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The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 (Full Moon Entertainment) Blu-ray Review – Part One

    Ian Jane

  • The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 (Full Moon Entertainment) Blu-ray Review – Part One

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    Released by: Full Moon Entertainment
    Released on: December 12th, 2023.
    Director: Jess Franco, Andrea Bianchi, Pierre Chevalier,
    Cast: Howard Vernon, Christopher Mitchum, Sybil Danning, Mike Connors, Josephine Chapman
    Year: 1987/1984/1994
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 – Movie Review:

    Full Moon brings together a six pack of B-movies produced by legendary schlockmeisters Eurocine in one handy boxed set collection aptly titled The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 – here’s what’s inside!

    Angel Of Death:

    First up is Jess Franco and Andrea Bianchi's 1985 film, Angel Of Death (also known as Commando Mengele), a film that sets itself up in a pretty similar way to The Boys From Brazil in that it some Nazis that left Germany after the Second World War are living comfortably in South America where they carry out unorthodox experiments and scheme about ways to make a comeback. Unfortunately for those Nazis, under the direction of Ohmei Felsberg (Fernando Rey), Aaron Horner (Jack Taylor and Marc Logan (Antonio Mayans) have made their way to Uruguay in their quest to track down and take out Dr. Josef Mengele (Howard Vernon).

    See, with some help from Gertrud (Shirley Knight), his foxy assistant, Mengele has been carrying out experiments using locals as human guinea pigs in his efforts to create some sort of human/monkey hybrid for reasons that are never really especially well explained. In his spare time, Mengele has also been building himself a small army of 'Fourth Reich' soldiers and had them trained under the watchful eye of a sympathetic American Vietnam Vet named Wolfgang von Backey (Christopher Mitchum).

    Aaron and Marc team up with Eva (Suzanne Andrews), who has managed to go undercover amongst Mengele's crew, but before long her cover gets blown and Mengele decides to take a very personal interest in her punishment. With time running out, our heroes grab their gear and make their way to Mengele's stronghold to see that justice is served.

    Those looking for the full-on sleaze fests that Franco and Bianchi have been known for may walk away disappointed as there’s no real sex or nudity here but fans of low budget action schlock should get a kick out of this one. It’s rife with squib-tastic shoot-outs and wonky dialogue and, to be fair to the directors, it moves at a reasonably good pace. The cinematography and score are mild by Franco standards but the locations are nice and the poorly choreographed fight scenes definitely harken back to some of his more memorable films.

    As to the acting? Christopher Mitchum sleepwalks through most of the movie but he’s amusing to watch and remarkable in his blandness. Fernando Ray’s quick cameo is really unnecessary but no less welcome even if he’s only in it for a few minutes. Jack Taylor and Antonio Mayans seem to be having a lot of fun playing machinegun wielding Nazi hunters but the real star of the show is an aging Howard Vernon as the top Nazi in the movie. He struts about in uniform looking tough and stern and angry and while this isn’t a movie in which he shows a whole lot of range, that doesn’t mean he isn’t weirdly perfect in the role.

    Panther Squad:

    Directed by Pierre Chevalier, Panther Squad gets started after some awesome opening credits set to a great song about how 'she's tough and tender.' From there, we learn how the New Organization Of Nations, or N.O.O.N. for short, is bound and determined to win the ongoing space race. We see this early in the film when they launch a… Space Jeep. But there's an organization called Clean Space that's put together commando unit to stop them - because they're polluting space! When jamming N.O.O.N.'s signals and interrupting their nationwide TV broadcast doesn't get them everything they want, Clean Space kidnaps one of N.O.O.N.'s top female astronauts and holds her hostage.

