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5 Films 5 Years: Horror And Exploitation

    Ian Jane

  • 5 Films 5 Years: Horror And Exploitation

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: January, 2018.
    Director: Cirio Santiago/Alan Ormsby/Pat Boyette /John Hayes/Carlos Tobalina
    Cast: Jayne Kennedy, Rosanne Katon, Jeannie Bell, Glenn McKay, Mic Morrow, Robert Z'Dar, Mai Lin, Sharon Kelly, Cornel Wilde, Yvonne De Carlo, Cesar Romero, Sebastian Gregory, Sharon Matt, Genene Cooper, Russ Harvey, Lee Morgan, William McNulty
    Year: 1976/1974/1962/1970/1985

    The Movies:

    To celebrate their fifth anniversary, Vinegar Syndrome give five of their best vintage adult films a welcome Blu-ray upgrade in this exclusive two-disc set. Here's what to look for…


    The Muthers:

    One of the seemingly countless exploitation films shot in the Philippines by director Cirio Santiago in the seventies, The Muthers follows the exploits of the titular group of lady pirates led by Kelly (Jeanne Bell) and Angie (Rosanne Katon). These ladies and their small but loyal crew cruise around in their boat looking for yachts in remote waters that they can then plunder for treasure. Making things difficult for the ladies is the presence of a guy named Turko (John Montgomery) who, along with his cruise, is out to for the booty on unsuspecting pleasure yachts.

    Things get complicated for Kelly when her pal Sancho (Sam Sharruff) lets loose with the info that her teenage sister Sandra has split for a new life in Santo Domingo but she knows that there's more to it than that. She and her team head out to find her but things don't go as planned and Kelly winds up almost raped by a sleaze ball named Murphy (Dick Piper). Eventually she meets a Federal Agent named Navarro (Bert Oliver) who figures he knows what really went down - Sandra was kidnapped and is being forced to work on a plantation run by the villainous Montiero (Tony Carreon). Now Kelly and her gang of outlaws are going to have to put their differences with the law aside and go undercover to bust Montiero on Navarro's behalf. So, they do, somewhat begrudgingly, with Kelly holding out hope she'll find Sandra before it's too late. Montiero is smarter than they wager though, and along with some help from his servant woman Serena (Jayne Kennedy) and a slave named Marcie (Trina Parks), our heroines will wind up in some very hot water indeed!

    This isn't upper tier Filipino exploitation but it's entertaining drive-in fare to be sure. Santiago's direction is about as good here as it is in other pictures he made around the same time, meaning we get a lot of the same pros and cons. Pros? Pretty ladies, nice location photography and a decent sense of timing. Cons? Action scenes that feel more awkward than convincing, bad dialogue and line readings and some erratic pacing. Having said that, if you enjoy women in prison movies or low-brow jungle adventures films, you'll probably have a good time with this one because it basically melds the two genres into one and throws in some Blaxploitation elements as well. The emphasis here is on action rather than titillation, so we get a lot of machine gunning in place of nudity and lecherous behavior but it goes at a decent enough pace.

    The real reason to take this one in, however, is the cast. Jeanne Bell has great screen presence as the tough as nails lady in charge and she and Rosanne Katon get some great lines here. They play the tough gals well and if they maybe don't have tons of range, they don't need it. They look the part and they've got enough confidence here that it comes across well. Jayne Kennedy, who looks fantastic here, tends to steal the scenes that she's in while Tony Carreon makes for a fine villain, the kind you love to hate. So yeah, it's short on character development and it definitely plays to clichés more often than it tries to be original, but if you're looking for brainless entertainment, mindless action and pretty ladies then The Muthers should fit the bill.

    Murder On The Emerald Seas:

    Alan Ormsby, probably best known for acting in and co-writing Bob Clark's 1972 film Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things and directing 1974's Deranged also helmed Murder On The Emerald Seas (also known as The Great Masquerade) the same year. It's hardly a horror film, but it is and strange enough that fans of quirky cult films should appreciate it regardless.

