Stroke of Midnight
Video Catch Up-June 2019

Catching up on some video reviews and finding some hidden treasure on streaming.

There are often more interesting video releases than there is time to really review so let’s take a moment to give some mini reviews and shout outs to some recently released cinematic goodness on disc and dig deep into the vaults of the streaming services to find movies the algorithms may have missed.

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Color Me Blood Red

Another in Herschell Gordon Lewis Blood Trilogy which seems to include Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs and depending on who you trust this film or Wizard of Gore. In fact Lewis made a half dozen splatter epics. Color Me Blood Red is essentially a remake of Roger Coman’s beatnik horror comedy A Bucket of Blood. Where Corman’s film was in stark black and white Lewis goes full color and full gore with his tale of an artist who finds inspiration and marketability in a special shade of red paint made from…you guessed it, human blood. Of course the blood looks remarkably like red paint, but that doesn’t matter the whole thing is great subversive fun and seeing the garish spectacle unaware on a 1960s drive-in screen must have been something, let alone driving by and catching glimpses from the back seat of your parent’s car.

Arrow Video gives Color Me Blood Red a gorgeous, restored transfer. Archive audio commentary from H.G. Lewis, and another H.G. Lewis exploitation gem, Something Wild as a bonus feature.

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Iguana with the Tongue of Fire

Iguana with the Tongue of Fire has the distinction of being the only giallo film to be set and filmed in Ireland. Unfortunately that is the most memorable aspect of the movie.

The film opens with a young woman being attacked by a black-clad killer who throws acid into her face and slashes her to death. The next morning the woman’s corpse is discovered in the trunk of the car of the Swiss ambassador to Ireland. Soon the ambassador’s mistress with found murdered in the nightclub where she sings. This murder not only shines light on a number of red herring suspects, but also brings together our protagonists, brutal ex-cop John Norton (Luigi Pistilli, Bay of Blood) and the ambassador’s daughter, Helen (Dagmar Lassander, The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion).

Despite the film having some memorable moments, the overall experience is disjointed as the script keep veering off to less interesting subplot to try to disguise the fact that they really have no where to go with the murder mystery plot line. Iguana with the Tongue of Fire feels like several films stitched together. The ambassador’s family soap opera drama, the detevctive’s family which feels more like a sitcom and the actualy murder mystery and then the half-hearted attempts to tie all the disparate elements together just doesn’t work and leads to some howlingly bad bits of dialogue. Then there are other bits of oddness that feel like they could be meaningful but are just potential set up that are never paid off. The fact director Riccardo Freda went all Alan Smithee, or in this case Willy Pareto, speaks volumes as to the amount of love put into the project.

There are worse giallo out there, but there are also a lot of good ones. Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is better suited to a “so bad they’re good” movie night.

Arrow Video has released Iguana on a great Blu-ray that features a ton of extras and includes the English dub for extra fun as they attempt to give some of the characters an approximation of an Irish brogue.

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A bizarro ride through hell with Bill Oberst Jr. as a mercenary trapped in Dante’s 7th level of hell; the realm reserved for those who have committed suicide and a damned to be turned into plants, specifically the Mandragora or Mandrake. Oberst appears in the jungle and soon finds himself in a derelict office building in the middle of the jungle (one has to wonder if the location inspired the film) and encounters a topless woman (Lori Jo Hendrix, Bikini Summer) with a target on her head. Her pursues her and she leaps off the roof to her apparent death. Soon after he is repeatedly attacked and tortured by a hooded man in a tuxedo while having visions or flashbacks to his earlier life. Clocking in at a brisk hour, the film contains minimal dialogue and makes little attempt to explain itself. If not for one casual line of dialogue and a quotation from the 13th stanza of Dante’s Inferno it could be interpreted in an number of ways or merely viewed as a exercise in torture and depravity.

DIS isn’t necessarily a good movie, but damn it is one that is difficult to shake off. You have to admire the fearlessness in literally dropping the viewers straight into hell with no explanation and no life line.

The Hitchhikers (1972) Amazon Prime

The Hitchhikers is a fun, if unremarkable exploitation movie. A teenage girl finds out she pregnant so she runs away from home, determined to hitchhike her way to Los Angeles. She soon falls in with a gang of girl hitchhikers who rob men on the highways It checks plenty of drive-in boxes including hippies, crime, catfights, folk music, rape, abortions, and of course ample nudity, all served with a side of early ’70s women’s lib and Manson Family overtones. The film is notable for being co-directed by a woman, Beverly Sebastian and staring Hee Haw’s own Misty Rowe who’s effortless charm goes a long way.

Everlasting Duel (1982) Amazon Prime

Completely bonkers supernatural fare from Taiwan. This feels like a series and there are other films from the period with the same look and feel but not the same characters, at least according to the dubs or subtitle translations. Of course we are talking cheapjack kung fu movies so who really knows. This stars Roc Tien aka Peng Tien and it involves swords and vampires and old rivalries. It maintains a solid weirdness until the climax where is just goes full on fever dream where the cheap studio bound sets with the lighting and fog machines trying to cover the seams adds to the surrealism. Taiwanese kung fu is a mixed bag of unwatchable and the best kind of WTF. This is one of my favorites of the WTF variety.

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