Saturday, May 11, 2019

Phil's Horror Watch: THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1989) from Tempe Entertainment - May 8, 2019


Starring Pete Ferry, Bogdan Pecic, Michael Gross, Jolie Jackunas, Robert Kokai, Floyd Ewing Jr., Maria Markovic, Roger Graham, Bruce Campbell (voice) (uncredited)
Screenplay by J.R. Bookwalter
Cinematography by Michael Tolochko Jr
Edited by J.R. Bookwalter
Produced by J.R. Bookwalter, Michael Todd, Sam Raimi (under the pseudonym The Master Cylinder)
Directed by J.R. Bookwalter
Originally distributed by Tempe Video
Re-released by Tempe Entertainment

The independent and underground film world unleashed some of the greatest, important, and infamous horror films of all time! Filmmakers like George A. Romero, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, and John Carpenter have become industry icons and legends within the horror genre. One such filmmaker to emerge from this environment J.R. Bookwalter, a 19 years old from Akron, Ohio wrote, produced, and directed a zombified, Super-8mm full length feature film that became a popular video rental. Three decades later, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR remains a cult classic from the mom & pop home video era!

The film's official synopsis: Two and a half decades before "The Walking Dead" made zombies mainstream on cable television, 19-year-old writer/director J.R. Bookwalter (OZONE, WITCHOUSE 2: THE COVEN) embarked on THE DEAD NEXT DOOR, an ambitious horror feature pitting an elite team of Zombie Squad soldiers against hoards of the undead and the secretive religious cult hell-bent on protecting them. The film would ultimately take four years to complete with the help of a now-famous Hollywood director and more than 1,500 Northeast Ohio residents, who portrayed the multitudes of bloodthirsty ghouls.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Phil sees AVENGERS: ENDGAME (again) at the Cinelux Plaza Theater - May 6, 2019


Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin
Based on the Comic Book by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cinematography by Trent Opaloch
Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt
Produced by Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau, James Gunn, Stan Lee, Victoria Alonso, Trinh Tran
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

After a long five days of watching silent films in San Francisco, I decided to treat myself to a flick at the Cinelux Theaters. Because I was attending the 24th San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I was itching to see a new movie! A plethora of new movies were released, and I was super excited to see them all! But instead, I went and saw AVENGERS: ENDGAME again! Why did I see it again, some of you are asking? Because I felt like it!! Plus I really, really liked the movie!

When I saw it at the Thursday Night Preview screening, I didn't have the best seat to really watch the film and to pay attention to all of the details within its frames. One was why did the Avenger fly Star-lord's ship to confront Thanos when Thor's new battle-axe Stormbreaker can open the Bifröst? How was Steve Rogers able to return the Infinity Stones in their current state when they were all in their original forms? And when Steve returned the Soul Stone to , what was his confrontation with the Red Skull was like? These are just some of the questions that popped in my head upon my second viewing. But overall, I love this freaking movie!

AVENGERS: ENDGAME is currently playing in theaters in 2D, 3D, and IMAX nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil attends the 24th SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY FIVE - May 5, 2019

Hello again everybody and welcome to the fifth and final day of my trip to the 24th San Francisco Silent Film Festival! Oh how time flies, especially when you're watching silent movies for the past five days! It was a bittersweet Sunday. Hard to believe that it's all over! *sniff* It's OK, I'm not gonna cry yet. But before I let the fat lady sing, I still have five movies to talk about. So ladies and gentlemen, without any further ado, let's get on with the reviews!

The first screening of the day was artistically and emotional JAPANESE GIRLS AT THE HARBOR (MINATO NO NIHON MUSUME). The film focuses on Dora (Yukiko Inoue) and Sunako (Michiko Oikawa), who are best friends and students in Yokohama. The two are inseparable and vow never to let anything come between them. Enter bad boy Henry (Ureo Egawa) and his motorcycle, who in one fell swoop, breaks their vow and steals their hearts. But it's Sunako who's heart is broken, after she finds out from Dora the he's seeing another girl. In a fit of rage, she takes down Henry and his girl, and she kills her. Fast forward years later, and Dora and Henry are married while Sunako lives as a life of prostitution and despair, hoping one day to be worthy of Dora's friendship again.

This is a perfect example of how silent films transcend into works of art. This was the equivalent of a poem being written on celluloid. Director Hiroshi Shimizu crafted one of the most beautiful and emotionally charged films I have ever seen! His directing brings the characters to life as we see how they struggle with being just decent people. It was a breathtaking examination of love, friendship, loyalty, and redemption. I cannot praise the film enough! This was probably one of my favorite films of the festival! The film was originally released in Japan on June 1, 1933. Musical accompaniment was provided by Guenter Buchwald and Sascha Jacobsen.

The second silent movie shown was the Universal drama THE HOME MAKER. Meet Lester Knapp (Clive Brook) and his wife Eva (Alice Joyce). He's unhappy with his job, he gets no respect, and he gets passed over for that big promotion that was supposed to be his. Eva is overwhelmed home maker, can't control her rowdy youngest child, and is constantly cleaning the house. When the house is caught on fire, he tries to commit suicide so his family will have the money they need to start over. Unfortunately, he only manages to cripple himself. Now Lester stays at home, only to find the role of homemaker quite enjoyable and is very happy with himself. Then life takes an unexpected turn when Eva takes a low-paying job with his old company, only to get promoted and rises up the corporate ladder, leaving Lester somewhat jealous.

This was interestingly funny, poignant, and radical film for its time. Here's a movie, with a plot the flips the script of the roles of men and women, and challenges the norms of society. It was very clever of how to go about doing what they did, and the end results reflect today's world. The movie was way ahead of its time, and it speaks volume of where the country would end up! Amazing piece of silent art! The film was originally released by Universal Pictures on November 22, 1925. Musical accompaniment was provided by the great Stephen Horne.

The third film of the day was one I was anxiously waiting to see the whole festival! SHIRAZ: A ROMANCE OF INDIA is a historical romance movie set in the Mughal Empire. Though of royal lineage, Selima (Enakashi Rama Rao) was an infant foundling raised by a kind potter and her adoptive brother, Shiraz (Himansu Rai). She is kidnapped and sold as a slave to Prince Khurram, who would later become Emperor Shah Jehan (Charu Roy). The prince falls for his beautiful slave girl, much to the consternation to dark-hearted schemer Dalia (Seeta Devi) who has her own plans for the prince. When Shiraz tracks down her beloved sibling, their tearful reunion ends after Shiraz is thrown in prison and sentenced to die. Only a pendant -- which proves Selima's royalty -- saves Shiraz's live. Selima marries Emperor Shah Jehan, becoming Empress Mumtaz Mahal. When she dies, the Emperor builds the Taj Mahal in her memory.

I'm a big fan of Indian films and Bollywood films in general, and it was simply extraordinary to see a film from India from the silent film era! Not too many films have survived since, but the cinematography captured the beauty and exotic locations of India of the past! This was such a sight to see and I'm very fortunate and delighted to have seen it at the majestic Castro Theatre! Filmed entirely in and around Agra, the movie was one of three cinematic collaborations between pioneering actor/producer Himansu Rai and German-born director Franz Osten. The film was originally released in Germany by Universum Film (UFA) on December 20, 1928. Musical accompaniment was provided by the talented Utsav Lal.

