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1938 - NR - 256 Minutes (13 Episodes)
D: Ford Beebe and Alan James
S: Larry (Buster) Crabbe - Edna Sedgewick - Frances Robinson - Cyril Delevanti
DVD Provided by VCI Entertainment
Extras: Photo/Strip Gallery - Trailers

Red Barry is a thirteen part serial starring Buster Crabbe and based on the William Gould comic strip of the same name. Red is a detective on the trail of 2 million dollars in bonds. You have to think that these are 1938 bonds so this was a lot of cash. Since it’s a serial it has a lot of the spills, thrills and chills that are expected in a serial. There is also the constant game of bonds, bonds, who has the bonds. Those darn things can be in the hands of the Chinese one minute and the Russians the next. Red Barry the comic strip by William Gould was meant to compete with the popular Dick Tracy strip by Chester Gould, no relation to William. It ran from 1934 to 1938 and was popular enough to be adapted into a serial starring Buster Crabbe. Most of my experience of Buster Crabbe comes from his constant stream of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials. It was a nice change of pace seeing Buster in a normal situation with normal people in normal clothes. He still brings that unique Buster Crabbe charm to the role, but you could tell that he really enjoyed playing an undercover detective that thought with his wits and a trusty gun at his side. At no time does the cliffhanger in each chapter seem forced which happens in quite a few serials of this time period. Not seen for many years VCI Entertainment does us all a great service by presenting a nice print of the serial. I think Buster might have even been trying to put a little distance between his portrayal of Red Barry and his more famous, interstellar counterparts. He’s listed as Larry (Buster) Crabbe in the credits. For those of us who love these things and can burn through them in one sitting, Red Barry does not disappoint. It was also nice seeing a new side of Buster’s acting pedigree. - Douglas A. Waltz

1977 - R - 85 Min.
D: Curtis Harrington
S: Piper Laurie - Stuart Whitman - Janit Baldwin - Roger Davis
DVD courtesy of VCI Entertainment
Anamorphic Widescreen/Dolby Digital 2.0
Extras: Double Feature with KISS OF THE TARANTULA - Trailers

Piper Laurie, right after her success with CARRIE, chose her next starring role trying to strike gold a second time in a row, with this Drive-In effort. Here she plays a self-centered eccentric mob girl named Ruby with a twisted past. It seems several years ago, she was Jake's girl, leader of a mafia type crew. Unfortunately, she's taken with Nick, the new guy in the gang and gets pregnant. There's a set up nine months later and Nick is shot several times by each of the remaining members. Ruby witnesses her true love being murdered and goes into labor giving birth to Leslie. Cut to sixteen years later and Ruby now owns a Drive-In theater and has given all of the old crew jobs (including Jake!) with most of the responsibility going to Vince (Whitman). Her daughter has been mute only crying out once at birth and mom is so out there off the deep end, she wants to lock her daughter away. This somehow channels Leslie into dear old dad's evil spirit who is seeking revenge. One by one, the old crew is picked off in somewhat gruesome fashion and wild-eyed Leslie starts talking in dear old daddy's voice. Vince calls in a friend who happens to have paranormal ties with those from beyond and it's now low budget exorcism time. Despite the decent cast including Len Lesser (Uncle Leo from Seinfeld) in a bit part, this is strictly a fun B-Movie Drive-In event. Unfairly compared to THE EXORCIST and considered a rip-off, RUBY manages to be its own story with little to compare it to. Despite the possession, RUBY plays more like a gangster melodrama with atmosphere. It's entertaining, and paced very well until the abrupt anti-climactic ending (the opposite goes for KISS OF THE TARANTULA included on this disc, which runs slow but has a much better finale). The gore and violence barely give it an R rating, especially coming from the 70's. Piper Laurie's performance is the centerpiece despite daughter Leslie being the one possessed and unfortunately her role isn't near as lively as Carrie's insane bible-thumping mother. Director Harrington has had a long running, and in my opinion, underrated career with titles such as QUEEN OF BLOOD, KILLER BEES, NIGHT TIDE and DEVIL DOG: THE HOUND OF HELL among others. RUBY is another low budget but fun Drive-In horror that fans should at least check out. - Mark Engle

2008 – Unrated Limited Edition – 125 Min.
D: Eiji Kamikura
S: Shigeru Kanai – Junpei – Chie Kaku
DVD courtesy of Switchblade Pictures (Section23 Films)
Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital Stereo
Japanese with English subtitles
Extras: Trailers

