Thursday, March 17, 2011


There are fans of movies in general and then there are horror film fans. The horror film fan is not like any fan you are likely to meet anywhere else. These aren't the usual let me get an autograph and then go home type. No, the horror fan tracks down the actor or director of their choice and not only gets the autograph, they carry on a conversation with this celebrity to find out more about their favorite film. They sit through panel discussions to learn more about what went on behind the scenes. They buy anything from T-shirts to CD soundtracks to DVD copies of their favorite films and get them signed, not to make money on Ebay but to treasure and cherish forever. These are die hard fans. And they are the kind of fans you'll find at Cinema Wasteland in Cleveland.

My son and I went to our first Cinema Wasteland after meeting it's creator Ken at a comic convention in Chicago. He sold a number of items to my son and then discussed his own convention. It took all of 10 seconds after hearing about it for my son to ask if we could please go next time around. Yes, I caved and we went. I'm glad we did.

If I recall correctly that first convention featured almost the entire cast of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE together in one room as well as a ton of other guests. including several other actors who played Leatherface in the sequels to the film, Ken Foree of DAWN OF THE DEAD FAME, Bill Moseley
 and Sid Haig of HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and more. It was at this convention that the seed was planted in my son's brain that he could be a horror host on television, something he did indeed follow through on. For the few that saw it in our town and the many who saw it in Van Wert, OH, he was Gravedigger Grimm, host of The Unearthed Midnight Theater, showing a number of old black and white public domain titles with bits scattered throughout. If you missed him, here's a picture:

In any event, this convention is unlike any other. They don't limit themselves to horror flicks, on occasion they'll spend an entire convention based around exploitation or drive in movies. Not long ago they featured a number of actors who had made their mark in the world during the heyday of the blaxploitation films of the lase seventies.

Not only are the topics covered at this convention different, so are the fans. As I said above, these are die hard fans. It's nothing to see a fan with an entire arm tattooed with characters from a favorite horror film, a leather jacket adorned with home made artwork for a movie like this or fans walking around dressed as anything from a 8 ft tall Nazi creation to a slobbering hunchback to a werewolf. And what are they doing? They're meeting the actors, getting autographs, buying classic horror films, bootleg films, home made films, movie posters, comics, magazines and more. Don't expect it to be cheap though as some posters are highly sought after. I know of one person (name withheld to protect the innocent or guilty depending on how you view it) who spent $100 on a poster for ILSA SHE WOLF OF THE SS. Yes, these ARE die hard fans.

If you've never gone I'd suggest giving it a try. There are tons of conventions around the country but if you ask the fans, this is the must see convention to attend. It happens twice a year, once in October and the spring convention in April.

Here is a look at the upcoming guest line up for the next show which takes place April 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The main theme this year is the films of Ruggreo Deodatto, the director of the infamous CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Ruggero will be there as will be the stars of that film. Horror fan fave (and all around nice guy) Michael Berryman will be there as will be Bill Forsythe, Tom Atkins, at least two of the EVIL DEAD girls and Judith Ridley of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. There are a lot more guests coming but my suggestion is you visit the convention's home page and then make a trip for at least one day of the show. Who knows, you might be the next person buying that $100 poster. Visit the link below.


For many it seemed that George Romero had lost his touch when he released the final film (at the time) of his Dead Trilogy. In the late sixties, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD scared people with it’s depiction of walking dead, zombies, feasting on the flesh of the living. In the seventies he released DAWN OF THE DEAD.  We were treated to the same basic principal, but this time around given a more in depth allegorical story. And full color zombies eating flesh. Then in the eighties Romero released the final film, DAY OF THE DEAD.

More gruesome than its predecessor, the movie offered a harsher reality of a world run over by flesh eating zombies. And critics who had fawned over the first two films missed the point. They didn’t get it. And the movie was trashed by the same. Released in full with an X rating, the film received little advertising and died away except for the few die hard fans that flocked to it.

I was one of those fans. And I loved the film as much as I had the previous installments. And in watching the film, more so now than ever, you can see the growth of the talents of Romero. The black and white gave way to color, the color gave way to higher production values. This movie almost shines in its clarity.

Having seen (and owned) various copies of the film on video and DVD before, all I can say is that Anchor Bay has outdone themselves with this release. It is by far the clearest, cleanest print I have seen since viewing it in a theater those long years ago. The best example of this is in the very beginning when a zombie sans lower jaw walks into view as the title pops up on screen. In the past, he appeared almost black, none of the special effects work of master artist Tom Savini was apparent. Here, it is on view quite well and the rest of the film follows.

