Richard Grieco hits the acting skids in “Final Payback” (2001)

 

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   Johnny Depp is known to be pretty much the coolest guy in movies. Not only is he probably the most entertaining guy out there with his varied roles, he seems to be just a good guy (things like recording personal messages for a young coma patient; sending pieces of his wardrobe to fans; or appearing with his former teenage bandmates for a 20-year reunion just to play music). He got his start on “21 Jump Street”; a pretty successful series for the Fox Network that was suppose to launch the career to superstardom of another actor on the series- Richard Grieco, but things didn’t turn out as planned. While Johnny hooked his star to directors like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and Robert Rodriguez, Richard ended up with straight-to-video “mavens” like Chuck DuBus (Fish Don’t Blink); Christian Viel (Evil Breed: The Legend of Sam Hain); and David Wu (Webs). This time he picked Art Camacho, a Stunt Coordinator and sometime Director (his biggest flick to date is the recent Half-Past Dead 2), and together they unleashed Final Payback, a DTV of a slow and talky man-on-the-run versus a corrupt-police-force-out-to-get-him flick…

 

  When Grieco goes dippin’ his ink in the company well- well, no good can ever come from that apparently, and he wakes up to his girlfriend (Priscilla Barnes, in probably the most thankless role of her life) dead in her shower. Oh, and it’s a Police Chief’s (John Saxon– SURPRISE! As another cop!) wife; the same Police Chief who had ol’ Rich bounced off the force a few years earlier. He hears cops, hops on his Honda, then scoots away, causing the lone cop car following him to flip and burst into flames…

 

   Well, after THAT, you get scenes of drug dealers and users being brought in by (drum roll, please) Martin Kove, chewing scenery from here to L.A. He grits his teeth, rolls his eyes, and sucks up major to the Mayor (Corbin Bernsen, who’s few minutes of screen time must have either been as a favor to the makers of this or commanded pocket money for a weekend in Sausalito). Kove is easily the best thing in this (maybe not BEST- let’s say “most entertaining”)- Grieco could have made this his, but with his sulking, overacting and facial ticks, it’s hard to like him. His greasy hair and earring, his oily and pudgy face, his stupid leather jacket all made me hope that they’d turn the tables and off the good guy (I don’t want to give it away, but no luck). It’s kinda fun- there are some flourishes that make this not as static as typical fare (the junkie hitmen- one played by Manuel Sanchez that is a low-rent version of the great Danny Trejo; a buddy-turned-informer trippin’ out in an alley), but in the end, it’s just a fairly-good time-waster…

 

   The flick itself is shot flat and pretty static, though nicely framed in widescreen 1:85. The most surprising thing is the lack of real stunts, but the fight scenes that are here are well-staged. This DVD is released by Digiview and can be had for a buck at pretty much every WalMart on earth. No extras, but that’s OK- I can’t picture really wanting a “Making Of” or a “Director’s Commentary” for this; nothing all that exceptional here. One last thing- for some reason most of the cursing is bleeped out (“Son of a ____”); however they left an “F-word” in.

 

 

 

Final Payback– 2-1/2 out of 5*

 

 

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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*

 

 

 

More BCI-Eclipse- this time Wholesale…

 

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  This will be the first time that I’ve covered Wholesale sources for DVDs, but I ran into this Company online: 

 

 

   http://www.cdplusdolphinvideo.com/

 

 

   The rules are simple- $50.00 minimum order and shipping starts at around 10 bucks. And what do you get for that? Well- some pretty cool stuff:

 

 

   * Saturday Morning 70’s & 80’s stuff– they have some great titles that BCI released a few years ago. Including ARK II; Jason of Star Command; Bravestarr, HE-MAN and SHE-RA sets. All come with some wonderful Bonus Features, including interviews with the talent and Making-of Documentaries. These retailed at around $20.00 each and are being sold for under 5 bucks each…

 

 

   * Karate and Kung-Fu flicks– sometimes you have to have a crappy dubbed action movie, you know? Well, they have lots of sets, including a lot of Sonny Chiba and Bruce Lee collections as well as some rarer, non-PD stuff…

 

 

   *Westerns– for some reason, lots of Westerns; old and new, TV and movies, have fallen into Public Domain. Some of the better collections for sale here are things like The Vigilantes (Volumes 1 & 2)- each has 4 movies on 2 discs and go for $1.25 each; Great Western TV Shows– which has 26 episodes of some good shows including Kit Carson; Bat Masterson, Bonanza and The Rifleman– going for $2.25 each; and Bad Boys of the West– 4 disc movie set for $1.50 each…

 

 

