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Hot Spur (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Hot Spur (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: April 30th, 2024.
    Director: Lee Frost
    Cast: Joseph Mascolo, Virginia Goodman, John Alderman
    Year: 1969
    Purchase From Amazon

    Hot Spur – Movie Review:

    Director Lee Frost and Producer Bob Cresse's film, Hot Spur, opens in Texas in 1869 with a scene where a pair of cowboys wanders into a bar where they call over a pretty Mexican waitress and coerce her into dancing for them. She obliges, but things soon get out of hand when they try to pull her clothes and then rape her. This is witnessed by a teenaged boy named Carlo (James Arena), the stable hand at a nearby ranch where they cowboys work, who also happens to the woman's younger brother, who is having grisly flashbacks to a similar incident from their past.

    Cue the fiery opening credits, and we're off!

    Some time passed and from here, the ranch owner's wife, Susan O'Hara (Virginia Gordon), gets into an argument with her husband, Jason (Joseph Mascolo) who is angry with her over the fact that, so far, she hasn't been able to bear him a son. He responds in kind by ripping her bodice, but the Carlo hasn't forgotten what happened in the opening scene, in fact, Carlo has been having nightmares about how his sister was raped when she was much younger where she was sexually assaulted by some cowboys that dragged her behind a horse and then hog-tied her to a tree. Nasty stuff!

    The next day, when Susan goes out for a leisurely horseback ride, Carlo kidnaps her and ties her up in a ramshackle cabin out in the brush. From here, he sets and does to her what was done to his sister, raping her and tying her up. Jason finds out that he's wife has been kidnapped and before you know it, the cowboys in his employ are out to take down Carlo and bring Susan back in one piece.

    Apparently named as one of the “Top Ten Movies Of 1969” by the National Review (not an outlet known for its especially open-minded views on things), Hot Spur is a mix of revenge movie tropes, western film clichés and genuinely sleazy set pieces all shot with a good eye for composition, lighting and color and set to a fairly rousing soundtrack. Chock full of boobs and brawls, it moves at a nice clip and has no qualms whatsoever about wearing its mean-spirited, exploitative heart on its sleeve. Not a film that will go over especially well with more sensitive viewers, it’s a gritty, grubby, trashy little movie but it’s also reasonably well-made and manages to tell a decently gripping story. Once all of this starts, you definitely find yourself wanting to know how it ends.

    Performances are decent enough across the board. Virginia Gordon is definitely a step or two above anyone else in the film in terms of her acting abilities and what she brings to the film. She’s quite attractive here and the camera loves her but once she gets put into the situation she finds herself in with Carlo, you can’t help but truly feel for the poor woman. Joseph Mascolo plays her bastard of a husband pretty effectively, we don’t like him and we’re not supposed to, while James Arena does a pretty decent job as Carlo, initially sympathetic but not so much once he gets down to raping and abusing Gordon’s character.

    Hot Spur – Blu-ray Review:

    Hot Spur arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films with in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.37.1 widescreen on a region free 50GB disc taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative. Picture quality is excellent, with the transfer boasting very nice detail and great color reproduction. Black levels are nice and deep and skin tones always natural looking and never too pink. There’s loads of detail to take in here in pretty much every frame, and very little print damage to complain about at all. Natural film grain is evident throughout, as it should be, and the image shows no problems at all with any noise reduction, compression issues or edge enhancement. This looks really good!

    The 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track, in the film’s native English and with optional English subtitles, is also quite good. There aren’t any problems here, the track is clean and properly balanced with a reasonable amount of depth to it considering its age and low budget origins.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary with Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin and Severin Films' Andrew Furtado who are joined by Bob Cresse friend/former Something Weird General Manager Tim Lewis (who pops up around the seventy minute mark). Lots of detail here about Frost and Cresse's career, how Wes Bishop factors into all of this, the limitations inherent in working on low budget movies such as this, how the West Coast exploitation moviemaking scene differed from the East Coast scene, who created the first roughie picture, details on the cast and crew that worked on the picture, the impact that importing European films into the American market had on exploitation filmmakers, location work, how the roughies that Frost and Cresse made compare to those that David Friedman was behind, the film's box office success and distribution, how difficult it can be to find elements for vintage exploitation movies such as this, how the elements for this and other related films were discovered in France, the oddball significance of Frank Sinatra's bodyguards, Lewis' memories of working and befriending Cresse and Friedman and plenty more.

    The disc also includes a recently discovered audio discussion on Frost and Cresse between David F. Friedman and Something Weird Video founder Mike Vraney. It's a pretty entertaining talk with Friedman keen to share some stories about his relationships with both men. He talks about how he first met them and what they were like as people, Cresse's great sense of humor and how he was more of a character in a movie than real person, his thoughts on some of their pictures, how Lee Frost really knew what he was doing behind the camera, how Cresse sort of copied Friedman's business model when he started buying theaters and how it didn't work out so well for him and plenty of amusing anecdotes about his interactions with the two men and some of the people that they collaborated with. This is basically just Friedman sitting back and telling some pretty fascinating stories for seventy-one minutes and it's definitely worth your time.

    Hollywood’s World Of Flesh is an early early Frost/Cresse running sixty-four minutes and made in black and white in 1963. This one isn't nearly as interesting as the main attraction but it's a marginally interesting artifact from the duo's early days. Purporting to be a documentary but clearly staged in pretty much every scene, the movie pretends to be a shocking expose of what happens in Hollywood behind closed doors. We tour a few bars, Hollywood hangouts and production offices but ultimately what this movie does is show off various starlets in various states of undress. The narration is goofy (and sometimes tough to understand and there are no subtitles provided) but some of the ladies look pretty good (the infamous Baby Bubbles pops up in this!). Production values are pretty minimalist but the black and white cinematography is better than average and some of the footage is actually pretty solid. This isn't nearly as interesting as the feature attraction but as an oddball curio from the early sixties, you could do a lot worse and some of the vintage footage of Los Angeles included in here is actually pretty great and gives the movie a bit of a time capsule vibe. Look for Cresse himself to appear in the movie as a sleazy film producer! Mostly though, this is just an excuse to look at boobs.

    The Casting Director is a rare short film starring Bob Cresse that was directed By David F. Friedman in 1968. This six minute color short sees Cresse as a casting director at a low budget exploitation production company auditioning an attractive, dark-haired woman. At first, you get the impression she might not be right for the part but then she shows off her legs and then takes off the rest of her clothes, at which point, she gets his attention. Cresse is a lot of fun to watch here, mugging for the camera to a ridiculous extreme.

    Finishing up the extras is a teaser, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. It’s also worth pointing out that the reverse side of the cover sleeve art features some neat vintage marketing materials.

    Hot Spur - The Final Word:

    Hot Spur still hits pretty hard, and it stands the test of time as a nasty piece of exploitation filmmaking highlighted by some solid camerawork and an especially good performance from lovely Virginia Gordon. The Blu-ray edition from Severin Films and Something Weird Video gives the picture a truly impressive high definition presentation on a disc stacked with some great extra features. Highly recommended for fans of the nastier side of vintage exploitation!



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Hot Spur Blu-ray screen caps!

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