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June 8, 2013

Movie Review: Motel Hell (1980, Blu-ray)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Motel Hell o man you got to love this flick! How many films featuring two playboy playmates, a dueling chainsaw fights and a “secret garden” filled with peeps who are buried up to their heads in dirt. Just waiting to be “smoked” and turned into cured meats. Throw in some swingers and a rock band to while your at it and you got a delicious little recipe for a fun black comedy. It's certainly not a straight up horror film, Motel Hell keeps a strong stream of dark humor flowing through the proceedings.

 In tone I'd almost compare the film to Paul Bartel/Mary Woronov classic “Eating Raoul” with a bit of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre thrown in for good measure. Interestingly enough Tobe Hooper was the first choice to direct this film but eventually dropped out. One would have to guess that Hooper might have upped the gore but director Conner's keeps the gore down instead serving up some delectable pitch black humor. 
“Sometimes I wonder about the karmic implications of my acts” says Farmer Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) after snapping a few necks. That's the beauty of the film and of Rory Calhoun's performance. It's truly a sincere performance, not once does Calhoun wink at the audience. He takes it 100% seriously, which is why the comedy works as well as it does. It's Calhoun who steals virtually every sequence he's in. He was one helluva an actor, he starred in classics like The Texan, River of No Return and has a plethora of cult films to his names. Such as Night of the Lupas, Angel and Hell Comes to Frog Town. Not to mention a very memorable performance as “Spider” in the season 5 episode of Tales from the Crypt “Oils Well That Ends Well”.

The plot for Motel Hell is devilishly simple. We fade into a peaceful foggy night as Farmer Vincent Smith is relaxing on his rocking chair puffing away on his pipe. He lives on a farm with a motel attached. The motel is “Motel Hello” but the O always seems to be on the fritz. Well as Vincent is relaxing a biker and his squeeze Terry (Nina Axelrod). The motorcycle crashes and burns, Bo the biker get's put in the “secret garden”. Mean while Tina is taken in and nursed back to health by Vincent and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons). Oddly enough Terry begins to fall in love Vincent but a love triangle forms when Terry's Sheriff brother Bruce Smith (Paul Linke) takes an interest in Terry.

During the love triangle and Ida's growing jealously of Terry plenty of mayhem happens. A group of swingers show up and are soon buried in the garden. Not to mention a rock band, who's van runs over a bear trap and crashes. What's fun is one of the band members is played by John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers!). The highly of the film is the climactic chainsaw duel in the slaughterhouse.

As you can tell I had a blast with Motel Hell and I've been a fan of the film for a long time. If your in the mood for a bit of twisted horror comedy then this humble little flick will do the trick!

WOW. Arrow UK truly went all out with their release of Motel Hell. Previously the film was only available in SD as a double feature from MGM (it was paired up with the Ed Gein inspired flick “Deranged”). The transfer was not the bell of the ball and the film had no extras. Well Arrow has seen fit to give this film the all star treatment.
The 1.85:1 1080P transfer is nothing short of a revelation for this film. This transfer boasts fine detail, excellent contrast and a nice layer of natural film grain. It's the best the film has ever looked. It's a nicely cleaned up print featuring no DNR.

The LPCM 2.0 track is going to blow you away but it's a pleasurably clear mix that represents the film perfectly.

Now onto the real meat of the disk, the copious amounts of special features start off with a commentary track featuring director Kevin Conner and moderated by Calum Waddell. It's a highly enjoyable little track, Connors memory is fantastic and he's filled with great anecdotes about filming. It's an energetic and warm discussion of the film. Conner's is very proud of the film as he should be and Waddell keeps the commentary flowing nicely.

Next up is “Another Head On The Chopping Block” which is a 15 minute interview with actor Paul Linke. Paul's an eccentric character who tells plenty of hilarious stories about his preparation for the role. He's fond the film but he expresses how he was not 100% pleased with the final product. His honesty and humor while discussing his experiences is refreshing.

From Glamor To Gore” is a 12 minute interview with former playboy playmate Rosanne Katon. She gives some good insight into her transition from playmate to actress and her general love of horror films.

Ida, Be Thy Name” is an 18 minute featurette that focuses on what makes a strong female horror villain. You get words from Shelagh M. Rowan-Leg, a critic at Twitch Film. Also you get input from scream queens Chantelle Albers. Various films are brought up such as Argento's Deep Red, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Black Sunday and Spider Baby to name a few. The Ida character from Motel Hell is brought up but this is more of a broad overview of women in horror. A nice little featurette that just feels slightly out of place on this desk.

Back To The Backwoods” is a very fun discussion with director Dave Parker, who did the incredibly fun 2009 slasher “The Hills Run Red”. Turns out Parker is a huge Motel Hell fan, he conducts the interview with a pig mask film replica sitting on his lap! He talks about why he loves the film and the influence it's had on him. Well worth a watch as Parker is just bursting with that great fanboy energy.

Last up for extras is the films original theatrical trailer and as per usual with Arrow release you get reversible cover art and a DVD to go along with the Blu-ray.

All and all this a must own release for fans of this hilariously demented little horror/comedy. Arrow has pulled out all the stops with this one with perfect A/V and excellent extras. This gets a MUST OWN. Take in mind though your US based you need an all region Blu-ray played to play the Region B disk.

1 comment:

  1. this was a fun flick & Rory C. had a lotta fun with it, too!