‘The Last American Virgin’ (1982) review

Cult Israeli coming-of-age film Lemon Popsicle gets its Western remake released to a new generation as The Last American Virgin is now available on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time in the UK. Heartache, embarrassment, competition and friendship all set to tunes of the 80s, American Virgin is your predictable teen movie fare, but still manages to find ways to charm its audience.

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Three friends (played by Lawrence Monoson, Joe Rubbo and Steve Antin) find out growing up is, of course, not easy as they navigate their way through an array of sexual encounters, drugs, parties, school and friendly rivalries. It’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before, or since, but still manages to be effective thanks to its cast, mainly Lawrence as sensitive lead Gary and Diane Franklin as the object of affection Karen, and its depiction of the consequences of casual unprotected sex and the ‘glamour’ of paid sex. Other than that, it’s your typical teenage experience staples, although by the time the end scene rolls on I defy many to not feel a slight pang of sadness in mutual feeling.

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Credit where credit is due, Arrow have put some excellent and extensive interviews together as part of the extras side of the home release package. There’s a real in-depth and personal feature with director Boaz Davidson who discusses in detail the process of updating and translating his Israeli original for a new audience, the production of American Virgin itself and his personal experiences that went on to influence the films. Also quite fun to watch are the two interviews with leads Lawrence Monoson and Diane Franklin who open up about the film, its affect on their careers and the cult appeal that surrounds the 80s picture. All rather frank and honest, it’s refreshing to hear those involved wax lyrical about their work with no boundaries or sugar-coating.  A worthy release of a good, if not dated, feature that’s worth picking up.

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Kicking off with a sad point, director and writer Jose Ramon Larraz passed away this week. Best known for 1975 release Vampyres, Larraz also directed Whirlpool, The Coming of Sin and Black Candles. He was 84…

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The full line up for the London Film Festival has been announced. Films playing include Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, Alfonso Cauron’s Gravity and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. The festival’s ‘Cult’ strand will also play host to The Sacrament, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, Grand Piano and All Cheerleaders Die. The full line up can be read on the official website

One Way Static Records have put up their release of the Last House On The Left soundtrack by David Hess for pre-sale. Formats include vinyl, cassette and digital…

Arrow have announced their November releases. Coming to Blu-ray will be Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs, Rabid Dogs aka Kidnapped, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Cinema Paradiso. All are available for pre-order…

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The first image for horror-comedy Cooties has dropped. Directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, written by Ian Brennan and Leigh Whannell and starring Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson and Alison Pill, Cooties is slated for a 2014 release…

It’s yet to be released, but it seems that Eli Roth is already working on a sequel to The Green Inferno. Titled Beyond The Green Inferno, Roth is likely to produce the feature and hinted that Nicolas Lopez (Aftershock) might direct…

David Cronenberg’s Shivers is getting the remake treatment, with Dutch director Rie Rasmussen apparently at the helm…

On the subject of remakes, a trailer has dropped for the new Robocop reboot…

Welsh horror film festival Abertoir have announced their participation in Wales After Dark. Part of the BFI’s Gothic Season, Wales After Dark will see  genre screenings and events happening across the country. A line up of the different events can be found here

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And we’re back! A brief week off for FrightFest (which was excellent by the way, you can read Josh’s overview here) has left lots of stuff to catch up on so here it goes…

Austin-based festival Fantastic Fest has announced its second wave of programming which includes Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England, Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano and Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play In Hell. The latest additions can be read here, along with the 16 projects selected for the new Fantastic Film Market that have also been announced. The festival runs from September 19th-26th…

Ti West’s new feature The Sacrament has had its first retro-looking poster dropped ahead of its screening at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8th…

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The line up for Sheffield’s Celluloid Screams horror film festival has been revealed. Special guest Frank Henenlotter will introduce screenings of his films Basket Case and Frankenhooker, whilst films playing include Motivational Growth, The Battery, Big Bad Wolves and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. The full schedule and tickets prices can be found on the website

