September 2007

 
 

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DVDs I bought or received in the month of September

HD DVD/Blu-ray/DVD
  • 300 (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • Black Book (R0 UK, Blu-ray)
  • Dawn of the Dead (remake) (R0 USA, HD DVD)
  • House of 1000 Corpses (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • The Lives of Others (RA USA, Blu-ray)
  • Silent Hill (R0 Germany, HD DVD)
  • Underworld (R0 Germany, HD DVD)
  • Waking the Dead: Series 5 (R2 UK, DVD)
  • Zodiac (R2 UK, DVD)

Another month with high definition content in a dominating position. I’ve essentially stopped buying standard definition material unless it (a) stands no chance of being released in HD or (b) wouldn’t benefit from being in HD (e.g. TV series shot and/or edited in standard definition). Zodiac, the anomaly, was a free review copy.

 
Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 11:59 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | TV | Waking the Dead
 

Pan’s delights

HD DVD

Source: AV Science Forum

Optimum Home Entertainment have unveiled the bonus materials for their upcoming HD DVD and Blu-ray releases of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, due out in the UK on November 19th. Impressively, especially considering that all of their HD releases so far have been bare bones, it appears that they intend to port over almost everything that was on their 2-disc standard definition DVD release.

- Director’s commentary
- Director’s prologue (35 secs)
- The Power of the Myth featurette on DVD comics (20 mins)
- El Fauno Y Las Hadas featurette (32 mins)
- The Colour & The Shape featurette (4 mins)
- Director’s notebook (20 mins)
- Storyboard video prologue (26 secs)
- Notebook video prologue (33 secs)
- Storyboard/thumbnail comparisons
- UK theatrical trailer (1 min 06)
- Picture galleries
- Guardian/NFT interview with Guillermo Del Toro (30 mins)
- Where applicable, all have English and Spanish subtitles and English Closed Captions available

As far as I can tell, the “Mercedes Lullaby”, “Guillermo Del Toro and the Green Fairy” and “The Melody Echoes the Fairy Tale” featurettes are absent, as is the poster gallery, but everything else seems to be present and correct.

Obviously, these details may be incomplete or unfinalised, and we still don’t have any confirmation on the release’s technical specs, but this is shaping up to be a very good release. It’s likely to appeal to all those in need of an English-friendly HD release, regardless of whether or not they live in the UK, especially with the US distributor, New Line, currently playing sillybuggers over their HD DVD releases.

 
Posted: Friday, September 28, 2007 at 4:05 PM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD
 

More bee action

Film

Last night, I watched the remake of The Wicker Man, a film so staggeringly awful that, a mere year after its original release, it has become a cult classic. You may already have seen the reel put together on YouTube showing its most hilarious moments, but you may not have seen this fan-made trailer which markets the film as, and I quote, “a straight comedy”. Definitely worth a look if you’re in need of a giggle.

 
Posted: Friday, September 28, 2007 at 3:45 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Web
 

Aaaaaargh! Not the bees!

Cunningly disguised as a bear, Nicolas Cage rescues little Madeleine... I mean Rowan

Above: Cunningly disguised as a bear, Nicolas Cage rescues little Madeleine… I mean Rowan

In case you aren’t aware, Amazon UK runs a DVD rental service similar to that offered by the likes of Blockbuster and LoveFilm, albeit without such a wide range of available titles. Anyway, if you have an Amazon account, it seems that you can get a month of free rentals. I’m not convinced that the various packages offered are cost-effective enough to be worth it in the long run, but a free trial certainly doesn’t hurt, and I decided a few days ago to start renting some titles.

Top of the list was the remake of The Wicker Man, a film with such an awesome pedigree of awfulness that I couldn’t just rely on the word of mouth - I really had to see it for myself. I had already seen a hilarious reel collecting many of its more intentionally funny scenes, but I felt the need to understand them in context, especially after reading my good friend the Baron’s excellent review of both this atrocity and the very good 1973 original.

In retrospect, perhaps “context” is a misleading word to use, because there really is no such thing. This film is so moronic and damn near incompetent that I actually think clips of Nicolas Cage karate-kicking Leelee Sobieski in the abdomen, donning a bear costume, stealing children’s animal face masks and finally having a hive of bees poured over his head work better in isolation than they do when integrated into this meandering, preposterous tale about a policeman with a crippling allergy to bees invading an island-based matriarchal commune in search of his missing daughter.

