from Synapse Films
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You've come a long way baby.
Think about it. How many small, independent, mom & pop DVD
labels are there? Labels that specialize in B-flicks, Asian extreme
and straight horror? Labels that have been around since the first
couple of years of the format? Labels that still release quality
stuff and don't resort to pumping out bargain basement titles, with
bargain basement audio and video quality, just to fill out their
My answer: one. Synapse
Okay... so, I'm in man-love with Don May, Jr. Everyone knows this.
It's no secret. But I've neglected my friend like I've neglected
everyone else recently as I took my long-ass sabbatical. And while I
know this hardly makes it up to anyone, here's a look at six Synapse
titles that have come out in the last few months (including a couple
that came out this week).
Additionally, Bill will be reviewing the Synapse title
as well as interviewing that film's producer, John Harrison
(interview coming soon).
Gun Massacre is also available, but since I haven't
reviewed any of Don's stuff in a while, I fell off his list and
didn't get a copy to look at. Serves me right. Prick.
Me, not Don. Don's the best.
Anyway, here's to Synapse...
1977 (2005) - Dugong Films (Synapse)
Peter and Marcia are trying to save their marriage, so in the
hopes of rekindling that which has long ago dimmed, they head
out to a very remote part of the Australian coast for a romantic
getaway. Right there you just know this is going to be a Last
House on the Left or The
Hills Have Eyes riff... but instead the film gets all
Food of the Gods (or more
apropos The Birds)
because, you see, Peter and Marcia are careless people who don't
respect nature. They accidentally run over Earth's creatures,
pollute their campsite and potentially set small brush fires
with tossed cigarettes. And nature don't play that. Nature's had
enough... and it's payback time.
Once you figure out what you're in for, Long
Weekend pays off as a nice, creepy and ultimately
solid late-70s thriller. It really works for what it is. It's
got some great pacing, excellent sound design and the two human
leads really are quite engaging, though a bit soap operatic.
Long Weekend's not a super
great film. It's a bit heavy handed in its environmental
message. But it certainly doesn't suck either.
Directed by Fantasm's
Colin Eggleston, Long Weekend
looks and sounds very good on DVD. Being a Synapse release,
you'd have to expect that. We get a very sharp, anamorphic
widescreen image (2:35:1) with good color and solid blacks.
There's some noticeable grain here and there, but you want that.
is available in both the original Dolby Digital mono and a really
nice, and newly created, Dolby Digital 5.1 track.
Extras include audio commentary with the executive producer and
cinematographer, who discuss the film in-depth. There are also a
collection of production stills set to an audio interview with the
late actor John Hargreaves, and the film's original theatrical
trailer. It's a nice little package of a very good, ultimately
unknown horror flick that's well worthy of your time.
They Call Her One-Eye
- 1974 (2005) - BAV Film/United Producers (Synapse)
With a run time of 104 minutes, the main question with Thriller
(aka They Call Her One Eye,
aka The Hooker's Revenge)
has to be: What's the difference between this DVD and the Limited
Edition released last year? This one has a yellow
cover, silly. No, I'm kidding.
Actually, there's a big, huge difference. This version matches
the AIP theatrical cut, thus we don't get any of the hardcore
sex (oh, you didn't know the other version had hardcore sex?)
and Frigga's (Christina Lindberg) eye violence scene has been
cut. There's still nudity and plenty of violence and... well,
the film isn't any the worse for wear for these excised scenes.
In fact, it works just as well in my opinion.
Thriller (I'll just call
it Thriller to save time)
follows a girl who gets raped at a very young age, and thus goes
all mute and loner, living with her parents. One day, she gets
abducted by a pimp and drug dealer, who turns her into a
drug-addicted whore. Through the art of revenge, she slowly
weans herself off the drugs, saves her money, becomes an expert
in weapons and martial arts and goes after those who wronged
her. Rough life. It's a fantastic film, and one any exploitation
film fan should own... in both versions.
I could be jaded and complain that this is a double dip, and hang
Don out to dry for it. But, maybe because I know the realities of
this business, I don't see it as a double dip. There was a good
business reason for this second release and honestly, for
completeness sake, it makes sense to have both versions of this film
available on disc. It might have been nice to have the original DVD
release include both versions of the film at one price, with this as
a second stand-alone release... but in the world of double dips,
this is minor offender. Since Synapse isn't in the habit of doing
this, I'll cut some slack.
The video and audio on this disc are the same as the previous
release. It looks and sounds great, with anamorphic video (1.78:1)
and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (in both the original Swedish and an
The extras on the Limited Edition
are not here. All we get with this one is a new liner note booklet
and the theatrical trailer. But hey, this version is like $10-15
cheaper depending on where you get it, so who's really counting?