The full directorial line-up for ABC’s of Death 2 has been revealed. Those involved include Rodney Ascher (Room 237), the Soska sisters (American Mary), Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter), Vincenzo Natali (Cube) and E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills). A competition to find the 26th director is also happening…

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Director Ted Post passed away on August 20th. Mostly working in television, Post was known for directing the films Hang Em High, Magnum Force and Beneath The Planet Of The Apes…

Arrow have announced they are releasing Jack Hill’s Pit Stop in 2014…

Criterion have announced their Winter releases which include Richard Linklater’s Slacker, Georges Franju’s Eyes Without A Face and Lewis Allen’s The Uninvited

Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights have announced all their scare attractions for this year’s events in Los Angeles and Orlando. Orlando will be getting An American Werewolf in London, Cabin In The Woods and Resident Evil themed mazes whilst Los Angeles will be getting Evil Dead, Insidious and The Walking Dead…

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Julie Harris, star of 1963’s The Haunting, passed away on August 24th…

Manchester’s Grimmfest have announced their full line-up for this year’s festival taking place between 2nd-6th October. Films playing include The Borderlands, Stalled, My Amityville Horror and Wither. Tickets can be bought on the official website here

Andrei Konchalovsky’s ‘Runaway Train’

Being pleasantly surprised isn’t something that happens enough for me, but this week I was charmed to prove myself wrong by watching Andrei Konchalovsky’s Runaway Train. A film I honestly thought I’d hate (this was my first viewing), Train proved to be a tight action film that also offered plentiful doses of psychological tension.

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Runaway Train feels like two movies, and that’s not a bad thing. It starts off as a prison break out drama following two convicts, Manny (John Voight) and Buck (Eric Roberts), as they escape Stonehaven Prison in the middle of Alaskan winter. This beginning is a great watch and is shot and edited in such a way that the audience really do get a feel for what its like being in Stonehaven. Things are run and controlled by sadistic warden Ranken (John P Ryan) who see’s his captured criminals as prizes. Ranken and Manny in particular have a strong disliking for each other, so the latter’s successful escape (which includes a swim in freezing water and a hike through dense, snowed under woods) launches a full scale investigation to get him back…

Which is where the film turns into more of an action feature. Manny and Buck come across a train yard and board a freight train to aid them getting as far away as possible. Only the freight train’s brakes fail and the driver (whose body they throw off the train) has had a heart attack. This leaves the two convicts stuck on the locomotive, hurtling through Alaska at unstoppable speeds, unsure of what to do. Meanwhile, the train company attempt to stop the train and any potential accidents from happening by using a brand new computerised system. Can the company stop the train? Will Manny and Buck be captured by Ranken?

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What makes Runaway Train such a special watch are the two central performances from Voight and Roberts. Both were nominated for Oscars for their roles and its very clear to see why. Voight is terrific as Manny; hardened, bitter, troubled and fragile. Roberts is also a revelation, here playing Buck with cockiness and vulnerability that make him such an endearing character. Forget the straight-to-dvd releases and rubbish B-movies that he may be associated with now, here Roberts proves he can act with as much clout as the best of the rest. The supporting cast, including Rebecca De Mornay and Kyle T. Heffner are also brilliant, but ultimately the film belongs to Voight and Roberts.

Being it’s Blu-ray debut, Arrow have done a job presenting the film in high definition from a transfer done by MGM that had its 2010 premiere in the Classics Section of the Cannes Film Festival (where it was actually shown in 1986). The picture is beautifully crisp and clear, making the Alaskan set more hostile and isolated. The release package also contains some great extras, including interviews with director Konchalovsky and some of its cast, commentary and booklet exploring the films production design and inspiration. If you’ve never seen it, or casually watched it go by in the past, this release of Runaway Train is a must have – an intelligent action flick that stands the test of time.