    The story revolves around Dave Collins (Robert Perault), a Miami police officer whose commanding officers give him a particularly odd assignment - he has to essentially turn himself into a woman and enter a beauty pageant held on a cruise ship called The Emerald Seas in hopes of catching the killer responsible for the deaths of the last three winning contestants.

    Dave won't be handling this assignment alone, however, as his partner Casey (Paul Cronin) will be along for the trip. Complicating matters once they're onboard is the presence of some mobsters led by a man named Paco (John DeSanti - immortalized as J.J. 'Gross-Out' Gumbroski in King Frat!) and Sherwood Gates (Roberts Blossom), the wealthy man behind the pageant in the first place. For some reason, Dave's girlfriend is also onboard, and she's none too impressed with what he's up to…

    This is an odd picture, but it's amusing enough in its own strange way. The film's producer, Jack McGowan, managed to finagle appearances from Henny Youngman, Johnny Weissmuller and a few others who appear in small bit parts as pageant judges. They don't add much to the proceedings but it's interesting to see them pop up here regardless, especially when you consider how trashy the film gets at times (there's a fair bit of nudity in the film).

    The main cast members do a pretty decent job here. You can't help but like Robert Perault in the lead role. He's genuinely funny and comes across as a decent and jovial type. He and Paul Cronin have fairly solid comedic chemistry and make a good team. There are spots in the middle stretch where the movie drags just a bit but otherwise the pacing here is pretty good. This was made on a modest budget but Ormsby worked with a capable crew and as such, the cinematography does a nice job of making the most out of the actual cruise ship used for the primary location.

    This movie was previously released as a convention exclusive on DVD and was quite hard to find, it's nice to have it back in print and in high definition no less.


    The Dungeon Of Harrow:

    When renaissance man Pat Boyette wasn't drawing comic books for Charlton or producing puppet shows he was busy with some other creative outlet and in 1962 that outlet happened to be feature filmmaking. A bit of a one man wrecking crew, Boyette directed, wrote, edited and scored a low budget gothic horror film entitled Dungeon Of Harrow.

    When the movie begins, a model boat is washed up against what looks like a big black sponge inside somebody's tub, soapy water washing around it in some sort of attempt to make it look like frothy waves. It doesn't work. Escaping from this shipwreck is the owner of the vessel, Count Aaron Fallon (Russ Harvey), and the ship's captain (Lee Morgan). They've been lucky enough to come ashore on an island that at first seems barren but soon reveals a moldy old castle in the distance, a castle owned by one Count Lorente de Sade (William McNulty). The count lives in the castle with his assistant, Mantis (Maurice Harris), a tall black guy with silver hair who looks an awful lot like Dennis Rodman sporting Shaq's leftover wardrobe from Kazaam. De Sade also gets a visit from a ghost who may or may not be the devil himself, who puzzlingly makes a rubber snake appear, and then a rubber bat, and then a HUGE rubber spider all while cackling maniacally as de Sade cowers in fear. Obviously evil is afoot.

    As luck would have it, de Sade hates pirates. Given that Fallon and his captain pal washed ashore from a shipwreck, it stands to reason that he would think that pirates are what these intruders are, even if they're not. Eventually Fallon wanders over to the castle and meets a lady named Cassandra (Helen Hogan) who is also hanging around and possibly sick. De Sade manages to trap Fallon's captain and torture him in his dungeon, a dungeon full of harrow. Fallon winds up being held prisoner, hits it off with Cassandra, and then has to deal with the various bizarre inhabitants of the castle before trying to make his escape - and then he must contend with de Sade's wife!

    Ending with a surprisingly effective scene that takes place in the dungeon and which features an eerie diseased woman bathed in sickly colored lighting, Dungeon Of Harrow is a mess. With that said, however, there are some completely awesome moments here. The finale is great, the scene in which de Sade gets tormented by the ghost devil guy and his rubber creatures is hysterical and anytime Mantis pops up on screen, the movie is fascinatingly weird. Sadly, this makes up about twenty to thirty minutes of the movie, and the stretches in between these and other admittedly very cool sequences are loooong and slow. The narration adds some unintentionally funny melodrama to the proceedings but at the end of the day this one suffers from perpetual budgetary problems and a story that doesn't always make a whole lot of sense. This one was obviously intended to play out like one of Roger Corman's Poe films or maybe like a Bava gothic but instead it has all the charm of an Andy Milligan cheapie, from the cheap sets to the bad acting and everything in between. It's a fun watch if you're in the right mood for it.

