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Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger(1964-1970)
No synopsis for Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger.
For more about Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger and the Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger Blu-ray release, see Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on December 5, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ulli Lommel, Troy Donahue
Directors: Russ Meyer, Albert Zugsmith
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger Blu-ray Review
Old west meets the big chest.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, December 5, 2013
"Fanny Hill" is directed by Russ Meyer, but it's not the Russ Meyer who wowed the exploitation circuit with his wild, campy fantasies of sex and violence. This is Meyer playing it safe, building his career with this adaptation of a 1748 erotic novel by John Cleland. Although it seems in perfect step with the helmer's screen appetites, "Fanny Hill" lacks a defined sense of sin, more comfortable with extended passages of slapstick and numbing dialogue exchanges than summoning a bawdy good time, failing to catch fire as a farce.
New to pre-Victorian London, Fanny Hill (Leticia Roman) is overwhelmed with the city, with her extreme gullibility forcing her to find work quickly after being swindled by one of the locals. Discovered by Mrs. Brown (Miriam Hopkins), Fanny is ushered into the old woman's brothel, joining her "cousins" as they pleasure the community, indulging all types of fetishes. Trouble is, virginal Fanny doesn't have a clue what's going on, with her uneducated ways making life difficult for the men lusting for a chance to deflower her. Finding an innocent relationship with Charles (Ulli Lommel), Fanny is heartbroken when Mrs. Brown engineers a plan to separate the couple, hoping to steer her prize toward a lucrative life of prostitution, with one finger-licking client, Hemingway (Walter Giller), hoping to make the rube his wife.
"Fanny Hill" certainly has the ingredients to summon a riotous atmosphere of seduction, manipulation, and blissful stupidity. Taking his literary source to heart, Meyer conjures the period mood with images of illustrations that constantly remind the viewer of the era, while scene transitions are engineered as literal turns of the page, flipping through Fanny's journey as she unknowingly fends off the advances of men aching to devour her. The potential is here for a feature that bursts off the screen with inventive mischief, yet the whole endeavor feels leaden, burdened by a forced sense of whimsy amplified by cartoon sound effects and undercranked chases, while the script is steeped in misunderstandings and wordplay glacially arranged by the production. At 104 minutes, it's slack work from Meyer (who reportedly disowned the picture), trafficking in a lukewarm sense of humor that rarely connects. A few performances retain pleasing elasticity, but "Fanny Hill" never gets out of first gear.
While laughs are nonexistent, teases also remain in short supply, with the 1964 effort providing little of the "sexploitation" Meyer perfected during his career. Outside of gratuitous cleavage shots, "Fanny Hill" is a remarkably chaste picture, preferring to let the men push the limits of good taste with their bedroom interests, with dominance and incestual role play a few of the requests bounced off the oblivious lead character. Considering the source material's graphic content, Meyers plays it safe with his version of "Fanny Hill," unable to feel out the story's lustful encounters with any type of confidence, taking comfort in pratfalls not exposed skin. What a disappointment.
The Phantom Gunslinger
After producing "Fanny Hill," Albert Zugsmith continued his directorial career in low-budget cinema, with his penultimate picture, "The Phantom Gunslinger," satisfying all his cravings for silliness. A 1970 Wild West send-up powered entirely on monkey business, the feature is a determinedly wacky creation that opens with moviemaking self-awareness and ends with a broomstick duel. It's the kind of film where there's more than one food fight and a supporting character (in this case, a bank manager) is the spitting image of Adolf Hitler. To Zugsmith, subtlety is a four-letter word.
In the peaceful town of Yucca Flats, trouble has arrived in the form of the Terrible Seven, a ruthless gang of criminals led by the Devil (German Robles). When the Sheriff makes a hasty departure, he bequeaths the duty of justice to seminary student Bill (Troy Donahue), a frightened man who's never even held a gun before. As the brutes run wild around Yucca Flats on the hunt for food and money, Bill is forced to stand up to the villains, only to be killed several times trying to protect the town and his sweetheart, Margie (Sabrina).
