THRILLER  


AMUCK (1971) - Greta Franklin (the beautiful Barbara Bouchet) arrives at the remote island estate (it's only accessible by boat) of best-selling mystery novelist Richard Stuart (Farley Granger) to work as his secretary. Richard's previous secretary, Sally (Patrizia Viotti), has mysteriously disappeared and we soon find out that Greta and Sally were best friends. Greta has taken the position as Richard's new secretary to investigate her friend's disappearance thanks, in part, to a mysteriously-worded letter that Sally sent her a few days before she vanished. Greta may soon regret her decision, as she is spied on by hulking retarded fisherman Rocco (Petar Martinovitch), who is described as having "the body of a giant and the brain of a child". Greta is drugged one night and has a steamy, slow-motion lesbian encounter with Richard's lonely wife, Elena (Rosalba Neri), who says to Greta, "I so desperately need a friend!" Greta wakes up one night and finds Richard and Elenora throwing a sex party. Elenora convinces Greta to join in the party (after again drugging her drink) and Elenora shows a porn film that's a take-off of Little Red Riding Hood, where Greta recognizes one of the stars of the film as none other than Sally (Greta, who is confused about Elenora, asks Richard about his wife and he replies, "That lady's a mystery I'd rather not solve."). The next day, Richard pitches a story idea to Greta that sounds too much like her undercover mission to be a coincidence. Greta begins snooping around the mansion and finds some of Sally's personal items half burned-up in the basement furnace. This triggers a flashback that shows Greta and Sally weren't just friends, they were also lovers. After almost getting caught by the Stuart's sinister butler (Umberto Raho) in the basement, Greta gets locked-in, but she manages to escape though a locked grate. The broken grate is noticed by Richard and soon Greta is held prisoner at the estate, the phone lines dead and the boat missing from the dock. Greta then listens to a tape that Richard dictated to her that suspiciously sounds like an admission to killing Sally, although Richard dictates it like it's a new story idea. Is Richard actually responsible for Sally's death or is someone setting him up? If that is the case, what is to become of Greta? You'll have to watch the film to find out.  This early 70's Italian mystery (I don't want to call it a giallo, since it doesn't follow standard giallo conventions, such as an unseen gloved killer and brutal murders every few minutes, something this film lacks), directed/scripted by Silvio Amadio (THE MINOTAUR - 1961; SMILE BEFORE DEATH - 1972), is pretty slow going for most of it's running time, but that's not a bad thing in this film's case. Since we are never sure a crime has been committed, we, along with Greta, are forced to pick up clues along the way. That makes paying attention mighty important for the viewer and it's not until we get two-thirds through the film, when Greta goes duck hunting with Richard, Elenora and Sandro (Dino Mele), that we know that something really is amiss. I don't want to spoil it for first-time viewers other than to say it involves an inoperable shotgun and a tense dip in a pit of quicksand. Farley Granger (THE SLASHER - 1972; THE PROWLER - 1981) is fine as the writer who may or may not be playing a game of cat-and-mouse with Greta, but the film definately belongs to the two female leads, Barbara Bouchet (CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974) and Rosalba Neri (GIRL IN ROOM 2A - 1973). Not only do they get to act here (the sight of both women with shotguns in their hands excited me somehow), but they both strip naked on several occasions, so what's not to like? While there's not much in the blood and violence departments (besides the on-screen filleting of a live eel), the plentiful nudity and the unwinding mystery are sure to keep your eyes and brain occupied. Give it a try. Also starring Nino Segurini as the police inspector. A Eurovista Digital Entertainment DVD Release. The legality of this fullscreen DVD is questionable, as it is full of emulsion scratches, print damage, the final reel has a horizontal line running through it (making me believe this was taken from a VHS master) and is missing most of the opening credits. The DVD also contains short videotaped interviews with both Bouchet and Neri (who describes Farley Granger as "professional but distant"), conducted in 2002. They both look surprisingly bonable. Also known as MANIAC MANSION and HOT BED OF SEX (!) Not Rated, although this print does have an MPAA R-Rating classification tacked-on after the film ends. Also available on a widescreen Double Feature DVD, with SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN (1974), from Code Red.

ANGRY JOE BASS (1976) - Indian fisherman Joe Bass (Henry Bal) makes life difficult for crooked banker George Hanson (Mike Miller), who is foreclosing the loans on all the local fishermen and illegally buying their boats in hopes of taking advantage of new DNR regulations, in this regional Minnesota-lensed riff on BILLY JACK (1971). The whole film is told in flashback, as Hanson's daughter, Karen (Molly Mershon), is in the hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown after her father has been murdered. She tells the story of how it happened (but can't remember how it ended), which makes up the bulk of the film. Karen meets Joe at a boat auction and strikes up a friendship and, later, a love affair with Joe, which severely pisses off her father ("I told you to stay away from that Indian!"). Karen tries her damnedest to have her father and Joe get along, but it falls on deaf ears from both sides (Her mother says to her, "What man would want you when that Indian is done with you?"). Joe goes through a series of bloody beatings and arrests by the crooked sheriff (who does whatever Mr. Hanson orders him to do), but Karen always stays by Joe's side, which just makes her daddy madder. When a bunch of Hanson's goons shoot up Joe's house and injure his father, he says enough's enough. Joe goes after the men who shot up his house and the men end up seriously hurt (one of the guys accidentally cuts off his own leg with a chainsaw!). Under Mr. Hanson's orders, the sheriff sets out to kill Joe. The sheriff sets up a chain of events where he kills two birds with one stone, since he found out his wife is being unfaithful. Both Mr. Hanson and the sheriff's wife end up shot dead in separate incidents as Karen's doctors try to figure out exactly what happened. Karen's flashbacks eventually reveal what actually transpired. Sorry to say that Karen ends up being the total loser here, as her memory reveals that Joe is innocent, but he does not survive to bask in the glory. Joe should have learned not to fuck with the police.  This little-seen revenge flick suffers from one real drawback: Henry Bal, who plays Joe Bass, is so fucking ugly (he has a face only a disfigured bulldog could love) and stiff as an actor, it's really hard to root for him. His rants against the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) is never fully explained (the DNR regulates hunting and fishing to manage the state's natural resources), which also hurts the film for people who have no idea what the DNR is (my wife thought is stood for "Do Not Resusitate"!). The flashback scenario is very fragmented and disconcerting. Just when the film gets interesting (Joe's house being shot up), the films stops dead in it's tracks, switches gears and then tells the story of Sheriff Bill Hemmings (Rudy Hornish), whose wife is having an affair with George Hanson, and how Joe caught him trying to rape a young girl in the woods. The latter half of the film plays like a low-rent version of RASHOMON (1951), as two doctors try to figure out just how Mr. Hanson and the sheriff's wife died. The truth lies in a neon-colored recurring nightmare that Karen is having since the murders. The answer is not that surprising. The action and fighting scenes are awkwardly-staged and the whole film looks like it was edited with a butterkinfe. There is some blood and gore on view, but it, too, is badly filmed and much too quick. Add to that a cheesy theme song titled "The Ballad Of Joe Bass " and what you get is BILLY JACK without the resonance. One-time director/producer/co-scripter Thomas G. Reeves should have also learned that Billy Jack survived in the end. Well, at least we never got an ANGRIER JOE BASS. This had potential, but it was bungled in the execution. On-screen title: JOE BASS (I guess he didn't get angry until much later on). Also starring Lois Aurino, Elaine Kussack, James Dimitri and Derek Parsons. A Paragon Video Productions Home Video Release. Not Rated.

THE ART OF DYING (1991) - Uncommonly good detective thriller with horror overtones from the production team of Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin, the proprietors of usually less-than-stellar action dramas such as EPITAPH - 1986; L.A. CRACKDOWN - 1987; FRESH KILL - 1987; and DEATH BY DIALOGUE - 1988; (although they have been getting better as they progress). An overstressed cop (Wings Hauser, who also directed) is on the trail of a demented gay filmmaker (Gary Werntz), who is copying scenes of violence from famous films for insertion in his ultimate snuff film, titled appropriately THE ART OF DYING. He fails to tell one actor, who is doing a re-enactment of the Russian roulette scene in THE DEER HUNTER (1978), that the gun he is pointing at his head is not filled with blanks. Two more actors are cut to pieces for real during a re-enactment of the chainsaw scene from DePalma's SCARFACE (1983). An actress is stabbed repeatedly with a real knife in a scene stolen from PSYCHO (1960). Meanwhile, Hauser has personal and professional problems that would put a normal person in a loony bin. He tosses an irate housewife out of a third story window for stabbing his female partner. His only lead to the psycho filmmaker, a gay pimp (a terrific performance by Mitch Lara), is struck and killed by a car during a footchase. Hauser's superiors suspend him from the force for using excessive violence one too many times. In retaliation for killing the pimp (his lover), Wertz kidnaps Hauser's mysterious and sexy girlfriend (Kathleen Kinmont) and plans on using her for the climax of his film: a fiery re-enactment of the conclusion of the 1948 historical epic JOAN OF ARC (break out the marshmallows!). This film has many good things going for it: Snappy dialog, great action scenes, over the top acting (including Michael J. Pollard as a non-action cop), bloody effects, nice sex scenes, unusual editing (especially during the PSYCHO shower scene) and capable direction. Hauser squeezes the most out of a low budget and made an exciting thriller that is sure to please his fans. It's about time he got the chance to go behind the cameras after starring in numerous psychodramas throughout the years. Gaping plot holes aside, THE ART OF DYING should satisfy even the most jaded thriller fans. A PM Home Video VHS Release. Also available on budget VHS (recorded in the inferior EP Mode) from MNTEX Entertainment. Unrated.

BLOOD LINK (1983) - Worthwhile thriller (think of it as a horror-themed version of The Corsican Brothers) about a man, Dr. Craig Mannings (the always enjoyable-to-watch Michael Moriarity; REBORN - 1981), who suddenly begins to have visions of a serial killer murdering women. Craig not only sees the murders through the killer's eyes, he also experiences the emotions of the killer, including the euphoria of murder. These visions began when Craig decided to use himself as a guinea pig in an experimental treatment he created, which effectively lets the subject control such things as pain and human emotions. The experiment triggers long-dormant memories about Dr. Manning's childhood, especially concerning his Siamese twin brother Keith. It seems Keith disappeared when an operation was performed to separate them, so Craig decides to find out the truth about his brother. He travels to Cleveland to talk to Keith's foster mother, Mrs. Thomason (Geraldine Fitzgerald), who has gone senile (or crazy) and mistakens Craig for Keith and accuses him of starting a fire that killed her husband when Keith was seventeen years old. Craig becomes convinces that the visions he is having are actually his brother's, so he heads for Hamburg, Germany, based on a visual clue he picked up in one of the visions. Once in Hamburg, the lives of Craig and Keith become fatally intertwined due to bouts of mistaken identity, including over-the-hill boxer Bud Waldo (Cameron Mitchell; RAW FORCE - 1982), who confused Keith with Craig, and police Inspector Hessinger (Reinhold K. Olszewski), who is looking for Keith in connection with a series of murders in the area and mistakens Craig as the culprit. Craig soon becomes convinced that Keith is a sadistic murderer and when Keith discovers Craig is in Hamburg, he kills Bud (It's a really sadistic scene that's bloodless in it's execution, but vicious all the same) in front of his daughter Christine (Sarah Lagenfeld) while pretending to be Craig. Since Bud had a bad ticker, Sarah can't convince the police that he has been murdered, so she tries to get some justice on her own, only with the wrong brother. Craig is able to convince Sarah that she is after the wrong person and when it becomes obvious that Keith can also see through Craig's eyes, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game between brothers, where Keith wants to kill Craig for unresolved childhood issues and Craig only wants to save Keith from himself. When Craig is arrested for the murder of Christine, Craig and his assistant/lover Julie (Penelope Milford) come up with an unusual way to trap the murderous Keith. It almost backfires, but as the finale proves, the bond between brothers, especially Siamese twins, is impossible to kill, even in death. This well-paced thriller, directed by Alberto De Martino (THE TEMPTER - 1974; MIAMI HORROR - 1985) and scripted by Theodore Apstein (a well-respected Broadway and television writer; this is one of his rare forays into film and his last writing credit), is helped immensely by the dual performances of Michael Moriarity. We get the best of both worlds from Moriarity: The restrained turn as loving brother Craig and the full-tilt insanity that is Keith. The scene where Keith puts a beatdown on Bud in order to give him a fatal heart attack is one of the film's highlights, as it displays Moriarity's unique ability to come across as someone truly heartless who is able to kill with a smile on his face. He never breaks his smile as he pummels Bud to death, which makes the entire sequence very hard to watch (it also one of Cameron Mitchell's best performances of his latter career). Another well-done sequence is when Keith drugs and knocks-out Craig after he has just made love to Christine and then jumps in bed with her pretending to be Craig. She discovers a little too late that Keith's separation scar is on the wrong side of his body, as Keith rapes Christine, makes her tell him that he's a better lover than Craig and then sadistically stabs her to death as he ejaculates. Director De Martino offers several nice visual touches, including the use of mirrors or reflections in windows to trigger Craig's visions and some effective POV shots during Keith's murders. There's also a jolting scene in a mortuary during the final five minutes that will send a shiver down your spine. Although the gore is fairly restrained (just a few bloody stabbings), there is plentiful female nudity and a sense of absurd playfulness here, thanks to the acting talents of Moriarity, who manages to convey the duality of good and evil by simply using weird character tics (like twirling his hair with his index finger) to separate the brothers, giving them both distinct personalities and relying on talent rather than makeup. Worth a look. The effective music score is from the always reliable Ennio Morricone, who also adds to the atmosphere with his haunting soundtrack. Also starring Martha Smith, Virginia McKenna and Vonne Sherman. Originally announced as THE LINK. Released on VHS by Embassy Home Entertainment and still awaiting a proper DVD release. Rated R.

