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Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

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Jul 15, 2013, 5:0 AM

Amir Shervan's 1989 film SAMURAI COP is one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies I have ever seen.  A shameless rip-off of "buddy-buddy" cop movies that proliferated in the 1980's, SAMURAI COP begins with the requisite artificial pop music of the era (courtesy of Alen Dermarderossian) with white opening credits set against a black background (a telltale sign of a low-budget film if there ever was one) and gives way to a man named Okamura (Gerald Okamura) complaining that his Los Angeles gang is not yet established, and that they should therefore make friends with the Chinese and Japanese gangs. Most of his dialogue is indecipherable. 

Krista Lane, the eye candy who is part of the gang, says things like, "Here comes the boss!" or "The boss is coming."  Robert Z'Dar, best known for the MANIAC COP films, is an imposing guy who does the boss's dirty work.  They get into a fight with a gang they want to do business with after being rebuffed and several people are killed. 

Enter black and white cop team Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) and Joe Marshall (Matt Hanon), the low-budget answer to Murtaugh and Riggs from LETHAL WEAPON (1987).  

Marshall is a samurai expert (really?!) who looks completely ridiculous with a full head of long hair and runs around the place looking completely bug-eyed wearing a variety of ill-fitting hats.  He looks like he fell off the cover of a romance novel.  They spout some of the most quotable, ludicrously awful dialogue I've heard in a long time and enlist the help of another cop, Peggy (Melissa Moore of 1990's SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II), in following the culprits.  As a thank you, Marshall beds her in an amazingly boring and mechanical sex scene. 

The cops have run-ins with the Katana Gang in a laugh-out-loud sequence in a restaurant whey they threaten the boss.  Marshall takes to Jennifer, the young attractive owner of the joint, but we're not sure if he really likes her or just wants to get more information.  There's a completely asinine scene involving an effeminate waiter who looks like he fell out of an early Dario Argento thriller.  It is followed up by a samurai fight and Marshall goes all out with Washington pulling and Indiana Jones on a henchman, the former performing an extemporaneous arm amputation. 

The film is a time capsule of music, wardrobe, and hairstyles from nearly a quarter-century ago.  There is full frontal female nudity, three sad attempts at sex scenes, and one of the funniest car chases I have ever seen.  T.J. HOOKER possessed more excitement than this.  Most of the dialogue is either looped or suffers from poor room tone when using on-set sound.  Dale Cummings plays their loudmouth police captain, constantly yelling at the cops to bring him results.  One of the funniest scenes takes place in his office as he threatens to send Marshall back to where he came from.     

Despite the best efforts of cinematographer Peter Palian who shoots much of the action in masters, the film lacks a visual style.  Onscreen excitement is nowhere to be found, but all of these drawbacks add considerably to the film's overall charm.  I wish that the bulk of movies made today were one-tenth as entertaining SAMURAI COP turns out to be.

The film has been transferred from the original 35mm film negative and the image is crystal clear. While not digitally restored, this is unquestionably the best the film is probably ever going to look.

The extras that the disc comes with include:

An interview with actor Robert Z'Dar conducted over Skype which runs 25 minutes.   The image quality is poor, however Douglas Dunning, the interviewer, and the actor are both understandable.  Mr. Z'Dar talks about how he got into the business and came to meet the late director Amir Shervan with whom he made three films (HOLLYWOOD COP (1987) and KILLING AMERICAN STYLE (1990) in addition to this one).  Director, Amir Shervan intended SAMURAI COP to be a straightforward action film.  It took three weeks to shoot on a budget of approximately $800,000.00. 

An interview with actor and fight co-ordinator Gerald Okamura which runs 20 minutes.  He discusses his time working with David Carradine on KUNG-FU and with John Carpenter on BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986) and ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996), in addition to SAMURAI COP. 

An interview with cinematographer Peter Palian who talks extensively about his career in the business runs 27 minutes. 

There are also stills galleries and an amusing fan trailer for the film. 

