Synapse glimpses

Singapore Sling
Greycat Films/Greece 1990
Not rated, 112 minutes.
Two beautiful women, covered in little more than flimsy negligees, are digging a hole in the middle of the night as a driving rainstorm rages around them, their wet bodies covered in mud. Can you say "erotic"? Yes, but this opening scene from the mesmerizing soft-porn-horror cult flick by Greek director Nikos Nikolaidis gives few clues to other things you're likely to utter during the movie, like "Oh, my God!" "That's disgusting!" or "I think I'm going to be sick."

A gorgeously photographed film noir that alternately evokes visions of Sunset Boulevard, Laura, Arsenic and Old Lace and your last S&M rental, Singapore Sling is the deranged tale of a mother-daughter pair (Meredyth Herold, Michele Valley) whose idea of a fun evening is disemboweling their servants and scattering their entrails around the house. A wounded, dishonored detective (Panos Thanassoulis) staggers upon the scene, searching for his lost love, Laura, only to discover that the duo may have gutted her like a hog as well. They take him in, and what follows is a dizzying bombardment of incest, rape, murder, torture, kinky sex — you know, just your typical night at home. So what if the detective speaks Greek, the mother French and the daughter narrates in perfect English? Who cares? What you'll be wondering is how something that looks so beautiful, thanks to a meticulous two-year, frame-by-frame restoration, can be so thoroughly revolting. This is truly some sick shit. Synapse's widescreen transfer version represents the film's first availability in North America. Special features include English subtitles, the theatrical trailer and a photo gallery.

Horrors of Malformed Men
Toei Company, Ltd./Japan 1969
Not rated, 99 minutes
"Banned for decades!" the DVD case screams. "The most notorious Japanese horror film ever made!" For once, hyperbole seems like understatement. Apparently too bizarre even for U.S. art houses of the '70s, this disjointed, frequently disturbing movie from legendary Japanese director Teruo Ishii makes its American debut in a lovingly remastered Synapse disk. Possibly the most infamous example of a genre the Japanese call "ero-guro" (for "erotic grotesque"), the plot is cobbled from a cross-section of short stories by celebrated pulp novelist Edogawa Rampo, who took his nom de plume from the Japanese pronunciation of "Edgar Allan Poe." The buildup revolves around Hirosuke (Teruo Yoshida), a young med student who poses as the resurrected scion of a wealthy coastal family in order to learn more about his own past. The weirdness truly erupts, however, with the arrival of avant-garde Japanese dance creator Tatsumi Hijikata as the family's scowling, frenzied patriarch (imagine Frank Zappa on meth) determined to exact ungodly Dr. Moreau-style human experiments on his own remote island. While it weakly attempts to make a social statement about mistreatment of the physically impaired, Horrors is gratuitous to the brink of farce, filled with unforgettably outrageous imagery, moments of stomach-twisting gore and more half-naked Asian women than you can shake a chopstick at. It's one of the best examples of the Synapse credo to treat even the most obscure titles with care and respect. The impressive array of special features — particularly for a movie nearly 40 years old from a director who died in 2005 — includes audio commentary by Mark Schilling, the critic who has championed Ishii's long and celebrated career on these shores, and interviews with two young Japanese directors who were inspired by his films. Nice.

42nd Street: Weird, Wild and Crazy Theatrical Trailers from Around the World Vol. 1
Not rated, 128 minutes.
Movie trailers, as annoying as they sometimes can be when you're waiting for your feature to begin, are buffed and polished nowadays into slick pieces of marketing brilliance; often they're more entertaining than the movies they represent. We can only pray that wasn't the case here. With a title paying tribute to the pre-Giuliani era when New York's 42nd Street was the Mecca for erotic, violent and generally depraved entertainment, this compilation DVD offers more than two hours of foreign and domestic trailers from the late '60s to the early '80s, very few of which will make you race to update your Netflix wish list. Boasting such titles as I Dismember Mama, Werewolves on Wheels and Behind Convent Walls and such long-forgotten special effects as "Panoramascope" and "Anamorphic Duovision," 42nd Street Forever reminds us the exploitation period of movie history was so bad it was almost good — as cheesy and sleazy as it is now luridly fascinating. There's more nudity, sex, gore and outright outrage here than you'll ever see at the Star Southfield. Included (but wisely not listed on the cover) are two of Fred "the Hammer" Williamson's race-relations classics, The Legend of Nigger Charley and Boss Nigger. Among the standouts is a promo featuring Michigan State grad and former porn princess Gail Palmer introducing the X-rated film Italian Stallion starring a very young Sylvester Stallone in the lead role of "Stud." Betcha won't find that credit listed on his IMDB page!

Jim McFarlin is a media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]

About The Author

Jim McFarlin

Jim McFarlin, former media and entertainment critic for the Metro Times and The Detroit News, is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in People, USA Today, Black Enterprise, HOUR Detroit, and many other publications. His latest book, The Booster, about the decline and fall of U-M’s Fab Five, is...
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