Larry Stewart’s ‘The Initiation’ (1984)

If you love 80s slasher films, the chances are you’ll love Larry Stewart’s 1984 release The Initiation, the latest release on the Arrowdrome imprint of cult label Arrow. At times great, and sadly at others slightly underwhelming, The Initiation is full of all the hallmarks you’d expect from a mid 80s slasher and a film with a low-budget. Interested? Of course you are…

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Like all good slashers, The Initiation has a great, unidentified (until the final moments of course!) killer with a terrific phallic weapon – in this instance the garden fork (not quite standard phallic symbols but if you’ve got three, email me…) – who has recently escaped from the local sanitorium. The target? A group of sorority girls. actually to be more precise, one preppy sorority girl by the name of Kelly Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga). Apprehensive about her sorority initiation, Kelly also has to deal with this horrible nightmare that’s plagued her since she was a child – one that combines walking in on her parents having sex and a man getting set on fire. Majoring in psychology, Kelly decides to share her nightmare with her professor (a rather yummy James Read) who finds it so interesting that he wants tp study it and help her decode its meaning. Only, on the night of her initiation, both the worlds of her sorority and her nightmare will collide, with devastating results!

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Lets be honest, am I bigging this film up slightly? I guess so. It’s not that the film isn’t good, but at times it isn’t brilliant. Whilst there are some fun bits, the are a few moments that drag a little and stop it from becoming the über cult classic that it could be. That said, Daphne Zuniga is great as the lead girl, playing a likeable character that finds a happy medium between ignorant victim and college bitch. When the shit really hits the fan, she puts in a great turn and you can tell she relishes it. The rest of the cast come off quite favourably, with Read standing out, as well as Vera Miles and Clu Gulager playing Kelly’s parents. The feature has its fair share of clichés but when the ending comes around, it should catch you a little off guard (I genuinely didn’t see it coming and only came up with a half right prediction). It’s just a shame that when it comes to gearing up for the big finale with kills galore, the kills in question are a little boring. Everyone knows a good slasher needs some kind of increase in tension and some inventive kills, and sadly The Initiation has neither of these when it needs them the most. However, it does have the most impressive penis costume I’ve seen which warrants viewing. A three out of five, The Initiation isn’t a well-known slasher, but is as good as other sleeper hits like Student Bodies. Worth picking up and watching, but maybe one that won’t get as many repeat viewings as your standard classics.

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Sheffield’s Celluloid Screams have announced the first films playing at this October’s horror festival. Taking place from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th, Screams will play host to the UK premiere of Brian Netto’s Delivery, as well as screening Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Big Bad Wolves and a selection of work from claymation filmmaker Lee Hardcastle. Passes go on sale September 20th…

The line up for this years Toronto International Film Festival has been announced, with highlights including The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, Ti West’s The Sacrament, Lucky McKee’s All Cheerleaders Die and the world premiere of Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno. The full line up can be read on the official website

A poster and trailer have dropped for Marvel’ s Thor: The Dark World, which is released in the UK on October 30th…

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The line up for this year’s nationwide Scalarama month is now up over at the official website

Arrow have announced release dates for a Blu-ray version of Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, out on September 30th, and a dual-format release of Squirm, out on September 16th…

Sam Rockwell is rumoured to be in talks to star opposite confirmed lead Rosemarie DeWitt in the Poltergeist remake…

A new international trailer has dropped for James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2, which hints at the troubled childhood of Patrick Wilson’s character Josh Lambert…


The live action remake of Akira is back on with director Jaume Collett-Serra (Taken) attached, a rumoured much lower budget and a shooting date of the end of 2014…

Paul Greengrass’ latest feature Captain Philips has been announced as the opening film for this year’s London Film Festival

Hot off the announcement of its world premiere at this years TIFF, a set of pictures have been released for Eli Roth’s latest directorial effort The Green Inferno. The film is described as ‘a group of college students take their humanitarian protest from New York to the Amazon jungle, only to get kidnapped by the native tribe they came to save: a tribe that still practices the ancient rite of cannibalism, and has a healthy appetite for intruders’. The Green Inferno currently has no release date…

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