Tangerine Dream on DVD, plus more soundtracks

A rare concert performance makes its debut on DVD from Respect Records / MVD Visual. Directed by Tony Palmer, Tangerine Dream: Live at Coventry Cathedral is a montage of footage from the 1975 concert where the trio – Edgar Froese, Christopher Frank, and Peter Baumann – performed material from their Richochet album. With the exception of Palmer’s own website, this title is barely acknowledged online, and doesn’t even appear in the director’s IMDB filmography.

Also newly reviewed are a trio of soundtracks:

- Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) from La-La Land Records, featuring the bulk of Kevin Manthei’s fun score to the new feature-length film that has Earth (us) threatened by a slimy ship sprouting all manor of dino-like lizards.

- Polizia accusa: il servizio segreto uccide, La / Silent Action (1975), Luciano Michelini’s groovy police thriller score, rescued from oblivion by Italy’s DigitMovies, with multo bonus tracks.

- And Preparati la bara! / Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968), Gianfranco and Gian Piero Reverberi’s score to the second legit Django film, also from DigitMovies.

Coming next: Samuel Bronston’s Fall of the Roman Empire.

And imminent: The Booze Cruise (aka Cheers and Tears) trilogy.


Visit KQEK.com’s Main Page HERE!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews

Rebels, Mavericks, Naughtiness, and Deep Dark Celluloid Secrets

Just uploaded is a quartet of reviews on filmmakers, British bawdiness, and a dark Hollywood secret:

- Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered (2008) is an affectionate tribute to the infamous filmmaker by Mike Baronas, who asked almost 90 actors, technicians, and colleagues ‘What is your fondest memory of Fulci?’ The responses are much broader than expected, and not everyone has nice things to say about a director known for pioneering superior gore films like Zombie, and took painful eye trauma to new heights.

- Gary Leva’s Fog City Mavericks (Anchor Bay / Starz Home Entertainment) profiles three generations of independent-minded filmmakers who settled in and around San Francisco, and adore the city’s lifestyle and long distance from smoggy L.A.

- Shepperton Babylon (2005) is still unavailable on home video, but this BBC Four doc provides a fun, seriously lurid profile of Britain’s esteemed studio which flourished after talking pictures made stars of some unique and unexpected performers. Directed by Ben McPherson, written by Matthew Sweet, and narrated by the inimitable Charlie Higson, one gets some history factoids, but it’s really the smut that makes the doc such a fun, guilt-free ride.

- David Stenn’s decision to include himself in his documentary about a long-buried rape case from 1937 may seem to some like an act of supreme ego gratification, but he was the researcher who stumbled upon the case of Patricia Douglas, a dancer who launched a human rights case against MGM when she was raped at a salesman convention. If you can accept Stenn as director, writer, host, co-star, and historian, then Girl 27 (Westlake Entertainment) is a chilling snapshot of what young girls had to fear when the old studio system groomed banks of talent for stardom, and a few scumbags could do dastardly deeds with impunity.

Coming next: Tangerine Dream: Live at Coventry Cathedral on DVD, plus more soundtrack reviews.

And imminent: Samuel Bronston’s Fall of the Roman Empire.


Visit KQEK.com’s Main Page HERE!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews

Ralph Carmichael's The Blob (and other upcoming creepy sounds)

It’s only when I had watched the original 1958 production of The Blob a few more times that I started to notice, ‘Hey, whoever wrote the orchestral score was pretty damn good,’ and subsequently discovered Ralph Carmichael’s filmography was surprisingly short: besides The Blob, Carmichael scored a neat little sci-fi thriller, 4D Man (1959), and then kind of disappeared.

Sort of.

In the second of our interview with Monstrous Movie Music’s David Schecter, we discuss Carmichael’s score, and some of the key factors that motivated the composer to pioneer a new kind of contemporary music.

