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Short Circuits

True Story of a Woman in Prison: Sex Hell  
Japan | 1975
Directed by: Kôyû Ohara
Written by: Akira Momoi & Kôyû Ohara
Starring: Hitomi Kozue, Kaori Seri, Maya Hiromi, Machiko Aoki
| 72 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

When looking at how many women in prison films exist in the American and Spanish exploitation realm, you’d think Roman Porno would be rife with them, but you’d actually be wrong. Ignoring any Pinky Violence films such as the Scorpion series, and there are less than a dozen WIP films in the Roman Porno line (likely more if you consider pink as a whole), and only one series in all of that, the True Story of a Woman in Jail trilogy. The first, dubbed Sex Hell, tells the tale of a group of young women being thrown into jail and then having to acclimated themselves to the harsh climate and the even harsher prison population. One of the newer inmates, Mayumi, refuses to be pushed around and vies to be queen bee of her cell by challenging Hiromi, the current top bitch. Turns out most of these women have more in common than they realize, being thrown away like trash thanks to the men in their lives. Maybe if they work together, they could take a bit of revenge? But before coming to that realization, they’ll have to be subjected to cat-fights, rape, territorial pissing, and some good old fashioned lesbianism; what would a WIP flick be without that?!

From the opening credits sequence, it’s blatantly apparent that True Story of a Woman in Jail: Sex Hell was Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno response to the wildly popular Female Prisoner Scorpion films from Toei, from the eventual plot reveal of the women being wronged by the men in their lives to the theme song, which sounds very much in the vein of Meiko Kaji’s “Urami Bushi”. Of course, since this is Roman Porno we’re talking about, the amount of sex and depraved elements are heightened, but since this was made during the height of the genre’s artistry, it’s extremely well made and focuses more on story than just wall-to-wall sex. That isn’t to say this doesn’t have a few perverse sexual elements, including a dildo made by the ladies in arts and crafts class that’s ribbed with rice snuck out of the mess hall and a lot of fetishistic urination. But the story is the main strength, especially the flashback sequences in which we see just how the main characters were screwed over by their male companions. And remember how I said this was clearly inspired by the Scorpion films? Well, you can imagine there may very well be a satisfying revenge element before all is said and done.

Director Kôyû Ohara has a great eye for framing a scene, and does well masking sexual scenes. One particular one has almost a lens flare sort of effect that goes over the naughty bits to make you think the actors may very well be bumping uglies. It sure beats the blatant optical fogging of later-day Roman Pornos. And the aforementioned flashback sequences are excellent, with eye-popping colors and great set-design that would look right at home in any 70s Japanese genre film. While certainly not for everyone, True Story of a Woman in Jail: Sex Hell is one of the more accessible Roman Pornos I’ve come across, and likely has enough crossover appeal for Pinky Violence fans to sink their teeth into without feeling too dirty about watching it. But who knows, there is a lot of pissing, so maybe I’m just really desensitized at this point. But you won’t know if it offends unless you try it yourself, now will you? Impulse Pictures’ second release under their already excellent Nikkatsu Roman Porno line sees the film presented in 16:9 2.35:1, and it looks fantastic. Colors are rich, the level of grain is pleasant, and there’s nary a flaw to speak of. The Japanese 2.0 mono is crisp and the optional English subtitles are free of errors and a breeze to read. While there are no on-disc extras, some quality liner notes from the awesome Jasper Sharp are included.

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The Burning Moon  
Germany | 1992
Directed by: Olaf Ittenbach
Written by: Olaf Ittenbach
Starring: Beate Neumeyer, Bernd Muggenthaler, Rudolf Höß, Ronald Fuhrmann
| 98 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

I’m a sucker for horror anthology films, and I’m a sucker for shot on video, low budget horror from the 80s and early 90s that are so damn awful they’re hilariously entertaining. But even with those two things going for it, I still wasn’t sold on Olaf Ittenbach’s The Burning Moon. I’ve been aware of the film for well over a decade now, but my first encounter with an Ittenbach film was Premutos, a film that was heralded as splatter genius and I thought was absolutely dire. So I’ve avoided The Burning Moon and every other Ittenbach film that’s crossed my path ever since. But seeing the madmen at Intervision Picture Corp, who are responsible for releasing two of the greatest no-budget horror spectacles to ever see the light of day (Sledgehammer and Things), my interested was renewed. And boy am I glad that it was, as The Burning Moon is the exact type of SOV trash I love. Better experiencing this insanity later rather than never, I suppose.