   *Horror– some great bargains, including: Toxie Blood Bank Ten Disc set– boxed in a weird tin and includes some second-tier Troma pick-ups like Evil Clutch, Scream Baby Scream and Play Dead– going for four bucks; Aztec Mummy Boxed Set– 3 absolutely ROTTEN Mexican Mummy movies in a nice set for $1.75’ Back From The Grave– 12-movie set with borderline PDs like Legacy of Blood; Slave of the Cannibal God and Murder Mansion for the micro price of $1.75 each; and Kiss of Death– another 12 movie collection with some old (Kill Baby Kill; House on Haunted Hill) and newer flicks (Little Corey Gorey; Slashdance)- this one is going for $1.50 a set…

 

 

   They show how many copies they have left, and from what I’ve read elsewhere these can come and go pretty quick, so if you find something you’d better jump on it. I found it very easy to hit the $50 minimum, but in case you don’t, you may want to go in with someone else to split the cost. I suggest that you poke around and see what you find- happy hunting!

 

 

 

 

 

R.I.P. Ray Dennis Steckler- King of the Cheapies

 

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   Ray Dennis Steckler was probably the cheapest filmmaker out there (with apologies to Ted Mikels and the late Andy Milligan), and having passed away January 7th I figured that a few words would be in order…

 

 

   Just in my teens, I saw my first Steckler movie (and his highest-budgeted at $38,000)- The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies at one of the last Saturday Matinees that was still around in the late ‘70’s in Orlando. I had already loved crappy movies as a little kid; my Mom and I shared very little in the way of interests but we would park ourselves on the couch to watch Tampa’s Channel 44’s “Creature Feature” With Dr. Paul Bearer and his absolutely gonzo double features. But “Incredibly” was something else- my first real “cult” movie; before I would trek religiously to Midnight Movies at least weekly to catch Rocky Horror; Heavy Metal or Dawn of the Dead. From then on I would look for any of his cheesy-yet-fun movies any time they would (very rarely) play on late-night UHF TV, and even called him (after lots of microfiche and out-of-town-phonebook research at the local library) just to let him know that I was a fan (he was curt but semi-appreciative before brushing me off with a quick “Good Luck, Kid”)….

 

 

   Eventually I was able to catch most of his films on VHS and later on DVD and became hooked by most of his 60’s output- The Thrill Killers; Rat Fink a Boo Boo (which was SUPPOSE to be titled Rat Fink AND Boo Boo but when the titles were made for the movie someone in the lab goofed and he didn’t want to spend the extra movie to correct them!) and especially Wild Guitar, which is an amazing rags-to-riches rock and roll story…

 

 

   Wild Guitar stars the fleshy-faced Arch Hall Jr. as the hayseed “Bud Eagle” a starry-eyed rock-and-roller with nothing but 15 cents in his pocket (he can’t even afford tax on his meal at a diner), a crummy guitar, a giant blonde pompadour and a dream to make it big in Hollywood. Ten minutes after arriving he meets the pretty blonde Vickie (Nancy Czar), who, as luck would have it, is just on the way to her big break- dancing on a TV Variety Show. After her jiggling and writhing, the singer who’s suppose to follow her gets so nervous that he bails, so a stage hand at the urging of Vickie (who, by the way has never seen her new friend sing), lets ol’ Bud go out there to sing- and after tripping onto the stage, regains his composure and belts out a song that, at the end of it, has the girls in the audience go nuts. This gets the attention of a sleazy Producer Mike McCauley (played by his real-life Dad Arch Hall Sr.), who insists that he A) “Call me Mike”; and B) will handle everything. Well, he does and HOW- soon Bud is a huge star on national tours and records but only has a rented apartment, six new suits and a shiny guitar to show for his efforts as fatherly Mike is cookin’ the books and pocketing a chunk ‘o change. After more drama Mike suddenly gets smart and, with a scheme that could only be dreamed up in a movie where someone becomes a national superstar after only being in town for eight hours or so, ends up with the money and the girl (and a recalcitrant Mike seeing the error of his ways). That this was made in glorious Black and White at a cost under $30,000 in 1962 is truly astounding, and a personal favorite of mine as a junk-food movie…

 

 

   Ray’s output slowed down in the 70’s on, and the dozen or so movies he did make weren’t quite as fun (he even delved into hardcore porn for awhile) but were even cheaper (it’s said that he never spend anything more than he did for “Incredibly Strange Creatures”!). He ended up getting a divorce from his wife (and featured performer) Carolyn Brandt, opened a video store and make the occasional movie until he died of heart failure in early January…

 

 

   As for his output on DVD- you can find a great sample of his best work on 2 boxed sets readily available at places like Amazon or Best Buy for under $20 each: “Midnight Movie Collection”- which collects Strange Creatures…; Rat Fink A Boo-Boo (probably my second-favorite of all his movies); The Thrill Killers and The Lemon Grove Kids (Ray’s take-off of The Bowery Boys with him as the lead “Kid” and looking very much like Huntz Hall); and “Midnight Movie Collection 2”, which has his more recent works like Blood Shack; Body Fever; and his almost-silent soft-core horror dual features The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher and The Las Vegas Serial Killer. Each movie is on their own disc and cased individually, all with commentaries by the engaging Steckler as well as interviews and promotional materials…

