Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too.
This week we’re looking at new releases from two different labels, Scream Factory and Raro Video. While the latter has rescued more obscure titles than the former both have continued to deliver excellent releases over the past year showing a continued appreciation for films and film lovers.
First up is an early ’80s favorite that I recall being enamored by during many of its late night cable showings. This was especially the case when the film played on HBO or Cinemax with all the nudity and gore and more nudity intact. Next is an Italian horror film that I had not actually seen before this release, and while it doesn’t hold up to some of the bigger Italian zombie movies of the ’70s and ’80s it’s still pretty fun in its own right.
Paul Schrader’s Cat People (1982)
Irene (Nastassja Kinski) is reunited with her brother (Malcolm McDowell) after years apart, and is soon reminded of a past she’s suppressed. It involved cat-like agility, human sacrifice, and the ability to transform into black leopards. So, you know, the usual. Irene discovers her own urges growing within her ties to her burgeoning sexuality. Trapped between her animal instinct and the constant pull of her brother her only hope for survival and sanity lies in a zookeeper (John Heard) experienced with big cats.
“Save me. Only you can stop this killing. You’ve got to make love with me, as brother and sister.”
Paul Schrader‘s sexy, gory update of Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 cult classic is an ’80s movie through and through, from the synth score (by Giorgio Moroder) to the color palette, and it adds to the film’s atmosphere in positive ways. Originally intended as one of Universal’s more traditional horror remakes of their library titles (The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, etc), the film became something wholly different thanks to Schrader’s influence and (frequent Bob Clark collaborator) Alan Ormsby‘s script. The core element about a woman who may or may not turn into a jungle cat if she gets diddled is retained, but the mythology and very special brother/sister relationship is new and very R-rated.
It’s actually refreshing to see a film embrace its sexual nature so seriously. It’s chock full of nudity, but while lesser films would play up the more exploitative elements Schrader and company present events here in a stylized but very straight forward manner. It’s a rare example of horror for adults, and that has to be admired. That said, the movie is more a collection of sexy, cool, violent scenes than a solidly competent whole. The logic of the backstory is wonky at best, and a lot of the action just doesn’t jibe together all that well. Still, it’s effective enough where it counts and makes for a memorable genre experience.
Scream Factory brings Cat People to Blu-ray for the first time, and while the transfer looks quite good the best aspect of the release is the supplemental extras. We get brand new interviews with all of the key players that offer an interesting look back at the film’s production. Extras from past DVD releases including commentary track, a making-of featurette, and more are sadly not to be found here.
- Unleashing the Animal Within: An Interview with Nastassja Kinski [5:56]
- Making Memories: An Interview with Annette O’Toole [8:25]
- Caging the Animal: An Interview with John Heard [6:12]
- Reconnecting with Cat People: An Interview with Malcolm McDowell [7:35]
- Cat Fight: An Interview with Lynn Lowry [5:53]
- Composing a Cult Classic: An Interview with Giorgio Moroder [5:32]
- More Than a Remake: An Interview with Paul Schrader [9:13]
- Trailer, TV Spots, Photo Gallery, Production Art and Posters
Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City (1980)
A military transport plane lands at an airport without warning, and as suspicious police surround the craft its doors open releasing a horde of weapon-wielding uggos who proceed to hack, slash, and shoot everyone before sucking their blood. A reporter (Hugo Stiglitz) on scene to interview a scientist about a supposed radiation leak escapes and tries to warn the city of what’s happened. Sadly, his attempt to interrupt the broadcast of a live dance show is itself interrupted by military honchos worried about keeping order. Then it’s interrupted again by the blood-slurping non-zombies with no respect for poorly-choreographed dance routines and women in leotards.
“Try to understand. I had to kill that priest!”
When is a zombie film not a zombie film? If you answered “when they’re infected!” or “when they run!” then kudos to you for having an opinion, but what if the director himself says his movie is most definitely not about zombies? Umberto Lenzi‘s 1980 oddity features a horde of murderous marauders who feast on the living and can only be killed by destroying the brain… but don’t call it a zombie film.
The director’s stance on that hot-button topic aside, Lenzi’s film is a fun affair that doesn’t go out of its way to explain too much and instead just jumps into the bloody fray every few minutes. The early attack on the dance studio is a simultaneously ridiculous and entertaining for several reasons, not the least of which is the wildly varied “zombie” makeup. Some look fairly normal while others walk around with mud and stage paint caked on their face. Gore effects from their assaults are equally inconsistent, and don’t get my started on the boobie mauling.
Raro Video specializes in resurrecting and restoring Italian genre films, and while they usually focus on cops, criminals, and westerns, they occasionally pop out a colorful slice of horror. This 33 year old flick hasn’t exactly been forgotten, but it hasn’t been as well remembered as some of Lenzi’s other films or those of his countrymen. Raro’s release is light on extras but features a very clean picture restoration.
- Interview with Umberto Lenzi [49:27]
- Italian and English Trailers