After an hour lunch break, it was time for another dramatic Swedish export silent entitled SIR ARNE'S TREASURE (SIR ARNES PENGAR). A trio of Scottish mercenaries -- Sir Filip (Erik Stocklassa), Sir Donald (Bror Berger) and Sir Archi (Richard Lund) -- escape from prison. As winter rages, they arrive at the mansion of Arne (Hjalmar Selander). They loot Arne's treasure and burn the house, killing everyone inside except for an orphan girl, Elsalill (Mary Johnson). Despite the circumstances, Elsalill becomes romantically involved with Sir Archi, unaware that the stolen treasure might lead to disaster.

Another classic example of how European silent films were superior than the American movies. Their set-ups and compositions, the storylines and complex characters, harsh and beautiful landscapes. Whenever I watch a foreign film, I look at it and think just how advance they were with the art of filmmaking. They really took chances on the way they made their films, the subject matters, and at times political and social commentaries. And another film I enjoyed immensely. The film was originally released in Sweden by Svenska Bios Filmbyrå on September 18, 1919. Musical accompaniment was provided by the amazing The Matti Bye Ensemble.

And then it was time for the closing night film of the festival! As we opened the festival with Buster Keaton, it only seemed fitting that we would end it with another one of his all-time classics! OUR HOSPITALITY finds Keaton playing a character named Willie McKay, who travels from New York (where he's been living with his aunt since he was an infant) back to his hometown after he receives a letter saying he has inherited his father's estate. Unbeknownst to Willie that his family has been locked in a deadly feud with rival family the Canfields. They learn of Willie's arrival and plan to kill him off, but he falls for a lovely woman on the train ride named Virginia (Natalie Talmadge), who just happens to be the daughter of the Canfields patriarch Joseph (Joe Roberts). Crazy stunts, hilarious sight gags, and a sincere, but comedic, love story soon unfolds for Willie and Virginia.

It's been a long time since I've watched this, and it's still just as funny than when I first saw it. Keaton is my favorite comedian of this era of cinema. More than Chaplin or Lloyd. Reason is that there was something magical in his performance. He always had that same look on his face, but it was his eyes that were so expressive. In his eyes you can tell if he's happy, sad, confused, angry, or scared. He had a range of emotions and he could say all those feeling with only his eyes. Of course, it also helped that he made some of the greatest slapstick comedies of all time! Natalie Talmadge is the middle sister of Constance and Norma Talmadge, and was married to Keaton from 1921 till they divorced in 1932. The film was originally released by Metro Pictures Corporation on November 19, 1923. Musical accompaniment was provided by the astounding Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Well folks, there you have it! Another SF Silent Film Festival has come to a close. I just want to say "hi" to all my friends that I got to see again, and to all my new friends that I meet this year, I cannot wait to see you all again at next year's festival (dates for it has yet to be revealed) but there two more events coming up later this year! On Saturday, October 19th, the SFSFF will be having an event called JANE'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, and then on December 7th will be A DAY OF SILENTS event! Check their website for more information as it follows.  I had so much fun this past weekend! Now if you'd like to learn more about the SF Silent Film Festival, and how to become a member, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Phil attends the 24th SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY FOUR - May 4, 2019

Hello again and and welcome to Day Four of my trip to the 24th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! Holy cow! I have seen some truly amazing silent films thus far at the festival! So far I have seen a staggering 12 films! For today, I woke up early, took a nice warm shower, and drove from San Jose back up to the city to watch a total of six more films! Kids, don't try this at home. I am a trained professional! And with that, let the reviews begin!

The first screening of the day was the silent comedy LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY starring the lovely and funny Marion Davies. In the film, Davies plays twins who were separated at birth aboard a ship traveling to the states. Anne is adopted by a wealthy family in New York’s high society circle, while Fey lives with her poor but loving Irish family in the city's slums. Life for Fey changes forever when, on her way to her job at the music hall in the Lower East Side, she meets Dirk de Rhonde (Conrad Nagel), who just happens to be Anne's brother! Unfortunately, their fathers do not like each other at all, and they blame each other for their current woes and situations. Hilarious shenanigans transpire, but when a mob of angry Irishmen plane to take out Dirk's father, it's up to Fey to save the day and unite their families.

Based on the Broadway play of the same name, the movie was produced by William Randolph Hearst's company Cosmopolitan Productions. Davies is funny, beautiful, and was so damn talented and lovable that I found myself falling for her as well! The movie benefited from a good script, and great directing from Monta Bell. It also featured the use of tinting, Technicolor, and the Handschiegl color process. Another fabulous film starring the great Marion Davies! The film was originally released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) on November 1925. Musical accompaniment was provided by the great Philip Carli.

Movie number two had a short film before it called BROWNIE'S LITTLE VENUS and starred the last living silent film star and close friend to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum Baby Peggy, aka Diana Serra Cary. She co-stars with Brownie the Wonder Dog as they both help her parents in foiling a burglar's crime spree! A classic short comedy that showed us just how talented and adorable Baby Peggy was. Fan fact: she was only eighteen months old when she made the film! At her age I couldn't walk properly yet! And here she was making movies! Damn I sucked as a toddler!

The main feature was the western HELL BENT directed by the iconic John Ford. Harry Carey stars as Cheyenne Harry, a card cheatin' cowboy he heads for Rawhide to start anew. There he meets his new best buddy  Cimmaron Bill (Duke Lee) and gets a job working at the town dance hall where he falls for Bess Thurston, portrayed by Neva Gerber. Things become crazy for Cheyenne as Bess' lazy, good-for-nuthin' brother ack (Vester Pegg) teams up with riffraff Beau Ross (Joseph Harris) to plan a heist, then he kidnaps Bess, which forces Cheyenne to do the right thing and go rescue his love and bring Beau back to Rawhide to face justice.

John Ford (named Jack Ford here) has become synonymous with the western genre and with good reason. No one made a western film quite like John Ford. NO ONE!! Period! Even in this early stage of his career, we see his style beginning to form: the sweeping landscapes, his moral code of good and bad, where men were men and men died for what they believed in. Carey worked with Ford on several films, and here Cary perfects the anti-hero cowboy that drove him to success! The film was originally released by Universal Pictures on July 6, 1918. Musical accompaniment was provided once again by the great Philip Carli.

After a quick break, I was ready for the film of the day! And this was an interesting screening. The film GOONA GOONA (yes that it the actual title) is something unique. Told to an anthropologist about a prince falls in love with a low class girl, but cannot marry her. His scheming sister gets goona-goona (a narcotic plant mixture) and feeds it to the girl. The prince rapes the girl while she is drugged, but leaves behind his kris (ceremonial knife), leading to tragedy. That's the plot in a nutshell.