For those unaware of the story, in the beginning, something brought the dead back to life with a singular craving for human flesh. There you have it, a simple plot. The second film offered a look at American culture and it’s obsession with commercialism (see my review of this film if you like). This movie takes a look at how the military and research scientist have both seemed to have lost touch with the humanity both claim to want to protect.

As each film was released, the number of zombies increased. The first had a ratio of more humans than zombies, the second about even. In this release, the zombies appear to have taken over. From the opening sequence of a city filled with walking dead, you can tell that humanity’s hopes are all but lost.

The story revolves around a group of soldiers and research scientists holed up in what appears to be an abandoned silo. There, all sense of order is on the verge of breaking down as the scientists search for an answer to this problem. The soldiers, weary from fatigue and unable to comprehend what has gone on, are on the edge and ready to blow. A conflict between the two, each having little use for the other, is inevitable.

The main scientist is Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) who looks at things differently. Rather than try and eliminate the problem, he’s begun researching the possibility of domesticating the zombies, as seen in the display of his prize “pupil” Bub (Sherman Howard). Bub recognizes items from his past and seems to have the ability to control the urge to devour the doctor.

Our heroine is Sarah (Lori Cardille), another scientist who comes to the conclusion that Dr. Logan’s line of inquiry could lead to the military’s shutting them down and eliminating them all. Her love for one of the soldiers, Miguel (Anthony Dilio Jr) causes a disruption among the soldiers.

Leading the military is Captain Rhodes (Joseph Pilato), a hard headed soldier who wants results and nothing more. Having just assumed command, he will no longer risk his men in attempts to gather more subjects for research. And he is, in his own way, as far over the edge as Dr. Logan.

All of these characters interact with one another as jealousies, questions of capability and a subdued battle for control runs underneath the blatant story of the zombie take over. Just who will win, who will take charge for real and who will survive is at the very heart of this movie. But more to the point of who is the question of CAN they survive in a world gone mad.

For a group of basically unknown actors (at least by Hollywood standards) the ensemble here does a tremendous job. It’s amazing to think that none of these people went on to enormous stardom. Perhaps it was the fact that horror film actors rarely are given the due they deserve.

Perhaps the main claim to fame of this film is its special effects. Tom Savini rose to the challenge of making it all believable and over the top at the same time. Displays of zombies with internal organs falling out, victims literally pulled apart before our very eyes, the camera never wavering, the basic make up of each and every zombie walking, all are shown with the skill that only a master can summon forth. And his legacy lives on as crew member (and one of the soldiers in the film) Greg Nicotero went on to form KNB Effects, one of the top groups operating now.

If you didn’t already know, this movie was just released in a special edition release from Anchor Bay. The DVD offers the movie in its most complete and clear form on disc one. It also contains commentary tracks of an ensemble including Romero himself, Tom Savini, Lori Cardille and set designer Cletus Anderson and another track from film maker Roger Avery. The second disc contains all sorts of goodies. A 31 minute behind the scenes collection with images from Savini’s private files. An audio interview with Richard Liberty. The featurette THE MANY DAYS OF THE DAY OF THE DEAD, a 39 minute look back at the movie featuring the stars today recalling their experience on the film. Trailers, TV spots, pictures, poster and ad artwork, a Romero biography, make up photo gallery and more. This is one fully loaded package and more than worth the costs.

If you love horror films then your collection won’t be complete without this one. Add it today.


DAWN OF THE DEAD is a classic horror film although only a short time has passed since it was released. With a remake in the works it’s important to go back and take a look at the original. And it’s a horror film that loses nothing with time.

The story picks up where the original left off, a world where flesh eating zombies are roaming the countryside in search of fresh kill. This plague, which is never explained as to how it began, has multiplied and now the ratio of zombies to live humans is about equal.

Enter a pair of S.W.A.T. members (Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger) who have tired of hunting down these zombies. Reiniger plans on escaping the city with a friend and his girlfriend (David Emgee and Gaylen Ross), a pilot and a producer for the local TV station.
They four set off to find a safe haven and discover a world gone mad along the way, with order destroyed and hunting parties roaming the countryside.

As they fly, they come across an abandoned mall and land on the roof. Noticing the obvious pluses of taking the mall over, blocking the entranceways and staying put, they make their play. But taking out a mall filled with these creatures is not an easy task.

Blocking the doors with trucks from a nearby freight company and then dispensing of the zombies within, the four find it a home away from home. One casualty in their conquest leaves the other three enjoying the spoils of war and soon finding themselves bored.