Just to put this into perspective, in the original, the protagonist, Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward), was a devoted Christian lured to an island by a group of pagans who needed a virgin for their yearly harvest sacrifice. Obviously, the writer/director of the remake, Neil LaBute, came to the conclusion that Nicolas Cage was such a dishy catch that no-one would believe he was a virgin, so this particular aspect of his character has been replaced by a tendency to flap his arms and faint when in the vicinity of bees. Guess what the women of this island are famed for producing? That’s right: honey. (“Well, Christianity and bee allergy, they’re kind of the same thing,” a friend said to me today when I told him about the film.)

None of this really makes any sense. Why does Cage have a bee allergy? Why is the island dominated by women, with the few male inhabitants subservient mutes? Why does he spend the final act of the film violently assaulting many of said women? Why did LaBute decide to make the missing girl Cage’s daughter? Why would anyone in their right mind commission this heap of drivel? Presumably, someone in a position of power genuinely believed in this project. Cage, who also gets a producer credit, certainly did, although his hammy, outrageous performance as the marauding Edward Malus (yes, that is his name - the man who ends up being murdered by a group of crazy women just happens to be called… oh, never mind) might make you wondering if the whole thing is just an extended piss-take. Rest assured that it isn’t, more’s the pity: it’s deadly serious, and it’s a strong contender for the worst film of 2006.

 
Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 8:26 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

Death on my mind

Blu-ray

Well, I’m back from the research students’ induction meeting - it was essentially just nibbles, drinkies and a blather - and it occurred to me that I hadn’t mentioned either of my recent acquisitions.

On Tuesday, I received my copy of the Blu-ray release of House of 1000 Corpses from DVD Pacific. It features a decent but not outstanding transfer, with a VC-1 encode (intriguing, given that all of Lions Gate’s previous releases have been MPEG2 or AVC). Detail is very good, and the compression is well-handled (the disc is a single layer BD25), but there is noticeable edge enhancement, and the image has been quite severely noise reduced. I haven’t noticed any visible smearing, but the frozen grain in the backgrounds looks decidedly unnatural and unfilmlike, making this transfer a 7/10 for me at best. Oh, and, much to my disappointment, they haven’t maintained the hilarious menus from the DVD release, which featured various members of the Firefly family instructing the viewer on menu choices. Obviously, since this material was shot in standard definition, it would have been somewhat problematic to port over, but it’s too bad the footage couldn’t have been incorporated into a standalone reel, because a lot of it really was very funny. “Pick a feature!!!”

DVD

I also picked up a copy of the fifth series of Waking the Dead. I was originally hoping to receive a review copy, but BBC’s home video distribution division, 2 Entertain, seem to be rather inconsistent when it comes to sourcing check discs. With Casualty, I was able to get review copies of Series 1 and 3 but not 2, whereas with Waking the Dead, I got copies of Series 2 and 4 but not 1, 3 or 5. Anyway, I’m quite looking forward to seeing this series again, which aired at around this time two years ago (for some reason, there were no episodes in 2006, with the rather disappointing sixth series airing in early 2007). My memory of it is that it takes a while to find its footing, having to cope with the departure of two key cast members, but eventually turns itself around with some very strong episodes in the second half.

Incidentally, this six-disc set, just released this month, has an RRP of £34.99, but I was able to find it at DVD.co.uk for a mere £17.95 - definitely worth considering if you’re planning on picking up this title.

 
Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 8:13 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | General | TV | Waking the Dead
 

DVD image comparison: Silent Hill (SD vs. HD)

HD DVD

I’m just about to go out to attend this enrolment meeting at the university, but before I leave, I thought I’d upload my latest standard definition to high definition image comparison. Today, I take a look at the UK Region 2 DVD release of Christophe Gans’ Silent Hill, surely the best video game adaptation created to date, and see how it compares against the stunning HD DVD recently released in Germany by Concorde Home Entertainment. It can only end in tears.

Walk this way!

 
Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 4:21 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology
 

Smile: it confuses people

2005 matriculation card

Two years ago to the day, I stood in line at the University of Glasgow to pay the fees for my MLitt course and pick up my matriculation card. I ended up spending nearly two hours standing in the pouring rain, getting wet and annoyed and, to quote my post at the time, “listening to female first year students wittering on about their fit boyfriends who play guitars and are such total slackers”. I also found myself in the bizarre situation of having two matriculation numbers, due so some sort of administrative screw-up.