Also known as GOONA GOONA: AN AUTHENTIC MELODRAMA OF THE ISLE OF BALI, LOVE POWDER, and KRISS: THE SWORD OF DEATH, this would be the movie that would kick off a subgenre of exploitation films called Bali-sploitation. In fact, the term goona-goona refers to native-culture exploitation films set in exotic locations like the Far East, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, and the South Pacific. These movies rely heavily on stock footage of travelogues that feature semi-nude native peoples performing exotic rituals, traditions, and customs and were often interspliced with new footage shot here in the states. These pseudo-documentary films were very popular in the exploitation genre, with some titles to be considered to be cult classics like VIRGINS OF BALI, BEAUTY IN BALI, and MAU MAU. The film was originally released to theaters by First Division Pictures in 1931. Musical accompaniment was provided by the amazing Club Foot Gamelan, the combination of Club Foot Orchestra and Gamelan Sekar Jaya.

The fourth film I watched was the French drama L’HOMME DU LARGE (MAN OF THE OPEN SEAS. Devout Breton fisherman Nolff has taken a vow of silence and lives as a hermit beside the sea. Reasons for this is sad and depressing. As we flashback to see his story unfold, the tale begins when his wife gives birth to his son, Michel. He comes to the decision to have his wife raise their daughter while he raises his son to become a great fisherman like himself. But as we see, Michel grows up to become a punk young man who spends his time in taverns with his so-called friends, whom have a bad influence on him. This affects the family, especially when his mother is on her deathbed and he's nowhere to be found. Once Nolff finds him, he sends him off to the sea to be judged.

Like I stated earlier, this was really a sad and depressing movie, but really artistically poetic and meaningful. I hated the son and his dad, I felt sorry for the mom and sister, and I really wished someone would punish that damn kid! Anyway, filmmaker Marcel L'Herbier based the film on a short story by Honoré de Balzac. A rare and outstanding gem of a silent film! The film was originally released to theaters in France by Comptoir Ciné-Location Gaumont on December 3, 1920. Musical accompaniment was provided by Guenter Buchwald and Frank Bockius with intertitle narration by Paul McGann.

Up next was director Erich von Stroheim's epic love drama THE WEDDING MARCH. Here, Stroheim portrays Prince Nikki, Lieutenant of the Guard in pre WWI Vienna, is flat broke, but the only advice he gets from his parents is either to shoot himself or to marry money. During the Chorpus Christi parade his horse accidentally hurts poor Mitzi (Fay Wray), the daughter of inn-keepers in a Viennese suburb, who are trying to get her going to marry the local butcher Schani (Matthew Betz). When Nikki visits her at the hospital, they fall in love, much to the chagrin of her parents and Schani. While this happening, Nikki's parents have arranged a prospective marriage with Cecilia (Zasu Pitts), the limping daughter of a very rich non-aristocratic industrial. Will Nikki follow his heart, or would he marry money instead?

Well, it doesn't get more melodramatic than this people!! And what an ending!! I thought how it could end like it did, but then I remembered that this was a Erich von Stroheim film, so I was fine with its conclusion. The beautiful Fay Wray was only eighteen years old when she made the film, while Stroheim was forty-three years young. Looking back on it now, it looks kinda creepy, but hey, it's his movie! The story went back and forth, tugging on the audiences' heartstrings, and when it reached its ending, there was a gasp in the theatre! I absolutely loved the film! Stroheim made a sequel called THE HONEYMOON in 1930 and it picks up right where this one left off. This was one of best Stroheim films from the silent era! The film was originally released to theaters by Paramount Pictures on October 6, 1928. Musical accompaniment was provided by the beloved Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

The sixth and final film of the night was L'INFERNO (DANTE'S INFERNO), another export silent from Italy. Loosely adapted from Dante's Divine Comedy and inspired by the illustrations of Gustav Doré, the film chronicles poet Virgil as he guides the lost Dante through the 9 Levels of Hell, at the request of Beatrice. During his journey, Dante witnesses unspeakable horrors, as he and Virgil make their way to Paradise.

While visually sticking and containing some truly horrific imagery and amazing special effects, the film was soooo sloooowwww. It was shot like a staged, static style with no camera movement at all, and even though its run time was only 116 minutes, it felt like three hours. But there is a gratuitous amount of nudity, so that was interesting. The film was originally released to theaters in Italy by Milano Films on March 10, 1911. Musical accompaniment was provided once again by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

And that's the end of Day Four of the 24th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! And with one day left, you don't want to miss out on all the screenings I saw on the final day! To view the festival's film schedule, purchase tickets and passes, location of hotels to stay at during the festival, please visit their official website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Phil attends the 24th SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY THREE - May 3, 2019

Greetings and salutations and welcome to Day Three of my trip to the 24th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! After the first two days, I was on a silent film high! With the exception of three movies, I have never seen any of the other films playing at the festival, let alone heard of them or know of their existence. This is what makes me so excited about attending the festival year after year after year! So, let's talk about all the wonderful silent films I saw today, shall we?

The first movie was the love triangle drama entitled YOU NEVER KNOW WOMEN. Magician and escape artist Norodin (Clive Brook) and his partner Vera (Florence Vidor) are performers in a traveling Russian circus troupe. He is madly in love with Vera, but she doesn't recuperate those same feelings for him. But when pompously rich aristocrat Eugene Foster (Lowell Sherman) enters the picture, she falls for him but under false conditions. And he won't stop until Vera is all his, by any means necessary.

Now this was a great dramatic love story that really gets you invested emotionally! You couldn't help feel sympathy for Norodin, as he wears his heart on his sleeve, only to have Vera dismiss it. Both Vidor and Brook have great chemistry together, and Foster made for a great heel performance. The film's director William Wellman went on to become a very successful filmmaker, and is best known for the 1927 Academy Award-winning film WINGS and as the writer/director of the original 1937 film A STAR IS BORN. Due to his larger-than-life personality and lifestyle, he was also known as "Wild Bill," the nicknamed he was bestowed upon with during his time as an aviator during World War I. The film was originally released by Paramount Pictures on September 20, 1926. Musical accompaniment was provided by the great Philip Carli.

The second movie I saw was TONKA OF THE GALLOWS (TONKA SIBENICE), an intense Czechoslovakian drama.Big city woman Tonka (Ita Rina) comes back home to visit her mother in their small town and showers her with gifts. Little does her mother know that Tonka is actually a
prostitute, who on one fateful day, accepts an offer form the police to spend the night with a condemned man before he is to executed the next day. Because of her selfless deed, she becomes condemned herself and thus is cast disowned by her mom and her fiance. Shunned by society, she becomes a homeless drunk, but can she be redeemed by those who chastised her, but more importantly, can she learn to forgive herself?

Rina is just so stunningly breathtaking in the movie, and she is one of the finest actresses I have ever seen from this era! I was memorized by her beauty, her pose, and her performance, which was heartbreakingly exquisite!! How in the hell have I not heard of her before? I'm making it a mission to learn about this overlooked actresses! Karl Anton did an amazing job of directing the film, capturing the painful story of our poor unfortunate Tonka! The film was originally released in on March 4, 1930. Musical accompaniment was provided by the always incredible Stephen Horne.

