Monday, August 10, 2009

Word of Warning RE: the Microsoft Network


Something is fishy in Denmark my friends.

I can but can not access the internet. My machine has been experiencing some very odd behavior that I feel anyone using a PC should be made aware of. Obviously right now I am online, as I have posted this, but to do so I am forced to reset my security settings so low that any of those invasive malware programs that do not exist in MSN's browser software et al have free access to whatever servers they do not connect to from my system. This is unacceptable. And I'm more than a bit miffed at the situation, which I shall outline in more detail below.

Long story short Microsoft (as I previously mentioned they are my Internet provider) somehow got through my firewall and installed something on my system that I never gave permission for them to do. Considering I do not use their MSN Browser, instead preferring the simplicity of logging in via IE or Firefox, my initial discovery of an inability to log in had me calling tech support. Despite assurances that all I needed was the newest version of the MSN Browser and everything would be fine once I downloaded it- which is a load of BS but then that's the problem with outsourcing to foreign countries, these people don't speak English as a first language and thus are incapable of comprehending simple facts spoken to them in simple terms like: I'VE TRIED TO UPDATE AND AM UNABLE BECAUSE I GET MESSAGES SAYING MY OS IS NO LONGER SUPPORTED. They keep insisting. So all you can do is let them feed you their line of BS and hope.

But that's not what really annoyed me. What annoyed me is discovering, after a bit of kludging around, that Microsoft managed to hack past my firewall and install something on my computer. Let me repeat that. . . My service provider, the people who take my money every month, appear to have hacked into my system to force an "update" on my machine that effectively CRIPPLES my ability to access the service they are taking my money for.

I could be paranoid but the facts seem to support the theory that a forced "update" was executed on my machine to disable it. My first clue, as I may have mentioned in my earlier post, was noticing something trying to load on my system. It was attempting to force, I thought, a shockwave update. Now I've never figured out how to block these. These updates circumvent my firewall, actually they don't even register they just seem to start and my only clue is everything suddenly slowing down to a crawl. I've observed this many times, usually only during those few times I am forced to lower my security settings. Thus my only, and best, defense against them has been to surf the net with my security settings set to high. Alas when you log in to check e-mail and such you have NO CHOICE but to compromise your system and lower your security settings. My best guess is Microsoft used one of these times to hack into my system.

Now "hack" may seem like a harsh word to use. But read on.

Long story short a program downloaded onto my system in the Shockwave directory a few weeks ago. I discovered it was there because it was loading during boot-up and instantly attempting to access the internet. The only reason I was aware of this is because I have dial-up and have my system is set up to manually dial in, thus the dialogue box for dialing out popped up. Took me a while to figure out what the problem was. What I had to do was manually find and delete this file, including it's registry key. I forget exactly what it was called but I think it was something like POSTUPDATE.EXE. Shortly thereafter my problems began. Obviously I did not find and remove this invasive program in time.

Currently there is a way for me to access the Internet, but it's round about. Considering this is a paid for service which is suddenly being denied with absolutely NO forewarning AND my IP installed something on my system without my consent I find this disturbing. I am NOT a happy customer.

For those thinking this is a overreaction consider this: There is a program that now wants to run on my system: LOADQM.EXE. This is an important fact because I stopped using MSN Browser because it had too many programs wanting open ports through my software firewall. (And I don't use IM.) Now the most invasive of these programs, one which I PHYSICALLY REMOVED FROM IT'S DIRECTORY AND PLACED IN A ZIP ARCHIVE was, you guessed it, LOADQM.EXE.

So since I removed this program it shouldn't be running on my system. So how did it get back ON my system? Remember my OS is no longer supported. That means no updates. If I can't update then how did this program get back on my system? I do not know.

Nor do I know what the purpose of this program is. I do know it kept crashing my system and giving me blue screens as it was constantly trying to worm it's way through my firewall, despite me denying it access, which was why I removed it. Yet now it's back on my system. It is, I think disabled again. And, surprise surprise, that seems to be what was slowing everything down. Was it because it was forcing ports open through my firewall and doing. . . Something?

Again I do not know. According to Google this is a program associated with IM. But that' a load of BS. IM is non-functional on my machine. I do not use IM. But even if I did IM appears to currently be disabled. Besides the information I can find claims it's some sort of auto-updater, again BS as my OS is no longer supported. A fact Microsoft seemed intent on driving home to me by crippling my system. Which makes me wonder what other invasive programs they might have placed on my machine, all while CONTINUING TO TAKE MY MONEY for a service they seem to not want to provide to those of us using older OS platforms.

