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Old 02-10-2007, 07:52 PM
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Default Pelts




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: February 10, 2007

Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 2/13/2007
MSRP: $14.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageTales From the Crypt, love it or hate it, was a producer’s series. Most of the episodes were consistent in style and quality, clearly influenced by producers Robert Zemeckis, Walter Hill, et al. With a Crypt episode you know what to expect, and it almost always predictably delivers. Masters of Horror was conceived of as a different creature. Finally a horror anthology series would give a chance for each legendary director to explore their own themes and preoccupations in televised mini-movies. In execution though, most episodes were more works for hire, since rarely did the director write his own episode, and most of the episodes seemed to be alike. A producer’s series in a different skin.

Dario Argento, without a doubt the finest of all the so-called “Masters” working today, has contributed two of the most personal works of the series, Jenifer and the second season’s DVD debut, Pelts. Jenifer was a sexually provocative, voyeuristic dream/nightmare, and Pelts takes those themes a step further. Surely the goriest thing to ever air on cable television, is more really better?


The Story

inline ImageJake Feldman (Meat Loaf) is a furrier trying hard to make his mark as a distributor of fur coats. Like the coons he hunts, he too has animal qualities. He lusts for a stripper, Shana (Ellen Ewusie), spouting out Tales From the Crypt-like parables like “I will be successful…you’ll see! Then you’ll want me!” He gets booted from the bar, but then gets a call from a father-son coon trapping team on their greatest find. Pa (John Saxon) has stumbled on a mystical land where raccoons with the finest furs are laid out in groups by the dozen. He’s trapped a number of them, and Feldman will be the buyer. The pelts these coons provide are so enticing though, it’s deadly. Like Something Wicked This Way Comes, their most perverse desires play out, ultimately, to their deaths. Pa’s son, cleaning the pelts, becomes so hypnotized by their beauty, he opens a raccoon trap and places his own face within its jaws.

inline ImageFeldman knows he’s made the discovery of a lifetime with these pelts, even after discovering the boy with his head clamped off. Feldman steals the pelts and takes them to a furriery, where a number of Asians work sweat shop hours to bring these furs to life. It turns out they don’t have to work too hard, since their pelts uncontrollably writhe, as if fans are constantly aimed upon them. It turns out that whatever people do to these pelts, the pelts do unto them. The man who cuts the pelts ends up cutting out his innards; the woman who sews it ends up sewing her face (her name is, har har, Sue Chin). All the bloodshed matters a lick to Feldman though, because he wants Shana. She wants his coat too, offering him some raunchy sex for it. As it turns out, Feldman would do anything for love…and he would do that!

inline ImageFeldman’s coat is a success, and in inquiring with a weird hermit lady (who else?) he finds out that these coveted raccoons are actually relics from a lost city. Okay. Enough of that, Feldman wants more sex. He brings his prized fur coat to Shana, and they do the deed. He hasn’t done anything with the making of the coat – or has he. As it plays out, both Feldman and Shana reach fitting ends that play out in relation to their connection to those magic pelts. Fin.

inline ImageWhen I was a little kid, I’d stay up late on weekends in my northern Canadian home, hoping and praying Super Channel (our HBO) would show me some depraved delights of sex and violence. Had I seen Pelts, I would have had my fix. For life. Pelts is without a doubt one of the greatest display of effects work ever captured on film or television. With the gory eye of Howard Berger of KNB, Dario Argento’s darkest desires play themselves out in the most bloody, graphic and detailed carnage imaginable. Each death is more brutal to the next, climaxing with a self-pelting so slimy and morbid, devout horror fans everywhere will be driven to erection. That’s Argento’s point with this piece too, the thin line between the temptations of sex and violence.

inline ImageIn equal abundance as the gore is the excessive nudity, since half the film takes place at a sleazy strip club. When Shana isn’t stripping and caressing her breasts, she’s lapping the vagina of another implant-laden woman. It is all incredibly excessive, but like the horror fan’s pursuit for the more gore and more nudity, these characters lustfully will go further and further for the best fur and fashion possible. Set to the tune of Claudio Simonetti’s ethereal music, the allure of excess has rarely been greater. Deep down in Dario’s mind, we’re all just searching for excess, and given the freedom to explore his darkest dreams, Dario gives the audience just what he’s always wanted.

inline ImageIn the way this short never holds back, it achieves a sort of purity you know Argento has been reaching for for years. Is this his best work? Not even close. The message, while effective, is still essentially one note, and not nearly as complex as the themes explored in masterworks like Suspiria and Tenebre. The film just sort of ends without the grand statement or final shot that Argento, at his best, would deliver instinctively. Still though, in the Masters of Horror canon, this undoubtedly one of the highlights of both seasons thus far. Refreshing too, is the fact that this is one of Argento’s purest expressions of horrific license. It is with episodes like these that, for a fleeting moment, Masters of Horror becomes more than just a Crypt rip-off, and a full fledged director’s statement.

