More cheap stuff from Dolphin Video…

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I covered these guys on a previous post from January called “More BCI-ECLIPSE- this time wholesale” (https://budgetdvdhunter.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/more-bci-eclipse-this-time-wholesale%e2%80%a6/); they’re a wholesaler who seems to sell new DVDs from closed up companies or titles which DVD manufacturers must have lost the rights for so they’re liquidating. Some of the more interesting titles currently on-hand (again though, these go pretty damn quick so if you want something snatch it up) are:

Final Exam– This one really surprised me the most as this was a new release late last year. The movie itself is not very good (I saw it when it came in 1981 at a drive-in in Casselberry Florida and didn’t like it then); an example of 50,000 stalk and slash flicks that clogged theaters in the early 80’s. It’s pretty boring; the kills aren’t all that imaginative, and from up and down screams cheap. I ended up watching this when it hit my “Netflix” cue; not for the movie itself but for the extras (I’m a huge sucker for DVD extras and will sometimes purchase a disc just for the extras), which were some interviews with the cast (none of who really went on to anything else in the movie biz) and a pretty good commentary (however, no participation from the Director- which leads me to believe that he is suitably embarrassed by his efforts here). Brand new this goes for $18 on Amazon; Dolphin has it for $2.75…

Don’t Answer the Phone– Another one that I caught at the same drive-in; this one was better than the above movie (not necessarily TECHNICALLY, but it has a veneer of overall creepiness and teeth-grinding leading performance by the late Nicholas Worth (Swamp Thing). This is the UNCUT version and am looking forward to seeing it. It also has a Directors’ commentary, a “making of” documentary, stills and trailers. This one retails around $13, but is sold discounted here for $1.50…

Crypt of Terror- Horror From South of the Border Vol. 1– This is a weird collection of seven Mexican-made horror flicks that hadn’t been released on this side of the line until now. All are of recent vintage (well, by RECENT I mean within 20 years, as opposed to the 1960’s Mexican flicks I would watch on Creature Feature growing up), and most are in their original Spanish with English subtitles. A big bargain; this is going to $23 on Amazon and selling here for $2.50…

Worth mentioning as well are some $20 Paul Naschy “Best Buy Exclusive” two disc sets (Human Beasts with Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll; which is selling for $3.25, and Lorely’s Grasp with Horror Rises from the Tomb; which is for sale for $1.75 a set). Like dumb bimbo/silly sex comedies? They’ve got you covered with Advantage: Hot Cops & Good Girls; an 8-movie set that includes all six (!) Vice Academy flicks (starring in various versions Linnea Quigley, Ginger Lynn Allen and Elizabeth Kaitain) along with two other flicks- retailing for $12; selling for $1.50. Also, a bunch of other 8-10 movie “Advantage” box sets also going for $1.50 per set with titles like Creature Features (PD horror flicks); Demons & Witches (10 direct-to-video sex and blood flicks) and The Cult Fims of Roger Corman (a collection of, I would guess, every PD Corman flick out there like The Terror; Wasp Woman, etc.)…

Don’t forget their inventory changes all the time (still lots of chop-socky and kids cartoons as well); they seem to have picked up some older wrestling titles (included midget and masked Mexican!) so keep checking and something is bound to turn up that does interest you if this round doesn’t. Minimum order of $50 (I’d recommend going halvsies with a friend if you can’t meet the minimum) and shipping starts at $10. This is a one-man operation, so be patient when it comes to delivery (however, I got mine in less than a week). Happy cheap shopping!

http://www.cdplusdolphinvideo.com/

“7 Lucky Ninja Kids” and Earl Owensby

 

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   Earl Owensby has been referred to by others as a “Hillbilly Roger Corman” or a “Southern-fried Orson Welles”. It’s a shame to label the guy, and I don’t think that either of the descriptions really suit him- he never had the pure output of product that Corman had (I think that Earl has only had his hand in about a dozen or so feature films), and he never released anything that could be considered an artistic vision and something on par with Welles. However, he did have Corman’s drive-in sensibilities- knowing his target (basically people below the Mason-Dixon Line who like adventure, thrills and a moral thread running through their flicks) and attempting to deliver the goods. And, as Orson Welles, he could be a Jack-of-all-Trades; at different points in his career he was Producer, top-lining Actor, Director- Hell, he even built his own studio after acquiring an abandoned and half-built nuclear power plant in a small town in South Carolina (http://www.earlowensby.com/)- and this ain’t no tin-roofed shack behind an outhouse either, but a world-class facility worthy enough of the likes of James Cameron (who shot The Abyss there). The only person that I can really equate him with would probably be H.B. Halicki- the Stuntman/Director/Producer/Star of the original Gone in 60 Seconds; a self-made man who made a few flicks before tragically dying while performing a stunt in a movie he was making…

 

 

