The monthly film column covering all that is lost, obscure and forgotten.
Welcome to the first installment of Celluloid Osbscura, the movie column dedicated to the more unusual, esoteric Blu Ray and DVD releases out there that may have slipped under your radar. I’ll be placing my magnifying glass under a multitude of interesting, multi-genre releases for the more adventurous cine-philes out there. So, without further delay, let’s get cracking.
Dr Josef Mengele (a full on Gregory Peck) attempts the ultimate revival after pumping Hitler’s DNA in to 94 teenage boys across the globe in The Boys From Brazil. Lawrence Olivier’s Nazi hunter is on the case alongside some seriously nasty prosthetic set pieces (so prevalent in those halcyon pre-CGI days). This newly remastered US Blu Ray release from Shout Factory is on a visual par with the previous UK ITV edition, however, the DTS-HD audio mix seals the deal allowing Jerry Goldsmith’s booming score to rip from those speakers.
Scientific experimentation presents itself in a different form via the incredible sub-trash dynamics of Superboy. Known to fans in the early days of UK pre-certification video as Dynamite Johnson, this demented Filipino nonsense stars little Johnson Yap as the titular pint-sized avenger who is bionically reconstructed by Interpol following the death of his super agent parents. It all leads to an elongated gun battle where Johnson sizes up against a plethora of unique fighters with bizarre combat styles alongside a blaring electronic soundtrack. The German CMV Laservision DVD release includes the sequel Superboy II and has English language options whilst the prints have seen better days (most definitely taken from a VHS source which extenuates its ‘retro’ vibe).
More bio-madness manifests in the excruciating Island Claws. Shot in Florida with a zero budget, this little seen 1980 giant crab fiasco has its charms (there’s a nice turn from Robert ’12 O’Clock High’ Lansing as a ball busting bar owner). However, I would have liked to have seen a little more movement from the decrepit hydraulic creature on offer here. I guess you have to give the limited Edition US Blu Ray from Scorpion some props for having the backbone to release this stinker in a spotless HD master.
Sea creatures of a different kind menace an all star cast in cult Italian director Antonio Margherit’s batty horror action disaster oddity Killer Fish. Lee Majors (decked out like a pimp), Margeaux Hemingway and a boatload of thieves and models are trapped in piranha infested waters after an earthquake causes the local dam to collapse (featuring incredible ‘Thunderbirds‘ style model work – a Margheriti speciality). The deadly Pirambebas waste no time in chowing down on the hapless crew whilst the wonderful disco theme from Guido and Maurizio De Angelis drills a repetitive hole in your brain. Another welcome Blu Ray release from Scorpion who show no fear in plumbing the depths for niche trash fans.
Over to Mexico for the eerie black and white creeper Curse Of The Doll People as treacherous treasure hunters fall victim to a voodoo priests revenge after lifting a sacred temple idol from its tomb. The murderous Dollmen (midgets in toy costumes) are cheaply attired but effective. Previously released in various public domain editions (some of nefariously poor quality) VCI’s recent DVD issue features a crisp, stable print and impressive artwork.
Perennial Old School genre favourite Michael Gough is as at his wacky best in Horrors Of The Black Museum as a sadistic journalist helping Scotland Yard investigate the murders he has committed with the aid of his hypnotised assistant. For 1959, this is pretty sick stuff featuring censor baiting nudity and sadian relics of torture (a pair of binoculars sprout deadly spikes whilst a set of ice tongs exacerbate the sexually charged violence). Full marks to Network’s British Film Collection DVD edition for the gorgeous transfer and rare ‘Hypnovista’ featurette.