R.I.P. Michéle De Angelis (1965-2021)

It’s only this week that I learned of Michele De Angelis’ death. It took me a while to process the sad news. Michele really loved cinema. I got to meet and briefly chat to Michele at the screening of his short film „L’uomo nella macchina da presa“ a couple years back, and we also used to sporadically shoot messages on Facebook. I knew Michele had worked on one of my favourite latter day Fulci movies, „The Touch of Death“ (he gave an interview for the Blu-ray release), and I’ve seen his name pop up in the credits of innumerable featurettes for the likes of Blue Underground and Severin Films. If you wanted an interview with Deodato or Argento, Michele De Angelis was the number one Roman connection. What I wasn’t aware of is that Michele was also one half of the team behind the excellent No Shame DVD label. One of his more recent achievements was the supervision of the Dario Argento cut of George A. Romero’s „Dawn of the Dead“, which became the basis for French and Italian 4K releases. Michele was a humorous and no bullshit guy who lived for filmmaking and film preservation. If there’s an afterlife, surely Michele is now gearing up to roll another gory movie with maestro Fulci. Goodbye, Michele.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage 2020 German Blu-ray review

The 2020 German Blu-ray of Dario Argento’s debut giallo THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is uncut and includes English, German and Italian audio options, but no English subtitles (in fact, there are no subs at all).

The Packaging:

This single-disc edition comes in an Amaray case, the artwork is the same on both sides of the sleeve, the reverside is just free from the blue “FSK-16” age restriction label.

The image:

Colours are pleasant, perhaps a little over-saturated when compared to the previous home video presentations. Film grain looks natural and very well-resolved. The level of detail is impressive and there are no compression issues. Could the transfer be the same one that’s been used for the Arrow blu-ray?

The Disc Menu:

The disc starts with a menu screen for trailers of three PIDAX releases. These SD trailers are newly-created, sloppily edited affairs, none of them Argento-related.

Fairly boring main menu offers audio selection and the sub-menu lets you navigate the main film via eight chapter stops.

The extras:

  • original German-language cinema release cut of the film, taken from a shoddy SD master. This grubby, letterboxed and pretty much unwatchable mess is a reminder of how awful the older German DVD presentations of the film looked.
  • a slideshow of the film’s German lobby cards. This is the only enjoyable extra in HD. Nothing grounbreaking, but colourful and brief.
  • three international trailers for the main feature in standard def.

The 2020 PIDAX single Blu-ray edition of Dario Argento’s THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is English-friendly offers the classic 1970s Italian thriller in a decent hi-def transfer but is thin on extras.

THE EXTERMINATOR (James Glickenhaus, 1980)

A burning car and a muscular man pointing a flamethrower in The Exterminator, a movie by James Glickenhaus.

The Exterminator (1980)
Running time: 104 mins.
Directed by:
James Glickenhaus. Produced by: Mark Buntzman
Robert Ginty, Steve James, Samantha Eggar, Christopher George.

The EXTERMINATOR is a derivative and pretty rough exploitation picture. The film’s storyline is sketchy and thin but still packs one or two twists. And there’s enough message – if you care to look for it beneath scorched, bullet-riddled bodies, gratuitous explosions, jaw-dropping prosthetic effects (courtesy of Stan Winston!) and glimpses of the Deuce in its squalid heyday.

The Story of The Exterminator (1980)

Two Vietnam vets, John Eastland and Michael Jefferson, come back to “normal” life in a scummy, crime-ridden New York of the 1980’s. When the “Ghetto Ghouls” gang assault Michael, living him crippled for life, John has nothing but revenge on his mind. Armed with a flamethrower and a Magnum pistol, the Exterminator goes on a violent rampage through New York’s slums and sex dens.

First Impressions

At first I found THE EXTERMINATOR underwhelming. The story felt shallow, confused and technically the film was not very well-made. I had a hard time getting past the often cheesy dialogue and the impact of the action scenes was undermined by choppy editing. Yet, over the years, I felt compelled to revisit THE EXTERMINATOR several times, eventually embracing its technical shortcomings. In particular Robert M. Baldwin’s gritty cinematography does a great job capturing the feel of New York’s urban decay. THE EXTERMINATOR has plenty of authentic rawness going for it. The use of grimy NYC locations really amps up the suffocatingly sleazy vibe. The use of real locations makes THE EXTERMINATOR such a special experience.

Production values

It’s hard to pinpoint just how low-budget the film is. Whereas the Vietnam prologue goes all out on squibs and pyrotechnics, the film’s middle act is more restrained midsection. In terms of dialogue and storytelling THE EXTERMINATOR is like a student film, but with some serious cash thrown at it when it comes to the action scenes and daring stunts.

Technical quality

In terms of editing, James Glickenhaus crosses the line on occasion. This disregard for the basic grammer of editing further adds to the film’s spatial disorientation. Also, some inappropriately long slow-motion shots stick out amid the poorly blocked action scenes, lending THE EXTERMINATOR a confusing, nearly-arthouse vibe.

The Cast

Robert Ginty as the Exterminator makes for one of the least macho action heroes of the 1980s. He’s just your average guy who unleashes his savage side in quest for revenge. Ginty’s performance won’t shake the pillars of the universe but it does the job. Genre film veteran Christopher George (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) comes across as very likeable in what is a fairly undemanding role as cop hot on Ginty’s trail. The always welcome Samantha Eggar is wasted in a supporting part as George’s romantic interest. Look out for a couple of cop extras from Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE in the brief scene at the police station.

Final Thoughts

While not meant to win any awards, THE EXTERMINATOR still is of some value as a document of its time. It deftly captures the vibrant, anxiety-riddled at the dawn of the 1980s, with the Vietnam trauma looming over the bankrupt New York. One only wonders what could have been had Robert Ginty and Steve James swapped their roles in THE EXTERMINATOR.

Trivia: Glickenhaus’ early feature THE ASTROLOGER plays on TV in the intensive care ward where Steve James’ Vietnam hero is slowly wilting away wired up to a machine.

Reviewed by Alex Bakshaev in September 2020