What's up with that? I paid good money for this computer and the software that came with it, brand new I might add. The OS has never really worked. Has Microsoft ever apologized for releasing barely functional OSes that crash over 50% of the time? Issued a single rebate? Used any of the information that we are forced to provide them to contact us, the people they ghettoize as "end users" to help us in any way? No.

They take our money then, when you try to set up YOUR OWN PROPERTY to be as secure as possible they hack into it to install a backdoor to CRIPPLE it because they decided that it's time for you to upgrade to the newest flavor of barely functional OS? Am I the only one that has a problem with these heavy handed tactics?

Honestly if not for the fact I kind of sort of need my e-mail addy I'd have canceled this service in a heartbeat. Probably will. In the meantime look to your own systems. Be sure that your service providers haven't installed something nefarious on your machine.

Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius

Friday, August 7, 2009

Forced Hiatus Looming

Greetings Loyal Readers,

Everything seemed to be working, if not perfectly fine, at least passably so earlier today. Then, wham, nothing wanted to work. Long story short after placing a call to tech support it appears that the Microsoft Network (my service provider) in their finite wisdom have decreed that all those whose computers aren't up to their specs and using the most up-to-date version of their malwa- koff- sorry, their web surfing software shall NOT be allowed to connect to the web. At least until they upgrade. Funny. They take my money for the service yet don't bother to give a guy a heads up, send me upgrade discs, or anything. I mean is it too much to ask for a heads up that your service provider is about to cut their entire network off from those using older versions of their software? What's up with that? Is it because I'm using older software and thus I don't matter to them?

Oh, sure, according to the tech support guy I apparently was informed, via e-mail. You know some of us don't check e-mail every day. And when we do it's usually so full of spam that gets past the filter we spend most of our time trying to weed through the chaff. But, hey, according to the tech support person, who sounded like he was from India or Pakistan (or wherever Miscrosoft outs ources to) I WAS informed. So far be it from me to dispute such lofty facts. Not that I tried. Before I could the tech guy informed me I probably deleted the e-mail by accident. Yeah, okay, whatever.

Long story short Internet Explorer (the browser I was using to log in with as I despise the invasiveness of the MSN browser) no longer logs me in. I'd been noticing something trying to eat up my bandwidth for the past couple of days. I thought it was Shockwave trying to force an update but, apparently, it was MSN updating something to force me to go out and buy a new PC. Bass turds!

*waves impotent fist at nobody in particular*

Not really sure what sort of PC to get. Don't really want to buy a new one but it'd probably be cheaper than updating the OS on this machine. I'm not saying that if I saw Bill Gates on fire in the middle of the street that I wouldn't urinate on him, but this entire concept of corporations not just foisting new software onto you whether you like it or not but forcing you to upgrade ad nauseum ad infinitum is exhausting.

But I suppose those poor execs at MSN need more money to feed their pet bald eagles, or whatever. So I guess you can expect to see new reviews when you see them. Sorry about that. Ain't much a guy can do when their service provider cold cocks them. Everything is slow as molasses, but I'm not going to tell you the odd manner in which I managed to connect lest someone at MSN be reading this and close that hole up too. But, suffice it so say, it makes surfing the web even slower than usual.

Sigh. Well it's be grand fun. Hope to have (and be able to post) new reviews for you soon.

Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dragonquest a Dragonquash?

Long story short Dragonquest is the movie in this Saturday's SyFy "original" (or whatever) movie slot. I was going to give this movie a chance. Honest I was. But syfylys has just raised my hackles. Now when it comes to syfylys channel movies you know within the first 5 minutes whether it's going to be the usual steaming pile of festering worm riddled cat feces or something far worse. Dragonquest, sadly, could almost fool you into believing this is something better than the usual syfylys fecal matter save for one fact. This is a production from THE ASYLUM. I did not know this before it aired. In fact I was holding out a forlorn hope that this might, somehow, be related to the RPG of the same name, the video game, or maybe one of the numerous fantasy stories that have been penned using similar titles over the years.