    To get her back, N.O.O.N. does what any sensible organization would do - they hire a woman named Ilona (Sybil Danning), better known as The Panther, to gather together her all-female squad of highly trained mercenary types to get their astronaut back and put Clean Space in their proper place. Ilona travels to whatever unidentified country N.O.O.N. is headquartered in and meets up with a guy named Frank Bramble (Jack Taylor) who points her in the right direction and may or may not be completely sloshed. Ilona ensures that the members of her squad (one of whom is Jess Franco regular Analí­a Ivars) are properly trained (there's a lot of training in this movie) and she's off, only to learn that Clean Space is being coerced by an insane general (another Franco regular, Antonio Mayans credited as Robert Foster) and then, kinda-sorta takes care of N.O.O.N.'s problems for them.

    Director Pierre Chevalier (credited as Peter Knight) is the one behind the picture, though lead actress Danning also served as co-producer. Surprisingly completely devoid of nudity, the movie does not do many things well, but it's definitely entertaining if you're in the right frame of mind for cheap action trash. At just under eighty-minutes it doesn't overstay its welcome and while it was clearly cobbled together using a lot of footage from other (possibly unfinished?) films - the space footage is a dead giveaway, there's no way it was shot for this picture and had to have come from somewhere else. Those familiar with Eurocine's output already know this was a common practice of theirs.

    The cast are kind of great here. Karin Schubert Black Emanuelle and Emanuelle Around the World has a supporting role in the film and it's cool to see Analí­a Ivars run about as one of Ilona's hired guns. Donald O'Brien from Zombie Holocaust and Ghosthouse has a supporting role too, which is never a bad thing, while Antonio Mayans does a great job of chewing the scenery. Jack Taylor looks like he needs a nap and may have just come off a bender, but he's fun to see in the film, but of course, it's Sybil Danning who is the star. She, and pretty much all the other ladies in the squad, runs about in a skimpy black outfit and brandishes all manner of guns that she doesn't quite appear to know how to handle. She wears bad sunglasses and spouts off inane dialogue. Her work here can charitably be described as wooden but she's still got that screen presence and that sexy, badass look that she made a career out of exploiting, and for some, that'll be reason enough to want to check this out.

    Downtown Heat:

    Directed once again by Jess Franco and released in 1994, Downtown Heat opens just outside of Barcelona where a small group of tough guys throw a guy and a woman in a van, cover it in gas, and then use their Jaguar to gently nudge it over a cliff. KABOOM! Unfortunately for the tough guys, their murderous endeavor is observed by a group of cops who don't quite arrive in time to stop it. A gun fight ensues and the bad guys take off, with on cop, Alberto (Óscar Ladoire), in pursuit.

    From here, a story (of sorts) evolves wherein we meet a female cop named Maria (Josephine Chaplin) who wants to find out who her husband, and a sad sack jazz saxophone player named Tony (Steve Parkman) who would like to find out who killed his girlfriend. They soon learn that Don Miguel (Craig Hill), a local crime boss, is the man responsible for both killings and, after meeting up with a rogue American cop named Steve (Mike Connors), decide to work together to bring Don Miguel down.

    When things don't quite go the way that they wanted, they decide to kidnap Miguel's daughter and hold her hostage in an effort to force her father's hand.

    Again, an atypical movie from Franco in that it's more or less an action thriller, which isn't a genre that he's known for doing especially good work in when compared to the horror films, his sex films, or his horror-sex films that he remains so well-known for. Downtown Heat does have some pacing issues, especially in the first half where the plot sort of stumbles around and there really isn't much in the way of character development to dig into.

    That said, once we get to the second half of the movie, things definitely get more interesting as the good guys decide all bets are off and that if they're going to bring down Miguel, they're going to have to stoop to his level. To do this, the wind up cooperating with the leader of a junkyard dwelling junkie punk rock gang named Melissa, played by Franco's muse, Lina Romay, in some really goofy makeup and 'punk' clothes.

    Production values are on par with other ‘action’ movies that Franco made around this time and while Downtown Heat lacks the personality and passion that some of his more personal and interesting films exhibit, the by the numbers plot is compensated for by some random weirdness, decent performances from Connors (who is weirdly underused) and Chaplin and some fun squib work in the action scenes.

