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Tuesday, Nov 25, 2014

Blood, Violence and Babes

A B-Movie Holy Grail by John Allman

If you’ve surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.

Blood, Violence & Babes: New releases for Aug. 5


Published:

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

Phantom of the Paradise: Collector’s Edition

Genre: Cult Classic

Directed by: Brian De Palma

Run time: 92 minutes

Rating: PG

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: Before there was Dr. Frank-N-Furter, there was Swan. And before there was his blonde Adonis creation Rocky, there was the Phantom, poor, weak, gifted Winslow Leech.

A year before the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was released, a young director named Brian De Palma introduced audiences to his own twisted, campy take on a rock musical, “Phantom of the Paradise.”

Mind you, no one knew at that time the great heights that De Palma would reach as a director, that he would be responsible for some of the most iconic gangster movies ever made (Scarface, The Untouchables) and some of the most gruesomely erotic thrillers of the 1980s (Dressed to Kill, Blow Out).

In 1974, accompanied by a diminutive songwriter named Paul Williams and a cast of unknown actors, De Palma crafted a bizarre, head-screw of a camp classic about a Faustian bargain between a musician, Leech, and the world’s most successful record producer, Swan, whose Death Records could make anyone into a star.

“Phantom” is a hoot. Watching it today, 40 years after its release, De Palma’s influences resonate more immediately. There are shades of “A Clockwork Orange,” hints of “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” and more. The acting is often painfully over the top, but Williams’ songs, as well as his hilarious portrayal of someone who sold his own soul for immortality and fame, carries the film through its rough patches.

If you’ve never seen “Phantom of the Paradise,” now you have no excuse. It’s a must for cult classic aficionados, and it’s a great example of how Scream Factory is culling, restoring and releasing some of the best, forgotten gems of yesterday that are truly worth your time.

The Stuff You Care About:

Hot chicks – Yes.

Nudity – No.

Gore – No.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – The Phantom, baby.

Buy/Rent – Rent it.

Blu-Ray Bonus Features – A treasure trove of goodies: Brian De Palma Backstage at the Paradise, Paul Williams Soul Inspiration, Behind the Mask with Tom Burman, Alternate Takes, Swan Song (Outtake Footage), Audio Commentaries, Paradise Regained, Cast and Crew Interviews, and more.

Without Warning (Shout! Factory, 96 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): A long-lost relic from 1980, “Without Warning” is an alien invasion-slasher mash-up that features two future Oscar winners slumming at a low point in their respective careers. Jack Palance and Martin Landau are the future Academy winners, and they give this low-budget thriller the necessary gravitas and heft. The main alien still has to be seen to be believed, at once incredibly hammy yet still weirdly effective due to the creative camerawork and use of shadows and light employed.

Need for Speed (Disney, 130 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): I love Aaron Paul, but he should have turned down this woeful, wannabe Gone in 60 Fast and Furious Seconds.

Put it this way, the video game version that the film was based on has more depth and character development.

The Quiet Ones (Lionsgate, 97 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): I don’t know why Hammer Films can’t seem to find its footing now that the studio that defined British horror is finally back making movies, but damn if they just can’t buy a winner.

“The Quiet Ones” has a good set-up but terrible execution. It has a few moments of genuine chill, but the ending seems slapped together and rushed. It’s a shame because in the credits, you get to see actual photos of the real test subject that the movie was based upon, and you can’t help but wonder if the real story might have been better without any unnecessary Hollywood exaggeration.

Also Available:

Divergent

Around the Block

Ja’mie: Private School Girl

Ping Pong Summer

I’ll Follow You Down

The Trip to Bountiful

Transformers Cybertron: The Complete Series

The Birthday Boys: The Complete First Season

Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 3

Mythbusters Collection 11

Community: The Complete Fifth Season

Top Gear 21

Californication: The Final Season

12 O’Clock Boys

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