Alas no such luck. The second those two words-THE ASYLUM- appeared on screen my soul cringed and my physical body almost changed the channel. But all hopes this would be decent weren't entirely crushed like ripe fruit. Some may view The Asylum as parasites on the anus of the film industry but not all their output has been offal, at least in my opinion. (see my review of BLOODY BILL)

Besides the promo syfylys aired showed Marc Singer as being in this. Any movie with the BEASTMASTER in it can't be all that bad, right? So I decided to try to forget that I ever saw those two unpardonable words. I tried not to get annoyed by the constant barrages of scrolling adverts. (Note to the SyFy Exec who thought using the scrolly thingy for adverts was a neat-o nifty idea: I DON'T GIVE A HOLY WHORE'S DAMN IF YOU'RE ON TWITTER.) Alas while the movie starts off with an amusing little scene of a boyish youth taking a hit off a dream pipe while using a spy glass to get his voyeur jollies by watch a girl doing her wash it's not even a full half hour later that the action suddenly shifts to people running through a forest. Obviously the folks at The Asylum have learned nothing from their abominable skid mark on the underwear of cinema that was DRAGON.

Thus, during a commercial break, I decided to pop online and see what information IMDB had. Seems it's not much. Yet, oddly, there were already comments in the movie's sub forum. Mostly confused questions from people wondering what this was. Then I noticed there was actually a DVD cover image. That surprised me. Then I remembered this was from The Asylum, which means it was really a syfylys pick-up not an actual SyFy Original movie. Say what you will about The Asylum but they do manage to get their movies onto store shelves ina timely fashion. Sciffy/Syfylys, despite being a subsidiary of NBC Universal, can't really say the same.

So off I went. Figuring this would make nice research for a review, assuming I could stick with DRAGONQUEST to the end, which seemed in doubt. According to Amazon this really has a DVD release already available. Not only that but it's on sale, are you sitting down? Good. It's on sale for $22.49 (down from $24.95)!

That stopped me cold. They want how much for this piece of rancid corpse bloated inanity?

As if the fact NBC Universal's brain dead zombies in suits who couldn't find enough brain cells to understand the meaning of SCIENCE FICTION and opted instead to change the channel's name to SyFy wasn't proof positive this network is a tax write off that cinches it. There's no way on this green earth or any level of the purple hells that syfylys movies are worth wasting this kind of money on. Save your money or, better yet, donate it to a worthy charity. Or not. It's your money and your conscience.

And as for that review I mentioned. If I do write it look for it on Cosmic Cinema. In the meantime you can always get the DVD and decide for yourselves. I could be wrong. Could be having a bad day. The movie may really be okay.

Caveat Emptor DRAGONQUEST is available on: DVD

# End of Line

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

One Eyed Monster

Year: 2008

Director: Adam Fields

Cast: Amber Benson, Jason Graham, Charles Napier, Jeff Denton, Caleb Mayo, Bart Fletcher, Jenny Guy, Veronica Hart, John Edward Lee, Carmen Hart, Frank Noel, Ron Jeremy, et al.

Format Viewed: Satellite Broadcast

MPAA Rating: R (Violence, Nudity, Raunchy Adult Dialogue)

Official URL:

Blair Witch 3?

Premise: During a porn video shoot in a remote area of the California mountains a shooting star that's in reality a chthuloid alien force streaks out of the sky and takes possession of porn legend Ron Jeremy's member, then proceeds to rape, pillage, and/or impregnate all those in it's path.

Look, up in the sky!

The Reality: ALIEN meets THE THING in ONE EYED MONSTER, a movie in the dark comedic tradition of KILLER CONDOM, KILLER TONGUE, and KILLER PUSSY (aka SEXUAL PARASITE).

The Story: Alien possessed killer penis wreaks havoc on a mountain cottage full of "porn actors" going after them one by one TEN LITTLE INDIANS style. That's it. Honest. There's no sex, barely any nudity, and minimal plot. The latter is probably intentional given this is really a spoof of a porn movie shoot gone wrong. (See below)

It's porno time!

Assessment: The plot is minimal. Thus anything I say about the movie would likely give it all away. So I'll just comment on the movie in general, like the fact it has three writers. All with the same last name. Given that fact you may assume this is a movie full of heart but downright terrible writing or decent writing delivered in soulless performances by low rent day players. You'd be wrong.

That looks like a. .

One Eyed Monster isn't terrible. It's better than the average Sci-Fi/SyFy channel original movie. Granted as a comedy it's not exactly hilarious but it has its charm. But it may lack broad appeal. For instance aside from Ron Jeremy. .

OMG! U R famus prnstr!!!1

Who's been in the mainstream media often enough to be recognizable even to those without porn collections, most will likely have no idea who Veronica Hart is/was. .

An Oscar performance.

That may be a bad thing since there are a lot of in-jokes between these two porn actors that mainstream audiences aren't likely to get. Speaking of which be advised only one actress ever shows any skin, and even then she's only topless. So if you're only interested in seeing T&A forget about renting OEM. .

Teaser pic.

