Mondo Macabro Mambo
Jahnke - Main Page
the risk of greatly oversimplifying things, I would like to propose
that there are two types of DVD users. The first type has replaced
the theatrical movie-going experience with a home theatre. They buy
a lot of brand new, major studio releases on disc and, while they do
pick up a large number of movies sight unseen, they rarely blind buy
something they've never heard of before.
The other type is more interested in the archival side of DVD than
the technical presentation. What they love most about DVD is the
almost wholly unexpected side effect of the most obscure and unusual
movies imaginable being widely and affordably available on disc. For
them, shopping for DVDs is like a treasure hunt. Not only do they
pick up movies they've never seen, they flock to movies they didn't
even know existed, the more esoteric, the better.
For them... well, for us, since I consider myself (and much of The
Bits staff) part of this second group, a label like
Macabro is like a gift from above.
After bursting onto the scene a few years ago, Mondo has carved out
a niche for itself by raiding the vaults of grindhouse and
exploitation programmers the world over. "Big deal," I
hear you protest, "there's plenty of indie DVD studios that
have done the same thing." True but Mondo's focus on the
international scene gives it a little something extra that all but
guarantees you'll be exposed to something new and different. Their
catalogue reads like an atlas of the bizarre, with vampires from
Pakistan, possessed nuns from Mexico, and 2'9" secret agents
from the Philippines.
For those of you with a taste for the unusual, join me now as I
examine four recent discs from the wild world of Mondo Macabro.
Everybody else... well, maybe I'll have something for you to read
about next time.
Deliver Us from Evil: Uncut Special Edition
(aka Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal)
1970 (2006) - Société Générale de
Production (Mondo Macabro)
Inspired by the same murder case that provided the basis for
Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures,
this 1971 French film created such a stir that it was banned
outright in its country of origin. Not for sexual content or
violence, although the film has some of both, but for blasphemy.
Writer/director Joël Séria places his two young
girls in a Catholic school where they rebel against the
hypocrisy of the Church by embracing Satan and all his works.
Released from the convent for the summer, the girls spend their
vacation together, growing closer and more dependent on each
other while simultaneously turning into vicious sociopaths. They
use their budding sexuality to seduce men, stage blasphemous
passion plays in the name of Satan, and torment a simple-minded
gardener by killing his beloved pet birds.
Even today, Don't Deliver Us from
Evil retains the power to shock with its frank
depiction of teen sexuality (it's probably worth pointing out
that the two actresses very convincingly playing the 14-year old
girls were both in their early 20's at the time) and its somber
Heavenly Creatures as staged
by Larry Clark, the director of Kids
and Bully, in provincial
France and you'll have some idea of what this film is like. Both
Jeanne Goupil and Catherine Wagener are chilling as the two girls,
so cold-eyed and utterly selfish. The film's treatment of the
Satanist elements is very straight-forward and realistic. No cheesy
looking horned beasts appearing from fog banks or consulting of the
Necronomicon here. Just a genuine portrayal of how two rebellious
young girls would actually approach a black mass based on their own
reading of forbidden poetry and other books. And while some horror
fans may bemoan the lack of gory set-pieces here, there are at least
a few images and moments, including the disturbing finale, that will
resonate in your mind's eye.
The DVD presents the film in anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen picture
that is more than satisfying despite some very minor source
problems. The French 2.0 soundtrack is also just fine. Like many
Mondo releases, the disc includes a brief "About the Film"
essay, helpful in all cases for establishing context and history for
these often totally unknown movies. Don't
Deliver Us from Evil also includes a trio of informative
featurettes. A 15-minute interview with writer/director Joël Séria
fills in his background and his inspirations for writing the script,
while a 12-minute chat with actress Jeanne Goupil provides insight
into the making of the film and its original reception. The
12-minute Hellish Creatures
interviews true crime authority Paul Buck on the original
Parker-Hulme murder case and its similarities and differences to the
film. Wrapping things up is a gallery of promotional stills and art
along with a preview of other Mondo Macabro releases. The Mondo
preview appears with slight variations on all these discs, by the
way, and it's so much fun that I played it every time.
Don't Deliver Us from Evil is
in many ways a film ahead of its time. Certainly it's themes of
bored teens escaping into an immoral world of self-gratification has
resonance today, as does its controversial view of the Church. I
imagine if you were raised Catholic, the film has even more meaning.
Regardless of your background, the film casts an effective spell.
Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/B-
Blood: Uncut Euro Version
1977 (2006) - Cinévision (Mondo Macabro)
For a considerably less serious take on the problem of Satan
worship in today's society, we head to Spain to drink from the
chalice of Satan's Blood.
