Archive for August, 2007

Lee Marvin 20th Anniversary – Emperor of the North (1973)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

This is a special blog review, part of the Lee Marvin Blog-a-Thon and one that you won’t find anywhere else!

Lee Marvin was one of the big Hollywood names between the 50s and 70s, and even into the 1980s (he had a leading role in the epic war film The Big Red One (1980)). Back in a time when actors were distinctive, and what mattered was what they did onscreen, not what they did in nightclubs or their private lives. For my part in this tribute I have reviewed a film that ranks in my top 5 films of all time, Emperor of the North (1973):

Set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and based on a real story (author Jack London’s account of his time as a hobo in the 1890s published as The Road), the film is a gripping and well written account of a duel between a hobo and a notorious conductor, who was happy to risk lives to get his job done. Lee Marvin is the hobo, and Ernest Borgnine the conductor in this very well crafted film. Direction is from Robert Aldrich (The Dirty Dozen (1967)) who does a very good job, and most importantly (for myself and fellow railroad fans) he manages a great deal of historical and railway authenticity. Most excitingly there is not single blue screen shot in the whole film – the actors are really running around atop moving trains.

After an agonisingly long wait for this on DVD (at times I considered buying a laserdisc player, or even trying to buy the release rights myself), Fox USA released it last year on a very good looking disc. Details about the DVD, and more about the film can be seen in my new full review: Emperor of the North (1973).

200th Review! Grizzly Man (2005)

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Another great milepost here at Mondo Esoterica – my 200th review, and almost my 40,000th visitor! A great achievement in only two years, and thanks to all my loyal readers (and anyone who found this post on google while searching for something completely different!)
So for my 200th review I decided to watch a film from my favourite director, Werner Herzog. Grizzly Man is a documentary feature he made about the bear lover Timothy Treadwell who lived with them in Alaska for 13 years before being killed. A fascinating and well balanced documentary and highly recommended to everyone.

Read the full review: Grizzly Man

And for all my blog readers, stay tuned for more great stuff to come….!

Casting the Runes (1979)

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Once again Mondo Esoterica is here with an exclusive first look review. This time at the Network UK release of Casting the Runes – a British television adaptation of a ghost story by writer M.R. James (best known for its adaptation of the Jacques Tourner horror film Night of the Demon (1957)). Due out on DVD on the 3rd September.
Set in the modern day (ie. the late 1970s) this story is very well written and presented, and should raise a scare or two – highly recommended. Excitingly though, the DVD also includes a very rare adaptation of James’ story Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance, originally made for a children’s television show about using music in films to build mood. Although only 16 minutes long, it also captures a very good atmosphere, and is worth watching – as is the other bonus feature, a very well made 50 minute documentary about M. R. James.

Read the full review of Casting the Runes

Mondo Esoterica Historybook – THE VIKINGS

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Another all new project for Mondo Esoterica, I call it the Historybook. Basically it is a mix of real facts and film reviews, for a selected period of history. This is a trial run of the format, centered around the legendary Norsemen. If successful, I will be going on to explore lots more periods of history and their cinematic representations (suggestions welcome!)
I’v reviewed 6 new films, plus updated one existing review, and there will be more added to this Guide over the next few months:

13th Warrior (1999) – enjoyable but rather rushed.
Erik the Conqueror (1961) – a great adventure film.
Knives of the Avenger (1966) – a very interesting film, more plot than action.
The Long Ships (1964) – an enjoyable adventure film, mix between Vikings and Sinbad.
Tarkan versus the Vikings (1971) – utterly daft Turkish film.
The Viking Sagas (1995) – the best of the bunch, a very good film, shot in Iceland.
The Vikings (1958) – the Hollywood classic, enjoyable, but flawed.

So hurry and read reviews of all these and more at The Mondo Esoterica Historybook Guide to The Vikings

Grand Canyon Massacre (1965)

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Director Sergio Corbucci is probably best remembered now for the dark, grim and nihilistic Spaghetti Westerns, Django (1966) and The Great Silence (1969), but his first genre entry was a very different film. Grand Canyon Massacre (1965) was a typical early Italian Western, from that period when the producers and filmmakers tried their hardest to give the films a Classic American Western feel. So the storyline and ambience is all very typical American Western stuff, while the lead star is the imported James Mitchum (son of Robert), who gives a very flat performance here.

Unusually for an Italian Western, the film was shot in Jugoslavia, home of the German produced Karl May Westerns and fans of the latter films should recognise character actor Vladimir Medar. There are a couple of other familiar faces on the cast, including George Ardisson and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart.

Ultimately it is an enjoyable film, if you go in expecting an American style Western, anyone hoping to see some of Corbucci’s later greatness will surely be disappointed. The German DVD from Koch Media is rather like the film, serviceable if unremarkable – a good, but non-anamorphic transfer and a light selection of extras.

A full review of the film and the disc: Grand Canyon Massacre

Autumn 2007 means Horror films on DVD!

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Coming soon...

Its that time of year again, the Hallowe’en period, and the months before and after, are a goldmine for classic horror titles, and this year is certainly no different.

The Midnite Movies line is back, to much fanfare, with a great selection of titles – like most people, I am most excited about Witchfinder General (1967) – finally (I hope) with a good looking, uncut print. A duet of Amicus anthology horror films from the new 20th Century Fox branch of the MM collection, along with the recently announced release of Beyond the Grave (1972) from Warner Brothers will also be more than welcome. I’m also likely to be tempted by MGM’s Vincent Price boxset, as I only own one film from it (Dr. Phibes). Expect reviews of all of these as soon as I can get my hands on them as part of that annual institution – Horror September!
For anyone who has not already seen them – the MGM/Fox titles and the WB collection.

Some other news, leaked yesterday, concerns the new Mario Bava releases coming from ABUS in October. As well as a single disc release of the exciting Erik the Conqueror (1961), there will be a boxset of Baron Blood, Bay of Blood, 5 Dolls for an August Moon, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack, Four Times that Night and Lisa and the Devil (with the House of Exorcism recut) – 3 of these films will also include newly recorded audio commentaries from Tim Lucas. This should be a good set to pick up – more details.

And literally just announced, from Severin Films, a brand new release of Lucio Fulci’s classic giallo Murder to the Tune of 7 Black Notes (1977), to be released in late October, along with his little known sex comedy The Eroticist (1972). The details.
If you can’t wait until then, BCI are releasing two more titles in their well received Spanish Horror collection in August, Paul Naschy in Exorcismo and Amando de Ossorio’s Night of the Sorcerers. Probably not for fans of “top quality” horror films, if you like the trashy stuff, this should be a good buy. Details. While the World Cult Cinema experts, Mondo Macabro are releasing the French sex-horror film The Blood Rose this month as well. Details.

It should be a good couple of months – not to mention the great series of reviews and features that I have got lined up for the site (hopefully including most of these new releases!).

Horst Frank retrospective

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Although never a major player in Euro-cult cinema, Horst Frank is one the better known character actors from the period. German by birth, he got his first start in the late 1950s, and quickly moved across Europe starring in a variety of films from Spaghetti Westerns to Gialli through the 1960s and into the early 1970s when he returned to Germany, working extensively in television and radio there.

I have just posted a brand new review of one of his few starring roles, as an insane scientist in the German sci-fi film The Head (1959) and you can also find out a lot more about the background of this actor in the all new Mondo Esoterica Guide to Horst Frank.