• The Cardona Collection Vol. 1 (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    The Cardona Collection Vol. 1 (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 29th, 2021.
    Director: Rene Cardona Jr
    Cast: Stuart Whitman, Donald Pleasence, Bradford Dillman, John Ireland, Emilio Fernandez, Hugo Stiglitz, John Huston, Andres Garcia, Gloria Guida, Claudine Auger, Arthur Kennedy, Carroll Baker, Lionel Stander, Olga Karlatos
    Year: 1985/1978/1978
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Cardona Collection Vol. 1 – Movie Review:

    AGFA and Something Weird offer up a double feature of macabre-tinged sex films both produced by New York based exploitation film distributor Charles Abrams (the same man who bankrolled Cargo Of Love and Commuter Game), both appearing here in high definition for the first time.

    Treasure Of The Amazon:

    If Lucio Fulci had made a jungle adventure/cannibal film, odds are pretty good that it would have turned out reasonably close to Rene Carona Jr.’s Treasure Of The Amazon. Low on plot or originality but high on gore and camp appeal, it’s a fun, if slightly overlong, exploitation/horror film that provides enough senseless violence, wanton nudity, and ham-fisted dialogue to keep things interesting and fun.

    In a nutshell, Stuart Whitman plays Gringo, an adventurer who is heading into the deep heart of the Amazon with a couple of other guys in search of some treasure. At the same time, a former Nazi named Klaus von Blantz (Donald Pleasance) and his topless Amazonian bride have got the same idea. While the two parties are individually trying to beat one another to the prize, a team of archeologists made up of two guys and a girl with a bad southern accent (“Aw do declayuh!”) find an ass load of diamonds in the jungle and figure they’re going to strike it rich in a big, big way.

    When all three of the groups start stepping on one another’s toes, however, things get a little more complicated – conflict arises! And to make matters worse, there’s a tribe of cannibals running around knocking people off with blow guns.

    Who will make it out with the booty? Who will make it out alive? Who will be eaten alive by a roving pack of Amazonian cave dwelling crabs? How often will Donald Pleasance slip in and out of bad German accent mode? Is he really channeling the spirit of Colonel Klink like it sounds?

    At just over a hundred-minutes in length, Treasure Of The Amazon is a little bit padded feeling but when it’s on? Oh baby, it’s on. Aside from the aforementioned death by crabs scene (which very closely resembles the death by spiders scene in The Beyond) a man is eaten alive by piranhas, another is eaten by a crocodile, and one unfortunate cast member is hung in a tree with a giant fish hook through his tongue. The cannibal tribe running around has a tendency to decapitate anyone and everyone who gets in their way, and numerous people get shot throughout the film. It’s a whole lot of awesome, gory nonsense!

    The movie’s pacing zips along reasonably well aside from one or two slow spots towards the middle of the film, and Cardona’s camera does a nice job of capturing the jungle and making it appear as harsh and savage as any of the characters wandering through it. The gore effects are sufficiently grisly even if they are obviously low budget, and the performances, while not good in the technical sense of the word, suit the movie nicely despite their shortcomings. This is worth seeing just for Whitman and Pleasance alone, but you also get Hugo Stiglitz and El Indio Fernandez!

    The Bermuda Triangle:

    Released in 1978, The Bermuda Triangle (or, Triangle The Bermuda Mystery, as the title card for this release calls it) was made specifically to cash in on both the disaster movie craze of the era and the public’s ongoing fascination with the legendary section of the North Atlantic Ocean where planes and ships seem to disappear on a regular basis.

    In the film, Edward Marvin (John Huston) decides to bring his family out on a massive boat dubbed The Black Whale III for a scuba diving expedition. Shortly after everyone is onboard, his daughter, Diana (played by someone credited as ‘Gretha’) finds a creepy doll. She becomes immediately attached to the thing and is soon running about telling the rest of the people onboard that she knows how they’re going to die. Sure enough, not all that long into the voyage and some of Diana’s predictions to seem to be coming true, although to be fair, Diana gets up to some fuckery herself when she decides to lock the poor cook, Simon (Jorge Zamora) in the freezer. Meanwhile, Michelle (Gloria Guida), Kim (Marina Vlady) and Sybil (Claudine Auger) hang around, mostly just doing a good job of looking good.

    Things get weirder when Diana’s older sister has her legs crushed during a diving accident. Captain Mark (Hugo Stiglitz), the man in charge of the boat, realizes that none of this bodes well for he or his crew and so he starts radioing for help, but alas, it is all for naught. He figures this out pretty quickly when he hears his own call for help played back to him on his own radio.

