The Editor (2014) Review

CELLULOID SCREAMS 2014

ed1THE EDITOR – 2014

DIR: Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy

Written: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Connor Sweeney

Starring: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Connor Sweeney, Paz De La Huerta, Tristan Risk, Lawrence R Harvey, Udo Kier, Jerry Wasserman

The opening gala of Sheffield’s Celluloid Screams festival, now in its 6th year, saw the UK premiere of film making collective Astron-6’s The Editor. This was my first experience of Astron-6 and their wildly over the top and wickedly astute humour. Hailed by the festival Director Robert Nevitt as the saviours of genre cinema it became clear to me looking around the auditorium that he wasn’t the only one who felt like this. People were sporting t-shirts and talking excitedly about what the Canadian crew had in store for them this time around. I felt a little out of place to start with as it seemed as though I was the only one not in the club and began to wonder how the crazy sounding Manborg and Father’s Day had passed me by until now. The atmosphere and excitement was palpable as the lights began to dim, and it was a reminder of what film festivals are all about.

The Editor is the story of Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks), a once great film editor that has been reduced to cutting low budget trash due to a horrific accident that left him with four wooden fingers. The latest ‘epic’ he is working on is a particularly poor piece and the set is filled with egotistical, self -serving wannabe’s. Rey is something of an outcast, and even his wife (Paz De La Huerta); a former great actress barely seems to notice him anymore. But when members of the cast and crew start turning up dead the finger of blame is pointed squarely at Rey and he must outwit a tireless police inspector (Matthew Kennedy) and work to prove his innocence as the evidence stacks up against him.

ed2A loving send-up of the Italian Giallo classics of the 70’s and 80’s The Editor is a fun, riotous, and demented piece of cinema that will have fans of old-school exploitation smiling from ear to severed ear. A perfect way to open a festival, it had the right mix of energy and ingenuity to get everyone in the mood for a weekend of insanity. Playing brilliantly on the absurdities of the classic giallo The Editor is filled with witty visuals and in possession of a genuinely smart script. There is a goldmine of knowing references and wry nods for those ‘in on the joke’, and The Editor will be most enjoyed by those who love their old-school Italian exploitation. It is possible to have fun with the film on a basic level, but the crazy plotting and the deliberately cranky technical tricks, like the bad dubbing, will probably leave those out of the loop somewhat perplexed. But if you have a place inside your heart for this sort of thing then you will have an absolute ball here.

Capturing the best of the past whilst showing Astron-6 as a talent for the future it is a clever mix of horror and hilarity and is wittier than most films can hope to be. Particularly funny is the films running joke on misogyny. Giallo thrillers were often criticised for their treatment of female characters, with Argento in particular coming in for some potent criticism. The Editor runs with this and takes it to an extreme that makes the whole argument seem ridiculous and plays perfectly on the stupidity of over blown machismo. Whilst the film walks the precarious line between satire and stupidity it emerges as an intelligent yet gleefully daft play on the nature of cinema as art and works towards a surprising removal of the fourth wall, tying it all in to its video era inspirations.

ed3With a hilarious cameo from Udo Kier and a genuine love for the films it is sending up, The Editor is a genuine gem of a film and one that should find a healthy audience as it does the festival rounds. Capturing the spirit of an era past without ever feeling forced or smart-arsed it really is as good as you will no doubt hear. How it will play upon multiple viewings remains to be seen, but with so much crammed into each scene it is likely that further viewings will unearth even more for those with a keen eye. It has sold me, and I am off to track down Manborg and Father’s Day.

9/10

Mark of The Devil (1970) Blu-Ray Review

mark 1MARK OF THE DEVIL – 1970

AKA: Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält

Dir: Michael Armstrong, Adrian Hoven (uncredited)

Starring: Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Olivera Katalina, Reggie Nalder, Herbert Fux

Mark of The Devil comes to Arrow Blu Ray in the usual fine style that we have come to expect from the company. Packing a great transfer and some fine extras it is a perfect chance to revisit one of the most controversial films of its era. Advertised in the USA as “guaranteed to make you sick” cinema goers were treated to Mark of The Devil sick bags as they sat down to watch Michael Armstrong’s torture heavy film. As amusing as this is, it did distract from the fact that despite its exploitation trappings, the film was a disturbing examination of religious extremism and the politics of the church. For all its graphic torture scenes Mark of The Devil emerges as a smart and incredibly fearless picture that is as relevant today as it was in 1970.

Genre regular Udo Kier is Kristian is an apprentice Witch Hunter in the service of Herbert Lom’s Lord Cumberland. A relatively just man in violent times Kristian rescues the beautiful Vanessa from the local Witch Finder (Nalder) who has designs on the buxom beauty. Spurned by her advances he accuses her of being a witch until Kristian and his men step in and stop it. Kristian becomes enchanted by Vanessa and he finds himself intrigued by her more pagan views of the world. But when Cumberland arrives and the trials start things become complicated for the young witch finder as he is forced to confront the reality that the witch hunts have nothing to do with eradicating evil and are really about making the church richer and more powerful.

