Thursday, November 29, 2012


As popular a topic as “the death of print” may be, there’s still noteworthy on-paper contributions to Horror Fandom being made.  As a complete devotee to seminal rags like UncleBob Martin-era FANGORIA, Michael J. Weldon’s Psychotronic, and Chas Balun’s DEEP RED, I’m beyond picky with Horror and Exploitation related film magazines.  More than picky I’m perhaps disheartened, as most of the major mags are largely filled with what might as well be bought and sold ad space for what is ultimately mindless major studio garbage (in contrast, certainly a nod goes to many of the folks at Rue Morgue, who do a wonderful job).

A lot of folks buy the lie that innovation is no longer financially viable, and so it’s thrilling to see the voracious VHS virus that is LUNCHMEAT innovate the hell out of the stale contemporary magazine market.  It’s layout, style, mission, writing, and humor are completely its own, and Editor Josh Schafer seemingly without strain puts to rest the notion that watering down material makes for a better read.  It’s fun, original and genuinely fresh.

Instead of trying to ape the antics of other movie mags, LUNCHMEAT has created its own personal style of zine-like worship and research style.  They mostly cover VHS unavailable on DVD (a world that is indeed endless despite popular misconceptions), and related  phenomena.  Instead of covering "hot new" films (which as we all know are few and far between), LUNCHMEAT creates the subtext that they’re moving back through time, scouring the trash for tapes; coming up with mind-bending absurdities like “HAWK JONES”, a 1986 violent action film wherein
the entire cast is children pretending to be adults!  And, though many titles are joked about and poked fun at, LUNCHMEAT is still a truly upbeat endeavor - there’s an unbelievably heartfelt respect for so many of these films, and movies that are laughed off by most within the scene are discussed here for their historical importance and positive traits.  The excellent review of Penelope Spheeris’ oft-overlooked “DUDES” (issue 6 also features a great interview with highly talented but also-oft-overlooked actor Daniel Roebuck ) is high point.  Schafer writes:

“This film, while arguably a little uneven at times, is an absolutely unique entry in genre film and the voracious Videovore would do themselves good to implement this one into their VCR’s diet.  Not only because of the bright cast’s chemistry and consistently entertaining performances, but Spheeris’ ability to meld the aspects of a road movie, an off-beat buddy comedy and a classic revenge flick all into one is truly something special.  The laughs are abundant, the action’s exciting and the idea of a pair of once-passive  punks realizing that life’s about creating your own adventure makes DUDES a fulfilling and enjoyable ride.”

Well put!  I didn’t know anybody out there felt the same way I did about Spheeris’ DUDES.  Get your hands on Issue #6 and give these guys as much of your dough as you can -  Long live LUNCHMEAT!

-Mike Hunchback

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Even among the many sub-sects of record buyers, the Soundtrack Aficionado has for years been somewhat of a black sheep. Though there have been moments of hipness; in the 90’s labels like DAGORED and CRIPPLED DICK HOT WAX repackaged some painfully rare, mostly Italian, soundtrack cuts in the forms of high quality reissues and extremely cool compilations. Labels like these gave instant context for the inexperienced listener, and now composers like Bruno Nicolai and Piero Piccioni are familiar to a wide range of music fans of many different types.

Before that, there were labels like Cerberus Records with their legendary Ennio Morricone Film Score Society series, an unbelievably classy endeavor that issued some of the most astounding and rare soundtracks of the day, with the obvious overtone that it was completely a labor of love. Similarly labels like Cinema Records went above and beyond to contribute their fantastic Bernard Herrmann and Max Steiner records to the pantheon of essential soundtrack platters.

In recent years “the Soundtrack” has gained perhaps more traction than ever - plenty of music fans are aware of John Carpenter and Goblin, and thusly these artists are finally getting the respect they deserve. Though no one has yet offered that next major advance in soundtrack LP fandom - that is until Death Waltz Recording Co.’s deluxe edition of Fabio Frizzi’s score to Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi” hit record stores this year.

Death Waltz seems to be conscious of this record-buyer-meets-soundtrack-aficionado division, though it’s by no means a cash-in or a throwback. This is new territory they’re treading - all the titles are legitimately licensed, complete with text for the release by the composer. All the titles are pressed on high quality vinyl and remastered to excellence. Their releases also feel extremely fresh because they sport covers (delightfully uniform in their framing) designed by artists working currently that have personal affection for the subject matter. The result is covers cool enough to inspire many a casual record buyer to simply pick them up out of curiosity. And, as anyone can see by just glancing at their website, Death Waltz seems to be working significantly harder than any label in recent memory - by early next year Death Waltz will have released over a dozen soundtracks; each with a limited edition version.