BODY CHEMISTRY 2: VOICE OF A STRANGER (1991) - This film, along with IN THE HEAT OF PASSION, showed a definite upswing in the overall quality from what we expected from Roger Corman's Concorde Films until the erotic thriller genre died out and they turned back to remaking old horror films. Forget the title. It has nothing to do with the original BODY CHEMISTRY (1990 - which was a rip-off of FATAL ATTRACTION [1987]). What we have here is an engrossing story about an ex-cop (Gregory Harrison) who moves back to his hometown to try and resolve his personal problems. It seems he's into rough sex and is not able to make love without physically hurting his partner. This problem stems from his childhood when his abusive father would brutalize him and sexually abuse his mother. He reunites with his former high school sweetheart (Robin Riker) and when he starts getting thoughts of hurting her, he decides professional help is needed. He calls up a radio psychiatrist (Lisa Pescia), who wants to help him in person. Soon Pescia is sexually abusing Harrison, handcuffing him at inopportune times and generally making his and Riker's (who works at the station as Pescia's engineer) relationship unbearable. The station owner (the late Morton Downey Jr., who is surprisingly good) knows that Pescia has a murderous past and blackmails her into signing a syndication contract. It seems that her new program has significantly raised the station's rating points and he would much rather make money off her than to turn her over to the police. That's all the plot I'm going to give away except to say that the final scene will break your heart. The stars of the film all do an excellent job (Harrison, Gonzo of TV's TRAPPER JOHN M.D. [1979 - 1986], does a nice brooding job in an unusual role), but the real star is director Adam Simon, who also did the wild and weird BRAIN DEAD (1989) and the wacky JURASSIC PARK rip-off CARNOSAUR (both 1993) for Corman. He pulls you into the story and makes you really care about Harrison and Riker. You want their relationship to work out. Simon also fills the screen with unusual situations including an early scene of Russian Roulette played with one bullet and five Chinese cookie fortunes stuffed into the chambers of a gun. Harrison puts the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. When the gun fails to discharge he pulls the fortune out of the chamber. It reads, "Where there is hope there is life." Good stuff. Director John Landis and Clint Howard (ICE CREAM MAN - 1994) have cameos. Rent this now to see a directorial genius at work. Too bad Mr. Simon is now directing documentaries such as THE TYPEWRITER, THE RIFLE & THE MOVIE CAMERA (1996 - about deranged director Sam Fuller) and THE AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (2000 - a horror film doc.). An MGM/UA Home Video Release. Rated R. Followed by BODY CHEMISTRY 3: POINT OF SEDUCTION (1994) and BODY CHEMISTRY 4: FULL EXPOSURE (1995), both directed by Jim Wynorski.

B.T.K. (2007) - Another low-budget serial killer flick from director/writer Michael Feifer (THE GRAVEYARD - 2006), this one a mostly fictionalized account about the notorious Dennis Rader (Kane Hodder; HATCHET - 2007), a seemingly normal married man who murdered ten people between 1974 and 1991 in and around Wichita, Kansas and then wrote taunting letters to the police, signing the letters "BTK" (for "Bind Torture Kill"). As the film opens, Rader (who has already been killing for nearly twenty years) is playing bondage games with a prostitute in a hotel room. When the prostitute senses that there is something creepy about Rader, she leaves him tied to a chair and escapes out the bathroom window onto the fire escape, but she drops her wallet as she is running down the stairs. Rader is enraged and vows to kill her and, after he finds her wallet, he can kill her any time he wants (He has a flashback showing him torturing a tied-up woman in the middle of a field, then killing her by stomping on her head and then burying her in a shallow grave). We next see Rader waking up in his bed at home, having breakfast with his wife Susan (Amy London) and two teenage daughters and then heading out to work as Park City's only Compliance Officer (a pseudo-cop who issues tickets for nuisance infractions like blocking the sidewalk and failure to cut the grass), a job he clearly enjoys enforcing (and it affords him to pick future victims). When one woman gives Rader a hard time when he warns her about her dog roaming around freely without a leash, he returns to her home later that night, ties her up, rambles on about having a sexual problem ("I don't get what I need at home. My body produces an abnormal amount of testosterone!"), asphyxiates her with a plastic bag, rapes her (offscreen) and then returns home to have dinner with his family, where we learn that he has just been appointed President of his local church! Rader then continues his murder spree by shooting a man point-blank and strangling his girlfriend (the act of choking her gets him off), kidnapping a teenage girl off the street in broad daylight and then driving a lost little girl home (with the wounded and unconscious teenage girl in the back of his van!), where he berates the young girl's mother for not minding her child (Rader later kills the teenage girl by throwing her in a shallow grave and impaling her in the stomach with a shovel). Rader's home life begins to unravel when wife Susan discovers he lied about chaperoning a Boy Scout weekend (it was actually cancelled two weeks earlier). He's really going to the home of the prostitute who left him tied-up in the hotel room, first shooting her husband in the head, but failing to kill her when he begins hallucinating that he's strangling one of his daughters. This proves to be his undoing, as on his drive home he is stopped by a cop for speeding. He kills the cop by throwing him into the path of an oncoming car and ends up hunted by the police when they inform Rader's family about his crime and discover evidence about him being the BTK Killer in his workshop. Rader is eventually captured and immediately confesses all of his crimes once he realizes the cops have DNA evidence.  As far as serial killer films go, B.T.K. falls somewhere in the middle. Since this is a fictitious account of Dennis Rader's final days as a free man, there's not much historical value here, but Kane Hodder does a pretty credible job portraying a man who clearly has a hatred for women, thanks to a clinging wife who was only able to bear him female offspring, which he then spent their childhood ignoring (it's clear he would have preferred sons). He also clearly enjoys the power that comes with his job as Compliance Officer (yet it's obvious he would much rather be a cop, but he would never pass the psych exam), as he gets sexual pleasure issuing tickets and talking down to the town's women for performing minor infractions, threatening to send their dogs to the pound to be put to sleep or calling Child Services for not watching their children. Director/producer/scripter Michael Feifer, who is also responsible for such recent serial killer flicks as BOSTON STRANGLER: THE UNTOLD STORY (2006),  ED GEIN: THE BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD (2006; also starring Hodder), CHICAGO MASSACRE: RICHARD SPECK (2007) and BUNDY: A LEGACY OF EVIL (2008), wisely steers away from the police procedural aspects of the story (the police don't appear until the final ten minutes) and concentrates on Rader's movements and murders. Some of the killings are very gory (the shovel impalement; the cop killing; bloody bullet wounds), but the story is more about Rader's sexual deviancy and inability to reach climax unless he has his hands around a woman's throat while she in bondage and unable to fight back. In that respect, B.T.K. achieves it's none-too-lofty goals, but those looking for another HENRY: PORTRAIT IF A SERIAL KILLER (1986) are bound (no pun intended) to be disappointed. Not to be confused with Ulli Lommel's abysmal B.T.K. KILLER (2005) or Stephen T. Kay's THE HUNT FOR THE BTK KILLER (2005). Also starring Cara Sigmund, Caia Coley, Odessa Ray, John Burke, Bob Arnold and Pascale Gigon. A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

CANVAS OF BLOOD (1997) - If you're in the mood for a cast of actors who constantly flub their lines, sex scenes complete with dubbed-in fart noises and anemic action set pieces, then this ultra-low-budget revenge thriller may just be right up your alley. Vietnam veteran and widower Paul Hanover (screenwriter Jack McClernan) is very proud of his daughter Julia (Jennifer Hutt). Not only is she a violin prodigy about to hit the big time, but she is also daddy's little girl. When it is discovered that Julia has a potentially career-ending cyst in one of her hands, both Paul and Julia agree to have it operated on after being guaranteed by surgeon Dr. Miles Houston (producer Michael Mann) that the operation is safe. Unfortunately, Dr. Houston is also a coke-sniffing alcoholic (aren't they all?) and when he performs the "routine procedure" after popping a Valium, he botches the operation and leaves Julia with a non-functioning hand (her dad also has a bum hand thanks to his service in Vietnam), which destroys her violin career. Paul is furious at Dr. Houston, as he and the hospital cover-up the malpractice by claiming that Julia had cancer in her hand, so Paul hires scumbag lawyer Flanders Davenport (Andy Colvin) to sue the surgeon and the hospital. What Paul and Julia don't initially understand is that Davenport in on Dr. Houston's payroll and he purposely loses the non-jury trial so that the judge (who is on Davenport's payroll!) favors Dr. Houston. Julia's life begins to unravel. Her fiancé Tommy (Mark Frear) leaves her for another woman (He callously pulls the engagement ring off Julia's paralyzed hand and tells her that he is giving it to his new girlfriend!) and then murders her dog with poisoned meat. This sends Julia into a near-psychotic coma and Paul is forced to commit her to a psychiatric facility. Paul, who is a college art teacher and amateur painter, discovers the collusion between Dr. Houston, Flanders Davenport and the judge, so he decides that his only means of recourse is deadly revenge (he makes the decision after he pukes-up chunks of god-knows-what while having a Vietnam flashback). He fashions a circular saw-like device that he attaches to his bum hand and goes after Dr. Houston first, cutting off the fingers of the doctor's right hand before performing an autopsy on him while he's still alive. Paul then creates a flame-thrower device for his hand, goes to the judge's house and burns him alive. Paul doesn't even try to get creative with Davenport (Paul doesn't believe he deserves it, but I think the budget ran out of money for another device), opting to blow his brains out with a pistol while waiting for him in the back seat of his car. Paul saves most of his rage for Tommy, as he creates a mechanical hand capable of crushing a cue ball into powder and then uses it on Tommy's balls while he is getting a massage in a whorehouse. The police detective in charge of the case lets Paul go free, as long as Paul and Julia leave town for good. Why does he do this (besides probably watching DEATH WISH [1974] a hundred times)? Let's just say the detective has a wife at home with a bum hand, also caused by the malpractice of Dr. Houston and then taken advantage of by Davenport and the judge. Small world, isn't it?  Impossibly cheap in every department (the sound recording and music soundtrack take top honors for annoyance, followed by the bottom-rung acting abilities of the cast, especially Rishi Bhardwaj as the town's Arabic Chief of Police!), director Joel Denning (who also co-directed SWARM OF THE SNAKEHEAD - 2006) makes a valiant effort in trying to fashion a silk purse from a sow's ear, but comes up empty. The special effects are low-rent (when Paul cuts-off the surgeon's fingers, there's no gushing blood), some scenes seem like they belong in a totally different film (such as when the cop in charge of the investigation questions a Nietche-quoting bum or the strip club finale, which seems to serve no other purpose than to pad out the film's running time) and Jack McClernan as Paul is so dull as the vigilante, I wanted to stick his head in an electric knife sharpener. Toss-in some dizzying handheld camerawork where the film stock changes from scene-to-scene and what you end up with is a weak late-entry into DEATH WISH territory. Filmed in Baltimore, Maryland and "inspired by Robert Rodriguez". Ha! He wishes. Also starring Lance Irwin, Marian Koubek, J. Michael Lawlor, Jamie Bell and Svetlana Milikouris. Available on DVD from Shock-O-Rama Cinema as part of a double feature with the more outrageous regional oddity PSYCHO KICKBOXER (1992/1997). Not Rated.

THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS (1971) - A woman gets on the crowded elevator of her highrise apartment complex and before it reaches the top floor, she is viciously stabbed to death by someone wearing flesh-colored latex gloves and brandishing a scalpel. When the doors open on the top floor, three people discover the body lying in a pool of blood, but one of them, black model Mizar Harrington (Carla Brait), leaves before the police arrives, saying she is late for her job (she wrestles men at a casino for money!). Meanwhile, beautiful model Jennifer Lansbury (Edwige Fenech) is being stalked by Adam (Ben Carra), the leader of a sex cult that Jennifer once belonged to, but has since left (Adam believes her to be his wife, since her conducted a ritual "marriage" to her in the cult). Adam nearly drugs her while she is walking to her car one night (he wants to free her from the temptation of other men), but she manages to get away with a well-placed elbow to his gut. The mysterious gloved killer then murders Mizar in her own apartment, delivering a karate blow to her throat, tying her up and drowning her in the bathtub. Stamp-collecting Police Commissioner Enci (Giampiero Albertini) is assigned to the case and begins questioning suspects, first beginning at the casino where Mizar worked (the Commissioner at first believes the killer could be a disgruntled male customer who lost to her in a wrestling match). Rich advertising executive Andrea Barto (George Hilton), who was going to use Mizar in his latest ad campaign, uses his influence to get Jennifer and her friend, Marilyn (Paola Quattrini), Mizar's apartment to live in. Barto not only wants to use Jennifer in his ad campaign, he also begins a romantic relationship with her. Barto, who gets queasy at the sight of blood (to put it mildly), isn't quite truthful with Jennifer (he tells her that he's never met Mizar or been in the apartment before, which are both lies) and Adam threatens him with a knife as he leaves the apartment complex, telling him to stay away from Jennifer. That night, the killer (who wears a black stocking mask and a large-brimmed hat) comes into Jennifer's bedroom, but her screams scares the killer away. The next morning, Adam shows up at the apartment and rapes Jennifer, telling her, "From the day of our celestial marriage, you belong to me!" Jennifer can't catch a break, because later that night, the killer is waiting for her in her apartment. The killer attacks her, but she breaks free and runs to the apartment next door, occupied by Shiela (Annabella Incontrera) and her elderly violin-playing father (he plays the damn thing all day and night!). When Sheila takes Jennifer back to her own apartment, they find an iris (a flower) covered in blood on the floor and Adam in her bedroom closet, dead with a knife sticking in his stomach. Luckily, Commissioner Enci doesn't believe that Jennifer is the killer. He instead uses her to bait and trap the real killer and tells her not to trust any of her neighbors. But are the neighbors (including a little old woman who loves to read a magazine called "Horror Tales", who has a hideously-burned son she keeps hidden in a secret room behind her closet) the only people Jennifer shouldn't trust? This early 70's giallo, directed by Giuliano Carnimeo (EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 - 1983; THE RAT MAN - 1988), using his frequent pseudonym "Anthony Ascott", contains some good set-pieces (including an eerie sequence set in an auto graveyard at night), frequent nudity and some bloody violence. My favorite scene is when Marilyn is stabbed by the killer on a busy street in the middle of the day and she staggers (unnoticed by all the pedestrians) over to a waiting Barto. When he notices all the blood on her hands, he freaks out and runs away, making him look like the guilty party. As with most giallo films, the list of potential suspects and red herrings are many and this film has some memorable ones, each with their own unique quirks. There's also some humor to be found here, most of it coming from Commissioner Enci's second-in-command, Frankie (Franco Agostini).While staking-out Barto's apartment, he spots Barto and Jennifer making love through his binoculars. He radios the Commissioner and says, "Those two are really going at it! Don't be surprised if instead of a corpse, we have a birth on our hands!" Edwige Fenech (YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM... - 1972) makes a great first impression here, appearing with painted-on clothes (yowza!) during a photo shoot and George Hilton (THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN - 1975) is also good as a man with too many secrets for his own good. As with all good giallo films, the opening minutes hold a clue to unmasking the killer. Required viewing for giallo and mystery films. THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS is also known as EROTIC BLUE and WHAT ARE THOSE STRANGE DROPS OF BLOOD DOING ON JENNIFER'S BODY? (phew!). Also starring Oreste Lionelli, Marie Tedeschi, Carla Mancini, Gianni Pulone and George Rigaud. Originally available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment as part of their four-film GIALLO COLLECTION box set and now available as a stand-alone DVD from Blue Underground. Not Rated.

COMMITTED (1988/1990) - After the suicide of her fiancé Paul (voiced by an uncredited Alex Cord, but never seen), Susan Manning (Jennifer O'Neill; SCANNERS - 1981) takes a job as a nurse at a remote psychiatric hospital called "The Institute", run by the oddball Dr. Quilly (William Windom; CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: THE GATHERING - 1996). After being informed by the hospital's head of security, Mr. Jones (Richard Alan, who sports a huge facial scar and wears a beaded Native American headband), that there are no patients here, only "guests", Susan is introduced to some of those guests by Dr. Quilly's administrative assistant, the ditzy Miss Donnymead (Lynn White), before she is introduced to Dr. Quilly. After stupidly signing some papers without reading them, Susan finds herself committed to The Institute as a "guest" with no means of escape (the fence surrounding the hospital is electrified, as she will soon find out) or communication with the outside world. Susan tries without success to convince anyone at The Institute that she's not crazy, including Dr. Quilly's seemingly normal second-in-command, Dr. Desmond Moore (Robert Forster; WALKING THE EDGE - 1983). Everyone believes she has committed herself to deal with Paul's suicide and only Dr. Quilly (who uses very unorthodox methods to treat his patients) can release her. After finding all her clothes ripped to shreds (everyone thinks she did it), Susan is forced to wear a nurse's uniform. She meets a patient named David (Greg Latter), who is kept locked in a padded cell. He tells Susan that nurses end up dead at The Institute and then tries to strangle her for not bringing him candy. Another patient named Ronnie (WELCOME BACK KOTTER's [1975 - 1979] Ron Palillo) tells Susan that the previous nurse disappeared and "is never coming back". Another patient, Isandra (Aletta Bezuidenhout), tells Susan that the real Dr. Quilly is dead and that a patient took over his identity. Susan must determine what is fact and what is fiction as she delves deeper into the mystery. When Dr. Moore implies to Susan that she may have murdered Paul (who we find out was her psychiatrist), we, the viewers, must also make a decision: Is Susan sane and about to become The Institute's next dead nurse or is she crazy as a loon and imagining all this? I'll never tell.  This South Africa-lensed thriller, directed by William A. Levey (BLACKENSTEIN - 1972; HELLGATE - 1989, also starring Palillo), contains a better-than-average cast for a film of this type and has a screenplay (by Simon Last and Paul Mason) that keeps you guessing right up to the very end. The lovely Jennifer O'Neill (who has a semi-nude bath scene) is simply wonderful here as a woman who may or may not be one sandwich short of a picnic. As the patients begin dying or disappearing and she can't get anyone to believe her story (she's nearly raped by a patient pretending to be a hospital guard, played with sweaty persistence by Sydney Lassick [SONNY BOY - 1989]), O'Neill manages to keep the viewers' sympathies, whether crazy or not. The violence in this film is rather subdued and bloodless, but the storyline doesn't call for blood or gore. Instead, it relies on mystery and suspense and COMMITTED offers several tense scenes, including David's unexpected visit to Susan's bedroom and Susan's exploration of The Institute's basement, where she makes some eye-opening discoveries. If you like your films more cerebral than the average stalk 'n' slasher, this film should be your cup of tea. The finale contains so many twists, you'll swear it was made at a Bavarian pretzel factory. It's definitely the best film on William A. Levey's resume. Made in 1988, but not released until 1990. Famed late film cutter Fima Novek was called in to rescue the film in post-production when producer Alan Amiel determined the film to be unreleasable in it's original form. Novek not only received the Editor credit, he also received a "Music Adaptor" credit for supplying the music cues in the final edit. Also starring Dennis Smith, Deon Stewardson, Manfred Seipold, Frank Opperman, Shareen Swart and John Maytham. A Media Home Entertainment/CBS Fox Company VHS release. Not available on DVD. Rated R.

CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT (1972) - Blind Peter Oliver (Anthony Steffan of THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE [1971]) is sitting at a bar when he overhears what he thinks is a man and woman planning a murder. Unfortunately, some hippie chick decides to play the jukebox and he doesn't hear the complete conversation. When the music is over, the couple is gone and all we see is a woman in a white hooded robe exiting the bar. We also catch a glimpse of a strange piece of jewelry (the "Eye of Horus") that she wears around her neck. While Peter is at the bar, he receives a letter from his fiancee Paola (Isabelle Marchall). Peter's butler, Burton (Unberto Raho), reads the letter to him, telling Peter that Paola is leaving him (Sending a "Dear John" letter to a blind man. How despicable!). The mysterious woman in white goes to a fashion institute carrying a basket (looking like some sinister Little Red Riding Hood) and enters a room with a big "F" and "3" on the door. We then find out that the institute is owned by Victor Morgan (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart of WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS [1965]), whom the female employees swoon over, but the real businessperson is Francoise Ballais (Sylvia Koscina), who runs the institute's day-to-day operations. Victor and Francoise are also married, but there's trouble in paradise as Francoise thinks that Victor is fooling around with Paola, Peter's ex. Paola, who is a model at the institute, goes into room F3 to change. She finds a yellow shawl with a note attached to it on the table. She reads the note, burns it, puts on the yellow shawl and notices the basket on the floor. She opens the basket, screams and then drops dead, her yellow shawl ripped and scratches on her neck. By the time the police are called in, the basket has disappeared. The police inspector, Jansen (Renato De Carmine), believes Paola was murdered, so institute employee Margot (Shirley Corrigan) brings Inspector Jansen to Peter's house to break the news to him. Peter mentions the Dear John letter to Jansen (but he doesn't ask to see it!), but he is still determined to find out who killed Paola. He, Margot and Burton (who is always listening in the shadows) follow their first clue to Paola's cousin, Harry (Romano Malaspina), a photographer and pornographer. Harry is stabbed in the neck and killed before Peter arrives to question him and, just before Peter and Margo arrive and discover his corpse, we see Victor rummaging through Harry's photographs. Jansen is understandably miffed and warns Peter to back off, but more people will receive yellow shawls as gifts and then drop dead suddenly. Can Peter use his supersensitive hearing and sense of smell to solve these murders? Who is making the woman in white carry out these murders and what are his/her motivations for doing so? I've given you the clues, so now you must solve it.  Judging by the mention of yellow shawls (the film's original title is SETTE SCIALLI DI SETA GIALLA, which translates to "Seven Shawls Of Yellow Silk"), you can probably guess that this is an Italian giallo film (the killer even drives a yellow VW Beetle!), and a good one at that. Director/co-scripter Sergio Pastore builds the mystery slowly, introducing characters as suspects and red herrings while giving us small pieces of Peter's personal life. In the beginning, we hear a waiter call him "Maestro", so we get the sense that he's some kind of musician. It's not until much later in the film that we find out what type of musician he really is: He's a film composer! A blind film composer (think about that for a minute). It's not the first time that a blind man was a central character in a giallo. Karl Malden was a blind man in Dario Argento's CAT O' NINE TAILS (1971) and, just like that film, there's a murder in a subway station and it takes a blind man to see the truth. The killing method is quite unique, as the yellow shawls are coated with the deadly poison curare and a cat pheremone and when a cat is unleashed from the basket, it scratches the person through the shawl, releasing the poison into their system and killing them instantly. There are also other methods of death, including hanging, stabbing, a cat beheaded under the wheels of a subway car and a real nasty slashing in the shower (that comes out of nowhere and is extremely graphic for it's time). There's also nudity (including a lesbian scene), drug use, circus clown flashbacks (fucking scary stuff!) and plenty of wild 70's fashions. CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT is a compelling murder mystery that will have you guessing up to the very end, where the killer takes Peter to a glassworks and leaves him there to fend for himself, broken glass littering the floor and dangerous machinery operating around him. It's a great, suspenseful sequence that's punctuated by a death in a vat of lye and a final murder that's as gory as it is shocking. It's viciousness will leave you slack-jawed. Also starring Jeannette Len, Annabella Incontrera, Liliana Paulo and Lorenzo Piani. A Dagored DVD Release. It's a widescreen print in it's original Italian language with (tiny) English subtitles. Not Rated.