This is a nutty little horror spoof. Granted the balance of in-jokes given as nods to those in the know to jokes suitable for mainstream audiences, even mainstream horror audiences, seems to lean disproportionately to the "in the know" crowd but you don't need to get all the references. There is silliness, the usual trite moments of crazed absurdity one would expect of a low budget horror movie, and while knee-slapping gut busting belly laughs are lacking there are chuckle worthy moments.

Teaser pic #2

Verdict: This movie is an irascible bit of implied tongue-in-cheek horror comedy deviancy that plays like a porno sans the porn. Alas it does retain the long, boring, if surprisingly coherent, talky bits. Yet for all its potential ONE EYED MONSTER remains average. It doesn't push the envelope but aims squarely for the mainstream bull's-eye on the dartboard of cinema.

To objectively review this we need to ask one simple question: Who was this movie made for?

I'm not sure the writers, producers, or directors had a real audience focus in mind. This really plays more like a personal film project that, if an audience happens to get it, that's fine too. OEM wasn't made explicitly for contemporary porn fans as it has a decent if threadbare story and minimal displays of skin. All most porn fans today care about is nudity and hardcore sex, a fact that's actually poked fun of in the movie. Horror audiences will expect thrills and chills, which OEM has far too few of. One assumes Amber Benson, formerly of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was attached to attract that horror audience. But Buffy this is not.

Victim #1

So if OEM is not really for porn fans or horror fans then who is it for? My theory is OEM was made for the fun of it. Of course I could be wrong. Too, while there are some jokes made at Ron Jeremy's expense, I'm guessing porn fans have likely already heard them and non-porn fans wont get them. But is the comedy angle really on shaky ground? Yes and no. Better to have called this a spoof as billing it as a comedy puts the onus of expectations of actual ha-ha humor on this farce. Then again humor is highly subjective. Not everyone liked Monty Python or Benny Hill, doesn't mean they weren't funny.

She died how?

If I had a single complaint it's that the writers were too inhibited in their approach to humor and the horror aspect. (I was really hoping there'd be a gibbering, slathering, one-eyed puppet monster with either a saber toothed maw or giant glistening cycloptic eye dang-it!) Granted OEM avoided the trap most low budget b-movies fall into of overusing juvenile toilet humor, but the lack of even a few 'crap' lines stands out like a sore thumb. Yet, and this will probably shock some, ONE EYED MONSTER is a fairly decent b-movie. Could it have been better? Sure. And I'll admit to not knowing who Veronica Hart was and having to grab a reference book off the shelf to find out. So what? Once I knew she was a real veteran porn starlet, even though I didn't get the references, I got the gist of the humor.

This entire movie seems to be a grand farce in which two porn star legends (Ron Jeremy & Veronica Hart) poke fun at themselves, their industry, and filmmaking in general. Its' that self-deprecating humor that makes this fun to watch. I doubt any critic has yet to see the perfect movie but this is far from the worst movie ever made thus I would cautiously recommend it, doubly so to those who actually know who the porn stars mentioned herein are. (And if I missed mentioning others by name I apologize.) I look forward to the inevitable sequel: ONE EYED MONSTERS. And, yes, you can freely use that title.

One Eyed Monster is available on: DVD

# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Monday, July 20, 2009

Budget Label Bargain Bin DVDs

Here's an update to a post from the original Mise-en-scene Crypt blog. The original publication date was: 07/24/2006 11:37:20. This was an examination of the video quality to be found on certain "PD" (wink wink nudge nudge) budget labels and asked the question: Are budget DVDs a bane or boon?

It's a question that's still very pertinent today as the budget labels have moved on to producing "multi movie" packs that cram anywhere from 10 to 20 to 100 or more movies onto a bare minimum of flipper discs. What's the big deal?

If you are like me you like movies. I wouldn't necessarily say I like all the movies I have on DVD, nor would I want every movie I've seen over the years on DVD, but when I buy a DVD I expect to actually be able to SEE the movie. Movies are meant to deliver on one important need, an escape from the dull routine of everyday life. Sort of like going to a mall. They are entertainment. Sure you never know going in what a movie has in store until you see it, but that's half the fun. Same with some of the DVDs released by certain budget labels. However the bargain bin holds treasures as well as junk. You can look at what's in the bargain bin but there's one problem with it, no matter what's in there you're buying blind.