It’s become clear that when it’s time to sit down and let Auntie Switchblade spin her yarns the best thing to do is to open yourself up and be ready for anything. It could be scantily clad super heroines battling the unknown! It could be mega-strong schoolgirls laying some superhuman pain on each other! It could even be a zombie baby roping unsuspecting victims with its still attached umbilical cord! Or, in this case, the dramatically themed tale of an honorable heart-of-gold Yakuza that believes the ever changing world has left him behind. Four separate volumes collected together on one disc tell us his story. In the first, we meet the major players while Ryuji (Kanai) and his trainee, Kazuki (Junpei), track down a gang of punk extortionists that are trying to take advantage of a young woman and her brother who happen to run our hero’s favorite café. When things are settled it’s clear that somebody else is pulling the strings and is not at all happy that Ryuji has intervened. In the second, we learn a little more about Ryuji and his life while a group of hockey masked hooligans run amok in the city (Yokohama is the setting) ‘hunting’ down innocent people and beating them nearly to death. Things get very personal when Kazuki is attacked and his would-be love interested ends up killed. Turns out that a Yakuza is behind this set-up, as well as the first, and has a specific desire to take Ryuji down. The third entry introduces a businessman whose daughter has ended up in mortal danger and Ryuji must once again step in to set things right. This trouble the result another racket run by the same Yakuza as before, except this time, he reveals himself to Ryuji and states his nefarious intent with crazy-eyed clarity. Also, Ryuji spends a fair amount of time trying to deal with new local hostess Megumi (Kaku) who looks just like somebody from his past who came to a bad end. The final act brings it all together, the romantic entanglements, the paths chosen and not chosen, and bad-guy Takada’s final push for power. Megumi ends up kidnapped and raped in this one so Ryuji works himself into a death-frenzy and heads out for revenge… At any cost! Typical low budget Zen Pictures acquisition gets bonus points for coming through with some effective drama while still providing the violent beat-downs Switchblade fans are likely expecting by now. Also, the ending comes through with some authentic surprises for all involved, including the viewer. The final moments are very, very, slick and wrap things up in a satisfyingly cool manner. No graphic violence is present, though it is consistently violent. The sexual situations are there, but not in your face; kept mostly under rising and lowering sheets, for example. An interesting curiosity that is perhaps not a safe bet even for the regular Switchblade Films collector. This title is destined to have a tough time finding its audience. Still, Ryuji is unique and fairly accomplished, as DTV releases go, and if you’ve read this far with any level of interest then it might be worth your time to take a look. - Michael Mackie

2004 – R – 94 Minutes
D: Geoff Cox
S: Steven Grives – Peter Kent – Guy Edmonds – Remi Broadway – Craig Marriott
DVD courtesy of MTI Home Video
Widescreen – Stereo
Extras: Trailer

After serving a 10-year prison stint for armed robbery, James gets paroled with a condition. He has to join a program where ex cons take teenaged troubled kids on camping trips and river rafting. Getting stuck with 2 girls and 4 guys along with a prison counselor, he decides to scare the shit out of the kids with a couple of his prison buddies that hide out in the woods. Only they have a different agenda. Nobody ever found the money from their last heist and everyone including the detective in charge of the case thinks James knows where it is. Obviously formulaic with other backwoods terrors like Deliverance and Southern Comfort, but only average on delivery. The cast and crew try give it their all and that makes the whole movie entertaining enough for a rental and at least worth checking out. Where Rapid Fear fails is in the acting department. Nobody is sleepwalking through their parts, I just don’t think there’s enough experience or talent to pull off a movie successfully, especially one that is obviously following a ton of better titles in the same genre. Give it a shot on a rainy Sunday before a camping trip. – Mark Engle

1978/1975 – NR – 175 Minutes
D: Billy Chan and Chin-Kin Lu
S: Ron Van Clief, Charles Bonet, Carter Wong,
DVD Courtesy of BCI Entertainment
Extras: Commentaries, Behind the scenes featurettes, photo galleries

BCI Entertainment brings us a Ron Van Clief double feature with WAY OF THE BLACK DRAGON and DEATH OF BRUCE LEE. Some people may consider this classic kung fu cinema, but not me. Just guessing, folks, but even when these films were first made, I'd say they were already bordering on being obsolete, what with the mundane martial arts moves in both flicks and the deluge of other and often better chop socky films that were appearing at the theaters. It's even worse now. Anyone presently watching these two lackluster films will find them to be downright awful. Here you get washed out, scratchy prints, bad sound, hammy acting, horrid directing, and amateurish photography. And then there is Ron Van Clief himself, who simply isn't at his vintage best in these films. He shows no sign of personality and delivers his lines as if he's been pinned on Quaaludes for a week. Given all the martial arts DVDs available these days, genre fans will always have better choices for their viewing than this disappointing double feature. – Craig Hamann
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