2007 matriculation card

Flash forward two years, and things went considerably more smoothly today as I queued to enrol in the first year of my PhD. Actually, there really wasn’t much queuing to speak off, because I was very near to being the first in line, thanks to arriving slightly earlier than necessary. The whole process was painless: I didn’t get wet, no-one was wittering about their boyfriend, and, all told, it look less than ten minutes. I was so pleased that I even flashed my best lopsided smile at the camera, so now, when people look at my matriculation card, they won’t think I’m a moody git, just a twit.

I’ll be back in at the university later this evening for an induction meeting for research students, but, because the matriculation process was over so quickly, I decided to just come home rather than hanging about for nearly four hours.

 
Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 3:04 PM
Categories: General | PhD
 

DVD image comparison: Underworld (SD vs. HD)

HD DVD

For my second standard definition to high definition image comparison, I’ve pitted the R1 USA 2-disc Unrated Extended Cut release of Underworld from Columbia Tristar against the recent German HD DVD release (also of the extended cut) from Concorde Home Entertainment. In terms of image quality, both are towards the upper echelons of their respective formats, so it’s interesting to see how they compare. Underworld may not have the razor sharpness of King Kong or Silent Hill, but the HD DVD constitutes a very faithful and natural-looking reproduction of the source materials.

Note that a US Blu-ray release by Sony Pictures, featuring an AVC encode, a PCM 5.1 audio track and most (but not all) of the extras from the 2-disc DVD release, is also available. I haven’t seen it so I have no idea how it compares to Concorde’s version.

Have a look!

 
Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at 12:40 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology
 

DVD image comparison: Unleashed (SD vs. HD)

HD DVD

I lied! Despite earlier claiming that it would probably be “a couple of days” before any actual standard definition to high definition comparisons were made available on this site, I decided to go all-out and have one ready for this very night. The first ever Whiggles.com SD vs. HD Image Comparison is for Unleashed, looking at the DVD and HD DVD sides of this combo release.

If you head over to the comparison now, you’ll probably notice that a couple of things have changed from the days when I only pitted one DVD release against another. For a start, the video, audio and extras ratings (out of 10) have been removed, simply because SD and HD are on completely different playing fields, so an actual side by side numerical comparison would be pointless.

Secondly, for my image roll-overs, I have opted to present a portion of each frame rather than the whole thing. This is for two reasons. One, to save bandwidth (although, as I am allocated a terabyte of the stuff every month, I’m not sure that there’s any actual point in this). Two, a full-size HD capture has a resolution of 1920x1080 - I don’t know about you, but that’s more than my desktop resolution. Therefore, to keep things manageable, and to avoid breaking the site’s design, I opted for 720x720 crops. The HD image retains its original resolution, while the SD image is first scaled up to 1920x1080 and then cropped to match its HD counterpart.

With any luck, these changes will be to everyone’s satisfaction, and hopefully you’ll get something out of this first comparison. Unleashed may not be a title that shows off the HD DVD format to its fullest potential, but it constitutes a massive improvement over its SD counterpart, and hopefully the comparison will make this crystal clear.

Enjoy!

 
Posted: Monday, September 24, 2007 at 11:06 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology
 

HD cartoon capers

A selection of 1080p animated delights for your viewing pleasure.

Corpse Bride
(Warner, USA, VC-1, 11.6 GB)

Corpse Bride Corpse Bride Corpse Bride Corpse Bride Corpse Bride Corpse Bride Corpse Bride Corpse Bride

Rabbit Hood (on The Adventures of Robin Hood HD DVD)
(Warner, USA, VC-1, 1.08 GB)

Rabbit Hood Rabbit Hood Rabbit Hood

Robin Hood Daffy (on The Adventures of Robin Hood HD DVD)
(Warner, USA, VC-1, 926 MB)

Robin Hood Daffy Robin Hood Daffy Robin Hood Daffy

Click the images above to view them full size.

 
Posted: Monday, September 24, 2007 at 9:44 PM
Categories: Animation | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

Anyone want some full resolution HD DVD screenshots?

At long last, I can now take full resolution 1920x1080 captures of HD DVD titles with no loss in image quality, thanks to Lyris, who figured out a way of accessing the disc contents using a bunch of programs and splitters. This is a fairly time-consuming process, so I’m not going to be able to provide captures of every single title in my collection, but I decided to dig out some of the best-looking ones to give you some idea of what the format is capable of.