   I’ve been fascinated with him long before I ever saw one of his flicks- I had read somewhere about him (OK- actually the SOMEWHERE was in an issue of “Penthouse” that a friend of mine had snuck out of his Dad’s sock drawer. See- sometimes we DON’T lie and really DO read the articles, even as a kid) and had never thought until then the possibility of someone; ANYONE; being able to make a movie that actually played in theaters that wasn’t located in New York or Hollywood. This was a real guy making real features. The next few years I was able to catch various Owensby movies either at local drive-in’s or on TV (Wolfman– another one of his that seems to be released by all kinds of bargain DVD companies and one I have to bring up on the blog again, a true Gothic/Southern werewolf movie that must be seen to be believed; Seabo (aka Buckstone County Prison– made in the wake of mid-‘70’s badass Southern cops on a rampage like Macon County Line and Walking Tall) and Rottweiler– released to cash in on the brief resurgent 3D craze of the early 80’s). I’ve also missed out on some beauties that I have to watch; like Living Legend (his take on the whole “Elvis Presley thing”) and Tales of the Third Dimension. One of his later works (and, if I’m not mistaken, his last film to date as a Director) is 7 Lucky Ninja Kids, a movie that would appear to have been made to cash in on 3 Ninja and its never-dying string of sequels and rip-offs. I would once in awhile find this in on DVD in unexpected places like FYE but never thought of purchasing it until too late, and then when I started to look for it in earnest, it ended up going out of print and fetching as high as $50 from used movie vendors on Amazon and eBay. Imagine my surprise finding it at a Family Dollar for 60 cents (that’s what it rang up as- even though there’s a printed-on-the-cover price tag selling it for $1). Yeah, it’s packed in a cardboard sleeve, and manufactured by some outfit called Dollar DVD (don’t bother going to dollar.dvd.com; that web page is long gone), but I thought that I could risk three quarters for this obscure little item…

 

 

   Well, there’s a reason that this has fallen into obscurity- THIS ISN’T AMERICAN MADE! It’s a painful redubbing of some Honk Kong kids comedy, with skilled acrobatic kids performing antics that would make the Three Stooges wince and atrocious dubbing with clever repartee like “You dumb jerk” 50 times, and gems like “You don’t believe me? You’re an idiot! You don’t know anything! Only how to sleep!”; and “Over here I’m ‘Rocky’, but in the states I’m known as ‘Rambo’!” (the last line said by a fatigues-wearing ten year old who’s appointed as the squadron leader). The basic plot has the 7 Lucky Ninja Kids stumbling on a diamond heist and murder, but in between the idiocy of Japanese Gangsters trying to find ways to stop the meddling kids are restaurant hijinx; stuttering hitmen; tough guys trying to stand on an ice rink; a BMX bike chase; and a desk that beats up the guy sitting behind it (don’t ask). It all culminates in a prolonged warehouse fight, when, after the kids are victorious (sorry to spoil the ending) is an apparent out-take of the leaping-in-unison shot in the credits, showing the crew rushing in to goof around with the suspended tykes…

 

 

   Framed incorrectly to the right, therefore cutting off a fair-sized sliver on the right and leaving a large black band on the right, it is distracting to say the least- it’s as if the telecine operator (the guy who transfers this obvious ¾ video master to DVD) couldn’t stomach to watch this, so he started up the machine, then left for the local pub to get a few drinks in him. On top of that, it’s horribly zoomed in, easily cutting off a total of a quarter of the picture on both sides, like if you were to try to watch a movie with your face stuck right on the TV screen, and the tracking is bad, especially at the top of the screen and an occasional picture warble. The sound is very flat and has a slight hum throughout; all punctuated by the highly exaggerated smacks and cracks of all the worst Kung Fu movies of the seventies. The dubbing is (naturally) just awful, and the tinka-tinka theme song sung by the kids (“Olalala-lalalala chi chi chi”) doesn’t help matters…

 

 

   The Director listed as Chau Chen Li (I think- between the cutoff titles and the white letters on a washed out white background, it’s hard to see ANYTHING). Even though it’s aimed at kids, I’m not sure that this is wholesome Disney-esque entertainment, with lines like “Goddamn foreigners” and “What’s you problem? Go to Hell!” Also, watching the kids get punched and kicked around by adults double their size is a little disturbing. As for how Earl Owensby is tied to this I have no idea- nowhere on either the film or the packaging is his name (or ANY English name) listed. If this IS somehow his, I would guess that he was a distributor for it, but there aren’t a lot of clues that THAT ever happened, either. And after watching this 80 minutes of celluloid (that, at times felt like twice as long) I sat in a stupor, not believing what I saw so I was going to watch it again just to make sure. But you know what it’s like to suck in helium? How your voice gets funny and it cracks everyone up around you and you feel light-headed, so it wears off and you try it again, only this time it’s not as funny, and the high isn’t as high and all you end up with is a slight headache? Well, when the headache started about 5 minutes into re=watching it I couldn’t go through with it, ejected the DVD and sleeved it. Oh, and even though the date is reported as “1989”, I have to think that it was made at least 10 years prior to that, judging by the cars and scenery…

 

 

   One more thing- come to find out that “Dollar DVD” is an offshoot of the late Brentwood/BCI- Eclipse – it appears to be BCI’s ‘sub-label. They’ve released a whole slew of very old PD titles- things that have been in bargain bins as far back as the old VHS days (like Charlie Chaplin shorts; The Road to Bali and The Beverly Hillbillies that are in Public Domain). So if you find it for under a buck, consider it “fair market value”; if, however, you run into somebody asking you to pay anything more than that, tell them to lay off the helium.

