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Category:    Home > Reviews > Exploitation > Horror > Supernatural > Martial Arts > Epic > China > Japan > Profile > Mondo Balordo (1964*)/The Room (2020/RLJ Blu-ray)/Samurai Marathon (2019/Well Go Blu-ray)/The Wild Wild World Of Jayne Mansfield (1968/*both Severin Blu-rays)

Mondo Balordo (1964*)/The Room (2020/RLJ Blu-ray)/Samurai Marathon (2019/Well Go Blu-ray)/The Wild Wild World Of Jayne Mansfield (1968/*both Severin Blu-rays)

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

Now for genre releases that are mostly exploitation...

A series of films that used the name 'Mondo' in their title promised a look inside strange worlds and behaviors (in rough, even sloppy culminations) and were excuses for racism and explicit footage trying to hide behind the faint guise of a documentary, none of which they really are. Mondo Balordo (1964) runs 87 minutes and has the rare distinction of a major name as narrator: Boris Karloff. Instead of just being a series of blood-letting segments, though we get some of that, Karloff does his best Marlin Perkins throughout.

It is still lame, but his talking is actually more interesting and compelling than most of what we see, some of which always (like all these films) looks a bit staged. This one is supposed to be about how people of all kinds fall in love and the severe differences, but that is not by any means of what we always see. Ultimately, even Karloff cannot stop this from itself and is a curio worth maybe one look at best.

The only extra is another such exploitation film, called The Orientals (1960) from Italy and is just as exploitive and rough.

The Room (2020) is a psychological suspense thriller that is very different than that other film that's also called The Room. Unlike that film, though, this one I'd recommend viewing.

Premiering on horror streaming service Shudder and now on home video, The Room stars the gorgeous and underrated Olga Kurylenko (Oblivion, Quantum of Solace, The Carrier) and her and her spouse (Kevin Janssens) who move into a new house and discover a strange hidden room. When in this room anything that you wish for becomes materialized. As the couple go wild and become rich beyond imagination, they can't help but want the one thing they can't have - a child. Years pass and the boy grows older and tensions begin to form between the couple and some bizarre things start to happen that culminates into an ending you won't see coming.

The film also stars Francis Chapman, Marianne Bourg, and Joshua Wilson with direction by Caristian Volckman (Renaissance).

The Room is one of the better films I've seen under the Shudder label, even though its formula has been played out in various other incarnations. The film centers mainly around three characters, all of which sell convincing performances that are engrossing. Sure, the 'genie in a magic lamp' is a room here, however the third act gets a bit too wacky for its own good. Still, The Room leaves you with a weird feeling after watching it and if it achieves that much, I tend to be impressed. It reminds me a bit of Pet Semetery mixed with Splice mixed with an overall ominous supernatural horror vibe.

Sadly, no extras.

I definitely enjoyed this film and would recommend it to horror fans.

Late feudal Japan 1855, the last days of the samurai, a local lord orders a test of his samurai to run a marathon and who ever wins the race will have his wish granted. However, the race becomes far more dangerous when a young ninja and a runaway princess gets involved and they discover there are assassins plotting to kill the samurai during the race and overthrow their lord in Bernard Rose's Samurai Marathon (2019).

As Japan is about invaded by Westerners, a local Lord orders his lazy samurai to run a marathon to get them back in shape with a boon of lifetime, whoever gets first place gets his wish granted. However, that doesn't stop some from trying to cheat in the race, but then, a young ninja mistakes the marathon as a sudden uprising and sends word to the Shogun and he learn the Shogun sends his assassins to kill his lord and all his samurai friends. Meanwhile, the Lord's daughter who wishes to be free to choose her own life decides to secretly join the race dressed as a man for the prize to be free. But when assassins threaten to kill everyone, everyone must set aside the race and work together to save their home.

Based on the annual historical marathon held in Japan, Samurai Marathon is a visual feast of samurai and Japanese culture, it starts out as fun and funny race made up of young and old samurai warriors, but then add ninjas and a runaway princess it turns into an adventure when suddenly the entire village is at stake. Extras include trailers.

Though four directors are credited, The Wild Wild World Of Jayne Mansfield (1968) is an exploitation piece made after her untimely, shocking, controversial death, supposedly narrated by her (it is in actuality, an odd soundalike), showing the glamour of her life and world, in and out of Hollywood and across the world. Some of the footage is definitely her and it is worth seeing, but some is faked and some is just pain bad, including some bad editing. Some of this is good, but some is not and you have to sit through the bad to see the good.

Probably the worst part (SPOILER!!!!) is she suddenly dies in the car crash (the fake narrators' job over) and we get to see the fallout from her death, rumors about her and Satanism and other problems that are knowingly bad taste. This runs 90 minutes and is meant to titillate in all kinds of ways, but does not always succeed and the producers knew that too. See it for the good parts.

Extras include a low def copy of the film on the same disc, on camera interview with Anton LaVey biographer Blanche Barton (LaVey was Mansfield's Satanic friend and the head of some Church of Satan of the time) and yet another bonus exploitation film: Wild, Weird, Wonderful Italians (1966).

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 (mostly full color) High Definition image transfer on Mondo can show the age of the materials used and is from a new 4K scan, but this is an unofficial series that always thrived on rough footage to indicate 'realism' or 'truth' or the like, so that is par for the course and the PCM 2.0 Mono is also a little rough, but Karloff's voice (recorded as voiceover in a studio) holds up as the best element.

The Room is presented in anamorphically enhanced, standard definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix. The film is impressively shot and very cinematic with strong cinematography. Compression issues are evident in the format but as far as standard definition goes, this is top notch. The film is also available on Blu-ray from RLJE Entertainment, which is naturally the better way to view the film in terms of presentation, but this review is just covering the DVD.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Samurai is the best performer here with another top rate Chinese HD shoot and would likely benefit from a 4K edition, but the Chinese DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is not always top notch and we wonder if this was a mixdown from a 12-track master. Otherwise, the presentation is fine.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Jayne is also usually in color, but some color has faded from the only surviving known copy of the film (processed at the time by Pittsburgh's WRS Labs), so it can be a little off at times. However, it is watchable and the PCM 2.0 Mono is fine for its age, though her 'voiceover' can be odd at times.

- Nicholas Sheffo, Ricky Chiang (Samurai) and James Lockhart (Room)



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