    The Bermuda Triangle isn’t quite a straight horror picture but it has some interesting moments that certainly bring it in close proximity to the genre - the whole doll/possession angle being the most obvious. There’s some nice underwater footage here that gives the film some exotic flare, and he look, sharks – sharks always spice up a movie, but the picture could have been a bit tighter in the pacing department.

    Still, if what’s here isn’t the most serious attempt to explain the mystery of The Bermuda Triangle (quite frankly an evil doll is a very dumb reason for all of this to be happening), at least Cardona piles in enough weirdness to keep things entertaining. And like most of Cardona’s films from this time, the film benefits from an interesting cast. It’s weird seeing John Huston show up in the film, the storied directed of The African Queen and The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre to name only a few, clearing cashing a paycheck in the film. He’s got screen presence though, and Cardona milks that for what he can. Cardona stock player Hugo Stiglitz is as entertaining to watch here as he is in the countless other films that he made for the hyper-productive filmmaker, and Gloria Guida sure looks great in this one, offsetting some of the ‘annoying kid’ moments wherein ‘Gretha’ finds her moments to shine.


    Cyclone is a gritty and nasty little survival movie directed by Rene Cardona Jr. in 1978, made during the height of the director’s survival movie phase in which he churned out a few others such as the aforementioned The Bermuda Triangle and the earlier hit, Survive!, in 1976.).

    The plot is incredibly basic in this one. A few boats and a plane are flying around the tropical coast when an unexpected cyclone comes reeling into the area trashing everything that it comes into contact with. The local officials get their emergency teams out on search and rescue missions as soon as they possibly can but the scope of the disaster means that they’re stretched pretty thin and despite their best and most noble efforts, finding survivors in this mess isn’t going to be an easy task.

    While the cyclone was raging, a fishing boat, a tourist boat, and a plane full of people all get into some trouble. The plane crashes into the ocean and although a dozen or so people make it out of the fuselage before it starts to sink (including the pilot, played by Hugo Stiglitz of Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City), just as many people go down with it. The cast of rugged burly men on the fishing boat are forced to abandon ship and end up taking off into the storm in a small lifeboat. The tourist boat runs out of gas while trying to stay put during the height of the storm and they’re blown off course and don’t know where they are. Eventually all three parties end up on the tourist boat and they’ll all have to work together and use their wits to make it out alive.

    To make matters worse, their food and water supplies are extremely limited. A few of the passengers are deathly ill and or wounded from the events that took place during the storm, and one lady is about due to have a baby any minute now (not wise of her to head out on vacation while nine months pregnant but it makes for an interesting twist). A rich woman named Sheila (Carroll Baker of Baba Yaga) is more concerned about the survival of her dog, Christmas, than any of her fellow passengers and she’s not above buying a young man’s water ration off of him to quench her poor pooch’s thirst. If the human drama taking place aboard the small vessel dubbed The Moby Dick weren’t enough, the seas around them are swimming with blood thirty tiger sharks with a hunger for human flesh.

    An interesting cast (Arthur Kennedy of Rome: Armed To The Teeth and Olga Karlatos of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie are both in here as well, as is Lional Stander who had a small role in Milano Calibro 9) and a killer score from Riz Ortolani (of Cannibal Holocaust and Day Of Anger fame) add some interesting cult appeal to this Italian/Mexican co-production. In addition to the cast the film also offers some fairly intense moments of brutal violence in addition to some fairly grisly shark attack sequences. For a low budget film the plane crash sequence is well filmed and later on in the film when the camera pans back to it to show us the corpses floating lifelessly throughout the cabin of the wreckage, there’s atmosphere aplenty and the film takes on a pretty eerie tone. Performances are all over the place, some over the top and some subdued but given the nature of the situation and the extremities to which the characters are pushed the mixed bag of character actors makes sense in terms of who was cast to play who in this one. The pacing is pretty tight and the movie moves along at a pretty brisk pace and even when not much is going on during the first few minutes of the film, Cardona and company manage to capture some nice scenic footage of the area (and when that fails, they manage to throw in some interesting stock footage to varied effect).

    The Cardona Collection Vol. 1 – Blu-ray Review:

    All three films are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen.

    Treasure Of The Amazon takes up 31GBs of space on a 50GB disc and is presented “newly restored in 4k from its original negative.” This is the best looking of the three films in the set. The colors are gorgeous and there’s a lot of depth, detail and texture throughout. There’s very little print damage here at all, just some specs in the opening credits, and there are no problems with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    Bermuda Triangle takes up 33.1GBs of space on its 50GB disc and is presented “newly restored from its original 35mm negative.” This is also a really strong image. It shows a bit of damage here and there but overall is pretty clean. Again, colors are really nicely reproduced here, black levels are strong and skin tones look good. The image always looks appropriately filmic, no digital anomalies here to complain about.