The Burning Moon tells the tale of a strung out, slacker teenager (played by Ittenbach himself) who gets stuck home one evening baby-sitting his sister. After shooting up some dope (and seeing the moon burst into flames…pass that shit!), he checks on her and sees she can’t sleep. In his drug-fueled haze, he decides the best way to put her to sleep is telling her a couple of really fucked-up bedtime stories. First up is “Julia’s Love”, which tells the story of an escaped mental patient and his meeting with the title character Julia. Obvious terror and horror ensues. This is a pretty pedestrian story, one we’ve seen a million times over in the genre, but Ittenbach drenches it in severed appendages, burning corpses, and axe-murdering senior citizens in an attempt to make the viewer forget this story is old hat. And considering The Burning Moon’s main reason for existing is to please gorehounds, it certainly succeeds. There aren’t many other films I can think of that throw all logic out of the window so a head can explode like a watermelon when it’s hit by a handgun’s bullet just because it feels like it, but this sure is one of them. And with dialogue such as “I want you to absorb all of my love juice”, you won’t be bored in-between the bloodletting either.

The second story is called “The Purity”, and is far and away the star of the show. There’s a psychotic rapist priest on the loose that believes he’s doing God’s work and restoring the purity of the sinners he slays. The townsfolk all believe it’s the town’s outcast, who just wants to maintain his farm and be left alone, who’s responsible for the crimes. The priest is well aware of this, and allows the blame to fall on the poor buffoon, and vigilante justice will be served. And just like in the previous tale, horror and terror once again takes hold, including a trip to Hell itself. “The Purity” is basically 45 minutes of fan-service to every gore-monger or exploitation fan in existence. It’s sleazy as hell, it gives Peter Jackson’s Braindead a run for its money in the red stuff department, and it’s unflinching in its portrayal of every sick, flesh-torturing atrocity one could think of. The final 10 minutes of this piece is quite amazing; while it’s obvious “Hell” was shot in an abandoned factory of some sort, it doesn’t make it any less effective. Think Hellraiser if a print of the film was dropped into a bucket of blood and intestines, and you might get an inkling of what to expect. It honestly needs to be seen to be believed. I’m not going to sit here and tell you The Burning Moon is a well-orchestrated horror film in every facet of its production, but what it sets out to do it does admirably and with so much enthusiasm and panache that it’s impossible not to appreciate it for what it is. Not everyone’s idea of a good time watching a film involves seeing severed heads being thrown around, eyeballs being forced down people’s throats, or guys getting vivisected, but if you do fall into that category, The Burning Moon is a must.

As stated earlier, Intervision Picture Corp has finally released The Burning Moon on DVD in the states after years of circulating the underground trading scene via VHS and DVD (it even took 6 years to see the light of day in its own country, being completed in 1992 but not officially released until 1998), and the results are probably what you’d expect. This is never going to look better than VHS quality, but that’s part of its charm, and to Intervision’s credit, there’s no tracking lines or any signs of wear that an old VHS copy of a film shows. They’ve definitely culled the best possible source. The German audio is perfectly fine, free of any distortion, and the optional English subtitles get the job done, although the occasional grammatical error does pop up. The big extra here is a 46-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that was put together during filming and includes on-set interviews with the cast and crew. There’s a lot of great “behind the curtain” stuff shown, especially in the FX department, and every single person appears to be having a blast putting together the most depraved horror flick possible. Also included is a trailer for this and other Intervision releases.

Please feel free to discuss "The Burning Moon" here, in our forums!

Japan | 1983
Directed by: Hidehiro Ito
Written by: Hidehiro Ito
Starring: Ryoko Watanabe, Serina Nishikawa, Mizuho Nakagawa
| 70 Minutes | Not Rated

- By KamuiX

By the mid-1980’s, the Nikkatsu Roman Porno niche of Pink cinema was in its waning years, thanks to the advent of home video and the ability to watch erotica and porno at home. To counteract this, Nikkatsu started to ramp up the perverse nature of their releases, to the point where the focus moved away from artistry and story and more towards jamming as many explicit sex situations they could get away with in 70-odd minutes. Even on home video, pubic hair was still a no-no in Japan, so hardcore sex videos were still subject to mosaics over the naughty bits. Nikkatsu had an answer for that too: instead of artfully shooting around things as they did in the past, why not slap some optical fogging over the grinding crotches to give the illusion the actors were actually having intercourse. Debauchery is a prime example of many of the films released during the final decade of Roman Porno, one where all you need to know in regards to story is a bored housewife named Ami is tipped off to the Madame Machiko Society Club, a discrete prostitution operation where she can experience all sorts of sexual deviancy with anonymous men in hopes to bring the new tricks home to her husband. What’s the rest of the film, you ask? Well, wall-to-wall depravity-drenched sex, of course!

Living up to its moniker, Debauchery is filled to the brim with just that. Lacking only in the bodily excretions that you flush down the toilet, the sex scenes littered throughout don’t skimp on much else. Are you into tying women up and forcing them into some lesbianism? Debauchery has you covered. Is sticking anal beads in a chick and then 69ing her in the piledriver position more up your ally? You’ll get that too. Or maybe you like stringing a woman up and then leaving them there to think about it for a while until you come back, retrieve her, and walk her through the streets on a leash like a dog? You should probably go to jail if that’s your thing, but you can see that here too. There’s certainly a lot of twisted shit going on in Debauchery’s 70 minute runtime, but some of it is so ridiculously over-the-top it’ll illicit more giggles than outrage.

