• Black Roses (Synapse Films) DVD Review

    Released by: Synapse Films
    Released on: September 25th, 2007.
    Director: John Fasasno
    Cast: Julie Adams, Carmine Appice, Jesse D'Angelo, Frank Dietz, Carla Ferrigno, John Martin
    Year: 1988
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    Black Roses – Movie Review:

    John Fasano (the man behind Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare) starts Black Roses off on the streets of Toronto (the city is never named, but it IS Toronto) where some rocker guys are cruising down Yonge Street. They head to a venue where a band is playing, but this is no ordinary band - these guys are demons! The show ends poorly, the opening credits begin, and the Shapiro-Glickenhaus production that is Black Roses is soon in full swing.

    Cut to the small town of Mill Basin where some rockers and their hoochies pull up in Lamborghinis. They emerge from their cars. Their singer, Damian (Sal Viviano), shoots the rest of the guys the horns, and they wander the empty streets that they shall soon claim as their own.

    Meanwhile, at the local high school, a teacher named Matt Moorhouse (John Martin of The Young And The Restless) is teaching his class about poetry. One thing leads to another and a student named Johnny (Frank Dietz of Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare) compares the plight of the poet they're studying to the controversy surrounding the upcoming Black Roses show in town. Johnny's also got a crush on Julie (Karen Planden), but their love is doomed as she's got the hots for Mr. Moorhouse. Sadly for Julie, Matt's involved with another teacher, Priscilla Farnsworth (Carla Ferrigno, the wife of Lou Ferrigno) whose father (Ken Swofford) happens to be the mayor.

    At any rate, as the band rolls into town a group of concerned parents hold a rally to try and have a stop put to the show. It doesn't work, but the parents decide they're going to make sure that this band is appropriate for their kids by showing up at the show to ensure that it's all on the up and up. Of course, the Black Roses come out and Damian is wearing a white leisure suit and the band starts off with a soft pop ballad about the purity of their home town. The parents assume everything will be fine and so they take off after the first song. At this point, the band busts out their leather and their studs and bursts into a rousing rendition of their hit song, Rock Invasion.

    The next day at school, Mr. Moorhouse notices that the kids in his class are acting strange, almost like they're possessed. Moorhouse decides to go talk to this 'Damian' and see what he's all about and what he's done to the kids. Their meeting proves to be fairly normal and Damian, dressed in plain khakis and appearing with short, neat hair, comes across as a nice guy. The next night, it turns out that the Black Roses have given free tickets to the kids in town for the rest of their shows.

    While Moorhouse is trying to figure out what's up with this band, strange things are happening in town. A kid listens to the Black Roses LP on his stereo. His dad comes in and tells him to turn it off. He does, but the stereo starts back up again and then the record starts to melt. Before you know it, the speakers connected to the turntable have started to move and eventually the kid’s father is sucked into the speaker and killed!

    The Black Roses show up and play their next show and they literally rock the faces off of the kids in the audience. With the kids now under Damian's control and chanting his name, Mill Basin will soon find out that the devil's music is not to be messed with. Matt Moorhouse is the only one who seems to believe that there's a real problem here, but no one wants to listen to him. It's only when the girls in town start acting really slutty and the boys start killing people that the general population starts to listen to him. But by then, it may already be too late...

    Made in the late eighties when it seemed like every time you turned around someone was sucking on a shotgun while listening to Judas Priest albums backwards, Black Roses touches on the heavy metal paranoia that was a popular topic in the news of the era. Obviously the movie takes things to a much further extreme but there's no denying that the film cashes in on the controversy that surrounded a lot of the darker metal bands of the era, bands that dealt with subjects such as the occult and Satan. Looking like a cross between Motley Crue and Venom, the band in the movie literally transforms into demons before the film is done, ensuring that no one can miss the connection.

    That said, it's pretty damn hard to take Black Roses seriously. It's not aged very well and what might have been a little creepy twenty-years ago is now very dated. That isn't a bad thing, but it gives an already campy movie even more unintentionally hilarious humor. The latex monster effects are fun even if the end results can sometimes be a little too “Muppets” for their own good. Richard Alonzo, one of the effects techs on the movie, would go on to work on A.I., Species and Jurassic Park: The Lost Word after joining Stan Winston Studios. Arnold Gargiulo Jr., another of the effects technicians, worked on Fasano's earlier homage to rock n roll and nightmares, that being the aptly titled Rock N’n’Roll Nightmare and he also worked on Frank Henenlotter's Frankenhooker.