Bargain bins are like Outlet or "Dollar" stores. Sadly not every mall has them but most video retailers do. Sure you often have a love-hate relationship with them, but there's almost always something chuckle worthy to be found in a bargain bin. (And I don't mean dump bins where some stores treat DVDs like garbage and just throw them into a mass heap like a farmer tossing slop to pigs.) On rare occasion you may find something interesting, like DVDs of old cult favorites and half-forgotten movies you may never have heard of. Savvy shoppers get to know labels as not all bargain bin labels take care to secure decent looking source prints. But that's a risk you sometimes have to take.

For instance I found my original DVD copies of Lady Frankenstein, Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman, Web of the Spider, Deep Red, Horror Express, and other movies too numerous to list here in video stores bargain sections. However Bargain Bin DVDs are like last years fashion. Nothing wrong with them, per se, just a bit questionable sometimes. Too, when you get that item home you find out it doesn't fit quite right, wont play properly, or wasn't at all what the packaging advertised. This happened with a 4-movie pack purchased out of a bargain bin. What a surprise it turned out to be!

Don't get me wrong the price was too good to pass up, so I've only got my self to blame. Yet one has to wonder what people thought that bought this set when it was first released and going for full price. But I am getting ahead of myself. The DVD set in question was..

Bad Boys of the West

DVD Type: 4-movie pack (2 double sided DVDs)

Label: Brentwood

Cost: $3.99

The Movies - Disc One Side A: Vendetta


This is an extremely grainy version of Poncho Villa sourced from VHS with its original title crudely replaced by a still image insert. In all honesty I actually stood in the store and read the write-up and said to myself, "This sounds like Poncho Villa!" yet bought it anyway. Caveat emptor indeed! Funny thing is the sound track is louder on this DVD than my WS version, which isn't to say it's better, rather the person responsible for the re-dub work just cranked up the volume.

Disc One Side B: A Town Called Hell



There was a feature on certain consumer grade analogue video editors that allowed you to zoom in or out to reframe the picture during dubbing. One assumes this was intended to allow creative minded home video editors to play around with SFX. Alas too many dubbers had no real clue how to properly utilize this feature thus they usually ended up with improperly framed and severely overscanned dubs. You see a lot of this in PD (wink wink nudge nudge) type releases taken from broadcast television where the dubber was trying to hide onscreen logos or create a faux letterbox effect. Alas Westerns seem to be plagued by this more than any other genre, witness this video, which was obviously sourced from such a dub.

Disc Two Side A: Hunt the Man Down


Another cheap looking retitling job, this time for "Bad Man's River". As if you are going to fool anyone. The song playing during the intro repeats the title in chorus several times over. How Brentwood slipped through the cracks with this one boggles the mind. To add insult to injury whatever source was used is dark, murky, and so poorly filtered through whatever cheap analog video processor the garage dubbers used as to render the movie virtually black and white.

Disc Two Side B: Deathwork


Yes, you guessed it, this is yet another retitled western. This time it's "Captain Apache". How can I be certain? Because the song that plays during the intro has a chorus that repeats the original title over and over. However it's hard to tell if the colors are murky or if the guy operating the dubbing machine was colorblind. It also doesn't help that the contrast was turned too far up (when viewed on screen there's a bright haze in evidence throughout that the thumbnails don't really show that well). Obviously sourced from an amateurish dub job.

One is moved to ask what Brentwood was thinking when they released this box set, alas; the likely answer is they weren't thinking so much as laughing all the way to the bank. After all these are "PD" titles. So any money they made on these sets was gravy.

Then there were DVDs like this..



DVD Type: single sided DVD (bare bones)

Label: Front Row Entertainment

Cost: $2.99

To be blunt this DVD is a heinous example of hideous video that is excruciating to watch. Alas, believe it or not, I've actually seen worse. This DVD, at least, is well authored with no intrusive compression artifacts though the picture does have an odd curvature that might lead the imaginative to wonder if someone didn't use a camcorder to record it off a TV screen. Alas the source appears to be a copy of the print PBS stations used to broadcast during the eighties, which was not very good to begin with, thus making the video herein barely tolerable.

A Few Observations

Metropolis is one of many Public Domain titles that have been making the rounds on budget label video in dark and murky, washed out and blurry, barely viewable prints of questionable provenance for years. If there was no other version of it available one could argue that such companies are providing a service given difficult circumstances. Alas there not only is another much better version available it's a restoration print!

True it costs roughly six to seven times as much as the average bargain bin fare, and this is an black and white movie, which means the average consumer is likely to balk at the price tag. It's also a rare DVD in comparison to these mass produced low-end DVDs. But for the movie buff this premium edition is the way to go, even if it takes a big hit to the wallet. More importantly the picture quality will be a marked improvement.

