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January 6, 2011

The Movie Burrito: Volume 8 - Korean Cult Films, Wrasslin', a Tromatic classic and a Synapse sickie.

In this edition of Cinema Head Cheese’s Movie Burrito, we tackle a wide variety of cinematic gems (okay, maybe not all gems). Here’s a look at a couple releases from Tartan/Palisades, Troma Films, MVD Visual, Synapse Films and Cheezy Flicks.

First off, we have Cheezy Flick’s seven disc box-set of cult film trailers entitled Cheezy Trailer Extravaganza Box-Set. Each disc on this set contains various examples genre in short doses. Many of these trailers you may have already seen on other trailer compilations: Future World, The Giant Spider Invasion, Satan in High Heels, I Passed For White, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Day of The Animals, The Sinful Dwarf, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Green Slime and the gender-bending classic, Let Me Die a Woman.

Buy Cheezy Trailer Extravaganza Box Set on DVD

The good thing about this set is the sheer amount of content ( over seven hours) but the bad.. as you may expect from viewing previous Cheezy Flicks compilations, is the poor quality. I found many of the older black and white films to look the best picture and sound wise. Some of the worst image wise were the 70s biker trailers. These are especially awful, sporting almost an orange picture throughout. We do also get several repeats; most noticeably The Abominable Dr. Phibes. It’s an amazing film, I understand that, and love Vincent Price..But three times?
There are some rarities among the fantasy trailers but much of the horror and exploitation content that you will be seeing on this set are already compiled in better quality on Something Weird's DVD-Rs, Synapse’s several releases and Sinister Cinema’s compilations. If you can find this release cheap, I recommend it,because there's really a ton of material on here, so your bound to find something that you may like, otherwise it's better you spend your pennies elsewhere.

Here at the Cheese we have a bit of a soft spot for the artistry of Troma’s many cinematic achievements. One film that even Lloyd Kaufman himself calls his masterpiece (at least pre-Poultreygiest) is his answer to the Reagan years and the popular Rambo series, Troma’s War. Troma’s War, even to this day, is one of the most ambitious (and expensive) efforts the independent studio has produced. It’s also, unfortunately, one of the most under-appreciated Troma films. I don’t get it myself.

Buy Troma's War (Tromasterpiece Edition) on DVD

War is essentially the mega-popular series, LOST. Ok, maybe this version has a few more bare breasts and AIDS jokes, otherwise it’s almost the same story.
Troma, thankfully, did a “director’s cut” on DVD, for their release as its initial incarnation, was raped by the MPAA. The “passengers on fire” scenes were almost completely excised in Troma’s theatrical release. Kaufman goes into a bit more detail about is trials with the MPAA on the audio commentary that’s a part of the vast supplements.

The MPAA, since the early 80s, seem to remarkably more strict towards Indies as opposed to the many big-budget films that portray similar graphically violent or sexual scenes. Of course their given free pass because their budget eclipses 20 million dollars and Mel Gibson is playing Jesus. Also on the DVDs supplements we have several interviews with cast of Troma’s War, reminiscing fondly (and not so fondly) their experiences on the films. Outside of Toxic Avenger and Tromeo and Juliet, Troma’s War is every bit as enjoyable as any of Troma’s features and needs to be appreciated instead of being the “bastard child” of the Troma library.

If you haven’t yet explored the joys of South Korean cinema, look no further than the hyper-violent and gloriously poetic Vengeance Trilogy Box-set from Tartan/Palisades. This beautifully packaged set contains three masterpieces: Oldboy, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance, all from talented,visionary director, Chan Wook Park. All three films have resonated perfectly with audiences outside of Korea thanks to Quentin Tarantino's very appropriate fawning over the brilliance of Park. So why not produce the ultimate set for these genre classics? After being released in single DVD releases, Tartan and Park brought upon the fans an essential purchase.

Buy the Veneance Trilogy on DVD and Blu-ray

The audio and visual quality are nothing short of superb and give Park’s films the kind of presentation fans could only hope for in this boxset. Parks usage of different soundtracks and just his overall unorthodox but simultaneously beautiful filmmaking had to be somewhat of a challenge for the Tartan folks to completely replicate in the DVD format. Whether it was or not, we wont know; all I can say is that each feature looks as good as ever.