 

 

   Don’t wanna spend 20 bucks? Break open the piggy bank and spring out 4 quarters and head to your nearest Walmart; Dollar Tree or check cashing store; ‘cause you’ll probably find Digiview Productions DVD of Wild Guitar there (along with a 2nd great feature The Beatniks; another singer-plucked-from-obscurity feature (this time from a dirty beatnik gang) starring a pre-“Big Valley” Peter Breck acting particularly crazed). Granted, the picture isn’t the silvery- B&W you would find on a carefully restored Criterion disc, but some movies, like Ray’s, can be enjoyed through the splices and scratches just fine- thank you very much. RIP Mr. Steckler- I just wished that I had the chance to shake your hand or have something signed; that would have been a true honor …

 

   PS- One more way to get his movies would be through his web site (http://www.raydennissteckler.com/) but I’m not sure if the Store is operational now that he’s passed- at least you would know if it IS that some of the money would be going to his family…

 

 

   Wild Guitar– (4* out of 5)

 

 

 

Chilling 12 disc DVD Set

 

   (or- “How a 50 movie DVD Set can Change at a Moments Notice”)

 

 

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   Mill Creek Entertainment (that also shoots out titles under its Echo Bridge Entertainment) http://www.millcreekent.com/ has for the past few years been releasing multi-movie titles in all sorts of bunched grouping; anywhere from 5 and 10 movie sets all the way to 100 Movie Packs. Obviously the larger (20/50/100 Movie Pack) Sets are various re-packages and include titles already included in previous smaller Sets (I mean- there are only so many Public Domain flicks they can pull from), but I’ve accidentally discovered TWO DIFFERENT SETS of their 50 Movie Set “The Chilling” titled identically but containing different flicks entirely…

 

 

   First though, I’d like to give a quick overview of what constitutes the grey area of a Public Domain movie. Previous to 1998 any movie made in 1977 or prior that was not re-registered through the Copyright Office fell into PD. At that time, other than the occasional showing on TV, there was no real intrinsic value of holding Copyrights if you were a small company- it would require a Lawyer to file documents and cable and DVDs (let alone the VCR boom) were yet a gleam in Mega-Corporations’ eyes. This allowed a bunch of 40’s, 50’s and 60’s (most famously Night of the Living Dead (1968)) and even the 70’s (like Alice Sweet Alice (1977) to go into PD (though the two examples dropped into the grey area because of incorrect registering and not because of any “shelf life”). After the new Act was passed, however (thanks to both the nosiness of Sonny Bono (yeah- THAT ONE) and Walt Disney Entertainment- in fear of losing their many character holdings, like Mickey Mouse), the shelf life was extended, making it easier for producers and copyright holders to retain their Rights for a longer period of time (up to 120 years as opposed to the original 27 year (if not re-registered) life. But this is not a legal Blog (I mean- it’s LEGAL- just not about “Legal matters”), so I want to talk about something more relevant to us, the Consumers…

 

 

   I purchased the “50 Movie Pack Chilling Classics” 12 DVD set a few years ago for the bargain price of around $15 and have watched quite a few of them with various degrees of appreciation. Mill Creek has put this and other sets in a flimsy cardboard box and the 12 DVDs in individual sleeves accessed from the opening in the front of the case (and one that velcros open and closed- which means that I ripped it the first time I used it). And each sleeve had the corresponding movie titles and a brief description. The quality of the movies is almost uniformly weak or worse, usually taken from VHS dupes or some other sketchy source. My worse beef with the Company, however, is the “video bug” that they burn into the corner of the screen every 15 minutes or so- a habit started with some Something Weird Video releases that I find very intrusive and incredibly annoying. But most of these titles, unless appropriated by other budget companies, probably wouldn’t see the light of day (who would release, I thought, the High School-made Milpitas Monster?) (Come to find out the Director- see http://www.milpitasmonster.com/m_mm.html for proof) so it’s worth the investment. However- be careful WHICH SET you purchase…

 

 

   I was reading about one of the titles included on my Set on IMDB- Deadtime Stories (1986)– a pretty entertaining cheapjack horror anthology featuring Scott Valentine (best known as Mallory’s dumb boyfriend on the TV show Family Ties) and someone had mentioned in the Forums that this title was mistakenly classified as Public Domain. In the interim, Mill Creek had removed it from its future copies of Chilling Classics, so I was curious as to what they replaced it with- and the results were surprising and put me in “Video Watchdog” mode, as in ACTUALLY doing REAL LIFE research. Come to find out that in this new incarnation of the 50 Movie Set that SEVEN Titles were replaced. The Titles that were on the old Set were:

