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The Dorm that Dripped Blood  
USA | 1981
Directed by: Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter
Written by: Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow & Stacey Gaichino
Starring: Laurie Lapinski, Stephen Sachs, David Snow, Pamela Holland
| 88 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

After the majority of the college population has left for Christmas vacation, a handful of students led by Joanne Murray have stayed behind to prepare an old dormitory for demolition. They expect a boring week of sorting through trash and paperwork, moving furniture and sweeping the building for anything important that needs to be removed. The students aren’t totally alone however, as the building maintenance man is sticking around in case anything needs fixing, and a local oddball resident keeps creeping around the property. He seems harmless enough, although things start to turn a bit violent before long and Joanne and her crew want him gone. What none of the kids realize though is there’s also a maniac prowling the building, and there are dead bodies right under their noses. If the trouble that surrounds them isn’t brought to light soon, they all may end up victims themselves.

For years and years, I’ve had various people say to me “You’ve never seen Pranks/The Dorm that Dripped Blood/Death Dorm?! You HAVE to see it!” Well, now I finally have, and guess what? I really didn’t need to see it. There’s not one thing that occurs in The Dorm that Dripped Blood that I haven’t seen in countless other slasher films before, and considering I’m not a huge fan of the genre, someone who’s able to count on one hand films of this nature that I couldn’t live without, that’s not a particularly good thing. As a big fan of stuff like cheesy post-apocalyptic trash and exploitive revenge flicks, I can give a pass to derivative films in these areas of cinema as I already like the formula and I’m not adverse about seeing them repeated. The thing about slasher films is the formula has always been really great kills with a ton of waiting around twiddling your thumbs in-between. The dialogue is generally trite and mind-numbing, the characters unlikeable, and situations that are mundane because they’re usually recycled over and over again. The Dorm that Dripped Blood falls over every one of those stumbling blocks, and the only thing that had me on the hook to keep soldiering on was to see what the next kill was going to look like. Everything else in the film is downright slow and boring.

There are two kickers here that nearly make The Dorm that Dripped Blood worthy of your time. First off, the soundtrack is great. It grabbed me from the opening credits sequence and continued to impress throughout. Courtesy of Christopher Young, whose gone on to provide scores for everything from Spider-Man 3, Drag Me to Hell, and the iconic soundtrack of Hellraiser, it’s not exactly original, borrowing the sharp violin notes notorious to slasher flicks, but it’s among the more effective I’ve heard, especially in a low-budget film like this. The second aspect in play here that’s actually good is the psychotic final 15 minutes. While I don’t want to give too much away, it’s played out very well and is nastier than I’m sure many at the time expected. Sadly, as well executed as the finale is, it’s not enough to warrant anyone other than the most devoted slasher junkie sitting through the entire film. Synapse Films have managed to work their scrying magic and locate an uncut 35mm print of The Dorm that Dripped Blood (the print itself carries the Death Dorm title) that has never been seen on the home market before. Presenting it on both Blu-Ray and DVD in a combo pack, the 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer is extremely grainy, likely due to budget constraints, sub-par lighting, and being blown up from 16mm, but thanks to the increased bitrate of the Blu-Ray format, it looks surprisingly good. No attempt has been made to digitally clean the source, and we’re all the better for it as it faithfully reproduces an old-school theatrical experience. The uncompressed 2.0 DTS Mono track sounds great, and not one bit of dialogue is lost nor is their much in the way of background noise. On the special features side of things, you’ll get a feature-length commentary from director’s Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter, who both talk candidly about their work on the film, even going so far as critiquing it and saying what sucks; gotta love that. Two short featurettes are also included, one with make-up artist Matthew Mungle, and the second with composer Christopher Young. Both guys seem to have loved working on the film, it being the first feature-length project for them both, and they talk about what they learned and the hurdles they had to overcome working with such a low-budget. Rounding out the extra features is an isolated music track (lossless DTS 2.0 mono), and two theatrical trailers, one under the Pranks title and one under The Dorm that Dripped Blood title.