 A very happy Mike Hunchback with the recently-arrived Halloween II and Halloween III Soundtrack LPs!

Label founder Spencer Hickman was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for us:

How did your personal fascination of film soundtracks begin?

When I was 8, in the same year my dad bought me The Muppets album and Star Wars. I was obsessed with Star Wars and we went to see it like 13 times at the Gaumont in Birmingham, the soundtrack was this amazing double vinyl with a big fold out poster of the Rebels attacking the Death Star; it wasn't a still from the film but a beautifully rendered poster, I used to stare at the poster on my floor while I relived the film through my stereo. Those two albums right there are where it all started.

Death Waltz has also so far offered a varied array of material - brooding, dark, electronic scores from Carpenter and Howarth's "Escape from New York" and Fabio Frizzi's "Zombi" to the more modern scores of “Let the Right One In” and “Donnie Darko”- did you originally foresee Death Waltz as being so all-encompassing?

Yeah totally. I love music, why limit yourself? I was chatting to my friend Manish that writes for The Quietus and he said what he loved about the label was that we were doing new soundtracks and that people always moan that there is nothing new that’s classic anymore; which obviously is rubbish, there’s tons of new stuff I want to do. I always thought that if we make sure the quality of the package was good enough then people would trust us on titles that maybe they didn't know.

Were there any soundtracks that you had hoped to release that for one reason or another you won't be able to?

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - I know a few people have tried but there are so many rights issues that it's never going to happen.

With the unbelievably high level of quality that the label has been offering, it seems that your excellent reputation could garnish future soundtrack licensing beyond what you were capable of in the beginning. Any dream projects?

Oh wow thanks. We are already beyond what I had envisaged, I want the label to grow organically and I don’t want to only release horror movies soundtracks. Which is why I changed our tagline to 'the art of soundtracks'. I love movies and not just horror, I want us to become the label that composers come to and say 'I want DW to release this score'; I do want to start offering CD's too when licenses allow.

Would you ever release something that wasn’t a film soundtrack?

Tricky one, I'm not sure we could, maybe as an offshoot? I have an idea that I want to release a re-edit 12” featuring 4 tracks and have people in mind, but even then I'm not sure DW could release it.

ou’ve recently announced the next batch of titles that Death Waltz will release - The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue, Prince Of Darkness, Halloween II, Halloween III, They Live - anything else in the pipeline at the moment?

Yes, but not that I can talk about, you never know whose reading!

Does Death Waltz have an official US distributor?

At the moment our UK distributor ships to Forced Exposure, but Light In The Attic are going to be carrying them direct from September 1st.

And will you continue to offer subscriptions? How will that work for someone within the US like myself?

Yes we are carrying on with the sub, it upping to 200 due to the demand. Open to one and all no matter where you are. One thing I love about shipping releases is seeing where they are going; Russia, Turkey, etc., there is no discrimination at DW, haha!

Sunday, September 30, 2012


TODAY at ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES catch the last two Gialli of MALASTRANA FILMS' incredible GIALLO FEVER series!




More info at:

Thursday, September 20, 2012


GIALLO FEVER, curated and organized by the wonderful folks over at Malastrana Films, is a mind-melting 10 day / 10 film trip though what is perhaps the best representation Giallo films have ever had in New York City.  All but one of the films will screen from 35mm (the other being screened in 16mm); and in order to provide the highest level of visual quality, many of the film prints were painstakingly sought out.  The result is not only a superb selection of titles, but also a series of stunning and immaculate clarity.  Some of these showings will likely be the only chance many will have to see these on film.  So, seriously - don‘t miss this!

Giallo is one of those sub-genres that many a film fanatic has become obsessed with.  It's easy to understand why; Gialli are typically so extreme in the flashiest ways that they’re irresistible just in terms of sheer aesthetics; though more than a few Gialli are storytelling powerhouses in disguise as genre film - and though there are a few of those in this series, Lucio Fulci’s DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING (1972) is particularly significant.  

