SHORT REVIEWS N - Z
NAIL GUN MASSACRE (1985) - The tag line to this crappy film is "It's Cheaper Than A Chainsaw!". My God, it's cheaper than the change in my pocket! After a girl is gang raped by a bunch of construction workers, a fatigue-wearing helmeted killer driving a beige hearse begins killing construction workers and their girlfriends with an air-powered nail gun. The unknown killer talks in an electronically-altered voice and cracks wise every time a killing is performed. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who the killer is, but half the fun in watching this film is spotting the constant gaffes, boom mikes, flubbed line readings and cheap cost-cutting. The sheriff drives a regular car with no markings or police lights (and no, it's not an unmarked car!). His badge and gun also switch sides at various times. When one person is killed and lands on a gas grill, it's very apparent than when he starts to fall over you can see him steady himself with his hand against a fence. When the killer is finally dispatched by falling off a crane, it's plain to see him landing on mats for what the filmmakers thought was beneath camera range. It's also clear to see that a woman is playing the killer throughout the film, so when the killer is unmasked and it turns out to be a man, it's either a cheat or the killer actually got away. It's never explained. Though the killings are bloody and some are creative, such as when one man has his crotch nailed after taking a leak and pissing on the killer, it's all done very cheaply and with a bunch of non-pros pleading for their lives. The dead bodies can plainly be seen breathing while the sheriff and the doctor examine their bodies, and who wouldn't be suspicious of a helmeted person seen driving a hearse? The sheriff spots the hearse on the side of the road and simply dismisses it as an abandoned car and drives off! You have to love films like this for their sheer audacity in thinking audiences are as stupid as the characters in the film. It took two directors, Terry Lofton (who also did the effects) and Bill Leslie, to make this one and, surprise!, it's their only credit to date. Whoever said "Two heads are better than one" definitely did not see this film. Starring Rocky Patterson (THE DARK DEALER - 1992; THE DIGITAL PROPHET - 1995), who also provided voices for director Cullen Blaine's unintentionally hilarious ROBOCOP rip-off R.O.T.O.R. (1987), Ron Queen, Beau Leland, Michelle Meyer and Pamela Rene. Most of the actors in this film would next turn up in late actor Adan Roarke's directorial debut TRESPASSES (1986), which was also Lou Diamond Phillips' first starring role. A Magnum Entertainment Home Video VHS Release. Believe it or not, this also got a DVD release from Synapse Films and a Blu-Ray release from Code Red. Not Rated.
THE NAKED COUNTRY (1985) - This is one strange film. Set in the outback of Australia, it concerns a cattle rancher who is having some trouble with a local Aborigine tribe over who owns the land his ranch is on. He owns the deed but the Aborigines dont agree with the white mans law. When the rancher surprises some youthful tribe members slaughtering his prized stud bull, the Aborigines chase him down and the film crosses over into NAKED PREY (1966) territory. This is just a small portion of the film as there are many subplots to deal with. One subplot is about a local policeman with a huge drinking problem. He is assigned to the ranchers case (which also includes some mysterious murders of Aborigines) and has a one night stand with the ranchers sexually frustrated wife (Rebecca Gilling). Throw in some mysticism, sexual tension, a cave of the dead and more impalements than a visit to an acupuncturist and you have what is undoubtedly the most unclassifiable film to be released on video in many a year. Recommended for many reasons, especially for the realistic transformation of the rancher from an unloving dirty bastard to a truly sympathetic character. Starring John Stanton, John Jarratt and Ivar Kants. Directed with style by Tim Burstall (ATTACK FORCE Z - 1982). From Hemdale Home Video. Rated R.
NEMESIS (1992) - Director Albert Pyun (OMEGA DOOM) strikes again! Olivier Gruner (ANGEL TOWN - 1990) stars as a cyborg ex-cop sent out on one last mission against his will. It is the year 2027 and the United States and Japan have merged into one country (isn't that happening now?). Gruner must try to stop his ex-lover from doing harm to a planned meeting of world leaders before a bomb that was implanted in his heart explodes. The plot veers off on too many tangents. The storyline is so confusing, you'll wonder what in the hell is going on. The film does contain some good special effects and action sequences, even if they are nearly destroyed by Pyun's lazy directorial style. It has the same look as his earlier film CYBORG (1989). Also starring Tim Thomerson, Brion James, Deborah Shelton and a pistol-packing grannie (one of the films few bright spots). Proceed at your own risk. From Imperial Entertainment. Rated R.
NIGHTBEAST (1982) - Call me a masochist, but I actually liked this Don Dohler-directed piece of Z-Grade trash. Yes, you heard me right. I actually liked a Don Dohler film! An alien (what else?) crash lands in the Maryland woods and starts offing the populace with his trusty ray gun and sharp teeth and claws. There's also couple of subplots dealing with a criminal and a wife-beater, but it's the alien plot that steals the show. There's gore a-plenty as limbs are torn off, intestines are ripped out, faces are mutilated and other bloody mayhem is on view. This is by far Dohler's bloodiest and most family-unfriendly film as copious nudity is also present. It's as if Dohler threw caution to the wind and made an 80's-styled gore-a-thon and that's this film's only saving grace as the acting is abysmal (as usual), the film stock changes from scene to scene, and some (but not all) of the effects are of the grade school level. Some of the gore is actually quite effective as faces are ripped apart with their eyeballs hanging out and other body organs are removed in a way that no doctor would approve. The scene of the two cops making love will have you howling with laughter ("Let's get those pants off!" and "Mind if I take this shirt off? Only if I can take this towel off."). Lets just say that Dohler lets everything rip in this film and more than makes up for THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978), FIEND (1980), and GALAXY INVADER (1985), films that can be best described as family-friendly pieces of shit. NIGHTBEAST stars the usual cast of Dohler regulars: George Stover, Don Leifert, Tom Griffith as well as Jamie Zemeral, Karin Kardian, Dick Dyszel and Dennis McGeehan as the alien. It's not a bad way to spend 81 minutes if you put your brain in neutral. A Paragon Video VHS Release. Released on DVD by Troma Films. Not Rated.
NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1995) - About twenty minutes into this film I realizes that I was watching an unofficial remake of the Julian Sands-starrer WARLOCK (1990). The only difference is that a scarecrow is the villian in this one. A tractor accidentally opens the sealed grave of a mean warlock (John Lazar of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS - 1970) buried there a hundred years earlier. His spirit enters the body of a scarecrow and roams a small farming town looking for his magical book which will permit him to take human form and rule the world. Of course he kill anyone who gets in his way. Besides some good camera work and a couple of inventive deaths (co-star Bruce Glover has his lips sewn shut in grisly close-up), this film does not deliver on the chills promised on the video box. Its rather bland and full of missed opportunities. Watch the infinitely scarier SCARECROWS instead. Starring Elizabeth Barondes, John Mese, Stephen Root, Gary Lockwood and Howard Swain as the scarecrow. Directed with little imagination by Jeff Burr (LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3 - 1990). A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.
NIGHT RIPPER (1986) - God, I hate shot-on-video crap. Director Jeff Hathcock (FERTILIZE THE BLASPHEMING BOMBSHELL - 1989) has created another piece of SOV shit concerning an unseen psycho killing models and other pretty girls with a big butcher knife. It's not hard to figure out who the killer is and the droning synthesizer score (by Bill Parsely, no sage, rosemary or thyme, though) will have you reaching for the Tylenol quicker than you can say "I must have a brain tumor". The acting is atrocious, many lines are flubbed (and probably snorted) and the only claim to fame this "film" has is that it stars Larry Thomas, who later would become known for playing the infamous "Soup Nazi" on SEINFELD. My guess is that he would rather delete this one from his resume, even if he did do another horror film, the rather forgettable TERROR ON TOUR (1980, as "Larry Thomasof"). This made-for-video thriller made its' premiere on the long-defunct International Video Presentations label, right after the first made-for-video horror film BLOOD CULT (1985) was released on home video. This was a sad day for all horror fans as hundreds of these type of productions flooded the market and we had no idea what we were in store for. This is one of those films. Also starring James Hansen, April Anne, Danielle Louis and Simon De Soto. Not Rated, but contains throat slashings and various bloody stabbings; the effects (by Paul Herndon) are of the high-school variety. Onscreen Title: NIGHT RIPPER! (exclamation point included, just like Hathcock's other awful film VICTIMS! ).
NIGHT TERROR (1989) - Uninspired trilogy of terror tales whose framing device is a mental patient who is able to hone in on other peoples' dreams. The first tale is about a "master cocksman" who gets his comeuppance at the hand of devil worshippers. The second story concerns a rich land developer who is haunted by a carnival barker because he is going to tear down an historic rollercoaster. The third tale is about a trio of punks who are stalked by killer toys after they murder a toymaker. None of the tales are original and are told in a lackluster way. Punctuated by bad acting and poor sound, I could think of better ways to spend 96 minutes. Like counting my nasal hairs while picking my ass with a claw hammer. Starring Jeff Keel, Guy Ecker, Jon Hoffman and Heidi Hutson. Written and directed by Michael Weaver and Paul Howard. A Magnum Entertainment Video Release. Not Rated; contains a couple of throat slashings and a dismemberment by axe.
NO PLACE TO HIDE (1991) - Another rip-off from Cannon Films which, based on the synopsis on the video box, makes you believe that you are about to view an occult film. Dont you believe it! When a young ballerina is savagely murdered, depressed cop Kris Kristofferson (who always looks as if he is being given an enema) is assigned to protect the ballerinas smart-assed 14 year-old sister (a coked-out Drew Barrymore). Someone is after her and the videotape that was given to her by her sister. Kristofferson, who lost his wife and daughter due to a drunk driver (played by Jason actor Kane Hodder), and Barrymore build a slow (and boring) relationship before we find out that Barrymore is targeted for death by a vigilante group led by police captain Martin Landau, who is trying to cover his ass. Oh, please! Its crap films like this uninvolving turd which eventually led to the downfall of Cannon Films. Written and directed by Richard Danus with his hand up his anus. A Cannon Video Release. Rated R.
PHANTOM OF DEATH (1987) - Michael York plays a concert pianist who suffers from a disease called Progeria, causing him to age rapidly and go insane. He taunts a police detective (Donald Pleasence) as he goes on a killing spree. The police have a hard time catching him because clues at the murder scenes indicate different people of varying ages are committing the crimes. Bloody killings and a somewhat literate screenplay raise this one a notch or two above the standard Italian slasher genre. Directed capably by Ruggero Deodato (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - 1980; CUT AND RUN - 1985). PHANTOM OF DEATH is also known as OFF BALANCE. A Vidmark Entertainment Home Video Release. Unrated.
PLAYROOM (1989) - A child survives the slaughter of his entire family at an old monastery built into the side of a mountain in some eastern European country. Now an adult and residing in America, he decides to return to find out what really happened. He takes with him his girlfriend (Lisa Aliff), an alcoholic photographer (James Purcell) and his girlfriend (Jamie Rose of CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN - 1989). His father was an archeologist who was searching for the tomb of a child who liked to torture people. He decides to follow in his father's footsteps, and once the group arrives at their destination, he finds what he is looking for. The child demon (Aron Eisenberg, also in PUPPET MASTER III: TOULON'S REVENGE - 1991) possesses him. A nutcase (Vincent Schiavelli), who worked with his father, escapes from a mental ward and sets out to stop the oncoming slaughter. While mainly a stalk-and-slash in the latter half, the torture devices are interesting, especially the buzzsaw chair. Vincent Schiavelli (GHOST - 1990) adds humor to his role as an over-the-edge mental case. While this film is nothing special, you may want to rent it if the major releases are gone from the shelves. Directed by Manny Coto (DR. GIGGLES - 1992, STAR KID - 1997). PLAYROOM is also available on video under the title SCHIZO. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.
THE POSSESSED! (1974) - They sure don't make films like this anymore! Even though this film (a.k.a. HELP ME, I'M POSSESSED!) is badly acted, looks like it was edited with a hacksaw and contains the worst music soundtrack in recent memory, it is so loony, nonsensical and colorful that it transcends a normal viewing experience. A series of brutal murders take place in the vicinity of Blackwood Sanitarium, located in the middle of the Nevada desert. This nut bin is run by the demented Dr. Arthur Blackwood (Bill Greer, who also wrote the screenplay), who believes that all evil must be cast out of the body by what ever means possible. When his patients misbehave, Dr. Blackwood tortures and kills them using guillotines, whips and, in one instance, locking one patient in a coffin with a poisonous snake. When notified by one of his nurses that a patient he has tortured is dead, the good doctor replies "Death is a fabrication of the mind!" The doc has a retarded sister (Lynn Marta) who keeps one of his experiments ("The total personification of evil!") locked in a nearby cave. She lets this thing (all the viewer is able to see are it's red tentacles) out at various times to dispose of nosey policemen and necking teenagers. Things come to a boil when Dr. Blackwood's wife Diane (Deedy Peters) comes for a visit and becomes suspicious of hubby. This wacky horror film, which contains plenty of fake blood and no nudity (the women wear bras and panties when tortured), would make a great double bill with DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT (1973). Directed and produced by regional filmmaker Charles Nizet (SLAVES OF LOVE - 1969; THE RAVAGER - 1970; VOODOO HEARTBEAT - 1972). In glorious crisp, clear color from the defunct Video Gems. Also available as part of a widescreen double feature DVD from Code Red with the film DEMON WITCH CHILD (1976). Not Rated.
POSSESSOR (1975) - During the
'70s, Italy produced many EXORCIST
clones (BEYOND THE DOOR
 and THE TEMPTER
, just to name a couple), but this is one of the obscure films.
It opens with the Pope talking to a large crowd at the Vatican,
stating that the Devil is real and he is here now. His speech is
intercut with a teen named Peter (Jean-Claude Vernè) tied to
the bed and spitting out foul language. We are then taken back to
1723, as we watch a satanic cult trying to raise the Devil. A naked
woman (Mimma Monticelli) is lying on an altar, while the cult leader
(Franco Garofalo) tries to get the Devil to possess her soul. He
succeeds, and the woman becomes a Succubus, with the cult stripping
naked and having an orgy to welcome the Dark One. An old woman leads
a female virgin named Anna to the altar, she passes out and the
Succubus climbs on her and gets her pregnant.
We then cut back to the present, where Peter is still tied to the bed. His doctor tells Peter's sister, Elena (Patrizia Gori) that he wants to commit her brother to an insane asylum, but Elena says no because she once worked at an asylum (a flashback to an asylum where all the women act crazy) and she does not want her brother to be put in such a place. Elena then goes to Connfessional, where she tells the priest (Filippo Perego) how Peter got this way. A long flashback shows us Peter, an archeology student, walking through the woods, when he spots the Succubus stark naked next to a waterfall. He takes photos of the demon woman, but when he has the negatives developed, she is not in any of the photos. He goes back to the waterfall and finds a medallion in the water with the word "Tahal" on it. he makes the medallion into a necklace and puts it around his neck (calling it his "good luck charm"). Bad things begin to happen. At his girlfriend Sherry's (Sonia Viviani) coming-out party, Peter grabs a bottle of champagne and the cork pops off it, spilling champagne on Sherry's new dress and she runs out of the house from embarassment. While Sherry is at a disco, Peter sees the Succubus in his bedroom. She is feeling herself between her legs and entices Peter to join her. Peter grabs a letter opener and slits the Succubus' throat, only instead of the demon woman dying, Sherry drops dead on the disco dance floor, her throat cut. Then Peter enters his mother's (Françoise Prévost) room totally naked, but he looks like the Succubus. She tosses Mom down the stairs, killing her, only it is now Peter at the top of the stairs. Peter is tested in a hospital, but all the results are negative (sound familiar?) The Succubus visits Elena in her room (saying to her, "You bitch in heat!") and tears off her headpiece, revealing that Elena's head is shaved (when she looks in the mirror, we discover that it isn't the only place that is shaved!). It all turns out to be a nightmare (or is it?). Elena goes into Peter's bedroom, where he is tied to the bed, which begins spinning on its own (we are getting dangerously close to plagiarism!).
To make a long story short, we cut back to the present day and the priest calls in an exorcist (Richard Conte; THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS - 1973; in his final acting role). The possessed Peter knows he is coming, shouting out obscenities when he stops outside the house (OK, now it is plagiarism!). After about five minutes of the exorcist speaking Bible verses and Peter spitting up a gallon of blood, Peter is cured. Elena, who may now be possessed, jumps off a cliff and dies. We then see a young boy by the waterfall pick up the medallion (Tahal is the name of the son of Satan) and his eyes look possessed. Ah, the circle of possession!
Directed by Elo Pannacciò (some prints list his name as "Franck C. Lucas"), who also gave us SEX OF THE WITCH (1973), with a screenplay by Aldo Crudo, Franco Brocani & Giulio Albonico, this film (the Italian title is UN URLO DALLE TENEBRE ["Cries And Shadows"]) is a gender reversal of the 1973 hit. There are too many scenes that copy that film. Also known as NAKED EXORCISM and THE EXORCIST III: CRIES AND SHADOWS (!) and THE RETURN OF THE EXORCIST, this film has plenty of full-frontal female nudity (the Succubus is totally naked during 95% of her screen time), but precious little blood or violence. Still it is enjoyable, if only to spot the EXORCIST "homages". As far as I could detect, this only had a fullscreen VHS release in the States (by Wizard Video), with a fullscreen DVD from Full Moon as part of their "Full Moon's Grindhouse Collection" (it is a port of the Wizard tape) and has not been released on widescreen DVD or Blu-Ray (Hey Code Red, are you listening?). Also starring Elena Svevo, Giuseppe Talarico, Giangiacomo Elia and Giulio Baraghini. Not Rated.
PRINCE OF TERROR (1988) -
Italian TV Movie, directed by Lamberto Bava, who was an old hand at
churning out these senseless 90 minutes of strangeness mixed with
tedium on the tube, with titles such as GRAVEYARD
DISTURBANCE (1988), UNTIL DEATH
(1988), DEMONS III:
THE OGRE (1989) and DINNER
WITH A VAMPIRE (1989) littering Italian TV screens. This one
was made for a long-running TV mini-series called ALTA
TENSIONE ("High Tension"), which consists of three
more Bava TV movies, this is the only available one to English
speaking audiences (for now, but never say never). Once you watch it,
you'll know why. It cranks-up the unbelievability factor to eleven,
as you will not believe your eyes and ears as to what happens or is
said on screen. Yes, it is weird, but is it any good? I didn't think
so, but opinions may differ.
The film deals with Vincent Omen (Tomas Arana; Bava's BODY PUZZLE - 1992), a world-reknown horror director whom the press and fans have dubbed "The Prince Of Terror" (The original title of this film was IL MAESTRO DEL TERRORE). We see him on set shooting his latest film, but he stops it in mid-scene, telling his Producer (Pascal Druant; Lucio Fulci's DEMONIA - 1990) that the screenplay stinks and he refuses too complete the film unless he hires a new screenwriter. The Producer fires current screenwriter Paul Hilary (David Brandon; Bava's DELIRIUM: PHOTO OF GIOIA - 1987) and he vows vengeance on Vincent, since they had a long-running relationship working together. We then see Vincent on the golf course being interviewed by a female journalist (Virginia Bryant; Bava's DEMONS 2 - 1986) on his birthday, who wants to know Vincent's life story. When she asks him if he is the Devil (which is what his critics call him), Vincent responds he is very normal, he has a loving wife, Betty (Carole André; ENCOUNTERS IN THE DEEP - 1979), and teenage daughter, Susan (Joyce Pitti), and they live in a gated community with their new puppy Demon, which Vincent gave to his daughter and the sight of blood makes him ill. The journalist asks Vincent if it is true he is over fifty-years-old and he laughs, telling her that he is 37-years-old today and not to believe everything she reads. One thing the journalist does discover is that Vincent is an excellent golfer (which will come in handy during the finale), but why does someone wearing a baseball mitt catch one of Vincent's golf balls as he swings away on a Par 4 hole and drive away with it?
Vincent and his family entertain the Producer and his bimbo actress girlfriend Magda (Marina Viro; Sergio Martino's CASABLANCA EXPRESS - 1989) over dinner, when the lights go out in the house and Vincent's missing golf ball comes shooting through the air and breaks a gravy boat. Everyone thinks it is one of Vincent's movie tricks and thank him for the show as they leave, but Vincent tells his wife that he had nothing to do with it, this is the golf ball that ended up missing today (it has "666" stamped on it, Vincent's trademark). Soon, things start going to Hell (literally) in Vincent's house. First, the toilet becomes backed-up and begins overflowing a blood-like substance all over the bathroom floor. When Vincent goes to unclog the toilet, he discovers one of Paul's horror scripts has been shoved down the toilet causing it to overflow. Demon goes missing and Susan can't find him, but as she is lying in bed, she sees Demon lying down next to her stuffed animals. She goes to pick Demon up, but soon discovers that he has been skinned alive (!) and screams. This is when the film quickly falls apart. Betty tells Vincent to go to the guard station at the entrance of their gated community to tell the security guard what has happened, but Vincent says he doesn't want to leave her and Susan alone. Couldn't he have called the guard station and reported it? How about calling the police? Or going to a neighbor's house? Vincent soon gets threatening phone calls and then a visit by a masked intruder, who holds them hostage in their own home, threatening the daughter with rape. Then Paul shows up and shoots the masked intruder, seemingly saving Vincent's family. It all turns out to be a trick orchestrated by Paul. The masked intruder is a crazed bit actor named Eddie Felsen (Ulisse Minervini; Dario Argento's THE CARD PLAYER - 2004), who is working with Paul and they both terrorize Vincent and his family. The security guard (Augusto Poderosi) shows up and his rib cage shoots out of his chest (stop-motion gore effects by Sergio Stivaletti; THE THREE FACES OF TERROR - 2004). It turns out the security guard is nothing but a robot Paul controls with a remote control! OK, now this is getting ridiculous! After seemingly cutting off Betty's head with a chainsaw and walling-in Susan in the basement, Vincent comes to the rescue with his golf clubs and balls, every swing a direct hit. He kills Eddie by planting a golf ball directly in his right eye (!) as he is holding Betty hostage, a butcher knife to her throat. He then cripples Paul with golf balls (using some very unique trick shots against the wall!), graphically breaking his wrist and making him immobile. He then reveals to Paul that he is the Devil (!) and tells him that he will leave him in this house, as his own private Hell. We then see Eddie spitting out golf balls out of his mouth in rapid-fire fashion (quite funny, but it is purely unintentional), as Paul is belted with hundreds of golf balls. Even the skinned Demon, who is in a plastic bag, comes to life, leaving Paul to ponder for all eternity the bad he has done. THE END.
Not only is this film unintentionally hilarious, it is full of mind-numbing scenes of unbelievability, especially the robot and skinned dog. If I found a skinned dog in my home, I would put my family in the car and drive away to the nearest police station, but since Vincent reveals himself to be Satan in the finale, we are supposed to suspend belief and go along for the ride. I will give this film some credit for not being boring, but if it is common sense you are looking for, look somewhere else, because you will find none of that here. Tomas Arana (Michele Soavi's THE CHURCH - 1989 and THE SECT - 1991) is very good as Vincent, who plays a poor man's version of Dario Argento, but the screenplay to this film is akin to Vincent's feelings for the fictictious film he is shooting. It sucks. For a TV movie, it is full of foul language ("Fuck" is said more than several times) and graphic violence, including Paul's broken wrist (where the bone juts out of the skin) and the hilarious opening of Vincent's new film he is shooting in the beginning of this film, where a corpse is in a tub of water and bloats up to become a monster zombie in a fat suit! I really wanted to slam this film, but because of all the unbelievable situations and the way people react to them, I just can't. I'm not recommending this film, either. All I can say is watch this film and make up your own mind. I originally viewed this on streaming Roku channel B-Movie TV in a nice anamorphic widescreen print dubbed in English, but you can catch it streaming on YouTube from user "Nathaniel Ketcham". Unfortunately, it is a fullscreen print, but beggars can't be choosers, as there has been no official U.S. disc release for this flick. Not Rated, but this is unlike any TV movie made in the States.
PSYCHO COP (1989) - "Calling all cars. Calling all cars. Be on the lookout for a man who claims to be a director and screenwriter. He uses the name Wallace Potts. He is to be considered unarmed and extremely boring." Six beer-guzzling college students (there's a stretch) take a vacation to a secluded backwoods villa and are menaced by a devil worshipping police officer (Bobby Ray Shafer). In true FRIDAY THE 13TH fashion, they are picked off one-by-one by tha satanic cop, who has a 666 tattooed on his right hand. I cannot think of anything good to say about this film. It is marred by amateur thesping, a well-worn plot and cheap gore effects. No motivation is given as to why the cop has begun killing people. Another problem I have is that Bobby Ray Shafer bears a striking resemblance to Robert Z'Dar, star of the much better MANIAC COP series. Watching this film is like experiencing deja vu: you have seen it a hundred time before done ten times better. My head actually hurt after watching it. PSYCHO COP is a sub-par stalk-and-slask stinkeroo that should be arrested for imitating quality entertainment. Also starring Jeff Qualle, Palmer Lee Todd, Dan Campbell and Cynthia Guyer. PSYCHO COP 2 was next. A Southgate Entertainment Home Video Release. Unrated.
PSYCHO COP 2 (1993) - Director Adam Rifkin leads a Jekyll and Hyde existence. He uses his real name when making bigger-budget films such as THE DARK BACKWARD (1991) and THE CHASE (1994) and chooses to use the pseudonym "Rif Coogan" when directing the low-budget stuff such as THE INVISIBLE MANIAC (1990) and this unwanted sequel. Bobby Ray Shafer returns as the title character, a satan-worshipping police imposter who invades a corporate hi-rise where a bachelor party is being held. Pretty soon people are having their eyes poked out with pencils, tossed down elevator shafts, shot in the head, impaled and so on. Most of the gore scenes are severely edited, making any reason for watching this film debatable. Badly acted, with a supposedly humorous script (it falls flat at every turn), the question remains "Why make a sequel to a film which begged to stay dead?" Also starring Barbara Lee Alexander, Julie Strain and Nick Vallelonga. Also known as PSYCHO COP RETURNS. From Columbia Tristar Home Video. Rated R.