As a bonus, we’ve added DVD reviews of Criterion’s SE of The Blob, plus 4D Man from Image (BADLY in need of a special edition, a new transfer, and while I'm at it, someone to commercially release Carmichael’s wicked jazz score), and because it exists (which isn’t a good thing), Image's Beware! The Blob / Son of the Blob (1972), the comedic but painfully unfunny sequel to The Blob, directed by, uhm, Larry Hagman.


Visit KQEK.com’s Main Page HERE!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews

Giallo Film Scores

I think it was Royal S. Brown who wrote in his anthology of soundtrack reviews, Film Musings, that the ideal way to assess a score isn’t just by listening to the soundtrack album, but also to watch the film and get a feel for how the score works or doesn’t, and then assess the album as both a standalone work and how it functions in the film.

Of course, all kinds of factors determine not only a score’s direction during the scoring stage, but also when it’s being edited into the film, and how it’s treated in the final soundtrack mix.

Sweden’s Fin de Siecle Media released a pair of giallo soundtracks back in 2007, and although I covered the scores for Rue Morgue magazine a while back, I felt it was worth not only revisiting each score, but to track down the films and get a feel for how the music was applied in each.

In the case of Bruno Maderna’s Death Laid an Egg / La morte ha fatto l'uovo (1968), as an album, it’s probably one of the most bizarre listening experiences one can have. Part Brazilian samba, part avant-garde, at times it sounds like a headless chicken running all over the piano keys, which is actually fine for the film, given director Giulio Questi chose to transcend the giallo format by seemingly shoving it into a blender with crack cocaine, and after a good mulch, reconstituting the elements into something quite different.

As an editing exercise, Death Laid an Egg is brilliant; as a giallo, it’s a head trip that may well become more accessible as we continue to be exposed to wild editing and narrative styles that no longer follow the blah master shot-medium shot-close up filmmaking style of longtimeago.

So in addition to reviewing the CD, we’ve also got a DVD review, after tracking down a rare Japanese release that featured a lovely widescreen transfer of the film. Of course, the damned thing is out of print, and one hopes the film will not only find a home with a caring DVD label, but will be given the deluxe treatment, since Questi is still alive and I’m sure would love to explain what the hell he was trying to do. (I sure would.)

Fin de Siecle’s other giallo is Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile / aka So Sweet, So Dead (1972), composed by Giorgio Gaslini. The CD’s in gorgeous stereo with several alternate and previously unreleased cues, and features one of Gaslini’s most exquisite title themes (naturally sung by Edda Dell-Orso). It’s not one of his best scores, but like Poland’s Christopher Komeda, Gaslini was a seriously gifted pianist and composer who’s in need for a major rediscovery. His modern jazz writing is sublime, and although his scores aren’t inherently jazzy, they do sparkle with the finesse of a musician who knows his craft to a T.

Rivelazioni the film, unfortunately, is not so sublime. It’s a mean, morally repulsive giallo made by a hack with a finale that doesn’t really condemn the killer’s actions, nor the demise of an unexpected character. The acting is poor, the direction is master shot-medium shot-close up blah, and director Roberto Bianchi Montero has no idea how to craft a good scare, let alone get visuals that transcend the material.

Alongside our CD review, we have a film review of Rivelazioni, which does deserve a proper DVD for two reasons: it’s a valid giallo that mandates further scrutiny, and the basic story could be remade into a more thought provoking thriller if the writer and filmmaker attack the misogyny with intelligence. Maybe it’s a no-win situation, but one wonders if Giulio Questi would’ve turned the script into an assault on contemptible male behaviour.

Or maybe he too would’ve played it safe, and just focused on lots of boobies.

Coming next is our interview with David Schecter on Ralph Carmichael’s The Blob, and new soundtracks from MovieScore Media and Aleph Records.