As I stated earlier, the attention to artistry and framing is sort of lacking in these later Roman Pornos, but that’s not to say Debauchery is completely devoid of visual flare. While the direction itself is rather pedestrian for the most part, some of the set-design is nice (Ami’s “playroom” is especially exquisite to look at) and the leering camerawork lends itself well to the voyeur feel director Hidehiro Ito was likely striving for. Star Ryoko Watanabe (who was also in Ryoko’s Lesbian Flight, which was included on Impulse’s Nikkatsu Roman Porno Trailer Collection released in 2010) is pretty much up for anything that’s thrown at her in this, and the more nude she is, the better. In fact, she’s a decent little actress too, going from meek to accepting almost any deviant act by film’s end. And speaking of the film’s end, I’m not sure it makes any sense whatsoever, reintroducing an innocuous old man and the young girl he’s staying with, who are first seen early on in the film and promptly forgotten about, but end up causing the events that close out the film. But then again, is anyone really watching these films for tight storytelling? I didn’t think so, and Debauchery delivers where it counts. Impulse Pictures are doing God’s work (if God is a perv) in releasing these Nikkatsu Roman Pornos in the US, and I couldn’t be happier with the inaugural release. Debauchery is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 (the scope work of earlier Roman Porn and Pink cinema had pretty much gone extinct by the 80s) and looks damn good. A nice level of grain and pretty much free of damage, this is every bit on par with Mondo Macabro’s Roman Porno releases. The 2.0 mono Japanese track is great, and the English subtitles are flawless. Extras include the film’s theatrical trailer and an insert featuring liner notes from Jasper Sharp, the man I pretty much credit for almost all of the twisted knowledge of Pink cinema I have crammed into my cranium. Not sure if that’s something I should thank him for or not…

Please feel free to discuss "Debauchery" here, in our forums!

MST3K Presents Manos: The Hands of Fate  
USA | 1966/1993
Directed by: Harold P. Warren & Joel Hodgson
Written by: Harold P. Warren, Joel Hodgson & Michael J. Nelson
Starring: Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Mahree, Joel Hodgson
| 74 Minutes | Not Rated

- By SethDLH

Manos: The Hands of Fate is about as tedious as a movie can possibly get. Moronic characters, a total lack of acting ability, the shittiest editing and a soundtrack that sounds like it was made on a $99 Casio keyboard. It runs a good 20 minutes longer than it needs to and virtually nothing happens. Somehow it has developed a cult following for being possibly the worst movie ever made, no doubt in large part because of MST3K.

The story is simple, a family mistakenly stumbles upon a satanic cult and are persuaded to spend the night by Torgo, a weird, fat kneed caretaker. After some tragic events (actually it was a whole lot of nothing), the master who prays to Manos awakens along with his numerous wives to collect the mother to be his new wife. That is it. And precious little happens besides this. From a bunch of long driving scenes which usually go nowhere, a few of the masters' brides fighting in the least sexy see-thru gowns ever and some teens making out who get busted by the cops over and over and fucking over, and you pretty much have what makes up the running time for Manos: The Hands of Fate. For some reason it is entrancing, and like a car wreck you can't look away. It is quite incredible in that sense.

Joel, Tom Servo and Crow feel exactly as we do and let it rip. There are laughs galore and you'll find yourself making your own jokes right along with them. Shout! Factory delivers this brand new Two Disc Special Edition of Manos: The Hands of Fate complete with not only the MST3K episode but also a separate disc of the film itself! This is a perfect chance to get some friends together and start a drinking game. The episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and looks good with no distractions to be found. The 2.0 audio mix works fine for our hosts but the audio on the film itself is pretty difficult to understand and almost indistinguishable while Joel and the robots are talking over it. On the movie only disc, Manos is in noticeably rougher condition with a darker print that is dirtier and has more scratches. The audio is about the same here but without the crews quips it’s easier to decipher. Bonus features are plentiful including Group Therapy, a group interview with Joel, Trace, Frank and Mary Jo all discussing their good (and bad) memories of the movie; Hotel Torgo, a very entertaining and charming making of documentary featuring the supposed only known actor left from Manos; Hired! Parts 1 and 2 "just because we could" is a pair of short 1950s educational films of which part 2 plays and is riffed on before Manos which pairs nicely with another extra, Jam Handy to the Rescue!, which is a spoof on these types of short films. An interview with Joe on the history of the show with these short films, some MST Hour Wraps and an art card from Steve Vance round out this somewhat unexpected, yet very well done release.

Please feel free to discuss "MST3K Presents Manos: The Hands of Fate" here, in our forums!

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