• The Bollywood Horror Collection Volume Two: Veerana & Purani Haveli (Mondo Macabro) DVD Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: March 31st, 2009.
    Director: Tulsi Ramsay, Shyam Ramsay
    Cast: Jasmin, Hemant Birje, Sahila Chaddha/Deepak Parshar, Amita Nangia, Sikander
    Year: 1988/1989
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    The Bollywood Horror Collection Volume Two:
    Veerana & Purani Haveli – Movie Review:

    Back for a second round of Bollywood horror madness, Mondo Macabro delivers ‘over five hours of monster movie madness’ spread across two DVDs in the appropriately titled Bollywood Horror Collection Volume 2. Pairing up two Ramsey Brothers shockers, this set has truly got it all – something for everyone!

    Veerana – Vengeance Of The Vampire:

    Jasmin (played by an actress named… Jasmin) is a foxy young thing who enjoys her simple life. What she doesn’t realize is that her father was partially responsible for killing a witch named Nakita some time ago, and that the spirit of that witch is pretty pissed off. How pissed off is she? She’s so pissed off that she’s going to possess Jasmin and turn her into a vampy succubus/witch-monster to take part in an evil ritual that will raise the dead witch from the grave!

    It’s a good thing there’s a warning at the beginning of the film telling us it’s only entertainment, because Veerana approaches Portrait In Crystal levels of candy coated nuttiness. The colors give the film a surreal pop aesthetic that, when combined with the off the wall musical numbers and completely over the top sound effects that literally bombard the viewer any time something of interest happens, creates one of the raddest examples of Bollywood horror to make it to an English-friendly DVD so far. Crazy dancing vampire monster bad guys, a few hot chicks, magic secret hideout caves with giant spider webs and dangling skeletons, old school Hilarious House Of Frightenstein lightning effects, bad make up, an unusually high exploding statue quotient and a stock footage insert of a crazed dog – it is all here!

    On top of that, a chick turns into a bat, spooky statues make lots of spooky shadows, chanting monks sport seriously crazy eyebrows, Jasmin gets naked in the tub and sings a song (the bubbles cover her fun bits – no nudity, kids!) before putting on a slinky black thing and busting a move, plates fly around and brake against the walls all by themselves, a couple does what can only be described as a ‘shoulder bumpy dance’ while singing a song that sounds like it was written for Grease, and Jasmin gets sexy and slinky again, this time on the beach. Oh and a dude gets into a fight with some black cape wearing bad guys but winds up getting his ass kicked and then finds himself chained and beaten in a dungeon by a guy with a big skull and crossbones on his chest. Really – this movie has it all! Veerana is almost three hours of sheer fucking awesomeness!

    As wacky as the film is, it’s also actually really nicely shot. The sets will instantly remind you of a Shaw Brothers horror film with the obviously fake caves and green and red lighting hues used throughout, but there’s some fantastic location shooting on display here as well. There’s loads of atmosphere present during the more fantastic elements of the picture and plenty of action, intrigue and drama throughout to keep you entertained for the film’s almost three hour run time.

    Interestingly enough, according to Pete Tomb’s liner notes the film is a very loose re-imagining of Jose Larraz’s Vampyres, and you can see the influence that film had on this one in some of the film’s sexier overtones. These ‘sexy scenes’ where pretty strong by the standards of the day and the Ramsey Brothers wound up having to trim the film in order to get a certificate for it. It’s also worth noting that a local lumber company is thanked in the opening credits – possibly a first.

    Purani Haveli – Mansion Of Evil:

    The second film follows a young woman named Anita who was orphaned and sent to live with her uncle. This might sound all well and good, but her uncle is an asshole who wants to steal all the cash that Anita’s late parents left to her in their will. While out exploring her old ancestral home with some friends one day, she accidently unleashes some arcane forces that animate skeleton statues and send hairy man-monsters out on the prowl!

