallery, Additional Scenes from the Network Television Version, Radio and TV Spots.

Rob Roy
Starring: Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth, John Hurt
Directed by: Michael Caton-Jones
Music by: Carter Burwell
Special Features:  Sadly, the folks over at MGM/UA and 20th Century Fox gave us none.

DVD Update

Black Warrior
Starring: Barry Hyman
Directed by: Christ Hannah
Blood Money
Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Lo Lieh
Directed by: Anthony M. Dawson
Music by: Carlo Savina
Note: The disc specifications list that the movie is the "English version 2.35 format 19.96 compatible 4.3."  That is a bit confusing, isn't it?  This release from VideoAsia is non-anamorphic.

Disc 1 - The Lemon Drop Kid
Disc 2 - Road To Bali & Road To Rio
Disc 3 - My Favorite Brunette & The Seven Little Foys
Cannibal Apocalypse
Starring: John Saxon
Directed by: Antonio Margheriti
Music by: Alexander Blonksteiner
Special Features: Cannibal Apocalypse Redux Documentary, Apocalypse in the Streets Location Tour, Theatrical Trailers, Poster and Still Gallery, Text Essay, Alternate US Opening Sequence.

Cannibal Ferox
Starring: John Morghen
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
Special Features: Audio commentary with director Umberto Lenzi and star John Morghen, Theatrical Trailers, Still Galleries, Umberto Lenzi Interview

Starring: Marc Warren, Richard Roundtree
Directed by: Richard Standeven
Special Features: Trailers

Starring Jorge Rivero, Maria Scola
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Special Features: Theatrical Trailers, Poster and Still Galleries

Cut and Run
Starring: Lisa Blount, Leonard Mann
Directed by: Ruggero Deodata
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Special Features: Director's Introduction, Uncut and Run Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

Exterminators of the Year 3000
Starring: Robert Iannucci, Luca Ventantini, Alan Collins
Directed by: Giuliano Carnimeo
Music by: Detto Mariano
Special Features: Audio Commentary with star Robert Iannucci, Robert Iannucci Interview, TV Spots

I Walked with a Zombie / The Body Snatcher
Starring: James Ellison / Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur / Robert Wise
Special Features: Commentary for each movie.

The Italian Job
Starring: Michael Caine, Noel Coward
Directed by: Peter Collinson
Music by: Quincy Jones
Special Features: Commentary with producer Michael Deeley and Matthew Field, 3 Making Of Documentaries, Deleted Scene, Trailers

The Last House on the Left
Starring: David Hess, Lucy Grantham, Sandra Cassel
Directed by: Wes Craven
Special Features: Introduction by Wes Craven, Audio commentary with director and producer, Featurette, Outtakes & Dailies, Forbidden Footage, Theatrical Trailer

Nazi Cult Collection
Disc 1 - Elsa: Fraulein SS
Disc 2 - Helga: Shewolf of Stilberg
Disc 3 - Special Train For Hitler
Disc 4 - Jailhouse Wardress
Disc 5 - Convoy of Girls
Disc 6 - Nathalie: Rescued From Hell

Nightmare City
Starring: Mel Ferrer, Fancisco Rabal
Directed by: Umberto Lenzi
Special Features: Interview with Umberto Lenzi, Theatrical Trailer

Thug City Chronicles Vol. 1
This 3 disc set contains the following movies:

Blind Rage
The Boss
City Rats
Godfather's Daughter
Milan Calibre 9
New Mafia Boss
Tony Arzenta

Note: look for an upcoming VideoAsia article for an in-depth look at this release.

Tough To Kill
Starring: Luc Merenda, Donald O'Brien
Directed by: Joe D'Amato
Music by: Stelvio Cipriani

Truck Turner
Starring: Issac Hayes, Yaphet Kotto, Nichelle Nichols
Directed by: Jonathan Kaplan
Music by: Issac Hayes
Special Features: Original Theatrical Trailer

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide
Disc 1 - Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape Documentary
Special Features: Pre-cert video company idents, Image gallery
Disc 2 - Trailers with introductions for the 39 nasties that were successfully prosecuted, image gallery
Disc 3 - Trailer with introductions for the 33 acquitted films, image gallery.

War Gods of the Deep
Starring: Vincent Price, Tab Hunter
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Special Features: Original Theatrical Trailer

Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold
Starring: Laurene Landon
Directed by: Matt Cimber
Special Features: Original Theatrical Trailer

Zorro: The Complete Series
Starring: Duncan Regehr, James Victor, Patrice Martinez
Special Features: The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks, Chapter 1 of Zorro's Fighting Legion serial from 1939, Trailers for Zorro's Fighting Legion, Zorro's Black Whip and Zorro Rides Again, Pilot episode for the New World Zorro, New World Zorro Photo Gallery.

