Monday, November 2, 2015

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin : Profondo Rosso Live @ Celluloid Screams

For the finale of 2015's Celluloid Screams horror festival, the festival organisers managed to bag the services of the legendary Italian prog rock group Goblin. They were to play their soundtrack to Dario Argento's classic giallo Profondo Rosso live along with the film. This once in a lifetime opportunity (at least in Sheffield) could not be missed.

Having never been to anything like this before I was unsure how it would work technically. It turned out I was over thinking it. It was much more straight forward than I imagined, and through a combination of impeccable timing and sheer bloody volume, the music track on the film was rendered completely inaudible.

Although I've seen Deep Red many times before, I wanted to watch it again prior to the event, so that on the evening I could concentrate more on the band's performance than the twists and turns of the plot. I watched the Blue Underground blu ray, which is, let's be honest pretty average, but still better than the original Arrow release which suffered from horrible video noise. As such I'm eagerly awaiting the newly restored Arrow release and was hoping the print used for the screening would be based on that restoration. However, it appeared the screening used the same blu ray as I'd watched, even suffering from slight pauses every time the restored scenes in Italian appeared. Still, it was less about the visual presentation and all about the aural delivery, and that certainly did deliver!

From the opening burst of music, I was taken aback by the power of it , and I don't just mean in terms of volume (although it was pleasingly loud), far more than anytime I've viewed the movie previously. I genuinely found it breathtaking. When I wasn't knocked back in my seat I was giddy like a child on Christmas morning.

After the film finished the band went on to play a short set of other material, and although they are undoubtedly most famous for their work with Argento, they have worked on other film soundtracks as well as having recorded albums unconnected to movies. That being said, it's completely understandable that they chose to raid their Argento back catalogue, given the audience they were playing to, and so we got tracks from Demons, Dawn Of The Dead, Suspiria, Tenebre and finally, Phenomena.

It was truly special for me to hear these tracks played live, with such an appreciative audience and Simonetti and the band clearly loving every second of it. The highlights for me were the Suspiria track, and Claudio having fun playing up to the audience with the vocoder used on the absolutely barn storming Tenebre track, that was on the verge of making my ears bleed. It was spectacular. More photos follow.

Within the last week Goblin have also played Birmingham, Cardiff (both playing along to Dawn Of The Dead) and Dublin, where they did both Profondo Rosso and Suspiria in a double bill. They are also coming back to the UK next year, with a date pencilled in for Manchester in May. I had such a great time I may well be there. A huge thank you to the Celluloid Screams team and The Showroom for making this happen. Awesome!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eurocrime Posters : Milano Calibro 9 Belgian Edition

Sometime ago now, I posted my German poster for Fernando Di Leo's classic Eurocrime entry Milano Calibro 9. I spent yesterday evening kicking back with Arrow's glorious blu ray of the film, which inspired me to dig out this second poster I have, this one being from Belgium.

Cool, non?

Back to the blu ray, the Arrow disc is quite an improvement image wise over the Raro disc from the Fernando Di Leo box set . Not that there is anything wrong with the Raro disc, but I love this film with a passion, and the improvement was well worth the upgrade to me. If you have neither, then it's the Arrow all the way, as in addition to ther improved video, it lifts the extras from the Raro and adds an appreciation of the Eurocrime genre from Matthew Holness (Garth Marenghi's Dark Place and A Gun For George).

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hong Kong Film Books From My Latest Trips Part 2

As promised here, latest Hong Kong film books part 2.

Herman Yau Director In Focus
Wai Ka fai Filmmaker In Focus
Hong Kong Cinema 79-89
20th Anniversary Of The Hong Kong International Film Festival 1977-1996
Hong Kong New Wave Twenty Years After
Hong Kong Cinema In The Eighties
A Tribute To Action Choreographers
A Tribute To Romantic Visions 25th Anniversary Of Film Workshop
Always In The Dark : A Study Of Hong Kong Gangster Films

Look out for an in depth look at a few of these, in particular Always In The Dark.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hong Kong Heroes Riki-Oh The Story Of Ricky Blu Ray

Mediumrare have launched their new Hong Kong Heroes line, and the first release is Nam Nai Choi's The Story Of Ricky. The package includes the film on both blu ray and dvd, along with a collector's booklet. The reversible sleeve features the option of two new pieces of artwork, both of which have their charms.

Being used to Hong Kong cinema receiving shoddy treatment I was expecting Hong Kong Heroes to use the same master as the Mediablasters US release, but to my surprise they have a new transfer. Not only is it new, but it's also genuine high definition rather than an upscale. The result is something of a revelation, at least image wise. I understand the transfer was provided by Austrian company XT video, so this may well be a one off. As such, I'm not getting too excited just yet, but fair play to Mediumrare, it would have been really easy to just put out a port of the US disc, but they went the extra mile. To give you an idea, I've taken a couple of screenshots from my review of the film and matched them up with the blu ray.

The top shot is from the HKL dvd, the bottom one from the blu ray. Aside from the obvious bump in resolution, there is more picture information on all four sides of the frame. The quality jump isn't as pronounced whenever optical effects come in to play, see below, and again dvd is top, blu ray underneath.

To think that The Story Of Ricky could ever look this good is quite amazing, and gives plenty of hope that one day we may see other classic Hong Kong movies receive similar treatment. Here are a few more screen caps from the disc, this time without comparisons, as I think these speak for themselves.

