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Coroners Corner | horror | movie | column | Lollipop
by John Bikowski
Several years back, there were two types of horror/exploitation film fans. There were the basically clueless types who enjoyed drivel like Chud 2: Bud the Chud, and then there were the connoisseurs (like myself) who actually think. Those of us in the know delighted to the thrills of Argento, Fulci, and other European directors who got the shaft over here in America. Most of the best horror films ever made were either not available here or were sliced to ribbons by censors who cut all the violence out, as well as many scenes they felt "had a European flavor." So we were treated to watered-down, shitty-quality video releases from whatever company stumbled across the rights. As a direct result, the bootlegging business boomed. Certain individuals would get their hands on very rare Japanese laserdiscs of films like Fulci's The Beyond or Argento's Deep Red and they would dub the life out of it, charging $20 a pop to drooling gorehounds. More often than not, bootlegs came from third generation prints and you were still charged full price. But we were hooked! We needed our fix. So what if the picture was too snowy to see? So what if the sound dropped out for five minutes at a time? We want the real deal! Well... if someone had told me that one day we could see all of these films with crystal clear quality, with all violent scenes intact, with digital quality sound, and with extra supplements, all for about $25, I would've said, "Yeah, okay buddy... tell it to your crack dealer." Well, Anchor Bay Entertainment has done it all and more, and all I can say is "Thank you!"
Thanks to Anchor Bay, a whole slate of mouth-watering titles are now available, and many more are coming. Everything is awesome, down to the pictures chosen for the discs and the inserts. Check them out at anchorbayentertainment.com. They were kind enough to provide the following DVD titles for review.
The first film is Manhattan Baby directed by the Grandfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci. I was lucky enough to meet him just before he passed away, and Lucio was ecstatic that his films were on the verge of uncut release in America. Manhattan Baby is presented in its letterboxed uncut format and only has a couple of very minor print flaws. You can see great care that went into the remastering from the original negative. The sound quality is excellent, and if you enjoyed Fulci's soundtrack for The Beyond, you will love this one: Some of the same songs are used. Also included on the disc are an interview with the screenwriter, a theatrical trailer, talent bios, and liner notes. Anchor Bay's job: As good as it gets. Fulci's job: Well, here is the plot... George is travelling to Egypt with his wife and daughter. He discovers a tomb (a la Raiders of the Lost Ark), escapes a painful demise, but is blinded by some type of "power." His daughter, Susie, is accosted by a freaky blind woman who gives her an amulet. Susie pockets the loot and heads back with her folks to New York City where she begins having strange visions. When Marcato, an expert in the occult, is called in, he alerts all to the evil of the amulet. But is he too late to save their lives? It seems he can't even save his own. Marcato's death is the showcase Fulci scene in the film. His stuffed birds of prey come to life and savagely rip his face into bloody chunks (over a five minute period). Fulci loves to wallow in scenes of violence that dare you not to look away. However, you may find yourself looking away at your watch during this film. While it has its moments, this is not one of Fulci's best and should not be used to judge the man.
The second film is The Black Cat, also directed by Fulci. Again, though this is not vintage Fulci, Anchor Bay has brought out the best in this gorgeous, uncut print. It beats the more costly EC laserdisc and makes older video prints seem silly - forgoing pan and scan closeups of Patrick Magee's nostrils for clear and crisp widesceen fun. Simply put, this is as good as this film will ever look. Also included is the trailer, a Fulci bio, and liner notes. The story is a bit strange to follow. Mimsey Farmer takes photos of several murder victims and she finds that all the bodies have signs of cat scratches. She enlists the help of Patrick (A Clockwork Orange) Magee, who can commune with the dead and read the thoughts of the living. Mimsey discovers that Magee is ordering a black cat to kill people and she gets trapped with her knowledge. Can beefy David (The Beyond) Warbeck save her? Well, why not? An odd film that lacks Fulci's true style and penchant for the gore set piece.
Now here is an Anchor Bay triumph! The third film is Fulci's House by the Cemetery. This movie rocks! If you're like me, then the piss-poor dubbed prints and the old Vestron video (with scenes out of order) were the foreplay, and this DVD is the orgasm. Not only do you get the amazing film, but also included are theatrical trailers, a TV spot, a still gallery, talent bios, and liner notes. The story is as follows: Just outside of Boston, Norman, Lucy and strange son Bob move into old Dr. Freudstien's house. Unbeknownst to them, the good doctor is a flesh-starved ghoul hanging out in the basement. It seems that he needs fresh victims in order to rejuvenate his cells. This is the Fulci we all love: Quirky characters, a haunting soundtrack, ghosts, zombies, and gallons of gore. It's almost funny the way Fulci goes way beyond the call of showing on-screen death. For example, it's commonly known in Hollywood that you can't show a full throat slice. Halfway is okay, and a full slit implied is okay... Lucio says "To hell with that. We're going to show the babysitter's jugular slashed three times in up-close detail and then we'll bounce her head down the stairs to the feet of a mortified eight-year-old." Awesome. Check it out.
Finally, Madman, is not a Fulci flick, but it's a great reminder of the summer camp slasher genre from the early '80s. This film must've been tough to remaster because most of the action takes place at night. Anchor Bay does an admirable job with the night blues and blacks and the DVD looks way better than the Media video I compared it to. There are subtle little killer sightings that go right past you on video but chill you on this DVD. The sound quality, again, is excellent. Surprisingly, there's an entertaining audio commentary track with the writer, director, and a couple of actors. You also get TV spots and the trailer. The story itself begins with the obligatory campfire tale about a giant redneck farmer, Madman Marz, who ran amuck with an axe. The counselors mock the story and wind up severely pissing off the titular two-ton psycho. A one-by-one killing spree ensues with a few surprises and good gore shots. The sheer bludgeoning size of the madman may make you jump or even laugh. But either way, having a reaction to the killer is the beauty of the tale. Dawn of the Dead fans will enjoy seeing Gaylen Ross as a nimble lead counselor. I recommend this disc to anyone who gets nostalgic over films like Friday the 13th (part 1, of course) and Sleepaway Camp. In conclusion, thank you, Anchor Bay. Keep them coming!