Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Episode 6: Video Violence (1987)

Ten years ago, I doubt anyone would’ve seen it coming, but the VHS resurgence is here, here to stay, and attracting fans from all corners of the United States. Thanks to recent documentaries like Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking, disciples of the clamshell have had the opportunity to share their passion (and obsession) with the masses, as cameras follow them to flea markets, conventions, and dusty basements. Steadfast and eternally vigilant, these hardcore fans spend every spare moment on an endless search for obscure titles to expand their already extensive collections.

So inspired by this undying love for all things VHS, whether it’s big box, slip case, or (God forbid) cut box clamshell, I knew there was only one film (and I use the term loosely in this case) to help in the celebration of a bygone, yet still highly regarded era: Gary Cohen’s 1987 SOV opus Video Violence.

I discovered this one, paired with its painfully unwatchable sequel, on Netflix just under ten years ago. By then, video rental stores, especially those independently run mom and pops, started dropping off like flies. I’d spent the previous summer nursing a broken heart, as my my favorite indie rental shop closed its doors for the final time. Video Violence, as I came to find, was the perfect movie to bring fans back to a time when there was one of these stores on every corner and there was always something wonderfully sleazy to be found on those dusty shelves.

I watched with glee as the story followed a hapless video shop owner who gets mixed up in a small town murder conspiracy documented on VHS. The scenes that took place in the video store left me more than a little nostalgic and I longed for a time when I could walk the two blocks to my neighborhood video store and scour the aisles for some undiscovered gem.

Granted, I went into this commentary with every intention of discussing the movie, but somehow, that got pushed aside and I spent most of the 100 minute running time sharing stories about my favorite mom and pop and how it became such a huge part of my formative years in South Philly. I tend to sift through my memory banks for long lost anecdotes during all of the commentaries I’ve recorded thus far, but this one really took me back. It seemed that each time the camera panned a line of video boxes, or an unlabeled VHS was shoved into the open mouth of a VCR, I had a new story to tell. Whether it’s neighborhood kids defecating in the porno section (yes, that really happened) or my experiences briefly working for Blockbuster, there’s an endless trove of memories shared and I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Episode 5: Kolobos (1999)

It’s hard to imagine a time when reality television wasn’t dominating every network, but in the 1990s, these shows were few and far between.  Talk shows like Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, and Jerry Springer were in abundance.  Court TV, up until “The Trial of the Century,” was hanging by a thread.  The only way to catch a glimpse into the lives of strangers was with The Real World and, towards the end of the decade, The Osbournes.  It was still quite a while before you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing one or more of the Kardashians.  I wish I’d appreciated that time a little more.

In 1999, directors Daniel Liatowitsch and David Todd Ocvirk collaborated on an incredibly dark experiment in raw brutality that was very much ahead of its time: Kolobos.  Much like The Real World, the plot involves a group of strangers who’ve agreed to have their lives videotaped for the purpose of a groundbreaking documentary.  Unfortunately, all fun and games come to an abrupt halt when the cast discovers that the enormous house is sealed off, booby trapped, and a hideously scarred maniac wielding a straight razor is roaming the corridors.

With a story that pulls the viewer in from the very first frame and some pretty realistic special effects, this little-known gem should be a slasher staple.  Sadly, as many of my genre favorites have, Kolobos slipped into obscurity some time in the mid ‘00s (before that, there were many who compared the film to Marc Evans’s My Little Eye, a far less satisfying film with a very similar plot that came three years later).

Admittedly, I’ve been scouring the Internet for years in hopes of a special edition or perhaps Blu ray release of the film, but so far, no dice.  The American DVD released by York Entertainment is essentially bare bones, containing nothing more than a trailer and some bios.  I’d love to hear a commentary track by the directors and maybe see some interviews with the cast and crew.  Perhaps one day.  But for now, let the mutilation begin! 

“Wanted: freeloaders. Artist seeks five progressive-minded individuals for groundbreaking experimental film. Participants will share free lodging in a fully furnished home in the Mount Olympus resorts. If you’re willing to laugh, cry, love, hate, befriend, betray, and confess it all on VHS, I want you.” 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Episode 4: Hard to Die (1990)

Hello and welcome back to Brandon Ford’s B-Movie Bonanza!

Summer may be coming to a close, but I’ve got something that’ll surely keep you warm and tingly: 90 minutes with everyone’s favorite plaid flannel-sporting, raw meat-devouring, shower-spying pervo, Orville Ketchum, in Jim Wynorski’s classic tale of machine gun-toting babes trapped in a tower of terror!

Hard to Die, released to video approximately two years after its 1990 production, is an obvious spin-off of Wynorski’s previous effort, Sorority House Massacre II, though some recognize it as a direct sequel. This notion has always been downright nonsensical to me, seeing as how, well, there’s nary a college campus or sorority house to be found. Nevertheless, with its returning characters/actors and comparable premise, there is an inarguable connection.

As with previous films, Hard to Die was released in more than one edition: the original New Horizons VHS, which runs approximately 75 minutes, and the Concorde DVD, which runs approximately 84 minutes (this version also aired on Australian television in the early ‘90s). Both versions are long out of print, but I’m hoping a few of you managed to nab a copy of the DVD version, which is what I chose as my commentary’s source.

So, slip into your favorite plaid flannel, fix yourself up a big bowl of steak tartare, and for God’s sake, avoid any mysterious parcels! 