CRY OF A PROSTITUTE (1974) - Wow, what a film! When a father, mother and their son are killed in a nasty automobile accident as they cross the Italian border (the father is decapitated by the blade of a bulldozer), the police discover that the little boy has been dead for at least two days. His small body has been gutted and his internal organs replaced with canisters of heroin! The police are reasonably upset that the body of a young child was being used as a drug mule, but more upset are the Dons of the local Mafia. They hold a meeting to discuss the matter and come to the conclusion that Don Ricuzzo Cantimo (Fausto Tozzi), nicknamed "The Americano" because he was deported from Brooklyn, is to blame for this despicable incident. The Mafia assigns Don Casscemi (Vittorio Sanipoli) to deal with Don Ricuzzo (in other words, dispose of him). After leaving the meeting, Don Casscemi is kidnapped by some of Don Ricuzzo's men, but his captors are surprised and shot dead (with a bullet each between the eyes) by whistling hitman Tony Aniante (Henry Silva), Don Casscemi's number one assassin. Don Casscemi then tells Tony to kill anyone involved with the dead boy incident, including Don Ricuzzo. From the moment Tony arrives in Don Ricuzzo's village, the bloodshed and treachery begins. When he stops a robbery of some of Don Turi's (Mario Landi) heroin, Tony begins to play the two local Dons against each other. He lets them believe that he is working as an enforcer for both of them, but Tony has a deep (and as of yet, unknown) personal vendetta to resolve. Tony doesn't even mind using Don Ricuzzo's American whore wife, Margie (Barbara Bouchet, who Tony first spots bathing with some freshly-squeezed milk) to achieve his goals. As the attacks against the two Dons escalate, including a failed attempt to kidnap Don Turi's retarded grandson Zino (Alfredo Pea), we learn the real reason why Tony is holding such a huge chip on his shoulder. The finale finds Tony being found out (he really is quite the bastard) and, even though he is beaten to a pulp and left for dead, he works out one final deal to kill Don Ricuzzo. Be prepared for a twist at the end. It's a keeper.  This is a terrific example of the Italian crime thriller genre that came into prominence during the 70's and no one was better in them than Henry Silva (ALMOST HUMAN - 1974). With his steely eyes (that could melt glass) and no-nonsense attitude, Silva makes the perfect anti-hero. As the take-no-prisoners Tony, who announces himself to his enemies by whistling a haunting tune just before putting a bullet in the middle of their foreheads, Silva is one mean motherfucker. Not only does he kill two guys with bullets in their brainpans in one sequence that takes place in a quarry, he then runs over their bodies with a steamroller and flattens them like a pancake! The strangest scene (and probably where they came up with the film's misleading title) is where Margie corners Tony in the kitchen late one night and threatens to scream rape unless Tony makes love to her. He calls her a "whore" (she was one in America before Don Ricuzzo married her) and she replies, "Three bucks a pop and two bucks for a handjob...in a car!". What happens next is completely insane. Margie says to Tony, "We're all whores in this world. The only difference is that you don't sell your body. You sell your soul!" She spits on him and Tony then anally rapes her while she screams in pleasure and pain! Later on, he whips her with his belt (even using the buckle at one point!) and rapes her again on some hay in a barn, leaving her a bloody, bruised mess. You gotta love those Italians. There's also an excellent shootout/massacre at Don Turi's villa where people are shotgunned in the head and gut and Don Turi's wife, Santa (Dada Gallotti of GIRL IN ROOM 2A - 1973) cleaves a man's head in two with a bandsaw! As you can tell, this is an extremely violent film that doesn't pull it's punches. Director Andrea Bianchi (STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER - 1975; BURIAL GROUND - 1981; ANGEL OF DEATH - 1987) fills the screen with gruesome sights, from the opening views of the father's decapitation and little boy's autopsy, multiple bloody shootouts, dismemberments, rapes and stabbings. The film is almost Shakespearian in it's tragedy, especially when retarded Zino is handed a gun and told to get revenge since he is the last surviving male member of Don Turi's family. This film is also full of quotable dialogue (none of it unintentionally funny), scripted by Piero Piegnoli. Here's my favorite: Don Ricuzzo: "Do you think there's a God, Tony Aniante?" Tony: "Sometimes."  If you're a fan of 70's Italian crime thrillers, this one should be on your must-see list. The version I viewed was compiled from various sources (in widescreen) by a fan and is much longer than the VHS tape released by Prism Entertainment in the 80's or the recent crappy DVD put out by Televista, which are both fullscreen. Some scenes are in Italian with English subtitles. Also known as THE ONES WHO COUNT and GUNS OF THE BIG SHOTS. Also starring Piero Maria Rossi, Patrizia Gori and Mauro Righi. Released theatrically in the 70's by Joseph Brenner Associates in a heavily-edited R-rated print. This version is Not Rated.

CURSE OF THE ZODIAC (2006) - Director Ulli Lommel gained some notoriety and attention with his first U.S. horror film, THE BOOGEYMAN (1980), and he has been riding on it's coattails for nearly thirty years, churning out a series of mostly forgettable films during the 80's, including the horror film THE DEVONSVILLE TERROR (1983), the surreal musical STRANGERS IN PARADISE (1984) and the anemic actioner OVERKILL (1986). He continued to make a string of mostly mundane and obscure films through the 90's and nearly everyone, including myself, wrote him off as a one-hit-wonder and let him drift into the ether. Then, beginning in 2005, Lionsgate Entertainment began releasing a series of new films on DVD directed/produced/written/edited/photographed by Lommel, for his newly-formed Hollywood House Of Horror production company, all based on the life and crimes of real-life serial killers. Sadly, these films, all shot on digital video, with names like ZODIAC KILLER, B.T.K. KILLER, GREEN RIVER KILLER, KILLER PICKTON (all 2005), DIARY OF A CANNIBAL and BLACK DAHLIA (both 2006), are the dregs of filmmaking, made by a man who must have contempt for his audience, because all these films have a look and feel like they were made in someone's backyard and home over a booze-and-cocaine-fueled weekend. I picked CURSE OF THE ZODIAC to review because it sits in the middle of Lommel's serial killer series (he's still churning them out as of late 2009) and is representative of his entire oeuvre. Shit comes in many shapes and shades of brown, but they all stink nonetheless. CURSE begins with the Zodiac (Jack Quinn; but voiced by Lommel himself using the pseudonym "Rick Van Cleef") taunting a writer (Jon E. Nemitz) over the phone with insults like, "Hey fat fuck, I'm gonna kill a prostitute tonight!" while headache-inducing fast editing and annoying in-camera effects fill the screen (Lommel thinks that all it takes to be a good director is to have a DV camera with lots of buttons on it). The Zodiac kills the prostitute, but Natasha Baines (Cassandra Church, who must have learned how to act from the back of a Cracker Jack box) has some psychic link to him and "sees" all of his murders while they are happening. When she tries to explain her "gift" to her boyfriend (Lee Mercer), he complains that he is running out of wine, tells her to ge see a psychiatrist and then nearly breaks up with her. She goes to the police, who are no help, but she meets the writer and they join forces to try to bring the Zodiac down. When Natasha's boyfriend learns of her new partner in crime-solving, he becomes jealous and then really does break up with her! The rest of the film is nothing but endless monologues by the Zodiac (who likes to repeat the words "fat fuck", "pretty girl", "cock" and "cunt" over and over), while Natasha and the writer try to identify him. I don't know about you, but I'm rooting for the Zodiac!  Quite simply, this film is a painful endurance test for even the most patient viewers, as the film contains non-stop flashy editing guaranteed to give epileptics grand maul seizures, inane dialogue scenes (much of it seems improvised), acting that would be booed offstage at a grade school play, violence that is nothing more than splashing blood and chopped meat on victims and walls, and handheld camera that never stop moving, inducing what amounts to seasickness on dry land. Lommel does try to place the film in the 70's, as the clothing and hairstyles are appropriate, but anachronisms abound, especially cars on the street that are of much more modern vintage. I can't think of one good thing to say about this film and, if there is an afterlife, I hope Ulli Lommel is forced to watch all these films on a never-ending loop while buried up to his lower lip in sewage in the bottom level of Hell. Are you listening, God? It's me, Fred. Also starring Victoria Ullmann, Lyn Beausoleil, Colette Claire, Trevor Parsons, Shaun Adams, Pia Pownall and Nola Roeper (also a co-producer). A Lionsgate Entertainment DVD Release, proving once again that they would release footage of someone's bowel movement as long as it had an ad campaign. Rated R.

DAHMER (2002) - In this uncertain world we live in, filled with school shootings and unnecessary wars. it's sometimes wise to search for answers as to why people enjoy killing other people. Serial killers always facinated me, especially the reasons why they kill. Most of them had abusive parents, were sexually assaulted as children and are very intelligent. And it takes a long time to catch them. In my search for answers, this film, which takes many liberties with Jeffrey Dahmer's story, was not the place to look for them. The film opens with Dahmer (Jeremy Renner of 28 WEEKS LATER [2007]) picking up an Asian boy at a shoe store after buying him an expensive pair of sneakers in return for posing for a couple of Polaroids back at Dahmer's house. Once at the house, Dahmer drugs the kid's drink and, once the kid passes out, takes many photos, kisses the kid and then drills a small hole in his head, giving him a homemade lobotomy. The police show their ignorance when the kid escapes and Dahmer convinces them that the kid is drunk, so the cops escort the kid back to the house (this part is based on fact). Flashbacks reveal that Dahmer's father, Lionel (Bruce Davison), was overbearing and had trust issues with Jeffrey (the scene between the two arguing over a locked box in Jeffrey's closet is a study in tension, as we don't know what's in the box until he opens it [it's a human head!]). In another flashback, we spot Jeffrey going to a gay bar and drugging a series of men's drinks over the course of a few months, having sex with their motionless bodies until one day a bartender catches him spiking a drink and has the bouncers beat him up and throw him out permanently. Back in the present, Dahmer picks up a young black man at a sporting goods store and brings him home. As they are talking about sex with women, it triggers a flashback which shows us why he detests straight sex, which dates back to high school. His first gay experience was when, as a student, he gets a high school wrestler high, brings him back to his parent's house where they get into an impromptu wrestling match and it turns him on. It also turns out to be his first kill. Back in the present, the young black kid, though drugged, manages to escape but returns when he misses the last bus home. This makes him Dahmer's last victim, as it would also be Dahmer's last day of freedom. The film ends as it began: Jeffrey alone and not certain about his future.  For a serial killer flick, DAHMER is almost bloodless and the violence is kept to a minimum. That's not to say it's not an uncomfortable film to watch. The threat of violence is in almost every frame as we begin to realize that Jeffrey may like committing violence, but when the tables are turned on him, he folds like a bad hand of cards. For the most part, the violence is implied, although some scenes, such as when Jeffrey dismembers his first victim on his parents' kitchen floor, are still hard to watch. We know what he's doing (thanks to some eerie sound effects), we just can't see it. On the negative side, let's just say it's not going to change the mind of anyone who thinks that homosexuality is immoral. Director/writer David Jacobson portrays the gay lifestyle rather grittily, subjecting the scenes to red filters as if he was equating gay sex with violence and bloodshed. This is basically the story about Dahmer's last day of freedom, with flashbacks filling in some turning points in his life. The way the story is told, you are never aware or shown any of his other numerous victims and, except for a crawl in the beginning (which says he was convicted of 15 counts of murder), this film takes for granted that you know Dahmer's history. This is the most un-serial killer film about a serial killer that you are likely to see. If you're looking for something along the lines of HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986), you will be bitterly disappointed. I liked it, even if it didn't give me the answers I was looking for. Also starring Artel Kayaru, Matt Newton and Dion Basco. A First Look Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

DARD DIVORCE (2007) - Another one of Olaf Ittenbach's incredibly gory flicks, which, unfortunately, is ruined by awful acting, especially by lead actress Martina Ittenbach (Yes, what you smell is indeed nepotism, as she is Olaf's wife). Martina plays Nathalie Stein, an alcoholic lawyer who is going through a bitter divorce with husband Tim (Barrett Jones). When Tim takes their two children away for the weekend, Nathalie begins to experience a strange set of events, beginning with the disappearance of her dog and a note left on her floor that has one word on it, "Dard", written in blood (She will find out a short time later that "dard" is Persian for "pain"). As she slowly begins getting drunk in her home, Tim stumbles in with his shirt full of blood and dies in front of her, but not before telling her that someone took the children and then making an obtuse reference to her missing dog. Nathalie calls the police, but when they arrive, Tim's body is gone and so is any evidence. The police, noticing that she has been drinking, decide to leave, but the next morning, when neither Tim or the children can be found, Detective Warren (Jaymes Butler) shows up at Nathalie's home, taps her phone and then tells her that Tim was involved in a drug rip-off, where he killed five people and ran off with a million bucks. Nathalie begins to get the impression that Det. Warren is not a cop at all and she is proven correct when he handcuffs her to a chair and begins to slowly torture her, first by repeatedly punching her in the face (really hard to watch) and then cutting off some of her fingers and toes until she tells him where the missing cocaine and money are. When Warren reveals to Nathalie that he has killed her young son Jeremy (flashbacks reveal him slicing Jeremy's head in two with a chainsaw), Nathalie escapes her binds and kills Warren by slicing his neck with a broken bottle. Suddenly, a man named Daniel (Daryl Jackson) appears at Nathalie's door, helps her clean up the mess and tells her a completely different story about Tim's predicament (Flashbacks show innocent bystanders Tim and the children getting caught in the middle of an extremely bloody drug deal gone wrong). Daniel offers Nathalie a deal: Help him find the drugs and cash and he'll give her half the money. Of course, Daniel turns out to be more violent than Warren, as he drugs Nathalie, strips naked and begins dismembering Warren's body in the bathtub, stuffing the body parts into plastic bags. When Nathalie wakes up, she finds herself once again bound to a chair and about to be tortured, only this time her arms and legs have been injected with an anesthetic so she cannot move. She is viciously tortured with a claw hammer before turning the tables on Daniel, but a voice on the phone proves to be one more adversary she'll have to deal with before the night is through. The ridiculous final denouement will either have you throwing a heavy object at the screen or beating yourself about the head for being so stupid for watching this in the first place.  Besides the incredible amount of gore and a surprising amount of male frontal nudity, DARD DIVORCE has very little going in it's favor. Like most of director/producer/screenwriter Olaf Ittenbach's films (which includes THE BURNING MOON - 1992; LEGION OF THE DEAD - 2001; HOUSE OF BLOOD - 2005), the effects are top-notch, as is some of the camerawork, but the acting abilities of the cast leaves way too much to be desired and drags the film down quickly. The music is also mixed way too high, drowning out some important dialogue during the finale. I hate the term "Torture Porn", but it describes this film perfectly, as we watch people getting stabbed in the eyes and crotch; watch as one man is decapitated and torn apart with a shovel; witness Nathalie being beaten around the hands and mouth with a claw hammer (until her lower lip is completely gone and all we see are broken teeth and her lower jaw bone); see a man get his head blown off with a shotgun; and too much other gory mayhem to mention. Hey, if pain and suffering are your thing (it makes HOSTEL [2005] look like a Disney film), then this is the film for you. But if you want other inconsequential things, like a coherent plot (it's like RASHOMON [1951] on psychotic drugs), interesting characters or professional acting, look somewhere else, because you won't find any of that stuff here. Also starring Kamary Phillips (who also sings the tune "Sunshine" during the closing credits), Henora Jackson, Gideon Jackson, Kami Esfahani and Christopher Kriesa. As of this review, it is not available in the U.S., but is available on PAL (Region 2) DVD from German distributor I-ON New Media in a widescreen English-language print. Not Rated.