Though some of the directors who helmed these features have been regulated strictly to the “genius” column, (Argento, and most certainly Bava) others have at times contributed to what could perhaps be described as sheer hackery (of which this series has none).  But, one of these directors exceeds any kind of categorization.  Directing more films than any other director in this series, Lucio Fulci also has as varied a filmography as any of his contemporaries. Not all of Fulci’s films represent his finest work, but over a dozen of them indeed do.  Among those classics is DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING.  While on the surface Fulci’s films are known for their over-the-top, extravagant gore, his most dedicated fans sense a unique humanity beneath the cruelty.  Genre films can surprise with craftsmanship, narrative and originality; and though DUCKLING has these elements it’s a far rarer notion that makes it so special, and that is the rather personal, compassionate tone that's intertwined into a horrific story of child abuse and small-town mob mentality.  So many of Fulci's cinematic efforts are incredible pieces of work - his Zombie films are regarded more and more highly as time passes, and that's something that’s happened on little more than just the merit of the films themselves.  His finer Westerns linger just below Leone's; his sexy psychedelia, crime, raw horror, thriller, historical, etc. films are often concise and sober offerings to popular cinema.  But DUCKLING has that Fulci spirit maybe more than any other.  Fulci sees the world as a rather pessimistic realist: there’s violence, rape, war and crime - factors that are truly abhorrent to him, and thus these factors should be represented in a fashion that amplifies their horror.  Chains rip flesh, faces are torn apart, heads are chopped off, children are drowned - yet in all of its gruesome glory none of this endorses such wholesale brutality.  One senses a secret degree of pain on the part of the filmmaker, [spoiler alert next sentence!] and the insanely sadistic, senseless murder of the town Witch (played to perfection by Giallo regular Florinda Bolkan) is maybe Fulci’s most emotive death scene.  For all of its bloodiness, for all of its sadism, there’s an unbelievable feeling of sensitivity here - greatly highlighted by the music of composer Riz Ortolani and vocalist Ornella Vanoni.  In a way it’s practically a metaphor for Fulci’s long-standing subtext - the innocent are helpless in a powerfully cruel and brutal world, where fighting back is useless; and dying with rigid, stony dignity is the best one can do - and as ugly as it is, there‘s something somehow beautiful about it.

One of the series' most important entries is certainly Mario Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE.  Not only is it THE archetypical Giallo, it's also a delightfully nasty precursor to the body count or "Slasher" film.  Soaked in unbelievably lurid technicolor, this is perhaps the most essential of the GIALLO FEVER series to see on film.  It’s influence on Gialli to come (as well as just Horror) is immeasurable, and it’s effect on Argento’s work will be apparent to viewers even totally unfamiliar to Bava’s filmography.  Bava's other entry in the series is the original Italian version of THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (like many of these films, a different cut was released here in the US, with a different title; THE EVIL EYE), which in stark contrast to BLOOD AND BLACK LACE displays Bava’s incredible talent for black and white cinematography.  GIRL … is superbly playful, and uses its frightening setting to surprise the viewer with some very unexpected jokes.

Dario Argento is no doubt the most known filmmaker to the audience for this series, and BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE and DEEP RED are certainly two of his most beloved films.  These will be a treat in 35mm, DEEP RED being one of his most ambitious films for color and design, and BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE sorely lacking a proper screening.  And to further stun the typical desensitized fanboy, Malastrana rounds out this program with even more extremely elusive Gialli; Pupi Avati's HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS and Elio Perti's A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY.  And, apart from their rarity, the quality of these two stands up quite nicely to the famous counterparts on the bill.  And it doesn't stop there - There's also Fulci's erotic thriller PERVERSION STORY, the utter depravity of Sergio Martino's THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1971) and the sexy retro sleaze of Massimo Dallamano's WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972) ... None of the films in this series will disappoint.

We here at the Freedom School commend Malastrana Films, and Yunsun and Alessio in particular, for their above and beyond programming.  Scroll down foe links to Malastrana Films, Anthology Film Archives, and showtimes ... GIALLO FEVER starts today … GET IT!

MALASTRANA FILMS:!/Giallo_Fever.html



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fear For Your Ears!

HEY SOUNDTRACK LOVERS! I'll be spinning a myriad of delicious Italian Soundtrack treats TOMORROW NIGHT to celebrate the beginning of this year's most astounding film series, GIALLO FEVER - details below!

Giallo Opening Party! at Mangiami 9.20.12
Sep. 20th 9:30PM til You Drop Dead
--DJ Mike Hunchback spins the wicked soundtracks of Giallo films.
--No cover! Enjoy Prosecco and beer on your dime.

Mangiami Bar/Restaurant
9 Stanton St.
(between Bowery & Chrystie St)
New York, NY 10002

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Jeff Lieberman's finest films hit the screen twice each this coming weekend at Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 ( Director (along with some friends) will appear daily for Q&A, check schedule for details.