Visit KQEK.com’s Main Page HERE!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews

To Mars and Beyond

Witness the chubby atomic bulletGlenn Erickson’s DVD Savant is one of my favourite sites because its witty author mixes a great blend of knowledge, experience, and candid excitement for films that blew his mind at some point, and never left his consciousness. His writing’s engrossing, and he often covers classic and cult flicks that have fallen below the radar, or were simply neglected and kicked around like ugly coal before someone cared enough and fought hard to bring them to DVD.

Way back on February 18th, Erickson mentioned a wacky plan by the U.S. Army to send a ship to Mars and beyond using nuclear bombs. The projected, dubbed Orion, involved a brilliant theoretical mathematician named Freeman Dyson, and the declassified details were subsequently covered in a book by son George Dyson, “Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship.”

Savant provided a link to a lecture given by author Dyson, and some of the posted comments by readers mentioned a BBC documentary that soon followed Dyson’s book.

Made in 2003, the doc includes numerous interviews with former project members, both Dyson men, clips from surviving test footage of the small-scale ship that worked (sort of), plus the late Arthur C. Clarke providing a 2001/Stanley Kubrick anecdote. Naturally, the doc’s filmmakers make superb use of Gayanne’s Ballet Suite (Adagio).

We’ve tracked down a copy of the doc, and have a review of To Mars by A-Bomb: The Secret History of Project Orion (2003). It’s funny, shocking, and deserves its own DVD release. Hard to say whether Kubrick would’ve found the declassified details worthy of sharp satire.

A few years later, director Scott J. Gill directed The Mars Underground (2005), and the incisive doc about Robert Zubrin and his Mars Direct Project – sending a team to land, live, and colonize Mars using a more economically feasible plan – made the rounds on European Discovery Channels. It seemed to take a few years before Gill’s doc was broadcast in North America, and when Canada’s CBC Newsworld aired a slightly edited version of the doc (weirdly broadcast in mono) in March of 2008, the chance to catch it couldn’t be missed.

Back in 2006, we interviewed composer James Michael Dooley about his score, and you can read further details HERE. There’s also a CD of Dooley’s Glassian score available HERE.

Coming next: more soundtrack reviews, plus the second of our three-part interview with Monstrous Movie Music’s David Schecter, this time discussing Ralph Carmichael’s music for The Blob.

And thereafter: a series of documentaries on filmmakers, including Lucio Fulci Remembered, from newcomer Paura Productions, plus Disc 2 of Facets’ Free Cinema collection!


Visit KQEK.com’s Main Page HERE!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews

“Is it safe?”

There are only 2 reasons to watch P2.“Thriller” is probably the loosest genre term around because it coexists with horror films (monster, serial killer, psycho), and suspense films with a ‘thrilling’ element; it could be as simple as a courtroom suspenser with a detective’s investigation unearthing strange ties to occult killings, or a family trapped at home while two rich lunatics play psychological and physical games of torment on their victims before knocking them off like flies.

Does a thriller need blood and guts? Not necessarily, but it should contain aspects designed to make an audience squirm a bit, yet feel the need to hang on because the characters and their situations are so intense one has to stick to the very end to find out who lives, who dies, who escapes, who’s arrested, and who gets blown to bits because they damned well deserve it for being so nasty.

That opens the door for conventions, and some are mandatory for the success of a thriller film; if too many are stripped away, reconfigured beyond recognition, or warped in a fashion that shows auteurial contempt towards audiences, the whole exercise could backfire and alienate the actual film and its maker from mainstream and fan viewers, or conversely, elevate the uppity snot into a celebrated auteur whose experimentalism is to be lauded and encouraged.

This weekend we uploaded a quartet of films that deal with people being tormented, but hey, none involve a movie built around the ongoing physical ruin of a person. Well, not quite.