On the audio side the blu ray has English and Cantonese options in 5.1 and 2.0, however the Cantonese 2.0 is not the original mono mix, but a downmix of the 5.1 remix. This isn't a deal breaker for me, but I know it will be a serious issue for many. In addition the audio tracks are labelled as DTS-HD Master audio, when in fact they are basic lossy Dolby Digital tracks. There were reports of the Miles Wood/Jude Poyer audio commentary being out of sync with the movie, due to the difference in framerate from dvd to blu ray, however I've dipped in and out of the commentary and the scene specific parts seem to be in sync right up to the end of the film.

All in all, Hong Kong Heroes first release is pretty special. The film looks way better than I ever imagined it could, and although it would have been nice to have the original mono track I'm not really surprised that it hasn't. It will be interesting to see how they go with their next batch of titles and in particular, Armour Of God. How will they compare to this extremely positive start? Will Mediumrare prove to be Hong Kong Heroes? And will they ever answer my emails?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This...

Over on the Facebook Laserdisc Forever! page, Jeff posted this find in a Value Village store in Ontario.

I've been pretty lucky where charity shop finds are concerned, however this is the stuff of legend. I have literally dreamed of this kind of thing for years, and seeing this will almost certainly extend that for the rest of my days. To make it even better/worse, they were 99c a piece!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

HKMS : Heartbeat 100

A series of HK movie synopses regurgitated verbatim from the dvd/vcd/laserdisc cover.

Mei Yuk (Maggie Cheung), Mei Chu (Bonnie Law) and Wenny Eyes (Lui Fong) spend their holidays in a small village. One night, Mei Chu witnesses a murder in a gypsum scuplture shop. But when the police arrive, nothing has happened to the shop owner, Yam and his mentally retarded nephew. Mei Yuk is suspicious and sneaks into the shop but is discovered by Yam. Since then, the house they stayed in haunted......

Short, sweet and by HKMS standards, fairly subtle, I love they specify the gypsum as though that may make the film appeal more to the connoisseur of that specific genre of sculpture. Also adore the last line.......

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hong Kong Laserdisc : Return To A Better Tomorrow

After a long wait, Hong Kong laserdiscs mark a glorious return to A Hero Never Dies with Wong Jing's Return To A Better Tomorrow. However you feel about Wong Jing, what's not to love here? If ever a film warranted spreading over two discs it's this one, two amazing covers for the price of err... two! Just look at them though, with Lau Ching Wan, Ekin Cheng and a smooth as a baby's bum chested Michael Wong rockin' those white linen suits. Waxed Wong aside, look at the hair, of course Ekin's is legendary, but dare I say he's given a run for his money here? All this and Chingmy Yau too!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Hard Boiled 14, 15 And Oh Yeah 16

Three more editions of John Woo's Hard Boiled along with some kind of vague justification for the purchase. Of course there can be no justification of buying the same film for the 14th, 15th and 16th time, but once you've hit thirteen, I guess that horse has already bolted and it's best not to worry about it.

What could have tempted me beyond number 13 in the collection? Namely the German Hardbox VHS edition from Pacific Video Plus, for no more reason than I liked the box. The original Mei Ah VCD which considering my side project I felt I had to have, and the pick of the bunch, the HK Video French dvd.

German VHS Front

German VHS back

Mai Ah VCD cover

HK Video French DVD cover

HK Video French DVD back

HK Video French DVD Inside

I found the HK Video dvd (amongst many French discs) in Hong Kong. At first I found it quite surprising how many French discs can be found there. When you think about it though it becomes less so, it's yet another sign of how much respect many of the French labels show HK cinema, and how often they have the best available version of a title. The lack of English option that is the stumbling block for many UK and US fans isn't an issue for Hong Kongers as the discs almost always have the original Cantonese soundtrack alongside any French dub that maybe on there.

I'd like to think that I'm done with Hard boiled, but then I guess you never know what else may turn up! Keep an eye out for more HK Video coverage in the forthcoming weeks.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Big Deal In 24 Frames

I viewed Liu Jun Guk's The Big Deal with the intention of reviewing it, however mere words cannot possibly do the madness of this film justice. Going in I knew nothing about it and to say my preconceptions were wrong doesn't quite cover it. Instead of a review here are 24 screen caps that I hope give you some idea, beware there are significant SPOILERS included.

The Big Deal begins like this

Has not one but two Tommy Wong's

An impossibly cute Moon Lee...

and Yukari Oshima in full on chav get up...

and then there's this...

not to mention this.

Butter wouldn't melt... and oh yeah, fashion.

The story? It's something to do with this.

But forget that, this inevitably...

leads to this.

Every film should have a Yuen Wah on the toilet scene.

Magnificent suit, and it's not his only one.

Mexican stand off...

kicks off courtesy of a fart.

Believe it or not, this is a walkie talkie, no really

One more time.

Oh go on then, last time I promise.

Moon mugging

Three hand technique

never seen a film with more bruise make up, ever!

From this ....

to this.

How else could they have ended it?

I'm not sure even these screenshots do The Big Deal's level of lunacy any kind of justice, you need to see it for yourself to appreciate just how insane it is. It certainly won't be everyone's idea of what a Moon Lee/ Yukari Oshima/Yuen Wah/Sibelle Hu film should be, if you can put that out of your head and go with the slapstick madness, you may just enjoy yourself!
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