    The English version of Cyclone gets 23.Gbs and the Spanish 22GB of space on a shared 50GB disc. The English version is scanned from a 35mm print and doesn’t look as good as the other two versions of the movie. There’s some noticeable print damage here and there. It’s all watchable enough and it always looks like film, it’s just not as clean. Still, we get good colors and some decent detail here.

    All three films get English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 tracks. Optional English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, also in English, are also included for each feature as are optional English subtitles. Due to available elements, the audio for Treasure Of The Amazon had to be sourced from a tape, so it’s less than ideal, but honestly it sounds pretty decent. There’s a bit of sibilance here and there and maybe the dialogue isn’t quite as crisp as you might hope, but you won’t have any trouble following the film and the levels are balanced well enough. The other two films sound just fine, no problems to note. Range can sometimes be a bit limited and the dubbing a little hollow in spots, but that’s just the nature of the beast given the films’ production histories.

    As far as the extras go, the only supplement included on the first disc is a still gallery.

    On the second disc, we get Escaping The Triangle, an interview with Rene Cardona III that clocks in at nineteen-minutes. He talks about starting in the film business as an actor and talks about what he did on the set of this movie, mostly responsible for underwater photography. He talks about collaborating with Italians on the film, shooting the movie to be shown in English, Spanish and Italian, what it was like working with his dad, designing their productions for an international audience, the inspiration for the film, the different cast members that he worked alongside, having to shoot so much of the film at night, how thankful he was that the boat where most of the movie takes place was comfortable, the influence of his grandfather, how much he learned during the production, how his father almost made a co-production with Dario Argento, the possibility of a follow up film and lots more.

    Triangle Of Fear interviews producer Angelo Iacono for twenty-two-minutes. He talks about people were genuinely interested in the story of The Bermuda Triangle before this movie was made, how he came to work with Rene Cardona Jr. on the film, getting the financing in place for the movie, how a plane disappeared in Bermuda on the day the movie was released and how this helped the marketing of the picture, securing the boat for the shoot, the depiction of the military in the movie and how they got access to what they needed for that from the Mexican Navy, financing and casting the film, working with the Mexican actors used in the film, how Stelvia Cipriani came to score the film after Ennio Morricone priced himself out and plenty of other bits and pieces.

    The disc also includes a collection of foreign titles and credits, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection options.

    As to the third disc, in addition to the alternate Spanish language version of Cyclone (presented with English subtitles and which runs 1:59:39 versus the US cut 1:58:47 – there’s quite a bit of alternate footage in this version), this disc also includes another interview with Rene Cardona III entitled Surviving The Cyclone. Here, over eighteen-minutes, he talks about how by this point his father had made a dent in the international market for survival movies after the success of his earlier Survive (Cyclone was known as Survive II at one point). He also covers how the film had producers from Italy and Los Angeles and made use of an international cast, locations that were used for the shoot, how the arrival of a big cyclone in Mexico led to interest in the movie and the title Cyclone, the film's quick production schedule, how the cast all got along on the production even though it was a tough shoot and other topics related to the making of the movie.

    The Eye Of The Cyclone is another interview with producer Angelo Iacono, this one lasting almost thirty-three-minutes in length. Here he goes over how he came to work with Cardona on the picture, getting some Italian investors interested in the film, how there was American financing involved as well, how he successfully sold the movie throughout pretty much all of Europe aside from France and was able to make millions off of it, how they acquired the plane used in the movie, shooting on Cozumel, the underwater sequences, the shark scenes, casting Arthur Kennedy and Carroll Baker and his thoughts on the film overall.

    Beware Of Sharks gets actress Carroll Baker in front of the camera for sixteen-minutes via video conferencing technology, interviewed by Brad Henderson. They talk about how she landed the role, meeting Cardona Jr., how she got along with pretty much everyone on set and how this was one of the most wonderful experiences of her career, how much she loved Cozumel, how a certain cast member was high the entire time thanks to the omnipresence of Acapulco Gold, shooting the scenes with live sharks, shooting the film without direct sound and her thoughts on the movie overall.

    It’s also worth pointing out that this release comes with some slick reversible cover art.

    The Cardona Collection Vol. 1 - The Final Word:

    The Cardona Collection Vol. 1 is a strong release representing a nice selection of some of the prolific Mexican genre king’s finest films. Each picture gets a strong presentation and discs two and three have a nice selection of extra features as well. Lots of fun to be had here!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Cardona Collection Vol. 1 Blu-ray screen caps!