Next up was HUSBANDS AND LOVERS, a smart and hilarious comedy that tickled my funny bones! Grace Livingston (Florence Vidor) is married to her ungrateful and insensitive husband James (Lewis Stone). After feeling mistreated and talked down to, she flips the table and decides to work on her self-image and makes James to fend for himself. But when James' friend and co-worker Rex Phillips (Lew Cody) sees Grace all dolled up, he pays attention to her and soon the both develop feelings for one another. While their love grows, James must contemplate whether to break them up or bow out the picture gracefully.

Co-writer and director John M. Stahl is best known for the 1945 film noir film LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN. Florence Vidor proved that she had grace and beauty while showing off her comedic timing. Lewis Stone played a terrific jerk off, but then redeemed himself in the end. Overall, I found the film delightful, funny, and charming! The film was originally released by First National Pictures on November 2, 1924. Musical accompaniment was provided again by the great Philip Carli.

After a quick break, it was time to watch RAPSODIA SATANICA, an interesting export from Italy. A variation on the Faust myth, the film's about Contessa Alba d'Oltrevita (Lyda Borelli), an elderly woman who makes a deal with the demon Mephisto (Ugo Bazzini) to make her youth and beautiful again. However, there is a catch (of course there is) and it's that she must stay away from love or she will lose her new found beauty. But right after this, she meets Tristano (Andrea Habay) and Sergio (Giovanni Cini), two brothers who fall madly in love with her. The question becomes whether or not she can resist their love, and which brother wins her heart?

Upon the conclusion of the film, two things popped in my mind. The first on was, "Wow! That was a fast, short film!" The second thought was how poetic and artistic it was. It examination on themes such as life, love, and death are subjects that we still deal with to this very day. Plus there were scenes that were colorized with stencil-colors, which gave those particular scenes a veil of depth and importance. Unfortunately, this would be the final film for its director Nino Oxilia, who passed away on November 18, 1917. The film was originally released in Italy by Società Italiana Cines in July 1917. Musical accompaniment was provided by the beloved Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

Film number five was the German export THE LOVE OF JEANNE NEY (DIE LIEBE DER JEANNE NEY). Set the Crimea after the Soviet Revolution,, the Reds and the Whites aren't done fighting, and Jeanne (Édith Jéhanne) discovers her man Andreas Labov (Uno Henning) is a Bolshevik soilder (he even kills her father, but that doesn't stop her from loving him). After losing her father's home and fortune, she leave for Paris, where she works as a secretary for her uncle Raymond (Adolph Edgar Licho) private eye office. Soon after, Andreas arrives in France to organize the sailors in Toulon. Also in town is the no good sleazebag Khalibiev (Fritz Rasp), who wants Jeanne in the worse way. His plan includes marrying Raymond's blind daughter Gabrielle (Brigitte Helm), then kill her afterwards, steal a priceless diamond from Raymond's safe, and run away with Jeanne! The only thing that stands in his way is Andreas, but even he might be no match for Khalibiev's evil scheme.

This was a stellar crime drama that was filled with twists and turns and in the middle was a great love drama! Filled with political and social commentary, espionage, and mind-blowing camerawork and compositions, the movie felt way ahead of its time! It was an extraordinary cinema experience and I'm hoping this movie is available on Blu-Ray!! Another aspect I loved was seeing Brigitte Helm as the blind and naive Gabrielle. Helm is most famously recognized as Maria in Firtz Lang's 1927 sci-fi classic METROPOLIS. The film was originally released by Universum Film (aka UFA) in Germany on December 6, 1927. Musical accompaniment was provided by the Guenter Buchwald Ensemble: Guenter, Frank Bockius, and Sascha Jacobsen.

The sixth and final film of the night was a classic that I've seen several times before, but never at the Castro Theatre. WEST OF ZANZIBAR stars The Man of a Thousand Faces himself, the great Lon Cahney Sr. as The Great Phroso, a magician whose wife Anna (Jacqueline Gadsdon) leaves him for another man Crane (Lionel Barrymore). After their fight leaves Phroso crippled, be vows revenge against him and takes their illegitimate daughter Maizie (Mary Nolan) with him. Eighteen years later, he has been living in East Africa under the name "Dead Legs." He begins to put his plan for revenge in motion, only to have Crane turn his plan against him when he unveils the shocking truth about Maizie's true parentage!

Director Todd Browning was well known for making dark, disturbing, and macabre movies with controversial topics and bizarre subject matters. Both Browning and Chaney made a total of ten movies together, and they were planning on making DRACULA for Universal. Unfortunately, Chaney passed away from throat hemorrhage on The film was originally released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) on November 24, 1928. Musical accompaniment was provided once again by Stephen Horne and percussionist Frank Bockius.

And that was Day Three of the 24th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! I'm getting down to the wire, with only two more days left! To view the festival's film schedule, purchase tickets and passes, location of hotels to stay at during the festival, please visit their official website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Phil attends the 24th SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL: DAY TWO - May 2, 2019

Hello again folks and welcome to Day Two of my trip to the 24th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival! Today I saw five films and a presentation that has been a time honored tradition of the festival. Oh, before I forget, I was able to take time off from work, and so, I was able to see the entire festival!! Oh yeah baby!! Again, it's been four years since I've attend the SFSFF and I was so excited to be back in the City by the Bay! The bad part was that since hotels are so damn expensive, I had to commute to and from the festival, which is an hour drive both ways. But I can't complain cause I was back! So let's not waste anymore time, and let's get the show on the road!

At 10am the festival had a free admission to their annual TALES FROM THE ARCHIVES, which has garnered a lot attention. This year's ARCHIVES presentation was probably one of my favorites, due to its incredible importance to film preservation. First up was the dynamic duo of SFSFF Board President Robert Byrne and researcher Thierry Lecointe their "cinematic wonders they discovered" in what is called fin de siècle novelty flipbooks. What's cool about these flipbooks that they would feature films like from the great Georges Méliès. Also, some of these cinematic flipbooks would be of lost films. They were scanned and then shown up on the screen! Next up was Stefan Drössler, who's the head of Filmmuseum München. He talked about the restoration of Robert Reinert’s OPIUM (which was screened later that day) and the rise of German Cinema at the conclusion of WWI. Up next was the director of the National Film Archive of Japan Hisashi Okajim, and he discussed about the Mina Talkie Sound System that was used for Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1926 drama FURUSATO. Last, but not least, was an old friend of the festival Bruce Goldstein, the director of repertory programming at New York’s Film Forum and founder of Rialto Pictures. He talked about how “Silents Got No Respect”once talkies became all the rage, and how a majority of the Hollywood studios dismissed their own heritage. Musical accompaniment was provided by the awesome Stephen Horne. Overall, this was a very informative, insightful, and funny program!

The first film of the day was the western WOLF SONG, directed by Hollywood legend director Victor Fleming. Set in the year 1840, it stars another legend Gary Cooper as Sam Lash, a trapper who loves the Great Wide Open. However, he finds something else to love, rather someone, in the form of Lola, played by the absolutely stunning Lupe Velez!! They fall hard in love with one another, with wedding bells shortly thereafter. But the Wolf Song he hears beckons him to leave Lola and head out once more. But what love will he chooses?