DARK SUNDAY (1976) - Here's the perfect role for Shelby, North Carolina film tycoon Earl Owensby, the producer/star of such films as CHALLENGE (1973), WOLFMAN (1979) and DOGS OF HELL (1982): He plays a priest who is struck dumb after witnessing his family being brutally murdered and then goes on a bloody revenge spree where he lets his pistols and shotgun do his talking. The film opens with a drunk and blind street preacher (Phil Lanier) walking down an avenue extolling the word of God to anyone within earshot, while a female junkie and her baby sit down in a dank and dirty alley. It's Sunday morning and services have just finished at Pastor James Lowery's First Church and he's thanking all the parishioners for attending as they walk out of church. James is a major proponent in helping teenage junkies and runaways turn their lives around, so when the cops show up a church to inform James that the body of a young female junkie was found dead in an alley (luckily, the baby is OK), he rushes to the alley and identifies the body as Ellie Palmer (Sheree White), one of the runaways he was trying to rehabilitate. A police detective (Charles Honce) doesn't agree with the way James protects the kids from snitching to the cops about where they get their drugs and sarcastically tells Reverend James, "You keep the faith, brother. Meanwhile, I'll keep scraping them off the pavement." That night, James confesses to his wife Rachel (Maggie Lauterer) that maybe the detective is right about the kids and that he wants to find the ones' responsible for the kids OD'ing, saying "I want to find them and crush 'em!" Teacher Rachel then ask ex-teen junkie-turned-student Tim Spencer (Carter Bland) to go to the cops and give them the name of his suppliers (James has no idea Rachel is doing this), but Tim refuses because he is scared shitless. Tim is paid an unannounced visit by his ex-supplier, The Candyman (Chuck Mines), who beats-up Tim and shoots him full of smack, but Tim manages to make it to the hospital and gives the detective (who is never given a proper name) all the information he needs to arrest The Candyman. Instead of slapping the cuffs on The Candyman, the detective decides to keep a close eye on him and try to catch the bigger fish connected to him. That bigger fish is high-level drug supplier Herbert Trexler (Martin Beck) and when corrupt police Lieutenant Untz (Phil Rubenstein) informs Trexler about Tim spilling his guts to the police and Reverend James' role in the situation, Trexler decides to shut them both up permanently. While Reverend Jim is on a fishing trip with his family and Tim, hitman Danny (Ron Lampkin) and an associate show up in a boat and kill Tim, Rachel and one of their two sons, Eric (Todd Reep), by shooting them at close range (it's startling in its brutality). James is shot four times, but survives, and one of the shots destroys his vocal chords, rendering him a mute. His other son, Jody (Todd's real-life brother, Jeff Reep), who was also shot, is in a coma and paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life, if he ever wakes up. After a month recuperating in the hospital, unable to talk to his comatose son and unwilling to cooperate with the police detective, James (who now walks with the aide of a cane) forgoes his "turn the other cheek" philosophy, takes to drinking, becomes an alcoholic and then decides maybe "an eye for an eye" is the way to go when he saves the blind street preacher (remember him?) from two drunks who try to mug him of his booze. When The Candyman walks into the bar he frequents, James follows him to a bus station bathroom, beats the crap out of him and then kills him by drowning him in a toilet. Bar floozie Julie (Monique Proulx) befriends James (she calls him "Soldier") while he turns vigilante, killing all the drug dealers he can get his hands on, first by using a knife taped to his cane and then using more traditional weapons, like pistols and a shotgun. A nervous Lt. Untz and a pissed-off Trexler try to uncover the identity of the mysterious vigilante, while James gets closer to achieving his goal of cleaning-up the streets and also discovering that Jody has now awakened and his condition is not as dire as once believed. Redemption is soon at hand for everyone involved, but will James reconnect with God? The ending may surprise you.  Directed efficiently by Jimmy Huston (SEABO - BUCKSTONE COUNTY PRISON - 1978; FINAL EXAM - 1981; MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE - 1988), DARK SUNDAY is unusual mainly for the way it portrays religion. The alcohol/religion relationship is strong here, as James loses his religion and turns to alcohol and the blind man can't preach religion unless he is blind stinking drunk. This is the perfect screen role for Earl Owensby, who has a screen presence (not to mention the hairiest torso of any person since George "The Animal" Steele), but isn't much of an actor, so not being able to talk through most of the film is a definite plus for the viewers. Most of the other acting is strictly second-tier, but it works in the context of this film and the violence, although mainly bloody bullet squibs, is very effective and shocking in some scenes, especially the murder of James' family and James' killing of Danny. Although nothing more than a low-budget rip-off of DEATH WISH (1974) with strong religious subtext, DARK SUNDAY works thanks to some gritty location photography and its strange take on religion (screenplay by Grey Lynellee [Owensby's MANHUNTER; a.k.a. THE BRASS RING - 1974]). Also starring Brownlee Davis and Worth Keeter. Owensby's films at one time could be ordered directly from his web site (but has since beeen closed down), but my copy was sourced from an Australian VHS tape on the Playaround Video label. Also known as SOLDIER'S WRATH. Rated R.

DAUGHTER OF DEATH (1982) - Teenage Julie (Isabelle Mejias) loves her father (Anthony Franciosa). I mean she really loves her father! Julie hates her mother because she wants to send her away to boarding school, which  will mean that Julie will be far away from Dad. Mom also gets rid of Julie's pet snake with the help of the grocery deliveryman (Paul Hubbard), much to Julie's displeasure Julie hates her mother so much in fact, that while Mom is being raped and killed by the horny deliveryman, she does nothing to stop him even though she is carrying a rifle (Dad taught her to be a crack shot). Now she can have Daddy all to herself. Wrong! Daddy moves his girlfriend (Sybill Danning) and her young son into the house. To say that Julie is displeased is an understatement. She spies on Danning and Daddy making love and imagines herself in Danning's place (a disturbing visual). She tries to kill Danning's son by playing a lethal game of hide and seek (she locks him in an abandoned refrigerator) but is foiled when Danning finds him. Then Daddy drops a bombshell: He tells Julie that he has just married Danning! Julie goes off the deep end and decides her newfound family must depart. She blackmails the deliveryman, telling him if he doesn't kill her stepmom she will go to the police and tell them what she saw. (She says to him, "You can rape her as many times as you want before you kill her.") Will she get away with it? This German production, released to theaters as JULIE DARLING, has very little nudity considering its subject matter. Danning (PANTHER SQUAD [1984], CAT IN THE CAGE [1978]) bares her best assets in only one scene! But there is enough sleaze in the storyline (including a broken bottle to the crotch) to keep your mind from wandering. Mejias (who can also be seen in the abysmal comedy STATE PARK - 1988) plays her role well despite the fact that she is probably a few years older than her screen character. Director Paul Nicholas also made THE NAKED CAGE (1985), a better than average women-in-prison flick. Franciosa also starred in Dario Argento's UNSANE (1982; a.k.a. TENEBRE). DAUGHTER OF DEATH is a minor screen gem. A T-Z Video Release. Also available on DVD from Code Red. Rated R.

THE DEAD ARE ALIVE (1972) - This odd mixture of German krimli and Italian giallo genres keeps your interest even though it gets off to a rather confusing start. This is a murder mystery with supernatural overtones, as alcoholic archaeologist Jason Porter (Alex Cord) is at a dig site and discovers the tomb of an ancient Etruscan demon god. A young couple making out at the ruins are savagely slaughtered by unknown hands using one of Dr. Porter's probes as a weapon. Hot-tempered orchestra conductor Nikos Samarakis (John Marley) tries to disrupt Dr. Porter's life and steal his ex-girlfriend Myra (Samantha Eggar) for reasons not yet known. Police Inspector Giuranna (Enzo Tarascio) is assigned to the murder case and interviews everyone (he thinks a "sex killer" is on the loose). Not only does the Inspector find some of Dr. Porter's Etruscan artwork missing, he also discovers that two pairs of red shoes were taken from the costume department of the opera Nikos is about to conduct. Is there a connection? The answer becomes clear when Dr. Porter discovers the unconscious body of assistant Igor (Carlo De Mejo) and the mutilated corpse of Igor's girlfriend (wearing a pair of the red shoes) in a barn. The Inspector suspects Dr. Porter (he's drunk most of the time), but Igor clears him when he regains consciousness. Dr. Porter gets a phone call from a female warning him to take Myra and leave if he doesn't want to see both of them killed. Dr. Porter is also being blackmailed by a nasty tour guide (we see the guide set fire to a spider and it's web just for the fun of it) who has circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders. His past (as a patient committed to a hospital in New York fifteen years earlier for his alcoholism after he tried to kill Myra) also comes to the forefront, thanks to Mikos. Porter finally gets some evidence on Nikos, thanks to an unlikely source, which brings Myra back into his arms. Porter finds the slaughtered bodies of another couple after he makes an important discovery in the tomb, which leads him to the identity of the real killer. He now has to race against the clock to save Myra from the clutches of the killer.  Directed and co-written by Armando Crispino (AUTOPSY - 1975) and based on a story by Byron Edgar Wallace, THE DEAD ARE ALIVE (also known as THE ETRUSCAN KILLS AGAIN) is a passable murder mystery, but that's about it. The murder scenes aren't very original or filmed in an exciting way, but the Etruscan ruins do add some atmosphere to the proceedings, even if they are not fully utilized. The usually excellent Alex Cord (INN OF THE DAMNED - 1974) looks bored here and John Marley (DEATHDREAM - 1972) screams his lines rather than acting with them. He's pretty aggravating and off-putting throughout most of the film as, what Dr. Porter calls him, "a sadistic pig". The real problem with this film is that there is too much dead air and the killer is easy to spot (at least to me). When watching this, I got the feeling that I was watching second-rate Dario Argento (just before a murder happens, Verdi opera music is heard), minus the fluid camerawork and flashy visuals. By the time we come to the conclusion, where Dr. Porter finally enters the Etruscan tomb and puts the pieces to the murder mystery together, it's literally too late to give a damn. While there is a smattering of nudity (none by Eggar, in case you were wondering) and blood, it could have used more of both. This is nothing extraordinary, but it's an O.K. mystery if your sights aren't set too high. Also starring Nadja Tiller, Horst Frank, Enzo Cerusico and Daniela Surina. Never available on home video in the U.S. (it did play theatrically in 1972 with a totally bogus ad campaign), the print I viewed from Eurovista Digital Entertainment on DVD, was a beat-up widescreen edition with frequent emulsion scratches, missing frames and an annoying hair fluttering on the bottom left of the frame throughout most of the film. Also available on DVD from Code Red, which is long OOP. Rated R.