Which is not to say every budget label release is bad. True, picture quality varies wildly, but then so does the quality of the movies themselves. Over the years I've even purchased a few such titles that turned out to be letterboxed. Alas these are few and far between. Usually what you have on these ultra cheap DVDs are full screen versions of movies, often over scanned, and seldom with any extras.

Then there are the multi-movie sets like Bad Boys of the West. I don't know what it is about budget labels and their multi-movie packs but they seem to think they can hide video prints of dubious origin on these and no one will notice. One assumes this is either done blatantly or out of a willful ignorance breed from the desire to make a quick buck. After all if one doesn't look at their source prints all that closely they can, like a good politician who tells his staff not to bother him with details, claim plausible ignorance.

Yet, and yet, there are so many titles that haven't ever appeared on DVD, even DVDs of questionable provenance, that one has to accede to the fact greed, alone, isn't the single driving force here. Sure there's the questionable (and often hard to find) DVDs released with alternate titles. Movies like Female Space Invaders (Star Crash) but there's also a ton of movies that, while not available (officially) in R1, have been released elsewhere. Premium editions exist of movies like Twins of Evil, The Humanoid, Star Crash, the Ator movies, and many other marginal genre titles. Alas, infuriatingly, not in R1! Which leaves gray market merchants and DVDs with alternate FS versions taken from dubious sources.

If these budget labels really were pirates they'd be ripping and re-burning these titles left and right. That they aren't would seem to indicate the state of video rights is just as murky, blurry, and shadowy as the movies these companies release to DVD. Mores the pity for cinephiles and movie buffs who've been waiting for years on end for that certain title to receive a proper DVD release.

#end of line

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Service Call to Hell

Aren't they all?

Just so you know the blog isn't dead, nor am I for that matter, though scheduled posting was having problems for awhile and I got off my planned posting groove. But, today, I bring you a semi-divine (or infernal pending your point of view) and totally fresh rant about something that most of us have probably had to endure: Service Calls.

Specifically service calls to satellite companies customer support. Oy, they are vexing!

Now anyone who has ever worked behind a desk answering phones knows that human stupidity knows no bounds. However, when calling from the other side, it's rather annoying to have to navigate through those ludicrous automated voice response answering machines that make you annunciate every consonant and vowel at either 500 decibels above your normal speaking voice or in your best deep bass Barry White guttural monotone. You try to maintain your composure but it's difficult, especially when it's about an extant issue. Like, say, something that should have been resolved by the Tech who made the service call, gave you a cell # to call (which you had to ask for), telling you to call in case of problems then seems to just ignore you.

Honestly calling in to customer support isn't just the LAST THING on most of our lists of things to do it's likely NOT ON IT, period. Some service center people seem to not be aware of this fact. They INSIST on wasting our time. Now, I understand, they have checklists of what they are supposed to do and say but C'MON!

It's bad enough when you have to call in about mundane satellite service issues. If you've ever called in more than once you know that you will have to navigate through the river Cocytus, and this is only the beginning of your sojourn into Hades. For from Cocytus your trip takes you into Acheron, the river of pain, and it is suffering you will endure listening to craptacular elevator music interspersed with the chipper baritone of a fast talking methhead's voice trying to get you to buy this, that, or the other programming package.

Then, if you're lucky, a live voice attached to an agent infernal will pop in just in time to wake you up (or keep you from defenestrating your phone) and start asking you the usual 20 questions to verify this, that, and the other thing before finally getting around to asking you WHY you are calling. The experienced know THAT is when you take a DEEP BREATH, and hope the dice you are about to roll don't turn up snake eyes. Sadly they usually do and you end up repeating all the above, at least once, usually twice, before finding someone that can actually do something (not necessarily help you) about your "issue" (they're never "problems" anymore) which usually means sending you to YET ANOTHER operator to explain everything all over again.

But that's just for the usual run of the mill problems. Heaven forbid your sojourn into the nether regions in search of a light bearer should come as a FOLLOW UP call to attempt to seek an issue be fixed that a previous service call did not. For then you must endure the agent infernals continued efforts to take you through the CHECKLIST OF TROUBLESHOOTING, which, being a veteran who's escaped confinement to the pit by the thinnest of reprieves, you know all to well. And HEAVEN FORBID you try to get the agent infernal to realize this fact and SET UP A SERVICE CALL. They wont do it. Oh, no, they'll keep coming at you with their passive aggressive no-service fu. Oh yes they've been trained well by Lucifer, these agents infernal, to NOT accept that you might actually be intelligent and know about the checklist; Shh! no one is supposed to know about the checklist! Nor will they accept that you *gasp* have already CHECKED the equipment for fault and don't actually want to be talking to these agents infernal. You just want them to set up a service call to take care of your issue, which wasn't fixed, but if you don't go through the flaming hoops with these agents infernal that means wasting YET MORE OF YOUR TIME waiting for a SUPERVISOR. .