 

   * Christmas Evil (a 1980 title actually just as well-known as You’d Better Watch Out, which is a so-bad-it’s-funny killer Santa flick starring Brandon Maggart)

 

   * Crypt of the Living Dead (1973) (A weak Spanish vampire flick that was parading around Drive-Ins long after on a triple-bill that I sat through in 1981 at a Drive-in in Casselberry, Florida)

 

   * Deadtime Stories (Already covered above)

 

   * Memorial Valley Massacre (a late-arriving (1988) hatchet-wielding maniac on the loose flick that has both William (“Big Bill”) Smith and Cameron Mitchell in supporting roles)

 

   * Milpitas Monster (Made in 1974 but not released for a few years- this was a Milpitas California High School project that was reportedly made for around $40,000. The whole town chipped in to make this Giant-Monster-from-the-pollution semi-parody flick. And if you recognize the Narrator- well, you should… that’s the famous voice-over guy Paul Frees!

 

   * Snake People (1971- The Mexican living dead featuring one of the last (badly-edited) roles by Boris Karloff- who had actually been dead for two years prior to this coming out)

 

   * Virus (1980’s all-star international spectacle about germ warfare funded by the US and Germany for Japanese audiences and starring genre greats like Bo Svenson, George Kennedy, Glenn Ford and Sonny Chiba)

 

 

   (If you do have both sets side by side you will notice a listing on the old one for House of the Dead and the new one for Alien Zone- this is the same movie, an anthology flick made in 1978 and one that actually aired on Elvira’s Movie Macabre in the early 80’s. I’m guessing the re-titling has something to do with some legal-ese to keep it included in the set)

 

 

 

   You would think that someone over at Mill Creek would have run the titles past a paralegal or something to avoid the expense of a possible law suit or at least having to replace legally OK discs with the offending ones but I guess not. I’m sure this is not the only multi-disc set to suffer these setbacks (I know that some of these show up on other 50 and 100-disc sets from the Company) but, well, someone else with more time on their hands is going to have to do that legwork. And it wouldn’t just be the re-mastering of the discs; all-new disc sleeves and even the outer box had to be redone (I don’t have the new Set, but the old one includes paragraphs mentioning both Christmas Evil and Deadtime Stories– I’d be curious as to what the new blurbs say)…

 

 

   Oh, and just so you know- the replacement titles on the new discs (apparently copyright-free) are:

 

   * Devil Times Five (from 1974- psycho children on the loose- a movie that was recently released by Code Red DVD and one that I’m truly surprised has fallen into PD limbo)

 

   * I Eat Your Skin (a boring black and white jungle zombie flick from the mid-sixties)

 

   * Murder Mansion (A slow-moving Italian import from 1972)

 

   * A Passenger to Bali (Not really a movie, but an episode of the mid- 50’s Studio One television show from CBS and starring E.G. Marshall)

 

   * Shock (the 1940’s Noir starring Vincent Price- NOT the final Mario Bava that was sold over here as Beyond the Door 2)

 

   * Snowbeast (1977’s answer to all of the Bigfoot hysteria- Made-for-TV and starring our pal Bo Svenson)

 

   * Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory (Italian man-wolf nonsense; B&W from 1963)

 

 

   From all I’ve read there are still some old copies on shelves out their in RetailLand; you may want to try stores that have a slower turnover rate for DVDs- like Border’s Books for example.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

BCI-Eclipse shuts down (R.I.P)…

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   I was hoping to squeeze in one more (semi-) review before the New Year (oddly-enough for one of their releases) when it was announced that BCI-Eclipse was being shuttered by their holding company Navarre. This is a pretty big announcement to those that collect not just budget titles (I know that Drive-in Cult Classics Volume 4 was due in January), but they also put out some great Saturday Morning TV shows like Isis; Ark II  and Space Academy  (all three are great sets for those who are as nostalgic about 70’s TV as I am) as well as some import product. Navarre says that they will still be operational and will be releasing some of the announced titles, but doesn’t go into specifics, but (as some rumor followers are saying) they’ve already cancelled some Game Show Compilation discs for “What’s My Line?” and “Tattletales”. Bummer- they might not have cleaned up their prints to immaculate shape, but they did have a sense on what some of their more fun titles should be like (like their Exploitation Cinema line- one of their newer releases was the Mausoleum/Blood Song double feature that even had a Commentary)- I hope that sense of goofiness is carried over should Navarre release any similar discs. It seems like the down-turned economy is even hitting the economy-minded vendors (*sigh*). The link to the Official Press Release is below:

 

 

   http://ir.navarre.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=105157&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1237333&highlight=