King Kong
(Universal, UK, VC-1, 26.7 GB)

King Kong King Kong King Kong King Kong King Kong King Kong King Kong King Kong

Serenity
(Universal, UK, VC-1, 18.3 GB)

Serenity Serenity Serenity Serenity Serenity Serenity Serenity Serenity

Silent Hill
(Concorde, Germany, VC-1, 21.0 GB)

Silent Hill Silent Hill Silent Hill Silent Hill Silent Hill Silent Hill Silent Hill Silent Hill Silent Hill

Click the images above to view them full size.

Hopefully, when my laptop arrives at some point later this week, I’ll be able to do the same with Blu-ray titles, provided the process doesn’t turn out to be too different.

Also, stay tuned for my first ever DVD-to-HD DVD image comparisons! I’m still trying to decide on an appropriate format for presenting them (given that a single high definition capture exceeds the resolution of most people’s displays, some changes will obviously have to be made as compared to the current format), so I probably won’t be posting anything along these lines for a couple of days, but it’s very exciting to finally get to the stage of being able to offer readers of the site a clear demonstration of the massive leap in quality offered by the high definition formats.

 
Posted: Monday, September 24, 2007 at 4:53 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology
 

DVD review: Zodiac

DVD
This release of Zodiac has “stopgap” written all over it. If you enjoyed the film and can’t wait a few more months for the director’s cut, then this release may be for you, but those with more patience are advised to pass on this disappointingly empty and visually compromised edition, particularly with the director’s cut being slated for release on HD DVD.

Released tomorrow in the UK, I’ve reviewed Warner’s Region 2 release of Zodiac, David Fincher’s serial killer thriller based on the real-life late 60s murders.

 
Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 8:10 PM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews
 

I’m a conscientious student

My return to the world of academia got off to an earlier start than I had originally been expecting, as the Theatre, Film & Television Studies’ departmental enrolment meeting was in fact held this Tuesday (the 18th) - something that I didn’t know until an email reached my inbox a couple of days beforehand. Anyway, despite the short notice, I was able to make it, and it was good to catch up with some old friends (and make a few new ones). Unfortunately, I’m in the rather unusual position of both my intended supervisors being on leave (one on maternity leave, the other doing research), which means that, at this moment in time, I’m not entirely sure how things are going to work out. I’m to make an appointment to see the course convenor at some point next week, so hopefully a solution can be reached.

Oh, and on Thursday, I had a meeting with my advisor of studies, the outcome of which was that I’m now approved to register next Thursday, at which point I will hand over a cheque in exchange for a matriculation card and some leaflets.

Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11Z

In the meantime, with around £1,500 still in my bank account, I’ve decided to invest in a laptop, which should make it easier to get work done on the go. I’m mindful of the fact that study space at the university is quite limited, so, if I’m on the campus, I’d rather not find myself in a situation where I have to queue for half an hour in the library to get access to a computer. Anyway, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and pick up a system that will allow me to use Microsoft Word, Excel and maybe even a bit of the old PowerPoint (useful when giving presentations, naturally), while at the same time letting me play (and screen-capture) Blu-ray discs. That’s right, I bought a Sony VAIO laptop - a VGN-FZ11Z, to be precise - and I managed to find one unused and sealed on eBay for £350 less than what it retails for direct from Sony. I’m expecting it to materialise at some point later next week (need to wait for my cheque to clear first), and I’ll be sure to post photographs and impressions once it arrives.

This will, of course, mean that I’ll also be able to get rid of the PC I’ve had in my room for the last couple of years. I’ll be keeping my primary downstairs machine, however - as impressive as the specs of this laptop are, the video card, on-board sound card and 5,400 RPM hard drive (with a mere 200 GB of disk space), not to mention the lack of upgrade options, mean that I’m not about to settle for it as my only system.

 
Posted: Friday, September 21, 2007 at 8:52 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | General | PhD | Technology | Web
 

Zodiac’s great but the DVD ain’t

DVD

Yesterday, I received a review copy of the R2 UK release of Zodiac, David Fincher’s latest film. The short story is that it’s a great film, a worthy spiritual successor (of sorts) to Se7en, and you should definitely see it if you haven’t already. For the long story, you’ll have to wait for my full review for DVD Times, which will hopefully be going up on Sunday, ahead of the DVD’s Monday release.