Which, for those who've ever answered phones, know this is really the "cool down period" for callers that these agents infernal have marked in their computers as TROUBLE CALLERS, meaning anyone of an IQ greater than the acidity of water who don't meekly submit to the CHECKLIST OF TROUBLESHOOTING, and so it's back to Limbo and listening to bad elevator music and ads for programming packages that you aren't likely in any mood to give two shakes of a Lamia's tale about.

After all that what do you end up with? Excuses. And, if you're (un)lucky, a scheduled call back from a supervisor or special customer service rep for the following day. They try to make it sound special, like they're doing you a favor, but you don't need to have worked phones in a service center to know this is a line of BS. Heck the "supervisor" you're talking too is likely Larry or Steve or Leland, the guy from three cubicles over, and he's just reading off the CALMING ANGRY CALLERS LIST (which is a far more polite title for what service centers actually call these things) with one goal in mind: Getting you OFF the phone.

Which, under normal circumstances, would be fine. After all this wasn’t a call you wanted to make anyway. But now you've got time invested in this. You've probably been standing there for at least 20-25 minutes. You're beyond annoyed. All you wanted was for the infernal agent to set up a friggin' service call! You pay the extra monthyly fee. Just set it up! Is that so difficult?

Apparently it is because now you have to make an effort to be around your phone the following day at a certain time to talk to someone who, you hope, assuming they ever bother to call (which they might not) will actually DO SOMETHING besides waste your time. If you could add up all the man hours that service centers spend collectively wasting peoples time and vice versa (some callers really are idiots) I bet you'd find that it'd be measured in the decades.

Moral: Life is too short, so stop wasting time. (ESPECIALLY MINE!!!)

# end of line

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

[Anatomy of a bad DVD] Virgin Terror

Poster Tag: Sweet sixteen ... they'll lose more than just their lives.

DVD Cover Blurb: Terror runs wild at the girls academy!

Theatrical/Video Run Time: U.S. 85 minutes; Italy 92 minutes

DVD Run Time: 81 minutes (movie)

Year: 1978

Country: Italy/ West Germany

Cast: Fabio Testi, Christine Kaufmann, Ivan Desny, Jack Taylor, Fausta Avelli, Bruno Alessandro, Caroline Ohrner, Silvia Aguilar, Taida Urruzola, Helga Liné, et al.

Director: Alberto Negrin.

AKA: Enigma Rosso/ Enigma Rojo/ Orgie des Todes/ Das Phantom im Mädchenpensionat/ Tráfico de menores/ Yön terrori/ Red Rings of Fear/ Rings of Fear/ Trauma/ Virgin Killer

With special thanks to everyone at the Latarnia Forums for their input.

Virgin Terror is a giallo, this being the name given to Italian pulp crime/mystery stories published between the 1930s and 1960s, but which has become a movie genre unto itself. Giallos are hard boiled crime movies that do not shy away from depictions of gratuitous sex or violence, all while throwing red herrings at the audience to keep them guessing. This genre is considered by some to be the apex of exploitation filmmaking with its voyeur raincoat wearing killers who stalk young women (often spying on them in the altogether) and bizarre plot twists that force the protagonists to think outside the box in their desperate efforts to solve surreal, often hideous, sex crimes perpetrated against nubile young women.

I was recently out looking for bargains, as you do, and having discovered that a Goodwill store stocks new items, including DVDs, I decided to stop by. Long story short they stock the type of DVDs that you find at flea markets; only they sell them cheaper. These are DVDs purchased in bulk wholesale lots so you never really know what you might find. It's like a treasure hunt. Usually I don't find anything so imagine my surprise when I found a DVD called "Virgin Terror" whose jacket blurb said.

"A detective investigating the murder of a teenage girl begins to focus his suspicions on the three girlfriends of the victim, who call themselves "The Inseperables""

Not very informative but it sounded interesting. I was reticent as I noticed this was a Passion Productions/Miracle Pictures (scan down) release but, it was Goodwill and only about 2 bucks, so I figured since it was for charity why not?


According to the IMDB this is an Italian/ West German co-production from 1978 originally titled Enigma rosso. The movie begins interestingly enough with the scene of a body being dumped into (what looked to me) like the sea, a body that's soon after discovered washed up on a river bank. Apparently this was the body of a 16 year old girl from an exclusive boarding school. Her young body had been mutilated and sexually violated. But who could have done such a thing and, more importantly, why?

