What is this site, anyway?
Thanks for asking, hypothetical visitor! DVD Late Show is the dedicated website of my (Christopher Mills) cult, exploitation and genre DVD review column of the same name, which previously appeared at filmmaker Kevin Smith's (CHASING AMY, CLERKS) pop culture/entertainment news site, Quick Stop Entertainment (formerly Movie Poop Shoot) and Forces of Geek.
The purpose of this site is to broaden and expand the readership of the aforementioned column, make the reviews and archives more easily searchable, and have a place where I can link directly to studio websites and to Amazon and/or other retail sites in order to help readers research and purchase discs. There will also be occasional exclusive features (such as filmmaker interviews) and guest reviews by experienced media writers (also known as my drinking buddies).
It's not, despite the format, a blog. It's not cynical, snarky, sneering or snide. It's regularly posted reviews, written with genuine affection for B-movies and cult films by someone who enjoys them without shame. These aren't "guilty pleasures" for me – there's no guilt in my enjoyment of them at all.
Hopefully, I can share that enjoyment – and affection for these films – with others through the site.
So these are "bad" movies, right?
Well, quality is subjective. As far as I'm concerned, the only bad movie is one that fails to entertain. I approach every film I watch (or try to) with an open mind, a willingness to be entertained, and a sincere attempt to suspend my disbelief. Unlike a lot of people I know, I don't go into it looking to tear the filmmakers' efforts to shreds.
Making a movie – even a "bad" one – is a ton of hard work, and I have a lot of respect for anyone who manages to shoot and splice together 90 minutes of even semi-coherent narrative. Because I respect that effort, I'll cut most films a lot of slack. I don't care if the budget's low, the production values impoverished, the acting wooden or special effects less than special, as long as there's something in the movie to keep me involved and that I can have fun watching.
This can be as simple as a pair of attractive naked breasts – I'm easy.
How come you never write a bad review?
Well, I do. Not too often, but I do. Seriously, some of my reviews are considerably less enthusiastic than others – but the truth is, I like this stuff. Spending the hours necessary to watch all these movies, then write about them and post those writings to the web would be a hell of an ordeal if I didn't. I'd rather review the discs I like, and hopefully bring some positive attention to those.
What's with the Amazon links?
To be blunt, a website costs money to run, and I'm poor. I don't charge for access to my columns, but I hope that DVD fans might find them informative and/or helpful in guiding them with their own purchases. The Amazon (a well-established, respected and secure e-tailer) and "Buy this DVD" links are there to make it easy for you to find and buy the discs I review – and, if a purchase is made through this site, I'll get a little kickback, which will go towards helping pay hosting and bandwidth costs. Same with any of our other sponsors.
I'll also gratefully accept donations through PayPal, which will also be allocated directly toward site expenses.
Can you explain the whole widescreen/aspect ratio/anamorphic thing?
I'll give it a shot.
Modern movie theater screens are rectangular, while most standard television screens are virtually square. This means that films shown in the theater are presented wider than the image area of a TV screen. So for home viewing, there are two options: crop the sides off the movie for TV and move the image back and forth to catch any important visual information (pan and scan), or put black bars at the top and bottom (letterbox) and present the entire image as it was intended to be shown theatrically.
Aspect ratio refers to the image's width versus its height, so a Panavision film would be about 2.35:1 (or slightly more than twice as wide as it is high), while many movies are 1.85:1 or 1.66:1. Movies made before the early/mid-Fifties were shot and exhibited in essentially the same shape as standard TV screens (1.33:1), which is why most "classic" movies are correctly presented "full frame."
However, some films are shot open matte, which means the cinematographer allows extra space at the top and bottom of the frame to be unmasked when the film is shown on television. Unfortunately, showing this safety area on TV can also expose boom mikes, lights, or other objects not intended to be visible by the director and cinematographer. With the advent of widescreen television sets (including HDTV), most DVD manufacturers offer anamorphic transfers which use the extra area of resolution on the widescreen for more visual information, approximately a 33% improvement.
For a more precise explanation, as well as some startling comparative screen shots, visit Widescreen.org.
So, why "DVD Late Show?"
Because "DVD Drive-In" was already taken. (And it's a great site, by the way.)
And you are?
I'm a freelance writer, editor and graphic artist with over two decades of experience in the publishing industry, working primarily for newspapers and comic book publishers. I'm also a movie buff and opinionated bastard.
Since 1990, I've written numerous independent comic books, including Leonard Nimoy's Primortals, Shadow House, Kolchak Tales: Night Stalker of the Living Dead, the Spinetingler Award-winning Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries, Air Fighters (Captain Midnight) and the critically-acclaimed crime thriller, Gravedigger: The Scavengers.