PSYCLOPS (2002) - I really wanted to like this one as I had recently seen director Brett Piper's ARACHNIA (2003), using most of this film's stars, and found it entertaining in a goofy sort of way. Unfortunately, this film drags on much too long for its own good. Video camera fanatic Shep (Dan Merriman) finds a 135 year-old videotape (!) which shows a mad doctor's attempt to bridge dimensions using a machine that he designed. It ended very badly. Shep, with the help of his friends Dave (Rob Monkiewicz), Heather (Diane DeGregorio) and Kim (Irene Joseph), search out the doctor's lab and find the machine. Shep fixes the machine and bridges the dimensions, bringing fist-sized bugs to our dimension which invade our bodies, hatch little ones which bore into our brains (good effect) and cause us to become homicidal maniacs. Poor Shep also ends up having his video camera embedded into his skull thanks to an electrical overload administered to the machine. The rest of the film details Shep's friends trying to avoid Shep and the bugs, who burrow into a cemetery and reanimate some corpses. This may sound exciting but it takes forever to get to the build-up and when it does it fall apart very quickly. I like that Piper animates the bugs by using stop-motion photography and not by CGI. It gives the film an old-time feel severely lacking from most films today. It's just that the acting and plot leave a lot to be desired. A valiant try but a failure. Also starring Liz Hurley (no, not that one), Phip Barbour, Jim Baker and Gordon Gauntlett. Other Brett Piper films include the infamous RAIDERS OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985), A NYMPHOID BARBARIAN IN DINOSAUR HELL (1990), THEY BITE (1996), SCREAMING DEAD (2003), BITE ME! (2004), MUCKMAN (2009), THE DARK SLEEP (2012), TRICLOPS (2014), and QUEEN CRAB (2015). An MTI Video Release. Rated R.
RAWHEAD REX (1986) - Forget that this film is based on a story by Clive Barker. Forget that Clive Barker disowned this film upon its' release. If you can forget these two things you will probably enjoy this unconventional monster-on-the-loose flick with a real nasty streak. An Irish farmer, while trying to remove a stone pillar from his field, accidentally releases the title creature from a long imprisonment. A vacationing photographer (the late David Dukes) and his family try to convince the local authorities that the creature does exist, but to no avail. Meanwhile, while photographing the inside of an old church, Mr. Dukes learns the truth about the legend of RawHead Rex. The police finally believe his story after one of his children is brutally murdered by the creature. What makes this film different from others of its like is the eerie atmospheric photography and general mean-spiritedness. This film is steeped in local Irish color and contains some truly offbeat characters. There's a local priest who wants to help RawHead Rex and is not above murdering people and spewing filthy language. RawHead urinates on the priest while he begs for more! This and many other scenes (including a beheading, a gutting and other gory scenes) deter you from the fact that the story line is very thin. Forget the story (and the rather weak ending featuring some bad optical work) and just feast your eyes on the screen. You'll have a bloody good time (and RawHead Rex is a sight to behold). Director George Pavlou also filmed Barker's story "UNDERWORLD", released here as TRANSMUTATIONS (1986). It's a rather boring exercise mixing detectives with monsters. He also directed the crapfest LITTLE DEVILS: THE BIRTH (1993). RAWHEAD REX also stars Kelly Piper, Ronan Wilmot, Niall Toibin and Heinrich von Schellendorf as RawHead. Stay away from the version shown on the Sci Fi Channel. It's missing most of the violence and the pissing scene. David Dukes' last film was the disappointing TV miniseries ROSE RED (2002). A Vestron Video VHS Release. Released on DVD by Artisan Home Entertainment, which is long OOP. Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber in an unbelievable beautiful 4K Restoration print from the original camera negative. This is really the only way to watch the film. Not Rated.
THE REMNANT (2000) - A long-dead killer, Jesse Lownds (Rick Jordan, who also directed), returns from the dead to exact revenge on those who took his life 30 years earlier. He starts on his Satan-worshipping partner, who has come to Gardner, Georgia to dig up Jesse's buried loot. After burying a shovel into his ex-partner's chest, Jesse goes after the lawyer who got him put in jail. Police detective Kevin Dougherty (Jeff Goldman) is assigned to investigate the two murders and soon begins to realise that he's dealing with no ordinary murderer. After a police officer and the police chief (a boozed-out Joe Estevez) are brutally killed by Jesse, Kevin and girlfriend Alison (Theresa Castracane) discover that Jesse can only be destroyed by burying the remnant, a piece of Jesse's body that is still alive, in Jesse's grave. Can they do it before Alison is killed? You'll lose interest long before you get to that point. This flick is about as exciting as an apple-picking contest. It's indifferently acted by a bunch of amateur and semi-pro actors. I'm still trying to figure out which is worse: Rick Jordan the actor or Rick Jordan the director? It's also poorly written (by Rick's brother Matt Jordan) and deadly dull. The only good thing this film has to offer is a running joke about how bad Jesse smells. Toss in some bad digital effects and some poor make-up effects and what you have is a film that has a distinct odor to it. It reeks worse than Jesse. A Spartan Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II (1987) - Hoping to catch some of the original's vibe, this vastly inferior sequel tries to be too damned funny for its own good, where the original knew when to be scary as well as when to be funny. Reprising their same roles as in the original (even though they died in it), James Karen and Thom Mathews play two hapless grave robbers who once again are exposed to the government's top secret gas, which slowly turns them into brain-hungry zombies. A graveyard is also exposed to the gas, causing the dead to rise looking for cranial matter. Once again, a few survivors are trapped in a town sealed off by the military as they try to find a way to kill the zombies before the government nukes them all. It looks like electricity is the answer this time. The whole film is played so broadly as to make it barely watchable. It's as though director/writer Ken Wiederhorn forgot that horror films need some horror in it, which is surprising since he also directed the underrated horror gem SHOCK WAVES (1976). Since all of the effects (which are swell) are used for comic effect, this film gets away with much more violence than straight horror films that are rated R. There are scenes with zombies being blown in half with a shotgun, jaws being ripped-out, various body parts being yanked-off and eaten and more brains being devoured than in most straight zombie films. The comedy basically falls flat on it's face, unless lines such as, "Is it cancer?" "If we're lucky!" and "Your brains smell so rich and spicy!" tickle your fancy. There's also scenes of zombies attacking a pet store and a Michael Jackson zombie that does a moonwalk when electrocuted. The hero is a 12 year-old kid (Michael Kenworthy) and he gets to use a gun and drive a truck, which you do not see much in films. Followed by the superior RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD III (1993) and a couple of crappy Romania-lensed sequels released directly to video in 2005. I just watched Part II recently and I'm treating this much more kindly than when I originally saw it back in 1987. Back then I nearly punched the projectionist at the theater I saw it at because I considered it an affront to the memory of the original. It's akin to having Uwe Boll directing a sequel to SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993). Also starring Philip Bruns, Dana Ashbrook, Suzanne Snyder, Marsha Dietlin, Mitch Pileggi and a cameo by Forrest J. Ackerman as a zombie. A Lorimar Home Video Release. Rated R.
RITUALS (1977) - The comparison between this Canadian-made shocker and DELIVERANCE (1972) are inevitable. Five doctors go on a vacation in the Canadian forest and are hunted and killed one by one. A man's leg is graphically caught in a bear trap; one is beheaded and another is hung from a tree and set on fire. It's all done by a demented World War II veteran who lives in the woods with his blind hermit brother. Why is he killing these people? Let's just say that an unfortunate and nasty surgery error led up to all of this. Starring Hal Holbrook, Lawrence Dane, Robin Gammell and Jack Creley. Directed by Peter Carter, who also made the action film HIGH BALLIN (1978) and the ALIEN (1979) on an oil rig TV movie THE INTRUDER WITHIN (1981). RITUALS, along with HUNTER'S BLOOD (1987), are welcome additions to the "terror in the woods" genre. Available in two versions: A cut 89 minute version (Embassy Home Entertainment) which tones down most of the violence and a complete 99 minute version (Astral Bellevue Video) which is intact. Which one do you think you should view? Code Red finally released RITUALS on DVD in its unedited form. It went OOP immediately after it was released, not because it was so popular, but because those cheapskates at Code Red refuse to press more than the minimal amount of DVDs to keep their costs down. Stupid, stupid business decision. If you press more, they will come. Also known as CREEPER. Rated R.
ROBO VAMPIRE (1988) - I dare anyone to make sense of this piecemeal film. It one part drug action film and one part Robot Cop versus hopping vampires. It's like director Joe Livingstone took two really bad Hong Kong actioners and combined them into one incoherent film. The makers of ROBOCOP (1987) should sue for the video box artwork alone as the robotic cop in this film wears a shiny silver jumpsuit and a visor with an antennae attached to it and looks nothing like the artwork! He fights a bunch of hopping vampires whose leader wears an extremely bad gorilla mask. The rest of the film concerns a drug enforcement agent trying to rescue his captured girlfriend. It all doesn't make any sense and ends abruptly with no resolution to either story! Full of bad gunfights (one extra doesn't even realize that he is shot and takes forever to fall down!), bad martial arts and bad everything else (including nudity). If you like bad films, and I really mean BAD films, this is the one for you. Starring Harry Myles, Joe Browne, Nick Norman, George Tripos and Alan Drury. My guess is that most of these names are pseudonyms. Director Livingstone also made the god-awful DEVIL'S DYNAMITE (1987 - the actual onscreen title is DEVIL DYNAMITE), another pieced-together film dealing with drugs and hopping vampires, using footage cribbed from the same films used for ROBO VAMPIRE (a.k.a. ROBO WARRIOR) and COUNTER DESTROYER (1988), another cut-and-paste film where Robo Vampire make an appearance. A Magnum Entertainment Home Video Release. Also available on DVD as a double feature with DEVIL'S DYNAMITE from Deimos Entertainment. Also available on Mill Creek Entertainment's SCI-FI INVASION 50 MOVIE DVD Compilation. Not Rated.
ROLLING THUNDER (1977) - If you like revenge thrillers with more than a slight political slant, you'll probably do no better than this one, possibly the best film American International released in the 70's. Former POW Charles Rane (the excellent William Devane) returns home with the simple plan of putting the whole war behind him and get back to his wife and son. Only the town will not let him forget his ordeal and give him a stash of 2000 silver dollars (one for each day of his captivity) and a red Cadillac convertible at a parade given in his honor. To top it off his wife has fallen in love with another man (the local sheriff) and wants a divorce. A bunch of thieves (led by James Best and Luke Askew) break into Rane's house and demand to know where the silver dollars are kept. When Rane refuses to answer they put his hand down the garbage disposal (According to the IMDb: "Famous scene where Rane's hand is put into garbage disposal was originally lot more graphic. There was originally shot of his hand getting destroyed. Scene was filmed with fake hand and lamb shank which made it look very realistic. When movie was previewed, audience members reacted very strongly on that scene. According to writer Heywood Gould; 'One woman fainted, another person ran into the lobby and demanded it's money back, and another guy was so freaked out that he entered in his car on parking lot and crashed into another car'. After that preview, shot of Rane's hand inside disposal was cut out from the movie."). Rane's son gives up the coins and Best and his gang shoot and kill Rane's wife and son and think they have also killed Rane. He wakes up in the hospital, has his destroyed hand replaced with a hook and plans to get even with everyone involved in the robbery. Together with a groupie (Linda Haynes), who wore his POW bracelet while he was in captivity and his angst-ridden POW buddy Johnny (an early role for Tommy Lee Jones), Rane goes down to Mexico to exact revenge. It's bloody, exciting and satisfying. Directed by John Flynn (OUT FOR JUSTICE - 1991) with a particularly grim outlook (prevalent at the time of filming), but I think most of the credit must be given to the literate screenplay by Paul Shrader (TAXI DRIVER - 1976; who wanted Rane to be a racist, but the studio rejected his idea; the Mexicans killed at the end were supposed to be substitutes for Rane killing the Vietnamese during the War.) and Heywood Gould (THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL - 1978), who would both go on to directing careers themselves. ROLLING THUNDER is a must for revenge fans that's not just brain candy but food for thought. Also starring Dabney Coleman, Cassie Yates and James Victor. An Orion Home Video VHS Release. This film gets my highest recommendation and is finally available on widescreen DVD-R from MGM On Demand and a beautiful print on Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory. (Beware of bootleg fullscreen DVD-Rs available on eBay). Rated R.
ROSWELL (1994) - Beautifully made docudrama about the supposedly true events that took place in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Kyle MacLachlan is terrific in the role of a military man who discovers the crash site of an alien spaceship and is systematically sacrificed by the government who order a massive cover-up. Now an old man who has a short time to live, MacLachlan attends a reunion of his old regiment to find out the truth before he dies. What he finds out I will not divulge as it will detract from the overall enjoyment of this stylish and highly emotional winner. True or not (I tend to lean to the former), this is grand entertainment with a keen eye on the human elements. Also starring Martin Sheen (whose role reminded me of Deep Throat on the first season of THE X-FILES), Dwight Yoakam (as a farmer bought off by the government for his silence), Kim Greist and Peter MacNichol. Directed and produced by Jeremy Kagan (THE BIG FIX - 1978; BY THE SWORD - 1991) with a sense of humanity and wonder. Also known as INCIDENT AT ROSWELL. Originally aired on Showtime Cable. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated PG-13, but don't let that deter you from this surefire winner.
SASQUATCH (2002) - It's easy to see that first-time director Jonas Quastel grew up watching too many music videos on MTV. This film is full of fast editing, distorted lenses, PREDATOR-style POV shots and enough fade-to-blacks to have at least 10 minutes of total darkness (in a movie running 86 minutes). If the film was good, most of this could be forgiven. Unfortunately, this is not the case here. It's bloodless, nearly nudity-free and downright boring. The only reason I stayed with this film to the end was the always-welcomed presence of Lance Henriksen, who always injects an air of professionalism in anything he's in (even those roasted turds MIND RIPPER  and KNIGHTS ). This film needs him badly. When a plane, with Henriksen's daughter on board, goes down in the remote Pacific Northwest forest, Henriksen hires a team of experts to take him through the woods to search for his daughter. It's apparent from the start that Henriksen, who is a billionaire and runs a bio-tech company, has ulterior motives for finding the plane. Add to that the fact that they are being systematically eliminated by an angry Sasquatch, whose family was killed by the crashing plane, and what you should have is something juicy or at least interesting. Too bad that this is a dry and dull affair, as the Sasquatch attacks are bloodless, the monster itself is only glimpsed as a blur until the end and the team of experts come straight from the Stereotype 101 School of Characters: An alcoholic hunter, a terrified computer genius, an earnest tracker, a know-it-all zoologist and a blackmailing she-bitch. The film does have a fairly sympathetic ending, but that and Henriksen's presence cannot save it from ending up in the discount cut-out bins in the very near future. Originally filmed as THE UNTOLD (it still retains that title in the closing credits), SASQUATCH also stars Andrea Roth, Russell Ferrier, Jeremy Radick, Mary Mancini, Erica Parker and Phil Granger. Stay away from this unless you are a Lance Henriksen completist. It's a shame because we could all use a good, bloody Bigfoot flick. A Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R, but damned if I know why.
SATAN'S BLADE (1984) - Remember THE CREEPING TERROR (1964)? The producers lost the soundtrack to that film and released it with voice over narration to compensate for the loss. If only SATAN'S BLADE were so lucky. This film should have been made without sound. The actor's (to be polite) body mikes are always coming into contact with their arms, chairs, kitchen counters, or anything that was near them. It sounds like they are being smacked with gusts of wind, even in the interior shots. The story contains a bank robbery, murders, a ski house complete with the ugliest women this side of the Ukraine, and a cursed knife that possesses whomever possesses it. Sound confusing? It is. Confusing sound? You bet. This is really amateur hour stuff. Get the Tylenol ready when you push the play button. Directed by L. Scott Castillo Jr. and starring Stephanie Steel, Tom Bongiorno, Diane Taylor, Elisa R. Malinovitz and Thomas Cue (who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Castillo Jr.). A Prism Entertainment VHS Release. Believe it or not, this is also available on DVD & Blu-Ray from boutique label Slasher Video. Rated R.
SATAN'S BLOOD (1977) - Originally titled "Escalofrio" ("Chills And Fever"), this is a boring, incomprehensible dubbed Spanish production about a man and his pregnant wife who are brought to an isolated house under false pretenses by another couple. Once there, they are inducted into the pleasures and pains of satanic sexual acts. Not much goes on here. If it wasn't for the frequent softcore sex and esquisite photography, yours truly would have fallen asleep after the first ten minutes. While much is made of the woman's pregnancy in the beginning of the film, it doesn't play any part in the storyline (I was hoping it would take a ROSEMARY'S BABY  turn. I was also hoping to make some sense of this mess.). If you're expecting blood, you will be very disappointed as very little is on view here. If you like naked bodies, you may want to give this one a look, but if you're expecting a coherent story, look elsewhere. Directed by Carlos Puerto and executive produced by Juan Piquer Simon (PIECES - 1981; SLUGS - 1987). Some sources list Simon as an uncredited director along with Puerto. Starring Angel Aranda, Sandra Alberti, Mariana Karr and Jose Maria Guille. Also available on video as DON'T PANIC. An All American Video VHS Release. Also available on anamorphic widescreen DVD by Scorpion Releasing. Not Rated.
SATAN'S SUPPER (1980) - Even though it took three directors (Phillip Marshak [DRACULA SUCKS - 1978]; Greg Tallas [PREHISTORIC WOMEN - 1950] and Tom McGowan [WILBUR AND THE BABY FACTORY - 1970]) and is known under three different titles (the one already mentioned; CATACLYSM and THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS) and it was pared down to less than 30 minutes for the weird anthology film NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985), this is one fucked-up film with a premise that could have only come from the pen of screenwriter Philip Yordan (DEATH WISH CLUB - 1983; BLOODY WEDNESDAY - 1985; MARILYN ALIVE AND BEHIND BARS [1982/1993]). The film opens with Nazi Olivier (Robert Bristol) walking in on a Nazi party during World War II and telling one of the soldiers that he failed to meet his quota. To punish him, he machine guns a group of girls, except for Claire (Faith Clift; probably one of the worst actresses the screen has ever shown), who Olivier says she has met her quota. Claire (who is an internal medicine doctor) then wakes up. It was all a nightmare, probably because her famous author husband James (A non-bald Richard Moll, "Bull" from NIGHT COURT [1984 - 1992], here using the name "Charles Moll") has just released a book called "God Is Dead", where he gives lectures on how the word "Christ" had a different meaning back in those days and the only mention of Jesus Christ is in the Bible and an old manuscript (probably the Old Sea Scrolls) and nowhere else until modern times (Actually his speech makes a lot of sense to an Atheist like myself). We then see old Jewish Nazi chaser Abraham Weiss (Marc Lawrence; PIGS - 1972; now available in a must-own Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack from Vinegar Syndrome) get excited by what he sees on TV. It's Olivier giving an interview. He runs outside and grabs his neighbor, NY Police Detective Lt. Sterne (Cameron Mitchell; THE DEMON - 1979), to compare the guy's face on TV to a bunch of old articles he has taped to his wall, some dating back to the late 1800's. Lt. Sterne says that while there is a remarkable resemblance, Olivier hasn't aged in over 35 years and that is impossible. Lt. Sterne would like to help his old pal, but he would look like a crazy loon if he did. Abraham decides to confront Olivier himself and ends up dead, his dying words to a cop being "Look at the walls!", which the cop conveys to Lt. Sterne. When Lt. Sterne takes a closer look at the walls he sees exactly what Abraham saw: Olivier hasn't aged a day since the Franco-Prussia War (and probably long before that). Lt. Sterne confronts Olivier at a disco where Lt. Sterne mentions God, which really bugs Olivier and he threatens Lt. Sterne, who tells Olivier, "Don't step on me or you'll never get rid of the smell!". Lt. Sterne keeps looking at the newspaper articles and photos on the wall, which pisses off his partner Dieter (Marc Lawrence again). He tells Dieter, "I see swastikas swimming in my oatmeal!". Meanwhile, Claire is still having bad nightmares and she is being bothered by excommunicated priest Papini (Maurice Grandmaison; CRY WILDERNESS - 1986), who had no luck with James and Lt. Sterne, which turn out to be real, as a monster hand breaks through her closet wall and tries to grab her. James becomes very worried about her sanity because she also believes that Olivier is the Devil. James believes if there is no God, there is no Devil, so he confronts Olivier and ends up dead (all the dead bodies, including Papini's, have "666" burned into their corpses). Claire decides that she has to do things on her own when Lt. Sterne and Dieter die when their car explodes (Well, Lt. Sterne does. Dieter dies when his car won't open and it fills with smoke while Olivier smiles through the car's window.), so she hits Olivier with her car and has Olivier's female assistant help her put him in her trunk. She and Olivier's female assistant strap him to a hospital gurney, where Claire removes his heart without the use of anesthesia and sticks it in a microwave. Claire learns an important lesson at that time: Never fuck with the Devil. It seems like Claire actually hit his female assistant which Olivier made her look like himself and she actually removes her heart and nukes it without any anesthesia. Claire screams and Olivier walks through the double doors, as the film ends as the doors close behind him. The Devil wins once again. Even though the condensed version in NIGHT TRAIN had some stop-motion animation added to juice-up the tale, the full version really doesn't need it. This is one of those films that was released in many versions at various lengths. The one I watched was the Academy Entertainment Video 83 minutes long VHS version and is missing a sequence that takes place in Las Vegas, but since it is all exposition, you are not really missing anything. IMDb states that the film is originally 94 minutes long, which I find questionable, because I have seen nearly every version of this film and none of them ever went past 88 minutes (the five minute Las Vegas scene, which is nothing but driving footage and then going to a disco). The print on the Academy VHS was grainy, but watchable and if you want to see it in better condition (but not much), get the Premiere Entertainment International VHS (identical to the Academy print in length, but using the NIGHTMARE title), because the two DVDs, from Troma and Mill Creek, are abominations. This VHS version is colorful and quite clear (Unfortunately, I sold it years ago) Of course, if you would like to see the abridged version in near perfect condition, you could always buy the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-Ray. But you really should watch the full version (Las Vegas sequence or not), because it is a creepy little addition to the supernatural genre and has a lot more to say about religion than any horror film I can remember in a long, long time. Also starring Klint Stevenson, Elizabeth Martin, Christie Wagner, Robyn Russell, Georgia Geerling, T.J. Savage and Phil Yordan Jr. as a waiter. An Academy Entertainment VHS Release. Rated R.
SCARECROW SLAYER (2003) - This is the middle film of the "SCARECROW" trilogy, The first one being SCARECROW (2002) and the third one is called SCARECROW GONE WILD (2004). The first film was made in eight days. This one looks like it was made in half the time. What the hell is Tony Todd doing in crap like this? Could it be because they gave him an Associate Producer credit? Thankfully, he dies in the first 30 minutes. Director David Michael Latt (KILLERS - 1997 & KILLERS 2: THE BEAST - 2002, both which I liked a lot, which is why I'm so disappointed here) hasn't got a clue how to keep the action flowing and has the annoying habit of using the "blurry cam" technique that is truly headache-inducing. The scarecrow (Todd Rex, who also designed the costume) is a good creation (makeup effects by Anthony Ferrante), but when did scarecrows learn martial arts? This one does ninja moves, such as back flips and spinning kicks. What the fuck?! Add terrible optical effects, bad acting, continuity problems and unreal situations (Downright surreal; Like: What are college kids doing with an arsenal in their dorm rooms? Did Columbine teach us nothing?) and this cropper of a film (no pun intended) is sure to put the most sleep-deprived person into a deep coma in no time at all. If you're looking for unintentional laughs, you'll find plenty here. If you're looking for a good horror film, look elsewhere because the only horror here is realizing that there are three films in this series. Don't look for me to review the other two. Even I have my limits. Also starring Nicole Kingston, David Castro (Just horrible. I've seen better emoting from a Pet Rock.), Jessica Mattson, Scott Carson and Kim Little. For a good scarecrow film, watch the unrated edition of SCARECROWS (1988). A York Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.
OF THE DEMON LOVER (1970) -
This Italy/Spain co-production is a Gothic horror film with a strong
woman character, which is unusual for a film in this genre. As a
matter of fact, even though this film takes place in the 1800's, the
main female character is an accomplished woman, a biochemist by
trade, and she doesn't take crap from any man because she isn't
afraid to speak her mind. As you can guess, the men don't appreciate
it, and it gets her into all sorts of trouble.
The woman in question is Ivana Rakowsky (Erna Schurer, as "Jennifer Hartley"; SPECTERS - 1987) and she arrives in a village that is experiencing a series of brutal murders of young woman. We hear a villager say that this is the sixth brutal murder since Baron Igor Dalmar died and the only way to stop the murders is to burn down Castle Dalmar. Ivana has an appointment at Castle Dalmar, but no one is willing to take her there, turning their backs to her when she mentions the castle. Fedor (Ezio Sancrotti; THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS - 1973), the coachman who was driving the hearse for the sixth victim's funeral, offers to take Ivana there in his carriage and she accepts. As they arrive at the castle, Fedor puts the moves on Ivana, telling her that she will fall in love with Baron Janos Dalmar (Carlos Quiney, as "Jeffrey Chase"; ZORRO THE INVINCIBLE - 1971; ZORRO, RIDER OF VENGEANCE - 1971), the late Igor's brother, and then he will kill her, but Ivana fights him off her and goes to the castle. She is greeted at the front door by housekeeper Olga (Cristiana Galloni, as "Christina Pathe"), who refuses to let Ivana enter the castle because she doesn't believe she is a doctor, nevermind a biochemist, but Ivana forces her way in and refuses to leave, demanding to talk with Janos. When the Baron walks into the room, Olga (who is in love with him) accuses Janos of knowing the biochemist he hired was a woman and says that one day he will fall in love with her again. Janos tells Olga she can leave any time she wants and she throws a hissy fit, saying she knows what he does with all the young women. Over dinner, Ivana tells Janos that his hounds have whip marks on them and he is not happy that she is accusing him of abusing his animals (He has quite the temper and doesn't like to be disobeyed). Janos then agrees to let Ivana stay and shows her his laboratory. He tells Ivana that before Igor died, he was working on discovering the mysteries of life and he continues his brother's experiments to try and find the solution to immortality. He then shows her Igor's corpse, which was never buried. It sits in a vat of black liquid that keeps his skin cells from deteriorating. Ivana tells Janos that it is too late to save Igor and he says, "We'll see" and tells Ivana that she will be helping him create a formula to regenerate human cell tissue and she is intrigued, agreeing to help him. Young pretty maid Cristiana (Agostina Belli; NIGHT OF THE DEVILS - 1972) then shows Ivana to her room and says, "I'll laugh at your funeral" when she turns her back on Ivana. That night, someone kidnaps Ivana from her bed, ties her to a table and tells her, "Stay pure, or my vengeance will turn on you!" In the morning, she wakes up in her own bed as if nothing happened.