    Bonus points for featuring a guy in an AC/DC jacket, a punk rock dwarf, a little bit of nudity, a gratuitous cameo from Victor Israel and an exploding helicopter.

    The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 – Blu-ray Review:

    Each of the movies in this collection is presented on its own 25GB disc and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition.

    Angel Of Death is framed at 1.66.1
    Panther Squad is framed at 1.78.1
    Downtown Heat is framed at 1.66.1

    Picture quality is pretty consistent across the board, with each of the six movies in the collection looking very similar as far as the quality of the transfers are concerned. The movies all have a slightly soft look to them, likely relating back to how the films were originally shot, but detail levels are decent if never reference quality and color reproduction looks pretty solid across the board. There are occasional instances in pretty much all of the Franco films were contrast looks a little hot, but again, this would seem to stem back to the original photography. Compression artifacts aren’t typically problematic despite the use of 25GB discs though they do pop up from time to time, probably because there isn’t much in the way of extra material on most of the discs, giving the features enough room on the discs. There aren’t any noticeable problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement and while some small specks are noticeable here and there on each of the movies in the set, print damage is never especially distracting at all, in fact, each of the movies in the collection looks surprisingly clean and the elements used were clearly in very nice shape.

    Angel Of Death – English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and 5.1 Surround Sound options.
    Panther Squad – English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
    Downtown Heat – English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and 5.1 Surround Sound options.

    There are no subtitles on any of the movies in this set.

    The 5.1 mixes on the discs are basically unnecessary but they’re there for those who want them. They spread out the score and the effects a little bit into the rear channels but don’t go in expecting especially engrossing sound mixes, these don’t really deliver that. The 2.0 tracks sound much more ‘true to source’ in that they presumably more accurately represent the original sound mixes for each of the movies. Obviously lossless options would have been preferable here, but that didn’t happen. The audio sounds a bit thin on each of the movies in the collection but typically the tracks are clean, clear and properly balanced without any hiss or distortion related issues to note.

    Angel Of Death:

    There isn’t much in the way of extras on the first disc, just trailers for Barbed Wire Dolls, Naked Girl Murdered In The Park, Love Letters Of A Portuguese Nun, Sexy Sisters, Voodoo Passion and The Women In Cellblock 9.

    Panther Squad:

    The main extra is a commentary track with leading lady Sybil Danning moderated by Chris Alexander, who chimes in via phone from Toronto to a Hollywood studio. They talk about where the movie was shot on the coast of the Mediterranean in Spain, in Brussels where the producers lived and how the cast came from all over the place. She then talks about what it was like dealing with Eurocine's Daniel Lesoeur and Marius Lesoeur, how much she loved working with Daniel in particular, her thoughts on acting alongside Jack Taylor and how he wound up being so prolific in the Spanish film scene, who Ross Vanelli (Gino's brother) wound up doing the title song 'Tough And Tender,' how she enjoyed working with Karin Schubert on this picture and on Bluebeard, the athleticism of the female cast, the challenges of doing action and being sexy at the same time, how she still has her outfit worn in this film, the fact that there is no nudity in the film and more. She occasionally narrates the action but Alexander keeps her engaged and on topic for the most part - it's a pretty fun and interesting track.

    The disc also contains trailers for Weedjies: Halloweed Night, Necropolis: Legion, Panther Squad, Trancers 2, Robot Wars, Puppet Master 3 and Specters as well as menus and chapter selection.

    Downtown Heat:

    The only extras on this disc are trailers for Naked Girl Murdered In The Park, Love Letters Of A Portuguese Nun, Sexy Sisters, Voodoo Passion and Women In Cellblock 9.

    The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 - The Final Word:

    The first three discs in Full Moon Entertainment’ Blu-ray release of The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 offer plenty of schlocky entertainment. More extras and lossless audio would have been nice but the transfers are decent and the movies are fun.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 Blu-ray screen caps!

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