Before Japan’s direct-to-video film industry exploded into the V-Cinema phenomenon that defined much of the 1990s, filmmakers during the 1980s were testing the limits of gore and taste with a wave of horror videos that were short on runtime but long on trauma. This collection celebrates this “V-Splatter” era with six hard-to-find classics, many of which are presented here for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD in the West.
Taking inspiration from the mini-monsters that became popular in American horror films of the 1980s, Masayoshi Sukita’s Gakidama features a reporter who is possessed by a forest spirit and spawns a gruesome little humanoid monster that torments him and his wife. Next, Akihiro Kashima’s Biotherapy combines 1950s science fiction with Italian giallo killers as a group of scientist are stalked by a murderous alien monster who hides its identity beneath a black hat and trench coat. Shigeru Izumiya’s seminal cyberpunk film Death Powder features an android hunter who finds his consciousness radically altered when he breathes in a replicant’s powdery remains. Kazuo “Gaira” Komizu’s Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken by God – Part 1 merges The Thing with the “young women in peril” slasher film to create the prototypical Japanese tentacle-horror film. In Takuro Fukuda’s Conton, a young man is harassed by gangsters and plagued by dreams of a creature hunted by monstrous knights until his dream and his reality combine. Finally, Jôji Iida’s Cyclops takes place in a world where mutants hide amongst us and where The Terminator is spiked with a violent dose of body horror.
Running just 30 to 60 minutes each, these mind-blowing, stomach-turning Japanese nasties pack a fleshy punch for horror fans and Japanophiles alike.
Special Edition Contents:
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all six films
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio for all six films
Optional English subtitles on all six films
New interviews with director Masayoshi Sukita and visual effects artist Shin’ichi Wakasa, actors Hirohisa Nakata and Jun’ichi Haruta, director Shigeru Izumiya, and director Kazuo “Gaira” Komizu
Interview with director Jôji Iida
Newly filmed appreciations by critic Kat Ellinger and special effects artist Dan Martin
Extensive image galleries
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writings by Japanese cinema experts Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.
Based on I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang!, the autobiographical book of chain gang escapee Robert E. Burns, Mervyn LeRoy’s uncompromising and starkly realistic 1932 drama, about an out of work veteran twice railroaded into the hell of a Georgia chain gang, still has the power to shock. Paul Muni commands the screen in a brilliantly lived-in performance as a man whose only prospect is a life perpetually on the run, and the film’s gritty realism spares no anger at a cruel and unjust legal system. Eighty years later, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang remains the studio era’s greatest social message film and it stands as a crucial turning point for Warner Bros., Paul Muni, Robert E. Burns, and the American prison system.
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2005 by film historian Richard B. Jewell
Vintage musical short 20,000 Cheers for the Chain Gang!
Amid the success of The Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter series, Toei Company had found a new star in Etsuko Shihomi and had created its first female martial arts hero, one that was tough, virtuous, and courageous. In 1975, Shihomi found herself in possibly her sleaziest film: 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats, a pinky violence genre mash-up that mixed girl gangs, women in prison, yakuza, and martial arts action into a single sensational movie. As Maki Hyuga, Shihomi is the leader of the Stray Cats girl gang, fighting for justice against evil gangsters and stuck up rich girls. Though her karate skills are unsurpassed, Maki is framed and thrown into a sadistic women’s prison. Will she escape and take her revenge?
Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut, 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats is paired here with Norifumi Suzuki’s The Great Chase, an oddball action flick released the same year and starring Etsuko Shihomi as a race car driver moonlighting as a secret agent. Filled with unceasing action, outlandish situations, and plenty of female resistance to male domination, 13 Steps to Maki and The Great Chase reveal new shades to Etsuko Shihomi’s stardom and stand as spectacular examples of Japanese exploitation in the 1970s.
Special Edition Contents:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats and The Great Chase
Original uncompressed Japanese mono audio on both films
Optional newly translated English subtitles on both films
New video interviews with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba and director Makoto Naito
Theatrical trailers for both films
Stills and poster galleries for both films
Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Kungfubob O’Brien
Branded as the most hated man in professional wrestling after winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 2000, actor David Arquette attempts a rocky return to the sport that stalled his promising Hollywood career. Despite having two stents in his heart, being under treatment for depression and anxiety, and exhibiting functioning alcoholism, the 47 year-old actor dangerously commits himself reclaiming his self-respect in the squared circle. Arquette’s journey takes him to the backyards of amateur wrestling in Virginia, the fast-paced style of Tijuana’s lucha libre shows, and near-fatal hardcore deathmatches. Along the way, he puts his health, his credibility, and his marriage on the line, but Arquette’s determination to earn a respected place in the world of pro-wrestling cannot be denied.
Part car-wreck, part inspirational Rocky-docky, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is a fascinating look into the closed world of pro-wrestling and a portrait of the physical toll and unbridled passion required to perform in its peculiar brand of theatre. Appearing alongside David Arquette are his wife/producer Christina McLarty Arquette, his siblings Patricia, Rosanna, and Richmond, his ex-wife Courtney Cox, and wrestling legends including Ric Flair and Diamond Dallas Page.
Special Edition Contents:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Two feature-length audio commentaries, one with directors David Darg and Price James and one with David Arquette and Christina McLarty Arquette
Full matches between David Arquette and Nick Gage, RJ City, Mr. Anderson, Jungle Boy, and others, with introductions and alternate commentaries by Arquette and City
Outtakes and extended interviews
This is the End, a new interview with wrestling historian Dave Meltzer on David Arquette’s reign as WCW Heavyweight Champion
After packing in 200 or so people for the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s second annual Saturday Morning All You Can Eat Cereal Cartoon Party, Day 5 was all about director Joe Dante, actress Belinda Balaski, and a trio of features film celebrating their work. Screenings of The ‘Burbs (1989), Gremlins (1984), and The Howling (1981) were each introduced by Dante and followed by a Q&A session. All three films looked great on the big screen and Dante and Balaski were open and affable with the SFFF audience, answering questions and recounting stories. Dante discussed working as a consultant to an upcoming animated Gremlins prequel and briefly acknowledged that his long desired project about Roger Corman, The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes, was being produced by SpectreVision and should see production in 2020. Balaski recounted a popular story about how the designers of Gremlins’ Gizmo obtained Steven Spielberg’s elusive approval of the creature when she recommended that they take inspiration from the King Charles Cavalier Spaniels Spielberg had recently acquired. When asked which of their films they felt deep-diving fans should explore, Balaski cited Mark L. Lester’s youth culture/crime drama movie Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976) while Dante nodded at his under-seen (and unfortunately prescient) political satire The Second Civil War (1997). The pair were generous with their time, even sitting down on the Broadway Theatre’s stage floor to sign programs and badges for remaining diehards, and they proved to be excellent guests for the SFFF’s landmark 10th year.
BREAKING NEWS! Halloween is sneaking up on us and MMC! has been slow to embrace the spooky season. (Actually, MMC! is hard at work on an imagined Arrow Video edition of a modern Canadian horror classic!) Let’s remedy MMC!’s omission with a favourite horror-comedy short from the 2018 festival circuit – Anthony Cousins’ The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds (2018). This quasi-riff on The Burning attends to the summer camp-in-peril trope at the hilariously named Camp Nawgonamakit and has a grand time nostalgically mocking the fashions and film themes of past eras while an iron-pumping former camper in a vacuform mask wreaks his bloody vengeance. And don’t worry, there are s’more horror shorts still to come! (I can’t believe I made that camping “s’more” joke again! I’m really sorry. I’ll try to stop.)