Good grief was this a great movie! Fleming's directing was smooth, fluid, and looked amazing! Cooper was great as always, but his on-screen chemistry with Velez was smoldering and intense! Eventually, these two would also get married in real life! The film was originally released by Paramount Pictures on March 30, 1929. Musical accompaniment was provided by the great Philip Carli.

Film number two was THE OYSTER PRINCESS (DIE AUSTERNPRINZESSIN), directed by and starring the crazy talented Ernst Lubitsch. Oyster-king Quaker (Victor Janson) cannot be impressed anymore. He is so rich that he even has a special butler holding his cigar while he is smoking. The only thing Quaker would be impressed by is if his daughter Ossi (Ossi Oswalda) were to marry a real prince. He makes an offer to the poor prince Nucki (Harry Liedtke), who sends his friend Josef (Julius Falkenstein) to get a clear idea of the woman. In short, they get married and hilarious shenanigans ensues!

Holy hell was this movie funny!! This was Lubitsch's first real comedic movie and it was hilarious! The "Wedding Foxtrot" scene was one of the funniest things ever captured on celluloid! I was almost in tears, but the complexity of it all was so damn impressive! That scene alone must have taken days to rehearse and shoot! The film was released on DVD by Kino Lorber as part of their  Lubitsch in German 5-Disc DVD Boxset and also VOD. The film was released in Germany by Universum Film (aka UFA) on June 26, 1919. Musical accompaniment was by Wayne Barker, making his second appearance at the festival.

The third silent of the day was the Russian drama EARTH (ZEMLYA). The film was director Aleksandr Dovzhenko’s third installment of his “Ukraine Trilogy." Here, a small group of rich and poor landowners begin to fight with one another when they receive a tractor as a gift from the Bolshevik government. Soon, tensions begin rise, which leads to mistrust, betrayal, and eventually death.

Truth be told, while I enjoyed the film's visuals, quick edits, and social commentary, I found it kinda boring and it seriously dragged in points of the film. Granted, this is an artistic achievement unto itself, it didn't have the flare like  Sergei Eisenstein. Granted, no one can compare with Eisenstein, but Dovzhenko tries his damnest to achieve this. Originally released in the USSR on October 30, 1930, many Soviets viewed the film negatively due to its exploration of death and other dark issues that came with revolution. It was released here in the states that same year by Amkino Corporation with English title cards inserted. Musical accompaniment was provided by extraordinary The Matti Bye Ensemble, who received a standing ovation for their performance!

After a short break, it was time for silent film number five! THE SIGNAL TOWER stars Rockcliffe Fellowes as a signal towerman who works in the redwood forest of Mendocino on the Fort Bragg railroad line. He's got a beautiful wife Sally (Virginia Valli) and kid Sonny (Frankie Darro). Life is great, but new towerman Joe Standish (Wallace Beery) comes into the picture, things become bad, and it soon escalates as Joe sets his sights on Sally! Things become worse when a runaway train on a dark and stormy night threatens to crash into another train!

This was a brand new restoration print by the SFSFF and icon Kevin Brownlow's Photoplay Productions and the results were awesome! Director Clarence Brown would go on to direct many other films, including FLESH AND THE DEVIL, THE GOOSE WOMAN (which I saw here at the festival years ago), ANNA CHRISTIE, NATIONAL VELVET, and ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD. The film was originally released by Universal Pictures on July 20, 1924. Musical accompaniment was provided by Stephen Horne and percussionist Frank Bockius.

The final screening of the night was the aforementioned earlier German drama OPIUM. The film's about a Chinese opium dealer Nung-Tschang (Werner Krauss) who takes his revenge on Professor Gesellius (Eduard von Winterstein), who is a Westener and it was a Westener who corrupted his wife. But the good Professor saves a young woman from his evil opium den and brings her back home, which doesn't sit well with his wife, who's in love with the Professor's favorite student, who then dies and now his wife blames him for her lover's death. What's the Professor do now? How can he deal with such loss? How can he overcome his grief? With opium, of course!!

This was one of the most bonkers silent film I have ever seen! Geez, I have no idea where to begin! Well, it wasn't boring, that's for sure! I have to say that this was one of the most over-acted, over-exaggerated, overdone anti-drug move I have ever seen! I would pair this movie with REFER MADNESS as a double bill! It was that over-the-top and it was hysterical! Granted, this was obviously not what the filmmaker Robert Reinert intended it to be, but it came across that way. Now I'm looking at it with 2019 eyes and not 1919. But the end result is that I loved this movie! The film was originally released in Germany by Stern-Film in January 29, 1919. Musical accompaniment was provided by Guenter Buchwald, who did a great job with his performance!

And that was Day Two of the festival! I'm having so much fun here! And to think, I still had three more days of silent cinemas to watch! To view the festival's film schedule, purchase tickets and passes, location of hotels to stay at during the festival, please visit their official website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Phil attends the Opening Night of the 24th SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL at the Castro Theatre - May 1, 2019

After a long five year absence, I finally made my way to the City by the Bay to attend the fantastic San Francisco Silent Film festival!! Again, the last time I attended the festival was back in 2014, not counting the Greatest Hits by Club Foot Orchestra one day event I attended back in September of 2018. This was a very big deal to me, and I could not wait to emerse myself again in this cinematic treasure trove of long, lost, rarely seen silent films!

I arrived to the historic Castro Theatre (aka The Cathedral of Cinema) early to help set-up the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum table up on the mezzanine. It was nice to have the theatre quiet and pretty much all to myself. I made my way to the front row, where I picked out my favorite seat for tonight's opening film, and boy oh boy, was I ever looking forward to seeing it again!!

Before the film, the festival The 2019 SFSFF Award for commitment to the preservation of silent cinema will be presented to Gian Luca Farinelli on behalf of the Cineteca di Bologna before the screening. The Italian archive has taken the lead in restoring Keaton’s entire body of work.

The opening night film of the festival was a silent comedy classic starring Mr. Stoneface himself, Buster Keaton. THE CAMERAMAN was Keaton's first film for MGM under his new contract. Our friend portrays a tin-type photographer who falls madly in love with Sally (Marceline Day), a secretary who works for MGM Newsreels. To be close to her, he abandons in his old camera career and attempts to become a motion picture cameraman. Soon Buster is out on the streets, shooting anything and everything, but there's just one problem: he's not very good. But when Sally gives him a tip on a hot story, he rushes into what I think is one of the funniest action scenes ever captured onto celluloid! Helping Buster out is his new partner: a talented street preforming monkey who knows how to work a movie camera! Yes folks, it's that funny!

As I previously stated, this was Keaton's first film for MGM. However, within a year of his contract, the studio took away Keaton's creative control over his pictures, which in the long run harmed his career. He would later say that his move to MGM was "the worst mistake of my career." But fans have called it his best work, and it was added to the National Film Registry in 2005! The film was released to theaters on September 22, 1928. In 2004, Turner Classic Movies (TCM as it's affectionately known) released a boxset entitled Buster Keaton Collection, which included THE CAMERAMAN as well as two other films. The film that was shown was the new 4k digital restoration undertaken by The Criterion Collection, Warner Bros., and Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna. The musical accompaniment was done by Timothy Brock conducting the amazing and crazy talented students of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music! These students blew me away with their high level of musicianship!! I hope the festival has them come back next year!