"The Phantom Gunslinger" desires to be a cartoon in the worst way, to a point where the live-action route makes no sense, as most of Zugsmith's ideas could enjoy greater life as animation. Opening with a Jay Ward-style introduction before diving into an Olympic-sized pool full of Looney Tunes love, the feature embarks on a mission of grand tomfoolery, where every moment is devoted to something absurd, violent, and loud. To Zugsmith's credit, the film is committed to the cause, never second-guessing itself with melodrama or pause. It's a full-steam-ahead comedy that's only limited by its minuscule budget, revealed in wobbly cardboard sets and visible wires. The production's conviction is admirable. I didn't laugh once, but I respect the effort's determination to see its madness all the way through to the end (a quality "Fanny Hill" lacks).
This is a movie where anything goes, including stereotyping, graphic violence, and boomerang frying pans (actually, that's a fun scene). It's western-style good vs. evil, sold in the broadest manner imaginable, finding Zugsmith more of a ringmaster than a director, ordering up a succession of wild moments while the score by Gustavo Cesar Carrion bends over backwards to remind the viewer that all of this is meant to be farcical. The adventure even carries on into the afterlife, with Bill murdered a couple of times, negotiating with St. Peter in Heaven for a chance to return to Earth and carry out his mission to defend Yucca Flats.
"The Phantom Gunslinger" makes a visible attempt to entertain, and it's an indefatigable effort. However, 90 minutes of this screeching level of comedy is a bit much, fatiguing the viewer long before Zugsmith reaches the halfway point. Students of low-budget insanity might appreciate the production's zeal more, dissecting influences and directorial hallmarks. For outsiders, a little of "The Phantom Gunslinger" goes a long way, and no amount of flying frying pans can save the film from wearing out its welcome.
Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger Blu-ray, Video Quality
Making their BD debut are two features with polar opposite visual designs. Both AVC-encoded and working with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, "Fanny Hill" and "The Phantom Gunslinger" have been rescued from the abyss of obscurity by the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome, who do the absolute best they can with less than pristine source materials. Print wear and tear is common, with scratches and the occasional rough reel change, while judder is noticeable but not persistent (edits on "Gunslinger" ride harshly). The movies show their age, yet their HD arrival brings out a fullness of color on "Gunslinger," with vibrant primaries and rich skintones, while there's a pure sense of black and white for "Fanny Hill." Detail is strong, finding the edges of make-up and aging particulars, and costuming captures the feel of fabric. Set dressing and signage is also easily surveyed. Shadow detail is stable and true, with the fresh presentation allowing for depth and character. Grain is managed superbly, allowing for filmic textures.
Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 1.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix for both films keeps to a basic design of dialogue exchanges and scoring. The essentials are handled relatively well, though "Fanny Hill" has a few damaged passages, keeping the overall track uneven but not to a point of irritation. Atmospherics and slapstick antics are more involving on "The Phantom Gunslinger," the fresher mix of the two, while "Fanny Hill" carries heavier hiss and pops. Scoring needs are handled adequately, never steamrolling over the performances. Basic dramatic needs are met with these two tracks, and while they reveal their age and limitation on occasion, they manage to support the visual elements with surprising stability.
Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Located on "The Phantom Gunslinger" DVD:
Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Although the promise of a rare Russ Meyer work will sell this double feature to the curious, the pairing of "Fanny Hill" and "The Phantom Gunslinger" is more about broad comedy and Albert Zugsmith's commitment to the advancement of silly business. If boings on a soundtrack, cakes smashed into faces, people slipping and falling, and little people scurrying around are your thing, this double shot of absurdity is going to scratch that itch in a major way.
Fanny Hill / The Phantom Gunslinger Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Russ Meyer's Fanny Hill Detailed - October 19, 2013
Independent U.S. distributors Vinegar Syndrome have detailed their upcoming combo pack edition of director Russ Meyer's Fanny Hill (1964), starring Letícia Román, Miriam Hopkins, Ulli Lommel, and Christiane Schmidtmer. The release will be available for purchase ...
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