Meanwhile, back in the village, Police Inspector Zarak (Mariano Vidal Molina; CURSE OF THE DEVIL - 1973), who was sent to the village to investigate the series of murders of young women, questions Fedor and wants to know if he harmed Ivana, but Fedor says he didn't harm her in any way, but he may have puts the moves on her. Even though he can't read or write, Fedor is made to put his mark on a written statement, and when he does, he is immediately accused of rape and the Judge (Javier de Rivera; THE DRACULA SAGA - 1973) sentences him to six months in the penitentiary. The Inspector wants to visit Castle Dalmar to make sure Janos hasn't harmed Ivana, so he makes up an excuse to get into the castle. When he arrives at the castle gates, the Inspector wants Ivana to sign a statement saying she hasn't been harmed, but Olga won't allow the Inspector inside the castle and makes Ivana sign the statement at the front gate. Janos wants to know what the Inspector wanted and Ivana says he seemed more interested in him than he was in her. Janos tells Ivana that talk in the village says he is responsible for the six young women's deaths. Ivana asks if it is true that he's the killer and Janos answers, "If I were, why would I tell you?" Ivana then tells Janos what happened to her last night and he says that the liquid covering Igor's body has hallucinogenic properties and whenever she is around Igor's body, she should wear a surgical mask, saying if she does, she will no longer have such vivid hallucinations.
Ivana begins to fall in love with Janos (just as Fedor told her), but will she become the latest murder victim? Olga begins giving Ivana the stink-eye when she notices Janos giving Ivana romantic looks, but Janos still has quite the temper and tells Ivana if she doesn't obey him, she can leave the castle and never come back. Janos has a Jekyll/Hyde personality and yells at Ivana for opening a certain door in the castle, saying it is forbidden to her and the staff (He says that door leads to a part of the castle that is falling apart and it may kill anyone who dares to enter it. I think we all know that is a line of crap, right?). When Ivana starts giving Janos lip, like no other woman before, he begins to admire her, but it just makes her more pissed-off. Ivana notices Janos always leaves the castle on horseback whenever there is a full moon and that every full moon another young woman is brutally murdered. Is Janos the killer or is it someone else? On one such full moon, Cristiana is visited in her bedroom at her father's house by the same person that visited Ivana in hers. That night, while Janos is away on horseback, Ivana disobeys Janos, opens the forbidden door and does some exploring. What she finds, I'll leave for you to discover. When Cristiana is found dead, the Inspector pays the castle a visit and this time he has a real legal reason to come inside. He asks Ivana if she saw anyone leave the castle last night, like Baron Janos. Ivana lies and says Janos spent the night in her room. The Inspector finds it hard to believe and leaves the castle, but not before telling Ivana that she will have to testify to that under oath at the inquest. When the Inspector leaves, Janos tells Ivana she didn't have to do that because he's actually innocent. Ivana says she thinks he is guilty, telling him he has a split personality, but he adamantly denies it. Then Janos finally realizes what is really going on. Do you know? Will Ivana become the next victim, especially after Janos marries her? After the wedding ceremony, Cristiana's father, Fritz the Butler (Antonio Jimenez Escribano; GRAVEYARD OF HORROR - 1971), shoots Janos with a shotgun, thinking it was he who killed his daughter. Did he shoot the wrong person? Is blood really thicker than water? Will Janos and Ivana be able to consummate their marriage? For the answers to those questions, I'm afraid you are going to have to watch the film, but I've given you all the clues you need in this review. If you are braindead and need further clues, I'll say this: Someone is not as dead as they seem, but they need something only young women can give them and they have to die for it.
It's not very hard to figure out what is going on here and director Jose Luis Merino (HELL COMMANDOS - 1969; BATTLE OF THE LAST PANZER - 1969; WHEN HEROES DIE - 1970; THE HANGING WOMAN - 1973), who co-wrote the screenplay with Enrico Colombo (NIGHT OF THE BLOOD MONSTER - 1970), makes it way too easy to figure out, as there is no one besides Janos or Igor to blame for the murders. It is nice that Ivana is a "modern" woman, who takes no guff from anyone, especially from the demanding Janos, but the film could have been stocked with a few more red herrings to make the film more entertaining. While Erna Schurer doffs her clothes at the drop of a hat (we only see topless nudity, no "full frontal" action) and the full view of Igor we get at the end of the film is quite interesting, the film could have used much more violence than what we get. The film is not a complete disaster, though, as Janos is a very interesting character, quite unlike other cookie-cutter characters we see in Gothic horror films. He demands obedience and when he doesn't get it, he turns into a dictator, saying it's either his way or the highway, even when he's accused of murder. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. This is an interesting relic from the early-'70s that has basically disappeared from view. I can't remember this ever being shown on television, so seeing it for the first time in nearly fifty years brought back a lot of memories to when I saw it as a teen in a movie theater. This isn't must-viewing, but I did enjoy watching it, if only for nostalgia reasons.
Shot as IL CASTELLO DALLE PORTE DI FUOCO (loosely translated as "The Castle With Its Gates Of Fire") and known under a myriad of titles, including CASTLE OF BLOOD, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, IVANNA and KILLER OF THE CASTLE OF BLOOD. It obtained a theatrical release in the United States (under the review title) as part of a double feature, with THE VELVET VAMPIRE (1971), by New World Pictures. It was then released on VHS in the U.S. by Charter Entertainment and then fell into the Public Domain (PD), where companies like Wizard Video and Retromedia Entertainment released it on VHS & DVD under the title BLOOD CASTLE. We still haven't received a good transfer of this title due to its PD status. Let's hope that changes soon. I found a fullscreen copy streaming on YouTube from user "Michael Cleary". It's not perfect, but it will have to do until some enterprising disc company releases a nice widescreen print. Also featuring Franco Moraldi (DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT - 1972), Renato Paracchi (THE GESTAPO'S LAST ORGY - 1977) and Enzo Fisichella (PLAY MOTEL - 1979) as Baron Igor Dalmar. Rated R.
SECRET OF SEAGULL ISLAND
(1981/1985) - Weirdly satisfying giallo film, even though I
guessed the ending. This Italian/British co-production originally
made its debut on Italian & British TV in 1981 as a five-part,
300-minute mini-series and in 1985 was re-edited into a 103-minute
feature film. Don't let that fact turn you off, because, at its core,
the film is a fine mystery with some sublimely weird twists and turns.
Barbara Carey (Prunella Ransome; WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? - 1975) receives a letter from her blind musician sister, Mary Ann (Sherry Buchanan; ESCAPE FROM GALAXY 3 - 1981), begging her to come to Rome because she has something important to tell her (Why can't people just spit out the information? Why do they always have to wait to tell them when they are face-to-face?). When Barbara arrives in Rome, she discovers that Mary Ann has been missing for three weeks and no one knows where she is. Barbara goes to the British Embassy, where she gets help from Embassy worker Martin Foster (Nicky Henson; THE DEATH WHEELERS - 1971) and, with his help, it leads Barbara to sleazy boat captain Enzo Lombardi (Gabriele Tinti; EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS - 1977), who says he met Mary Ann, but he doesn't know where she is. Barbara knows he is lying, so she goes to the police, where Inspector Casati (Fabrizio Jovine; THE PSYCHIC - 1977) questions Lombardi and he says all he knows is that Mary Ann went to Sardinia for an ocean outing. The Inspector and the Rome police force have a serial killer on the loose; his victims being young blind women (That is very specific, isn't it?), so he promises Barbara that he will find Mary Ann before she becomes the next victim. When an unconscious, dehydrated young blind woman is found floating in a row boat in the ocean, the Inspector phones Barbara to tell her they found Mary Ann, but when Barbara gets to the hospital, she discovers it is not Mary Ann.
Barbara is certain Lombardi knows more than he is telling, so she breaks into his boat and searches it, finding a letter written by Mary Ann to a man called David Malcolm, a reknown scientist and oceanographer. Lombardi catches Barbara rifling through his boat and tries to rape her, but she is saved by Malcolm, who knocks Lombardi out. When Lombardo comes to, he tells Barbara and Malcolm he didn't mention David Malcolm's name to the police because David asked him not to. Lombardi goes on to say that David recently lost his wife and son in a tragic accident, so Barbara gets the idea to question the still-nameless blind girl in the hospital (she brings along a tape recorder) to see if David Malcolm had anything to do with her drifting aimlessly in a row boat. When Barbara sneaks into her hospital room, the blind woman jumps from her bed screaming and jumps out the window of her hospital room, killing herself. A shocked Barbara is then hit on the head by some unknown man, who steals her tape recorder. When Barbara wakes up, she discovers she is now blind (What are the chances?)!, so she is sent to an eye specialist, who tells Barbara the chances of her regaining her eyesight depends on her taking it easy, so she decides to go on vacation to Sardinia. While in the hotel's pool, Barbara meets a handsome man, who turns out to be David Malcolm (Jeremy Brett; THE MEDUSA TOUCH - 1978). Was this a chance encounter or was it planned? Turns out it was planned, as Barbara is not blind at all, she and Inspector Casati came up with the idea (Barbara is wearing clouded contact lenses to make her look blind, supplied by the eye specialist) for Barbara to get close to David to check him out. Barbara is not sure if David has anything to do with her sister's disappearance, but she needs more time with him to be sure. Barbara then has another chance (?) encounter with David (she is wearing the clouded contact lenses and walks with the aid of a white cane) and he invites her to stay with him on his private island, which she accepts.
Barbara travels to David's secluded island (thousands of seagulls fly overhead, hence the film's title), where she meets Carol(Pamela Salem; Miss Moneypenny in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN - 1983), David's cousin, who doesn't seem pleased to see Barbara, especially after noticing she is blind. When Barbara asks to use the phone, Carol tells her it is not working and David interjects, saying the phone goes on the fritz often, due to the island's location far away from civilization. Barbara explores the island on her own (still pretending to be blind), when she hears an ear-piercing scream that drightens her to her core. David then confesses that the scream came from his son, Frederick (Marco Mastantuono; THE GREAT ALLIGATOR - 1979), who is still alive. He goes on to explain that Frederick survived the tragic accident that took his wife's life, but his face and body were hideously burned in the fire. He tried getting professional help for his son, but every woman who saw his horribly-burned face screamed and ran away in terror, so he came up with the idea of hiring blind women to help Frederick, but it didn't work out because his son has gone quite insane.
I know what you are thinking. Is Frederick the serial killer? Well, don't expect me to tell you if you are right or wrong, because I have to leave you something to discover on your own, but I will tell you this: Barbara hasn't told the Inspector or Martin she was going to David's island, so she's pretty much on her own, except for Lombardi, who shows up on the island and tells Barbara he will help her escape. Also, Frederick has grown quite fond of Barbara and threatens to kill Carol and his father if they harm one hair on Barbara's head. David tells Barbara he can't let her leave the island because she is the only woman his son has shown an interest in. Barbara says she will stay if she can confront David and Frederick together to see if Mary Ann was one of the girls brought to the island to help Frederick. If she was. Barbara wants to know what happened to her. Barbara then reveals to Carol and David that she's not really blind (which turns out to be a huge mistake!), removing her clouded contact lenses. David says, "I knew you weren't blind", telling Barbara he saw Frederick knock her out in the hospital room, just after his son talked to the blind woman, making her jump out the window in terror and killing herself. Think you have it figure out? Is Mary Ann still alive? Why do we never get a good look at Frederick's face? These questions will be answered in the film's fiery, explosive climax, which takes place at a cabin built in an underwater cave.
As I have already stated at the beginning of this review, this was originally a 1981 mini-series, titled simply SEAGULL ISLAND, that ran in five 60-minute installments. Directed/produced by Nestore Ungaro, whose film resumé is very thin, the only other item he directed was a 1970 Italian mini-series which translates to "SEA TALES". He did supply Underwater Photography for the films TENTACLES (1977) and CODE CONDOR (1990), but that is where his resumé ends. Ungaro co-wrote this mini-series (and feature version) with Augusto Caminito (GRAND SLAM - 1967) and Jeremy Burnham (HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN - 1970), making it a true Italian/British co-production. What I especially liked about this film is that everyone speaks English, so it is nice to hear Gabriele Tinti and other Italian genre actors speak without being dubbed, which they usually were. This feature version, as well as the original mini-series, was never legitimately available on home video in any format in the United States, but I managed to catch it streaming on YouTube from user "Gypsycyn", which was ripped from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape, but is still watchable. The entire mini-series is available on German DVD, which is viewable in English with removable German subtitles. I have to say that for a 103-minute feature taken from a 300-minute mini-series, there are few lapses in continuity, as the feature version flows smoothly, unusual for a feature taken from a much-longer version (Yet, I am still trying to figure out the feature's opening, where two scuba divers kiss passionately underwater, before they are both buried by an underwater landslide. At first, I thought it showed David's son and wife's deaths, but unless they were involved in incest, that just doesn't fit! I hope someone can fill me in.). Also featuring Vassili Karis (GIALLO IN VENICE - 1979), Paul Muller (LADY FRANKENSTEIN - 1971), Helen Stirling (CASTLE FREAK - 1995) and Umberto Raho (THE FLOWER WITH THE DEADLY STING - 1973) as a hospital doctor. Not Rated, but it does contain some quick female topless nudity and some sparse gore.
WOMEN FOR SATAN (1974) -
During the week, Count Boris Zaroff (Michel Lemoine; PLANETS
AGAINST US - 1962; CASTLE
OF THE CREEPING FLESH - 1968) is a successful businessman
(yet is office is bare-bones, just a desk and a lamp!), but during
the weekend, he likes going to his palatial country estate and
hunting...naked women. Yes, this French film is the umpteenth
retelling of THE MOST
DANGEROUS GAME (1932), only with the added ingredients of
softcore sex and plenty of nudity.
Boris is also the son of the original film's Count Zaroff (who was
portrayed by Leslie Banks), which tries to give this film some
legitimacy, but fails for so many reasons.
The film opens with Boris on horseback, he and his hound Inga chasing a naked woman on his property. He corners the girl, whips her with his riding crop and knocks her down a cliff, where she dies (we see her bloody body on a boulder). After a long week of work (What the hell does he do? All we ever see is his secretary [Sophie Grynholc] hand him some papers and wish him a nice weekend.), Boris drives to his country estate, picking up beautiful (and horny) hitchhiker Stephanie (Maria Mancini) on the way. They stop at a hotel and get it on and then he drives her to his estate (uh, oh!), where they walk hand-in-hand through his property. They stop in a field to make love, where Boris shows his true colors. He tries to strangle her and bites her breasts and Stephanie runs away, Boris following her in his Rolls, begging her to forgive him. He then runs her over and stops his car, saying to Stephanie's dead body, "You are broken. You are nothing but a spineless ragdoll!" He puts her body in the trunk, drives to his private lake and dumps her body over his rowboat and into the middle of the lake. But who is the woman that is haunting his memory? Could it be the one woman who got away? Could it be the only woman he ever loved? Or could it be both?
We then see Boris enter his palatial estate, where his butler Karl (Howard Vernon; THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS - 1972) talks to him in existential terms ("Life is transitory.") and dotes on his every whim. Karl has brought Boris a young woman named Jeanne (Patricia Mionnet) for him to play with, as we hear Karl's innermost thought about her, calling Jeanne's life "futile" and how she was doomed to die before he brought her here (Like he was doing her a favor!). While Boris is outside playing with Inga, he meets ghostly young woman Anne (Joëlle Coeur), the woman who haunts his every waking moment. We discover more about her: She is married and, when we see her dancing with Boris, she has a huge bloodstain on the back of her dress. Is Boris responsible for it or is her husband? Boris is in some sort of trance (or he is just plain crazy) and we see him chase Anne into his family cemetery, where he stops by a tomb., which happens to be Anne's. He runs back to his estate, where he stares at a portrait of Anne. Karl has no idea who Anne is (or so he tells Boris) and thinks Boris stares at it because she is pretty (He offers to bring Boris a real pretty woman).
The next weekend, Boris brings home Joëlle (Martine Azencot), a woman he was interviewing at work and Karl drugs her champagne. She begins dancing in what looks like a combination stripper/voodoo priestess ritual, while a black man holds her as she gyrates (This is all happening in her drugged mind). Karl shows Joëlle to her room, which is full of fancy womens clothing, none of it hers. As Boris is sitting on his throne-like chair, petting Jeanne like a dog (!), Karl comes into the room and informs Boris that the "show" is about to begin. We then see Boris watching Joëlle through a two-way mirror, as she masturbates with a blue boa on the bed, moaning and reaching a climax (Hey Karl, do you have any more of that drug?!?). Boris then enters the room, but all he can see is Anne in the place of Joëlle. Karl enters the room and says to Boris, "Fear is a bad advisor." (WTF?!?) and has Inga chases Joëlle down the stairs, the hound killing her. Then there is a knock on the door. It's Francis (Robert Icart) and his new bride Muriel (Nathalie Zeiger). Their car has broken down and Boris welcomes them into his home. I guess we can all figure what comes next.
That is the problem with this film, everything is telegraphed and there a no surprises. It also doesn't help that everyone does the stupidest things possible, as Boris talks Francis and Muriel to try out his rack in the mansion's torture room, where Muriel is chained on top of Francis as a bed of spikes slowly lowers towards their bodies, impaling and killing them. That's the bloodiest scene in the film and it comes a few minutes before the film ends. Michel Lemoine also directed and wrote this mess of a film, giving us nothing but softcore scenes of sex filmed though a vaseline-coated lense. Sure, there is plenty of nudity, but nudity without a believable story means nothing, as it seems forced, telling us to enjoy the nudity, but leave your brain at the door, because you are not going to need it.
Both Boris and Karl talk like they are teaching Psychology 101 For French people and it gets rather monotonous and trite after a while, yet when the women hear it, they doff their clothes. Hell, if it actually worked, I would be talking like Sigmund Freud all the time (That's the exact way Karl talks, or, at least, the way the person who dubbed Howard Vernon talks!). There is also very little graphic violence on view, just the Francis/Muriel death scene and Jeanne falling on some spikes at the end of the film. Let's talk about the ending. Boris follows Anne into her tomb, where they make love. Boris then discovers that he is actually kissing her skeleton (!), as the tomb door closes, locking him in. He screams for help and Karl hears him, but he doesn't help him, driving off in Boris' car. He doesn't see that Anne is sitting in the back seat and the film ends with Karl's screams, as animated blood drips on the screen. Not does it only make no sense, it seems tacked-on, as an afterthought, as if Lemoine wrote himself into a corner and had to use a nonsensical ending. It would have been better if it ended with Boris being trapped in the tomb for all eternity. It would have had more "punch". Lemoine doesn't even try to give this film any "oomph", as the hunting scenes are flatly filmed (and we can plainly see that the naked female in the beginning of the film is wearing a black piece of cloth covering her private parts. Nobody's bush is that big!) and the sex scenes are not memorable in any way (as well as having the worst music playing when they happen). Lemoine directed over 20 films (many of them porn) and if every one of them is like this, I have no interest in seeing them (Lemoine passed away in 2013). This film was supposedly banned in its native France for a few years, but there's nothing it it you haven't see a thousand time before. Filmed as LES WEEK-ENDS MALEFIQUES DU COMTE ZAROFF ("The Evil Weekends Of Count Zaroff"), this film never had a theatrical or VHS release in the U.S., making its premiere on DVD from Mondo Macabro in 2003. It hasn't been upgrade since then, which should tell you a lot. I saw this on streaming channel Drive-In Classics for free, so at least I didn't blow money on it. The French, they are a funny race. Also starring Stéphane Lorry, Jean-Claude Romer and Emmanuel Pluton as a statue that come to life (in Boris' mind). Not Rated.
SEVENTH GRAVE (1965) -
Pretty sub-standard Italian Gothic horror film. Three people arrive
by carriage in a small village in Old Scotland and go to the Rooster
Inn for a meal. They are three Americans, Robert Jenkins (Antonio
Casale, as "John Anderson"; SYNDICATE
SADISTS - 1975), his brother Fred (Gianni Dei, as "John
STILL LIVES - 1980), and Robert's girlfriend Mary (Bruna
Baini, as "Kateryn Schous"; her only film), who have come
to this village for the reading of a relative's, Sir Reginald Thorne,
will at his castle.The Innkeeper (Francesco Mulè, as "Jack
Murphy"; DANGER: DIABOLIK
- 1968) serves the American trio a meal of eggs and bacon (Thinking
all Americans eat that for dinner! And they do!) and asks them to
take his daughter Betty (Germana Dominici, as "Germayne
Gesny"; BLACK SUNDAY
- 1960) to the castle since she works as a maid there.
Fred is instantly smitten with Betty and is always by her side, much
to her consternation. When they arrive at the castle, caretaker
Patrick (Calogero Reale, as "Edward Barrett") ushers them
into a room and they meet all the other people who are also there for
the reading of the will. Sir Percival (Umberto Borsato, as
"Gordon Mac Winter") regales everyone with a story about
how the castle's previous owner, scientist Sir Reginald Thorne, had
passed away three years earlier, and his assistant, Dr. Quick,
apparently went looney after being infected with leprosy and has been
in an insane asylum ever since. Sir Reginald is interred in the
seventh grave in the family crypt located beneath the castle's
chapel. He also tells them that Sir Francis Drake was once the owner
of this castle. Drake plundered ships not belonging to the Queen and
it is said that he hid his treasure in this castle. Sir Percival
tells everyone that his daughter Katy (Stefania Nelli; BEYOND
THE FRONTIERS OF HATE - 1972) is a practicing medium and
suggests she holds a seance to contact the spirit of Sir Francis
Drake (always a good idea) in hopes he will tell them where the
treasure is hidden. The seance is unsuccessful, as Katy contacts a
spirit named Dan, who takes over Katy's body and shouts to everyone
in a deep voice, "Get out! Get out!" Lawyer Elliot (Nando
Angelini, as "Fernand Angels"; BLOODY
PIT OF HORROR - 1965) looks out a window and sees a light on
in the castle's chapel and everyone hears the chapel's bell ringing,
even though it isn't moving. They all go to the chapel and discover
Patrick hanging by his neck, dead. Sir Reginald's tomb is opened in
the family crypt and his body is missing. The funny thing is, the
tomb doesn't look broken into, but rather broken out of. Could Sir
Reginald be the robed figure we see roaming the castle? Better yet,
did Sir Reginald kill Patrick or could it have been one of the guests?
Everyone wants to have the will read so they can leave the castle, but Elliot, who is the notary in charge of the will reading, says they can't, they must wait until Lady Ferguson arrives. If she doesn't arrive in two days, she will lose her share of the inheritance. A short time later, a messenger arrives and informs Elliot that Lady Ferguson has been dead for a month, her death being mysterious, maybe even murder. Elliot then gathers everyone for the reading of Sir Reginald Thorne's will, but when Elliot unlocks his briefcase to retrieve the will, he finds it is not there. Elliot is perplexed, as he had the only key to the briefcase and he keeps it on his person at all times. Is Sir Reginald not only dead, but a pickpocket as well?
Police Inspector Martin Wright (Armando Guarnieri, as "Armand Warner"; MAY GOD FORGIVE YOU...BUT I WON'T - 1968) arrives at the castle to investigate Patrick's death, interrogating everyone in the castle, beginning with maid Betty, but Fred finds his questions insulting and rather aggressive. A short time later, when the group shows the Inspector where Patrick was killed, the barking of a little dog points them to the family crypt, where they find Fred's dead body stuffed into Sir Reginald's coffin. A visibly shaked Robert grabs the Inspector by the lapels and tells him if he doesn't find out who killed his brother, he will make sure that he pays for the crime. The Inspector tells Robert to calm down, he will find the killer. Priest Father Crabbe (Ferruccio Viotti, as "Richard Gillies"; SEX OF THE WITCH - 1973) then excuses himself, saying he is no longer a young man and needs some sleep, leaving the castle, Everyone else remains in the castle for the night. Before he goes to bed, the Inspector takes a tour of the castle by himself. He asks the butler, Bill (Marco Kramm, as "John Sullivan"), where he should sleep and Bill offers him his bedroom since he wasn't expecting another guest. The Inspector refuses Bill's kind offer, saying he saw a comfortable couch in the sitting room and that will do for the night. We can see Betty is scared, pushing her bureau against her bedroom door, while Bill and a cheating Mary kiss each other passionately ("Please, call me Bill.") and wish each other a goodnight.