Click here to order the new special edition DVD from 


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DVD and Blu-ray Combo Review: SWAMP THING
Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

Source: Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

Jul 9, 2013, 7:0 AM

Can you believe that it has been 31 years since Wes Craven's SWAMP THING made its way into theaters? I can't, and I didn't even see the film during its initial theatrical RUN. In fact, I didn't even see the film until I watched new Blu-ray.  I've been a fan of Wes Craven's since I saw THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) on a local television station in July 1984, however I was aware of his work when SWAMP THING was released. It was just one of those movies that I never got around to seeing for some reason, despite the fact that my friend kept saying "Cable!" all throughout my high school years.

As far as I know or can tell, SWAMP THING is one of the very few PG-rated movies in Mr. Craven's filmography.  It is most definitely a lot gentler than his previous work such as THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972).  It was made just a few years prior to his very own A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), the film that introduced us all to Nancy Thompson and the monster inside her head.  It will be released on August 6, 2013 on a DVD/Blu-ray combo by Scream Factory. 

SWAMP THING is a film version of the DC Comic that was created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the latter of whom is best known for CREEPSHOW (1982). It takes place in the Louisiana swamps (faked in South Carolina).  Alec and Linda Holland (Ray Wise and Nannette Brown) are brother and sister scientists who are working on an experiment that is designed to create a plant and animal hybrid that can withstand the extreme temperatures of various environments. The oddly-named Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) works for the government and visits the lab to see what the pair have discovered.  Suddenly, the henchmen of one sinister Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan), headed by the late David Hess, attempt to steal the scientists' formula.  Linda is killed suddenly, and Alec gets doused with the new concoction, erupts in flames and falls jumps into the swamp, only to emerge as the Swamp Thing who is then played by actor Dick Durock from this point on. 

Dr. Arcane believes that this serum will make him live forever, and he will stop at nothing to make sure that he gets his hands on the formula.  Alice begins to fall for Alec/Swamp Thing as she is eluding Dr. Arcane's machine gun-toting minions.  Mr. Hess plays the usual bullying crazy that he was so good at and the supporting cast that surrounds him is a terrific group of menaces.  Young Reggie Batts nearly steals the film as Judd, a ten year-old store proprietor who does everything he can to help Alice escape.

SWAMP THING was originally available on home video on multiple formats.  Although it made its DVD debut in 2000, the discs were pulled from the shelves when it was discovered that the DVD was sourced from the international print which ran 93 minutes in length and contained an additional two minutes of nudity that was not seen in the original 91-minute PG-rated 1982 domestic theatrical exhibition.  Someone got all bent out of shape over boobs, and so MGM reissued the movie on DVD in 2005 in its original version minus the nudity. It is this version that appears on both the new DVD and Blu-ray.

The transfer of the film is excellent; there are a few spots and very small scratches here and there but nothing to distract from your pleasure of watching the image. 

There are some really nice extras on the discs (which are presented equally on both formats). The movie contains two separate full-length commentaries. The first is with writer/director Wes Craven and it is moderated by Sean Clark who horror fans will know from his excellent Horrors Hallowed Grounds tours of horror film shooting locations.  Sean asks Mr. Craven lots of interesting and intelligent questions about the production and the people involved. 

The second commentary is with makeup effects artist William Munns, moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures.  This track is very interesting and insightful as Mr. Munns remembers a great deal about the making of the film.  He discusses having to wait a long time as the financing was secured, and even went to work on a film initially called Witch (later released as SUPERSTITION) in the interim.  He talks about fitting the suit to the actor, discusses how the makeup crew became the scapegoat when filming came to a crawl, some of the dangers of wearing the Swamp Thing suit, the stunts that needed to be done, and how he took over as Swamp Thing when Mr. Durock could no longer perform.    

The bonus features consist of:

"Tales from the Swamp" is an interview with Adrienne Barbeau.  The segment runs 16:56 and Ms. Barbeau is a delight to listen to. She recalls the time that she spent on the film and talks the long hours on the set while they were in South Carolina, and the challenging elements around them. The original script that was given to her by Wes Craven was far more audacious than what ended up on screen. Unfortunately, just as the film went before the cameras, the production company began to chip away the film's budget, necessitating constant rewriting during the course of shooting and many concessions needed to be made.