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Episode 3: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Welcome back, campers! Hope you’ve practiced your tuck-in, because it’s time to revisit everyone’s favorite chick with a dick!

As I’m sure any hardcore gorehound would agree, Sleepaway Camp has been a cult classic and slasher essential for more than 30 years. So, I wanted to do something special for this commentary track. Or at least the presentation of it.

A few years back, I bought a really nifty (yes, I just said “nifty”) Camp Arawak shirt online and had this awesome idea to snap a photo of myself wearing it for this post.

And that’s not all.

I’d planned on donning a backpack, an overstuffed duffel bag within my clenched fist, to play off like I was on my way to camp. Even planned on standing in front of the stairs (a la Ricky and Angela) and including something cheesy as hell, like “Just gave Aunt Martha a good-bye kiss and now I’m on my way to Camp Arawak!” in the text.

One little snag, though. My standard issue camp shirt is nowhere to be found. I’ve spent the past week turning my house upside down, but can’t find it anywhere. As one can imagine, I’m more than a little disappointed and dismayed. But that’s all water under the bridge, as I always say. Water under the bridge.

The show will go on!

In this commentary, I go into detail about my first experiences with the film, as well as the difficult time I had tracking down a copy after the original Media VHS had gone out of print. I really enjoyed taking this trip down memory lane and hope you guys will enjoy this fanboy’s experiences with one of the best slasher films of its era.

One very important thing I feel I must mention (even though it’s clearly stated in the actual commentary): I used the original Anchor Bay DVD edition as a source, despite its trims and cuts. It was a decision I definitely wrestled with and though it would’ve appeased more than a few fans to listen to the track while watching Scream Factory’s awesome new and uncut Blu ray, I thought I might be limiting my listening audience, since this edition has only been out for a few months and the first Anchor Bay release was fifteen years ago. So, I figured many, many more people would have had time to pick this one up.

Well, what are you waiting for?! Grab your shorty shorts, massive cowboy hat, and remember to only pack the essentials! We’re going back to Camp Awawak!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Episode 2: The Toolbox Murders (1978)

Hello and welcome back to Brandon’s B-Movie Bonanza! Boy, have I got a doozey for you guys: the original ‘70s grindhouse classic The Toolbox Murders! This one is another in my long list of favorites, namely because it’s one of the best sleazy exploitation flicks of its era and because I have a pretty cool story about meeting producer Tony Didio (who turned out to be a heck of a nice guy).

As a source, I used Blue Underground’s Blu ray edition of the movie, but I’m sure their original DVD release will work just as well. To help ensure we’re timed perfectly, it would probably be in your best interest to start the commentary track at the very moment your screen turns black. Not everyone’s players start discs at the exact same moment, so this little trick should be the best way to be certain we’re seeing the same thing at the same time. I have yet to make that leap into streaming video (I don’t even do Netflix, can you believe it?), so unfortunately, I have no tricks to share with you on that front. For the time being, I think I’ll remain an old-fashioned guy.

Isn’t it insane that we live in an era where watching DVDs and Blu rays has become something of a bygone pastime?! Wow.

So, what are you waiting for? Kick back with some extra buttery popcorn and a big glass of Coke (anyone who says “I drink Pepsi” gets the business end of a claw hammer to the taint). It’s time to enjoy the sleazy goodness that is The Toolbox Murders!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Episode 1: Slumber Party Massacre III (1990)

Hello and welcome to Brandon’s B-Movie Bonanza! I’ve been a longtime fan of horror and cult film, not to mention DVD commentary tracks, so I figured it might be fun to record my own commentary tracks for some of my favorites! This is not meant to be an MST3K or Riff Trax-style endeavor, where I spend 90 minutes cracking lame jokes and poking fun at everything on-screen. This is purely a fan sharing stories about how he came to discover these films, as well as bits of trivia here and there. I do, of course, discuss the story and actors involved, but mostly, I wanted to do this so I could share how these movies touched my life and became such a tremendous part of my formative years. I had nothing to do with the actual making of these movies, so I don’t think it’s necessarily my place to go into detail about their productions (although I’ll definitely toss in a few interesting anecdotes here and there).

For my very first episode, I couldn’t think of a better movie than Slumber Party Massacre III. Not only is it my favorite horror movie of all time, but it’s my favorite movie of all time. Period. What does that say about my taste in film? A lot, thank you very much.

This movie has been a huge part of my life since the first time I saw it way back in the mid ‘90s. In the commentary track, I share stories about how hard it was to track the movie down on VHS, my shock and awe when I discovered there were not one, but two versions of the film (and later, three), and through it, how I discovered one of my favorite leading ladies of the B-film industry, Maria Ford (no relation). So, grab yourself a nice big bowl of popcorn and kick back in your favorite chair. It’s time to watch Slumber Party Massacre III with one of the film’s biggest fans!

Please Note: Seeing as how there are three versions of the film available (a 75 minute R-rated cut, an 80 minute unrated version, and an 87 minute DVD edition), you may find yourself left in the dark if you’re not watching the same cut of the movie I am. For this commentary track, I watched the version included in the Shout! Factory Slumber Party Massacre triple feature, which runs 87:10. This is the ideal version to listen to the commentary with. However, if you have the old Concorde DVD, released way back in 2000, which also runs 87 minuts, that should work fine, too. If you stream the movie on Netflix or any other website, please make sure the 87 minute cut is the version you’ve selected. It has been brought to my attention that the 75 minute R-rated edition has been uploaded to YouTube. This version will not gel with my commentary.