    The film isn't particularly gory, though there are a few moments of splashy red spray in the picture, and instead most of the effects are related to the creatures themselves. Fasano has the common sense to throw in some topless nudity - it wouldn't be a rock n roll movie if there weren't some titties - but by eighties standards the T&A in the picture is mild. What makes the movie work and what makes it so much fun is its time capsule look at the political and moral controversy surrounding rock music at the time and the clichéd eighties hair styles and outfits that much of the cast parade around in.

    The soundtrack, which was a fairly prominent release from Metal Blade records around the time of the film's release, contains tracks from Lizzy Borden, Bang Tango, King Kobra, Tempest and even All Hallows Eve. Carmine Appice, who played drums in Vanilla Fudge, has a small part as one of the band members and the movie features an early appearance from Vincent Pastore (best known as Big Pussy from The Sopranos) as the stereotypical tough Italian dad.

    Black Roses – DVD Review:

    Despite the fact that Black Roses is obviously a very low budget film, Synapse's transfer, re-mastered in high definition from the original materials, looks amazing by the standards of a DVD from 2007. There is a little bit of grain present in a few scenes, as there should be, but there's virtually no print damage at all and the image is exceptionally clean looking. Black levels are rock solid and there are no problems with mpeg compression or obvious edge enhancement.

    If you really look for them you might pick out one or two instances of some minor aliasing but that's really it and it's a such a minor issue in the first place that it's hardly worth mentioning. Detail levels look great in both the foreground and the background of the image and you can make out every poofy hair on Damian's head and ripple in the demons' latex masks. Color reproduction is strikingly good, the reds are nice and bold without bleeding, and the other accent colors really do a nice job of highlighting a few different key scenes.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is clean and clear and free of any hiss or distortion. A 5.1 remix might have been fun for a few scenes but the 2.0 track certainly gets the job done. Dialogue is easy to follow and understand and the soundtrack has got a nice punch to it.

    The biggest and best of the extra features on this release is a commentary track with director John Fasano and writer Cindy Sorrell who are joined by Carla Ferrigno, John Kody Fasano and Lucia Fasano. John Fasano dominates the track. He explains how the opening scene with the Black Roses was shot in a library in New York whereas the majority of the film was shot in Hamilton, Ontario (home of the Forgotten Rebels and Teenage Head!). They talk about casting, about shooing in New York and about shooting in Canada and they cover the effects work as well. Interestingly enough, John Martin had a stint as the Marlboro Man in print ads in the eighties. Fasano jokes that the only reason Carla Ferrigno and Martin didn't have a kissing scene was because Lou Ferrigno called him up and threatened him - the track has obviously got a decent sense of humor behind it all and the participants are obviously having fun looking back on the picture. The ladies talk about how Sal Vivano's wife is a recurring character on Law And Order. They make fun of Martin's 'bumblebee sweater' and Fasano talks about how Glickenhaus complained that the film was ten minutes too long and that he was given no choice but to cut parts of the film out at the producer's request. It's a fun and informative track that explains the film's origins and provides some interesting trivia as well.

    Aside from that, Synapse has also included a lengthy trailer for the film that has a surprisingly high spoiler quotient. Presented fullframe from a tape source, it doesn't look as good as the feature but it's interesting to see how the film was marketed back in the eighties.... Black Roses - The Hottest Band This Side Of HELL!!!!!

    Similar to the trailer is the Cannes Film Festival Promo reel. Presented complete with time code, it runs a little bit longer than the trailer does but is very similar in nature.

    Last but most certainly not least is a collection of excerpts from the audition tapes that were recorded while auditioning for the role of Damian. Menus and chapter stops are also provided.

    Black Roses - The Final Word:

    Fans of heavy metal horror and goofy eighties films will definitely get a big kick out of Black Roses. Synapse has done a great job on the transfer and the supplements and the movie is a blast. Highly recommended!