Mary is awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of a piano playing and leaves her bedroom to investigate. When everyone else hears the same thing, they all go to the piano room and discover Mary's unconscious body lying on the floor and Sir Reginald's corpse sitting at the piano. After putting Mary in her bed, Robert excuses himself, saying he has something important to do, while Father Crabbe and Elliot carry Sir Reginald's corpse back to the family crypt (It is never explained why Father Crabbe is there, since he left the castle earlier to go to sleep! This film is extremely sloppy that way). Robert then comes upon the Inspector's unconscious body in another room. When he comes to, the Inspector tells everyone that he had a strange feeling that someone or something was "influencing" him; an instant feeling of fatigue overcame his body and he collapsed to the floor, unconscious. All the women decide to sleep in the same room, feeling that there is safety in numbers. The Inspector is sure that one of the guests in the castle is the killer (No shit, Sherlock!), but he seems more interested in the killer carrying Sir Reginald's corpse around the castle, declaring he will find that person and make sure they are punished. The Inspector and Father Crabbe search the castle's cemetery, while Bill sits at the piano, but before he can play a single note, the stool he is sitting on frightens him (For some reason, this film is full of camera zooms of furniture, accompanied by "scary" theremin music). The Inspector and Father Crabbe part company, just before someone whacks Bill on the back of his head with a blunt object, rendering him unconscious (There's a lot of that in this film!). Everyone comes running towards the sound of Bill moaning, but it turns out to be nothing but a diversion, as the killer grabs Katy while she is alone. We see the robed killer carrying Katy's unconscious (!) body to Sir Reginald's laboratoty, while the rest of the guests wonder where Katy is (We learn early in the film that Sir Reginald performed "strange" experiments in his laboratory with his assistant Dr. Quick, not elaborating what those "strange" experiments were). Everyone splits up into groups of two (always a good thing) to look for Katy, while we see the killer, now in a white lab coat, preparing a syringe to inject into Katy, who is strapped to an operating table. Just who is the killer and what are these "strange" experiments? To get those answers, you'll have to watch the film for yourself, because the answers are rather lame and if I were to type them up, my index fingers would fall asleep from boredom! Oh, what the Hell! Since this film doesn't deserve my respect (and I'm a huge fan of Italian Gothic horror films), I'm going to spoil the ending just for you! WARNING: SPOILERS!!! It turns out Sir Reginald Thorne never died, he just simply took another identity, as......Inspector Martin Wright! While Katy is tied to the operating table, Sir Reginald/Martin rambles on and on about how his assistant Dr. Quick was infected with leprosy and passed it on to him (it was actually Quick's body in his coffin) and he's slowly going mad from the disease. Just as he is about to infect Katy with a leprosy tainted syringe, the surviving guests bust through the laboratory door with a small squad of policemen (Where in the hell did they come from???) and shoot Sir Reginald dead. END OF SPOILERS!!!
Nearly everyone in front and behind the camera have had their names Anglicized, yet this film was never dubbed in English (at least as far as I could discover). Rumor has it the the U.S. distributor, once they viewed the film, refused to pay for the dubbing or even give it a theatrical release and it's easy to see why. Even for 1965, the plot was cliched and uninvolving, offering little in the way of scares, entertainment value or even caring what happens to the players, as they are nothing but cardboard cut-outs. Director/co-screenwriter "Finney Cliff" is actually Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo and this is his only directorial credit. Hell, it's his only film credit! Co-screenwriter "Fredrich Mills" is actor Antonio Casale, who portrays Robert Jenkins here. This is his only screenwriting effort, as he usually used the pseudonym "Anthony Vernon" when acting is films like WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972) and THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS (1973), just to name a couple. The final co-screenwriter, "Edmond W. Carloff" (Really?) is actually Alessandro Santini, the director/screenwriter of the obscure THE SKIN UNDER THE CLAWS (1975), as well as the director of the equally obscure semi-giallo flick SWEET WOMAN'S SKIN (1971). There's not much to recommend here, as the story is old hat, the black & white cinematography flat and the music soundtrack (by Leopoldo Perez Bonsignore, who only scored three films) is not memorable. As a matter of fact, I can't remember a single tune in the film, which is very unusual for me. The entire film is just like the music score. You'll forget it as soon as it is finished. The entire hidden treasure subplot is dropped rather quickly and never mentioned again. It would have been a much better film if they stayed with it. The only scene that raised a chuckle from me is when Patrick takes everyone on a long walk to the family crypt, only to reveal a secret passageway (one of the cheapest secret passageways in Gothic castle history, just a large chair hiding a hole in a wall!) that leads everyone directly to their starting point! I mean, why not use the secret passageway to begin with and not put the guests through such a long walk? Let's face it, folks, this film is boring and offers nothing of interest to Gothic horror fans. Like many of the characters in this film, I'd rather be unconscious than watch this again.
Shot as LA SETTIMA TOMBA (a literal translation of the review title), this film received no legitimate release in any format in the United States, no theatrical, no VHS and no disc releases. Hell, even old standby gray market companies like Something Weird Video and Sinister Cinema never carried this title. It is available streaming on YouTube by user "Sam Butler", but the windowboxed black & white print is soft and very contrasty, sometimes making it very hard to read the laughable English subtitles, written by someone who absolutely doesn't have the slightest grasp of English sentence structure. While I usually adapt very quickly to bad English subtitles (such as YouTube's auto-translate feature), I had a hard time here, especially with some lengthy dialogue scenes. If you must watch this film, this is your only choice. Also featuring Jo O'Bryan, Rosalind Mayer and Mary Smith. Not Rated and not interesting.
SHADOW CREATURE (1995) - Abysmal horror/comedy filmed in Buffalo, NY and Cleveland, OH (doesn't that tell you something?). A scientist's failed hair growth formula (!) causes zebra mussels to mutate when the formula is accidentally dumped into the water. The mussels bite people causing them to turn into horrifying mutations with one of them turning into the title creature, who proceeds to rip the guts out and devour various stupid-acting people. Hard-nosed cop (ex-Playgirl model Shane Minor, who is so wooden you half-expect him to sprout leaves) is on the case and spends a good part of the film puking his guts out when he sees the creature's aftermath. A sub-plot involves a Cleveland gangster (who thinks he's God), trying to collect a debt owed to him by the scientist. There's plenty of graphic violence as intestines are exposed, body parts ripped-off and heads squashed, but the humor is so forced by a cast of talentless no-names that any enjoyment that can be found here is purely of the unintentional kind. Director James Gribbens so far has proven to be a one-shot wonder, as he hasn't done anything since this. Stay away if you want to save 91 minutes of your life. Also starring Tracy Godard, Dennis Keefe, Claudia Catalano, Kathy Imrie and Anthony Chrysostom. A Chaparral International Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.
SHAKMA (1990) - A baboon injected with an experimental drug is slaughtering college students who are playing a Dungeons and Dragons-like game in a locked university building. The baboon attacks are quite realistic and bloody, but after a while it becomes repetitious. The films major detraction though, is that it has the look of a TV movie (just cut out the bloody parts and it would be indistinguishable from any TV film now showing). The deaths of co-stars Amanda Wyss and Ari Meyers towards the end of the film (Oops! Sorry!) comes as a real surprise, though. Proceed at your own risk. Also starring Christopher Atkins and Roddy McDowall. Directed by Tom Logan and Hugh Parks, who both also directed the abysmal DREAM TRAP (1990). A Fire Mountain Pictures Home Video VHS Release. Also available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.
SHATTER DEAD (1993) - Shot on video living dead flick with a twist. Instead of the dead coming back to devour the living, they just want to integrate into our society (according to a radio broadcast, they are forming a union!). The story centers on Susan (Stark Raven), a living human who has many run-ins with the dead. When she has doubts about who she is talking to, she sticks a mirror under their nose. If it doesnt fog up, she blows their brains out with one of the many guns she keeps on her person. Susans main nemesis is The Preacher Man (Robert Wells), a self-appointed holy man who is organizing the dead into a viable force. While the film does have some inventive touches (the dead cant get hard-ons; a Howard Stern look-alike who blows away a pregnant zombie), the leisurely pace and stiff acting ability of Raven (if she were any more wooden she would be sprouting leaves) eventually make this one you could pass on. I dont know what director/writer Scooter McCraes motives were, but I found Preacher Man to be a much more sympathetic character than the morose heroine. Co-starring Flora Fauna, Larry smalls Johnson and Marina Del Rey (oh, cmon!). Effects by Pericles Lewnes (director of REDNECK ZOMBIES - 1987). From Tempe Video, whose founder is J.R. Bookwalter, director of the super 8mm classic THE DEAD NEXT DOOR (1988). Unrated, SHATTER DEAD contains full frontal male and female nudity and intercourse with a .45 handgun. Not a pretty sight.
SHOCK 'EM DEAD (1990) - This is a late addition to the "Rock 'N' Roll Horror" craze of the 80's and it's a doozy. Not good, mind you. Just a doozy. Nerd Angel Martin (Stephen Quadros) wants to quit his job at the pizza parlor (run by ranting manager Aldo Ray) and become a guitar player for a rock band. The only problem is, he has no talent. Fate throws him a fastball and he happens to meet the Devil (who is playing the sickest double-neck guitar I've ever seen) who offers him a deal: His soul (and a few more later on) for the talent to play guitar like no one has ever played guitar before. Angel (ironic name, right?) accepts the deal and immediately grows long black rockstar hair and has two groupies (who have also made separate deals with old Scratch) who follow him everywhere and do his bidding. Angel auditions for a band (managed by Traci Lords, the lucky bastards!) and amazes everyone with his ability to learn new songs by looking at the music sheets for a few seconds. The lead singer of the band, Jonny (who wears half t-shirts cut-off at the chest and talks kinda gay), takes an immediate dislike to Angel. Good call because Angel takes over the band, becomes lead singer and signs a major record deal with slimey executive Troy Donahue. To make a long story short, Angel goes on a killing spree and Jonny must find a way to kill Angel and his two groupies before they sacrifice Traci Lords. The only way to kill them: Make them eat! If they eat anything they will die! That's right, you read it correctly. Director Mark Freed, who also co-wrote all the original (and unintentionally hilarious) songs, tries to make something different and he does, it's just that it's all bad. He throws a voodoo woman (Tyger Sodipe, who can't act worth a lick), copious nudity, exploding heads, lots of music and really bad acting all together and hopes something will stick. It doesn't stick, it stinks, but it's funny as hell if you're in the right frame of mind. The ending will leave you slackjawed as Angel tries to kill Traci Lords while the headlining band is sitting in the stands thinking it is all part of the show. Their reaction to the final act is priceless. This may not be a good film but it is entertaining. Also starring Tim Moffett, Markus Grupa, Karen Russell, Gina Parks and late wrestling legend Big John Studd. An Academy Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.
SKEETER (1993) - Another entry in the Giant Bugs On The Loose genre made popular in the nuclear-terrorized 50s. A greedy land developer (a haggard-looking Jay Robinson from THREE THE HARD WAY - 1974) stores toxic waste in an abandoned mine, causing a nest of mosquitoes to grow to the size of birds. The skeeters begin to attack the nearby towns populace, much to the chagrin of the deputy and his newly-returned childhood sweetheart. The films main drawback is that it spends too much time in the characters personal lives and not enough time on the title creatures. Its more of a soap opera than a horror film. Starring Tracy Griffith, Jim Youngs, Charles Napier (playing his patented role of sheriff with an attitude), William Sanderson and Michael J. Pollard (FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE - 1975) as loony (what else?) local Hopper, who catches a giant mosquito and lets it suck blood from his arm (!) to feed it. There's also a cameo by George Buck Flower as a duck hunter who survives a skeeter attack (and shows the scars to prove it!). Directed by actor Clark Brandon (FAST FOOD - 1989). Too much talk and not enough action. From Columbia-Tri Star Home Video. Rated R.
SKIN UNDER THE CLAWS (1975) -
I am fascinated by the career of actor/bodybuilder Gordon Mitchell.
He came into prominence during the early-'60s (after a short stint in
U.S. theatrical films and TV) when Italy began churning out hundreds
of Sword & Sandal epics and when that phase died down, Mitchell
jumped on the Eurospy and Spaghetti Western bandwagons, appearing in
scores of films in both genres (Apparently, Mitchell was a wise
investor, purchasing land in both Italy and Spain, making his fortune
by building a Western town on one of those properties and renting it
to production companies
making Spaghetti Westerns because it was a perfect backdrop for those
kind of films). Even though Mitchell never had to work again (he
passed away in 2003 at the age of 80), his career choices for the
'70s and beyond are some of the most mind-bending films out there,
'80 (1972), FRANKENSTEIN'S
CASTLE OF FREAKS (1973), FIGHTING
KILLER (1974), ACHTUNG!
THE DESERT TIGERS (1977), SHE
(1983), WHITE FIRE (1984), THE
CROSS OF SEVEN JEWELS (1987), BLOOD
DELIRIUM (1988) and this movie, the most obscure film in his
body of work and there's a reason for that.
When the film opens, we see Professor Helmut (Mitchell) standing over the body of a recently deceased man, telling his associates, Dr. Silvia Pieri (Genevieve Audry; PIRATE AND THE SLAVE GIRL - 1959) and Dr. Gianni Dani (Tino Boriani; MAN, PRIDE & VENGEANCE - 1967), that the organs in the human body quit functioning at different times after death. He hopes one day to keep those organs viable for nearly 25 years, creating a human organ body bank and making death obsolete. Both Silvia and Gianni tell Professor Helmut that death is part of life, but he scoffs, saying if we can extend human life indefinitely, shouldn't we at least try? We then see someone wearing dark sunglasses and a floppy black hat picking up a wisecracking prostitute (Mirella Rossi; MANIA - 1974) off the street and taking her to some unknown location. The next time we see the prostitute, she is naked and screaming, holding her bloody stomach and falling to the floor. When her body is discovered, chain-smoking Inspector Rinaldi (Ettore Ribotta; FASTHAND - 1973) demands his men find the killer. The coroner (Renzo Borelli) tells the Inspector that the prostitute's body was missing a couple of vital organs and had decaying flesh under her nails and on her neck and body, as if she "hugged a corpse" and the Inspector is not pleased, telling him it is difficult enough finding a living suspect, can he imaging how difficult it would be finding a dead one?
Meanwhile, Gianni and Silvia start a romantic relationship as only the Italians can, talking to each other in riddles and Silvia remarking on how Gianni always wears sunglasses, even at night (Gianni tells her he has an aversion to bright lights, making him look like the killer and even more like a red herring to those of us well-versed in giallo clichés). Professor Helmut tells Gianni that he has a weak heart and he wants Gianni to transplant a new heart into his body to give him new life, so he can continue his experiments to defeat death. Before Gianni can perform the transplant, Professor Helmut dies, but his body disappears from the morgue. More female bodies end up dead, one of those bodies found cut up in pieces and stuffed into suitcases, all of them missing vital human organs and all of them also having decaying flesh under their nails and all over their bodies. Is the killer really dead? It doesn't take a genius to discover that the killer is Professor Helmut, as the Inspector discovers he came to Italy from Venezuela in the mid-'50s (Hmmm...Venezuela? That can only mean one thing!). We then find out that Professor Helmut was a scientist for the Nazi regime during World War II and when Berlin was bombed at the end of the war, he lost his wife, who was the only love in his life. He has found a way to transfer his wife's brainwaves into the body of another woman. And who is that woman, you may ask? Why, none other than Silvia, whom we find out looks exactly like Helmut's late wife. Professor Helmut kidnaps Silvia and does some experiments on her, but she escapes and before the Professor can get her back, the Inspector and his men shoot and kill him. As the Inspector walks away from Gianni and Silvia, we hear Gianni scream and when he gets back to the couple, he sees that Silvia has stabbed Gianni to death while uttering, "I am life. I am death!" THE END.
This extremely short, 76-minute film has a mystery even a braindead corpse could solve (besides Gianni and Professor Helmut, there is no one else to suspect!), making it one of the most minor giallo films out there. But just because it is easy to solve, doesn't mean that it is a waste of film. Quite the contrary, this is a film as weird as they come, especially the performance by Ettore Ribotta as the chainsmoking Inspector Rinaldi. He berates his men constantly, making them seem useless and when they do come up with vital clues, he claims them as his own! Add to that the extremely unusual way Gianni and Silvia begin their romance and then continue with it (making it seem like it is going down the crapper, but, surprise!, it isn't) and you have a film that is 100% Italian cheese. Director "Al Santini" is actually Alessandro Santini, a director of some very obscure flicks, including the romance film with a slight tinge of giallo titled SWEET WOMAN'S SKIN (1971) and the Spaghetti Western BEYOND THE FRONTIERS OF HATE (1972). He was a Production Manager on the Spaghetti Western KILL OR BE KILLED (1966), which also starred Gordon Mitchell. If it seems like huge chunks of exposition are missing from this film (such as how Silvia managed to escape from Professor Helmut and other instances that will have you throwing your hands in the air in exasperation), it can all be credited to Santini, who didn't feel that he needed to show such things to the audience to advance the plot. Well, guess what? He was wrong! This is one of the most fragmented films I have ever laid eyes on, which gives it a really strange vibe, like you are experiencing someone's vivid nightmare. Is it good? Oh my, no, not by a long shot. But is it entertaining? Yes, yes it is. It is full of female nudity and some graphic violence, but a lot less blood than normal, especially for a film of this type and considering the subject matter. I'm not pretending that this is a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is just obscure and strange enough to merit at least one viewing. Also be aware that the film is supposedly set in 1963 (it is referred to in a bit of dialogue), but anachronisms abound, including Gianni's Porche, which looks to be a much-later model, and other visual sights, putting this film strictly in the early-1970s.
Shot as LA PELLE SOTTO GLI ARTIGLI (a literal translation of the review title, but a better title would be "The Skin Under The Nails" since there are no claws on view!), this film never got a theatrical or home video release in any format in the United States. If you want to see this, you will have to go to YouTube and find the film streaming from user "Agostina Carnimeo". The anamorphic widescreen print is fuzzy and somewhat dark, but watchable (in Italian with English subtitles), giving it the perfect, dreamy sense of fragmentation and mystique this film so richly deserves. Beggars can't be choosers, so get cracking before YouTube deletes this user's account. Also featuring Agostino De Simone (PHENOMENAL AND THE TREASURE OF TUTANKAMEN - 1968, another obscure Gordon Mitchell flick), Franco Rossi and Ada Pometti (ESCAPE FROM WOMENS PRISON - 1978). Not Rated.
SLASH (2002) - Pretty standard slasher/comedy flick (filmed in South Africa, trying to pass itself for Mid-West America and failing miserably) with a couple of redeeming factors. The film begins with a young Jonathan "Mac" MacDonald playing in his family's barn when he spots his grandfather Jethro (Danny Keogh) wheeling in the body of a woman and bringing her into a part of the barn where he has the corpses of other bodies, draining them of blood into glass jugs. Mac hides, but his music box (which plays "Old MacDonald Had A Farm") gives him away and Jethro tries to grab him. A lantern tips over during the struggle and Grandpa catches on fire, burning down the barn. Mac gets away and his mother moves the both of them away from the farm. Thirteen years later, Mac (James O'Shea) is the lead singer in an Emo rock band called Slash. They are about to hit the big time when a record executive hears their set and wants them to record an album, but a man called Billy Bob (Nick Boraine, who looks like a hillbilly cousin of Jake Busey and is the best thing about this film) appears and tells Mac that his Aunt has died and the funeral will be held at the MacDonald farm. The entire band (including the roadie and a female groupie) decides to go with Mac to the farm, so they hop on their tour bus and make the long trip. They are greeted by Billy Bob and Mac's father Jeremiah (Steve Railsback; ED GEIN - 2000), who hasn't seen his son for over thirteen years and is happy he has come (Jeremiah's favorite saying is, "I'm just yankin' yer chain."). Jeremiah has rebuilt the barn exactly like it was before it burned down and invites the band to rehearse there after the funeral. They have no choice, since their bus has broken down, there is no cell phone service (God, I hate that plot device!) and it will be two days before the part to fix the bus will be delivered. Mac becomes more and more distant from his band and begins to do chores like chopping wood. His father seems very pleased, but the rest of the band is worried about him. They should be, since someone dressed like a scarecrow begins slashing the cast with a scythe. It all leads to the eventual showdown, where Mac and the remaining members of his band (the drummer, the keyboardist and the roadie have all been murdered) must fight the scarecrow, who turns out to be Jethro (he survived the fire). He is collecting the blood of humans to irrigate the crops because legend has it that spraying the crops with blood will yield a great harvest. Jeremiah is also in on it, so he and Jethro try to kill everyone except Mac, who they want to join them. After some trickery from Mac involving a knife with a retractable blade, he manages to set both Jeremiah and Jethro on fire and burn down the barn yet again. The finale shows that Mac and his band (which now contains Billy Bob as their keyboardist!) have become famous, thanks to the experience (Mac has written a whole album devoted to the MacDonald farm), but the final shot shows that a severely burned Jeremiah is still alive and hoping to get the "Harvest of Blood" back on track. While nothing special, this is still an enjoyable horror flick thanks to the performance of Nick Boraine as Billy Bob. He looks like he is going to be the bad guy, but turns out to be pretty funny, as he continually outwits the band's keyboardist, Keith (Craig Kirkwood), especially in accuracy in firing Keith's pistol and being really good playing Keith's keyboard (He's the church's organ player, after all!). Director Neil Sundstrom (HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH - 1989) keeps the bloodletting to a minimum, although there are a few memorable moments, including the roadie being grinded up in a crop thresher and a couple of gory scythe impalements. The comedy elements mostly fall flat, except for the exploits of Billy Bob, who should have a movie devoted just to him (Keith calls him "Sling Blade" at one point). On the whole, this film is worth at least one viewing if you enjoy slasher flicks. Also starring Zuleikha Robinson as the band's female base player, David Dukas as the horny lead guitarist, Brett Goldin as the roadie, Nina Wassung as the groupie, Michael Richard as the moonshine guzzling Sheriff who is also the town's preacher and Anton Vorster as the scarecrow killer. A First Look Pictures VHS & DVD Release. Rated R.
SLASHERS (2001) - In the ultimate Japanese reality show, called Slashers, a group of six contestants must survive a night being chased and killed by three murderous characters: Chainsaw Charlie (Neil Napier), Dr. Ripper (Christopher Piggins) and Preacherman (Neil Napier again). In this special edition of the show, six American contestants are vying for the twelve million dollar grand prize. They are set loose in what looks like a huge multilevel warehouse filled with mazes and bicker and fight with each other as well as share intimate secrets about their past and why they are here in the first place. The really strange thing about this game is that there is only one cameraman to follow the action, so where ever the cameraman is, the killings will follow (a major plot point at the finale). The first person to be killed is Rebecca (Carolina Pla), who says that she has MS and does not want to die a slow death. She kills Preacherman by planting a wooden stake through his eye but is graphically cut in half at the waste (her guts spill out) by Charlie's chainsaw. More extremely gory killings follow in this low-rent shot-on-video take-off of THE RUNNING MAN (1986), yet it is extremely watchable and has some biting comments on today's society. Sometimes the weakest of the bunch comes out on top and the strongest fall because they are too confident. It's talky at times, but the bloody murders really make you stand up and take notice. Director Maurice Devereaux, who also made the terrible BLOOD SYMBOL (seven years in the making!) and LADY OF THE LAKE (1998), fills the screen with enough blood, nudity, strange situations (all the action has to stop for commercial breaks otherwise the collars the contestants and killers wear will give them electrical shocks!), unbelievable dialogue and quick editing tricks to hold your attention. Not a bad way to spend 99 minutes. This is one of those films that Fangoria presented on DVD and VHS. Also starring Sarah Joslyn Crowder (a real find), Kieran Keller, Tony Curtis Blondell (as the black muscle-bound ex-Marine), Jerry Spirio, Sofia De Medeiros and Claudine Shiraishi. An MTI Home Video Release. Not Rated.
OF THE VAMPIRES (1962) -
In the late-18th Century, townspeople with torches and pitchforks
(Are there any other kind?) chase a male and female vampire for
killing young girls in their village. They catch the female vampire,
impaling her with their pitchforks while she lies on the ground
growling and showing her fangs, giving the male vampire time to
escape. After the opening credits, we see a horse-drawn carriage
racing down a dirt street, as the nameless male vampire (Dieter
TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM - 1967) tells the coachman to
hurry up, he has to make it to the castle
before the sun rises. He makes it just in time, as he and the
coachman carry his coffin into the castle.
We are then introduced to Wolfgang (Walter Brandi; Producer of A...FOR ASSASSIN - 1966) and his new wife Louise (Graziella Granata; MOLE MEN AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES - 1961). They are throwing a party at the castle they just purchased to live in. Care to guess which castle that is? As Louise plays piano for the guests, Wolfgang tells his butler to go to the wine cellar and to come back with the finest claret he can find. As the butler makes the long walk down to the wine cellar and dusts off bottles of claret, we see the vampire's coffin behind some barrels of wine. The nameless vampire (really, he has no name!) rises from his coffin and decides to join the party. Louise somehow senses the vampire in the room, stops playing the piano and tells her husband that she is feeling faint. Wolfgang then mingles with the guests (way to worry about your wife!), as the vampire walks up to Louise, takes her hand and dances a waltz with her. All the female guests swoon over the vampire, while the male guests look upon him with contempt, one man calling him "sinister". When the music ends, Louise nearly faints and the vampire quickly exits the party. Louise excuses herself, saying she is ill and goes to her bedroom to recuperate. While the female guests gossip about the vampire, saying no one knows who he is and he is probably Louise's secret lover, the vampire appears in Louise's bedroom, lays her on the bed and bites her on the neck.
A few days pass and Louise begins acting strange, not eating and looking pale, so Wolfgang has a doctor (Alfredo Rizzo; director of THE BLOODSUCKER LEADS THE DANCE - 1975; and a star of THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR - 1965 [also with Brandi]) come to the castle and examine her. He tells Wolfgang that her pulse is weak and she is probably anemic, saying Louise needs plenty of bed rest and a good meal. That night, Louise leaves her bedroom and walks out of the castle, where she meets the vampire, who tells her that she will soon become a vampire and they will be together for all eternity. The doctor may very well know that Louise is becoming a vampire, telling Wolfgang that he and his wife need to get out of the castle immediately and when they do, to contact Dr. Nietzche ("Paolo Solvay" a.k.a. Luigi Batzella, director of THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT - 1973) in Vienna, but not telling Wolfgang why. Louise is too weak to leave the castle, so Wolfgang travels to Vienna, where he meets Dr. Nietzche and discovers he is a vampire hunter. At first, Wolfgang has no idea who he is, thinking he is a medical doctor, until he tells Wolfgang that the only way to save his wife is to kill the vampire who bit her. When Wolfgang and Dr. Nietzche get to the castle, the servants tell Wolfgang that Louise is dead, but when Wolfgang and the Doctor go to her bedroom, Louise is not there; the bed is empty and the window is wide open. Dr. Nietzche tells Wolfgang it is not too late to save his wife, because the vampire has taken her away and will continue to bite her until she becomes a full-fledged vampire, so they must find her and destroy the vampire before that happens.