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Eat My Dust  
USA | 1976
Directed by: Charles B. Griffith
Written by: Charles B. Griffith
Starring: Ron Howard, Christopher Norris, Warren Kemmerling, Dave Madden
| 88 Minutes | Rated PG

- By KamuiX

Teenager Hoover Nielbold has only two dreams for his young life: to become a stock-car race driver and to score the girl of his dreams, Darlene Kurtz. He’s hounded by his father, the town sheriff, for his mounting pile of speeding tickets, and doesn’t have much game when it comes to talking to Darlene. Both of his dreams dangle in his reach though during a Halloween event at the local race track, when Darlene says she’ll let him take her for a drive, but not in his beat-up old truck, but the race car that just won first place. Seeing no other alternative to finally catch the eye of his dream girl, Hoover steals the car, piles Darlene and all of his friends in the back, and rips through the town leaving a wake of destruction in his path. Needless to say, his lawman father isn’t very pleased…

Eat My Dust is a rare family-friendly entry from the exploitation-heavy era of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, and snagging a hot Ron Howard, in the midst of Happy Days mania, was a real coup. The catch was that Howard, already with a mind for the business and what was good and bad (which doesn’t exactly explain why he stuck with Happy Days until the bitter end…), wasn’t too hot on the script, and seeing this as a chance to finally direct something of his own, agreed to star only if Corman would then allow him to direct his own film. Corman agreed, and is likely pretty happy he did so, as he can lay claim to giving one of the more lauded directors of the past 20 years his start in the business.

And Howard wasn’t too far off on complaining about the script here; there’s barely a story to be had in Eat My Dust, but at the end of the day it hardly matters if you’re into car action flicks, as it more than delivers in that respect. Countless cars are demolished and endless sets are driven through with reckless abandon to the point where the film almost comes off as more of a highlight reel of a ton of different carsploitation flicks than an actual piece of narrative cinema. When you take into account the bland acting and awful script, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear every cent of the budget went into the stunts. Outside of the action, the other reason to give Eat My Dust a look is all of the “hey, that’s [insert name here]!” moments throughout. Clint Howard, Rance Howard, Dave Madden from The Partridge Family, and even Corbin Bernsen all turn up as Hoover raises hell through town. While the dialogue sounds like it was written in 10 minutes by a dexterous monkey, the non-stop action and over-the-top silliness of it all makes Eat My Dust worth a look for aficionados of 70s car chase cinema, especially so for fans of Grand Theft Auto, the film Howard got to direct in exchange for starring in this.

Another entry in Shout! Factory’s Roger Corman’s Cult Classics line of releases, Eat My Dust is paired with Grand Theft Auto in “The Ron Howard Action Pack” double feature. We’re served up a 1.78:1 anamorphic print of the film, which has its fair share of scratches and damage, but overall is pretty pleasant to look at and Shout! has done a fine job of cleaning it up. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is decent, and while it’s free of much in the way of background noise, I felt it was a bit muffled and occasional dialogue is hard to make out; as if it hardly matters here. Unlike the majority of previous double feature releases in the line, both films get their own disc, each with a ton of extras. For Eat My Dust, we get a brand-new 15-minute interview with Ron Howard, who talks about his work on both films and his appreciation for Corman being the springboard for his directorial career. A 13-minute interview with Corman poster artist John Solie is up next, and it’s a fascinating little piece if you’re into learning what goes into designing film poster art. “How to Crash on a Dime” is a 9-minute piece that includes interviews with cast and crew as well as information on how some of the stunts were achieved. Rounding out the disc is a short interview between Corman and Leonard Maltin, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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USA | 1983
Directed by: David A. Prior
Written by: David A. Prior
Starring: Ted Prior, Linda McGill, John Eastman, Janine Scheer
| 85 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

Ten years ago, a little boy was put into a closet so his whore of a mother could have a little fun with her new sugar daddy. Needless to say the kid wasn’t particularly enthused about being thrown into a dark closet and does what any pissed-off 7 or 8 year old would: he bashed their brains in with a sledgehammer. Fast-forward to present day, and a group of friends are headed out for a vacation full of beer, sex and scary stories at the very house where these brutal murders were perpetrated. It’s not long before all of their lives are in danger too, as a surreal shape-shifting giant stalks them throughout the house with a sledgehammer in hand and bloodshed on his mind.

The simple act of words are going to fall short of describing the wonders of Sledgehammer, the first-ever shot-on-home camcorder slasher flick released onto the home video market, back in the days when kids like myself would rent just about anything as long as it had a cool cover. Little did anyone that picked this up for the first time realize what they were getting themselves into. While Sledgehammer is at its core a slasher, unlike many of these “let’s shoot some shit for cheap so maybe we can sell it for the home market” films, it doesn’t actually rip off very much at all from the popular films of the day. Outside of a few ideas lifted from elsewhere (most notably a “behind the mask” POV shot late in the film that I’m sure was inspired by Halloween), Sledgehammer resides in its own bizarre, fucked-up fever-dream of a world where every single bit of logic is tossed out the window. If you think you’re going to get anything in the way of an explanation when it comes to the shape-shifting maniac that grows from a little boy to a massive behemoth at will, the ethereal sledgehammer itself (it seriously appears and disappears at times; yes, it’s a GHOST sledgehammer!), or why in the hell this dude has hung around the house for 10 years waiting to massacre all over again, you’ll be left wanting. However, if you go into Sledgehammer knowing you’re going to be seeing a piece of shit and allow yourself to become absorbed in its insane reality, I gotta say there’s a hell of a lot to like here; dare I even say, it’s borderline original due to how unafraid it is to be audacious as hell.