Violent, complex and unflinching, Mark of The Devil is an incredibly potent film. Its critique of the Christian church is incredibly cutting and it never shy’s away from confronting the issues head on. It is at times a very political film that examines the manipulative nature of modern religions whilst hinting that the destruction of older pagan ideals was detrimental to society. Hebert Lom’s Cumberland is a quintessential politician, presenting himself as the social and moral benchmark whilst behind the scenes he is manipulative and dangerous man pulling the strings of all those around him. In fact the film is peppered with visual references to puppets, driving home its point about political and religious control.

mark 2Whilst it has been over shadowed a little by Michael Reeves’ equally outstanding Witchfinder General (1968) Mark of The Devil stands as something of a companion piece to that film. Both approach the subject matter with a historical eye and are arguably not horror films in the strictest sense of the word. But where Reeve’s film is now an acknowledged classic, Mark of The Devil has the reputation of being a sleazy, violent exploitation film. To some extent this is a fair criticism as director Michael Armstrong is wholly unafraid to linger on the slow, unpleasant torture of those accused of consorting with The Devil. There is also no escaping the garish and gloatingly manipulative marketing campaign used by Hallmark on its original release. However, for all its horror, the film retains an integrity and intelligence that lifts it far above the simple minded gore films that would begin to flood the market as the 1970’s progressed.

The 1080p transfer here is exceptional. Arrow have once again proven themselves to be masters at breathing new life into old classics. High definition helps to elevate the films European look rather than detracting from it and the film looks truly fantastic. This is also the completely uncut version of the film meaning that it is something of a definitive release.

The extras here are substantial too. I am not one for audio commentaries but I have it on good authority that this one by Director Michael Armstrong is very insightful. In fact, considering the films troubled production history the Blu- ray comes with a lot of differing and interesting insight from many of those concerned. Mark of The Time is an excellent little documentary tracing the history of many of the ‘New Wave’ British directors that emerged during the 1970’s. From Hammer, through Witchfinder General, The Wicker Man and of course Mark of The Devil itself it is an intriguing look back at the era from many of those involved. Hallmark of the Devil is a nice look back at the history and the some- what dubious advertising techniques of the notorious Hallmark releasing group by Fangoria’s Michael Gingold.

mark3A little more bizarre is a ‘then and now’ comparison of the films Austrian locations. It’s a touch unnecessary; especially as nothing much seems to have changed over the years, but still rather amusing in its way. The disc also boasts out takes and interviews with many of those involved including the genre legend Udo Kier, who simply doesn’t seem to age like normal people! He offers some interesting insight to the films production problems and director Michael Armstrong’s visions for the film.

This is a must by for fans of the film and a great place for new initiates to start. With a top notch transfer and a hefty amount of extras this is Arrow at their finest and a must for horror and exploitation fans.

Film 9/10
Package 9/10

Iron Sky (2012) BluRay Review

iron skyIRON SKY – 2012 – Blu-Ray

Dir: Timo Vuorensola

Starring: Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Gotz Otto, Udo Kier

 

How the hell did this film ever get made? It’s not often, but every now and then I sit watching a film and this is the only thing that runs through my head. Iron Sky is such a film. But not because it’s particularly bad, simply because it’s insane and no producer in their right mind should have looked at this project and gone: ‘great idea, here’s the money let’s roll!’ It’s my second Nazi movie in a week and I’m not entirely sure what that says about me and if I should be worried, but with a crazy set up like this has how could I resist?!

At the end of The Second World War the Nazis retreated to the dark side of the moon. Here they have built a giant Swastika shaped haven where they teach the finer side of National Socialism and plan their triumphant return to earth. Young idealistic teacher Renate(Dietze) is seemingly unaware of the horrors of the holocaust and the war and is happy to teach the young about the righteousness of their cause. Her Reich commander boyfriend, Klaus(Otto), is a hero of sorts, who is ready to lead the mission to earth.

Their plans take an unexpected turn when an American moon landing unwittingly stumbles upon them. One of the Astronauts is killed, and the other is taken hostage. When the hostage is revealed as African American named James(Washington), who swears he is just a model involved in a publicity stunt, all hell breaks loose and the Nazi’s find their plans speeded up. and a mission to earth is put into action. James is turned ‘white’ and sent back to earth with Renate and Klaus to help the Nazis take earth back. Once on earth they find themselves at the centre of a plan to get the president of the United States re elected.

iron sky 2If the film sounds incredibly convoluted, that’s because it is. It flies off in so many directions and tries to cram in so much attempted satire that it is inevitably hit and miss. At its best it’s an oddball comedy that flirts dangerously close to the line of what is acceptable; at its worst it’s tonally uneven and painfully heavy handed.

The best stuff here comes from simple minded slapstick. When the film isn’t trying to be clever it has some fun, amusing moments. James’ statement to police about his situation made me laugh out loud: “you are a formally dead black model, who is now suddenly a living white hobo after spending a weekend on the moon.” There is a better, funnier film hidden here somewhere!

However, it stumbles all over itself when it tries its hand at smart- arsed political satire. The President is a deliberate Sarah Palin clone and the lines the movie draws between the politics of the Nazi’s and those of middle America are heavy handed and rather obvious. That’s not to say all its satire fails to raise a smile; its send up of the UN where North Korea takes credit for everything the Nazi’s are up to and are promptly told ” Shut up North Korea” is very funny; as is the ensuing brawl when no one can agree on a solution. But it is far too blunt most of the time and comes off as cringe worthy rather than funny.

iron sky 3Iron Sky has big ideas and whilst it’s conceptually obnoxious it does deserve some credit for attempting such large scale theatrics. To say this was made on a millionth of the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster it looks rather epic at times, especially on this Blu-ray edition. It’s a shame that budgetary constraints mean there is a lull in the pace around half way through, as it becomes very talky and relies on its pretty green screen backgrounds to keep things interesting. It is also a shame to have to criticise a movie for having too many ideas, but Iron Sky ultimately buries itself by not being able to focus. In the end this is worth a look just out of curiosity, but for all its off kilter craziness it comes up short.

6/10