The three reinvigorate their will to live, as Ross learns to fly the helicopter and they monitor the radio in the hopes that there are other survivors. When a call comes in they almost invite the callers, but then discover that it’s only a band of marauding bikers on the move, raiding any and everything in their path. A battle ensues in which not only the bikers but the zombies reinvade the mall as well.

What has been most talked about with this film is the fact that it is more than a straight on piece of gore filled horror. Director George Romero has used the mall and the creatures as a metaphor for the mindless zombie like shoppers seen everywhere in this country, evident in today’s malls as much as it was in 1978 when this film was made.  Go to any mall in the land today and walk around looking at the shoppers after seeing this flick and you will be sure to see one or more characters come to life before your eyes.

While a horror movie doesn’t have to rely on gore, this movie was one of the first to utilize it, garnering it an X rating had it actually been submitted. Relegated to midnight showing across the country and no newspaper advertising, it still gathered a cult following that included the likes of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

The movie takes the day to day spots that we all go to each week and turns them into the most horrific of locations. With this in mind, we are put upon not in a castle or haunted house, but a shopping center that contains all that we feel we need or want. It is a well lit and mundane location, a spot where we are offered muzak and water fountains, only to have it tainted by the horrors of these creatures.
We are taken into a world filled with fear of the unknown, of a future that may not exist. And we are given a chance to look at ourselves in a different light. And at the same time, we scared to death by both what we may be and by what may happen.



I can remember the first time I ever saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. My two cousins and I were visiting back where I grew up, Akron, OH, and we saw that it was playing at a nearby drive-in. The bad news was that it was the last movie but we didn’t care. We watched GIMMEE SHELTER starring the Rolling Stones and then PINK FLOYD AT POMPEII, both good music/concert movies. But we were here for the legendary film we had never seen.

The movie finally started and even though it was in black and white, perhaps a first for us at a drive in since we weren’t part of the initial teens that flocked there, it still had an impact on me. I remember being totally creeped out by the things that happened in the film. And inside a part of me kept thinking what would you do if you woke tomorrow to discover that the world was indeed overrun by zombies determined to eat your flesh?

That’s the whole set up to George Romero’s original classic. Simple and to the point. We don’t get involved explanations as to how this happened; we just know that it did. A hint about the possibility of a virus from space is mentioned but that’s it.

The film opens with Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) visiting the graveyard where their mother is buried. Remembering how the cemetery used to frighten her when she was young, Johnny teases her saying “They’re coming to get you, Barbara”. Upset with him she leaves him behind and walks up to a man she sees in the cemetery. Unfortunately she and her brother have no idea what’s going on and the man turns out to be the first zombie we see. When Johnny comes to her aid, he falls and smashes his head, leaving her defenseless.

Barbara runs to the car, jumps in and discovers that she has no keys. With the zombie trying to get in, she releases the emergency brake and the car rolls down the hill only to crash. Ahead of the slow moving zombie (Romero’s zombies were always slow moving, not like the ones we see today), Barbara runs to a local farmhouse only to find the family who lives there half eaten. As she starts to leave a truck pulls up and Ben (Duane Jones) runs in.

Duane finds Barbara in a state of shock. The pair begins to look through the house and eventually discover a family and a young couple hiding in the cellar. Ben isn’t happy with this as they would have left Barbara upstairs to die before coming to her aid. And so begins a clash of egos as Ben and the father Harry (Karl Hardman) continue to disagree with almost every plan they come up with to protect themselves.

As the zombies lay siege to the secluded house, the folks trapped inside watch the local news and learn what’s going on. They watch as zombies are shot, gathered up and burned to prevent more coming back to life. People can’t believe that this is happening and the more they try to keep their loved ones home with them, the more zombies are produced.

It’s a long night and not everyone will survive. They must come together as a team or their chances of survival are non-existent. If they can just hold out till morning, perhaps the local sheriff’s men can come to their rescue. IF they can just hold out.

The thing that makes this movie scary is the realism that it uses from start to finish. These people seem like your every day ordinary folks, all brought together under the worst circumstance possible. The fact that these were not nationally known actors helps. Recognizable names would have detracted from the story and from the feeling these could be real people.

The movie doesn’t rely on extreme gore though for its day I am certain people thought it was outrageous. But this is one of those movies where less is more and with less, viewers begin to insert their own memories, recalling things like squirting blood and entrails being pulled from bodies. The truth is it doesn’t happen. Perhaps some nibbling on a hand or two, but nothing near what came later in Romero’s films.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this movie is how well it holds up after some 42 years. Can it really be that old? Sure parts seem a bit dated, the cars, and the clothes. But the whole thing seems as if it came out just yesterday to me. Watching it now it still offers a good scare or two. Who would have thought all those years ago that this small, independent film would become one of the all time highest grossing independent films of all time? Or that it would inspire a host of sequels from its director as well as remakes by other film makers. It is truly a classic and one that deserves not just to be watched but a part of your collection as well.