After the film, we all made our way to the after party, which was held yet again at the McRoskey Mattress Company building down on Market Street! There were food, fine wines and some very good micro beers for the guests to enjoy while listening to great music! Fun was had by all!

What a night I had! And there's still four more days of silent films to watch! So come on out to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, here at the Castro Theatre! To view the festival's film schedule, purchase tickets and passes, location of hotels to stay at during the festival, please visit their official website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show! 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Phil attends the Thursday Night Preview of AVENGERS: ENDGAME at the Cinelux Almaden Café & Lounge - April 25, 2019


Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin
Based on the Comic Book by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin
Written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cinematography by Trent Opaloch
Edited by Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Schmidt
Produced by Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau, James Gunn, Stan Lee, Victoria Alonso, Trinh Tran
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

On Tuesday, April 29, 2008, I attended a special advance screening of Marvel Studios' first feature film IRON MAN, starring  Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and directed by Jon Favreau. It was on this day that I witnessed the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Eleven years and twenty-one films later, I found myself at the Cinelux Almaden Café & Lounge to watch the final chapter of what Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige has called "The Infinity Saga." I suddenly realized just how fast time goes, as I have seen every single MCU installment in the cinemas. And here I was, eagerly awaiting the closure of what has become one of the most important chapters in my cinematic experience, and it did not disappoint. It goes without saying that AVENGERS: ENDGAME will go down as one of the important and entertaining films of all time!

The film's official synopsis: The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios' grand conclusion to twenty-two films, AVENGERS: ENDGAME.

I'm not going to spoil the film here in my review. Instead, I'm just going to issue the following statement: THIS WAS THE BEST MCU FILM OF ALL TIME!!

As I write this post, the film has broken several cinema records. First, it broke the record Thursday Night screenings, earning an impressive $60 million, breaking the previous record held by STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, which was $57 million total. On Friday, it grossed $305 million internationally, combined with Thursday Night's earnings for a staggering $365 million! As of Sunday morning, it has been reported that the film has now grossed globally an incredible $1.2 BILLION!! The breakdown from that is $350 million domestically and $859 internationally!! It now has become the first film in cinema history to surpass $1 billion in its opening weekend!! I seriously doubt that this record will be broken anytime soon!!

AVENGERS: ENDGAME is one of the most epic, satisfying, blockbuster and film of the year and a fitting conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that fans could ever wanted or hoped for!! It's also an end of an era, has this closes the chapter of the MCU, and is the beginning of the next phase that will entertain us with new characters, new adventures, and new films!! But before that, I would like to say "Thank You" to everyone who has been involved with the MCU and applaud you for all your hard work these past eleven years!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

AVENGERS: ENDGAME is currently playing in theaters in 2D, 3D, and IMAX nationwide, including at the Cinelux Theaters here in the Bay Area. To view showtimes, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Phil's Cult Classics: ROBOT NINJA (1989) from Tempe Entertainment - April 24, 2019

ROBOT NINJA Slipcover Blu-Ray

Starring Michael Todd, Bogdan Pecic, Maria Markovic, Floyd Ewing Jr., Bill Morrison, James L. Edwards, Michael Kemper, Burt Ward, Linnea Quigley, Scott Spiegel
Written by J.R. Bookwalter
Cinematography by Michael Tolochko
Edited by J.R. Bookwalter
Produced by David DeCoteau, J.R. Bookwalter
Directed by J.R. Bookwalter
Originally distributed by Cinema Home Video
Re-released by Tempe Entertainment

By the late 1980's, video stores were booming, and there was plenty to rent on their shelves. At this time, the home video market became a cash cow for low budget, independent horror films and cult classics. Among the names that were synonymous during this era were Fred Olen Ray, David DeCoteau, Rick Sloane, and Jim Wynorski. But there was another name that snuck in late in the game but made some great low budget films for the mom & pop video stores. His name was J.R. Bookwalter, and, in 1986, made the 8mm horror film THE DEAD NEXT DOOR for video renters. In 1989, he made his sophomore feature that, unfortunately, didn't measure up to his expectations, and was abandoned by the filmmaker himself. Now, thirty years later, Bookwalter has repaired and restored this forgotten movie and has unleashed ROBOT NINJA onto the masses once again!

The film's official synopsis: Late one night, frustrated comic book artist Leonard Miller witnesses the brutal rape and murder of a young couple at the hands of ruthless small-town thugs. Seeking vigilante justice, Miller decides to become his most famous character, stalking the night intent on spilling the blood of any criminal who stands in his way! Painstakingly restored from a 2K film scan of the original 16mm A/B roll cut negative with a dynamic new 5.1 surround sound remix, this VHS-era classic returns in a streaming-exclusive 16:9 widescreen presentation for the first time ever. Written, produced, and directed by J.R. Bookwalter (THE DEAD NEXT DOOR, OZONE), ROBOT NINJA slashes, stabs, guts, pokes, and jabs its way to a climactic finale, putting a unique imprint on the superhero genre.

Bookwalter has done a fantastic job of restoring his movie, as well as going all out with the special features and improvements! There's a lot to list here, so bare with me for a second while I list them all! This is Blu-Ray/DVD 2-Disc Combo. Disc One is the Blu-Ray and offers the following: DTS HD-MA 5.1 Surround Remix, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Remix, Audio Commentary with writer/director J.R. Bookwalter, moderated by Matthew Dilts-Williams of Phantom Pain Films, Audio Commentary with executive producer David DeCoteau & producer J.R. Bookwalter, Audio Commentary with director J.R. Bookwalter, star James L. Edwards, associate producer Scott P. Plummer, co-creator David Lange, and special makeup consultant David P. Barton, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Dubbed Mix in German, Italian, and Castilian Spanish, Rebuilding the Robot: J.R. Bookwalter on the Restoration, Thank You Miss Barbeau: Interview with Linnea Quigley, Contemplating Coleslaw: Interview with Scott Spiegel, Dr. Goodknight's Neighborhood: Location Tour with Benjamin Bookwalter, "The Robot Ninja" 2013 Fan Film with introduction by director Johnny Dickie, Artwork & Promotional Gallery, Behind The Scenes Gallery, Production Stills Gallery, Optional English or Spanish Subtitles, and four Tempe Digital Trailers! *whew*

And now on to Disc 2 which is the DVD portion of the combo. Here are the following: The 1989 VHS Version in 4:3 Original Aspect Ratio (1.33:1, 80 mins.), Unreleased Dolby Digital 2.0 Original Stereo Mix, Audio Commentary with Doug Tilley and Moe Porne of The No-Budget Nightmares Podcast, Robot Ninja: Unmasked! featurette, Behind-the-Scenes Footage with audio commentary by director J.R. Bookwalter, Rough Cut Outtakes, "The Adventures of Robot Ninja" TV Show Promo, Newscast Outtakes, Location Preshoots, Original 1989 VHS Release Trailer, Optional English or Spanish Subtitles, and more Tempe Digital Trailers! Holy crap, I feel like I just ran a 100 mile marathon!!

