Blu-ray Review: ‘A Virgin Among the Living Dead’ (1973)


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I may be coming around to Jess Franco. My experiences with the director have been limited to his entries in Kino’s Redemption series of Euro-horror Blu-rays, and the first batch (Oasis of the Zombies, Female Vampire, Exorcism) were tired, dull little numbers, far more cheap than artful. Now with The Awful Dr. Orlof and A Virgin Among the Living Dead arriving on Blu, I can finally start to see what Franco’s appeal is all about. The disc for A Virgin Among the Living Dead is an interesting case, as it presents two different versions of the same film. Franco’s cut is Christina, Princess of Eroticism and the title version, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, is that same film with added zombie footage shot by Franco’s friend, director Jean Rollin.

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Awful Dr. Orlof’ (1962)


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After giving Jess Franco films a fair shake and coming to the conclusion that they just weren’t for me, along comes The Awful Dr. Orlof on Blu-ray to make me reconsider dismissing a body of work based on the half-dozen titles I’d seen previous to this one. Hey, The Awful Dr. Orlof is pretty good! Many of the Franco films I had seen were amateurish schlock, with extended stretches of lazily photographed nudity framed with the barest outline of anything you could call a plot. I didn’t get the impression Franco was much interested in these films either. They felt like junk to turn a quick buck, not misunderstood mini-masterpieces of intentional erotic horror. In the special features on the disc, we find that Franco had seen a cinematic passion project stall out for being too political, and, inspired by Hammer’s Brides of Dracula, Franco directed his energies toward producing something that could compete with the chillers of the time. The result was Spain’s first horror film, The Awful Dr. Orlof.

Blu-ray Reviews: ‘The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine’ & ‘Cold Eyes of Fear’ Arrive in High-Def


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I’m woefully ignorant of nunsploitation films, and The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine (available now on Blu-ray) ended up being my first dip into the unholy waters of the genre. Here’s what I expected from it: nudity, sacrilege, torture, and lesbians. And wouldn’t you know? The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine has all of those things (though light on sacrilege)! Surprisingly, it doesn’t have any one of those elements in excess, and it surprised me most as being a capable romantic adventure, light on sleaze…well, relatively speaking.

Blu-ray Review: The Grapes of Death (1978)


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dFJlhHCHere’s one for zombie completists – Jean Rollin’s The Grapes of Death aka Les Raisins de la Mort, so much better at being a zombie movie than his actual zombie movie Zombie Lake (reviewed here). Some bad, bad grapes are producing some bad, bad wine, making anyone who drinks it into a rapidly-decaying murderous psychopath. Elisabeth (Marie-Georges Pascal) gets on the wrong train at the wrong time and finds herself stranded in the French countryside, defending herself against wine-crazed villagers. It’s simple, and for Jean Rollin, certainly more on the accessible side than many of his dreamy, sexed-up, cheapie chillers.

I can’t help but think it has some subtext too, just going off of French stereotypes as a people obsessed with wine. I don’t know how regularly Rollin drank, but a strong case could be made that The Grapes of Death has a message about how drinking to excess transforms us into monsters. In a country where table wine is as ubiquitous as water, The Grapes of Death may have had more meaning and weight than its lurid monster movie approach would suggest. As an American, I can only guess at it, without providing any deeper thoughts than, “Huh. That’s interesting.”

Blu-ray review: ‘White Zombie’ (1932)


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I assume that anyone reading a White Zombie Blu-ray review in 2013 is asking themselves one question, whether they’ve seen the film or not, “is White Zombie worth owning on Blu-ray?” The scrappy film has survived the ages through public domain proliferation and for providing the name for the band that made Rob Zombie famous. It has almost never looked or sounded good in the years since its release, so the job falls to Kino Classics to make White Zombie a relevant purchase when you could just as easily nab a crappy DVD version for a few bucks or stream it on YouTube for free.

Blu-ray Reviews: Redemption Presents the Original ‘Burke & Hare’ and Cushing in ‘The Blood Beast Terror’


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It’s a good time to be a Blu-ray collectin’ horror fan. Almost all of the classics of modern horror have gotten solid high-def releases, while classics and curiosities continue to get released in a steady stream that reminds me of the heyday of DVD and companies like Anchor Bay. Kino-Lorber has really stepped up their game with the Redemption line, which I’ve praised before, most recently with the release of the forgotten Marquis De Sade adaptation Justine. The movies are unusual, the special features are robust when offered, and the picture quality of these films is taken from the best possible sources (some fare better than others).

There’s not a real unifying element in the Redemption line, other than the films’ European origins, and I appreciate their grab bag nature. Eight of the fourteen current releases are Jean Rollin films, but there’s also trash like The Virgin Witch and underrated chillers like The Asphyx. Burke and Hare (1972) and The Blood Beast Terror (1968) have only a director in common, Vernon Sewell, but they still feel right at home with the Redemption branding. Both have been forgotten by time, and both are worth viewing by curious horror fans.

‘Virgin Witch’ Blu-ray Review: Banned in the UK, Now Banned in My Living Room


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"SHE FANCIES BIRDS!"For a little while, I was fascinated by Mill Creek Entertainment’s 12-in-1 DVD horror sets. The movies were, by and large, pretty terrible, but every now and then, you’d come across one that had just enough production value and narrative interest to compel you to actually finish it. Those watchable films were rare. If you know what I’m talking about, then you’ll understand when I say that Virgin Witch is like one of the better movies in a Mill Creek set. Which is to say, it’s terrible.

Real-life sisters Ann Michelle and Vicki Michelle play a couple of wannabe models who fall under the spell of a lesbian modeling agent and are quickly seduced into her coven of witches. One of the sisters is especially attractive to the witches, her being a virgin and them needing a virgin for their ritual, but they don’t count on her burgeoning psychic powers to throw a kink into their plans.




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