The extra features for each film are quite ample: We get “Fade to White”, an alternate version that represents Park’s original vision for Lady Vengeance, a host of interviews and featurettes for all three films, audio commentaries and finally the true gem of all the extras, an exhaustive, three-hour documentary for Oldboy, titled The Autobiography of Old Boy. This alone, could have been put out separately. Tartan has done some fine work here, making this extremely generous set essential to every cult film fans library!

From Oldboy, to ohh boy, we have a woeful entry into one of my personal favorite sub-genres, the wrestling movie. Ultimate Death Match has one thing going for it; the always charismatic and frequently humorous Al Snow (Head, anyone??). Al can’t even save this boring micro-budget disaster. The story is actually not too bad. Sleazy promoter, Jake Reed comes up with this excellent idea, to have a series of death matches streamed via the internet. Al Snow thinks it a bad idea but decides to do the commentating on the matches anyway. That’s right, Al doesn’t wrestle at all. In his place are several doughy, out of shape “jobbers” to waddle around the ring.

Buy Ultimate Death Match on DVD

The majority of the film is in the ring, with these “athletes” doing their best Ric Flair impressions in front of a crowd of 13 people. I really believe with a budget of at least a few million, this could be a fun film, that would certainly find an audience. The finished product unfortunately is just a well executed sleeper-hold.

Now it’s time to get into some truly extreme horror territory. Next up, are two features that are easily some of the most over-the-top, sadistic pieces of exploitation to come out of their respective countries – Synapse Films’ Belgian necrophile classic, Lucker The Necrophagous and Tartan/Palisades’ brutal pseudo-snuff film, The Butcher. Lucker The Necrophagous has a basic slasher premise, involving the uber-creepy John Lucker(Played beautifully by, Nick Van Suyt), a serial killer who not only enjoys cutting people to pieces but also has an itch for making sweet love to the corpses following each violent murder. The gore is graphic and for the most part realistic but it’s really the viciousness of Lucker that makes it more unique than say Nekromantik. Nekromantik is sick, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t have the sleaze factor that Lucker holds. Nick Van Suyt is almost a German Joe Spinell with his portrayal of the necrophile-killer.

Buy Lucker The Necrophagous on DVD

Synapse has pretty much saved this film from obscurity. While it has gained fans on the grey market, it’s never seen a DVD release until now. With the original materials destroyed, Lucker The Necrophagous could only be released by using the best available tape master provided by director Johan Vandeswoestijne. The picture quality doesn’t quite have the superb quality that most Synapse releases has but you can’t fault the effort when the actual creators don’t have the materials. The extras include : The longer VHS version of Lucker The Necrophagous(74 minutes) and an excellent featurette, called Lucker: The Story Behind the Film. At a shade under 40 minutes, Lucker creator Johan Vandeswoestijne, gives us a history of the film and most importantly talks about the differences between the two versions. We get to see several of the deleted scenes and you can kind of gather why were truncated. My guess is pacing. Overall this is fine release of one Europe’s most controversial films.

There’s a big Korean film vibe going in this edition of the Movie Burrito. While The Vengeance Trilogy are extremely violent, those films couldn’t be any different than the ghastly piece of cinema I’m about to tell you about, The Butcher. Oh, this was rough viewing folks. Shot-on-video aren’t three words that always generate good filmmaking. This, however, in all it’s unabashed cruelty, works perfectly for this feature.The victims in the film not only are bound by their hands and feet, but wear helmets that hold video cameras so the viewer get their horrified perspective.

Director Lee Seongkwan Lee Kiseung’s goal here is pretty simple: To make you squirm in disgust, but still try to keep you around long enough thinking it’s safe to keep watching…then when you feel a slight sense of relief he smacks you in the head with one of the hammers that the lead psychos wield. I’m a bit jaded, as I’ve seen similar films of this ilk (August Underground, Flower of Flesh and Blood from the Guinea Pig series). The Butcher, even with some if its wild camera movements: Be it the snuff filmmakers chasing down victims or the victims point-of-view, shaking erratically with its Cloverfield-esque tilt-a-whirl feel – it still maintains a sharper viewing experience than some many of the abysmal Saw knock-offs flooding home video.

Buy The Butcher on DVD

The Butcher is every bit as disturbing as any of the previously mentioned films; the movie is just better, on all scales. Tartan/Palisades has included a few extras to go along with the feature: An alternative Ending, some very bloody behind-the-scenes photos, storyboard sketches and the original theatrical trailer. If you have a hankering for the extreme in horror cinema, look no further than The Butcher.

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