ROBOT NINJA is a bona fide VHS rental cult classic that is long overdue of a resurgence of notoriety!! It's a fun, down and dirty, DIY indie film that provides the fun, action, blood, and gore for the ages!! Now, a whole new generation of genre fans can now bare witness to a film that was ahead of its time! With the Age of the Superheroes dominating the cinemas, what better time to revisit this awesome cult classic!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

ROBOT NINJA is available on Blu-Ray/DVD Combo and Limited Edition VHS for collectors. To purchase a copy and other J.R. Bookwalter titles and Tempe Entertainment releases, please visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Phil’s Porno Chic Theatre: SKIN FLICKS (1978) from Vinegar Syndrome - April 20, 2019

SKIN FLICKS Slipcover Blu-Ray

Starring Colleen Anderson, Beth Anna, Sharon Mitchell, Jamie Gillis, Tony Hudson, Herschel Savage, Joey Silvera, Jill Monroe
Written by Gerard Damiano
Cinematography by Ron Dorfman (as Arthur Ben)
Edited by Michel Biseau (as M. Biseau)
Produced by Gerard Damiano
Directed by Gerard Damiano
Originally distributed by MB Productions
Released by Vinegar Syndrome

Hello once again and welcome back to Phil’s Porno Chic Theatre! In this installment of the series, I’ll be again reviewing another film from the late, great Gerard Domiano. As you may recall, I reviewed his arthouse erotica classic MEMORIES WITHIN MISS AGGIE from Vinegar Syndrome back in February. Today’s review is also a VS release that shines a light on another forgotten Domiano title. With its amalgam of hot sex, great acting, and self-reflective storyline, SKIN FLICKS is another Domiano movie that deserves to be rediscovered again!

The film's official synopsis: Harry (Tony Hudson) is an ambitious director of hardcore movies who's reached a breaking point. Fearing that he is artistically burnt out and struggling to find meaning in both his life and work, Tony finds solace with the companionship of an equally emotionally damaged young actress named Susan (Sharon Mitchell). As their relationship grows, Tony hopes to find the creative inspiration to finish his latest film, as Susan continues on a downward spiral which threatens to destroy them both.

Original Theatrical Poster (1978)
As with most of his films, Domiano always casts the most talented actors and actresses to have ever graced the silver screen. Sharon Mitchell steals the film as the young would be actress Susan, and her sex scenes are extremely arousing! Colleen Anderson, Tony Hudson are also in the movie, along with industry veterans Herschel Savage, Joey Silvera, and the late, great, and infamous Jamie Gillis. In fact, Gillis only appears in the third act, but steals the spotlight whenever he's in frame. Plus, his sex scene with the aforementioned Mitchell is just sizzling hot and dirty!

As writer, producer, and director, Domiano brings both fantasy and reality to his pictures, and this movie is another classic example of this. Once again taking cues from the European filmmakers from the 1960's, here's a picture that is self-reflective, candid about the adult industry, the loneliness one faces when acting in these films. It's not hard to compare Hudson's character Harry to Domiano, and there are similarities between the two: trying to create movies with crossover appeal, trying to live up to his own reputation, the pressures of being a filmmaker, and wondering if it will all come together in the end. A powerful and introspective look at oneself!

For this new release, the film was newly scanned & restored in 2k from the best surviving 35mm elements. There's also a couple of special features on the discs: Feature-length audio interview with actress Sharon Mitchell conducted by Casey Scott, and audio commentary with film historians Samm Deighan and Heather Drain. Like I mentioned in my MEMORIES WITHIN MISS AGGIE review, I wished there was more features on here. Silvera and Savage are still alive and it would have been nice to hear them share some of their thoughts and memories on the making of the movie and what they think about Damiano and Gillis. The combo has has a reversible cover artwork, and the first 1,500 copies has a special limited edition embossed slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr. As I am writing this review, the limited edition slipcovers are down to only 442 copies left in inventory!

SKIN FLICKS is yet another sensual, erotic, intelligent, and poignant adult classic from one of the best filmmakers during the Golden Age of Adult Films!! I sincerely hope that Vinegar Syndrome continues to comb through Damiano's catalog of movies, so we can witness first hand the extraordinary talent that this man possessed during the height of this period! I cannot express how much I loved this film, and I've got a hunch that if you're a fan of classic adult films, then this is a must-own!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

SKIN FLICKS is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Vinegar Syndrome. To order a copy for yourself, visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Phil’s Exploitation Cinema: PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE (1938) from Something Weird Video - April 20, 2019

PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE (aka Main Street Girl) (1938)

Starring Jean Carmen, Ted Adams, George Eldredge, Milburn Stone, Walter Anthony, Ole Olsen, Gwen Lee
Written by George Plympton
Cinematography by Edward Linden
Edited by Carl Pierson
Produced by J.D. Kendis
Directed by Elmer Clifton
Originally distributed by Syndicate Pictures
Re-released by Something Weird Video

Exploitation films hold a special place in my heart. The social norms of yesterday and what they thought was acceptable and what wasn’t tickles my funny bone. They were made fast and cheap, providing the sizzle to lure suckers into the theaters in hopes of seeing something naughty, racy, titilazing, or perhaps all three. Truth be told, some are good, some are bad, and some are just inept (more of those types of films later). Today’s trip down exploitation’s cinematic past come to us courtesy of Something Weird Video, The home of all things exploitation. Released in 1938, the film PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE is a perfect example of the “its so bad it’s good” motto but provides audiences something amusing to watch and enjoy!

The film’s official synopsis: D.A. Milburn Stone is angry that the corrupt local parole board is recklessly releasing habitual criminals – like hitman Gunner Garson who callously mows down three people standing in front of a donut shop. Or conman “Slicker” Nixon who’s “the most dangerous of all because he has more brains than the average.” In fact, Slicker quickly reorganizes Gunner, pyromaniac Torchy, and other thugs into “a protective association” whose first attempt at strong-arming a local merchant ends with the man being shot dead. The merchant’s daughter, Pat Mallory (Jean Carmen), witnesses the murder and vows to get even. As Slicker’s fortunes rise, Pat sneaks into his home with a gun, almost gets caught, but is saved by rival racketeer “Red” Herron (George Eldredge of CAPTAIN VIDEO). She then goes to Slicker’s fancy new nightclub and is again saved by Red during a shootout. Taking a different approach, Pat next becomes a bathing-suit model in Slicker’s organization, but ends up being locked in a room with a sex maniac.

Back in the old days, exploitation films were either distributed to theaters or sold to specific territories. Hence, sometimes films were re-titled for different reasons. One of these reasons was if the distributor wanted to make more money off the film, they would re-title it and send it back out again. Another reason was if the theater wasn't making money from it, theaters would slap on a new, more profitable sounding title. It wasn't uncommon for audience members to see the same film twice.

Original Movie Poster w/Alternative Title (1938)
Kendis was part of a group of independent exploitation producers and distributor known throughout the film industry as The Forty Thieves. These individuals turned their back on the newly created Production Code of Censorship (better known as the Hays Code) and made films "exploiting" every single rule that the Production Code forbid. Depictions of nudity, sex, violence, vice, drinking, drugs, abortions, and homosexuality were displayed proudly and repeatedly. While Hollywood was struggling to make a profit, these exploitation pioneers were profiting and prospering, and this was during the Great Depression and before the United States entered World War II.