"Hey, Jude" is the name of the second segment, and this is a fun and entertaining interview with actor Reggie Batts who plays Jude (hence the name!).  It runs 14:30.  Mr. Batts explains how he got the role in the film and was a fan of DC comics. 

The last segment is titled "That Swamp Thing," and it's a look back with creator Len Wein who explains how he came up with the name for the creature, and how he got his start as an animator. The segment runs 13:19.

The original theatrical trailer is also included, and this is in excellent condition, not the usual scratch-ridden mess that we're used to seeing.

The photo galleries consist of posters and lobby cards; photos from the film; William Munn's behind-the-scenes photos; and behind-the-scenes photos by Geoffrey Rayle.

As an added bonus, the DVD/Blu-ray sleeve is reversible and has the French poster artwork under the title of LA CREATURE DU MARAIS, which translates to THE CREATURE OF THE SWAMP.   

Click here to order SWAMP THING on



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Film Review: ROOM 237

Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)       


Jonathan Stryker (Facebook)

May 6, 2013, 12:0 AM

ROOM 237

It's hard to believe that THE SHINING had its network television premiere thirty years ago tonight on ABC-TV. 

THE SHINING, released on May 23, 1980

THE SHINING, broadcasted on May 6, 1983

In that pre-home video era, if we didn't have access to cable television, most of us were only able to see horror films on local or network television channels, and those films were often watered down with heavy cuts both for gore and for time (many plot points simply disappeared in favor of commercials). 

There has been a lot of speculation in the years since THE SHINING was released as to what it is really all about.  ROOM 237 is the name of the in-depth documentary by Rodney Ascher.  In the film, five narrators give their points-of-view on Stanley Kubrick's initially disappointing yet subsequently revered 1980 film version of Stephen King's novel of the same name, and what it means to them. 

ROOM 237

As a die-hard fan of this film for the past thirty years, I must say that even though I have seen it easily more than fifty times I never noticed the props, visual references or subtexts that these five narrators diligently point out, nor was I even aware of the obvious continuity errors, such as the carpet that changes direction in the hallway or the chair against the wall disappearing during Jack Torrance's (Jack Nicholson) emotional outburst after his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) interrupts his writing.  An argument can be made that ROOM 237 isn't so much about THE SHINING's supposed hidden meanings than it is an explanation of five different people's of the film.  Among the subtexts: the strange layout of the Overlook Hotel; the significance of the number 42; the architectural impossibility of the window in Mr. Ullman's office; the silly sexual reference in Mr. Ullman's first handshake with Jack; the Minotaur motif; the references to the killing of Native Americans and even the Holocaust. 

ROOM 237

The director makes the choice of not showing the faces of the narrators, and this technique works to the film's advantage since so much of it is about pointing out what the narrators see.  Cross-cutting between the narrators and the points they want to make would have either reduced the film's running time or would have left most of the best points out altogether.  I can only hope that the forthcoming DVD will offer up some nice extras in the way of deleted scenes. 

Interestingly, ROOM 237 uses the framing device of Lamberto Bava's DEMONS (1985) and DEMONS 2: THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES (1986) (both of which are due out on Blu-ray from Synapse Films in the coming months) as footage of an audience viewing THE SHINING in a theater and on television, respectively, to make certain points.  Ideally, THE SHINING should be viewed in a movie theater, although realistically that is unfortunately not an option for most of us.  The home video revolution saved many a film from inevitable obscurity and this is where the majority of us Shining enthusiasts had the opportunity to see it and thrill to it to our heart's content. 

For screening information, take a look at the film's official website.  If the film is not playing near you, you can also see it On-Demand for roughly $7.00. 



