David Cronenberg is a hugely respected and admired filmmaker, with a catalogue of festival awards and critical and box office success. He attracts A-list talent for his movies, which are always thought-provoking and met with wide intellectual appreciation.

But this was not always the case.

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Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg

In 1975, the popular Women in Prison (or WIP) genre of grindhouse cinema was injected with a dose of World War Two and came up with Don Edmond’s notorious sleaze, sex and violence classic Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, a film which effectively created the template for what has since become known as Naziploitation, a grotty type of movie that exaggerated – in unflinching details – the sordid sexual deviation, torture and medical experimentation that was conducted under Hitler’s Third Reich regime, usually taking place within the walls of prisoner of war or concentration camps (Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS was famously shot on the still-standing sets of the Hogan’s Heroes television sitcom.)

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Killing Spree

Killing_Spree_DVDTim Ritter’s Killing Spree is a product of the mid 80s to early 90s splatter boom where anyone who owned a 16MM or a shitty video camera was trying to get in on the action by making a no-budget homemade horror flick. These films were usually of the “so-bad-it’s good” variety, the only redeeming values were their unconvincing yet insanely OTT gore FX. This era churned out such crappy classicks as Splatter Farm, Video Violence 1 & 2, Woodchipper Massacre, Ghoul School, etc. (all of which, as well as this film, have recently been re-released on DVD by Camp Motion Pictures as part of their Retro 80s Horror Collection).

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The Frightened Woman

Frightened-WomanORDER DVD

The Frightened Woman could simply be summed up as a movie about the battle of the sexes, man vs. woman, estrogen vs. testosterone. Either way, it deals with issues that are socially and sexually pretty controversial.

The film consists mostly of two characters: Dr Sayer who works at a philanthropic institute and Maria, a journalist. The good ol doctor has a thing for hookers, and pays them to pretend to be his victims, only he is out to acquire a woman with whom he can make his wildest fantasy come true…

The film is pretty tame nowadays of course, but the acts of bondage and torture might still raise an eyebrow or two. I guess it really depends on your view, it could be misogynistic to some, but to others it might be very feministic. If you are easily offended by violence towards women, then this film is probably as shocking as it would have been to mainstream audiences in the ‘60s. It’s by no means true blue ‘Sexploitation’, its rather Sexploitation-lite. It’s an intense character study of the incompatibility of men and women; and once again depending on how you interpret the film, shows how society has shaped relationships between the sexes through overtones of psychedelic and pop artefacts, music, feminism and S&M.

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ShowgirlsORDER DVD

From the director of Robocop comes Showgirls – a dirtier Dirty Dancing.

The film stars the rather teethy Elizabeth Berkley (who looks like an ‘80s Scarlet Johansson ) as Nomi, a young drifter who is on her way to Vegas to realize her dreams of becoming a dancer. Nomi hitches a ride from nowheresville to Vegas with a creepy Elvis look-alike who later burns her. Luckily in her moment of distress she bumps into a girl named Molly who offers her a place to stay and hey presto, they become friends. Nomi starts working as a stripper at a sleazy strip joint called the Cheetah and then auditions for a part in the stage show Goddess. It’s not exactly a case of good girl gone bad, more so a bad girl gone worse. As Nomi mounts her way to the top it all goes to her head as she gets more money, more fame and bigger hair.

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The Night Porter

nightporterLiliana Cavani’s 1973 film The Night Porter has certainly divided audiences and critics alike over the years. Its controversial themes and subject matter have seen the film be painted as tasteless, exploitative and having no artistic merit other than to shock. The Night Porter along with Salo treads a fine line between quality Arthouse cinema and Exploitation and it depends on the viewer’s tastes and sensibilities where the film lies. After reading about the film over the years I was curious to see where I stood on the matter and more importantly whether or not The Night Porter was the classic piece of cinema many have claimed it to be.

For those unfamiliar with the storyline, The Night Porter concerns itself with a concentration camp survivor Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) who discovers her former captor Maximillian (Dirk Bogarde) working as a night porter while visiting Vienna. Initially Lucia is disturbed by his presence but before long she confronts him and the two pick up their sado-masochistic relationship once again. Once word gets out amongst Maximillian’s comrades the pair become targeted by the former Nazi sleeper cell who are out to eliminate those who were witness to their war crimes.