Released in 1977, shortly after the loosening of censorship
standards in Spain, Satan's Blood
was one of the first films released with the newly-established "S"
classification. The "S" is for sex and on that score
anyway, Satan's Blood
After a sacrificial prologue (that eventually turns out to have
nothing to do with anything), Satan's
Blood seems for awhile like it might actually be a
pretty creepy little movie. Andy and Anna go out for the day,
spending their time doing such typically 1977 pastimes as seeing
Star Wars and driving
around the city. On their way home, they're stopped by another
couple, Bruno and Mary (or Berta, depending on if you watch the
English or Spanish language option). Bruno claims to be an old
friend from school but Andy doesn't recognize him. Not wanting
to seem rude, Andy and Anna accept an invitation out to their
secluded house. Once there, they find themselves unable to
leave, surrounded by bizarre behavior, and ultimately taking
part in a Satanic orgy.
set-up for this movie is pretty good and staged quite effectively.
We've all been in a situation where someone recognizes us but we
just can't remember their name or how we know them. That part of the
movie carries a genuine sense of unease. But once our heroes arrive
at the world's creepiest mansion, things start to make a lot less
sense. Anna's reaction to seeing Mary eating bloody raw meat off a
countertop like an animal shortly after their arrival at the house
is certainly more laissez-faire than mine would have been. Lurking
around the house is a couple of servants whose purpose remains a
mystery. And after the orgy scene, the movie just spirals into a
surreal series of inexplicable events with characters being
apparently killed, then turning up alive, getting re-killed, and on
and on. The final twist seems inevitable in a totally illogical way.
I have no idea how or why we get to that point but after everything
else, it seems like we must. And even if the movie fails to deliver
on the creepy atmosphere its premise promises, it's never less than
Mondo does another fine job on the technical side with this
release, with an above average image and two audio options, both
English and Spanish language. Neither of them sounds particularly
natural but that's hardly a shock on a movie like this one. In
addition to Pete Toombs' "About the Film" essay and the
Mondo preview, Satan's Blood
provides an alternate opening which you can either play on its own
or with the film itself. This is one of those academic-style
prologues they used to tack onto especially sleazy movies in an
attempt to give them some redeeming social value and it's pretty
amusing. The disc also provides a fairly extensive gallery of stills
and promotional art. Most interesting is a nearly half-hour
featurette called The Devil's Disciples.
Here, Gavin Baddeley provides a surprisingly informative and
thorough overview of the Church of Satan and its most famous
representatives, including Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey. It
doesn't have anything specifically to do with Satan's
Blood per se but it is worth watching.
Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/B-
from Hell: Double Disk Special Edition
1987 (2006) - Rapi Films (Mondo Macabro)
Now this... THIS is a movie! Imagine if you could take four or
five exploitation movies, stick 'em in a blender, hit "puree"
and pour out a super-concentrated, ultra-gonzo exploitation
movie. That's Virgins from Hell.
Our story (such as it is) begins with a raid on a casino by an
all-girl biker gang. The ladies destroy the place and make off
with the money. The gang is led by two sisters who have bigger
fish to fry than just the casino. They're after the head of the
criminal syndicate, Mr. Tiger, a flamboyant sadist (with an
outstanding wardrobe consisting mainly of garishly colored pimp
suits) who killed the girls' parents and took over their home,
turning it into an elaborate compound complete with underground
laboratory and dungeon. For his part, Mr. Tiger has kidnapped
some of Asia's finest scientists with the aim of cornering the
international aphrodisiac market. I swear, I'm not making any of
this up. Anyway, a scientist/prisoner named Larry has apparently
perfected the love serum just as the biker gang attacks the
compound. The girls are taken prisoner and the serum is tested
on one of them. All this is in about the first half hour or so.
there's much to love about Virgins from
Hell. The wild sets, the wilder costumes, the
increasingly baroque tortures dreamed up by Mr. Tiger. Oh, and I
didn't even get to the old hermit character with a knowledge of "traditional
medicines" including the ability to use a live snake to extract
a bullet from Larry's leg. Virgins from
Hell is the kind of delirious exploitation movie made by
people who know they can't compete with big-budget Hollywood action
epics in a fair fight. So they do the only thing they can do. They
don't fight fair. A similarly-themed movie from Hollywood would be
expected to at least make some small effort at making sense. That's
not the case here. Virgins from Hell
is essentially everything the filmmakers could afford to throw into
the pot in 90 fast-paced minutes. Other movies might do it better
but I'll bet they didn't have as much fun.
Disc one of this two-disc set features the movie in anamorphic
2.35:1 widescreen and dubbed English 2.0 stereo. You also get the
original trailer, a thorough and entertaining essay by Pete Toombs
called Women in Chains: An Overview of
the WIP Movie (that's Women in
Prison to you genre virgins out there), and the
toe-tapping More from Mondo Macabro preview.