While Wolfgang is sobbing in the garden, Louise appears and bites him on the neck, but the vampire shows up and drags Louise away. Dr. Nietzche performs a blood transfusion on Wolfgang so he doesn't suffer the same fate as his wife. He then tells Wolfgang that they must find Louise's body before morning so they can put her to rest by driving a wooden stake through her heart, but Wolfgang refuses to do it because he loves his wife so dearly. Yes, Louise is now a full-fledged bloodsucker, complete with sharp fangs and a deadly aversion to the sun, but will Wolfgang be able to kill her, along with the nameless vampire who infected her? I'm afraid you'll have to watch the film to find out, but I will divulge this: Death is not always the final answer.
This black & white Italian Gothic horror film, directed and written by Roberto Mauri (KONG ISLAND - 1968; ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS - 1969; MADELEINE, STUDY OF A NIGHTMARE - 1974), is nothing but a meal of leftovers; a bunch of vampire tropes done without an ounce of originality. There is one surprise revealed by servant girl Corrine (Edda Ferronao; HERE WE GO AGAIN, EH PROVIDENCE? - 1973) towards the end of the film, but if I told you what it was, I would be depriving you of your only enjoyment should you decide to watch the film. And what's with not giving the vampire a formal name? It would help knowing the name of the vampire who is causing all this, rather than just calling him "nameless vampire"! Imagine if a James Bond villain didn't have a formal name? It would be akin to calling Blofeld the "man with the pussycat" or Scaramanga the "assassin with three nipples"! If we are to hate someone, for Christ's sake, give him a fucking name! It also doesn't help that nearly every actor in this film act like they have no energy at all, as if they were performing on autopilot, which is surprising, since Walter Brandi was so good in THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (1960), but he played the vampire in that film (and he had a name!), unlike this one. If I have to say one good thing about this film, it would be that Aldo Piga (THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE - 1960; TERROR-CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE - 1965 [both starring Brandi]) supplied a very atmospheric music score, a mixture of orchestral passages and theremin soundscapes whenever vampires are on-screen, otherwise this film is a total washout. I remember liking this film when watching it on TV on the '60s & '70s, but my adult brain can now see the film for what it actually is: a hodge-podge of rehashed vampire clichés that were well-worn-out even when this film was made, all told without an ounce of originality or a sense of adventure. Frankly, it sucks.
Shot as LA STRAGE DEI VAMPIRI (a literal translation of the review title) and also known as CURSE OF THE BLOOD GHOULS, this film obtained a theatrical release in the United States in 1969 (!), under the CURSE title, from Pacemaker Pictures. As far as I could tell, this film never obtained a legitimate VHS release in the U.S (although IMDb says Monterey Home Video released it on VHS, something I haven't been able to corroborate), but it did appear in that format from various gray market companies, such as Something Weird Video and Sinister Cinema. It did, however, have a healthy life on DVD, including at least three releases on DVD by Retromedia Entertainment starting in 2005 and a much better DVD from Dark Sky Films in 2007, all of them long OOP. It can also be found streaming on YouTube from user "Dannyaines" in a widescreen print dubbed in English. The print used is problematic, though, as the backgrounds seem warped and move in a wave-like motion. Those that get easily seasick may want to avoid this print. No Blu-Ray at the time of this review. Also featuring Carla Foscari (GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS - 1959), Gena Gimmy and Maretta Procaccini. Not Rated.
SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS (1988) - A fun, campy performance by Pamela Springsteen (yes, Bruce's sister, who quit acting shortly after appearing in this series to become a photographer) highlights this diverting little time-waster. Pamela takes over the role of Angela, the notorious boy-turned-girl psychotic of the first film. In this installment, Angela is a camp counselor who dispatches various naughty campers in bloody ways. When asked by the camp's owner, Uncle John (Walter Gotell, who played General Gogol in a bunch of James Bond films), where the campers are, Angela simply replies that she sent them home for doing bad things. Nearly everyone at the camp gets "sent home". A good body count, imaginative murders and competant direction by Michael Simpson (who would also direct the second sequel SLEEPAWAY CAMP III: TEENAGE WASTELAND - 1989) make this film a good bet for horror fans. Anchor Bay released the first three films (with a DVD for the unfinished Part IV) in a SURVIVAL KIT with a big red cross on it. The real Red Cross sued Anchor Bay and made them change the packaging. Anyone who owns the first pressing has a collector's item on their hands, although the original SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983) is missing some gore footage. Keep your Media Home Video tapes, kiddies! Also starring Renee Estevez, Anthony Higgins, Valerie Hartman, Brian Patrick Clarke and Susan Marie Snyder. Originally released on VHS by Nelson Entertainment. Rated R. NOTE: Rupert Hitzig, the director of the first film, made a new one called RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP starring the original Angela, Felissa Rose, produced in 2003, but not released until 2008 (Yes, it is that bad!).
SLEEPSTALKER: THE SANDMANS LAST RITES (1995) - So-so horror film in search of a decent plot. A serial killer known as the Sandman (Michael Harris; SATAN'S PRINCESS - 1990) is apprehended by the police after killing seven families while they slept. Seventeen years later, the only surviving boy of the Sandmans wrath (Jay Underwood; THE FANTASTIC FOUR - 1994) learns that the Sandman is to be executed by the gas chamber. A blind voodoo priest (Michael D. Roberts; MANHUNTER - 1986) administers the last rites to the Sandman, giving him the ability to turn into sand and reappear at will. Soon the Sandman is stalking his only survivor (turns out they were brothers and the Sandman was searching for his adoptive family) and killing anyone who gets in his way. Uninvolving most of the way because it is a by-the-numbers 90's stalk n' slash flick. It does try to ellicit some sympathy for the villian (flashbacks show him as a kid with his lips sewn shut and protecting a baby, while being abused by his alcoholic father, before killing him with a shard of a mirror) and contains some good morphing effects and a haunting musical score (the song "Sleep Baby Sleep" is used to excellent effect), but this is not enough to save it from the dollar bins. A sequel was announced but (so far) has not been made. I do have to say I liked it a lot more the second time I watched it, over 17 years later. That is the nature of reviewing films. Also starring Kathryn Morris (TV's COLD CASE - 2003-2010), Ken Foree (THE DEVIL'S REJECTS - 2005) and William Lucking (CONTRABAND - 2012). Directed and co-written by Turi Meyer (CANDYMAN: DAY OF THE DEAD - 1999). An Osmosis Pictures/Prism Entertainment VHS Home Video Release. Also available on DVD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Rated R.
SORCERESS (1994) - I must be going mad because I found this Jim Wynorski-directed effort to be a highly watchable and involving supernatural erotic thriller. The plot is too complex to describe in a short review, so Ill just state that the women look great naked (including Julie Strain and Rochelle Swanson displaying the finest pairs of tits that money can buy), theres generous doses of unrated soft-core sex (including straight, lesbian and threesomes) and the storyline is somewhat original and holds your attention (something I thought I would never say about a Wynorski film; see GHOULIES 4 review). You could do a lot worse than to go out and rent this film. Also starring Larry Poindexter, Linda Blair, Edward Albert, Michael Parks and William BLACULA Marshall. Produced by Fred Olen Ray and written by Mark Thomas McGee. Photographed with style by Gary Graver. A Triboro Entertainment Video Release. Not Rated due to the many sex scenes. (NOTE: I just caught a film on HBO called MILITIA , an action flick directed by Wynorski using the pseudonym "Jay Andrews". It's actually pretty good and stars Dean Cain, Frederic Forrest and Jennifer Beals. It was written by Steve Latshaw, director of such badfilms as BIOHAZARD: THE ALIEN FORCE (1994) and JACK-O (1995). You'd never guess it's a Wynorski film by watching it. It's probably the most professional thing that he's done.)
SOUND OF HORROR (1964) - This is another 70's late-night TV staple that just up and disappeared until Alpha Video found what looks like a worn 16mm black & white print and put it on DVD. This Spanish production tells the story about a group of treasure hunters, led by Andre (Antonio Casas), who are looking for hidden treasure in some remote mountain region in Greece. As they dynamite a cave, they discover some petrified eggs and the mummified body of a Neanderthal Man. During the explosions, one of the eggs cracks open and something hatches from it. I say something because it is invisible. Andre and his group are joined by fellow WW II veteran Acelo (James Philbrook) and his gang (which includes a young Ingrid Pitt) who have the second half of a treasure map that will lead everyone to the exact location of hidden gold artifacts. They eventually find the treasure but may never get to enjoy it as the invisible creature begins ripping apart the cast (quite graphically for a mid-60's production) while it unleashes a blood-curdling cry, the Sound of Horror. Greed gets the best of our treasure hunters. Their thirst for gold outweighs their concerns for safety and, unfortunately, some of them will die before the night is through. As daylight approaches, the creature (Is it a dinosaur or an alien? The brief glimpses may make you think it's a dinosaur, but who ever heard of an invisible dinosaur?) breaks into their house. One of the guys says, "Do you mind if I tremble a little?" as they try to find a way to defeat the creature. Maybe fire will work? Ingenious in the way it portrays the creature as an unknown entity (and probably saving the filmmakers time and money on creating a monster suit), SOUND OF HORROR is still much too talky for it's own good. Director Jose Antonio Nieves Conde does manage to liven the proceedings with the grizzly creature attacks, but they are few and far between. The screenplay, by Conde, producer Gregorio Sacristan and Greg Tallas (co-director of THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS - 1980), spends too much time on people squabbling, falling in love (Tragic European starlet Soledad Miranda is also in the cast) or listening to silly superstitions to make this anything but a mindless potboiler. Most reviews list the creature as a dinosaur, but I take exception to that classification because, although we get very quick glimpses of it towards the end, it could still be an alien creature (the invisiblity makes me leans towards extraterrestrial). I remember watching this as a kid on TV and being scared to death by the creatures cry (it sounds like an old lady being murdered). Now, I just watch it and wonder what all the fuss what about. It's not a bad film, mind you, it's just another disappointment best remembered as a kid than as an adult. Also starring Arturo Fernandez, Jose Bodalo, Lola Gaos and Francisco Piquer. An Alpha Video Release. Not Rated.
YOUNG, SO LOVELY, SO VICIOUS...
(1975) - Recent college graduate Angela (Gloria Guida; TO
BE TWENTY - 1978) is none too pleased that her father,
Doctor Batrucchi (Silvano Tranquilli; THE
SLASHER...IS THE SEX MANIAC! - 1972), is going to get
married to Irene (Dagmar Lassander; WEREWOLF
WOMAN - 1976), meaning that she will have a new stepmother.
The sexually promiscuous Angela and her equally horny boyfriend
Sandro (Fred Robsahm; BLACK
KILLER - 1971) keep a close eye on Irene and all of her
habits, putting her down as much as humanly possible (Angela doesn't
have a single kind word to say about her). It is quite possible that
Angela wants Daddy all to herself. Even Sandro asks her if she has
sexual feelings for her father, Angela saying don't be ridiculous. So
why is she so upset to see her father so happy?
Angela hopes to set up Irene by having Sandro come on to her to see how she will react, thereby getting proof that she is marrying her father only for his money. Irene and Sandro become very close, but she won't let him get too close (if you know what I mean), which pisses off Angela. No one, not even Angela's father, know anything about Irene's past, so when they all go to a nightclub and a woman named Martha (Rita Orlando; THE POSSESSOR - 1975) says hello to Irene and that she hasn't seen her in a long time, Angela wants to know everything she can about Martha, hoping to dig up some dirt on Irene so she can tell her father. Angela still has Sandro continue to hit on Irene, hoping she will have a weak moment to use against her. Irene proves to be one cool cookie, as nothing seems to phase her, which just makes Angela more determined to find out about her past, having her friend Donatella help her find something, anything on Irene that she can use against her (When Sandro thinks he is finally getting to third base with Irene, she asks him to turn out the lights. When he does, he discovers Irene has left his house, hearing her car pull away). Angela "accidentally" meets Martha at the beauty parlor and pumps her for information on Irene's past, but she learns nothing, because Martha also knows nothing about her past. Sandro tells Angela that Irene has tremendous self-control and is probably frigid (!), so Angela gives Irene a Cosmo-like sex quiz, finding out that Irene has yet to make love to her father. Yes, Irene is a virgin and she will remain one until she marries Angela's father. Is that true or is Irene purposely lying to Angela?
Daddy goes away on an extended business trip, telling Angela that he doesn't know when he is coming back, but when he does, he is marrying Irene. This trip leaves Angela alone with Irene, giving her plenty of time to play head games with her, showing Irene a slideshow of her last stepmother, but like I said before, Irene is one cool customer, at least in front of Angela, although we get the feeling that there is something majorly wrong with Irene, deadly wrong. Angela deceives Irene by pretending to be upset about her previous stepmother, one moment refusing to move, lying completely naked on her bed and the next moment being antsy and inviting Irene to a beach excursion, purposely getting themselves lost and leaving Irene by herself, making her believe that Angela died, slipping off a cliff to the boulders below, that is, until she sneaks up behind Irene and scares the shit out of her. Yes, Angela is a piece of work, but is Irene more dangerous than her? All the evidence points to yes, as we will witness more head games, the next one being twice as dangerous as the one before it, until Irene shows her true colors. What colors would they be? I'm afraid you'll have to watch the film for yourself to find out.
This slice of Italian exploitation sleaze, directed and co-written by Silvio Amadio (AMUCK - 1971; SMILE BEFORE DEATH - 1972), is stuffed with full-frontal male and female nudity, wrapped around a fairly involving mystery, as the layers are slowly peeled back on Irene's past. This film does slow down during the middle section, but I guarantee you will watch the whole film, just to discover who Irene really is, because she seems to be too disingenuous for her own good. You'll be thinking she is too good to be true and you're right, but in this film, everyone is a heel. Sandro is a boytoy of a rich older woman named Joan (Dana Ghia, as "Felicita Ghia"; THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY - 1971) and he's stealing her money and selling off her property to pay his gambling debts. Angela is a bitch with a capital "C", who only cares about herself. She really doesn't give a damn about her father, using him as an excuse to cover her true nature. Still, she looks amazing naked and she has no problem with parading around naked because she just doesn't care. Angela uses people like you and I would use a tissue to blow our nose and you'll want to slap that smirk off her face, but that is this film's central theme: girls behaving badly. Angela even seduces Irene on the beach, while Sandro secretly snaps away with his camera (Angela is so petty, she complains to Sandro that some of his photos are out of focus!), those photos leading to the film's crushing finale. Amadio does a pretty good job with the material (co-written with Roberto Natale [BLOODY PIT OF HORROR - 1965]), keeping you guessing, about Irene's past and how far Angela is willing to go to discover it (which is pretty damn far!). It's only when Angela realizes that she went too far, does the film conclude with a very unexpected finale (The reason Irene is hiding her past may not be shocking today, but it was when this film was made). I never heard of this film (shot as PECCATI DI GIOVENTU ["Sins Of Youth"]) until I saw it on free streaming channel Drive-In Classics and decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did, even if they showed the same commercial over and over every ten minutes. Just like most Italian genre films, bottles of J&B (Justerini & Brooks) Scotch are consumed, Sandro drinking it straight out of the bottle when he realizes that his life is over, when Joan cuts him off from the money he needs to pay gambling debts. Also starring Flavio Sorrentino (DESPERATELY LAST SUMMER - 1970; directed by Amadio). Not Rated.
STAGEFRIGHT (1987) - After reading so many positive reviews for this film, I must say that I was a little disappointed after viewing it. Director Michele Soavi (THE CHURCH - 1989) has a flair for visuals and there are a few tense moments and plenty of gore (the best being the scene of a pregnant girl torn in half with a chainsaw), but the story is strictly old hat. It concerns an escaped psycho actor (named Irving Wallace!) slaughtering a company of performers who are rehearsing a musical horror play at a locked-up theater. This is merely slasher stuff showcasing various ways to kill people, even if it is well done. The screenplay (by Luigi Montefiori, using his pseudonym "George Eastman") is just plain lazy (the heroine's injured ankle only seems to bother her when she needs to get away from the killer, otherwise she walks just fine) and there's not one slasher trope that isn't utilized here (When the killer gets stabbed in the eye with a large nail, he shakes it off and continues killing, making him basically unkillable, that is until he is shot in the head [but the film ends with the killer opening his eyes!]). Also known as AQUARIUS and BLOODY BIRD. Starring Barbara Cupisti (OPERA - 1987), David Brandon (THE PRINCE OF TERROR - 1988), Mickey Knox (DAY OF THE COBRA - 1980), John Morghen (HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK - 1979) and Clain Parker as Irving Wallace. On VHS from Imperial Entertainment. Available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Blue Underground. Unrated.
SUDDEN DEATH (1975) - Robert Conrad stars as an ex-operative who is forced to return to his killing ways in this Filipino actioner, directed by Eddie Romero (THE WOMAN HUNT - 1972, TWILIGHT PEOPLE - 1972; WHITE FORCE - 1988). Conrad must find the murderers of the president (and his family) of a huge corporation. Together with his partner (Felton Perry of WALKING TALL - 1973), Conrad rages war on the board of directors and the assassin (Don Stroud of THE DIVINE ENFORCER - 1991) sent out to kill him. Lots of fights and explosions, although they are rather sloppily filmed. Still, it holds your attention and has a really downbeat conclusion. Co-starring John Ashley (who also co-produced), Larry Manetti (of MAGNUM P.I. [1980 - 1988]) and Filipino staple Vic Diaz in a bit part. From Media Entertainment. Rated R. NOTE: For more on this film from screenwriter Carl Kuntze, check out his email HERE. UPDATE: Eddie Romero passed away on March 28, 2013.
SUICIDE CULT (1977) - Interzod is a government facility that uses astrology with amazing accuracy to predict what course a person's life is going to take. Alexei (Bob Byrd), the founder of Interzod, needs an ancient document in Jerusalem to find out the birth date of the Virgin Mary so he can calculate the Second Coming. Alexei also has a young wife (Monica Tidkell) whom he mysteriously protects with armed guards at a tightly secured mansion. He has been married for six months and has never made love to her. Alexei is also on the trail of sadistic Indian cult leader Kajerste (producer Mark Buntzman), who sexually mutilates women and children. All these plot elements tie together in an arresting, if somewhat statically acted, multifaceted film which covers many genres. It's part horror, mystery, espionage and supernatural that blends together quite nicely in director James Glickenhaus' (THE EXTERMINATOR - 1980; SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS - 1993) first professional effort. Mark Buntzman (who would later direct EXTERMINATOR 2 - 1984) is eerily effective as the cult leader as he manages to invoke terror with a minimum of dialogue. I was disappointed with the non-ending and occasionally the low budget shows (such as the stock location shots), but it is still worthwhile viewing if only to see how Glickenhaus, who once ran a production and releasing company (Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment) and now owns a stocks investment company, got his start. Glickenhaus also makes an appearance here as an agent in a sports car. This long out-of-print video was released in the 80's by Continental Video. You may find a used copy for sale on eBay if you're extremely lucky. Also known as THE ASTROLOGER. Rated R.
SWORD OF HEAVEN (1984) - Martial arts/police nonsense about a Japanese cop, on loan in L.A., who comes in possession of a magical sword made from a fallen meteor 400 years earlier. He teams up with an Irish cop (Gerry Gibson) to smash a paramilitary group bent on blackmailing rich people (Huh?). It doesn't make much sense and the title creation doesn't come into play until the final five minutes when it is used in a decapitation. Star Tadashi Yamashita speaks English almost as well as Sho Kosugi. Skip it and rent ENTER THE DRAGON. From Trans World Entertainment. Rated R.
SYNGENOR (1990) - Third-rate monster film with a good cast. This is actually a semi-sequel to director William Malone's SCARED TO DEATH (1980), but Malone wisely decided against directing this, since it knocks most of the rules he set in the first film on its ass (Malone did design the monster suits, though, the main one worn by Kevin M. Connor). The film open with Norton Cyberdyne executive Stan Armbrewster (Charles 'Chip' Lucia; SOCIETY - 1989), bringing company executive Paula (Riva Spier; GHOSTKEEPER - 1980) and a bimbo and her boyfriend downstairs to celebrate something. A Syngenor (SYNthetic GENetic ORganism) is being held in captivity. It is an alien-like creature that were genetically produced to take the place of soldiers in battle. Since they are asexual, they reproduce every 24 hours. A Syngenor is accidentally let loose, so Paula tells Stan that no outsiders can leave alive, so we see a Syngenor kill the man and his topless bimbo girlfriend. It then gets loose in the city and heads to its creator, Ethan Valentine (Lewis Arquette; THE HORROR SHOW - 1989). It kills Ethan just as niece Susan Valentine (Starr Andreeff; AMITYVILLE: DOLLHOUSE - 1996) comes home and Susan throws a vase of flowers at it and the water in the vase hurts it (Unlike SCARED TO DEATH, where the monster roamed through the sewer tunnels). Norton Cyberdyne president Carter Brown (David Gale; THE BRAIN - 1987) is rapidly going crazy (nobody did crazy like the late David Gale) and keeps injecting some substance behind his ear (it is never explained, although the substance is a neon green, just like in a certain movie Gale starred in) and believes everyone in the company is out to get him (just because you're crazy doesn't mean it's not true). Paula wants all the Syngenors destroyed along with any files pertaining to them, but Susan and nosy reporter Nick Cary (Mitchell Laurance; THE RUNESTONE - 1990) sneak into the company to see what they can find out. Stan tries to get receptionist Bonnie (Melanie Shatner; the running joke is everyone keeps asking her age) to get the files on the Syngenor project downstairs and she accidentally lets loose a whole bunch of Syngenors in the building (and gets electrocuted in the process). Susan learns that the company has also developed a new weapon, called the "Deathrattle" before she is spotted by a guard. Rather than go through all the "people trapped in a building" shit, I'll just give you the kills: Syngenors kill a massive amount of security guards before they take the elevator and begin killing upstairs. Carter uses the Deathrattle to make Stan a red stain on the wall. Carter kills the rest of the board members (besides Paula) in the boardroom while wearing a plastic bunny mask on the back of his head (I told you he was crazy!). Paula and the head Syngenor (you'll know it when you see it) are destroyed together by the Deathrattle, but the Syngenor genetically re-assembles itself by using its parts and Paula's parts together and they then squash Carter's head like a bug. Susan remembers that Syngenors are afraid of water (What happens if they were sent to the battlefield in the rain?) so she and Nick turn on the sprinkler system and all the Syngenors dissolve. Oh, and Susan and Nick become lovers. THE END. Besides the film being boring as hell (William Malone must have read the screenplay by Brent V. Friedman, who also wrote EVIL ALTAR , TICKS  and HELLBOUND ), none of the film makes very much sense. Director George Elanjian Jr. (Who never directed another film, but he was a Key Grip on James Glickenhaus' SUICIDE CULT - 1977) never tries to explain why Paula wants to take over the company, what Carter is shooting behind his ear, why he is going stark raving bonkers, why don't the police want to help especially when there's a massacre going on (especially since one of the Chiefs is friends with Susan) and why the building is so easy to sneak into (The poor black guard who is in charge just up and quits. He was the only one with sense.). The stabs at humor here are pathetic and it is easy to spot where the film was cut to achieve an R-Rating (a scene with an electric drill; Paula's death and Carter's head-squashing among the most apparent). The least the DVD could do was restore these scenes so there would be more gore in the film, but this is just a typical low-rent monster flick from the 90's. Even the much lower budgeted SCARED TO DEATH was 100% better than this. Don't waste your time until a version comes out with the cut scenes restored. Photographed by James Mathers (MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE  and the underrated BRAKE ). A total piece of crap except for Malone's Syngenor suits. Originally available on fullscreen VHS by SouthGate Entertainment. Also starring Jeff Doucette, Bill Gratton; Ken Zavayna, Toy Fegan and Julie Kris. A Synapse Films DVD Release. Rated R.
TAETER CITY (2012) - For the past few years, readers of this site have been emailing me, telling me to watch this film. Well, I finally did watch it and all I can say is: WTF did I just watch???. This begins like some fragmented futuristic TV show, where the leader of this anti-violence society, who goes by the name Caronte (Riccardo Valentini), praises the new regime for transmitting a radio frequency, called the "Zeed", that makes all violent criminals commit suicide, even future criminals who haven't committed any violence yet! The bodies of the dead criminals are then turned into food, which a fast food company named "Taeter Burger" sells to all the non-violent citizens of this food-starved society, in the guise of a meaty hamburger (and the citizens know exactly what they are eating!). But something goes wrong with the Zeed System, turning a man named Trevor Covalsky (director/producer/screenwriter Giulio De Santi) into a mutant immune to the Zeed, who goes about killing all the important people involved in this inhumane society. A special police division, called "The Bikers" (a group who collect all the dead bodies of criminals and turn them over for food processing) are called in to kill Trevor, but they run into something that they cannot control, because Trevor is infecting his victims with the same power he has. We watch as Bikers Wank (Wilmar Zimosa), Shock (Santiago Ortaez) and Razor (the big-breasted Monica Muñoz) try to kill Trevor, unsuccessfully, usually with very gory results. That the best way I can explain this short Italian cyber-punk film (running 72 minutes, 11 minutes of it the end credits!), which will remind many people (including myself) of those Japanese gore films like TETSUO Series (1989 - 2009) and its ilk. I almost turned off the film when it started, but something inside me couldn't do it because I was mesmerized by the gory visuals, which are very well done (by Giulio De Santi and his crew) and the insane music score (by Razzaw), that puts the viewer at unease. People are skinned alive, have their face melted, decapitations aplenty, impalements or have their skulls cleaved in two (both horizontaly and vertically!), everything thrown at the screen for the viewer to see. I'm not saying that this is a good film because it's not (the story, if you want to call it that, is very hard to follow), but it has a certain "something" that hypnotizes you and you will find it very hard to take your eyes off the screen. The dubbing, which is extremely bad, also adds to this film's charms, especially when Caronte comes on screen to regale his audience with how neatly the government is being run and then reminding his audience to eat at Taeter Burger! I really can't recommend this film, as it has nothing of note except for the extremely gory visuals, but I also can't condemn it, because I found myself watching it till the end. It's one of those films that leaves me flabbergasted, not knowing why I don't hate it when I really should. It's not a film I would buy, but I saw it for free on Amazon Prime, so no harm, no foul, but others may want to see it just for the gory practical effects. Either way, it's a film you will soon not forget. I guess that's the best thing I can say about it. Giulio De Santi has also unleashed ADAM CHAPLIN (2011), HOTEL INFERNO (2013) and THE MILDEW OF PLANET XONADER (2015), films that are available on DVD at Amazon, but I would suggest you watch this film first, just to see if you would be interested in purchasing his other films. I really don't know if I am ready for that, because my mind is still reeling from this film, but if a film affects me this way, I am sure that I will visit his other films in the future. De Santi announces a sequel at the end of this film, but, so far, it hasn't materialized. Also starring Marzia Maghi, Pierluigi Nitas, Enrique Sorres, Luise Di Stefano and Sabriel Munoz. A BayView Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated and deservedly so.