To be honest I wasn’t completely blown away by the film like a lot of people seem to be but I found it a beautifully shot, twisted and ultimately bleak love-story that was definitely worth my time. I think this film will grow on me with repeated viewings because there is a lot you can interpret from it and thematically there’s a lot going on in it. The Night Porter is not some Euro-trash-Nazi-exploitation-flick like critics like Roger Ebert have stated, but a dark descent into the human condition exploring themes of domination, love and guilt and the psychological factors driving it. On another level The Night Porter explores how the impact of war leaves indelible effects and consequences. Pretty heady stuff really and it escapes me how people haven’t seen past some of the gratuitous elements of the film to see the bigger picture.

Films like this a really few and far between these days and perhaps what I found most interesting about it was how it broke the mould of the traditional love story delivering something much more challenging and thought provoking. An undeniably important piece of cinema that serious film buffs owe it themselves to see at least once.

This disc from Umbrella has zero extras which really makes this local release fairly pointless when you can get an import copy for around half the price. The Night Porter is a film that needs a few extras thrown in to illustrate its historical context and intentions especially considering how demonised the film’s been in the past. Personally I’d wait for this disc to come down in price because it’s not really worth the $20 price tag and is one of the more shoddy editions of the film. It’s a shame Umbrella’s releases are largely hit and miss these days they used to be one of the best companies for local releases of Cult and Arthouse cinema. Another poorly authored disc (you don’t even get a menu) that’s best left for the cheap bins or a rental. Disappointing to say the least.

Available on RO DVD from Umbrella Entertainment.

Drive-In Delirium [Volumes 1 & 2]

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They have many varying and wonderful names – cult films, exploitation, drive-in, midnight movies – but whatever you call them, the ‘b’ movies of the 60s, 70s and 80s represent a time of remarkable freedom and adventure in cinema. Typically, this was done under restrictive budget pressure and often well outside the mainstream both in a commercial sense and in subject matter.

Marketing such works became an art form in itself. The advertising campaigns tended to latch on to one facet of each movie, be it the premise, the star or – far more often – the more lurid aspects. Sometimes the marketing became as notorious as the films themselves, such as the “Keep repeating to yourself, it’s only a movie…it’s only a movie…” tag line for 1972’s Last House On The Left.

That Wes Craven video nasty is one of the many, many, MANY titles whose trailers are included in the two volume Drive-In Delirium collection from Umbrella Entertainment. The hundreds of trailers are spread over two four-disc sets for a whopping total running time of nearly 24 hours. It’s a staggering assortment of everything from sex comedies to sci-fi schlock to European slasher flicks – all packed into trailers that run the gamut from brilliant to hilariously awful.

Well-known flicks are in attendance, such as Videodrome, Re-Animator and Friday the 13th , but the real fun is in the more obscure titles. If you cannot find dozens of new titles and desperately want to see them, then you must be dead inside. Continue reading

Ted V. Mikels


Ted V Mikels is a legend. No two ways about it. From his earliest work through to latter day works he put his heart and soul into every film. Younger gorehounds should check out his entire back catalogue of films, we old bastards already know how cool and influential he is!!

Crimson Celluloid: Ted, in a couple of years time you’ll be 80. Yet you seem to have the vim and vigour of someone half that age, how do you manage it?

Ted: Strangely enough, a lot of folks ask me what it takes to have my kind of energy. Actually, with the book coming out in October, the Ted V. Mikels Signature six-pack of DVD’s from Alpha Video coming out also in October, the documentary on myself by Vamp Productions also due out in October (a lot shot in my studio recently) , and my editing day and night on my latest movie Demon Haunt also anticipating completion of all CGI and effects plus music by the end of October, I never have enough time to accomplish all I wish by the end of every day. Tonight, it’s only eleven p.m., so I’m early and now have some time to answer your questions. Never thought much about having or needing ” energy”, I just work hard to get everything done. Continue reading