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Saturday, July 26, 2014

REVIEW: MOTEL HELL (Scream Factory Blu-ray/DVD) - Critters, Fritters and a Smoked Meats (No Preservatives!)


When I was a kid my dad and I would hike at Schooley’s Mountain Park. We’d walk up to the overlook, a stack of rocks that overlooked the entirety of Long Valley which was my home town. When we were done we’d drive to 7-11, pick up a Slurpee and a three foot long beef stick that came in a large plastic tube with many other gargantuan sticks of meat. I would down the entire icy beverage, get brain freeze and then watch cartoons while playing Legos gorging on the meat stick. This was a fairly regular occurrence. Some years later I had the chance to enjoy Motel Hotel directed by Kevin Connor from United Artists circa 1980. While the version I would watch and come to love was cut to ribbons for a USA network viewing (most likely Up All Night) I found it the perfect horror movie and a great way to spend my Saturday afternoons, but something was missing… the meat. Without the hike up Schooley’s Mountain and subsequent watering hole stop, I was without my fine tasty fritter of processed cow love. As I got older, those sticks would be replaced solely by large name sticks like Slim Jim at the local convenience stores. Perhaps it was some regulation regarding packaging. Aside from a brief trip through the mid-west, I haven’t seen beef sticks that had the same girth, length or packaging. What a shame.  It’s funny that a movie about turning human flesh in Farmer Vincent’s smoked meat would inspire hunger and fond memories of eating our hard earned fritters, but aside from a brief stint as a Vegan (for political reason I can assure you) I have always been a bit of a carnivore. “Meat’s meat and man’s gotta eat”. The same can be said for Scream Factory’s release of Motel Hell coming out  Tuesday August 12th. Horror is horror and man’s gotta watch… especially this movie.  Scream Factory has found all the best critters for this fritter packed release!

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

You really are what you eat with Farmer Vincent's smoked meat in this creepy horror yarn that "packs a punch that goes way beyond mere terror" (Boxoffice). Vincent's popular products contain a special ingredient that the psychotic farmer and his sister would literally kill to keep a secret! StarringRory Calhoun (Angel), Nancy Parsons (Porky’s), Nina Axelrod (Time Walker, Cobra) and John Ratzenberger (Cheers), and directed by Kevin Connor(From Beyond The Grave, At The Earth’s Core), this darkly funny flick "just might be your cup of meat" (L.A. Herald Examiner)!


Motel Hell was released as a double feature alongside Deranged prior to the incarnation we have today and in addition to the recent Arrow Region B release. That’s a fitting pair of delicious cannibal goodness with plenty of murder with various motives in mind. Motel Hell is my preference having grown up with it and not being overly taken with Deranged. The problem with the double feature MGM release was that it was bare bones and crammed on a disc without much thought given to transfer, packaging or place in history. The Scream Factory release changes all of that. For starters the Nathan Thomas Milliner cover art plays on multiple cult famous scenes from the movie including the infamous Vincent Pig Head Mask with a Chainsaw iconic still that would be featured on the cover of Fangoria #9. In many ways that issue represents that transition from fantasy mag to horror rag. That beautiful, succulent severed pig mask with a chainsaw built to rival Leatherface or Pieces assured audiences you may not have to go to Texas for the chainsaw massacre after all but you don’t have to go to New England either. The reverse of the Milliner cover is the classic “heads in the ground” art from the VHS cover. This is a collector series release, Blu-ray/DVD combo (we reviewed the Blu-ray for quality).

It most certainly does take all kinds of critters to make Famer Vincent’s Fritters, but it also take all kind of extras to create the true fan experience for a movie that may have gone under the radar of horror fans simply due to its obscurity. Extras include new audio commentary with Kevin Connor moderated by Dave Parker and interviews with Kevin Connor, Producers/Writers Robert Jaffe and Steven Charles Jaffe as well as Actor Paul Linke. Silver’s interview is most impassioned and seems to be the most in touch with what a fan would want to experience about Motel Hell. The disc also contains interviews with Marc Silver (the guitarist from the band in the van) and Rosanne Katon. Perhaps the most heartbreaking extra is the feature Ida, Be Thy Name: A Look back at Motel Hell’s Frightful female Protagonist, Ida Smith. It’s a great to see such tribute paid to Ida, but I kept feeling like this featurette was pointing out her absence and the absence of the great Rory Calhoun by proxy. I guess I’m too sentimental.  This is a vast improvement on the previously release DVD in terms of quality though I think it’s important to note that this movie has always had some exposures issues in the darkest scenes (when Vincent is stalking his road pizza’s). The transfer is beautiful and the color is rich. If you want a real treat, pay close attention during the picnic sequence (when Vincent punches Ida). The shooting locations in CA are breathtaking.  Best part about the extras? The simple animation that introduces each of the special feature discs. Hilarious!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie itself, prepare for a perfectly campy shocker, filled with moments of seduction and humor that balance with scenes that feel gorier than they actually are. This is a clever picture filled with unique kills and comedy. What other movie would feature a sex crazed swing couple mistaking the Motel Hello for Vincent’s Motel and then falling victim to a sleeping gas attack after playing a game of hog tie only to be planted in the ground with their vocal chords slit? What other movie would see nooses tied around the necks of helpless, human plants, corn-fed and waiting to become your favorite snack; those nooses tightened by tractor pulled, snapping the necks of a pile of victims who have just seen a crazed light and audio show inducing a hypno high? This ain’t no electric kool-aid acid test. This is the wholesome goodness of religious-cannibal-sploitation with a down home feel (just wait till you see Wolfman Jack as a preacher holding a Hustler magazine).

Scream Factory’s release of Motel Hell will make you hungry for Farmer Vincent’s Fritters and create new fans of this camp, classic horror picture WITHOUT PRESERVATIVES! Sorry vegan friends, this one isn’t available in tofu. I hope that you enjoy this as much as I have all these years. Make sure to pick it up upon its release. Do yourself a favor and find your favorite meat stick too. Save the popcorn for another film. We'll take care of your animals, Farmer Vincent. 

You can order Motel Hell now available August 12th from Scream Factory. The Summer of Fear continues!


Full extras and specs:
  • NEW Audio Commentary with director Kevin Connor, moderated by filmmaker Dave Parker
  • NEW It Takes All Kinds: The Making of MOTEL HELL featuring interviews with director Kevin Connor, producers/writers Robert Jaffe and Steven Charles Jaffe and actor Marc Silver
  • NEW Shooting Old School with cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth
  • Another Head on the Chopping Block: An interview with actor Paul Linke
  • From Glamour to Gore: An interview with actress Rosanne Katon
  • Ida, Be Thy Name: A look back at MOTEL HELL’s frightful female protagonist Ida Smith
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Photo Galleries 
Discs: 2 Format: NTSC

Color: Color
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Language: English

*Note: I love “Up to Here with You”, the song the band is singing right before their untimely accident. If anyone wants to cover it, let me know. While I couldn't find a good clip of that tune sung by Don Nowak, I did find the main theme song. Also worth a cover perhaps in that alt country Old 97's sound:


You're Eatin Out My Heart And Soul by Kregg Nance

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