TEN (2014) - Simply horrid piece of micro-budgeted crap that tries to be sly, but ends up being much too talkative and boring. It is also full of anachronisms. Spektor Island, MA - December 1971: A young woman (Kerri Lynch) is exploring a seemingly abandoned cliffside mansion with a flashlight (but we learn immediately that the mansion has at least one other person in it and he/she doesn't look friendly). The mansion has a pig motif from a cuckoo clock that has a tiny pig spring out instead of the bird to a pig's head hanging on the wall that pulls out a chunk of the woman's hair. She is then confronted by someone wearing a painted clear mask and carrying a meat cleaver (the way the killer is dressed makes him/her look like an ice cream man, but the killer is listed as "The Butcher" during the end credits). The woman runs outside with the killer close behind. In a scene that makes no sense, the woman is suddenly wearing a pig mask, which the killer pulls off and knocks her off a cliff to the ocean below. Spektor Island, MA - December 1972: The woman who fell off the cliff survived and is now back at the mansion, this time with nine other women, all who received a small porcelain pig and instructions to come to the mansion (I'm not going to give the women any proper names because the film doesn't bother to give them any). They are all there under false pretenses with fake professions. The woman listed as the "Renegade" (Jade Sylvan) has a nose ring and is full of tattoos (Was that even a "thing" in 1972?) and the rest are there are part of an invitation for a business proposition that doesn't exist. After meeting and listening to these ten women, we can't wait until they are killed, especially the woman playing the "Religious Fanatic" nun (Molly Carlisle), who chastises another woman for eating a sandwich with meat in it. The actress dreams that "the ghost of Spektor Island" (make up your mind; is it the Butcher or the Ghost?) is in her bedroom and when she wakes up, she finds a porcelain pig's head on the other side of the bed (you better laugh now, because the rest of the film is insufferable). In one of the film's most nauseating (or creative; depends on your point of view) moments, we watch the camera spins around the room of a party attended by the women and every 360° turn the clock changes by two hours (7:00 PM; 9:00 PM; 11:00 PM; 1:00 AM). The camera stops spinning at 3:00 AM and someone slips a mickey into the "model's" (Leah Principe) drink. While the "folk singer" (Sophia Cacciola) plays a tune about pigs, the model strips completely naked (full-frontal; the only instance of nudity on the film) and enters the party, picking apart everyone's fake occupations (besides the ones already mentioned, there's a doctor [Susannah Plaster]; a historian [Rachael Leah Blumenthal]; a real estate developer [Molly Devon]; a coed [Porcelain Dalya]; and a medium [according to the credits, "UnAmerika's Sweetheart" Karin Webb]) and then walks upstairs, where we find out she was working in conjunction with the killer and he/she gives her a hand-painted clear plastic pig mask, but everyone finds her dead in the bathtub wearing the mask when the ceiling below the bathroom begins to leak (never trust a psychopathic killer, but one of braindead women tries to revive her by breathing into the mask's pig snout!). A hologram of a man (in 1972?) appears in the library and tells all the survivors that they are there because each of them is hiding some kind of deadly secret. This film is basically an unfunny feminist version of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" and when the masked killer shows up, the actress snaps the killer's neck, only to discover that it's the real estate agent, another one of the real killer's helpers. It's not worth it for me to describe any more of the film (you will thank me for that), because the kills are poorly done and, let's face it, the movie stinks. It's just a bunch of awkward 70's dialogue (some of which I never heard in the 70's) with an occasional bloodless kill (there's only one really bloody kill towards the end of the film). The set-up is straight out of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1966 - 1973), as all the women are actually agents for the U.S. government and given false identities to catch "Ten", a foreign agent who has some important microfilm in one of the ceramic pigs (They are all given reel-to-reel tapes that self-destruct after ten seconds. The makers of M:I should sue, especially after the small stinger after the end credits.). "Ten" turns out to be the tattooed renegade, but she may not be the real enemy. The real enemy may be our own government. Are we really the enemy? Directed, produced and written by actress Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein (who wisely chooses to stay behind the camera doing at least a half-dozen different jobs, including Editor and Special Effects Supervisor) and also co-written by actress Jade Sylvan and Sarah Wait Zaranek, this film is like spending a weekend watching your Aunt Gertrude's home videos (yet it won awards at film festivals, which is why I don't go to film festivals, especially since I never heard of half of them). I was actually getting sleepy while watching and nearly dozed off a few times, something I hardly ever do (And if I do, I watch the film completely over but, thankfully, I managed to keep my eyes open for this one. Another viewing would have been worse than being waterboarded). You know the film is in trouble when the best part of the movie are the animated opening credits, but even they are deceiving (it shows women being sliced in half both horizontally and vertically; something we never see in the film proper). The dialogue in this film makes every person seem like a Fulbright intellectual and really takes away most of the film's suspense, especially when coming from these women's mouths. And would someone please explain to me why "The Butcher" would stay in a mansion where he/she supposedly killed a woman a year earlier? The person may be a sociopath, but the character is given zero back-story, so we really don't care what happens except that he/she kills this untalented cast. I still don't get the pig symbolism except when one of the women says that pigs are the most intelligent animals besides humans. But what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? Please, I beg of you, don't watch this film unless you are suffering from insomnia. This will put you right to sleep. For a film with no men in it (except for voices; Troma president Lloyd Kaufman is one of those voices), one expects more than this piece of garbage. Filmed in Barrington, Rhode Island and Somerville, Massachusetts. A Brink Vision DVD Release. Not Rated, but only because it was never submitted to the MPAA. If it were, it would get an R-Rating based solely on the nude scene.
TERROR (1978) - The career of director Norman J. Warren runs hot and cold. Some of his films are good, such as ALIEN PREY (1978), HORROR PLANET (a.k.a INSEMINOID - 1980) and BLOODY NEW YEAR (1986), while others are downright awful, including SATANS SLAVE (1976; only the R-Rated version as the Uncut, Unrated version is very entertaining) and SPACED OUT (1979). TERROR falls somewhere in the middle. It begins as a film within a film, as a producer (John Nolan) shows his newest production to a group of his friends. It concerns the supposedly true story of how his ancestors burned a witch at the stake 300 years earlier, causing her to curse his family line. Past and present merge as a series of grisly murders of the producers friends take place, including a couple of brutal stabbings, an impalement on a wrought iron fence and a beheading by a falling pane of glass. The entire film plays as a whodunit, as the viewer tries to figure out if the producers long-lost cousin (Carolyn Courage) is or isnt the murderer. The final denouement makes everything that proceeds it seem moot, as the burned witch makes an appearance and kills the producer and his cousin. No one survives and the viewer feels cheated. Also known as KILLING HOUSE. Originally from VCI Video and then later released on VHS by United Entertainment Video. Available on a double feature DVD from the defunct Deimos Entertainment with SATAN'S SLAVE (1976) Also available on a double feature DVD from Scorpion Releasing with the uncut version of THE DEVIL'S MEN (a.k.a. LAND OF THE MINOTAUR - 1976). Rated R.
TERROR AT THE OPERA (1987) - Finally reaching these shores in its unedited glory, this Dario Argento thriller, originally titled OPERA, was well worth the wait. While not overtly gory or bloody it does have its fair share of shock and surprises. An understudy (Christina Marsillach) takes the lead part in an opera after the leading diva gets hit by a car. She is then relentlessly stalked by an unknown assailant who ties her up and makes her watch as he disposes of her friends one by one. Pins are taped under her eyes, so she cannot close her eyelids. The director of the opera (lan Charleson, in a semi-autobiographical representation of Dario Argento) comes up with a plan to expose the killer. Stylistic touches, expected in an Argento film, flourish throughout. The stand-out scene has to be the death of Daria Nicolodi, the ex-wife of Argento (He must really enjoy killing her). As she is answering the door, she looks through the peephole, and the killer puts a bullet through the hole. This scene is a wonderment of special effects and photography, the best I have seen in a long time. Seek this video out. You will not be disappointed. A Southgate Entertainment Home Video VHS Release. Also available on uncut DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment & Blue Underground and on Blu-Ray from Scorpion Entertainment. Unrated.
FROM THE GRAVE (1965) -
This companion piece to BLOODY
PIT OF HORROR (1965) shares the same director, screenwriters
and almost the same cast. It is also a creepy gothic take of
vengeance beyond the grave.
The film opens in the early-20th Century, where a nervous man hears a noise outside, so he leaves an empty bar and runs outside as the town clock strikes midnight. He goes to saddle his horse, when it bolts, knocking him to the ground. The horse tramples the man's head over and over until he is dead, one of his eyes protruding out of its socket. I guess the horse was more nervous than he was. But why?
We then see lawyer Albert Kovac (Walter Brandi; THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA - 1960) pull up to a castle in a newfangled thing called an automobile. He knocks on the castle door, but when no one answers, he lets himself in. Maid Louise (Tilde Till) greets him and takes him to the lady of the castle, Cleo Hauff (Barbara Steele; THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH - 1964). Albert shows Cleo a letter from her husband, Jeronimus Hauff, which says he invited Albert to come to the castle to draw up his will. Cleo says that can't be because her husband died nearly a year ago and, in three days, it will be the first anniversary of his death. Cleo's daughter, Corrine (Mirella Maravidi, a.k.a. "Marilyn Mitchell"; Lucio Fulci's HOW WE ROBBED THE BANK OF ITALY - 1966), tells Albert that something supernatural and evil will happen one year after her father's death, but Cleo tells her to be quiet because she is being foolish. Albert uses the phone to call his partner, but as soon as he picks it up, it goes dead. Corrine then tells Albert that, 100 years ago, the castle was used as a hospital to treat victims of the plague and not one of them left the castle alive. She shows Albert some mummified severed human hands and tells him that superstitious villagers cut off the hands of plague victims so that they couldn't touch anyone to spread the plague. She also says the plague victims will rise from their graves in three days and come back to the castle. The next day, Albert plans on leaving the castle, but his car won't start. He finds an owl in the car's engine, forcing him to stay until he can find someone to fix his car. He hears Corrine scream and runs to see what is wrong. She tells Albert that she has just seen her father. Albert also finds a recording (on a cylinder) where Jeronimus Hauff says, "I am one of them. I will return. I summoned them from their graves, and now I have become one of them." Is it possible that Corrine actually saw her father?
Albert meets Dr. Nemek (Alfredo Rizzo, a.k.a. "Alfred Rice"; SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES - 1962), the village's new physician, and they become fast friends. The doctor tells Albert what he knows about the history of the castle and he has come there to treat Oskar Stinner (Ennio Balbo; SEVEN GOLDEN MEN STRIKE AGAIN - 1966), a paralytic old man who was friends with Jeronimus (he lives in the castle). Stinner is on the brink of a nervous breakdown, as he believes the dead are coming back to the castle, saying, "It's a place of death. Save yourself before it is too late!" Albert, Corrine and Dr. Nemek go into town to talk to Nielsen (Lewis Czerny), a local pharmacist who is also the village's mayor, to get more information on Jeronimus's death. They find his dead body behind the counter of his pharmacy, his face horribly disfigured by a bottle of acid that seemingly tipped over. The town clerk, Joseph Morgan (Riccardo Garrone, a.k.a. "Richard Garrett"; THE NIGHT CHILD - 1975), tells Albert that he knew the Mayor was dead last night because he heard the cart of the corpse collector pass by and "the corpse collector always comes...when somebody's doomed to meet his fate!"
We then see Cleo taking a bubble bath (always a good thing!) and Corrine tells her that the mayor is dead. Cleo mentions that the mayer was good friends with her husband, but she hated him. We also learn that the previous village physician was also friends with Jeronimus and he, too, died a horrible death. The clerk gives Albert a list of names of people in town who are cursed to die and their only connection to each other is that they were friends with Jeronimus. Albert thinks the clerk is loony and Dr. Nemek agrees, but they will both soon learn that all the clerk told them will soon come true. On the day of the first anniversary of Jeronimus's death, his bodiy is to be moved to a consecrated cemetery, so Albert and the doctor take a look in his coffin, only to find it empty. Is Jeronimus alive? Is the curse coming true?
This moody, well-crafted gothic horror film is very atmospheric and creepy, giving me goosebumps on several occasions, especially the manner of Oskar Stinner's death (the severed hands come to life and choke the life out of him) and what happens immediately after. Director Massimo Pupillo (THE VENGEANCE OF LADY MORGAN - 1965) was dissatified with the way the film turned out, so he let co-producer Ralph Zucker take directorial credit, even though he never directed a single scene (That is why many people believe that "Ralph Zucker" is a pseudonym for Pupillo). I don't know why Pupillo was so unsatisfied with this film because I found it to be an effective little film and the black & white cinematography, by Carlo Di Palma (credited on the print as "Charles Brown"), who shot many of Woody Allen's films of the '80s & '90s, greatly sets the somber mood of the film. Screenwriters Romano Migliorini (as "Robin McLorin"; NIGHT OF THE DEVILS - 1972) and Roberto Natale (as "Robert Nathan"; KILL, BABY...KILL! - 1966) have crafted a story (based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe) cloaked in shadowy mystery and unseen terror. While we never see the dead come back to life (all we see are the dead's POV shots with a hand-held camera and shadows of hands reaching for their intended victims), there is such a forboding tone here, you won't care. Sometimes the most frightening things are those we cannot see. If you are going to watch this movie for Barbara Steele, be aware that she has a supporting role here and is in the film for no more than ten minutes, but she does make an impact, especially her death. There are many effective and outright scary scenes in this film, including one victim falling victim to the plague, where his face bubbles with puss (very gross for its time), the collection of severed hands coming to life, tombs in the graveyard opening by themselves and invisible feet dragging across the graveyard's soil, making this a great film to watch at night with the lights out.
Originally titled 5 TOMBE PER UN MEDIUM ("5 Tombs For A Medium"), this film played continuously during the'60s & early-'70s as a double feature, with BLOODY PIT OF HORROR. It then fell into the Public Domain (PD), where it was then released on VHS by many budget companies, including Something Weird Video. It can also be found on many budget DVD multi-film compilations and stand alone DVDs, including one from Alpha Video. My review is based on Mill Creek Entertainment's The Undead: Vampire Collection 20 Movies Classic Features. The print is windowboxed, but I don't recommend you enlarge the image to fit an HDTV screen because Mill Creek squeezed five films on one DVD and if you blow it up, it looks like people are made of Legos. Severin Films released a beautiful Blu-Ray of this film, as part of a triple feature, with NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965) and CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964). Also starring Peter Sarto, Steve Robinson, Armand Garner and Luciano Pigozzi (a.k.a. "Alan Collins"; SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE - 1973) as Kurt, the castle's servant, who dies a horrible death. Not Rated.
TC 2000 (1993) - Another Toronto-lensed, Canadian tax shelter flick that tries to sell you a line of martial arts clothing in the end credits! In the near future, a band of kickboxing rebels (led by Jalil Merhi, who also produced) break into a high security underground fortress patrolled by a skilled karate cop (Billy Blanks) and his female partner (Bobbie Phillips). When his partner is killed during the raid, Blanks quits the force and goes looking for revenge. He teams with an outsider (Hong Kong perennial Bolo Yeung) to bring Merhi down. What Blanks doesnt realize is that his former employers have turned his dead partner into a lady terminator (hence the title) and program her to activate a machine hidden somewhere in rebel territory. She is also programed to dispose of anyone who gets in her way. The machine will poison the Earths atmosphere, killing everyone who lives on the surface. Many kung-fu fights follow, if this kind of thing interests you. It didnt interest me. Matthias Hues (MISSION OF JUSTICE - 1992) co-stars as an evil henchman. Written and directed by T.J. Scott. An in-name-only sequel to TIGER CLAWS (1991), which, to add to the confusion, actually had two official sequels. An MCA Universal Home Video release. Rated R.
TO ALL A GOODNIGHT (1980) - David Hess, who acted as psychos in films such as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), HITCH HIKE (1978) and HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980), takes a turn at directing here and mainly comes up snake eyes. This is basic stalk-and-slash stuff as five college co-eds spend Christmas Vacation in their dorm, invite their boyfriends over for some hot sex and get slaughtered by someone dressed in a Santa suit. Everyone is killed except the virginal Nancy (Jennifer Runyon) and the near-virginal Alex (Forrest Swanson). There's a double twist-ending that's telegraphed more than halfway through the film, so all the viewer has to enjoy is the beheadings, knifings, strangulations, crossbow arrow impalements and other mayhem on view. The only problem is the film is shot so dark that it's hard to make out anything that is going on. Most of the action takes place at night and most of the scenes are underlit. Too bad, since some of the murders are inventive and would be better appreciated if more light were shown on the subject. Since this is one of the original films to use a person in a Santa suit as the killer, this film does get some credit, but Hess could have jazzed-up the proceedings by making the killer more manic and, the film as a whole, more enlightening. Worthwhile only if you want to see David Hess' only directorial effort. Also starring Linda Gentile, William Lauer, Judith Bridges, Katherine Herrington and Buck West. Written by Alex Rebar, who was THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1977) and wrote and executive-produced DEMENTED (1980). A Media Home Entertainment VHS Release. Also available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber/Scorpion Releasing in it's OAR. Rated R.
TO PROTECT AND SERVE (1992) - Decent cop thriller that begins with a mass beating of a suspect by a group of cops (ala Rodney King) and then escalates into a series of murders of the policemen who were involved in that beating. Cop C. Thomas Howell, who witnessed the beating, is given the job of finding the killer. The only problem is, he may be the one who is doing it! Filled with sleazy bits such as a cop getting a blowjob by a hooker in the front seat of his patrol car while he is interrogating her pimp in the backseat. Directed skillfully by Eric Weston (EVILSPEAK - 1981). A LIVE Home Video VHS Release. Not yet available on DVD or Blu-Ray in the U.S. Rated R.
TRAPPED ALIVE (1988) - On Christmas Eve, three cons escape from prison and hijack a Jeep, taking two women hostage. To avoid a roadblock, the cons drive down the old Forever Mine road, make a wrong turn and fall, Jeep and all, down an abandoned mineshaft. The cons and their hostages try to find a way out of the mine before the ceiling comes crashing down on them. They soon realize that they are not alone. Someone or something likes the taste of their flesh and begins to devour them one at a time. A lone cop follows the cons into into the mine and he must also contend with the cannibalistic creature (who looks like a cross between a neanderthal and Bigfoot). We learn that this creature is actually the father of the strange woman who owns the mine. He was trapped years before in a cave-in and ate his comrads to stay alive. His daughter rescued him and occasionally feeds him humans to satisfy his lust for flesh. She is not about to let these people leave the mine as they will supply dad with enough food to last him for a while. This is a strange almalgam of crime and horror, which mixes gunshots and threatened rape with gut munching and other bits of extreme gore, mostly to good effect. A real surprise, since this comes from Action International Pictures (AIP, get it?), those purveyors of cheap crime dramas (TAXI DANCERS - 1993; DEADLY REACTOR - 1988; ALIEN SEED - 1989; and dozens of others) who make PM Entertainment look simply stellar. Will wonders never cease? Oh well, maybe it was because I took an extra deep toke on the pipe before I viewed it. It still held me spellbound for some reason. TRAPPED ALIVE (which is also known as FOREVER MINE) stars Alex Kubic, Randolph Powell, Elizabeth Kentland and the late Cameron Mitchell as the father of one of the captured girls. Directed and written by Leszek Burzynski, who throws in a few real scares. From Action International Pictures Home Video. Not Rated due to scenes of cannibalism and flesh-ripping.
TURISTAS (2006) - More torture porn (for lack of a better term, since the film is not porn, but contains plenty of torture) in the vein of HOSTEL (2004), only instead of Slavik countries, this one is set in Brazil. In other words, this is not an advertisement for Brazilian tourism. A group of unrelated backpackers from various countries (U.S., Great Britain, Australia, Sweden) are on a bus that is speeding down some twisty Brazilian mountain road, when it crashes, stranding them in the middle of nowhere. They manage to find a secluded beach with a bar and party all night with the locals, only to wake up the next morning to find out they were drugged and all their belongings stolen. We then find out that the locals are in cahoots with a doctor who uses the tourists that visit the area as his own personal organ bank, as they are used as unwilling donors for a black market human organ ring. The Swedish couple are the first to be kidnapped, but when the locals stop to smoke some dope and the Swedes try to escape, they are killed (one is hacked to death with a machete and the other falls off the side of a cliff, graphically splitting her head open on the way down). The doctor shows his displeasure by shoving a skewer through one local's eye, killing him. A local named Kiko (Agles Steib) offers to take the group to safe shelter but, in reality, leads them on a long trek through the jungle to the doctor's (his uncle's) house. They are all taken prisoner, as we watch the doctor remove one of the girl's kidneys while she is still awake. The other tourists break free and fight back when Kiko has a change of heart (pardon the pun) and decides to help them escape. The rest of the film is just one long torturous chase as the doctor and his minions try to retrieve their prey before they make it to safety. It's like THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) with lots of extra blood and gore, some of it done with a scalpel instead of a crossbow or rifle. I have to say that I'm not a big fan of this genre of film, specifically, needlessly showing the prolonged torture of people before finally putting them out of their misery. While actor-turned-director John Stockwell (CHRISTINE - 1983; DANGEROUSLY CLOSE - 1986) fills the screen with beautiful scenery and pretty girls (who get naked a lot), much of the violence is brutal to the point of being unwatchable. I have nothing against violence in films (far from it) but, in some instances, showing too much takes the artistry out of the act, rendering it just sadism for sadism's sake. I know that films like this have their fans, but I'm not one of them. TURISTAS is well-made, it's just not my cup of tea (or grue). Filled with scenes of organ removal, dismemberments, impalements and bullets to the head and other extremities. If that turns you on, you'll probably like this. Starring Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde, Desmond Askew, Beau Garrett (who suffers the worst death), Max Brown and Miguel Lunardi as Zamora, the dastardly doctor. This was actually filmed in Brazil, which makes me never want to visit there, no matter how beautiful the country looks. Originally Rated R when released to theaters, it is now available on DVD in an Unrated edition from Twentieth Century Fox, something DreamWorks Entertainment did much better with their Unrated DVD version of THE RUINS (2007), another film about strangers in a strange land and handled much better than this film.
TWISTED NIGHTMARE (1982) - This murky FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) clone, lensed in 1982 but not released until 1987, is so relentlessly dark (the screen, not the tone) that for more than half the movie the action is undistinguishable. A group of friends are invited to a campsite where, two years earlier, a girl's (Rhonda Gray) retarded brother was mysteriously burned to death. The friends are all sex-crazy teens who begin to get knocked-off in all the tried-and-true ways. There is a beheading, impalements, electrocutions and burnings. Oh, and there's one more thing: The campsite was built on an ancient burial ground. If all this sounds familiar, it is. If there is any type of enjoyment to be found in this film, the dark, underlit nighttime photography completely obliterates it. This is derivitive filmmaking at it's worst. Director Paul Hunt, who used to work on '60's sexploitation using the name "H.P. Edwards", is also responsible for the far better 1973 film, THE CLONES (which Hunt co-directed with Lamar Card) and the so-so MERLIN (1992). TWISTED NIGHTMARE also stars Donna Correa, Devon Jenkin and Cleve Hall. A Trans World Entertainment VHS Release. Available on Blu-Ray from Code Red. Rated R.
THE UNBORN (1991) - Tidy little horror film from Roger Corman's New Concorde Releasing that sneaks up on you. When childrens book writer Virginia Marshall (the excellent Brooke Adams) and her husband Brad (Jeff Hayenga), go to fertility specialist Dr. Meyerling (character actor supreme James Karen) in hopes of getting pregnant after two miscarriages, the couple get more than they bargain for. It seems the good doctor has been impregnating women with some mysterious formula, causing them to become violent, break out in unexplained rashes and kill anyone who gets in their way until the baby is delivered. Virginia becomes suspicious of the doctor when she begins to break out in a rash, kills the family cat (by strangling it while it is on her lap) and begins to realize that the baby may not be hers. She goes to an alternative birthing class (run by D-list actress Kathy Griffin [!] and her pregnant lesbian partner) and finds out that she is not the only one in this condition. As people begin to die (including Kathy Griffin, who is beaten to death with a claw hammer by her life partner), Virginia goes to a back alley abortionist (the late Rick Dean) and has the baby aborted. It doesn't end there though as Virginia begins to hear the cries of a baby while at home and drives back to the back alley to find her baby still alive in a dumpster. She brings it home and the baby plants a knitting needle in Brad's eye (he was in on it with Dr. Meyerling all along). Virginia drives to the doctor's office with a gun to learn the truth: The babies have alien DNA and the doctor has now perfected growing them out of the womb (he shows her a back room laboratory where he is growing them). Virginia kills the doctor and destroys the lab. Think it's over? It's not. Director Rodman Flender (IN THE HEAT OF PASSION - 1991; IDLE HANDS - 1999) has crafted a horror film that builds suspense as the story moves along and Gary Numan's ("Cars") musical score helps in this department tremendously. It's his only full-length movie score. While not overtly bloody, the film has it's fair share of scares and who doesn't want to see Kathy Griffin get killed? Also starring K Callan as Virginia's mother, Rick Podell and Lisa Kudrow in a small, early role as Meyerling's nurse. It spawned a sequel, appropriately titled THE UNBORN II (1993), which plays like a bastardization of IT LIVES AGAIN (1978). It's not half the film this one is. A New Concorde Home Video and DVD Release. Rated R.