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Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

Source: Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

May 3, 2013, 9:0 AM

THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD is the newest (and hopefully final) version of director Roy Frumkes's terrific behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) which was filmed on location while the movie was actually being shot.  The fun of watching the new cut of this film is to see the additional footage that Roy has taken in the years since 1978 when he and his crew spent a weekend on the set of Mr. Romero's revered zombie epic.   What this 16mm documentary illustrates quite clearly is the overall creative process that a director must experience, and it gets its point across to the average moviegoer who may not know how a movie is made.   

George Romero on the set of DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

The Monroeville Mall blanketed in snow, January 1978

Dawn went into production in October 1977 at the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania and lasted roughly six months.  Mr. Frumkes was given access to the mall set over a weekend in January of 1978 to follow Mr. Romero and the cast and crew around.  Most documentaries that appear on DVD and Blu-ray nowadays are nothing more than self-promotion pieces. THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD, on the other hand, actually takes you behind the scenes of the film and enlightens the viewer on the creative process, specifically the teamwork and the collaborative nature of the people working on the film.  Mr. Frumkes talks to Tom Savini, Michael Gornick, John Amplas, Richard Rubenstein, the cast of DAWN, and of course director Romero.  The documentary gives us a great look into his creative methods of filmmaking.  As shooting progressed, Dawn took on a comic bookish feel and there is an obvious lightening up of mood. Whereas Mr. Romero had a crew of about eight people on MARTIN (1977), Dawn has a cast and crew in the hundreds. The most fascinating part of the documentary, for myself anyway, is where Mr. Romero describes the rhythms created by editing and spatial design. Prior to his foray into feature filmmaking, Mr. Romero honed his editing skills by making many 30-second commercials.

Tom Savini on the set of DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

Roy Frunkes

After a discussion about the distribution of the film and leaving it unrated with a running time of just over two hours, the documentary switches gears to the 1989 summer filming of TWO EVIL EYES (1991). Mr. Romero discusses how he wants a family atmosphere on the set without any of the political Hollywood nonsense.  There is also a follow-up segment on LAND OF THE DEAD (2005) which focuses on Mr. Romero's daughter, Tina Romero, who discusses how she got involved in filmmaking.  Be warned: there is a trailer for a hard-core sex parody of NIGHT, and I'll let your imagination guess what the title of this film is!  While this trailer does not contain any overt sex, there is much nudity.

There is also footage of the Chiller Theater convention in 2005 which features a reunion of the cast of DAY OF THE DEAD, discussions with Greg Nicotero, Bill Lustig, and some of the cast and crew of DAWN. The final segments, all of which are shot on standard definition video, ends with Mr. Frumkes heading to the Toronto set of DIARY OF THE DEAD in the fall of 2006.  While these last few segments are nowhere near as incisive as the footage shot for Dawn, they still are relevant, fun to watch and make THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD a worthy addition to the libraries of Romero fans.

The documentary is available in two versions: as a single, stand-alone standard definition DVD with a newly-recorded commentary provided by Mr. Frunkes running 102 minutes that covers DAWN up to DIARY, and as a limited edition DVD/Blu-ray combo set that includes a standard definition DVD with the aforementioned extras, plus a Blu-ray of Mr. Frumkes's original, 1978 documentary DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD, which runs 66 minutes and was scanned in high definition from the 16mm master.  If you have a Blu-ray player, it is worth spending the extra cash to get the limited edition, which also contains a fold-out poster of Wes Benscoter's beautiful new cover art for the DVD and Blu-ray.  Have a look at this artist's website.  His work is excellent. 

Click here to order the DVD from

Click here to order the limited edition DVD/Blu-ray combo direct from Synapse Films.


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Mar 16, 2013, 9:59 AM

It would be impossible to discuss the horror genre and not bring up A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.  Arguably one of, if not the most notable horror franchise of the modern era this series of films has fascinated and entertained audiences for decades and until this release collectors had to kind of piece together a complete collection from various labels and sources.


Warner Brothers has taken care of that with this wonderful 5 disc, 7 film spanning Blu-ray collection of all the original Robert Englund starring films, the only missing Englund/Kruger work is Freddy vs. Jason.  Starting with the ground breaking Wes Craven game changer and ending with the his final installment in the franchise Wes Craven???s New Nightmare we are given a tour de force of all things Freddy.