Laserdisc Update

This time, I picked up three documentaries that have never had a DVD release...

Here's Looking At You, Warner Brothers
Directed by: Robert Guenette
Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann
Narrated by: Philip Bosco
Directed by: Joshua Waletzky
The Universal Story
Narrated by: Richard Dreyfuss
Directed by: David Heeley

VHS Update

I also found a few VHS titles that are not available on DVD...

Starring: Al Cliver, Harrison Muller, Jr.
Directed by: Joe D'Amato
Music by: Carlo Cordia

Black Valor
aka Savage!
Starring: James Iglehard, Lada Edmund, Jr.
Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Well, it looks like I finally found an incentive to not purchase so many movies per month... writing about them all!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 3

Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 3:
The Fast, The Saved And The Damned

VideoAsia's Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 3 is another solid entry in the series presenting another ten spaghetti westerns.  Although the cover image is lifted from the finale of Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, don't expect to find it included within this set.  As of this writing, one more volume has been released entitled Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 4: Trinity.  Volume 4 does not grace my collection nor is it worthy of a purchase.  It appears to be another one of those spaghetti western collections that is very light on spaghetti westerns.  Anyway, on to Volume 3...

Disc 1 - Side 1 - Film 1
One Dollar Too Many (1968)
Starring: Antonio Sabato, John Saxon, Frank Wolff
Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari
Music by: Carlo Rustichelli
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: 95 minutes
DVD Runtime: 91 minutes

The set gets off to a rough start with an early comedy western. Antonio Sabato and Frank Wolff have stolen $300,000 from a bank while John Saxon tracks them down, claiming to the be rightful owner of the money.  The three double cross each other in attempts to get the money until they run into a band of Mexican outlaws. The three men then team up against the Mexicans.

Disc 1 - Side 1 - Film 2
Rough Justice (1970)
Starring: Klaus Kinski
Directed by: Mario Costa
Music by: Stelvio Cipriani
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: Not Listed
DVD Runtime: 83 minutes

Although listed on the packaging as The Beast, the pan & scan print used goes by an alternate title of Rough Justice.  To quote the plot summary from Thomas Weisser's Spaghetti Westerns: the Good, the Bad and the Violent, "Klaus Kinski is a sex crazed outlaw who rapes and ravages his way across the west. And also wears one of the goofiest hats ever seen in a western."

Disc 1 - Side 2 - Film 1
Blindman (1974)
Starring: Tony Anthony, Ringo Starr
Directed by: Ferdinando Baldi
Music by: Stelvio Cipriani
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: 105 minutes
DVD Runtime: 84 minutes

Tony Anthony plays the blindman as he tries to find fifty women who were kidnapped by a group of Mexican bandits lead by Ringo Starr.  As A Fistful of Dollars looked to Yojimbo for inspiration, so too does Blindman.  Unlike Leone finding inspiration in Kurosawa, Baldi finds it in the blind samurai films and delivers an entertaining experience.

Disc 1 - Side 2 - Film 2
Massacre Time (1966)
Starring: Franco Nero, George Hilton
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Music by: Lallo Gori
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: 93 minutes
DVD Runtime: 90 minutes

Here is the only movie (so far) in all four of the Spaghetti Western Bible Volumes to star the legendary Django himself, Franco Nero - and it's one of three spaghetti westerns directed by Lucio Fulci.  Franco Nero plays Tom who is out prospecting for gold when he gets a message to return home. Upon his arrival, he finds the town is run by the sadistic bullwhip-toting son of the local land baron and his brother, Jeff, has turned into a drunk.  Tom goes to see the land baron, but is whipped by the bullwhip-toting son and sent on his way. He later returns with a sober Jeff to unleash their brand of vengeance where he learns that he is the lost son of the land baron.

Disc 2 - Side 1 - Film 1
The Bounty Killer (1967)
Starring: Tomas Milian, Richard Wyler
Directed by: Eugenio Martin
Music by: Stelvio Cipriani
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: 95 minutes
DVD Runtime: 90 minutes

A woman must choose between two men. One is Richard Wyler, the bounty killer.  The other is Tomas Milian, the outlaw.  Of course, she chooses the outlaw believing that there must be some good in him, but soon learns that he is nothing more than a cold-blooded killer.  She then joins forces with the bounty killer against the outlaw.

Disc 2 - Side 1 - Film 2
Minnesota Clay (1964)
Starring: Cameron Mitchell, Fernando Sancho
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Music by: Piero Piccioni
Original Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Original Runtime: 90 minutes
DVD Runtime: 88 minutes

Minnesota Clay is director Sergio Corbucci's first solo spaghetti western.  Cameron Mitchell stars as Minnesota Clay, the local sheriff who is going blind.  His mission is to clean up the town.