THE UNEARTHING (1993) - A pregnant teen (Tina Ona Paukstelis) agrees to pose as the wife of the mysterious Mr. Null (Norman Moses) for an undisclosed sum of money. He needs her baby as the heir to his mothers huge fortune. A stipulation in the will states that he must have a child to inherit the cash (or so he says). He brings the teen to his invalid mothers huge mansion where she is to stay until the baby is born. Strange things begin to happen. Dead fetuses are found buried in the woods, the teen has visions of pregnant sex (or so she thinks),the entire Null family acts very strange (especially Mom) and the maid likes to serve drugged apple cider. Believe it or not, this all has to do with a brand of Filipino vampires called the Aswang. They feed on the unborn using their very long tubular tongues! You know who is next on the menu. Filled with gory scenes and an unusual storyline, this film (originally titled ASWANG) at least tries to be different and succeeds for the most part. The final reel is kind of a letdown, though. Directed, produced and written by Wrye Martin and Barry Poltermann (THE LIFE OF REILLY - 2006) on a very low budget. Available on R-Rated VHS from Prism Entertainment and Unrated DVD from Mondo Macabro. Rated R and Unrated.
THE UNSEEN (1980) - A terrifying performance by Sydney Lassick makes this film a must-see for all horror fans. A thing in the cellar, the result of a incestuous relationship, is only one of the horrifying elements of this moody, perverted piece of celluloid. The thing (played by Stephen Furst of ANIMAL HOUSE  and TV's ST. ELSEWHERE [1982 - 1986]) likes to play with, then kill, pretty young women. But the biggest horror of the house is Sydney Lassick, the father of the thing. When he is not beating his son, he likes to abuse his sister/wife, played with frightful innocence by Lelia Goldoni. Mr. Lassick plays against type (he usually plays scared little weenies) and puts on a good show. This is a well photographed film with unusual visuals and many scares and has an exciting suspenseful conclusion. If the credits didn't identify Stephen Furst as the thing, you would not have known it. Directed by "Peter Foleg", which is actually a pseudonym for the late Danny Steinmann (see SAVAGE STREETS - 1984 review). There is nothing to be ashamed of here. It's the type of film where you feel like taking a cold shower after watching it. Pick up THE UNSEEN the next time you are in a video store. You will not be disappointed. A VidAmerica, Inc. Home Video VHS Release. Available on DVD from Code Red and on DVD & Blu-Ray from Scorpion Releasing. Rated R.
VIDEO VIOLENCE (1986) - Being born and bred in New Jersey, I must take offence to this Jersey-lensed SOV fiasco, loosely based on H.G. Lewis' 2000 MANIACS (1964). A normal couple moves into a New Jersey town and take over the local video store. An unmarked video is returned showing a real murder and pretty soon the couple are receiving snuff videos showing murders of transients and visitors to this town. It's apparent that everyone in this town are in on the murders since they only rent violent slasher films (PIECES  is a favorite) and the occasional porno tape. The couple realise that they may be next and try to stop the madness only to end up as video fodder in the "surprise" ending. This film is strictly amateur hour as it looks like it was shot with a camcorder and the acting and effects are over-the-top. Limbs are hacked off, a deli worker cuts a man's hand off and runs it through a meat slicer, while his co-worker hacks off a woman's head and puts it in a soup pot ("Soup's on!"). Stabbings, razor slicings, ice pickings and nudity are also on view, though none are done very convincingly. The town sheriff speaks with a southern drawl (?) and every other person listed in the credits are called local yokels (!). Director Gary Cohen made a sequel to this the next year, then made another piece of video crap in '88 called MAMA'S HOME and disappeared off the radar until 1996 where he turned up executive-producing the short-lived TV series BASEBALL, MINNESOTA. At least he got the hell out of New Jersey. That a good thing for Jersey. This film stars Art Neill, Jackie Neill, UKE, William Toddie, Bart Sumner and Lisa Cohen (I smell nepotism!). This was made during the mid-80's video wave as the first SOV movie, BLOOD CULT (1985) is prominently displayed on the video shelve. I've sat through many of these SOV films and this one falls somewhere near the bottom rung of the ladder and it's a mighty tall ladder. A Camp Video Release. Both Part 1 & 2 are now available on DVD from Camp Motion Pictures. Not Rated.
VILE (2011) - Minor league SAW (2004) variant about two couples on a camping trip (one of the women, Tayler [April Matson], is pregnant and hasn't told her boyfriend, Nick [Eric Jay Beck; who wrote the screenplay and was one of the many producers], yet) who pick up a woman named Diane (McKenzie Westmore) at a gas station whose car has run out of gas. They agree to drive her back to her car, only to be gassed unconscious by her and waking up in an inescapable house with five other people. They all have strange devices with tubes attached to the back of their heads and a dikey big-toothed woman (Maria Olsen) appears on a television screen and tells them that they have 21 hours to produce a certain amount of Adrenaline, Dopamine, and Oxytocin (chemicals produced by the brain under extreme pain), otherwise they will die (When one of the men tries to detach the device from his head in the beginning of the film, he dies). The eight remaining people decide to take turns torturing each other according to numbers they draw (from pieces of a broken plate written in one of the girl's blood). The only problem is, if any of them end up dead, the percentage drops and the rest of them have to pick up the violent slack. One of the women, Kelly (Stefanie Barboza), is a little too into torturing the rest of the abductees and nearly kills Greg (Rob Kirkland), after jamming a screwdriver into his knee and breaking his leg by slamming it against the edge of a table. The rest of the film is nothing but one torture scene after the next, as fingernails are ripped out with pliers, a cheese grater is used to tear flesh from the body, a steam iron is used on another's stomach and people are hit with a pipe wrench or sliced with a butcher knife. The most satisfying part is when it is Kelly's turn. After all the pain she has inflicted on the other abductees, she wimps out, forcing the rest to tie her to a table, stick a metal rod between her teeth and then slam the pipe wrench under her jaw, knocking out some of her teeth. When the group finally reaches 100%, the toothy dike woman appears on screen and tells them they are free to go, after they attach their devices to a machine that appears out of the wall to collect the liquids (which will be turned into pills that can fetch over $10,000 apiece). As they have their devices removed of the liquids one-by-one and exit through the revolving turnstile-like door, it is revealed that one of the abductees was in on the dastardly deed the entire time (he has done this many times before and seems to get off on the pain inflicted on him) and none of them were meant to make it out of the house alive. He types something into a computer, releasing a slow-acting poison into everyone's blood. Only Nick makes it out alive (he finds the antidote) and the next time we see him, he is at a diner across from the gas station in the beginning of the film, waiting for Diane. He spots and follows her back to her car (she was using the same ruse she used on Nick and his friends, only this time her prey gets away), knocks her out and kidnaps her. What happens next we may never know (but he "fucking loves that song" playing on the car's radio). If you like torture porn, you may get a kick out of this low-budget flick, directed by first-timer Taylor Sheridan, an actor best known for his recurring role as "Deputy Chief David Hale" on the TV series SONS OF ANARCHY (2008 - 2014), who was killed-off on the show in 2010 after unsuccessfully negotiating a pay raise. Others are warned to stay away, as the entire film is just an excuse to show people torturing each other (under the pretext of social commentary) for nearly 88 minutes. I know there are people out there who like this sort of stuff, but I am not one of those people. To me, it is just an excuse to show people in various states of pain. I don't see the allure or the point. Also starring Akeem Smith, Heidi Mueller, Maya Hazen, Ian Bohen and Greg Sipes. An Inception Media Group DVD Release. Rated R.
FROM BEYOND (1991) - This
is Lucio Fulci's penultimate film as a director (his last film would
be DOOR INTO SILENCE
- 1991). I could rant on, like most critics do, on how bad this film
is, but I can't, because it is actually a pretty decent horror flick,
with a twisty, atmospheric screenplay by Fulci and Piero Regnoli (CRY
OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974; BURIAL
GROUND - 1980; and Fulci's DEMONIA
- 1990). Unlike a lot of Fulci's films, this one is plot-driven and
doesn't depend on gore to shock you, but that's not to say this film
isn't gory; it is. But here the gore is secondary and comes at the
most unexpected times.
The film opens with husband and wife Lucy (Bettina Giovannini; THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE - 1985) and Giorgio Mainardi (Duilio Del Prete; MYSTERE - 1983) naked in bed and having sex. Their young son David (Damiano Azzos) cries out for his Mommy and Giorgio gets mad, grabs a knife, goes in David's room and stabs him in the chest over and over, killing the young boy. We then find out it was only a nightmare, as Lucy wakes up, goes to David's room and finds him sleeping peacefully in his bed. Unfortunately, Giorgio is not in great shape, for after the opening credits (where a choir of children sing a song where the lyrics go "Ding Dong Dang Ding - Dong Ding Dong"), we see he is at the hospital, a doctor telling wife Lucy, stepmother Hilda (Frances Nacmen) and stepbrother Mario (Pascal Persiano; PAGANINI HORROR - 1989) that Giorgio is hemorrhaging and he will do all he can to save him, but it's no use, as Giorgio starts puking up blood and dies, but not before yelling out "Why?" and then whispering something into the doctor's ear. We then hear Lucy cry out "Noooo!" as the nurses pull the sheets over Giorgio's head.
The doctor needs Hilda's signature on a form so an autopsy can be performed on Giorgio (this news rattles Lucy), but Hilda tells the doctor to forget about it, because "We won't ever allow such a profanation." The doctor tells Hilda to resign herself to the autopsy because it is the law and she shoots back, "We'll see. Obviously, you don't know who the Mainardi Family is or just how much money they've given to this foundation. I happen to be the wife of a very important man." As she is threatening the doctor, an orderly is seen taking Giorgio's body away and we hear Giorgio's innermost thoughts (from the Great Beyond), as he says, "Why an autopsy? What did they do to me?" It's obvious that Giorgio refuses to lie at rest until he finds out why.
When Lucy arrives home, she opens the door and hears Giorgio's voice say he will never rest in peace until he knows what happened, promising that the guilty parties will pay. Lucy begins crying and housekeeper Dorrie (Sacha Maria Darwin; THE MURDER SECRET - 1989) comes running to her, apologizing for falling asleep with the television on (The TV news is playing archive footage of Giorgio talking to members of a community counsel at a meeting). Lucy is relieved, but when Hilda and Mario arrive home, Hilda tells Lucy that there will be an autopsy, so Giorgio's funeral will be delayed a couple of days. Lucy tells Hilda that someone should call her and Giorgio's daughter, college student Rosy (Karina Huff; DEMONS 6: DE PROFUNDIS - 1989), and tell her that her father is dead and Hilda says she will take care of it. Hilda then tells Mario to call Rosy at college while she goes to the room that contains Giorgio's infirmed and wheelchair-bound father (and her husband), the unable-to-speak Mr. Mainardi (the late Paolo Paoloni; THE HAUNTING OF HELENA - 2012) and rubs Giorgio's death in his face, telling him (with a smile on her face), "Your son is dead. Your beloved Giorgio. Dead. You understand? Giorgio kicked the bucket, Daddy. To everyone's joy, he finally dropped dead. Lucky you, you don't even know what is going on." The look of sadness in his eyes and the way he grips the armrest of his wheelchair tells a different story, though.
The pathologist (a cameo by Lucio Fulci) performs the autopsy on Giorgio (lots of gory autopsy footage). He cuts out a section of Giorgio's colon and puts it in a glass jar of formaldehyde, telling his assistant Gianni (Lorenzo Flaherty; DEMONS 2 - 1986) that he will examine it on Monday. By the examination of Giorgio's body, the pathologist says it looks like he died a natural death. We then hear Giorgio say, "Why must they wait? If only I could insist they do it now, they'd see what it was that killed me!" So was it a natural death? Don't you believe it! The Mainardi Family are a fucked-up bunch. When Mario phones Rosy to give her the good...err, bad news, she jumps on the next train home. She may be the only "normal" person in the Mainardi Family, but since this is a Fulci film, looks can be deceiving.
Rosy arrives at the train station, where Mario and childhood friend Gianni are waiting for her. Rosy basically ignores Mario and drives back to the house with Gianni. It is apparent they have romantic feelings for each other and when they arrive at the house, Hilda is waiting, handing Rosy a single rose (this comes just after Hilda orders Dorrie to throw out all of Giorgio's clothes, because she needs the closet space!). Rosy then goes to mother Lucy and demands to know what happened to her father. Lucy makes a lame excuse that no one could believe and then orders Rosy to leave the room because she's too tired to talk any further.
At his funeral, we hear Giorgio say, "Words, words! Why does no one bother to ask what really happened? Why am I here, laid out in this box?" We also hear a conversation in the church pews, where a co-worker of Giorgio's says to another man, "His death is very accommodating for someone (Mario). I just asked him to sort out the mess in my company. Another week and a bomb would have dropped and blown everything wide open." As everyone walks up to the open coffin to pay their respects, we see how Giorgio mistreated them in the past (using flashbacks), proving that he was a total dick to nearly everyone, including Rosy. This brings up an important question. Who killed Giorgio? All of the people at the funeral have a valid reason for doing so, including Giorgio's ex-lover Rita (Antonella Tinazzo; DOMINO - 1988), whom he "cast out" of his life shortly before he died. It is apparent Giorgio was extremely cruel to everyone, but he doesn't believe he is dead and thinks only Rosy can save him. After Giorgio is buried in the family tomb, Rosy is disgusted with the way everyone talks about her father and his fortune. She tells them that Giorgio is alive in the house and judging everyone by their actions. Strange things begin happening in the house, like all of Giorgio's clothes returning to the closet (but there is an explanation for that) and a portrait of Giorgio seemingly coming to life. The ghost of Giorgio pays Rosy a visit and he asks her to help him find out how he died. He also tells her that her memory of him will disappear when his body begins decomposing, so time is limited unless she discovers how he died and who killed him (every so often, the camera takes us to Giorgio's tomb, where we see his body in various stage of decomposition). We then discover that the autopsy cannot continue, because the section of Giorgio's colon was tainted when the glass jar containing it mysteriously fell to the floor and broke. Oh, yes, we then discover that Lucy and Mario are having an affair for quite some time and Lucy's son David may not be Giorgio's (Which may be the reason Lucy had the nightmare at the beginning of the film). When they are sleeping together, Mario has a nightmare where all the bodies in the Mainardi family tomb come back to life as zombies and attack him. You think he has a guilty conscience? At the reading of his will, Giorgio leaves everything to Rosy, completely ignoring everyone else, including his son David (he may have known he wasn't his son), which greatly upsets everyone else.
Gianni tells Rosy that glass was found in the autopsy sample, but it was ground glass, quite unlike the glass jar that held the sample. It seem someone fed Giorgio ground glass in his food, which is why he hemorrhaged and died. Rosy discovers it turns out to be glass from a light bulb, which young David ground to a fine granule for his mother, thinking it was part of a joke! Rosy then starts an investigation on who killed her father, starting with Rita. Can Rosy discover who the murderer is before it is too late and her father's body is nothing but bones, her memory of him no longer in her brain? Her investigation leads to an attempt on her life, as someone poisons her drink, but Gianni saves her before she drinks it. Think you know who it is? Good, because I'm not going to tell you!
This film is a feast of nice cinematography (by Alessandro Grossi THE SPIDER LABYRINTH - 1988; Fulci's A CAT IN THE BRAIN - 1990), disgusting, weird visuals (including a bowl of fried eggs that turns into a plate of human eyes in what looks like egg whites that a person cuts into with a knife and eats when Giorgio's ghost takes Rosy to a very strange restaurant, full of weird, tentacled creatures!), excellent, atmospheric direction by Fulci and plenty of full-frontal female nudity. The late Paolo Paoloni also registers in his role as the ailing grandfather, who lets his eyes do the talking except in a flashback he has about Giorgio, proving that his son was also cruel to him, but a father's love goes beyond that. This film also has a good plot, which as I mentioned before is unusual for a Fulci film, as he usually lets the blood and gore do the talking. The late Stelvio Cipriani's music score is also memorable, especially the children's nursery rhyme that plays during the opening credits. It's the only music score he did for Fulci, in a career that spanned over 240 movies! Fulci must have been angry when making this film, because before the end credits appear, it says, "This film is dedicated to my few real friends, in particular to Clive Barker and Claudio Carabba" (followed by Fulci's signature). I wonder what was going on there? Was he upset about making another really low-budget feature? I really don't have much more to say about this film other than it a perfectly fine way to spend 91 minutes, especially if you are a Fulci fan. And who isn't?
Shot as VOCI DAL PROFONDO ("Voices From The Deep"), this film never had a theatrical or VHS release in the United States (even though IMDb states Video Gems released a VHS tape of this title, but I have been unable to find a scan of the sleeve, making me believe it is another one of their "mistakes"). It made its first appearance in the States as a DVD from Image Entertainment in 2001, with a DVD & Blu-Ray from Code Red in 2013. It is also available streaming on Amazon Prime, who offer the Code Red Blu-Ray version of the film, in anamorphic widescreen and dubbed in English. Also featuring Robert Daniels (BLUE TORNADO - 1990) as the doctor; Rosamaria Grauso as Rosy as a child; and cameo king Tom Felleghy (SYNDICATE SADISTS - 1975) as the strange restaurant manager. Not Rated.
WAVELENGTH (1983) - This film could have been so much better considering the subject matter, but as it stands, it's still a highly-watchable science fiction film. Two weeks earlier, three aliens crash-landed on Earth and were captured by our government, who plan on doing autopsies on them as soon as they find a way to kill them. "Sensitive" girl Iris Longacre (Cherie Currie; TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE - 1983) starts receiving S.O.S. messages from the aliens and tries to convince her boyfriend Bobby Sinclair (Robert Carradine; TOOTH AND NAIL - 2007) that they must travel to a secret underground desert compound to save them before they are killed. At first Bobby is reluctant, but old coot Dan (an excellent Keenan Wynn; PIRANHA - 1977), a forgotten old man who use to work for the government, convinces Bobby to believe Iris, since some humans on Earth are highly sensitive to the aliens (We may actually be their "children".). Iris and Bobby manage to make it to the underground desert laboratory and save the aliens (there's a wonderful scene that takes place at a church where the three aliens look at a statue of Jesus and then agree to dress as humans to disguise themselves from the government agents out to get them.). Can our human duo keep the goverment agents at bay before the alien's mothership can pick them up? Yes they do, but not before many close calls. Director/screenwriter Mike Gray (who produced and directed episodes of the short-lived TV series STARMAN - 1986-1987 and co-wrote the screenplay to one of the best 80's Chuck Norris vehicles, CODE OF SILENCE - 1985) films the proceedings like it was an early-80's TV movie, but the music by Tangerine Dream and the beautiful desert scenery really helps bring out the emotions in some of the scenes. Even Robert Carradine gets to sing a couple of songs. Not a classic by any means, but as far as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) and E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) rip-offs go, it's pretty good. Also starring Dov Young, Joshua Oreck and Christian Morris as aliens Gamma, Beta and Delta and also starring Cal Bowman, Jay Hess, Terry Burns. Eric Morris, Milt Kogan, Robert Glaudini (who also appeared with Cherie Currie in PARASITE - 1982) and Bobby Di Cicco. An Embassy Home Entertainment VHS Release still awaiting a proper U.S. DVD Release. Rated PG.
IN A GIRLS' DORMITORY (1961) -
This is one of those films that played constantly on TV when I was a
kid in the '60s. I viewed it so many times that I became jaded by it
and haven't watched it for over fifty years. Imagine my surprise when
Severin Films, a disc company I highly admire (I buy basically every
film they release, as long as it isn't by Jess Franco), released this
Public Domain (PD) title on DVD & Blu-Ray in the unseen (at least
in this country) Italian cut for the first time ever on disc, with
all the bell & whistle extras Severin is known for. This was
reason enough for me to break my half-century moratorium and watch
it with my "adult" brain. So, was it worth the 50-year
wait? Read on to find out...
Dr. Julian Olcott (Carl Schell; THE BLUE MAX - 1966) arrives at the front gate of an institute for troubled girls to start is new job, where he is met by caretaker Walter Jeoffrey (Luciano Pigozzi, once again using his "Alan Collins" pseudonym; THE WHIP AND THE BODY - 1963) and his dog, Wolf. Walter gives Julian directions to Director Swift's office and as Julian passes a group of girls doing morning calestectics, student Mary (Mary McNeeran) passes out when the handsome Julian walks by her (the other girls think Mary is faking to get Julian's attention). Julian then meets headmistress Leonore MacDonald (Grace Neame) and she escorts him to the Director's office. Director Swift (Curt Lowens; THE MEPHISTO WALTZ - 1971) knows all about Julian's past legal problems, Julian reminding him that he was acquitted of all charges in a court of law. The Director assures him that no one in this institute will know about his past; here he will be known simply as "Professor Julian Olcott, science teacher." When Julian asks about the girl who passed out in front of him, the Director tells him that this institute is a place for girls with troubled pasts to redeem themselves and find a career to better their futures. Mary is one of those girls, but her past is a complete mystery to the staff.
That night, Mary sneaks out of her dorm room and heads towards the surrounding woods (Leonore sees her, but doesn't try to stop her), where she is caught by Walter. She threatens Walter, saying she'll spill the beans about what she knows about him and the other "man", so Walter lets her go. She then meets the institute's benefactor, Sir Alfred Whiteman (Maurice Marsac; THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE - 1972), in the middle of the woods and threatens to tell the police that he is having underage sex with her if he doesn't free her from the institute, saying she has the letters he sent her as proof. Sir Alfred tells her only the court can free her since it was they who sent her here and he then nervously walks away. When Sir Alfred leaves, Mary is chased by a werewolf-like creature and when it catches her, she is mauled to death and her dead body thrown in the river. When her body is found, a nameless Police Inspector (Herbert Diamonds) questions the staff at the institute, but he doesn't believe any of them are responsible because the coroner said that Mary was killed by some wild animal. Student Priscilla (Barbara Lass; real name: Barbara Kwiatkowska, better known as Roman Polanski's first wife) finds the incriminating letters in Mary's locked drawer and goes to the Director to tell him, but Walter stops and threatens her to keep silent about the matter. Not one for being threatened, Priscilla tells Director Swift that Mary was blackmailing someone. The Police Inspector wants to see the letters, but Priscilla discovers that someone has taken them from Mary's drawer. The Police Inspector once again states that the killer couldn't possibly be the person that Mary was blackmailing because Mary was killed by a wild animal. He couldn't be more wrong.
Pricilla and fellow student Brunhilde (Maureen O'Connor) unlock another drawer in Mary's dormitory and find more letters, all basically saying the same thing (i.e. "I'll give you everything you want, Mary, but I need you to give me the letters. I'll do anything you want. I love you."), but all the letters are unsigned. Priscilla tells Brunhilde that no one else should see the letters because she knows who wrote them. She has a plan to expose Mary's killer, not knowing that someone at the institute is actually a werewolf.
After a week teaching at the institute, Julian asks Director Swift what some of the girls did to get themselves sent to the institute. Brunhilde, it turns out, was convicted of attempted murder. She lived with Mary on the outside and when one of Mary's johns, a sailor, tried to strangle Mary, Brunhilde attacked the sailor and nearly killed him. It's also apparent that Walter is somehow involved in this sordid affair, acting like a pimp and supplying institute girls to members of the male staff. That night, he escorts Brunhilde through the woods and leads her to a shack, saying, "He is expecting you." He pushes Brunhilde inside and locks the door behind her. Expecting to meet Sir Alfred, Brunhilde is confronted by his wife, Sheena (Annie Steinert), who throws a wad of cash on the table, telling Brunhilde that she and her husband are through seeing each other. Brunhilde accuses Sir Alfred of being Mary's killer, but Sheena says her husband may be a sexual sadist, but he's no murderer. She knows for a fact that Mary was alive when her husband left her the night she was killed, because she was spying on him. Brunhilde then accuses Sheena of being the killer, but she tells Brunhilde that she is being ridiculous and walks out of the shack. As Brunhilde is walking back to the institute, she runs into Julian, who tells her he was laying traps for wolves. When Sheena gets home, someone knocks her out with chloroform and then injects her in the arm with a poison, killing her. Brunhilde is attacked at the front gate by the werewolf, but Walter's dog Wolf saves her, biting hard on the werewolf's right arm and making the werewolf run away. When Julian visits Brunhilde in the institute's infirmary, Priscilla arrives and playfully squeezes Julian's right arm, causing him to wince in pain. Pricilla then goes to Director Swift and accuses Julian of being the killer, telling him that the murders only began once Julian arrived at the institute. The Director tells Priscilla to be quiet, he will question Julian and contact the police if necessary.
Under questioning, Julian tells Director Swift a wild story about his past legal problems when he was a medical doctor. One of his patients, a woman, claimed to be a "Lycanthropus", not quite human, not quite a werewolf, but still a cold-blooded killer. Julian tried to find a cure for her condition, but she attacked him, permanently damaging his right arm and he accidently killed her. He was brought to court on charges of murder, but found not guilty by a jury of his peers. Julian believes the killer at the institute is also a Lycanthropus and he may have come up with a formula to cure the affliction. When Walter is caught red-handed trying to smother Brunhilde in bed with a pillow, he tries to escape, only for Julian to fire a pistol at him, causing Walter to fall to his death from the roof one of the institute's buildings. Everyone believes Walter was the killer and the nightmare is finally over, but Julian doesn't believe it because Walter owned a dog and dogs are Lycanthropus worst enemies. Julian and Priscilla confront Sir Alfred and accuse him of being the killer, but he denies it, walking into his bedroom and blowing his brains out with a pistol! Think you know who the killer is? Here's another clue: Walter's dog, Wolf, viciously kills Leonore by tearing her apart with his teeth. At Walter's funeral, Wolf nearly attacks and kills Director Swift. That night, Wolf leads Priscilla to a shallow grave in the woods and begins digging with his paws, revealing the body of...Walter! So who was buried in Walter's coffin? I hope you have it figured out because I'm not revealing another thing!
