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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Mystery > Action > Drugs > Heist > Murder > Serial Killer > Cannibalism > Italy > Psychosis > Dog Eat Dog (2015/RLJ Blu-ray)/Gran Bollito (1977/P.A.C.)/Pretty Poison (1968/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)

Dog Eat Dog (2015/RLJ Blu-ray)/Gran Bollito (1977/P.A.C.)/Pretty Poison (1968/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-rays)

Picture: B Sound: B/C+/B- Extras: C+/B-/B Films: C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Gran Bollito and Pretty Poison Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are limited to only 3,000 copies each and can be ordered while supplies last from the links below.

Up next are three thrillers that veer into the Horror genre and can be very ugly, graphic, bloody, gross and shocking, especially impressive considering how old the two older entries are....

Paul Schrader's Dog Eat Dog (2015) is sure to be divisive just on a visual level (see below in the tech picture section) alone, with the famous writer/director doing more of a thriller than his usual dark drama and dark slice of life look at the world. He is admittedly out of his element here, but that results in some very odd moments, only heightened by the co-casting of Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe as old criminal buddies about to go on the loose again when they should know better, bringing along a huge oaf of a friend (Christopher Matthew Cook) all at a dead end... but not for long.

It opens with very drug-addicted Dafoe trippin', living as it turns out with a single mother who is a religious woman who loves too much and has a daughter that is almost a clone of her. The film announces off the bat it intends to be very darkly humorous. Cage is just getting out of prison and they'll meet their potential henchman friend at a strip club. Yep. They're real functional, law-abiding citizens alright!

From there, an already bloody and ugly film just gets more so as they're hired to kidnap a head gangster's baby for ransom, but with easy piles of money and drugs available, things do not go according to plan and they're wanted by everyone who hates them.... which is a lot of people.

Needless to say in this unrated (read NC-17) film, nothing is held back and this one is already dividing critics and fans of the participants. Some love it, others despise it, but I think it is a little better than you might think, even if there is no character to sympathize with. Think, if these characters are the people they'd be in real life, this is what you'd see. It may be dark and ugly, but funny or explicit, it is at least honest and realistic enough that I think it is better than it might get credit for. So only see it if you think you can handle 83 intense minutes of being with these guys.

Mauro Bolognini's Gran Bollito (1977) can more than compete in the blood and gore department as this Italian production has no less than Shelley Winters as a serial killer who was a demented, sick mother stuck on her son and was also a cannibal who made soap and food out of her victims. That she did not get caught for so long is disturbing, but the script rightly shows how the innocent and unsuspecting women of the town (purposely played by male actors, including no less than Max Von Sydow, but all the 'murdered women' return as men, reflecting the killer's mental state) as some of her mistakes need to be covered up by more murder.

As well, we get ironic, dark humor here too, but this all builds up early in the film until the blood starts running. She also uses the excuse that the people who are gone happened to be taking long distance trips, which amazingly work for a while. However, despite how good the cast is, the film has a few ups and downs that cut (no pun intended) into its effectiveness and consistency. However, it is nearly a Giallo and Winters gets to show another side of her now-underrated talents. Again, this might not be for everyone, but those interested should catch up with it as soon as possible and while supplies of this limited edition release last.

Noel Black's Pretty Poison (1968) has Anthony Perkins doing his first U.S. film since Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) as he loves listening to radio broadcasts in Russian from the Soviet Union and may be a C.I.A. spy, but he is suddenly distracted and attracted to a just-underaged, sexy young woman (Tuesday Weld) who goes for him. He has a regular factory job, but also a past where he is on probation as he got into some legal trouble for bad actions he had taken not too long ago. They make a slightly odd pair, one her mother (Beverly Garland in a surprisingly dark turn) does not like at all. Of course, something bad's got to give.

Again, there are some great sequences here and the acting is solid, but the script (from Stephen Geller's book adapted by the great Lorenzo Semple Jr.) knew this kind of film had not been made much to that point, so this 'bad kids on the run' tale takes its leisurely time, which some will find appealing. I think it has its benefits, but some aspects of this approach are just going to be dated no matter what. Supporting performances by John Randolph, Dick O'Neill and a young Ken Kercheval keep this interesting, as does the fact that it apparently influenced David Lynch. You can see that in some scenes with some characters, the kind Lynch would later draw out in his own dark films about the suburbs and other unusual locales more sinister than they first appear.

Fox is licensing this to Twilight Time, so it is also a Limited Edition Blu-ray, but fans of the participants, Lynch and this kind of filmmaking might want to get this extras-loaded edition quickly before they run out.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Dog is an all-HD shoot and the results are Natural Born Killers and Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas formless, but that is the visual choice and approach of the makers, so this is the intent and accurately so. You may not like the results, but that is how they stand and I cannot flaw any faults here.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Gran and Poison (originally processed by Deluxe) can show the age of the 35mm materials used, but these far superior transfers to all previous releases of each respective film and even they have their odd shots. Of course, color in both cases (Kodak 35mm negative color film) look good and have been nicely restored and upgraded. Glad both survived so well and sometimes color is particularly impressive in some scenes.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Dog is going to be the sonic winner here with its often wild, even wacky mixing and presentation choices, but it is the best-sounding release here. Of course, Gran and Poison were both originally theatrical optical monophonic releases, so you can only expect so much and neither has been upgraded beyond that. Thus, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 1.0 Mono lossless mixes on both make us wonder how good can the films sound all these decades later. Poison is the second best, well recorded enough for how it was originally intended and has some depth but Gran is problematic as the film is dubbed and awkwardly, sometimes painfully, plus Winters is dubbed by another actress (who gets a special mention in the end credits) so expect the kind of flaws you'd get from post-WWII Italian film sound and a little more.

Extras on Gran and Poison include illustrated booklets on each respective film including informative text and yet another set of excellent, underrated essays by the great film scholar Julie Kirgo, while all three Blu-rays offer feature length audio commentary tracks. Schrader is solo again on Dog, David Del Valle is joined by fellow film scholar Derek Botelho on Gran and Poison sports two tracks: a new one by film scholars Nick Redman and Lem Dobbs with the great Producer Lawrence Turman, the other an older track by scholar Robert Fischer with Director Black. We recommend the newer track first so you're up to date when listening to the older one.

Dog adds a Photo Gallery, BeyondFest Q&A with Schrader & Cage, plus Cage has a brief video introduction. Gran and Poison both have Original Theatrical Trailers, while Poison also adds Deleted Scene Script & Commentary and an Isolated Music Score with select Sound Effects that Gran (in a rarity for twilight Time) is missing. Ironically, Mr. Redman thought they would not have the music for Poison either, but they managed to find it for the Blu-ray after he recorded his commentary!

To order Gran Bollito and Pretty Poison limited edition Blu-rays, buy them and other great exclusives while supplies last at these links:




- Nicholas Sheffo


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