4-minute Blu-ray review: Count Dracula’s Great Love

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Title: Count Dracula’s Great Love

Starring: Paul Naschy & Haydee Politoff

Directed by: Javier Aquirre

Specs: 1973 / Spain / 83 minutes / 1.85:1

Blu-ray release: Vinegar Syndrome, September 27, 2016

The film

Count Dracula’s Great Love is basically a Waldemar Daninsky film with Dracula instead of the Wolf Man, using a familiar Paul Naschy set up: A bevy of beautiful, aristocratic-looking women traveling on a remote country road are forced to seek shelter when their stagecoach is disabled and their horses run off in a panic. In this film, however, it’s not the wealthy recluse Waldemar Daninsky/Wolf Man who offers the hospitality of his gothic estate but rather the wealthy recluse Dr. Wendell Marlow/Dracula offering the hospitality of a former sanitarium that only looks like a gothic estate.

If you’ve seen Hammer’s Dracula, Prince of Darkness, you know what happens next. And, if you know anything about the history of Spanish art, you’ll be aware it’s not known for its restraint. Which is good for fans of exploitation horror cinema, because Count Dracula’s Great Love offers plenty of lurid elements to keep us entertained through most of its 83-minute running time.

Strengths

Plenty of sex and violence, fluid camera work, a gothic setting, and a story that goes in unexpected directions during the final act.

Weaknesses

The same problem with nearly all early 70s Spanish horror films … pacing. A film should accelerate as it draws to a climax. This movie moves forward like your uncle drives; he’ll get there safely but probably could have passed on the right a few times to speed things up. Also, excessive sequences of women wandering around darkened hallways in nightgowns while carrying candelabras. That may be considered a strength, of course, depending on your fetish.

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Video

If you’ve seen previous iterations of Count Dracula’s Great Love on VHS or DVD, you will be stunned by the rich, warm colors and vivid contrast offered by this Blu-ray. Yeah, it’s grainy like a 70s exploitation flick should be, but that’s part of the appeal. There are a few minor warbles and print scratches within the first couple of minutes, but those quickly clear up. Here and there a few shots look fuzzier than others, likely attributable to the print, not the transfer. Overall, the video quality is quite pleasing and by far the best any of us have experienced with this movie.

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Audio

I’ve made it known in prior reviews that I have hearing loss and, therefore, am not the guy to discuss the fine points of sound mixing. This Blu-ray is mono anyway. The music and voices were all very present and punchy sounding, and the signal strength seems quite hot, because I had to keep the volume on 3 to avoid waking the neighbors at 1 a.m.

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Overall

Vinegar Syndrome did a bang-up job putting together a good-quality release with little to no fanfare. Let’s hope they issue more Paul Naschy titles in the future.

Final thought

Paul Naschy is the Tom Cruise of low budget Spanish exploitation horror. His acting ability and the quality of his films may be debatable, but the guy earnestly tried to deliver the goods every time and ensure his fans walked away satisfied.

Review: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2 Blu-Ray by Shout Factory

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It’s almost pointless to review these 2K masters anymore, because they’re always the best version you’ve ever seen of whatever old splatter movie is being discussed. But fuck it, I’m going to anyway. I’ll talk about the film itself after I ramble about the disk for a minute:

tcm2 blu rayVideo – The color saturation is beautiful, almost glowing, especially in the “lair” scenes late in the movie when the viewer gets a chance to experience the cinematography as intended. There’s a bit of grain, as you’d expect in a low-budget film from 1986, but overall the transfer shows good depth and clarity. In a few dimly lit shots, the contrast is flattened by graininess, but this adds up to about 15 – 20 seconds of the 101-minute film. Furthermore, one or two shots suffer from fuzzy focus, though that may be the fault of the source material. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 has simply never looked good enough for me to notice before now.

Let’s put it this way: the worst moments on this 2K transfer are still better than the best moments in any previous version, including the theatrical release.

Audio – Fuck if I know. I’m half deaf. The screaming was loud and clear, that’s for sure.

Extras – If some asshole is seriously going to complain about 3 commentaries, a feature-length documentary, outtakes, set footage, and interviews from a 30-year-old flop of a B-movie, he needs the phrase “first-world problem” explained in no uncertain terms.

The Movie – OK, a lot of people dislike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (certainly the audience I saw it with in 1986, based on the shouts of “This sucks!” hurled at the screen throughout the showing). True, it lacks the pure, visceral power of the original. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the greatest horror films of all time, after all. Tobe Hooper, while boasting a pretty strong horror resume, was never quite able to capture that lightning-in-a-bottle thing again. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the drive-in movie that transcends drive-in movies.

I didn’t like Part 2 all that much when I saw it those many years ago, either, and the film so disturbed one member of my small horror crew that she wouldn’t watch movies with us anymore, taking her boyfriend with her. Which left me.

Before you go trashing her, it was 30 years ago. We’re all good now.