 

 

7 Lucky Ninja Kids– 1 out of 5*

 

 

 

Flexplay and You…

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I remember seeing these first at a 7-11 a few years ago where I bought a couple of them out of curiousity (one of the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks and something else), then they seemed to disappear. I was at Staples last week and saw a big cardboard display for them, so I though that I’d cover them on the blog…

 

 

“Them” are Flexplay DVDs (www.flexplay.com) “the Time Limited DVD” and what they are- well, it’s kinda hard to say. It’s sort of like having a rental DVD, only you don’t have to return them- instead you’re stuck with a disc that “ages”; after you’ve opened it from it’s protective air-tight sleeve you have 2 days (the packaging says) to watch it before it comes unplayable. I saw that Staples were clearancing these out; they normally retail for $5 each (a bit high for a comparable DVD rental when you can go to a Redbox for $1 a night, but, you don’t have to return the disc anywhere so I guess you’re paying for convenience) but they marked all of theirs down to a buck a piece (of course your mileage may vary). I ended up buying 15 or so; different titles that interest me like The Invasion; Cloverfield; Be Kind Rewind; The Brave One (Jodie Foster– YUM!); The Love Guru, etc. They also have some TV content like Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs episodes and some concert flicks like Rolling Stones- Shine a Light, but all of their content seems to be current or semi-current- I guess you really want to buy a classic movie if you really want to see it, and not have it go ker-plunk on you for repeated viewing…

 

 

I went ahead and opened the recent Sweeney Todd for analysis. Once you open the cardboard package (they’re packed in a full-color sleeve that opens to reveal the clear pouch that contains the disc), you remove the air-tight disc packaging, cut the side off then remove the DVD. The disc itself looks like a standard DVD; it has the same heft as any other professionally produced disc, even down to the full-color silk-screened top (which seems a little wasteful- I mean, you’re just going to chuck this in a few days anyway; why go whole hog with fancy graphics on a disc that you’ve already purchased?), but if you look on the underside of it, the disc is a pretty ruby red (I think that this has changed and they’ve come up with newer technology for the “rotting” process; The Love Guru disc looks like the familiar reflective silver that are standard with regular DVDs). It goes quickly straight to the movie- no menu or extras or anything (again, in comparison to Love Guru– that has a simple Menu that allows you to choose either “Play” or “Setup”, which allows you a choice of English/French/Spanish Languages or Audio- all in 5.1). The picture was in widescreen; again, no choice (however, some of the other titles show “widescreen” on the packaging, so I’m not sure what titles they have that are NOT in widescreen)…

 

 

The picture itself is clear (if just a touch softer than the regular DVD release) and the sound is as vibrant. I watched the flick on both an upconverting DVD player on a large-screen HD set as well as on my PC and had issues with neither. I then waited two days and tried to watch on both and again, no problem- however examining the physical disc itself I noticed the inner ring of the disc was gradually turning black- the way the disc shuts itself off. I tried it two days later and was still able to play it in both the stand alone DVD player as well as the PC. On the 5th day, however the stand alone DVD player churned then stopped; I was still able to play it on the PC until about the week mark, where it finally failed to play. However as another test, I was able to copy it using (SHHhh- secret) software that allowed playback with no issues whatsoever both when I opened it as well as making another copy after a week (though the packaging does say that the discs are “copy-protected”, so either the software I have is very good or their copy-protecting software ain’t). Actually, after almost two weeks, the files on the Flexplay are viewable; what seems to derogate are the files initiated at startup. So, basically if you are not tech-y (my Parents immediately come to mind) this protection is fine; but if you want to find a way to crack it, it is easily achieved…

 

 

I’m not really sure who these are marketed for; I would guess first and foremost would be the casual movie viewer who’s not a collector (and therefore wouldn’t want to own a DVD for repeated viewing) and who doesn’t want to go to the trouble of either joining a local video store (like Blockbuster) or something online (like Netflix), or doesn’t want the trouble of repeatedly going to a Redbox for renting then returning or incur the expense of Pay-per-View on their local cable systems. This seems like a very specific niche, though, and I’m not sure how long the company is going to stick around (a recent look on their site shows some even newer titles available, so maybe Staples just wanted to get out of the pre-recorded DVD market) with all of the viewing options available. You can purchase these on the Flexplay site as well for $4.99 each with free shipping. One more thing that is a bit disturbing is the waste factor; the disc covers mark these as “recyclable”; however, you have to go on their site, register the UPC codes individually (limit 5 at a time) then they’ll send you a pre-paid shipping package to return to them. It seems a bit too much work to be “eco-friendly”; this also doesn’t allow for the cardboard sleeve these are sold in, so this may bother you if you have those kind of concerns. At the $1 price-point I would recommend these easily; anything above that for a title that you would consider watching more than once then I would be more apprehensive…

 

 

Flexplay (in general)- 2-1/2* out of 5