The particular franchise, at least for this fan, has been an interesting journey.  Several of the installments are nothing short of groundbreaking pieces of work while others are a mere shell, almost comical, barely recognizable installments.  I???ll let you all figure out which ones are which.


At the end of this review I???ll post up the specs that list the individual films and all the special features included but needless to say, this is exhaustive collection.  The 7 films are crammed onto four discs with the fifth disc being reserved for a band new retrospective and a couple episodes of Freddy???s Nightmares, the short lived TV series.


While the films stand on their own merits, or lack there of, the true meat and potatoes and the reason to rush out and pick up this collection is that fifth disc.  The retrospective FEAR HIMSELF:  The Life and Crimes of Freddy Krueger is a wonderfully entertaining look at the films and all that went into bringing Freddy to us through the years.  Of late there has been a glut of NIGHTMARE related documentaries, most all quite excellent.  From NEVER SLEEP AGAIN to I AM NANCY they all have been wonderful, well made looks in the world of Freddy but FEAR HIMSELF focuses not so much on the world of Freddy, but Freddy himself.  It???s interesting to watch how even though the look and make-ups changed through the years, Englund never swayed from the persona he created and always remained true to the character even when the stories started to sway a little out of control.


The films all look great on Blu, I won???t get into the technical mumbo jumbo, just know they look and sound great and if you???re a horror fan, a Freddy fan or just a film fan you must own this collection.


Here???s all that technical mumbo jumbo, if you???re interested:


The collection includes Wes Craven's original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), as well as its six sequels: Freddy's Revenge (1985), Dream Warriors (1987), The Dream Master (1988), The Dream Child (1989), Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) and Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994). Every Elm Street film to date, except that is for producer Michael Bay and director Samuel Bayer's 2010 remake. Only the first three films are available for separate purchase on Blu-ray; the fourth through seventh entries have yet to receive standalone or double feature releases.

Each film features a DTS-HD Master Audio track and a number of special features. The set's fifth disc also includes a number of additional extras:

A Nightmare on Elm Street

    • Audio Commentary: Craven, DoP Jacques Haitkin, Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon
    • Audio Commentary: Assorted cast and crew
    • Never Sleep Again: 50-minute HD documentary
    • The House that Freddy Built: 23-minute HD documentary
    • Night Terrors
    • Focus Points
    • Alternate Endings
    • Fact Track

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

    • Heroes & Villains
    • Psycho Sexual Circus
    • The Male Witch
    • Freddy on 8th Street
    • Theatrical Trailer

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

    • Onward Christian Soldiers
    • Trading 8's
    • Snakes and Ladders
    • Burn Out
    • That's Showbiz
    • The House that Freddy Built
    • Fan Mail
    • Music Video
    • Theatrical Trailer

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

    • Krueger, Freddy Krueger
    • Hopeless Chest
    • Let's Make Up
    • The Finnish Line
    • Theatrical Trailer

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

    • Womb Raiders
    • The Sticky Floor
    • Hopkins Directs
    • Take the Stairs
    • A Slight Miscalculation
    • Music Videos
    • Theatrical Trailer

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

    • Rachel's Dream
    • 3D Demise
    • 86'd
    • Hell Raiser
    • Theatrical Trailer

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

    • Audio Commentary with Wes Craven
    • Becoming a Filmmaker
    • Craven Interview
    • The Problem with Sequels
    • An Insane Troupe
    • Two Worlds
    • Theatrical Trailer

Bonus Disc

    • Fear Himself - The Life and Crimes of Freddy Krueger: 30-minute retrospective
    • Two Freddy's Nightmares TV episodes
    • Conclusions: 20-minutes of interviews
    • Welcome to Prime Time: an additional 50-minutes of materials

To get your copy now CLICK HERE and head on over to the WBShop and they???ll be happy to get one in your hot, razor gloved little hands.


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