So anyway, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 has grown on me considerably over the years, and I began to truly embrace it upon experiencing a recent epiphany: The relationship between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is exactly as that between Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2. That is, the originals are the seminal, raw, visceral horror films of their respective decades, and both sequels are essentially comedic remakes beneath all the gore.

So why does everyone love Evil Dead 2 while dismissing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, when in fact Hooper came up with the approach first? I’d go as far as to say TCM2 is a more substantial cinematic achievement. Stop grumbling and let me explain!

TCM2 013Evil Dead 2, which I love by the way, is a loopy, slapstick romp. It’s great that Sam Raimi made a comic send up of his own film. But it does not satirize the genre the way that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 did a year earlier. Just as an example: We can agree that Tobe Hooper invented, in Leatherface, the first slasher-movie icon. This is four years before Michael Myers, eight before Jason Voorhees proper, and ten before Freddy. How clever, then, that the murderous family of terrifying backwoods cannibals in the first TCM had become local celebrities by the events of the second, as if their trajectory in off-screen life followed that of their cinematic horror brethren’s on-screen rise.

The two Chainsaw films, in a sense, are the bookends for an entire phase of independent horror cinema in which raw, high-energy violence was the signature attribute. By 1986, animatronic (and puppeteered) creature effects were becoming the selling point of horror films, no longer violent gore. Peruse the Fangoria covers of the age and see what I mean.

Whether he knew it or not, Tobe Hooper was putting a cap on the “chainsaw” era with violence that was so ridiculous it became ironic. TCM2 is certainly more self-aware and self-parodying than any other horror film of the time that purports to “play it straight.”

So. Yeah. Buy the damn movie. It’s good. And tell ’em Grandma sent you.

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My review of THE MUTILATOR Blu-ray

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by Alex Vorkov

The Movie

THE MUTILATOR (1984) is a fucking terrible film. That said, so is almost everything else in my DVD collection. As far as bad ‘80s slasher movies go, this one is pretty good.

Originally dubbed FALL BREAK, The Mutilator concerns a bunch of bored college kids who go to a beach house to get murdered. The first 35 minutes of the movie should be called Fall Break, because it wants to be a dumb teen comedy called Fall Break. In actuality, it’s an excruciatingly unfunny first act. A dumb teen movie, sans comedy.

Fortunately, director Buddy Cooper seems to have whacked his head at this point in the production and thought he was making a horror film. Either that or he realized just how much we all want these irritating fuckers to die, so he brought in FX wizard Mark Shostrom to kill them in satisfyingly gruesome ways.

The kills make your painful first-35-minute investment worthwhile. I won’t spoil them if you haven’t seen the film, but I will say there is one murder that is sure to make you squirm. I’d put The Mutilator next to THE PROWLER on the splatter scale. Certainly not in the Lucio Fulci class, but pretty gory for a throwaway slasher movie.

Plus: Great splatter; weapon variety; a good beach location

Minus: No likable characters; a gratuitous hairy chest; and the absolute worst theme song you ever heard in your life. Seriously, it’s like they took an adult-education songwriting class one night at the local high school and crammed every bad rock-pop cliché into one song. Remember how Kenny Loggins used to do all those catchy movie songs like Footloose and the one for CADDYSHACK? This song is to Kenny Loggins what I am to Wayne Gretzky. I mean, I can sort of skate in a straight line.

The Blu-ray

Sorry. No scans from the Blu-ray available yet. Enjoy shit shitty VHS screen shot in the meantime.

Sorry. No scans from the Blu-ray available yet. Enjoy this shitty VHS screen shot in the meantime.

I am so in love with Arrow Video I want to strangle it and violate  its corpse (we all have our own ways of showing affection). There’s are a lot of disappointing Blu-rays out there, but Arrow has a way of taking old, murky, grainy movies you thought were shot on garbage film stock by people with no talent and making them look like brand-new productions.

If you haven’t picked up an Arrow disk yet, their work is a revelation. The Mutilator suffered from a particularly bad pan-and-scan VHS dub back in the day, with many of its night shots lost amid a grainy, indecipherable haze. This Blu-ray is crisp and bright, and the contrast is excellent. The blood in the kill scenes flows a wonderfully vivid crimson.

You know what? In the context of micro-budget slasher films with bad acting and witless scripts, Buddy Cooper turns out to be a pretty good director. Now that we can actually see what he shot in the proper aspect ratio and on a 2k transfer, there are many well-composed sequences, the shot coverage all edits together nicely, and the cinematography is stronger and more creative than previously evident.

I’m not going to get into the audiophile stuff. I’m half deaf from playing drums for years and wouldn’t know the difference anymore. Suffice to say, the dialog, sound effects, and music are well mixed and up-front.

There are shit-tons of extras, including 2 commentaries and a lengthy making-of documentary as well as a booklet and reversible artwork.

The Mutilator is recommended for lovers of ’80s horror and slasher films and for people who like to torture themselves with godawful theme songs.

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