On a side note, it’s been a while since I watched a standard definition DVD of a recent film, and I was horrified by just how shoddy this release of Zodiac looks. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by high definition, but I was genuinely shocked by the amount of artefacting (mostly in the form of mosquito noise and horrible noise reduction smears) on display, not to mention the total lack of fine detail. I think Lyris (who saw it at the cinema) put it best when he said to me that, with high definition and theatrical screenings, you can tell what’s supposed to be in focus because you can see a clear difference in clarity between, say, the actor who is the centre of attention and the background which is of less importance, but, in standard definition, or at least poor quality standard definiton, everything just sort of merges together as a flat, indistinct sea of mush.

Paramount is bringing the director’s cut out on HD DVD in the US on January 8th, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be snatching it up and junking the DVD as soon as possible.

 
Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 9:25 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Reviews | Technology
 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, Episode 6: No Future For You, Part One

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8

Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Illustrated by Georges Jeanty

This episode begins the Faith storyline, and I’m pleased to report that it looks as if it’s going to be a good one. Any fears that bringing in a new writer would disrupt the tone of the series can be put aside, because Brian K. Vaughan definitely captures the correct feel: in fact, I’d argue that this feels more like vintage Buffy than any other issue thus far, given that, for the most part, it eschews the large-scale, superhero-like fights scenes and improbable demons (c.f. the fairies in The Chain) in favour of more understated character scenes.

The main interaction in this episode takes place between Faith and Giles, holed up in Cleveland, guarding its “second-rate Hellmouth”. They were always two of the strongest characters, and the dialogue is the sort of witty-yet-meaningful material that went on when the show was at its best. It’s nice to see them not shying away from Faith’s dark past, especially given that one of the biggest problems with her return in Season 7 was that this aspect of her character was given short shrift. The hints that are being dropped about her childhood and home life make me hopeful that we’ll get a deeper exploration of her character as this arc progresses, while the mission on which Giles intends to send her - to pass herself off as an aristocrat and attends a fancy dress party (“They seriously call their fancy dress parties ‘fancy dress parties’?”) in order to assassinate a rogue Slayer/heiress - is just ridiculous enough to offset the darker elements with some much-needed comic relief. So, Faith heads off to England (you know she’s in England because David Tennant and Billie Piper are wandering past a red telephone box in the establishing shot) to learn etiquette and be fitted with a ball-gown - most amusing.

The episode also picks up on an issue raised, briefly, in Angel’s fifth season, and it’s a pertinent one: if you give two thousand girls throughout the world instant Slayer powers, how can you be sure they’ll use these powers for good? The answer is that you can’t, and Lady Genevieve Savidge (great name) is a particularly nasty piece of work, kidnapping various people (including other Slayers) and hunting them down on horseback on her estate. This continues the theme that began in The Long Way Home of the world becoming less defined in black and white terms and more in shades of grey. It’s no longer a case of “good Slayer fights bad demons” - the later seasons of the TV show suggested that demons had it in them to be good, and now we’re seeing that a Slayer can just as easily be bad, and that, by sharing her power with these two thousand girls, Buffy has in fact populated the world with two thousand dangerous killing machines, with the choice of going either way.

Overall, an impressive episode. After a slightly shaky start, this new season actually seems to be finding its footing.

8/10.

 
Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 8:57 AM
Categories: Books | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | Reviews | TV
 

The Giallo Project #8: One on Top of the Other

DVD

Alternative titles: Una sull’altra; Perversion Story; Director: Lucio Fulci; Starring: Marisa Mell, Jean Sorel, Elsa Martinelli; Music: Riz Ortolani; Italian theatrical release date: August 15th, 1969

Note: this review contains a number of major spoilers. Much of the body of this text is taken from my review of Severin’s DVD.

When Dr. George Dumurrier’s (Jean Sorel) wife Susan (Marisa Mell) dies suddenly during a vicious asthma attack, the young clinician stands to inherit $2 million. The convenience of this situation does not escape the attention of the authorities, and their suspicions are raised further by the news that George has started associating with a stripper named Monica Weston (Mell again), who bears an uncanny resemblance to his supposedly dead wife. As the net closes in, and George finds himself accused first of conspiring with his wife to commit fraud and then of murdering her, his lover Jane (Elsa Martinelli) is forced to take matters into her own hands to unravel the mystery and prove his innocence.