Working hand in hand with everything your eyes are witnessing is the relentless, brain-boring synth score that, if you follow the on-screen directions right before the film plays and crank the bass on your system, will pull you even further down the delirious wormhole of Sledgehammer, and if you end up in an otherworldly trance, don’t blame me, blame Intervision and director David A. Prior (yes, the same David A. Prior that directed the action-opus Deadly Prey; I can already hear the Amazon carts filling with copies of Sledgehammer now!) I also love that the oddball reality of the film extends far past the killer himself; these friends, who are all sexed up and on vacation, actually seem to think the idea of partying like crazy is dumping mustard on their girlfriend’s heads and daring each other to stick whole sandwiches in their mouths. God, I miss 80’s logic. At the end of the day, Sledgehammer is raw, cheap, and terribly edited (who the hell thought 30+ second static shots of the house were a good idea? And oh, the slow-mo!), but it’s got the sort of charm that the majority of Z-grade cinema lacks these days, and along with a bewildering final 20 minutes that must be seen to be believed (little boy pimp slap for the fucking win!), Sledgehammer comes highly recommended to connoisseurs of trash. Shitty film fans, your dreamboat has docked.

Incredibly, Intervision Picture Corp has lovingly released Sledgehammer in a special edition DVD that no one could have ever expected to see the light of day. The film is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and it’s not surprising it looks just like its original VHS roots. This is a retro experience through and through (complete with a beaten to hell FBI warning and a trailer for the epic Things opening the disc up), and the tape-noise, color-smearing, and altogether washed-out presentation is perfectly acceptable for this. Hell, I don’t think some would have it any other way. Surprisingly, the Dolby Digital 2.0 track is pretty robust, with all dialogue nice and clear and the booming soundtrack that will rattle the walls if you pump this through your sound system. Two audio commentaries are on board here, the first with director David A. Prior and the second with Bleeding Skull webmasters Joseph A. Ziemba and Dan Budnik. Prior talks about how the film has zero artistic merit and was basically a platform so he could learn to make a film, but he’s certainly happy (and shocked) that anyone still wants to watch it nearly 30 years later. The Bleeding Skull dudes are serious fans of this, and point out things that only guys that are insane enough to watch the film way too many times to admit would notice. This is definitely one of the best “film fan” tracks I’ve heard. Other extras include "SledgehammerLand", a 5 minute piece with Cinefamily programmers Hadrian Belove and Tom Fitzgerald, who talk about their historic screening of the film in 2008, and "Hammertime", a 9 minute featurette with Destroy All Movies!!! author Zack Carlson, who has some loving words for the film. Rounding out the extras are a short video interview with director Prior that covers much of the same ground as his commentary, and trailers for some upcoming Intervision releases, including the aforementioned Things, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer, and another legendary shot-on-video wonder, A Night to Dismember.

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The Great Texas Dynamite Chase  
USA | 1976
Directed by: Michael Pressman
Written by: David Kirkpatrick & Mark Rosin
Starring: Claudia Jennings, Jocelyn Jones, Johnny Crawford, Tara Strohmeier
| 90 Minutes | Rated R

- By KamuiX

Candy is a good girl at heart, and only busts out of jail for the best of reasons: her family’s farm is going to have to be sold because they just don’t have the money to pay for it anymore. What’s a good daughter to do? How about hold up a bank with a stick of dynamite! While there, she meets just-fired bank teller Ellie Jo, who becomes entranced with Candy’s actions and decides to hit the road herself. And wouldn’t you know after Candy decides to do the same after saving her daddy’s land she drives right by a hitchhiking Ellie Jo and they hit the road together, doing whatever they have to to hit it rich. There are a few duds on the way, but after taking a man named Slim hostage, their TNT crime spree across the state of Texas hits an all-time high, with no slowing down in sight!

