Mondo Macabro // 1986 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 25th, 2009
Evil never dies, it just takes on a new soul...
From one of my favorite DVD labels, Mondo Macabro -- the leader in bringing over some of the heavy-hitters in international cinematic weirdness -- comes a bat-@#$% crazy movie about a demonic naked, bald man who shoots fire out of his eyeballs and the flutist destined to defeat him.
Said flutist is just minding his own business in London, enjoying a successful musical career, when his life is turned upside down by a series of violent hallucinations. A beautiful astronomer turns up and lays some startling news on him: she thinks his weirdo visions are connected to some unusual volcanic activity in Turkey.
So the two take off and discover that they're the keys to averting the apocalypse and that a demon-man with fire pouring out of his retinas is looking to use the sun as a vehicle to torch the entire planet. Or something like that. Whatever the tragedy, it's going to take some epic flute-playing to avert it.
Born of Fire is exactly as bizarre as the plot makes it out to be. But it's not bizarre-just-to-be-bizarre. I never felt like director Jamil Dehlavi was piling on the weirdness just to be presumptuous or artsy. He's got a story to tell and, while it might be buried underneath some out-there imagery, it makes sense.
That imagery is the probably the main selling-point of the film. Dehlavi has a great eye and has strung together some truly impressive visuals, populating his good vs. evil story with some unforgettable set-ups. Fire and ice are the primary elements he works in, continually contrasting them to jarring effect. On one end you have the fire guy, who lurks within his volcanic cavern. The tone is earthy and hot, soaked in red and orange. It is very much Hellish. Then on the other is what appears to be a glacial cropping with pools and waterfalls, glaringly white in contrast. It's here where the final battle transpires and the two differing styles clash in an orgy of blood, fire, and flutes!
The effects all serve the film, starting with the fire-out-of-the-eyeball gag, something I'm sure was pulled off simply, but looks great. There's a very interesting sequence where a woman stands on the ice and proceeds to bleed (don't ask), the profuse crimson fluid just streaming over the virginal ice. There's also a woman being dipped nude into the water without flinching, though I'll assume it was a heated pool and not an ice puddle, because if it was the latter she had better have been compensated with hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars. These are the things I remember, and its a credit to Dehlavi's vision.
Does it earn a full-blown recommendation? Sure, if you're in the mood for something totally original and slightly crazy. The story is tough to follow and the pace can be lagging, but the anticipation over seeing the next wild thing should be enough to keep the disc spinning.
Speaking of the disc, the technical aspects are top-shelf, as is typically the case with Mondo Macabro releases. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is nice and clean, and the 2.0 stereo mix performs well in support. Extras: interviews with the director and actors Peter Firth and Nabil Shaban, and the theatrical trailer.
It's pretty wild and something you've probably never seen before.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Mondo Macabro
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Not Rated