Lucio Fulci was the second of the “Big Three” (Bava, Fulci, Argento) to hop aboard the giallo train, and this, his first entry, clearly bears the influence of Romolo Guerrieri’s The Sweet Body of Deborah, a fact never denied by Fulci himself. For this review, I watched the French cut of the film, entitled Perversion Story, released on DVD by Severin Films, but in actual fact I prefer both the English cut and its more ambiguous title, One on Top of the Other. The French cut loses a lot of character development in exchange for added sex scenes, and as a result feels considerably more disjointed than the English variant. There is some discrepancy as to the running time of the Italian cut, although I have seen a version, in Italian, which includes all the scenes from both the English and French edits.

I see this as Fulci’s Vertigo, a thriller focusing on a man’s obsession with the image of a dead woman (who is in fact not dead), set in and around the dizzy heights of modern (late 60s) San Francisco. Taking many of its cues from the domestic melodramas popularised by the likes of Umberto Lenzi in the mid to late 1960s, the focus is less on outlandish set-pieces (the events of the film hinge around a single death, which takes place off-screen) and more on conspiracy and psychological torture. This is a very cold film, and one tinged with sadness too, despite the colourful settings and Swinging Sixties vibe: all relationships seem to be distant, comprised of ritual and pretence. George’s marriage to Susan, it would seem, is merely for show, while even his relationship with his lover, Jane, is mechanical and devoid of any real passion. This is most apparent in an early sequence in which, having told him that their relationship can’t go on, Jane boards a train to return home to her family. George then sets off in his car, pursuing and overtaking the train, and meets her at the other end. Later, as they travel together in his car (in a scene removed from the French print), it is made clear that this ritual is carried out on a regular basis: “One day, I’ll take that train, and you won’t be there waiting for me,” she tells him, to which he responds “No, we’ll work it out. Even his relationship with the seductive Monica, a woman who finally seems to be accessible to him, turns out to be a sham, as she is revealed to be nothing more than a mocking construct created by Susan.

One on Top of the Other

Sex is a game in the world in which this film is set, characterised by strip clubs that manage to be both shamelessly salacious and hopelessly naff at the same time, while George, in what is perhaps a manifestation of Fulci’s inherent misogyny, finds himself surrounded by a cavalcade of manipulative and hostile women. Indeed, even ‘plain’ Jane is not all that she seems, transforming into a calculating seductress in a scene in which she turns a photo-shoot with Monica/Susan into an impromptu interrogation. Looked at from a male perspective, it’s essentially a fantasy of submission - perhaps best exemplified by the character of Benjamin Wormser (Riccardo Cucciolla): a love-struck client of Monica, he dotes on a woman who doesn’t even really exist. Perhaps, in this world, people can only truly be in love with themselves: as Monica rebukes the jealous Benjamin, who believes that she has found someone else, “Yes, you’re right. I’ve got a lover who loves me more than you do. It’s a woman, too. It’s me!”

Perhaps the most misanthropic element of the film, however, is not the sex but the general impersonality of life itself. Fulci shows us a world in which everything is done by proxy: we, the audience, aren’t sure how Susan “died” until it is actually spelled out for us by Henry (Alberto de Mendoza), because we never actually see the event. Even the conspiracy to have George bumped off does not require that its participants lift so much as a finger against him since, as Henry so eloquently puts it, “the State” will kill him for them. This extends to the film’s conclusion, which actually turns out to be its weakest moment, despite being thematically appropriate: George’s last-minute rescue from the gas chamber takes place off-screen, with the events instead described to us by a news reporter. Given George’s complete lack of agency throughout the whole affair, his slinking into the shadows is rather fitting, but it is unsatisfying nonetheless, as it means that both he and the audience are denied a proper sense of closure.

It is, therefore, appropriate, that the biggest impression is made by Marisa Mell. Given top billing in English language prints but listed after Jean Sorel elsewhere, she pulls off a remarkable feat by playing two completely different characters who are, in fact, one in the same. So complete is her transformation from the cold, strait-laced brunette Susan Dumurrier to the blonde, energetic and highly sexual Monica Weston that it comes as a shock to learn that both are played by the same person. A Jungian reading reveals a world full of doppelgangers, none more so than Susan/Monica, who is introduced as a reflection in a window, fleetingly spotted gliding around the house. Effectively, the film is telling us, she’s a ghost even before she’s dead, and her spirit continues to haunt George long after her apparent demise. Even the title is a double entendre: “one on top of the other” may superficially be seen as a reference to sexual activity (of which there is plenty in this film), but it could just as well refer to the notion of layering one persona over another, as Susan does when she creates the character of Monica.