    From the strangely Argento-ish opening, where a camera zips around an eerily light building, to the credits sequence where the titles scrawl over images of Christ being lead to his crucifixion, to the rather baffling song and dance numbers featuring a tubby dude in a red shirt with bad ass dance moves, Purani Haveli is almost as screwy as Veerana. Like the first film, the sound effects in this picture are ridiculously grotesque – no one dies or suffers quietly in this picture, anyone who finds themselves in any peril whatsoever gurgles and screams and carries on in the most melodramatic fashion imaginable. If you’re trying to get away from a hairy man-monster with a penchant for tearing off arms, screaming at the top of your longs isn’t going to make you harder to find.

    Purani Haveli also features the coolest Indian exorcist/warrior priest to ever dye his hair blond and ward on evil with a giant crucifix. He’s kind of the Gordon Liu of Indian Catholics, I guess, obviously having trained long and hard to win his battle against the evil hairy man-monsters that make his country such a dangerous place to live. Let’s see, what else have we got… killer monster skeletons, giant creaky gates that close by themselves, hot chicks, bad fashion, a cemetery that bursts into flames, primary lighting gels galore, exploding grave sites, fisticuffs aplenty with sound effects that may or may not have been lifted from a Double Dragon console, a shovel fight on a bridge, an inordinate number of sequined shirts, a dance where a small child is spun around very quickly on a table top (don’t try this at home kids!), comic relief that is so unfunny it transcends itself and becomes hilarious, and a guy who chugs Johnny Walker straight out of the bottle and is so comfortable in his natural machismo that he can rock a pink shirt and rape a girl without so much as a second thought – and that’s all before we get to the half way mark. Still not convinced? There’s a scene where some hot chicks spank the aforementioned tubby dude on the ass with some straw, dudes run around in acid washed jeans, a monster erupts out of a chick’s bed and then sucks her down into it – or does he?, lots of people run around dark rooms with really big flash lights, and rubber bats! There are lots of rubber bats.

    A weird mixture of haunted house hijinks and romance, Purani Haveli doesn’t have quite the same strengths in terms of over the top horror elements as the first feature does but it’s still plenty screwy enough to work. The cinematography is actually pretty impressive with some great location shots contrasting nicely against the wonderfully phony looking sets and the cast are as over the top and hammy as you’d expect given the type of material they have to work with here.

    The Bollywood Horror Collection Volume Two: Veerana & Purani Haveli – DVD Review:

    Aside from the fact that the 1.33.1 fullframe transfers are interlaced, they look pretty good and are a bit step up from the presentations in the first Bollywood Horror Collection. There are scratches and mild print damage present throughout both films but they’re not all that distracting, really. Some scenes are in better shape than others but overall, the image is just fine, and quite colorful.

    Both films are presented in their native language, with English subtitles that do a pretty good job of translating everything we need to know, without going into overkill and subbing screams and death cries and what not – the drawback being that some of the music isn’t completely subtitled (though the parts that aren’t subbed sound like repeated bits so if you pay close attention you can figure it out). The audio is just fine, really. Some background hiss is there and the high end can be a bit shrill sometimes (you’ll notice this when some of the women sing!), but there’s nothing super terrible here to complain about, especially taking into account where these movies were made, how low budget they were, and the source material available.

    Mondo Macabro provides a few text pieces that provide some welcome background information on the cast and crew responsible for these films, as well as original theatrical trailers for both features. Aside from that, look for some animated menus and chapter selection options… and of course, the even expanding Mondo Macabro promo reel.

    The Bollywood Horror Collection Volume Two: Veerana & Purani Haveli – The Final Word:

    Anyone who thinks Bollywood films are just schmaltzy romantic song and dance movies should check this out, because this set proves inconclusively that Bollywood movies also sometimes feature awesome monsters. This set is a blast, it’s wacky fun from start to finish and those who appreciate the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ mentality that our friends from the East tend to apply to their films needs to own this, pronto.