Image Quality

Pelts is presented here in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and overall it’s above average. Definitely a step up from the interlaced ugliness of Argento’s Do You Like Hitchcock?, this progressive transfer is a lot more pleasing to the eye. That said, the colors aren’t quite as vivid as they surely looked in Argento’s mind or on set even. The contrasts is a tad muddy at times, and overall the picture is a wee bit soft. One must of course remember though, that this isn’t the 35mm that Argento deserves, but instead HD. While contrast, saturation, sharpness and detail all could have been a bit better, they are all still well above average for the usual HD release.

Sound

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, this, like the video, is good, not great. Since it is made for television, the 5.1 is approached with a stereo mentality, with all the dialogue and effects kept up front. The 5.1 track sees its best use when Simonetti’s heavenly score fills up the back, but even still, there isn’t much directionality. Dialogue, like when Saxon and son are out in the woods, can sometimes be surprisingly flat. Overall, what might make an impressive 2.0 track makes just an average 5.1 track.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageWhile not quite as stacked as Anchor Bay’s Jenifer disc, Pelts still has a lot of luster in the extras department. First up is a commentary by writer Matt Venne, who, although at tad pompous in his university-level diction, is enjoyable to listen to. He is candid about the failure of his early career as a writer, and how it brings him great joy that his first filmed work is one made for Dario Argento. He’s a film geek at heart, but you kind of want to tie him down and force him to watch Cannibal Holocaust, given the amount of wincing and yelling he does every time a body is eviscerated. His explanation of developing this from a short story to a screenplay to a film is actually quite enlightening, especially when he notes the differences between his story and the one Argento put on screen. It is interesting too, that Venne rewrote the script after he found out Argento was attached, just to incorporate his auteuristic impulses. Nice.

inline ImageNext up are a couple of featurettes. The first, “Fleshing it Out: The Making of Pelts”, runs 13-minutes and combines behind-the-scene footage with interviews with Argento, Venne, Meat Loaf and Howard Berger, among others. Much of it is testimonials from everyone involved citing how gory it is, which gets repetitive. The best bits, of course, come from Argento, both in interview and on set. Seeing stills of him raising his arms in the air after creating Meat Loaf’s gory demise is akin to a kid celebrating after a bowel movement. So instinctual and honest with his emotions, Argento will always be a child at heart.

inline ImageThe second featurette is “All Sewn Up: Mastering the Effects Sequence”, which breaks down the scene where Sue Chin sews up her face. A mixture of make-up and computer effects, the scene gives a revealing look of how the two integrate. The needle and string were put in digitally, but it is neat to observe the lengths the crew went to achieving realism. Using a white rod to push in pressure places, the illusion of the lady sewing herself was achieved as she mimed her movements. Although far from the best gore moment in the movie, it has a production that is apart from your usual make-up demonstration, and is certainly worth the short 8-minute look.

The disc is rounded off with the inevitables: storyboard and still galleries, an Argento bio, tons of Anchor Bay and Masters of Horror trailers, and the screenplay (available only on DVD-ROM).


Final Thoughts

inline ImageSociety’s quest for possessions and for beauty, and the horror fan’s pursuit for nudity and gore, are two addictions surprisingly similar. In this grand display of excess, Argento incriminates everyone for wanting more, but has a gloriously gory time doing so. Anchor Bay presents this fine Argento short with above-average audio and video tracks, and a few fleshed out extras. These Pelts aren’t quite to die for, but any fan of Argento is going to need this for their collection. If you’ve been generally unimpressed with Masters of Horror, at least give this, arguably the best of the lot, a try. Pelts will look good in any horror fan’s collection.

Rating

Movie - B+
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B-
Supplements - B-

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running Time - 59 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Stereo 2.0

Supplements
  • Commentary by screenwriter Matt Venne
  • "All Sewn Up: Mastering The Effects Sequence" featurette
  • "Fleshing It Out: The Making of Pelts" featurette
  • Storyboard Gallery
  • Still Gallery
  • Director Bio
  • Screenplay (DVD-ROM)

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Old 02-13-2007, 09:23 PM
It would have been nice if they could have F Paul Wilson talk on this disc. After all, it is his short story that this is based on.
 
 

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