1987 (2005) - Street Trash Joint Venture (Synapse)
Here's a cult fave if there ever was one. And F'in-A, does this
movie open my eyes. The only time I ever saw Street
Trash before this was when I was working at a video
store in New York. I took the movie home one night to check it
out... and I hated it. It looked like ass, and I just didn't get
it. Over time, I began to appreciate the film differently, but
never really shook the fact that the film looked like ass. In my
defense, the film did... on VHS video. On DVD, it's a whole
other story. One word: Wow. The makers of this film owe Synapse
a lot of praise, because this film is really gorgeous on DVD.
It's like a totally different film.
The story is straight B-grade. It focuses on a couple of
homeless brothers taking up in a junk yard, and their homeless
buddies. Or does it? Maybe it focuses on a liquor store that
discovers a surplus of Tenefly Viper, the rottenest rotgut
liquor you'll ever find - a liquor that literally rots your gut
(and everything else). Hey, maybe it focuses on a former Vietnam
Vet who rules over the homeless denizens with an iron fist. No,
no... it focuses on a cop trying to uncover the mystery of why
the homeless are suddenly bursting into piles of multi-colored
goo. Hell, let's just say this film doesn't focus. But it bursts
at the seams with some of the best cheap-ass special effects
ever recorded on film. It's a cheap gore film with some really
good gore... and thanks to the new transfer, the gore looks
really, really good.
video is available here in a brand new, anamorphic, hi-def transfer
(1.78:1 aspect). That's not bad for a film that looked like ass on
video. Colors are crisp and clear. Blacks are solid. Grain... well,
there's grain. But shit, it's a low-budget flick. The audio is a
nice, clear, open Dolby Digital mono track. It's good and it
supports the film well.
The extras are where this disc is going to loose points. On board
is nothing but a liner notes booklet, the film's trailer and a
sticker so you can make your very own bottle of Tenefly (melting not
included). Synapse has a big, two-disc special edition of this film
coming a few months from now. As such, this one is priced to move at
below $20 bucks. If you just can't wait to see this schlocky piece
of eye-candy, you can't go wrong picking it up now. But if you have
patience, a better edition is coming soon to a DVD store new you.
1978 (2005) - Corporación Nacional Cinematográfica
This one's been on DVD before... but never with this transfer
or this very creepy cover art.
Cyclone is one of those
late 70s disaster flicks, not too far removed from Poseidon
or Towering Inferno,
except here there's no budget and the cast isn't made up of
Hollywood royalty. It was directed by Rene Cardona, Jr., who
seemed to specialize in low-rent disaster flicks like Survive
and The Bermuda Triangle.
The story is quite simple. You have three separate angles: A
fishing boat, one of them "three-hour tour" boats and
a plane are brought together because of a cyclone coming into
the coastline. The fishing boat is ravaged and the survivors
take to a small lifeboat. The plane crashes into the water and
more than half of the survivors drown. The tour boat is where
everyone ends up.
The cast here is made up of the requisite survivor characters.
You've got your burly men, a rich lady, a pregnant woman, the
wounded and the dying and oh... a dog. Did the creators of Lost
find inspiration from this film, I wonder?
And did I mention that this motley crew is surrounded by
blood-thirsty sharks? No? They are.
film is pretty good for what it is. It's very watchable, which helps
to explain why it's been released on DVD a few times before this.
Cyclone is a very tense
thriller, with some wicked cool set pieces (the plane crash works,
as do the sharks). The acting is here and there, but this is the
type of flick that's generally not hurt by over the top or
In terms of how it looks on DVD, this is the disc to beat.
Presented in a newly created 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer,
the blacks are thick, the colors are bright and overall detail is
spot on. Audio is a serviceable Dolby Digital mono that does what
it's supposed to do. Extras include liner notes, an alternate
credits sequence and trailers for Tintorera
and Danger Girls (two Cardona
films not on DVD from Synapse) as well as The
Deadly Spawn, Thriller,
Girls and God Has a Rap Sheet
(DVDs that ARE available from Synapse).
All in all, Cyclone is a good
B-grade flick to while away an hour and a half or so. It's never
looked this good, probably even in theaters. Check it out.
Street Forever - Volume 1
Trailer Compilation - Various (2005) - Various (Synapse)
There's really not a lot to say about this DVD, aside from
this: It's a cool thing to have if you love grind house flicks.
Considering Tarantino and Rodriguez will be making a film
honoring this genre, with faux-trailers cut together in the
fashion of the trailers found on this disc, it's a bigger
curiosity piece than you'd expect.