Jack Ketchum’s The Lost (2005) is enjoying a deserved renaissance as Anchor Bay and Starz Home Entertainment give the film a theatrical reissue and a home video debut. Written and directed by Chris Sivertson, The Lost follows a kooky narcissist, Ray Pye, and his pair of long-suffering friends four years after Ray shoots and kills two women like hunting targets. The local beat cop is determined to pin the murders on Pye, and gradually Ray loses control of his idyllic life and explodes in a fit of rage, creating his own Manson-like bloodbath of revenge.

Both the opening girl hunt and finale are violent and graphic, but that’s not what the film is about nor should it be its claim to fame: The Lost deals with self-destructive characters, co-dependent relationships, and the personal activities and relationships various characters are involved in to offset the doses of boredom that are inherent in daily life. Whether it’s fast sex, drugs, murder, lying, or mental cruelty, they’re escapes for several characters, which in Ray’s case are necessary to keep him stable. Take one away, and he starts to lose his cool, his grounding, and eventually his mind.

Storm Warning (2007) offers up two lost vacationers tormented by a trio of island recluses in Australia. The married couple know they’re going to die slowly, so they need to save themselves before rape and torture happen. Written by Everett De Roche (Dark Forces, Patrick, Road Games) and directed/scored/co-edited by Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend), it’s an above-average B-movie that fuses exploitation conventions from nasty seventies thrillers with more contemporary sadism, yet with a bit more psychological depth.

The two victims aren’t all that bright, but as a revenge film goes, it makes some interesting choices and serves up effective trauma, with the wife basically saving her wounded husband and herself from three misogynistic pot growers and their massive Rottie. The filmmakers follow the thriller formula and deliver the violence and brutality fans expect.

Denying audiences gore, and treating a reconfigured thriller as an intellectual experiment of deliberate audience torture is what Michael Haneke’s original 1997 version of Funny Games (Kino) is all about. You see nothing except the effects on the family as two very polite monsters ease their way into the lives of a wealthy family vacationing at their lakeside cottage.

Is it horrific? Dull? Inane? An arrogant exercise showing the filmmaker’s contempt for mainstream audiences? Or a game Haneke offers towards us, inviting us in the games which, just like the family, they can seemingly walk away from early on if they follow the rules. Or maybe not.

Haneke’s 2007 remake with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts seemed to have garnered mixed reviews, and his decision to do a shot-for-shot remake of his own film kind of recalls Gus Van Sant’s 1998 colour version of Psycho; it’s an experiment, but rather pointless since it offers nothing new beyond a contemporary cast, and Dolby 5.1 sound.

On the other hand, when conventions are scribbled down and hastily packed into a generic thriller, the results are sub-par; when the writers don’t think things through, characters do stoopidt things, and the film becomes a work of inanity, audiences are then dragged along, vainly hoping something of note will transcend a work of sheer laziness.

P2 (Seville Canada) has gore, but beyond bits of violence and gratuitous boobery, there’s no other guilty reason to enjoy Franck Khalfoun’s dull attempt at psychological terror (or is it “a new level in terror”). A person trapped in an urban structure isn’t new, but if it’s immediately apparent the killer is a moron, the movie deflates and sputters.

Haneke’s views on writing an effective thriller are quite correct: if you impart your own intelligence (assuming you’re a bright bulb) towards your characters, they become memorable, plausible, and terrifying; that’s what makes the two sociopaths in Funny Games so frightening.

Ketchum’s obsessions with loss and guilt are readily apparent in The Lost, but he also recognizes there are consequences for acts of cruelty: the toll of guilt affects Ray’s friends, and the loss of order within Ray’s world mandates his breakdown. When he goes nutso, we know why, and discreetly sympathize a bit.

Each of the four thrillers takes creative risks – even P2 tries to stretch the suspense within the physical confines of a parking garage – but only one, The Lost, really succeeds in delivering the goods without audience contempt, filmmaker stupidity, or adhering too closely to genre conventions.

Coming next: Traveling to Mars in a nuclear powered chubby bullet.



Visit KQEK.com’s Main Page HERE!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews
Copyright © mondomark