DEADLY GAME (1991) - Remember when the USA Network would premiere an original movie every week from the late-80's to the mid-90's? This is one of those films and it's surprisingly graphic (it was edited for violence when shown on cable, the edit here being the complete "continental" version). In this umpteenth retelling of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932), a group of diverse people find themselves trapped on an island and someone (maybe a member of their own group) is killing them using various hunting weapons, booby-traps and other gadgets. The film opens with three guys being hunted down by persons unknown who are wearing camouflage. One guy is already dead, lying down in a stream with a crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest. The second guy gets shotgunned to death when one of the killers rises out of the stream Rambo-style and the third guy is shot in the chest with a crossbow and finished off with a high-powered bullet to his eye (right through his sunglasses). We then meet some of the soon-to-be victims, as they board a seaplane, all thinking they are traveling to an island somewhere off the Seattle coast to receive monetary grants from the Osiris Corporation. The list of potential wall trophies includes: dance teacher Lucy (Jenny Seagrave); auto shop school teacher Dallas Peterson (Michael Beck; THE WARRIORS - 1979); Mexican clinic doctor Aaron (Roddy McDowall; THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE - 1973); former all-pro football quarterback Jake Kellogg (Marc Singer; WATCHERS II - 1990) and his mild-mannered assistant Charlie (John Pleshette; EYE OF THE STRANGER - 1993); Yakuza member Mr. Saito (Soon-Teck Oh; MISSING IN ACTION 2: THE BEGINNING - 1985) and his bodyguard Ikiru-Sun (Professor Toru Tanaka; THE EXPERT - 1991); and former military man Admiral Mason (Mitchell Ryan; LETHAL WEAPON - 1987). It's easy to see quite early on that most of these people are harboring secrets of their own, but things take a major turn for the worse when the mysterious Mr. Osiris (Fredric Lehne; OCTOPUS 2: RIVER OF FEAR - 2001) gathers them all together in his stately island manor and tells them (by close circuit TV) that they've been selected to play a game: He and his associates, Mr. Chan (Steven Leigh; RING OF FIRE - 1991), Rashid (Abdul Salaam El Razzac) and Miguel (Ron Duran), will hunt them down like human prey, but there are six red backpacks, each containing one million dollars, scattered throughout the island. Anyone who finds a backpack and makes it to the other end of the island alive will be allowed to leave with the money (Hey, it's still easier than getting a government grant!). There are hidden cameras all over the island to stop the participants from cheating and to show he means business, Mr. Osiris has Mr. Chan shoot and kill Ikiru-Sun in front of everybody. The participants are then told that at one point in their lives, they have crossed paths with Mr. Osiris and have done him wrong (some of them have been downright murderous), so they are given rudimentary weapons (a rope, a machete, a pistol) and a two-hour head start before the hunt is on. As the group tries to figure out how they have pissed-off Mr. Osiris (plentiful flashback sequences are used), clues are left around the island to remind them. They begin to get picked-off one-by-one by the masked Mr. Osiris, his trio of killers and a few Rottweilers, who plays the group against each other. Pretty soon, they begin to mistrust each other more than their attackers. Who will be left alive at the film's end?  As directed by Thomas J. Wright (SNOW KILL - 1990; UNSPEAKABLE - 2002) and written by Wes Claridge (TEKWAR - 1994), DEADLY GAME is a typical made-for-cable TV movie punctuated by some unexpected bits of graphic gore (supplied by the KNB EFX Group), many which were edited out of the USA Network's telecasts. While all the characters are stereotypical clichés (the heartless jock; the gruff, untrustworthy military man; the damsel in distress, etc.), there are a few tense situations and bloody set pieces, including a standoff on a log that spans a river; Jake getting his legs caught in a spiked booby-trap and then being set on fire; a flashback involving Mr. Saito waking up at a table where all his underlings are holding their own severed heads in their hands and, in the present, getting his own head cut-off by a whirring saw blade booby-trap (the film's best effect); Rashid's impalement by one of Peterson's improvised booby-traps; and the surprise revelation in the finale as to why Lucy is on the island. If you're a fan of early-90's cable TV thrillers (and, really, who isn't?), DEADLY GAME delivers on its promise of killing a cast of capable and familiar faces in various deadly ways. Nothing more, nothing less. Originally released on VHS by Paramount Home Video and not available on DVD. Rated R.

DIARY OF THE DEAD (1976) - For the past couple of years, readers of this site have been telling me how I have got to see this film. After reading a synopsis, I have to tell you, I wasn't impressed. But, I finally bought a copy off eBay and, I must say, I'm glad I did. When we first see Stan (Hector Elizondo), he is disposing the body of what we think is his mother-in-law, Maud (Geraldine Fitzgerald), in the middle of the night. The next morning, Stan, his wife Vera (Salome Jens) and intrusive next door neighbor Walter Johnson (Joe Maher) are at a lawyer's office for the reading of Maud's will. We are then whisked back in time, where events that lead up to this are explained. Stan is temporarily unemployed and he and Vera are forced to live with Maud, who shows nothing but disdain for Stan. Not only does she think that Stan isn't good enough for her daughter (she would much rather have Walter for a son-in-law and Walter tries his damnest to make that happen), she belittles him for not being able to give her grandchildren and keeps taunting him about a huge sum of money she has (but no one has ever seen), but he will never get his hands on. Maud purposely barges in on him in the bathroom ("It's my house and I'll do what I want!") and constantly reminds him how he's got nothing and how worthless he is. The problem is, Stan is a decent human being just going through some hard times and doesn't deserve this kind of treatment. When Maud reveals to Vera that she has $86,000 socked away (she shows her the bank book), even Vera is disgusted with her mother because she could have helped make her and Stan's lives a little easier. When Vera tells Stan about the money and how he was right about Maud all along, Stan hatches a plan to get rid of Maud. When an elderly friend of Maud's comes to the house for an extended visit and dies in front of Stan of natural causes, it's the perfect opportunity for him to put his plan into action. Of course, the best laid plans...  Capably directed by TV vet Arvin Brown (THE CLOSER and dozens of other TV series since the early 80's), DIARY OF THE DEAD is a witty and wicked thriller with twists and turns you don't see coming. The always wonderful Hector Elizondo (THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE - 1974; LEVIATHAN - 1989) carries the film as an average Joe who takes advantage of a situation not of his doing, only to have it spiral out of control to the point where it would drive a sane person crazy. The biggest roadblock for Stan's plan's success is pesky neighbor Walter (and his even peskier dog), who hits on Vera, shows up at the most inopportune times and seems to have an agenda of his own. Things go from bad to worse when the body Stan has buried refuses to stay in the ground. The capper is the reading of Maud's will, where it states that the bulk of her estate will be held in trust for Vera's naturally-born children, knowing damn-well that there will be no children as long as Vera is married to Stan. If you think that's the end of the film, think again. The police become involved, Stan is questioned at headquarters and there's on hell of a surprise ending. The script (by J.C. Rapoport and Robert L. Fish) is top-notch and the acting uniformly excellent (you'll want to strangle Geraldine Fitzgerald, she's that mean). I'm surprised more isn't written about this excellent thriller (a lot of reference books get the plot all wrong), which is devoid of graphic gore or violence. It doesn't need it. Just watching one man's descent into a hell he doesn't deserve is reward enough. I'm still trying to figure out why it's called DIARY OF THE DEAD, though. That's a real head-scratcher. This film is full of recognizable character actors, including Austin Pendleton, Richard Venture, James Naughton, George Spalding, Lee Wallace, Joyce Ebert and Kate Wilkinson. A Vista Home Video Release. Not available on DVD. Rated PG.

DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1982) - Director/producer/screenwriter William Byron Hillman returns eight years later with a semi-remake/sequel to his first film, THE PHOTOGRAPHER (1974), once again starring Michael Callan (LEPRECHAUN 3 - 1995) as psycho cameraman Adrian Wilde, who apparently survived the fatal stabbing in the finale of the first film. Adrian is still as unstable as ever, living in a Winnebago and apparently killing prostitutes at night (the latest victim is an undercover cop in drag, who gets an icepick graphically shoved through his neck), while making weekly visits to his psychiatrist, Dr. Frank Curtis (Seymour Cassel; DEATH GAME - 1977), and complaining about the lack of "nice girls" in Los Angeles. When leaving the doctor's office, he meets Mindy Jordache (Joanna Pettet; THE EVIL - 1978) in the elevator and talks her into having dinner with him. Adrian makes a living as an advertising photographer and his latest assignment is taking publicity photos of his brother B.J. (James Stacy; PAPER MAN - 1971), a racecar driver who lost an arm and a leg in a racing accident (Stacy lost both appendages in real life in a 1973 motorcycle accident). B.J. is a bitter man whose wife left him after the accident and took the kids with her, leaving him an abusive alcoholic and a misogynist. Adrian and Mindy go on their dinner date and hit it off, agreeing to go on a second date the next night, but a series of events will make that date hard to keep. That night, Adrian has a nightmare where he kills a pretty swimsuit model in a pool, so he make a pact with B.J. to keep him company every night just to make sure the nightmares don't turn into reality. It doesn't work. The next night, another hooker (an early role for Sally Kirkland) has her neck snapped by someone wearing brown leather gloves (the film takes-on a giallo atmosphere in this scene) and when the swimsuit model Adrian dreamed about is actually found dead in the pool, Adrian grows more despondent and ignores phone calls from Mindy. Meanwhile, cops Sgt. Fontain (Pamela Hensley; THE NUDE BOMB - 1980) and Sgt. Buckhold (David Young; MARY. MARY, BLOODY MARY - 1975) catch flak from their police chief (Cleavon Little) for failing to catch the killer. The question soon becomes: Is Adrian the killer or could it be someone else? Could it be B.J., who manages to insult every woman he meets, as well as taunting Adrian's homosexual assistant, Lewis (Don Potter), thanks to his deep-seated hatred for his ex-wife? Or could it be Dr. Curtis, who seems to take a more-than-professional interest in Adrian's nightmares? What about Mindy? We really know nothing about her except that she is a patient of Dr. Curtis. What is she being treated for? Adrian's nightmares increase, including images of Mindy being stabbed in the stomach, himself being blown away by a jealous husband with a shotgun and killing a model by sticking her head in a plastic garbage bag containing a live rattlesnake. When more and more of Adrian's subjects end up murdered in real life and Mindy is stabbed just like in his nightmares, the real killer reveals himself (it's not much of a surprise), only to be stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle by Mindy, who is not quite as dead as in Adrian's dreams.  Though not as frenetic as THE PHOTOGRAPHER, director Hillman (RAGIN' CAJUN - 1991) eschews that film's PG rating and goes for the R-rated goods here, including plentiful female nudity (featuring a rare topless scene by Joanna Pettet) and some gory murders. Unlike THE PHOTOGRAPHER, Michael Callan has only one freak-out scene here, something that made the first film such a hoot to watch. The addition of James Stacy as Callan's brother is a good choice because they closely resemble each other and share the same mannerisms, which gives the film a shot of believability. Hillman also offers us a cast of great character actors, including Seymour Cassel, Cleavon Little and Robert Tessier as Aleck the bartender, but the roles are so underwritten, they are wasted. As it stands, DOUBLE EXPOSURE is a passable way to spend 95 minutes of your life, but it lacks the looniness factor of its predecessor. Sometimes nudity and blood cannot replace the air of insanity, something THE PHOTOGRAPHER had in spades. Also starring Misty Rowe, Frances Bay, Alfred Mazza, Jenna Tomasina and an early bit part by ex-SNL'er Victoria Jackson. This Crown International Pictures Release was originally released on VHS by Vestron Video and is available on widescreen DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment as part of their "After Dark Thrillers 8 Movie Collection" and on special edition DVD from Scorpion Releasing. Rated R.