If you're thinking a movie like Virgins
from Hell doesn't need the double-disc treatment, think
again, buddy-boy! The second platter takes you halfway around the
world for Destination: Jakarta,
70 minutes of trailers from other Indonesian exploitation flicks
from Rapi Films, the studio responsible for Virgins from Hell. It's
quite the collection with movies like The
Devil's Sword, Hell Raiders
and the Jaka Sembung trilogy: The Warrior,
The Warrior and the Ninja, and
The Warrior and the Blind Swordsman.
There's also a 25-minute documentary on Indonesian exploitation to
whet your appetite further.
Film Rating: oh... let's
give it an A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/A
Deathless Devil/Tarkan Versus the Vikings: Turkish Pop Cinema
(aka Yilmayan seytan/Tarkan Viking kani)
1973/1971 (2006) - Atadeniz Film/Arzu Film (Mondo Macabro)
If you're like me, you might have heard about Turkish popular
cinema without ever having actually seen an example of it.
Probably the most notorious aspect of Turkish cinema is their...
shall we say, loose reading of copyright laws. During the 70s
and 80s, the Turks remade some of the most popular films and TV
shows of the era, often using the same costumes, music and even
footage from the originals. The Man
Who Saved the World or, as it's more commonly known,
Turkish Star Wars, for
instance, is oh so illegal to distribute over here, although you
can find bootlegs at virtually any comic book convention and
clips are posted over on ifilm (this
link should go there) that give you a pretty good idea of
what the movie's like.
any rate, I'd heard of the movies from Turkey's genre boom for years
but I never thought I'd actually see one. Now, thanks to Mondo, I've
seen two. And they're just about as mind-bending as I'd hoped.
The Deathless Devil is a
Turkish superhero opus about a young man who learns that his father
was the masked avenger known as Copperhead. Dad was killed years
earlier by the nefarious Dr. Satan. The evil Doctor is back now,
killing his way through a list of scientists in an attempt to seize
control of a device that flies airplanes by remote control. It takes
absolutely no convincing to get Junior to don the Copperhead mask
and do battle Dr. Satan, his goons and his clunky killer robot. This
is a thoroughly ridiculous movie with music cues "borrowed"
from the likes of Henry Mancini and Ennio Morricone. It's cheesy fun
for the most part but it tried even my bad-movie patience at times
and I've got a pretty high tolerance level for this kind of thing.
Let's just say that the comic relief provided by Copperhead's
Sherlock Holmes aping partner made me long for the subtlety and
refined wit of Jerry Lewis circa Which
Way to the Front.
More entertaining is Tarkan Versus the
Vikings, a Turkish sword-and-sorcery epic based on what
is apparently a very popular Turkish comic book. Tarkan and his two
wolves (which look an awful lot like friendly dogs) are acting as
bodyguards to Yonca, the daughter of Attila the Hun. Suddenly, a
horde of rebellious Vikings in cahoots with a Chinese dragon lady
attack and kidnap Yonca and kill one of Tarkan's wolf-dogs. Tarkan
is much more upset about the dog than the kidnapping and vows
revenge on the Vikings.
Tarkan Versus the Vikings is a
little gem of low-budget weirdness. The actors are clad in fur
costumes that appear to be bath mats and sport a wild assortment of
mismatched wigs and fake beards. Considering the history of Turkish
cinema, when the story called for the arrival of a giant octopus I
was surprised the filmmakers didn't just insert random clips from
old Ray Harryhausen movies. To their credit, they tried to do it
themselves, though the resulting effect is less than awe-inspiring.
Despite (or more accurately, because of) its shortcomings, Tarkan
Versus the Vikings is great fun and a terrific
introduction to the wild world of Turkish pop cinema.
Mondo is upfront about the condition of the films on this
double-feature disc. Basically, we're lucky they exist at all. Most
Turkish films of the era were destroyed when the cycle ended in the
1980s. Neither film is in particularly good shape but they're far
from unwatchable. The soundtracks in both cases are in Turkish with
English subtitles provided. Extras include text-based information
about the films, as well as a very good 24-minute documentary on
Turkish Pop Cinema.
Like so many titles in Mondo Macabro's catalogue, this disc provides
prime examples of a type of film that many have heard talked about
but few have actually experienced first hand. The next time you're
with that friend who thinks they've seen it all and acts so jaded
and cynical when trying to find a movie to watch, pop in a disc from
Mondo Macabro. It should shut them up for at least 90 minutes or so.
Film Ratings (Average):
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/C/B-
Jahnke - Main Page