1976's SQUIRM had life on drive-in screens as well as hard-tops, before its Orion VHS release cemented it in the American gore-hound consciousness forever. The man behind the camera was Mr. Jeff Lieberman, and with some talented help (not least of which was make-up maestro Rick Baker, providing so many of the film's great gross-outs) he made his debut feature quite a memorable outing. SQUIRM is one of those rare and funny films that while piling on the horror-film cliches still manages to actually break out of that mold - something Lieberman seems be very good at. It's a movie about killer worms, somehow mutated by a lightning storm, that slowly and slimily begin to take over a small town; the town wallflower and her nerdy city boyfriend being the only ones who seem to be able to stop it. SQUIRM also showcases Lieberman's ability to make a solid film, as hokey as the plot gets, it never loses steam, continuing with increasing speed towards a weird and bloody crescendo. One gets the feeling the director himself was getting excited to see everything and everyone in the film completely covered in writhing worms.

Like the other Lieberman films in Anthology's series, JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981) is a sort of "antithetical" cult classic. While so many of the films under that banner have an element of cheese that elevates them, these Lieberman films are just actually well made, low-budget films. And, if you're going to see any slasher film on the big screen this summer, why not make it a good one? JUST BEFORE DAWN, like SQUIRM, has several elements that unfold to reveal the average Horror template, but its deviation from staying within those lines, matched with its powerfully filthy, sweaty, cheap-early-80's-film-stock look, result in "a slasher film to remember". JUST BEFORE DAWN is laced with rather genuine, raw thrills - it's a film about sick hillbilly killers chasing teens around in the middle of the woods, and appropriately the movie feels delightfully twisted. Scores of films with similar plots have been birthed since, and the genre for some reason seems to have forgotten not only the true value of "grittiness", but what actual "grit" looks like. JUST BEFORE DAWN could serve as a singular, all-encompassing lesson on how to not fuck-up a slasher film.

Often when a director works in the realm of genre films, it can be assumed that he or she has a personal project looming in the back of his mind; working long and hard on other more salable fare in order to one day get the chance to make that bizarre, personal film he dreams of. BLUE SUNSHINE (1978) may not by definition belong within that category, but it certainly feels like that type of film. Its wildly fun plot, some sort of experienced-acid-head's daydream meets Sci-Fi Noir, is unique to say the least - a group of young men take a form of LSD in college only to find out that 10 years later it turns them into bald, psychopathic killers. We're thrown into the spiral of paranoia rather quickly, and though the answers drip slowly towards us piecemeal, BLUE SUNSHINE manages to fully envelop us in its rays - it's easy to sink into the film's subversive acid-logic. BLUE SUNSHINE may be Lieberman's creative best, a glowing, turquoise diamond in the often shitty sea of horror and exploitation.

Check 'em out!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oh, Lina ...

Lina Romay
June 23rd, 1954 - February, 15th 2012

I'm sorry for the informal, emotionally loose post - but the sudden passing of the incredible Lina Romay is weighing heavily on my mind. Lina began her career with Jess Franco in 1972 and was in most of his films (he would direct over 150 after '72) from that point on. They began a partnership professionally as well as romantically, and with Romay by his side Franco accelerated his artistic ambitions to a level that I personally believe no other filmmaker has achieved. To the most open-minded of viewers, many of his films have unique and lasting impact; and not for any repeatedly formulaic reason either. These films are anarchistic; at times purposefully and at times because there was simply no time or money. The disregard for convention is perhaps one of the strongest elements in most of his best work, and it took a little while for that to fully develop. By the late 60's Franco was itching for nothing but total freedom in filmmaking; and he casually tossed aside the possibility for success and money to embark of a lifelong journey of artistic exploration - and splendid debauchery. This wasn't the move of someone who wanted to make a name for himself as an "Auteur", or as an avant garde filmmaker; and nor was it the move of someone who would go on to make only pornography. Franco's most passionate work work lies in an area of its own, quite far from those other worlds. And as any dedicated fan of his work will tell you, this incredible achievement was aided immeasurably by Lina Romay. Her own visions were also unrestrained and wild, and her willingness to lose herself physically and mentally in these films is unmatched in cinema. Lina Romay was one of a kind. The suddenness of her passing makes it hard to comprehend, and we here at Freedom School send our love to Jess Franco and to the memory of one of the screen's brightest, sexiest, and special stars. Goodbye Lina.