And for fans of the film, keep an eye out for horror fan conventions all over. A number of the actors that were in this film (and even Romero himself on occasion) can be found ready to meet fans and sign autographs. Judith Ridley and Russell Streiner are both scheduled to be at Cinema Wasteland in Cleveland April 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Streiner has been appearing there for years but this is Ridley’s first convention appearance.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When WHO’S LINE IS IT ANYWAY? premiered on television I thought it was one of the best shows around. I’ve always loved improve comedy. It started when I saw SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE the first time only to learn that most of the cast began at Second City in Chicago. In college I got my first taste of Second City and fell in love with it, making it a point to visit each time I go there now.

But WHOSE LINE brought weekly improv to the small screen and made me laugh. Not once in a while but every single episode I watched. And while they had a number of talented individuals on the show, my favorite was Colin Mochrie. Mochrie was teased about his baldness and being Canadian each week but he dished back with a terrific sense of humor and comedic timing. So imagine my delight to hear that he was touring with Brad Sherwood across the county. While I didn’t get to their show, I can now enjoy watching them whenever I want with the release of COLIN MOCHRIE & BRAD SHERWOOD: TWO MAN GROUP.

This is a taped concert film basically of the dynamic duo of quick wits displaying their comic talents. The pieces they do are not scripted and haven’t been set up in advance. They’re doing improv where they come out, take a few suggestions such as an event and then apply the event to different improv games that have been used for years.

They begin with a game that features the two of them unable to move without the assistance of a couple they bring up from the audience. Each movement they make is done by these two ordinary people moving their various body parts which often leads to both embarrassing and funny pieces.

They do a sequence called sideways sketch where they take a suggestion from the audience of a situation (in this case a man upset with his neighbor because his dog poops in his yard) and make comedy of it. The thing is that they’re actually lying on the floor with a prop stage featuring a camera overhead making it look like by rolling across the floor they’re moving across the set.

There are a number of other items they perform here, ending with what Sherwood describes as the most dangerous piece to perform. The stage is set with 225 every day mousetraps placed several inches apart. Brad and Colin then remove their shoes and socks and place blindfolds on. When Colin suggests that this isn’t really dangerous, another 25 mousetraps hanging by threads are lowered, some about chest level, others nearer definitely sensitive areas. They then do an alphabet game where they perform a suggested event (a man upset that his next door neighbor takes his mail) in operatic format, each using the next letter of the alphabet to start their line. The ensuing snapping of the traps and gags is the result.

This show was quite enjoyable and funny, making me laugh so hard a few times that I had to back up or pause the disc. Then again I’ve always found these two men to be two of the funniest guys on the planet, even more so when doing improv.

The DVD release also features two special items that include interviews with the stars in set pieces. These are funny to an extent, but the true laughs are when they’re on stage together.

I did find one thing that truly upset me with this DVD release though. That’s the fact that it only lasted 67 minutes. Once it finishes you find yourself wanting more. If you weren’t a fan of WHOSE LINE you might find this mildly amusing. If you were a fan you will want this in your collection. There are a few items that might not be child friendly, but for the most part if you have children you should be safe. Even they’ll get a laugh out of this one.


So. A link to another web site on a review page. As I stated early on this blog is about movies, more often than not new DVD reviews. But every now and then you see something interesting that concerns movies that makes you say wow. Or maybe it makes you appreciate some movies or perhaps, like this link, it reminds you of movies you've seen and then consider going back to watch again just because you've been reminded of them.

"A Brief History of Title Design" was has a staff composed of Ian Albinson Editor-in-chief | Founder,
Alexander Ulloa Head Writer and Angel Tagudin Contributing Author. At least that's what their web site says and who would doubt them? The web site celebrates the title sequences of films we all know and love. The link above presents a compilation that they put together for the SXSW film festival. But the site also offers the opening of closing title sequences from a number of films that you can enjoy in quicktime.

So take a look at that compilation and find a few movies that you forgot about but enjoyed. It might even make you go looking for a few of them. And then check out the various offerings they have there to watch.

Title sequences may be something that we take for granted most of the time. But when done well they're items we never forget. Don't believe me? Then tell me you don't remember a glowing pink jewel that turned into a pink panther. Of you don't recall seeing a round hole with a tuxedo dressed man walking into it then turning to fire his gun followed by that familiar James Bond Theme. See? You're thinking about title sequences already.