EDEN LAKE (2008) - Schoolteacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and fiancé Steve (Michael Fassbender) travel to out-of-the-way Slapton Quarry to revel in it's beauty one last time before it is flooded and turned into Eden Lake, a gated community for rich snobs (Steve also plans to propose to Jenny on this trip). After ignoring a "Do Not Enter" sign at the beginning of the construction site, Steve drives his Range Rover deep into the woods until the ground growth becomes too thick. They then head out on foot to get a closer look at the beautiful, but soon to be destroyed, landscape, where they sunbathe at the edge of the quarry in their bathing suits. They are not alone, as a bunch of underage thugs (Steve calls them "little hoods") invade the beach, playing their music way too loud and letting their unfriendly dog take a shit right next to Jenny. Steve confronts them, but these kids are spoiled, foul-mouthed brats who ignore Steve's objections and eventually leave after causing more mischief. Steve and Jenny set-up a tent and camp out for the night without any incidents, but the next morning, Steve finds one of the tires slashed on his Range Rover. He changes the tire and heads back to town to have breakfast with Jenny, where they discover the town's adult population is full of unfriendly louts. Looking for some payback, Steve breaks into the house of young gang leader Brett (Jack O'Connell) and nearly gets caught by Brett's drunken letch of a father. Steve and Jenny then stupidly head back to the quarry, only to have Brett and his gang steal their Range Rover. They confront Brett in the middle of the woods, which leads to Steve accidentally killing Brett's dog. The chase is then on, as Steve and Jenny try to escape in the Range Rover, but Steve crashes and is caught by the underage gang, where they bound Steve with barb wire (with the dead dog's choke collar around his neck) and Brett forces members of his gang to slice Steve with knives and box cutters (a hard scene to watch). When Brett spots Jenny and the gang give chase on their BMX bikes, Steve escapes and eventually joins-up with Jenny. Steve is slowly bleeding to death (he finally gives Jenny the engagement ring, as he's been trying to propose to her throughout the film, but shit always happens) and Jenny has to make a hard choice: Leave a critically injured Steve behind and look for help by herself or kill the kids, which goes against everything she believes in. After killing a couple of the kids, Jenny escapes into the town and crashes the Range Rover at a party being thrown by the town's adults, where she will learn the hard way that the apples don't fall far from the tree.  The first thing that really stands out about this film and sets it apart from most other "terror in the woods" films is that the killers are a bunch of heartless kids, which makes their crimes all the more horrifying. What even makes it worse is that the lone female member of the gang, Abi (Tara Ellis), records all her gang's tortures and bloodshed on her camera phone so they all can watch it later on (which mimics a real-life case involving murderous teens in the Ukraine). Director/writer James Watkins (his directorial debut) builds the suspense slowly and drops hints as to why these kids act this way (every other adult in this film besides Steve and Jenny are either child abusers, drunks or flat-out refuse to take responsibility for their children), but he makes no excuses for them. These kids are just bad and do whatever Brett tells them, so when Jenny is pushed to her limits (She's tied to a tree and forced to watch as the kids burn Steve's corpse), she tosses her schoolteacher codes aside and begins killing kids (she stabs one kid in the neck with a shard of glass and runs over Abi with a car). The message Watkins sends to the audience comes through loud and clear, especially during the (not-so-surprising) finale: Children are a product of their environment, both personal and ecological. It makes me wonder how the future snobby residents of the gated community of Eden Lake will get along with their neighbors, but that's another film I hope will be told. The violence here is brutal (even the plentiful overhead shots convey a sense of loneliness and dread), especially since most of it comes by the hands or towards children, but since this was filmed in England, there is nary a gun in sight, which is refreshing (most of the violence is knife or sharp object related), as is the fact that cell phones actually work in these woods (and this is the first time that I can recall that BlueTooth technology is used to track someone). I look forward to James Watkins' next film. He's a talent to watch. Also starring Thomas Turgoose, Finn Atkins, Jumayn Hunter, James Burrows, Thomas Gill, Lorraine Bruce, Shaun Dooley and James Gandhi. A Dimension Extreme Films DVD Release. Unrated.

THE EVICTORS (1979) - Period thriller with supernatural overtones by late director Charles B. Pierce (THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK - 1972; THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN - 1977), supposedly based on true events. It's mid-Summer, 1928, and a sheriff and his deputies are trying to evict the Munroe family from their home for defaulting on their bank loan. This leads to a massive standoff and shootout between the Monroe family and the law, with the outcome not yet revealed. Suddenly we're in Northern Louisiana and it's Autumn, 1942 (the film stock switches from sepia tone to full, vibrant color). Realtor Jake Rudd (Vic Morrow; HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP -1980) is showing a house to newlywed couple Ben (Michael Parks; FRENCH QUARTER UNDERCOVER - 1985) and Ruth Watkins (Jessica Harper; SUSPIRIA - 1977) and, damn, if it isn't the old Monroe farmhouse (Jake makes an off-the-cuff remark that the mineral rights on this land belong to the "previous owners" and are not included in the sale of the house). Ruth falls in love with the house and can't wait to start a family there, so they buy the house, which seems to please Jake way too much (turns out Jake is one of their neighbors). While Ben drives to his new job at a cotton mill, Ruth make the long walk into town to pick up some groceries and notices the townspeople are pretty standoffish towards her (Jake tells her, "They're shy with strangers", but to give it time). When she gets home, Ruth finds a message in her mailbox that says "I want you to move" that looks like it was written by a child on a torn piece of a brown paper bag. She begins locking the front door of the house (which was unheard of back then) and she asks Ben if they can go to church on Sunday. A traveling peddler (Lucius Farris) stops by the house to sell Ruth some wares and tells her the strange history of the house, where many people have died horrible deaths living there since the "Monroe massacre". Flashbacks reveal that a husband and wife living in the house in 1934 suffered terrible fates. A man in a floppy hat killed the wife and husband by bonking them on the head with a horseshoe attached to a stick (to make it look like they were kicked in the head by a mule) and then let the family mule drag their bodies around the property. Before the peddler can tell Ruth any more stories, she and Ben go to church (but not before Ben hires the peddler to chop wood in a couple of days), where they meet their cheerful, wheelchair-bound neighbor Olie Gibson (Sue Ann Langdon; WITHOUT WARNING - 1980), who invites Ruth over for coffee and cake. Ben and Ruth attend a Sunday picnic at Mr. Bruckner's (Jimmy Clem) plantation, where Ruth confronts Jake about her house's history, but all Jake does is make improper advances towards her (All the women at the picnic find excuses not to come to the house when Ruth invites them over). It's not long before Ruth and Ben begin experiencing strange occurrences at the house (like the floppy hat-wearing man looking in their windows in the middle of the night), but when Ben has to leave town on business and Olie tells Ruth about some more murders that happened in the house in 1939 (flashback alert), where a young married couple were killed by a floppy-hatted stranger (the husband was electrocuted and the wife burned alive), Ruth must defend herself against unseen forces, especially when the peddler returns to chop some wood and gets an axe planted in his back for his troubles. When Ruth accidentally shoots and kills Ben when she mistake's him for an intruder, the truth about the house is finally revealed. The moral to the story? Don't trust cheerful old women in wheelchairs, because, really, what do they have to be cheerful about except getting revenge on everyone that lives in a home that was once hers? That's right, Olie is actually a Monroe and she lets her crazy husband Dwayne (Glen Roberts) out of his locked room (with his floppy hat) every time someone new moves into the house. Will Ruth be the next victim? A final sting at the end of the film reveals Ruth's surprising fate, as well as that the house has not given up its killing ways, even five years later.  Say what you want about Charles B. Pierce (who also produced and co-wrote the screenplay with Gary Rusoff and Paul Fisk), but he had a knack for creating period mood and atmosphere, especially the ambiance of living in 1930's & 40's Louisiana by the use of period clothing, music, props, vehicles (Pierce did the same thing for late-40's Texarkana in THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN) and subtle hints about our involvement in World War II (Ben works as a foreman for the cheap Mr. Bruckner at one of his cotton mills, where they produce material for soldiers' uniforms). Though made the same year as THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, I found THE EVICTORS to be much more engrossing and rewarding (both are about a cursed house, but for much different reasons), even if the violence is much more restrained. I sincerely believe Pierce was a solid director and hopefully his films will now be rediscovered and re-evaluated since his death in early 2010. It's a shame that a person has to die to have their work appreciated, but, hey, that's life. It's also a shame Jessica Harper retired from acting, because she's a terrific actress and helps lift THE EVICTORS from just being an OK film about living in a cursed house during wartime o being a good film about living in a cursed house during wartime. Look for cameos by Dennis Fimple (CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE - 1976) and Bill Thurman (IT'S ALIVE - 1969). Also starring Harry Thomasson, Twyla Taylor, Mary Branch, John Meyer, John Milam and Roxanne Harter. Originally released on VHS by Vestron Video and available on DVD as part of a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (with a Blu-Ray of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN) from Scream Factory. Rated PG.

THE EYE BEHIND THE WALL (1977) - If you ever had the feeling that you were being watched, this film will make you very nervous. This takes the word "voyeurism" and gives it a whole new meaning. When we first see Arturo (John Phillip Law; BLOOD DELIRIUM - 1988), he is eyeing-up a woman in a short skirt while traveling on a train. It eventually becomes too much for him to take. He then rapes her and chokes her to death with his bare hands. The next time we see Arturo, he is staying in an apartment owned by couple Ivano (Fernando Rey), a paraplegic, and Olga (Olga Bisera). What Arturo doesn't know is that he is being watched, as Ivano and Olga have the apartment wired with cameras and microphones. They find Arturo an "interesting character" and not only watch him for scientific purposes (Ivano is some kind of famous psychologist), but soon find their observations crossing into sexual territory (Ivano, who is incapable of making love to Olga because of his disability, feels her up while she watches Arturo exercising in the nude). Ivano and Olga's butler, Ottavio (Jose Quaglio), is doing some watching of his own, peeping through the keyhole as Olga takes a bath. He also has a secret shrine to her in his closet and sniffs her hair in the bathtub drain when she is done bathing. Olga catches him doing this and slaps Ottavio in the face ("Pig!"), but says nothing about it to Ivano (probably because she loves the attention). As Ivano and Olga  study Arturo deeper, they discover that he keeps to himself and doesn't leave the apartment often, so when Arturo does finally go out one night, Olga follows him under the guise of "scientific study" (That may be partly true, but she's got the hots for him ever since she spotted his frank and beans!). She follows him to a disco, where Arturo watches some muscular black dude strip a white chick while they are dancing to a cheesy disco tune. Surprisingly, Arturo brings the black dude back to the apartment, where they smoke pot and engage in gay sex, all under the watchful eyes of Ivano and Olga. Olga then become visibly upset and storms out of the room, crying and yelling at Ivano that he knew Arturo was gay all along. Ivano convinces her otherwise and they both decide to take the experiment to a new level by introducing Olga into Arturo's life to see if she can get Arturo to fall in love with her. It works all too well and, after a short time, Ivano is watching Olga making love to Arturo. This brings up painful memories to Ivano and, in flashbacks, we learn that he caught his son making love to Olga. As he was driving his son out of town, they got into a bad car accident, which crippled Ivano and killed his son. The finale reveals hidden family secrets and a strangely ironic (though fitting) demise for two of the players.  This strange, strange film, the only directing and scripting credit for Giuliano Petrelli (who was a bit actor in a few Italian films in the 70's, including MANHUNT [1972]), is full of surprising scenes of both male and female nudity, including full-frontal scenes from John Phillip Law. This film equates sex and voyeurism as weapons, both physical and psychological. When Olga catches Ottavio sniffing her drain hair (ugh!), he retaliates by burning the shrine he had of her in a pile of leaves outside and then rapes local village girl Lucille (Monica Zanchi), knowing full well that Olga is watching him through a window (and she acts hurt, like a little schoolgirl). As Ottavio is raping Lucille, he screams at her, "You keep your honor between your legs!", but you really know he meant that remark for Olga. First and foremost, this is a film about damaged people. No one in this film can romotely be considered normal (even Lucille, who becomes Ottavio's girlfriend!), so the problem with this film is deciding which character to align yourself with. As the film progresses and more information is revealed about each character (especially about Olga and her relationship with Ivano), you will find yourself too confused to pick a single character to sympathize with, but that's not a bad thing. In the end, this is a film about confused human beings that don't have the faintest idea on how to act human, thanks to events in their pasts that drained them of their humanity. The more they try to act normal, the worse it becomes for everyone. The ending to this short (75 minute) film is a shocker and shows how finally regaining your sanity and humanity doesn't mean things necessarily turn out for the best. As in real life, the results can be tragic. A perverse, undiscovered little gem. Also known as THE CRYSTAL MAN and EYES BEHIND THE WALL. Also starring Joseph Jenkins and Roberto Posse. Available on VHS and DVD-R from Luminous Film & Video Wurks in a soft-looking widescreen print (with plenty of emulsion damage) in the original Italian language with English subtitles. Not Rated.

EYES OF THE BEHOLDER (1992) - A psychotic artist named Janice (Lenny Von Dohlen) escapes from a mental hospital and terrorizes the occupants of a secluded mountain home owned by the doctor who performed an experimental operation on him. The operation (which was supposed to cure Janice of his homicidal ways) was a failure and has left one of Janice's hands a twisted mass of flesh, sealing his fate as an artist. He plays a cat and mouse game with Dr. Carlyle (Matt McCoy), cutting off any means of access or communication from his home and then systematically makes life hell for the good doctor, his wife (Joanna Pacula) and their two house guests (George Lazenby and Kylie Travis). After a little torture (including some well-placed bullet hits and walking on broken glass) and a lot of philosophizing, Janice falls through an opening on a rotting bridge and gets sucked underwater during a raging thunderstorm. This run-of-the-mill suspenser is enlivened a bit by some inventive photography and quick, jackhammer MTV-style editing. The camera is always moving (giving the film a nervous quality) and the film is full of short shock-cuts which makes the film seem better than it really is. The main problem is the screenplay. Too much talk, not enough action. As a villian, Lenny Von Dohlen (BLIND VISION - 1991) is rather bland, never building up enough fear in the audience to make his character plausible. Joanna Pacula (THE KISS - 1988) and Matt McCoy (DEEP STAR SIX - 1989) are far too removed from everyday life to attract any sympathy from the viewers. I was rather pleased to see George Lazenby's return to the screen (Am I the only one that considers ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE [1969] a shining jewel in the James Bond series?) and he acquits himself rather nicely, pumping some adrenaline into this slow-moving vehicle. B-movie (and former Russ Meyer) staple Charles Napier has a small part here as a cop. Director/screenwriter Lawrence Simeone also made (and co-starred in) the rarely-seen crime thriller COP-OUT (1991). All in all, EYES OF THE BEHOLDER is neither good or bad. It's just common. A Columbia TriStar Home Video Release. Rated R.