Disc 2 - Side 2 - Film 1
7 Dollars on the Red (1966)
Starring: Anthony Steffen, Fernando Sancho
Directed by: Alberto Cardone
Music by: Francesco De Masi
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: 95 minutes
DVD Runtime: 95 minutes

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we have a first.  I believe that 7 Dollars on the Red is the first film an all three volumes that is presented complete and uncut.  It's even a very nice print in the original widescreen aspect ratio.  Anthony Steffen is out for revenge.  After 15 years, he catches up with Fernando Sancho, the man who killed his wife; vengeance shall be his.

Disc 2 - Side 2 - Film 2
A Man Called Joe Clifford (1970)
Starring: Anthony Steffen, Eduardo Fajardo
Directed by: Leopolda Savona
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: 96 minutes
DVD Runtime: 91 minutes

A Man Called Joe Clifford is listed by the alternate title of Apocalypse Joe on the packaging.  I have to admit, Apocalypse Joe does sound better than Joe Clifford.  Who can argue with that?  Anthony Steffen is back as a traveling Shakespearean actor who finds out that he has inherited a gold mine.  When he gets to town, he finds that another man who is posing as his uncle has taken over the mine and his gang is terrorizing the town.  That doesn't sit well with Anthony Steffen so he kicks ass as he does so very well.

Disc 3 - Film 1
They Call Him Cemetery (1971)
Starring: Gianni Garko, William Berger
Directed by: Giuliano Carnimeo
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: 94 minutes
DVD Runtime: 88 minutes

The good folks over at VideoAsia seem to have had a spot of trouble with the titles of the movies on disc three.  They Call Him Cemetery is listed as They Call Him Graveyard, a title that I cannot find associated with this movie.  The final film in the collection, The Price of Power, has been listed as The Price of Honor; again a title not associated with the film.  Anyway, Gianni Garko is a bounty killer who sure finds himself in a lot of trouble. He teams up with a pair of pacifist farmers against a gang of outlaws.

Disc 3 - Film 2
The Price of Power (1969)
Starring: Giuliano Gemma, Fernando Rey, Antonio Casas
Directed by: Tonino Valerii
Music by: Luis Bacalov
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Original Runtime: 108 minutes
DVD Runtime: 107 minutes

The Price of Power is basically a re-imagining of the Kennedy assassination.  It is 1890, the Civil War has just ended and President Garfield is assassinated while on his way to give a speech in Texas.  The local sheriff frames an innocent black man for the crime - he is shortly killed himself while being transported between prisons.  Giuliano Gemma uncovers the conspiracy plot and also gets revenge for his father's murder.

Historical Note: The U.S. Civil War ended in 1865 and President Lincoln was assassinated that same year at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C.  There was a President Garfield who was also assassinated in Washington D.C., but that was in 1881 (9 years before this movie takes place) - but who notices these kinds of things anyway?

The Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 3 is well worth the purchase price.  Each successive release from VideoAsia just keeps getting better and better. It's such a shame that Volume four is such a disappointment.  Here's hoping that a fifth volume is released and sees a return of the good quality spaghetti westerns. 

That wraps it up for the look at the Spaghetti Western Bible (until number five is released anyway or someone donates a copy of volume four).  What should we take a look at next time?  I have a number of their action films, both of the 20 film exploitation sets and the first volume of their poliziotteschi/eurocrime films.  Leave your choice in the comments area or I'll randomly pick something.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ator the Fighting Eagle

Volume I:  Ator the Fighting Eagle (1982)

Starring Miles O'Keefe, Sabrina Siani, Dakkar,
Edward Purdom and Laura Gemser
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Music by Carlo Maria Cordio

The dictionary defines prologue as "1.  a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.  2.  An introductory speech, often in verse, calling attention to the theme of a play."  Prologues have been used in many science fiction and fantasy films and tv series, including Conan the Barbarian.  Every good sword & sorcery picture should start with a prologue, and Ator does not disappoint.  Reproduced here, in its entirety, is the prologue from Ator the Fighting Eagle.

"And low the Kingdom of the Spider shall last 1,000 years.  And the people shall suffer 1,000 years, for it is written.  And this time shall be known as the Age of Darkness for the shadow of the spider shall be the law.  Indeed, the people shall pay tribute to the word of the master and live in bondage in the valley of the shadows; even to the very mists of the volcano that sleeps above.  Take heed, when the thousand years is done, a man will come to promise a different way and he shall me named Tauren.  Many will believe and many will be persecuted.  The sign of Tauren will bear witness to the legend, but Tauren will fail.  For the wrath of the Spider King is mighty indeed.  And the people of the valley shall weep, for there is no hope.  For it is also written that the Spider King will reign until the day the mountain speaks forth in anger.  Then out of the darkness, the prophecy re-lives for Tauren cast his seed upon the wind and even in death, to him is born a son."

