February 01, 2007

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Hello DVD maniacs.  This month we’ve got  an Italian horror resurrection.  Get ready!

The second season of Masters of Terror is hitting DVD, and Dario Argento’s episode, "Pelts," hits DVD this month.  Some of you may remember his episode, "Jennifer," from the first season.  Both are solid entries to the Argento canon.  For more Argento love, be sure to note that cult film experts Blue Underground are re-releasing his sequel to Suspiria,  Inferno.  Inferno is a often-overlooked classic set in a monstrous old mansion in New York, and features a weird score by ELP.  It further explores the “three sisters” mythology that began in Suspiria.

Next up on the Blue Underground list is  Fulci’s classic of 80’s splatter-gore, zombies, and semi-incoherence, City of the Living Dead.  This looks to be a full-features, anamorphic release, which is critical for enjoying the legendary “death by drill press” scene.  A lesser Fulci effort, Don’t Torture a Duckling, is also being re-released this month by Blue Underground.

And an Italian splatter resurgence wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t include a movie by the 3rd member of the Italian horror trinity, Mario Bava.  Bava's film Shock is coming out from Blue Underground as well.  This is one of his later ones, and features a goblin soundtrack, demonic possession and hideous transformation.  Awesome!

Moving away from Italy, Wolverine vs. Batman hits DVD this month as well. That is, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star in the movie The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan, and based on the novel by Christopher Priest.  Be sure to check out both this movie and the book -- both were excellent.

I’m going to step into a different direction and recommend some Anime, which I’ve been promising to do for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to.  First up is Samurai Gun - The Complete Collection.  This 13-episode tv series is set in mid-19th century Japan, and features a Samurai who uses a gun to take on an evil warlord.  Massive gun battles set amongst the bars and brothels make this anime a fun hybrid of the western and samurai genres.

Another good anime series to check out is Gunslinger Girls.  The setting is contemporary Italy, where the government has set up a secret program to turn orphan girls into assassins.  A silly concept that is executed seriously, and ultimately, very effectively.  The girls are chemically and cybernetically enhanced, and “wear out” quickly.  The strange bonds that develop between the girls, and between the girls and their minders, are explored in this moody, strange, violent 13-episode anime.

Another great anime series that features young girls who have preternatural powers and are experimented on is Elfin Lied.  This one also has a semi-contemporary setting, this time in Japan.  One of the "experiments" escapes in the first episode, in an appropriately bloody and spectacular way.  When she washes up on the beach after the escape, she is found and taken in by a couple of kids just entering college.  The beauty of this series is the stylistic hybrid of the ultra-violent-government-conspiracy-action side, with a light-hearted and often funny “harem” comedy (with some PG-13 sexual hi jinx).  And the stylistic bi-polar-ness is mirrored by the protagonist's split personality.  In one moment she is a child-like creature completely innocent, and the next, she’s a bitter, angry, and violent killing machine.  It’s fun for the whole family.

That’s it for now.  See you next month.

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