    The Hang-Up:

    The Hang Up follows the exploits of Robert Walsh (Sebastian Gregory), a vice cop who works a beat in Los Angeles by dressing up in drag and heading out into the sleazy underworld of the City Of Angeles in hopes of catching crooks in the act. When we catch up with him he's trying to bust up a ring of dishonest cops who have a nice little racket going wherein they blackmail gay guys - pay up or we'll out you!

    Walsh hates his job. He's constantly surrounded by the lowest of the low and it's taking a toll on him. The fact that he's not getting any younger doesn't help matters much and the only joy he gets when not at work is slipping it to his landlady and getting drunk by himself. All of this changes when he meets a sweet young lady of the evening who goes by Angel (Sharon Matt). He takes an instant liking to her and when he learns that the place is going to get busted he's kind enough to get her out of there before it happens so she doesn't have to do hard time. Soon enough, he takes her in and they're living together, much to the dismay of the guy who ran the brothel (Peter Balachoff) and beauty begins to tame the beast. We see a softer, gentler Walsh emerge and all of a sudden life doesn't seem to be so bad anymore - that is, until Angel's secret comes out…

    Gregory plays his part with plenty of macho enthusiasm and it's actually kind of interesting to see how his character changes over the course of the movie. Balachoff, who also has a small role in the first movie, is creepy as the guy who runs the brothel while Sharon Matt is sexy, cute and charming in her own weird way. It's not such a stretch to think that Robert would fall for her - she's new to the business, or so she claims, so he sees in her a bit of innocence that he can rescue before it's too late.

    We won't spoil this one but hot damn does it have a great ending. Before we get to that ending though we get loads of politically correct back and forth, some lovely tours of sleazy Los Angeles dives, some topless horseback riding and weird music aplenty. The whole thing just feels dirty in the best way possible and it wears its low budget on its sleeve like a badge of honor. The fact that it's insanely quick in the pacing department and that it's got some genuinely cool camera work to show off in spots helps here too.

    Flesh And Bullets:

    If you were a pornographic filmmaker looking to do a low budget remake of Strangers On A Train, would you cast a couple of female adult film stars in minor roles? Would you get Cesar Romero and Yvonne Carlo onboard for two-minute cameos? Would you want Aldo Ray in your film? And would you cast Robert Z'Dar as a rapist? I would definitely do all of these things if I were in that situation, but thankfully I don't have to because Carlos Tobalina already did. This saves me a lot of work, because instead of going out and making that dream project a reality, I can just put the DVD on and sit on my couch drinking Miller High Life - just like the guys in the movie do!

    The film begins when a down on his luck mustachioed man named Roy (Glenn McKay) puts on a fake beard and some fake eyelashes and a floppy hat. Then he rents a car from Sharon Kelly. After that he convinces two homeless guys to help him rob a bank - only they don't know they're doing it. My dad's name is Roy but this guy is not my dad, he's much craftier than my dad is. Once he pulls it off, he figures this is it, it's his last job - but he owes a ton of money in child support and alimony. To compensate for this he goes to Las Vegas where he bangs a lovely and very polite lady of the evening (Mai Lin) before heading down to the bar for a drink.

    At the bar he brushes off yet another hooker and then makes friends with a blonde guy named Jeff (Mic Morrow) whose whispy eyebrows almost seem to disappear under his Farah Fawcett-esque locks. It turns out that he too is burdened by excessive alimony and child support payments - and so, over a drink, our two men come to an agreement: Roy will track down Jeff's wife Delores (Cydney Hill) and knock her off while Jeff will take care of Roy's wife Gail (Susan Silvers) and see that she exits the picture permanently.