Kendis produced several classic exploitation films, including GUILTY PARENTS (1934), GAMBLING WITH SOULS (1936), SECRETS OF A MODEL (1940), and ESCORT GIRL (1941) just for starters (and all of these films are available from Something Weird Video). Kendis died in Los Angeles on August 2, 1957 at the age of 70. Director Elmer Clifton worked with D.W. Griffith in a number of projects between 1913 and 1922, and even acted in his films THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) and INTOLERANCE (1916). His feature film debut was DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS with Clara Bow in 1917. By the late 1920's his career was in decline, and found himself making movies for Poverty Row companies and lower-budget exploitation pictures, where he met Kendis. Clifton died on October 15, 1949 at 59 years old. Lead actress Jean Carmen appeared in several westerns, such as ARIZONA GUNFIGHTER (1937), THE PAINTED STALLION (1937) and BORN TO BATTLE (1935) before retiring to start her family. Carmen passed away on 

PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE is one of most goofiest, cheesiest, and hilariously bad exploitation films of all time! It's an absurdly weird and wonderfully awful movie! The fact that it still exists for all of us to watch in the 21st century is amazing, and it's all because of the wonderful people at Something Weird Video! It doesn't get any better than this, folks!! 4 out of 5 stars!! Recommended!!
PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE is available on DVD-R from Something Weird Video. To purchase a copy for yourself, please visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!  

Monday, April 22, 2019

Phil’s Horror Watch: MANIAC (1980) from Blue Underground - April 19, 2019

MANIAC Limited Edition Slipcover Blu-Ray
MANIAC (1980)

Starring Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Tom Savini, Sharon Mitchell
Written by C.A. Rosenberg, Joe Spinell
Cinematography by Robert Lindsay
Edited by Larry Marinelli (as Lorenzo Marinelli)
Produced by Andrew W. Garroni, Judd Hamilton, William Lustig, John Packard, Joe Spinell
Directed by William Lustig
Originally distributed by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation
Re-released by Blue Underground

Welcome back to another horrifying installment of Phil’s Horror Watch! Today’s film is widely considered to be one of the most controversial slasher films of the early 1980’s. It was a ferocious visceral assault on the senses; degrading and misogynistic, gory and nightmarishly disturbing. At the heart of the movie was it’s lead actor, the great Joe Spinell, who gives a tour-de-force performance as the psychotic antagonist. Co-written by Spinell and directed by the legendary William Lustig, MANIAC remains as infamous and influential now since its initial release.

The film's official synopsis: Frank Zito (a career performance by co-writer/co-executive producer Joe Spinell of ROCKY and THE GODFATHER fame) is a deeply disturbed man, haunted by the traumas of unspeakable childhood abuse. And when these horrific memories begin to scream inside his mind, Frank prowls the seedy streets of New York City to stalk and slaughter innocent young women. Now Frank has begun a relationship with a beautiful photographer (Caroline Munro of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), yet his vile compulsions remain. These are the atrocities of a human monster. This is the story of a MANIAC.

After all these years, the film still manages to make my skin crawl, forcing me to take several showers just to get the grim of New York off me! Spinell is absolutely outstanding as the sympathetic psychotic Frank Zito! He was, and still is, one of the best character actors the world has ever seen! The beautiful Caroline Munro really goes all out as his love interest/next victim Anna D'Antoni. Also appearing in the film are Tom Savini, who did all the special effects and gore (and even gets his head blown off with a shotgun), and Sharon Mitchell as one of the nurses. If her name sounds familiar, that's because she was one of the most popular adult actresses in the New York Adult Film world!

Director William Lustig's career began within the adult film world where he made two features: THE VIOLATION OF CLAUDIA (starring Sharon Mitchell and Jamie Gillis) and HOT HONEY under the pseudonym Billy Bagg. He then moved on to making mainstream films like VIGILANTE, RELENTLESS, UNCLE SAM, and the MANIAC COP Trilogy. Starting in 1997, Lustig went on to initially produce retrospective DVD documentaries for Anchor Bay Entertainment, then left to become the founder and CEO of Blue Underground in 2009, which restores and re-releases popular and little seen cult movies, grindhouse action, drama, and horror films.

Original Theatrical Poster (1981)
MANIAC was distributed by Analysis Film Releasing Corporation and had its U.S. premiere in New York City on January 30, 1981, then was released to other theaters throughout the country. During its theatrical run, the film faced a slew of backlash; unfavorable reviews due to its graphic depiction of violence towards women, censorhip and re-editing in the southern states of America, and even becoming banned in other states and countries.

The film was originally released on Beta and VHS by Media Home Entertainment in 1981, but even then it was still the edited version. Eventually, it was released unedited on VHS and DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2001. When Lustig started up Blue Underground, he re-released the film again in 2010, but this time on Blu-Ray.

Lustig and Blue Underground did an astounding job of restoring this revered horror classic! First, the movie is in a brand-new 4K Restoration from the recently discovered 16mm original camera negative! Also, the Blu-ray features Full 1080p HD Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio for the ultimate home theater experience, offered in  five different languages: English, Castellano, Français, Italiano, and Deutsch, contains optional subtitles: English SDH, Français, Español, Português, Deutsch, Italiano, Dansk, Suomen, Nederlands, Svenska, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai. Last, but certainly not least, this exclusive limited collector’s edition includes Blu-ray, Extras Blu-Ray, Soundtrack CD, collectable booklet, reversible sleeve, and special 3D lenticular slipcover!

Now let's talk all about the special features that this bad boy sports: Audio Commentary #1 with Co-Producer/Director William Lustig and Co-Producer Andrew W. Garroni, Audio Commentary #2 with Co-Producer/Director William Lustig, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli, and Joe Spinell’s Assistant Luke Walter, New "Returning to the Scene of the Crime with William Lustig" Featurette, New MANIAC Outtakes Featurette, "Anna and the Killer: Interview with Star Caroline Munro" Featurette, "The Death Dealer: Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini" Featurette, "Dark Notes: Interview with Composer Jay Chattaway" Featurette, "Maniac Men: Interview with Songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky" Featurette, Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots, Mr. Robbie: Maniac 2 Promo Reel, The Joe Spinell Story, MANIAC Publicity, MANIAC Controversy, Collectable Booklet with new essay by author Michael Gingold, and once again the bonus CD of  the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Jay Chattaway!!

MANIAC is without a doubt one of the greatest horror films to come out of the 1980’s! It’s a sureal nightmare come to life that tackles serveral social issues pertaining to the decade of excess, while satisfying the ravenous blood and gore that horror fans were clamoring for! Lustig and the late Spinell created a bona fide horror classic that is still as schocking now as it was when it was first released! Now thanks to Lustig’s Blue Undergound outstanding restoration, the movie will forever live on for future generations of horror fanatics! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

MANIAC is a available in a 3-Disc Limited Edition with a lenticular slipcover from Blue Underground. To purchase a copy, please visit their website at

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the screaming!