This Italy/Austria co-production was directed by Paolo Heusch (THE DAY THE SKY EXPLODED - 1958), who takes the pseudonym "Richard Benson" here and it was written by "Julian Berry", who is actually Ernesto Gastaldi, one of Italy's best genre screenwriters, responsible for the scripts to such films as THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA (1960), LIBIDO (1965; which he also directed) and TORSO (1973), my favorite giallo film of all time, as well as many, many more. This was Gastaldi's first credited screenplay and, thankfully, he is still around to regale us with stories of how it was like to work in the Italian horror film business during its Golden Age. On Severin's DVD & Blu-Ray of this title, one of the extras on the discs has Gastaldi telling us how he came up with the name "Julian Berry" (there were laws in Italy that prevented Gastaldi and other people, from using their real names), what it was like working with Paolo Heusch (who passed away in 1982) and his experiences working in the horror and giallo genres. Somebody should make a documentary on Gastaldi before it is too late, as he is a wealth of unknown, entertaining stories that will disappear when he does from this mortal coil. It's a no-brainer, as he has worked with the best in the business. The Italian cut of this film differs from the American version in many ways. The dialogue is more sexually frank and adult, the violent scenes are extended by a few frames and it doesn't have that ridiculous song, "The Ghoul In School", that opens up the re-titled American version (it is available as an extra on Severin's discs, as are both the Italian and American trailers for this film). I have to say that I enjoyed this film much more than I thought I would, even after not watching it for over fifty years, thanks to the spotless print Severin supplied me in it's OAR. The yellow English subtitles for the Italian language version was also a nice touch. Everything Severin does is first class all the way, even for this Public Domain film (although I doubt the Italian cut is PD).
Shot as LYCANTHROPUS (Severin's print bears this title) and changed to the review title and edited slightly when Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) released it theatrically in the U.S. in 1963. I can't find one legitimate VHS release in the United States, but there have been many gray market VHS releases by the usual suspects. It also had a very healthy budget DVD release, as part of compilation box sets, like Mill Creek Entertainment's CHILLING CLASSICS 50 MOVIE PACK, or as stand-alone discs, from companies such as Alpha Video and Fred Olen Ray's Retromedia Entertainment, but they were all the American edit of the film and in fullscreen (Retromedia claims their version is letterboxed, but all they did was letterbox the fullscreen print, giving you much less information on screen!). The first time the Italian cut was released on DVD & Blu-Ray and in its OAR was in late-2019, when Severin Films released a 2-disc Blu-Ray set (and single-disc DVD), full of extras you never knew you wanted, but were glad you received. Severin is the only place to see the Italian cut of the film, as even Amazon Prime only offers the American version streaming. Also featuring Joseph Mercier, Mary Dolbek, Lauren Scott, Elizabeth Patrick and John Karlsen (SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971). Not Rated.
WILD COUNTRY (2005) - This mercifully short (73 minute) horror film, lensed in Glasgow & Stratchclyde, Scotland is one of the hoariest werewolf films of the New Millenniun. Unwed pregnant teen Kelly Ann (Samantha Shields) gives up her baby for adoption as soon as it pops-out of her womb, thanks to pressure put on her by Father Steve (Peter Capaldi; the 12th DOCTOR WHO). Six weeks later (Kelly Ann is still mysteriously using a breast pump and putting her breast milk in the refrigerator), Father Steve drives drives Kelly Ann, David (Kevin Quinn), Louise (Nicola Muldoon) and Mark (Jamie Quinn) to the Scottish countryside for an overnight campout to build some character (Father Steve tells them about the legend of Sawney Bean [Google it] while they are driving to the drop-off point. What religious man would tell teens a story about a cannibalistic clan just before thay are about to spend a night alone in the country? You will find out at the end of this review.). Father Steve drops them off and drives away, telling them to meet him at the pick-up point; a bed & breakfast where the good Father will be spending the night. As the four teens are walking, they are suddenly joined by Lee (Martin Compton; DOOMSDAY - 2008; STRIPPERS VS. WEREWOLVES - 2012), who just happens to be the teen who knocked-up Kelly Ann. As nighttime falls and the five teens have set-up camp, Kelly Ann steps away to take a pee and is nearly assaulted by a shepherd (Alan McHugh) that they all met earlier. The other teens chase him away and he is attacked and has his throat torn open (very bloody) by a growling creature. Kelly Ann discovers a crying baby in a seemingly abandoned stone castle that stinks of rotting flesh (she also sees the shepherd's dismembered corpse), so she grabs it and heads back to camp. Not long after, the creature attacks and kills Mark (all we see are his intestines wrapped around his flashlight) and then Louise. The three teens and the baby head back to the abandoned castle to try and find answers (even Scottish teens are stupid), only to discover that it is home to a family of werewolves. The trio kill one of the werewolves with homemade spears (Is that supposed to work?), but another werewolf bites David's head off. Kelly Ann and Lee escape with the baby and hide from the approaching werewolf by climbing a tree (Werewolves can't climb trees? I'm learning something new every day!). As morning comes, Lee jumps out of the tree and runs away so the werewolf will follow him. Kelly Ann, carrying the baby, runs in the opposite direction as she hears Lee's final death throe screams. The werewolf then begins to follow Kelly Ann, but she meets a farmer riding a quad bike. A werewolf bursts out of a dead corpse of one of the farmer's steers and bites the farmer in half (the film's gory highlight, as we see his ribcage as he collapses in two pieces on the ground). Kelly Ann takes the quad bike and drives it to the bed & breakfast, where we discover Father Steve sleeping with the female proprietor Missy (Karen Fraser, who, after finding out he is a priest, scarcastically says to him, "If I'm pregnant, you're paying for the abortion!"). After calling the police, Missy lets Kelly Ann have a room until they arrive. Father Steve doesn't believe a word of her story, accusing her of stealing the baby and ditching her friends. Father Steve will soon becaome a believer all too late, as he watches a werewolf devour Missy and we discover that Kelly Ann has always been a werewolf, too. She kills Father Steve and in some of the worst CGI in history, the final shot shows two werewolves walking through a meadow, while a baby werewolf prances around them. My god, this film is one giant pile of crap. The thick Scottish accents will have you turning on the optional English subtitles just to understand what they are saying. Since most of the action takes place at night, it is hard to really see what is going on and you'll be doing a lot of squinting, but you still won't see anything. The worst part of this film are the werewolves themselves. They are the fakest, laugh-out-loud kind. They walk on all fours and have large rubber faces where only the jaw moves. When there is any expression by them, it is obviously done with CGI. Also frustrating is how the werewolvess are able to keep their form in broad daylight, as this film runs contrary to all werewolf mythos. The practical makeup effects, by Bob Keen (who tried his hand at directing, making PROTEUS - 1995; HEARTSTOPPER - 2006; and others) are very bloody and well done, but they are few and far between. It doesn't surprise me that this is director/screenwriter Craig Strachman's only feature film (up till the time of this review). Even at 73 minutes, it seems twice as long and the slow-moving end credits (where Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs' "Little Red Riding Hood" can be heard) takes up five minutes of screen time, making the film really only 68 minutes long. Most of the acting is average, but it was really difficult me to judge because of their heavy accents. Peter Capaldi (THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM - 1988) is really the only pro on hand here, even winning an Academy Award in 1995 for directing/writing the Best Live Action Short Film FRANZ KAFKA'S IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Most of the others were just starting out or never appeared in a film before or since. Do yourself a favor and let this one slip through your fingers. Also starring Tracey Robertson, Jordan Young and Karen Coleman. A Lionsgate DVD Release. Rated R.
WITHER (2012) - This Swedish horror flick is not so much a homage to THE EVIL DEAD (1981) than it is a total rip-off. Everything, from locations, situations and even the clothing, mirror that film. It is also heavy on gore and light on plot. Seven young adults go to a secluded cabin in the woods for a weekend to unwind, but they face something far more deadly is waiting for them. Loving couple Albin (Patrik Almkvist; this film's "Ash") and Ida (Lisa Henni) take their friends Markus (Max Wallmo), Linnea (Amanda Renberg), Marie (Jessica Blomkvist), Tove (Anna Henriksson) and Ida's nothing-but-trouble brother Simon (Patrick Saxe) for a weekend of drinking and sex to a cabin Albin's father, Olof (Ralf Beck), found them. They have to park their cars a mile away from the cabin and make the walk, where they run into a rifle-carrying Gunnar (Johannes Brost), who we saw in the beginning of the film shooting a zombie-looking young woman (it turns out to be his daughter), who is chowing down on a boy. Gunnar stares at them and walks away. When the group get to the cabin (it has three front doors, but it is never explained why), it is locked and no one has the key. Albin tries to pick one of the locks, not knowing that Markus found an open window in the back, where Marie enters. Marie walks through the house with a lit candle (that changes in length from scene-to-scene) and she finds a trap door that leads to the cellar. Rather than opening the front door for her friends, she goes down to the cellar and when she comes back up, it is plain to see that she is a changed person. Albin successfully picks the lock and everyone enters the cabin, not knowing that they will not able to leave it alive. Almost immediately, Marie changes from a normal woman into some creature (she pisses blood and her eyes turn white), who bites off the upper lip of Tove, exposing her upper teeth and gums (the best effect in the film). From this point on, it is a pure gore film that tosses all logic out the window. Gunnar enters the cabin, where he tells the panic survivors about creatures that live beneath the ground. If you stare into their eyes, they take your soul and you turn into one of them. Anyone who turns into one of these creature can infect you if they bleed on you or scratch you. Oh, and they are very hard to kill (This is the part that makes no sense. Some creatures are easy to kill, while some seem indestructible). One by one, the young adults start turning into these creatures and begin attacking the others until only Albin and Ida are left. The film ends with Albin the only survivor. He exits the cabin and walks away. First the positive points: The film is bloody as hell, as people get their heads cut off, there faces beaten into a bloody pulp, large drill bits impaled in their heads or stabbed repeatedly. Most of the effects are done very well. Now the bad points: The script makes little sense. Their cell phones work and Albin even calls the police, but they never show up or even call back. There is an over-reliance of noticeable CGI, especially the scene where Markus gets a large drill bit shoved through the back of his head and it exits out his mouth. Another bad point is that one method of death may work for one creature, but not for another. When the film opens, Gunnar shoots his creature daughter through the head and she gets up, but when Gunnar kills himself (by putting his rifle barrel into his mouth and pulling the trigger, blowing the back of his head off) he doesn't come back as a creature, even though he was bitten. If it's gore you want, look no further. But if you want to have a film that makes at least some kind of sense, look somewhere else. Directed by the team of Sonny Laguna & Tommy Wiklund, both also responsible for the films WE ARE MONSTERS (2015) and PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH (2018). What was shocking in the early-'80s seems timid today. If you are going to make a "reimagining", at least do it with some originality. Shot under the title VITTRA. An Artsploitation Films Release. Not Rated.
WOMEN AND BLOODY TERROR (1970) - I decide to search my library of VHS tapes to come up with a film not yet released on DVD or Blu-Ray. Hell, this film wasn't even available on legitimate VHS! I purchased this from Video Search of Miami (remember them?) over 30 years ago. VSOM was not known for quality reproduction (their idea of "mint condition" wouldn't get a C+ from most viewers), but I decided to wipe the cobwebs off my VCR and watch this sleazy soap opera with moments of nudity & violence. This was originally paired with NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR (1969), which also featured some of the same actors, as well as the same director and was released by Howco International (I originally saw this in 1973 as part of Howco's triple feature, which also included NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER ). Married Lauren Worthington (Georgine Darcy) can't keep it in her panties, especially when her older husband (Len Swenson) leaves on a long business trip. She picks up a young man in a bar, who is being beaten mercilessly by the bartender, a balding fat man. She kicks the fat guy in the balls and takes the young guy home. He asks Lauren if she is married and she says yes. He then asks if she loves her husband and she says yes. He then asks, "Why do you do this?" and she answers, "Because he makes me feel old." She screws his brains out and when he wakes up the following morning, he find a note on the table that says she has to go to a "stupid" party. She then continues with: "I wish you could come. To the party I mean!" At the party, Lauren picks up another young man and screws his brains out. Lauren doesn't know it, but she is being followed around by Jerry (Marcus J. Grapes; KEEP OFF MY GRASS! - 1972), a parking lot jockey who has the hots for her. Every time Lauren parks her Cadillac, Jerry makes sure he takes over, making lurid advances at her that she finds disgusting. One day, Jerry knocks on her front door, forces his way inside and tries to rape Lauren, but she gets away, getting her husband's pistol and scaring Jerry half to death (she puts a bullet between his leg and he thinks that she just hot him in the nuts, but she missed purposely!). Jerry is not about to let her get away with this. That afternoon is Lauren's teenage daughter Karen's (Christina Hart; JOHNNY FIRECLOUD - 1975) birthday. We first see Karen topless in the pool with new boyfriend Terrance (Gerald McRaney; AMERICAN JUSTICE - 1985; with a full head of hair!). She covers up when Mom suddenly appears (she wants Mom to think she is still a virgin!), but it is apparently clear that Lauren has the hots for Terrance. At Karen's birthday party, Terrance burns himself on the arm cooking burgers, so Mom sends Karen to the drug store for some burn ointment (she already has some under the bathroom sink cabinet!). While Karen is away. Lauren has Terrance take off his shirt so she can "treat" him better. Over Terrance's muted objections, they make love. When Karen gets home, Terrance suddenly says that they shouldn't see each other any more and Karen grows suspicious, especially when she discovers the burn ointment under the sink. That night, Lauren has a psychedelic nightmare where all of her young conquests suddenly appear and want to make love. Lauren then has a nightmare that explains why she is so horny: Her father catches a teenage Lauren making love to some hot young stud and beats her silly with his belt. Lauren wakes up and says, "This has to stop!". Meanwhile, Jerry is waiting for his co-worker Zool (Michael Anthony) to show up at the parking lot and when he does, Jerry explains what happened between him and Lauren. Zool comes up with a plan to get even. He doesn't take too kindly that his best friend had a gun pulled on him (I guess attempted rape is acceptable!). Lauren calls up Terrance and they meet at a drive-in fast food joint. Karen is out with her girlfriends and sees Mom in the car with Terrance. Mom tells Terrance that he must forget about their tryst and get back together with her daughter. Terrance drives Lauren home, but on the way, they are run off the road by Zool and Jerry (who are on motorcycles). Terrance crashes into a tree, his head going through the windshield and he dies. Jerry takes Terrance and an unconcious Lauren's driver licenses and he and Zool take off. When Lauren wakes up and sees that Terrance is dead, she screams and runs home. The phone then rings. It is Jerry and he threatens to go to the police (Lauren fled the scene of an accident) unless she delivers cash and jewels to an address he gives her. Unfortunately, Karen overhears the conversation and follows Mom after she empties her husband's safe of all the money and jewelry inside it. Lauren shows up at the address and Jerry knocks her out. Karen then arrives and Zool knocks her out. Both mother and daughter are raped at the same time in adjoining bedrooms. A young couple hear Karen's screams and call the police. When the police arrive (The whole force arrives just because someone heard a woman scream?!?), Zool and Jerry try to escape, but they are gunned down. Lauren sees her daughters abused, naked body in the other bedroom, coddles her and says, "I'm sorry!" THE END. Impossibly dated, in hairstyles, clothing and language, this film could have only come from the late-'60s - early-'70s. It contains a freak-out scene with twirling camerawork, gel lighting and sappy love ballads, something that was common in low-budget films from this period. Filmed in new Orleans by director Joy N. Houck Jr. (the previously mentioned NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR [also with McRaney and Anthony] and NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER, as well as CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE  and THE BRAIN MACHINE ), with a screenplay by Houck, J.J. Milane, Producer Albert J. Salzer & Cinematographer Robert A. Weaver, this film must have been shocking back in the day, but today it wouldn't even make a good TV movie. One thing that it does have in its favor is an atmosphere of sleaze, something which can not be duplicated today. As I said before, this film was never released in any format on home video and is hard to find, but, who knows? If STRANGLER could get an OAR release on DVD (From Vinegar Syndrome and AGFA) and then be shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), there is still hope for this one! Also starring Cheryl Rodrigue, Lance Gordon, Evelyn Hendricks, Buddy Lewis and a band called "Armidillo" playing at the party. Rated R.
DIE AT MIDNIGHT (1986) -
Late-in-the game giallo flick, directed and co-written by Lamberto
Bava (as "John Old Jr."; A
BLADE IN THE DARK - 1983; BLASTFIGHTER
- 1984), that can best be described as lazy, as there are too many
coincidences to ignore, making the mystery hard to swallow. But, like
most of Bava's later work, it is not a complete failure because it
does contain a surprise or two, yet it still seems pedestrian at best.
Police officer Nicola Levi (Leonardo Treviglia; PHANTOM OF THE OPERA - 1998) sees his wife, Sara (Barbara Scoppa), coming out of a restaurant with another man so, that afternoon, he accuses her of cheating on him, which turns into a loud violent fight, Sara stabbing him in the shoulder with an ice pick. Nicola pulls the ice pick out of his shoulder and nearly drowns his wife in the kitchen sink, which is full of dirty dishwater, but he comes to his senses and storms out of the house. A short time later, someone wearing black leather gloves (what else?) viciously stabs Sara to death while she is taking a shower (another all-too-common giallo trope). Nicola, not knowing his wife is dead, goes to his former lover, criminal psychologist Anna Berardi (Valeria D'Obici; BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983), and tells her something is wrong with him, as he just nearly killed his wife. Just at that moment, Anna gets a phone call from Police Inspector Piero Terzi (Paolo Malco; THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982), who tells her that Sara is dead and Nicola is the prime suspect and she should come to the crime scene. Anna asks Nicola if he killed his wife (she doesn't tell him that his wife is dead) during the argument and he says no, he left their house before he acted on his violent urges. Anna believes Nicola and says she will help him. Meanwhile, a violent serial killer is on the loose in Rome, whom Anna has dubbed the "Midnight Killer" (one of this film's multiple alternate titles), since he kills young women and young women only (but, strangely, none of them at midnight!), The Inspector and the rest of the police force think Nicola is the Midnight Killer since Sara was killed in the same manner as the serial killer's other victims. Surprisingly, Nicola is gunned down by Inspector Terzi fairly early in the film, so Anna must prove to Terzi that Nicola wasn't the Midnight Killer. She has created a profile on the serial killer and believes it is a man named Franco Tribbo, who was one of Anna's patients years earlier when she practiced psychiatry, but the police, especially Inspector Terzi, are unable and unwilling to find him (Terzi tells Anna that Franco Tribbo died when Nicola did, because they are one in the same person). The rest of the film details Anna's efforts to prove Nicola innocent, as the Midnight Killer stalks Terzi's wife, Carol (Lara Wendel; ZOMBIE 5: KILLING BIRDS - 1987) and her female friends. Terzi will finally have to believe Anna, as the serial killer begins murdering some of his wife's female friends, but he will be in for a big surprise when the serial killer is unmasked.
I'll give Lamberto Bava this, killing Nicola early in the film took me by surprise, as I thought this was going to be a "prove I didn't do it" kind of scenario, but the sad fact is the rest of the film is a fairly generic giallo flick and the story is interchangeable with the worst of them out there, which is surprising, since the normally excellent Dardano Sacchetti (THE PSYCHIC - 1977; THE BEYOND - 1981) co-wrote the screenplay with Bava. It is obvious that Sacchetti was working on autopilot here, turning in a below-average script full of giallo clichés, just for the paycheck. The killings are unimaginative and pat, as one scene shows the Midnight Killer, who is dressed all in black, complete with a hood (to hide his face, even though he is wearing a mask!), using a handheld electric mixer to kill Carol's friend Monica (Eliana Hoppe; Bava's DEMONS - 1985). It is all done off-screen, so why bother? This film also has the habit of painting every male character as being the Midnight Killer, even Inspector Terzi, but we all know by now that they are all nothing but red herrings. Add to that rooms and outside locations full of smoke and fog (even in the afternoon!), mainly for "atmosphere" and you can see how desperate the film is to try and entertain us. Yet it all rings rather hollow, as it is nothing we haven't seen dozens of times before and done much better than this. The more I watch the career of Lamberto Bava, the more I can see him digressing as a director as the years progress, as he made two lesser giallo films after this, DELIRIUM: PHOTO OF GIOIA (1987) and BODY PUZZLE (1992), and yet, they won't make you groan as loud as this one when the Midnight Killer is finally unmasked (Warning SPOILERS!!!). Yes, the serial Killer is Anna, as we find out that years ago, Franco Tribbo raped her when he was her patient, making her quit being a psychiatrist and turning her into a serial killer! I know I don't usually give away the killer's identity in my reviews of giallo films, but you will thank me once you realize that I just saved you 88 minutes of your precious time. Even Bava's TV films, including GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE and UNTIL DEATH (both 1988) & DEMONS III: THE OGRE and DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE (both 1989) are better than this film (even though it took me three tries to stay awake for DISTURBANCE), yet some critics (especially Adrian Luther Smith in the must-have tome "Blood & Black Lace") give this more than a passing grade. I just don't see it.
Shot as MORIRAI A MEZZANOTTE (a literal translation of the review title) and also known as MIDNIGHT HORROR, this film never received a theatrical or home video release in any format in the United States. I saw a nice widescreen print (in Italian with English subtitles, even though it looked like most of the actors were speaking English) on streaming channel Shockwerks (only available on the Roku and not on FireTV), which is fast becoming my favorite alternate to pay cable, since they show films that nobody else dares to show and without commercial interruptions. You can also find the film for free on YouTube (which is available on both Roku and FireTV). Just type the film's review name in the search bar and, presto!, there it is (for the time being, anyway). Also starring Marcello Mardungo (Ruggero Deodato's DIAL: HELP - 1988), Lorendana Romito (TRANSFORMATIONS - 1988), Dino Conti (Bava's DEVIL FISH - 1984), Massimo Baratta and Peter Pitsch ([TERROR AT] THE OPERA - 1987) as Franco Tribbo. Not Rated.
ZEBRA FORCE (1976) - Good low budget actioner about a group of white Vietnam vets who continually rob a Mafia kingpin of his money and drugs, disrupting his family business. The vets are nearly impossible to catch because of their unusual disguises: They don black masks during the robberies which makes them appear to be African Americans! The Mafia, of course, blames the thefts on a local black gang and a small race war ensues. The vets, who take their orders from a one-armed, scar-faced platoon leader (who has to press an electronic device to his neck to speak), bask in their achievements (hey, not only are they rich, theyre also ridding the town of criminal elements!) until one of them is captured and their identities are found out. It is rather obvious that black actors were used to portray the vets during the robberies, but that is a minor quibble. The film moves at a quick pace and is full of death and destruction, including some Sam Peckinpah-inspired slo-mo shootings and an impalement by forklift. Add to that a truly surprising conclusion and you have a film worth an overnight rental. Starring Mike Lane, Richard X. Slattery and Anthony Caruso. Directed by Joe Tornatore, who later made a quasi-sequel CODE NAME: ZEBRA (1986), the Linda Blair/Tab Hunter horror film GROTESQUE (1987), CURSE OF THE CRYSTAL EYE (1989), DEMON KEEPER (1993) and THE GAME ROOM (1998). Rick Baker handled the special makeup effects. From Media Home Entertainment. Rated R. CONFUSION DEPT.: The Platinum DVD called CODE NAME: ZEBRA is actually Tornatore's ZEBRA FORCE. The packaging makes it look like the 1986 sequel but all they did was retitle the original film. It's a bad print taken directly from a VHS source. Also available on a widescreen Director's Cut DVD from Code Red.
ZOMBI 3 (1987) - The Italians have to come up with new storylines if they plan on making any more living dead flicks. A research facility accidentally unleashes an experimental formula into the air, turning the population (including the animals) of a nearby town into flesh-eating zombies (filmed in the Philippines). A ragtag group of tourists must fend off the zombies as well as the militia sent in by the government to shoot anything that moves. This is just a really long chase film filled with the extreme gore you expect from this type of film. Plenty of entrail-ripping, gut-munching, head explosions, dismemberments and bullet hits. Directed by Lucio Fulci and Vincent Dawn (a.k.a. Bruno Mattei), who filled in for Fulci when he got seriously ill (That was the scuttlebutt. In actuality, Fulci finished "his" film, but when it was edited, it was only 70 minutes long. Producer Franco Gaudenzi cut 20 minutes from it [for pacing reasons] and asked Fulci if he wanted to shoot more scenes and Fulci told him that "his" film was finished. Gaudenzi then hired Mattei and Claudio Fragasso to flesh out the film [Mattei was already in the Philippines filming ROBOWAR and Fragasso's wife, Rossella Drudi, wrote the original screenplay, but was not credited]. The whole military plot in the film, featuring Mike Monty as General Morton, was the result of Mattei & Fragasso's involvement.). Starring Deran Serafian (who directed ALIEN PREDATORS - 1984, INTERZONE - 1987, TO DIE FOR - 1989, DEATH WARRANT - 1990, THE ROAD KILLERS - 1993, TERMINAL VELOCITY - 1994 and plenty of episodic TV shows), Beatrice Ring, Ottaviano Dell'Acqua, Alex McBride, Ulli Reinthaler, Deborah Bergamini and Robert Marius. ZOMBI 3 is available on DVD from Shriek Show/Media Blasters and on Blu-Ray from Severin Films. Also available as part as the three-DVD compilation called THE ZOMBIE PACK from Media Blasters. Not Rated, but enough of the red stuff to get an X.
ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH (1988) - The same basic plot as ZOMBI 3, except instead of an experimental formula bringing the dead back to life, voodoo is the cause. People stranded on an island in the Philippines (this film is populated by stars of Filipino cinema, including Jim Gaines, Nick Nicholson, Don Wilson and Jim Moss) accidently open the door to Hell and are chased by the flesh-eating living dead. If it's gore you want, this film will satisfy. If it's plot you want, look somewhere else. Also starring Jeff Stryker (a porn star using the pseudonym "Chuck Peyton" here), Massimo Vanni (using his usual "Alex McBride" nom-de-plume) and Candice Daly (HELL HUNTERS - 1986). Directed by Clyde Anderson (a.k.a. Claudio Fragasso) of MONSTER DOG (1985) fame. Available on DVD from Shriek Show/Media Blasters. Also available as part as the three-DVD compilation called THE ZOMBIE PACK from Media Blasters and on Blu-Ray from Severin Films. Not Rated.