Yet another entry in a long line of Roger Corman produced “bad ass chick” heist films, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase differentiates itself from the pack not only with the dynamite hook, but also thanks to the whimsical nature of the two leads, Claudia Jennings (Candy) and Jocelyn Jones (Ellie Jo). Unlike Big Bad Mama where you had a mother and her daughters raising hell, or Crazy Mama, that served up a whole family in on the act, here you just get two like-minded ladies that are looking to have a little fun and make some money while doing it. They sometimes fail, sometimes hit it out of the park, but they always learn something new whether they win or lose, and it’s a lot of fun to see them go through the motions and try to figure out what they’re going to do next, all the while becoming better con-women.

It also doesn’t hurt that we get tons of nudity courtesy of Claudia Jennings, likely best known to cult film fans for either Deathsport or Gator Bait, who looks about as hot here as she ever did. Not only that, but she’s a fine actress and completely embodies the role of the free-spirited, wheelin’ and dealin’ Candy. It’s such a shame she died so young in a freak car accident, as the recent DVD releases of her films really remind you about what a big starlet she could have become. With lots of sex, car chases, explosions, and even a little straight-faced drama thrown in for good measure, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase is a ton of fun from beginning to end, with the fact that it treads very familiar ground being its only detriment. But if you’re a Corman fan, that’s something you’ve probably learned to live with by now. Another in Shout! Factory’s never-ending (let’s hope!) line of Roger Corman Cult Classics, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase finds itself alongside Georgia Peaches and Smokey Bites the Dust in a triple feature “Action Packed Collection”. The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and is among the best-looking non-big name titles Shout! has released thus far. The print is close to flawless, with hardly any print damage to speak of and while there’s some contrast hiccups now and again, when compared to the print quality of some of the movies included in other Corman double and triple features, this is very good. The Dolby 2.0 track is nice and clear and free of any nagging issues. The only extra on board is the film’s original theatrical trailer.

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The Real Cannibal Holocaust  
Italy/Japan | 1974
Directed by: Akira Ide
Written by: Annibale Roccasecca, Shinjirô Kanazawa
Starring: N/A
| 99 Minutes | Not Rated

- By SethDLH

Papua New Guinea is a nation long fabled for its indigenous people and their generations old customs. In 1975 the country gained it's independence from the British Empire and the responsibility of overseeing their success as a new free nation was given to Australia. A crew was sent in to prepare a film for the queen to help her better understand the traditions and ways of the natives. The crew captures every aspect of life from the tribes, from their beautification techniques of extreme piercing and scarification to their wedding ceremonies which once required the bride-to-be to make love to every male in the tribe. The queen would see the funeral and mourning customs of rubbing corpse juice of a deceased loved one all over your body and the new found need to make money by performing for white tourists.

I have to say The Real Cannibal Holocaust is not what I expected going in to it. The title and synopsis makes it seem like it would be closer to the cannibal horror films of Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi. What we have here is much more a Mondo film that became popular with cult film crowds in the 1960s. And while the title is misleading in the sense that there really isn't any cannibalism to be found (at least explicitly shown) there are plenty of powerful images and horrifying moments. The Real Cannibal Holocaust certainly follows in the footsteps of earlier Mondo films in the sense that it combines real documentary footage with events that certainly seem staged. And the exploitation factor is bulked up a bit as the director will zoom in on a pair of breasts from far away and leave the lens pointed there for longer than you could call "indigenous nudity". The Real Cannibal Holocaust suffers from never getting deep enough in to the violence that the cannibal horror films have or the artistic merit that some of the better Mondo films have.

Done almost exclusively in a point and shoot documentary style with cameras that were light enough to be lugged around the rough terrain of Papua New Guinea, there isn't much to say as far as cinematography goes. The most interesting thing about The Real Cannibal Holocaust is the fascination of learning about a world that existed centuries ago and is clinging to its survival as the western world closes in. In that manner it is perfectly adequate camera work. One 7 Movies releases the DVD for the first time anywhere (as far as I can tell) in a 1.33:1 full screen presentation with "Italian Mono Dolby Digital 2.0" audio. Whatever the hell that means; it sounded like stereo to me. It was generally clear and our narrator was easy to understand though there were constant pops and hissing in the background throughout. The English subtitles were easy to read for the entire 99 minute runtime and the movie itself came from a print that was grainy and dirty but in pretty good shape overall. It doesn't look like any restoration or cleaning was done but it really doesn't affect your ability to watch it. There are no extras to speak of, totally bare bones. Overall it is an okay presentation of a film that many wouldn't even know existed otherwise. Recommended for completest of Mondo films.

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