So what is 42nd Street Forever?
It's a very fun trailer compilation featuring the grind house
gamut: bloody horror, kung-fu, soft-core porn, mondo docs,
Eurotrash comedies... it's all here. It's like a good friend
pulled a bunch of great trailers together, restored them to the
best of their ability, dropped 'em on a disc and sent them to
Want a list of the trailers on this disc? No problem.
You get The Undertaker and His Pals,
Flesh and Blood, Show
Women and Bloody Terror/Night of Bloody Horror, I
Dismember Mama/The Blood Spattered Bride, Corruption,
The Butcher of Binbrook,
The Three Dimensions of Greta,
Hard Candy, The
Centerfold Girls, Panorama
Blue, Wicked Wicked,
Teenage Mother, Charlie
and the Hooker, Matango,
The Green Slime, Destroy
All Monsters, The Crippled
Master, Werewolves on
Wheels, The Pink Angels,
The Depraved (aka Exposed),
Thriller (aka They
Call Her One Eye), Maid in
Sweden, Behind Convent
Walls, Secret Africa,
Shocking Asia, Chappaqua,
Welcome Home Brother Charles,
The 44 Specialist, The
Bullet Machine, Death
Drive, The Raiders of
Atlantis, Star Crash,
Confessions of a Summer Camp
Counselor, Sunset Cove,
Will Have Your Eyes, Death
Has Blue Eyes, A Black
Veil for Lisa, Ironmaster,
The Deadly Spawn, The
Legend of Nigger Charlie, Boss
Nigger, The Rape of the
Sabines and The Devil's
a lot of stuff, over two hours worth in all... so take it in small
douses. And it all looks really good. Sure, there are some source
problems here and there, but ultimately, it all looks good. Most of
the trailers are presented at 1.78.1, with a few trailers shown at
2.35.1. Audio is okay in Dolby Digital mono and serves the video
just fine. Extras are non-existent. But you weren't looking for
extras on something like this anyway, were you?
I think a lot of people will be hunting this DVD down after the
Grind House movie Robert
Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are working on makes a splash. So
beat 'em to the punch. Grab this one now and check it out.
2003 (2005) - ITN Distribution (Synapse)
I should take this moment to mention that Synapse (and Don in
particular) has always been a friend to fans of, and makers of,
indy genre flicks. He's taken great pride in exposing the masses
to some great films that wouldn't have been widely available
otherwise. Check out Deadbeat at Dawn,
Cold Hearts and A
Better Place for proof of that. Stillwater
definitely follows in that same tradition.
Stillwater's a slow tale -
not a brilliant tale, but a good one. Andrew, a glum 26-year
old, finds a beat-up red wooden box in his parents
basement that holds a collection of items that unspool a past...
not quite his, but definitely one connected to him. Each item
Andrew chases down the history of seems to unlock a new item
that's even more mysterious. Mystery number one: paperwork he
finds tells him that the parents he knows aren't his birth
parents. So Andrew writes a letter to the woman he's told is his
birth mother, and upon receipt, before he can learn anything
from her... she kills herself.
Directed by first-timer Adrian Kays, Stillwater
is an interesting, stylish and moody thriller. It's creepy in
its sound design, it's well shot and most of the acting is
pretty damn good. I don't quite get it, as the film jumps around
in time and shows us stuff that we're not quite sure is really
happening (so we're never sure what any of it means), but the
film still sucks you in. It also doesn't end on a frustrating
note... more of a huh-with-a-period-not-a-question-mark sort of
ending. I liked it overall.
gives us Stillwater on DVD in
anamorphic widescreen, at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There are a few
points here and there (mostly night scenes) where the grain takes
over the image, but it looks more like a film stock issue than a
mastering issue. Colors in general are quite strong, with tight
detail and subtle flesh tones. Audio is given to us in two fashions:
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Both sound equally good, with no
complaints coming from me.
Extras are light, but include an audio commentary by Kays,
cinematographer Lyn Moncrief and actor Andrew Hulse. It's a very
friendly and informative track, where they talk about the shoot,
locations and various issues that affected the production. All in
all, a solid commentary. Also on board is the film's trailer, a
production still gallery (it seems that Kays is an accomplished
photographer as well) and Kays' biography.
If you enjoy quirky films that few others have seen, you could do a
lot worse than to check this one out.
Okay... that will do me for this time out. I know better than to
make promises on when I'll return again with more, but Bill's giving
me the stink-eye so it'll more than likely be sooner rather than
Have a safe holiday everyone. Keep spinning those discs!
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