One on Top of the Other stands as the beginning of a high point in Fulci’s career, and a niche which, had he continued to explore rather than being drawn to the more visceral but less satisfying thrills of gory zombie horror flicks, would probably resulted in a better legacy than being known simply as the “godfather of gore”.

Next time, I’ll be looking at Piero Schivazappa’s 1969 thriller The Frightened Woman.

 
Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 10:42 AM
Categories: Cinema | Gialli | Reviews | The Giallo Project
 

Buy my crap!

Web

After several months of procrastination, I’m finally getting round to hawking the various computer components I no longer need. If you could do with a new computer, why not start putting it together by relieving me of my case, power supply, motherboard and processor. That’s right, you yourself may have the privilege of owning:

- Lian Li PC-6070B Silent Black Aluminium case
- Antec NeoPower 480W power supply
- Asus P5AD2 Premium motherboard
- Intel Pentium 4 550 3.4GHz CPU

Imagine that! All of this could be yours! Get bidding!

 
Posted: Monday, September 17, 2007 at 9:11 PM
Categories: Technology | Web
 

Mother of Tears sails into the Bay

Mother of Tears

Source: Bloody Disgusting

It is being reported that the North American distribution rights for Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears are to be jointly picked up by Anchor Bay and the Weinstein Company. What this means in terms of the film’s chances of getting a theatrical release are anyone’s guess, but let’s just say that they’re somewhat higher than they were previously. It’s also unclear how any potential high definition home video release would work out, given that Anchor Bay is Blu-ray exclusive while the Weinsteins are HD DVD exclusive. Oh, and, naturally, the usual fears have arisen that, given the Weinstein brothers’ track record of butchering foreign titles, the film will eventually show up in America in a form decidedly unrepresentative of Argento’s artistic intentions.

Whatever happens, though, let’s look on the bright side: a semi-major has got involved, which gives the film a better chance of some form of theatrical exhibition than any of Argento’s other projects since Opera.

 
Posted: Friday, September 14, 2007 at 4:11 PM | Comments: 7 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Dario Argento | HD DVD
 

Blu-ray review: Black Book

Blu-ray
Call it a guilty pleasure if you like, but Black Book is one of the most engaging films I’ve seen in recent years, and definitely Paul Verhoeven’s best offering in a long time. Tartan’s Blu-ray release offers up an impressive transfer and audio options, alongside extras that are insightful but rather limited in quantity.

Tartan kicks off their Blu-ray support with Paul Verhoeven’s World War 2 thriller Black Book, released on the UK on September 24th. I’ve reviewed this Region 0 disc, which features an excellent transfer and boasts solid audio support.

 
Posted: Friday, September 14, 2007 at 3:37 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Reviews
 

HD DVD debacle

HD DVD

We now have a new HD DVD to add to the HD Image Quality rankings list. Conversely, it’s probably the worst film I’ve ever watched in high definition. It’s Aeon Flux, which Lyris bought from DVD Pacific. While we marvelled at the sumptuous transfer, I was first baffled, then downright infuriated, by this shoddy excuse for a movie. Ironically, the end result of watching this live action travesty was that we both decided that Peter Chung’s original animated series looked vastly more interesting and that we had to see it at once. Result: Lyris ordered the DVD release of Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection from eBay. There - who ever said that paying money for a dreadful film was always a bad thing?

Then again, I’m one to talk, as I recently indulged in a bit of “buying for the sake of image quality” myself, picking up a copy of the HD DVD/DVD combo release of 300 from Amazon.com. It arrived yesterday, and a cursory glance suggests another magnificent transfer. However, I’d be lying if I said this was normally my sort of thing - I generally don’t go in for comic book adaptations, and certainly not ones featuring bare-chested men doing a lot of yelling and fighting each other. There’s only so much testosterone I can take. Still, I’ll be sitting down to watch it before too long, and we’ll see whether or not my initial impressions were correct.

 
Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2007 at 10:39 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | HD DVD
 
 

 
 
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