Thus the stage is set for a good old fashioned murder mystery. From what I've watched the movie itself seems to be a fairly decent crime story. Sadly there's one problem. The video. It. .

Alexander the Great's Ghost the Video! It's Frigging Awful!

This has obviously been sourced from a dub of a dub that's been edited on consumer grade VHS decks. There's a bit of speckling (not quite snow), the kind you get when you are recording through cheap coax cables accompanied by intrusive blips that appear as white or black streaks in addition to random white specks. Overall a very poor quality video.

As if that's not bad enough the picture is too dark during the night/ indoor scenes, extremely washed out and hazy during the day scenes, and it's a hack job where even the best edits are readily apparent. .

And the worst edits are pulsating eyesores. .

The segment from which I excised the above, when viewed frame by frame, appears to have been a segment the video hacker was trying to edit out scenes of brutality/nudity while attempting to recycle footage to at least pad the segment out. Certain sections even have a moire pattern! All of which is proof positive this is the end product of a terrible hack job.

So what has been edited out? Having read reviews for the movie the edits cut out some very significant elements of the plot that appear in flashback as pertains to some sort of an orgy. What's left is not just a incoherent mess it's amateurish editing of the lowest caliber.

However it does appear the dub job might have been done using a signal booster as the picture is otherwise relatively stable. Not that it matters much as there's ample compression artifacting in evidence. For instance the video suffers from a double shot of blockiness. First, the block artifacting from being an analog tape source. Second, the block artifacting that's somewhat similar to what you get on a VCD. In other words this is a video that's made the rounds in it's journey to DVD.

How far has it come? Well there's a company logo- "Lettuce Entertain You"- which I initially thought said Lettuce Entertainment, that's how bad the video is, which I have been informed was a Canadian outfit that put out ultra cheap VHS. We're talking video quality that's scraping the bottom of the barrel.

However I'd say this video started life as a recording off either foreign broadcast TV or cable, probably recordr speakers with this kind of shite product.

Also noticeable, as already mentioned, are the edits. I can not stress how badly they were done. The first occurs during the intro. It's hard to say for sure what's going on here but it seems like an attempt to either cut in a new title or cut out something. It's very easy to detect because it's 1) a jump cut, and; 2) the music abruptly changes. As the music is instrumental through out I am guessing whoever did the editing was either tone deaf or just didn't care. But between the visual and audio distortions that occur during edits this is an appalling mess.

Oh, and my favorite, according to VLC media player this DVD runs 2 hours 17 minutes and 6 seconds. How is that possible?

Well, as I said, this is a dub of a dub. The credits roll and fade to black at roughly the 1 hour 21 minute 10 second mark, making for a total actual run time of 81 minutes. And those missing minutes are not because this was sourced from a PAL conversion.

How do we know this? Aside from the numerous snips made here and there the most telling is when the girls at the elite girls boarding school are running into the showers. I am assuming you see them remove their clothes as I found **warning link may be NSFW** this review **warning link may be NSFW** with a screen cap of part of the missing scenery. Sadly the itchy finger of the demented editor leaves us with a series of jump cuts apparently designed to remove as much nudity as possible. Which is baffling because they couldn't get it all since one of the characters has to stumble over to another stall and there is flashes of nudity later in the movie, and really isn't nudity what make most gialli cult favorites?

The point being this is a very obvious and poorly done hack job. There's significant visual and audio distortion, the latter very noticable due to music suddenly skipping stanzas et al. This video is a terrible mangling of what makes a giallo, or any movie for that matter, worth watching as the edits utterly ruin the flow of the movie. Worse, the sound is so bad you can't really hear anything half the time. Thus I would not recommend this DVD to any save the curious. Consider yourself duely warned.

And what's on the rest of the DVD? Believe it or not GREEN SCREEN. Which lasts for a short bit then turns into a test pattern with a gray streak running through the middle of the screen, which goes on for several minutes before the screen goes black. In other words it looks like someone put a VHS tape in a player hooked up to a DVD recorder, hit play, started recording, then left. However the fact that whoever did the DVD authoring didn't even put any effort into editing the video, opting instead to just rip the DVDr and burn it as is, is mind-boggling. That anyone could release such shoddy product if un-effing believable, yet here it is!

Caveat emptor indeed.

# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

[The above was originally posted in April 2007 to the orignal Mise-en-scene Crypt blog.]