    So for the next hour some weird stuff happens. Some cops (Aldo Rey and Cornel Wilde) shuffle around an office. We see, in flashbacks, sentences handed down to Roy and Jeff by some judges (Yvonne DeCarlo and Cesar Romero) and we see Jeff change a flat tire and wash his hands before bedding Gail. But then that relationship gets complicated because as Gail and Jeff fall for one another, we learn that Gail was raped by a guy named Dan (Robert Z'Dar, listed in the end credits as Robert West), and that he wants Jeff out of the picture. Meanwhile, Roy is falling for Delores and he goes on a sightseeing expedition with her, wins the heart of her tube-sock wearing boy and then takes her on a camping trip where they eat KFC, he saves her from a falling bolder and then gets bitten by a rattlesnake. Will either man be able to follow through on their 'contract' or will we witness a showdown between these two guys in which they settle things man to man with fire and steel? We won't spoil that, but we will tell you that the big finish takes place in and around the cool old Mayan Theater (then a porno-house) and that an old lady calls some people fags before the end credits roll.

    If you look up our two leading men on the IMDB and sift through their credits, you'll note that there aren't any aside from this movie and it's not really surprising to learn that after you enjoy their exploits here. Neither Glenn McKay or Mic Morrow are good actors, not in the traditional sense at least. However, like the director they served under (credited as Efrain Tobalina) for this project they do at least give it the old college try. Glenn McKay struts about like a wannabe Burt Reynolds at times, which is fun to watch, while Mic Morrow has trouble emoting or offering up any sort of expression in his work. The ladies do a bit better, and not just Mai Lin (who takes off her clothes), either. She's fine though. And naked. But also naked are Cydney Hill, who boldly sucks the poison out of Roy's hand after his snake bite, and Susan Silvers, who is lucky enough to get raped by the mighty Z'Dar. The two ladies really aren't going to wow anyone but they can and do act circles around the male leads.

    As to the film's Z'Dar factor, it takes a while to get to it but it's solid once it gets there. Dressed in a tight and freakishly bright red shirt, the late great Maniac Cop scowls his way through his part of Dan The Rapist and even gets to indulge in some manly fisticuffs. When those fisticuffs don't go his way we get to see Z'Dar show a weaker side, a more sensitive side. His fear becomes our fear and we share this experience with him. When he whines and pleads for his life, which is not something that Z'Dar often does, we whine and plead for our lives alongside him.

    If that weren't enough, Tobalina regular Bill Margold shows up for an amusing cameo as a gay wrestler/Miller High Life fan, Sharon Kelly gets one line in one scene, and Aldo Rey and Cornel Wilde hit new career lows at the same time. DeCarlo and Romero probably thought they were appearing in a completely different movie than the one they wind up in. If that's still not enough, we get a Vietnam massacre sequence clearly shot in a brushy California or Nevada location, a killer opening theme song about the perils and pains of love, weird opening credits where red words appear out of the darkness and then whoosh towards the sky, and the killer line 'Making love to you is like fucking an iceberg… you frigid bitch!'

    This one has it all.


    The five films are spread across two 50GB discs and presented in their original aspect ratios, each in a new 2k scan that has been restored from the original 35mm negative. Generally speaking, they look great. There's some minor print damage here and there but nothing serious worth complaining about. Detail advances quite handily over the standard definition releases that each of these five features have received in the past. Colors look nice, there are no noticeable compression issues and black levels look good. Skin tones appear natural and lifelike and the transfers are free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. It's also worth noting that the transfer for Dungeon Of Harrow is not just the same transfer that was used on the DVD on Blu-ray format but a new scan and restoration and it looks considerably cleaner with better color reproduction when compared to the previous standard definition release.

    As far as audio goes, each film gets an English language DTS-HD Mono track, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided here. Clarity is fine for the most part. You might pick up on some minor hiss here and there but we get better depth than we did on the DVD releases. Balance is fine throughout while dialogue stays clean and clear.

    There are no extras to note, just menus offering film selection on each disc. Note that the fronts of the discs are both labelled the same, save for 'disc one' and 'disc two' so you don't necessarily know what films are on each disc until you put them in your player. It's also worth noting that any extras that were included on the DVD releases are not ported over to this Blu-ray set.

    The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome's 5 Films 5 Years Horror And Exploitation Blu-ray collection gives five of their more interesting DVD releases a very welcome high definition upgrade. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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