Movies Till Dawn: Untamed Youth

Monday Morning” (1990, MVD Video Rewind) Relentless hazing at the hands of school bully Brandon Hooper drives sensitive new kid Noah (son of Robert) Blake to take his classmates hostage when Hooper tries to threaten him with a gun. Modest teen-angst drama began life as a student film and never quite rises above those limits, though writer-director Don Murphy (the “Transformers” franchise) lends a degree of production polish to the B-movie proceedings. Performances are spotty (especially Hooper), but the presence of Lisa Rinna, Blake Lively’s brother Jason, and “Simpsons” voice actor Karl Wiedergott in the cast, as well as the unfortunately prescient finale, anchored around a school shooting, offers the film’s clearest appeal. MVD’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, part of its VHS-faithful Video Rewind series, offers an alternate home video cut, titled “Class of Fear,” a new interview with Murphy and a vintage profile of his career.

Vive L’Amour” (1994, Film Movement Classics) An apartment in Taipei serves as the fulcrum for a trio of young urbanites to escape the loneliness of their existences in this sleek mood piece by Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang. Though situated in an upscale building, the apartment is barely furnished and exists more as a transactional place – for Lee Kang-sheng to explore the boundaries of his sexuality, and for real estate agent Yang Kuei-mei to find diversion from the intense focus of her career with Chen Chao-jung – than a home. Tsai quietly observes their comings and goings, which often resemble a breezy farce with all the near-misses, through long takes and wide angles, though initially icy and detached, the approach allows us to make our own decisions about the characters without pretense or camera artifice to heighten emotions, which ultimately enhances the impact of their inherent sadness in the final frames. Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1994; Film Movement Classics’ Blu-ray includes an inerview with Tsai and liner notes by critic Nick Pinkerton.

The Initiation of Sarah” (1978, Arrow Video) Wallflower Kay Lenz is encouraged to use her latent psychic/supernatural powers by the head (Shirley Winters) of her new sorority house (the California Institute of Technology plays the hosting college) wreak revenge on venomous Morgan Fairchild and other school oppressors. Bald-faced TV-movie carbon of “Carrie” enjoys widespread popularity among pop-horror and vintage made-for-TV devotees for its teenage revenge plot and sudsy/silly performances; its appeal for female and queer viewer demographics is detailed at length in the Arrow disc’s supplemental features, which include commentary by TV-movie expert Amanda Reyes and featurettes by Gaylords of Darkness co-hosts Stacie Ponder and Anthony Hudson, as well as critics Alexandra Heller-Nichols and Samantha McLaren (“Child’s Play” director Tom Holland also weighs in on his contribution to the script). For many, the parade of familiar faces will be the draw: among the supporting cast are future director Tony Bill (“My Bodyguard”), Morgan Brittany (two Morgans for the price of one!), Robert Hays, Eurocult favorite Tisa Farrow, and Talia Balsam (“Mad Men”).

Disciples of Shaolin” (1975, 88 Films) For want of nothing more than a better pair of shoes, impetuous young brawler Alexander Fu Sheng ignores the advice of his reserved brother (Chi Kuan-Chun) and steps into a conflict between warring textile makers that provides him with material goods and instant notoriety, as well the dawning (and far too late) realization that his talents and usefulness has an expiration date. Solid entry in Shaw Brothers’ series of Shaolin features (though “Disciples” actually has little to do with Shaolin style) by expert craftsman Chang Cheh delivers fewer fights than expected from a ’70s-era Hong Kong martial arts film, though a few setpieces are so eruptive and violent that Cheh actually switches to black-and-white to tone down the bloodshed. “Disciples” actually works best as a character piece, anchored by Fu Sheng’s take on a young hothead overtaken by his own arrogance; the emphasis on story over wall-to-wall martial arts may increase this title’s appeal for first-time kung fu movie viewers. 88 Films’ Blu-ray echoes the deluxe presentation of their other recent Shaw Brothers/martial arts titles, with two commentary tracks (historian Samm Deighan on one and Asian film experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema on the other), an interview with cast member Jamie Luk, and a reproduction of the original Hong Kong posters; the Limited Edition disc includes extensive liner by Andrew Graves and another interview with Luk.

Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” (1995-2014, Visual Vengeance) Shinichi Fukazawa, the writer-director of this no-budget, long-gestating Japanese horror film, also plays the workout-minded titular role, who is roped into helping his journalist ex-girlfriend investigate the house where his father killed his mother. Mom, whose spirit remains on the premises, is taken to possessing visitors and sending them on gore-soaked rampages, which Fukazawa puts down with an array of exercise equipment. Compiled over a near-two-decade period and initially filmed in Super 8mm, this tribute/carbon of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” films surpasses its limited production values with bursts of lunatic energy and showers of cut-rate gore, rubbery limbs, and stop-motion animation which approximate the freak fury of Raimi’s films without any of his talent for pacing, suspense, etc. However, as a devotional item, “Muscle Body Builder” is admirable for its childlike obsessive nature, which helps to put it over other backyard horror projects (see: “Winterbeast”). Visual Vengeance, a new imprint from Wild Eye Releasing, offers a region-free blu-ray with two commentary tracks (one by directors Adam Green and Joe Lynch), a new interview with Fukazawa, behind-the-scenes image galleries and videos, outtakes, liner notes, and even video store stickers and a rental card (!).

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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