I've also written a handful of published short stories, with more in the works. I'm currently writing several new comic books and graphic novels for various publishers, designing DVD covers for a couple of independent video labels, and juggling a bunch of other projects.
For more information, check out my personal website, Atomic Pulp.
Glossary of Frequently Used Terms:
Here are a number of terms that I use in my reviews that may need some explanation to those who are new to the world of exploitation and B-movies. Note, however, that these are my definitions of the terms - other film writers and fans may interpret such terms differently.
BLAXPLOITATION: is a term applying to a cycle of films that were briefly popular in the United States in the early 1970s - exploitation films made to specifically target an audience of urban black young people. Blaxploitation films usually feature soundtracks of funk and soul music and star primarily black actors, often in heroic roles or roles traditionally assayed by caucausians. Most Blaxploitation films are in the action and crime genre (SHAFT, COFFY), although there were a number of Blaxploitation Westerns (BOSS NIGGER, TAKE A HARD RIDE), horror films (BLACULA, SUGAR HILL) and comedies. Most Blaxploitation films were produced on low budgets by outfits like American Internation Pictures (AIP), but a handful of prominent genre features were financed and released by major Hollywood studios such as Warner Brothers. Stars predominantly identified with the genre include ex-football pros Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, martial artist Jim Kelly, and actress Pam Grier.
BRUCEPLOITATION: refers to any of the countless low-budget kung-fu action films produced in the wake of the international success of Bruce Lee's ENTER THE DRAGON, and subsequent death of its star. These films usually star Lee impersonators of varying martial arts skill and physical resemblance to the late star. Most of these performers were billed as either "Bruce" or "Lee"; i.e. Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Bruce Leung, Conan Lee, etc.
EUROSPY: is a term I use to refer to a cycle of espionage films produced and/or financed by European companies (usually Italian, Spanish or German) in the mid-60s, that overtly imitate the formula of the popular "James Bond 007" movies starring Sean Connery. These imitators often star American or English actors as the hero, and occasionally feature actors and actresses that actually appeared in Bond movies in co-starring or supporting roles. Often, the heroes will have code names/numbers that evoke 007 (i.e. 077, 177, SuperSeven). While usually lacking the high production values and special effects of the Bond films, these Europsy movies frequently showcase a variety of international locations and feature many beautiful actresses.
GIALLO: (Italian for "yellow") refers specifically to a type of suspense novels popular in Italy during the Sixties. Such novels were almost always published with bright yellow covers, and were therefore commonly referred to by the public as giallos. The term was soon applied to the stylized crime and "bodycount" films that resembled the paperback thrillers.
KAIJU: is an approximation of the Japanese word for "monster," and is used to refer to Japanese films about giant behemoths like Godzilla, Gamera, Rodan, et al. "Kaiju eiga" approximates "monster movie." The genre (and basic formula) originated in America, with 1933’s KING KONG, but it’s the Japanese who have really made it their own, mixing cultural memories of atomic devastation with a Shinto mythology rich with demons and monsters.
MOD: An acronym for "Manufacture-On-Demand." This refers to authorized DVD-R titles, manufactured to order by studio manufacturers like Warners Archive, MGM Limited Edition Collection, etc.
NUNSPLOITATION: obviously refers to exploitation films that portray nuns in a lurid, sexualized manner (usually lesbianism) although it can also apply to horror films involving Satanic possession of nuns, etc.
SEXPLOITATION: generally refers to soft-core exploitation films that feature extensive nudity, and storylines of a sexual nature, but no graphic sex acts. I usually reserve this label for movies where the story is specifically about sex.
SPAGHETTI WESTERN: like the Eurospy genre, the Spaghetti Western is generally a product of European producers and filmmakers (usually the very same as those who made Eurospy films). The Spaghetti Western cycle truly took off in the late Sixties, with the astounding international successes of directors Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS with Clint Eastwood, and Sergio Corbucci's DJANGO, starring Franco Nero. The Spaghetti Western genre is generally darker and more cynical than the traditional Hollywood Western, although the cycle produced a number of popular comedies as well.
WIP: stands for "Women In Prison," a genre that was very popular at drive-ins during the early 1970s and into the 80s. Typically, these films deal with the degradation and debasement of female prisoners by their guards - often female themselves. Sadism, nudity, and lesbian sexuality are common themes and elements in the genre, which was popularized by such films as director Jack Hill's THE BIG DOLLHOUSE (1971) and Jonathan Demme's CAGED HEAT (1974).