And that's how the movie begins, with the birth of Tauren's son - Ator!  Lightning flashes through the sky, elephants cry out and the Spider King's (Dakkar) eagle statue weeps blood.  Tauren's son has been born and the Spider King sends out his minions to kill baby Ator before the prophecy can come true. Luckily for us, a mysterious wizard, Griba (Purdom), takes baby Ator away just moments before the Spider King's henchmen arrive and start to slaughter everyone in sight. Griba takes baby Ator to another village where he finds a poor family to raise Ator as their own, in exchange they will want for nothing.

The years pass and Ator (O'Keefe) is now full grown and he wants to marry his sister.  Luckily for all involved, Ator and Sunya are not brother and sister and shall be married.  Unluckily, the Spider King's henchmen spotted Griba nearby and decide to wipe out the village.  Ator is able to kill two of the attackers before he is knocked out.  The Spider King takes a fancy towards Sunya and they take her with them as they can't find Griba anywhere.  When Ator regains consciousness, he finds his village in flames, his adopted parents killed and Sunya is nowhere to be found.
Ator comes across Griba and attacks him, thinking he is one of the marauders who attacked his village.  Griba takes Ator back to his cave and trains him in the ways of combat.  While training with staffs on a waterfall, a shapely blonde is attacked by three men.  Ator comes to the rescue as Griba watches on, nods and disappears.  After the blonde takes off, Ator searches for Griba and finds the Sword of Tauren - the key to his destiny.  He swipes the sword and takes off on foot.

After a slight detour with a tribe of Amazon women, Roon (Siani) the shapely blonde Ator helped out at the waterfall, decides to help him on his quest to rescue Sunya from the Spider King.  Somehow they manage to escape from the tribe of women and Roon gets herself trapped in a cave-in.  Ator goes looking for her only to be Indun (Gemser) a sorceress who resembles the seductive witch in Conan the Barbarian.  Ator is tricked into drinking a magic potion (never a good thing).  Meanwhile the pet bear helps free Roon from the cave-in.

Roon finds Ator in the clutches of the evil Indun and frees him by uncovering a magic mirror which transforms Indun back into a hag.  To quote from another movie, "Honey, you got real ugly."  Ator and Roon travel through the the zombie infested jungle and stop at a tavern.  Here, they meet up with Griba who reveals the Mark of Tauren that has been hidden since Ator was a baby.  He reveals that Ator must travel to the volcano so he can get the Shield of Moordoor which will make him invulnerable in battle.

Ator and Roon travel to the volcano that is guarded by blind men who have an acute sense of smell (no I'm not making this up).  To mask their scent, they rub themselves down with a nearby plant and walk through the cave to find the shield.  But it's guarded by a shadow warrior whom Ator must defeat.  Too bad the special effect isn't that special and looks like Miles O'Keefe swinging his sword around.

Our intrepid heroes finally reach the Spider King's lair in which Ator must battle the Spider King himself; who is easily defeated with the use of the Shield of Moordoor.  The twenty or so guards Ator and Roon had to defeat before the Spider King would attack appeared to be more of a challenge for them than the dreaded Spider King himself.

It's not over yet.  Sunya is trapped in a giant spider web.  And where there's a giant spider web, a giant spider is sure to be nearby.  And so is Griba who wants to be the new Spider King.  Another fight ensues, leaving Griba caught in the giant spider web.  Using the Shield of Moordor, Ator reflects the sun's rays onto the giant spider and is able to approach within striking distance.  The giant spider is easily dispatched with a few dozen sword slashes.  The volcano explodes as Ator and Sunya make their escape.

Conan the Barbarian was released in May of 1982 and was a huge hit.  Eager to cash in Conan's success, the Italian film industry started churning out sword & sorcery pictures.  Ator the Fighting Eagle saw its Italian release in October of 1982 by writer, cinematographer and director Joe D'Amato.  Let's just say Ator is no Conan.  Everything that made Conan a successful movie is lacking in Ator.  The costumes, props, special effects and acting are all laughable.  There is a certain low budget charm that runs throughout the movie in that "so bad it's good" kinda way.  Ator the Fighting Eagle must have been somewhat successful as it spawned several sequels.

Ator was released on VHS and Betamax on the Thorn/EMI label.  It also saw an out of print DVD release by Legacy Entertainment.  All releases are pan & scanned from the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and have a running time of 98 minutes.  Some quick research on the internet alludes to this being a cut release, but the IMDB page only lists a runtime of 98 minutes for this title.  From watching the film, it certainly feels as if it's cut.  If this were to be re-released in the original aspect ratio and uncut on blu-ray, I'd probably purchase it again... for ten bucks or less.