Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Severin Films - BLOODY BIRTHDAY, THE BABY and BLOODY MOON on Blu-ray plus VIDEO NASTIES ""

Friday, July 4, 2014


I'm not 100% on board with the "killer kids" subgenre of films. I'm also not sure if it is exactly the same thing as the "evil kid" subgenre. Both often deal with children who are psychotic to the core, and they often end up being at least the driving cause behind a death or two. These "killer kids" though are perhaps more appealing to me in that they (as their name would imply) actively kill people. And not just adults, but other kids. This of course doesn't happen too much in movies these days, but back in the 1980s (and before) it was absolutely impactful and memorable when kids got this nutty. There's an iconic image from this film of Billy Jacoby holding a handgun and looking kinda gleeful about it. It is an image that is at once kinda funny and yet totally disturbing and terrifying. That's probably part of why BLOODY BIRTHDAY is certainly one of my favorites of this type of film for sure. It has been said that you will have the tendency to like a character who's good at their job. Well these kids are great at being psychopathic and homicidal so I guess that's how they won me over. They are also a good team of psychos (all three born during an eclipse & therefore evil) and something about the teamwork aspect of the whole thing works for me too. And I mean, if you wanna talk about supreme evil, what could be more representative of that than children who have gone bad. Kids, the supposed template of innocence and virtue. Yeah these kids are rotten to their very cores and I love them for it.

Special Features:

-Audio Interview with Director Ed Hunt (51 mins) - A nice, long interview that functions very much as a commentary for the film. As this movie is kinda crazy, I was always curious to hear more about it, especially from the director so this was fun to listen to. For the director of such an outrageous movie, Hunt is quite reserved and calm but has a ton of great background to offer here.
-"Don't Eat the Cake! An Interview with star Lori Lethin" (10 mins) Actress Lethin reflects on her inaugural film role, her recollections of the production and how it led to other work in horror movies.
-"A Brief History of Slasher Films" (15 mins) 

THE BABY (1973; Ted Post)
One of the most bizarre films ever made and one of the oddest cases of the "1970s PG" rating. It's more just a weird film than anything else. It features cult actress Anjanette Comer (THE LOVED ONE) as a social worker requests to be assigned to the peculiar case of a man/boy called simply, "Baby". He's an adult but his mother and sisters still treat him as an infant (he sleeps in a crib, wears diapers) and he seems to never have progressed mentally past when he was a toddler. Like I said though, it's a damned strange movie. Baby's family (consisting of his mom and two older sisters) is creepy as hell and pretty unpleasant. Anjanette Comer's character becomes obsessed with Baby and starts to make regular visits to the house which escalates the family's hostility towards her. What could be a campy, goofy romp comes off much more menacing as it is absolutely played straight. There is a sense of paranoia and dread that pervades the film. Tension hangs over every scene with Baby and any "outsiders". I came in kinda thinking this would be proto John Waters, like this crazy story of a crazy, dimented family. Well it is that of course, but with none of the humor. It's almost like the FAILSAFE to PINK FLAMINGOS' DR. STRANGELOVE. THE BABY just represents a small slice of the disturbing stuff in PINK FLAMINGOS though. But John Waters' sense of humor really makes it all work. THE BABY can be pretty challenging at times I must say. It's certainly unique though, I'll give it that. I guess I shouldn't have expected much humor coming from the director of things like MAGNUM FORCE, HANG EM HIGH & BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Special Features:

-"Tales From the Crib: An Audio Interview with Director Ted Post" (20 mins) Very intriguing and straighforward interview with director Post in which he gives a lot of background on the film and the details surrounding its production.

-"Baby Talk: an Audio Interview with star David Mooney" (15 mins)

BLOODY MOON (1981; Jess Franco)
Jess Franco is one of those directors whose work has eluded me over the years despite having heard his name and his films mentioned a lot over the last ten years. There have been a few Franco movies in particular that I've wanted to finally check our and BLOODY MOON was one of them. It opens with a memorable sequence of a scar-faced killer stealing a Mickey Mouse mask ( I wonder how hard this was to clear or if they even bothered), seducing a girl and stabbing her to death with a scissors. The film's sensibilities seem to fall somewhere between those of an Italian Giallo and of an American slasher of this period (in terms of gore and FX). Those elements in combination with Franco's storytelling style make for an interesting horror flick for sure. As is the case for me with many Giallo's I was confused for parts of this and amused by the bloodiness of it. Franco is at least creative (if demented) with regards to the kills in the movie. There are also some clothing choices that made me snicker (in a good way). Several women are brutalized in some "creative" ways in this movie and some may perhaps find this off-putting while others may revel in those kills.
One thing I can absolutely say about BLOODY MOON is that it looks pretty great on this Blu-ray. This may be in part due to Jess Franco's eye for shot composition, but the elements are in excellent shape (or were cleaned up ) as well.

Special Features:
"Franco Moon: an Interview with director Jess Franco" (19 mins) Havimg never seen Jess Franco interviewed before, I was intrigued by this. Franco is of course a pretty old man at this point, so he is rather candid about the many difficulties he had in making BLOODY MOON. Interviews like this always serve as a reminder to me that making a film can be one of the most troublesome undertakings out there.

VIDEO NASTIES - The Definitive Guide
This set includes the documentary VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP AND VIDEOTAPE about the 72 films banned by British censors in the 1980s. Interviewees featured include Director Neil Marshall, Kim Newman (NIGHTMARE MOVIES), Stephen Thrower (NIGHTMARE USA) and others. It begins with a stage setting discussion of the VHS format and what it used to bring to movies via the lower quality of the video image (accompanied by some filtering of the interview footage to reflect degradation being discussed). There are flourishes of stylized "tracking problems" throughout the doc. There is also talk of the origin of of the term ' nasty' and how it most probably started with books prior to movies. Apparently, the creation of this list of nasties only made the movies more popular and sought after. The usual UK party games were replaced by watching Video Nasties at a certain point. The doc overall is a fascinating portrait of the chaotic hysteria at the time. Video shop raids, prosecution of owners and fraudulent statistics were among the tactics used by the powers that be at the time. For me personally though, as much as I am a fan of gore and gore films as well as some sleazy movies as well, even I find it a a little overwhelming to watch clips from all of them repeatedly for a little over a hour. Don't get me wrong, it's a good little doc, but I found myself a little disconnected by the end. I'm clearly getting old. This same point is touched upon in the documentary. When the clips of these movies and the films themselves were shown to officials deciding on these matters, it was of course pretty damaging because it's hard to watch some of the most gory, disturbing scenes from anything out of context like this. 
This three-disc set includes two full discs of trailers for all 72 of the "Nasties". The 2nd disc covers the 39 films which were successfully prosecuted and "banned"and the 3rd disc offers up 33 more that were initially banned and later acquitted and removed from the banned list. Each disc can be viewed as nonstop "trailer shows" a la the 42ND STREET FOREVER trailer dvd releases. Each trailer can also be viewed individually and often with some sort of introduction from a wide range of academics and genre journalists. All in all a lovely set for fans of these films. The trailer discs are worth the price of the collection alone.

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