FAIR GAME (1988) - Effective little Italian thriller about a vengeful husband who plots the perfect murder of his wife, who left him because of his possessiveness. The husband in question is Gene (Gregg Henry), a rich computer game designer, who drives out to the middle of the desert to buy a deadly black mamba, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, from snake handler Frank (Bill Moseley). Gene has done his homework and knows that the mamba is deadliest during the one month a year when it mates. The mamba must bite continually during this time to release the overabundance of poison it produces when in heat (Frank puts a rabbit in the mamba's cage to show how aggressive the snake is. It's not pretty.). We also learn at this time that Gene is quite the electronics genius, as he rigged his car so that Frank cannot get out so he can test out the snake's effectiveness on humans. Frank is bitten and dies in less than a minute, which pleases Gene. He then goes to the loft of Eva (Trudy Styler), his estranged artist wife, and secretly tags her with mamba hormone and sets the snake loose. He breaks off the key in the only door, cuts off her phone to the outside (only he can call her) and waits outside in his car, where he can track the snake and his wife electronically. Eva is at first unaware that anything is wrong and goes about her business as usual, taking a bath and practicing yoga, while the mamba stalks her (cue distorted snake POV shots). While Eva is making a video diary, the mamba strikes and misses. She doesn't even notice until she plays back the tape and spots the snake. Now aware of the mamba, Eva also realizes that both her door and phone are out of order. Not able to escape, Eva must fight for survival while Gene calls her on the phone every few minutes to see if she's still alive. Eva proves to be quite the fighter, even as Gene cuts the electricity, forcing her to fight in darkness. Eva gets wise to Gene's deadly game and devises a way to get Gene into the loft, where she turns the tables on him and gives him a taste of the mamba's venom.  This tight little thriller, directed and co-scripted by Mario Orfini (JACKPOT - 1992), is basically a two character stage play, as most of the action takes place in Eva's loft or Gene's car. Gene has sixty minutes for the mamba to kill Eva (that how long the hormone is effective) and the rest of the film plays out in real time, making it urgent and suspenseful. Trudy Styler, better known as the activist wife of rocker Sting, walks around most of the time in a tee shirt and panties (there's also brief nudity during the bath scene), until she discovers that the snake is present. Then, she covers-up herself completely from head to toe and builds an impromptu fortress around her to stop the snake. Styler keeps things moving at a brisk pace by talking to herself, working her way out of tough situations by using common sense and keeping a cool head. Gregg Henry (SLITHER - 2006) doesn't have much to do but act slimy (the snake's got nothing on him), look menacing and scowl when things don't go his way, but that's OK because the real suspense here comes with Eva's interaction with the snake and the inventive twist ending. Those looking for blood and gore will be sorely disappointed here, as this film gets it's thrills the old fashioned way: With tense situations and a reliance on mood over violence. Good show. Originally titled MAMBA. Giorgio Moroder wrote the effective music score and was also an Associate Producer. VENOM (1981) is another excellent film dealing with an on-the-loose black mamba. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. Rated R.

FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE (1977) - William Sanderson portrays Jesse Lee Cain, a convict who escapes police custody along with two other felons, a Hispanic and a Chinaman. They steal a car, rob a gas station (repeatedly stabbing the attendant) and head for Canada. En route, they rob a liquor store (shooting the owner) and take a black woman hostage. They make her take them to her home so they can hide out until the heat blows over. The home is occupied by a black deacon and his large family and pretty soon they are all hostages. The extremely prejudiced Cain and his cohorts begin terrorizing the frightened family. First, Cain throws nearly every racial slur at the family, calling them nigger, tarbaby, burrhead, spade, coon, monkey face, Uncle Remus, Aunt Jemima and many others. Then he threatens their lives, pointing his gun at their heads and promising to pull the trigger if they don't do demeaning tasks like licking his boots or dancing a jig. The Chinaman kills a visiting white woman (by throwing her off a cliff after attempting rape) and smashes a visiting small white boy's head in (graphically) with a rock. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, Cain teaches the family a lesson by raping the deacon's daughter and letting his partners have a turn with her. The police surround the house, giving the family a chance to turn the tables on their captors. Instead of turning them over to the police, the deacon and his family chuck their pacifist ways and administer their own brand of justice. Cain and his cohorts get their just desserts, but not before Cain reveals just why he has all that hatred for black people. This film, lensed as FIGHTIN' FAMILY and also known as STAYIN' ALIVE, is so sleazy you'll feel like taking a shower after viewing it. William Sanderson is so believable as the black-hating Cain, portraying his character as a hillbilly with no morals (he keeps his pants up with a piece of rope), that you'll never look at his role of Larry (of Larry, Darryl and Darryl) on NEWHART (1982 - 1990) reruns the same way again. (Come to think of it, there weren't that many black actors on the program. Hmmm...) Producer William Mishkin is better known for his collaborations with the late badfilm director Andy Milligan. Screenwriter Straw Weisman, who also worked frequently with Milligan, directed that weird minor gem about necrophilia, DEAD MATE (1988). FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE is a tense and bloody foray in racial hatred. It is not for all tastes and caters to our baser instincts. If you do decide to rent it, make sure you have plenty of soap and water on hand. You'll need it. Directed by Robert A. Endelson (THE FILTHIEST SHOW IN TOWN - 1975).  A Paragon Home Video and After Hours Entertainment Release. Also available on DVD from Blue Underground. Rated R.

FLESHBURN (1983) - In 1975, Calvin Duggai (Sonny Landham; PREDATOR - 1987) deliberately abandoned five men to die in the desert because of an argument involving tribal rivalry and the powers of Indian witchcraft. Four psychiatrists testified Duggai was not capable of distinguishing right from wrong and recommended he be institutionalized. Well, Calvin (who is haunted by bad 'Nam flashbacks) has had enough of the loony bin and escapes, vowing to get even with the four psychiatrists who put him there. Calvin flags-down a pickup truck driven by Jim Brody (Robert Alan Brown) and when he spots the deer Jim bagged while hunting, he has another 'Nam flashback and kills Jim with his own hunting rifle. Calvin kidnaps the first two psychiatrists, the husband/wife team of Jay (Robert Chimento) and Shirley Pinter (Karen Carlson; BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY - 1977), at gunpoint and then kidnaps retired headshrinker Dr. Sam MacKenzie (Steve Kanaly; HEADHUNTER - 1989), who is living in a secluded cabin in the woods. Calvin finally kidnaps the fourth psychiatrist, the homosexual Earl Dana (Macon McCalman; DEAD & BURIED - 1981), and drives them all to the middle of the desert and leaves them there (but not before taking a "souvenir" from each of them, such as a lock of Sam's hair), telling them, "I've had my Hell. Now you'll have yours." When Shirley asks him what he is going to do, Calvin replies, "Nothing. The desert will do it for me." Calvin breaks Earl's leg before he drives off and so begins the long, torturous journey of the four psychiatrists (and the audience), left barefoot, with no water and very little clothing in what turns out to be one of the worst heat waves in many years. Sam keeps his wits about him, digging a hole to keep cool and setting Earl's broken leg with Shirley's help. He also fashions some tools from spent rifle shells, which allows them to extract water and food from cactus plants. Flashbacks reveal that once Sam and Shirley had an illicit affair, which throws some unneeded tension between Sam and Jay, but Sam's survival techniques keep everyone alive. Calvin goes coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs and starts practicing witchcraft rituals and doesn't like that his four captives are not moving, so he uses the "souvenirs" he took from the group to exact revenge (he feeds a falcon Sam's hair and the bird attacks Sam, inflicting deep cuts on Sam's face and upper torso). Meanwhile, the psychiatrists all have their own flashbacks, revealing vital information about their lives and background (such as Sam's wife committing suicide). While Sam is recuperating from his falcon wounds, Jay sets out on his own to look for help and disappears. Sam eventually finds an injured Jay, but Calvin shoots Jay dead and ties Sam to a boulder. Sam breaks free and decides enough is enough. If he is going to save Shirley and Earl, he is going to have to take-on Calvin mano-a-mano, but when he captures Calvin, he decides not to kill him. He's going to send him back to the asylum, because to Calvin, it's a fate worse than death. Give me a fucking break!  This boring mess of a psychological thriller, directed by George Gage (SKATEBOARD: THE MOVIE - 1977) and co-written by Gage and his producer wife Beth Gage (based on a novel by DEATH WISH author Brian Garfield titled "Fear In A Handful Of Dust"), is nothing more than a slow-moving tale of an obviously crazy Indian who believes he has supernatural powers (Which begs the question: If he indeed has supernatural powers, why did it take him nearly ten years to escape from the mental institution?) and a doctor (Sam) who believes he can defeat him by using common human sense and survival techniques. Not much happens throughout the film's entire running time except endless bickering amomg the psychiatrists on subjects like religion, infidelity and death, combined with shots of Sonny Landham (who got his start appearing in porn films like SLIPPERY WHEN WET - 1976, before moving on to more mainstream roles) dancing around a campfire chanting like a crazy loon or firing his rifle at the group and hitting no one (he's quite the lousy shot!). FLESHBURN has the look and feel of an early-80's TV film, as there is no nudity and very little blood. Only the foul language lets you know that this Tuscon, Arizona-lensed flick, an exercise in tedium, wouldn't play on TV without some beeps. 88 minutes of torture for the viewer. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and also available on DVD from Rhino Home Video as part of their HORRIBLE HORRORS COLLECTION VOLUME 1 compilation of eight films from the 70's & 80's. Rated R, but I honestly don't know why.

FRAGMENT OF FEAR (1970) - British thriller from the director of the existential action classic VANISHING POINT (1971) and the not-so-classic actioner (but still one of my 80's faves) EYE OF THE TIGER (1986). Recovering drug addict Tim Brett (David Hemmings; DEEP RED - 1976) is in Italy trying to get his novel published. His sweet old Aunt Lucy (Flora Robson; THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR - 1970) agrees to financially back him in his endeavors, but when she is found brutally murdered in some Pompeii ruins by a British tour group, Tim puts his book on hold and tries to solve her murder. It won't be easy for Tim, because his drug and criminal background (he was no angel during his younger years) also makes him a prime suspect to the Italian police. Once back in Britain, he joins forces with fiancée and soon-to-be-wife Juliet Briston (Gayle Hunnicutt; Hemming's real-life wife at the time, who also starred with him in the excellent thriller NIGHTMARE - 1973) to find out more information on Aunt Lucy's mysterious life. Tim goes to a group retirement home where Aunt Lucy lived and is greeted with senility in the form of Mrs. Gray (Mona Washbourne; WHAT BECAME OF JACK AND JILL? - 1971), who knows who the Rolling Stones are but can't seem to recall what happened yesterday, and derision in the form of Miss Ward-Cadbury (Yootha Joyce), the home's nurse/caretaker. Tim does discover from arthritic resident Mr. Vellacot (Roland Culver) that Aunt Lucy's husband was killed by a burglar and, ever since that day, Lucy went out of her way to help young criminals turn their life around (Mr. Vellacot believes Lucy helped approximately 25 to 30 men walk the straight-and-narrow). On his way back from the retirement home, Tim meets a strange lady on a train (who Tim later describes as "a pathetic old dyke with a face like a bun") and she gives him an envelope (which Tim initially thinks is a religious pamphlet), telling him not to open it until he gets home. It turns out not to be a religious pamphlet at all, but a thinly-veiled threat telling him to stop investigating Lucy's death. Tim begins to doubt his own sanity when his tape-recorded notes contain devious laughter that seems to be in his own voice and he discovers that the threatening note could only have come from his typewriter (it has a distinctively flawed "I" key). Is it possible that Tim is back to abusing drugs or is all this some elaborate setup to blame Tim for Lucy's death? It doesn't take a genius (or does it?) to recognize that Tim is being unfairly accused of a bunch of crimes he didn't commit, including making an indecent proposal to the old dyke on the train (she files a complaint with the police). Police Sgt. Matthews (Derek Newark) believes Tim is madder than a hatter, as Tim complains he is receiving threatening phone calls from a mysterious man ("I am 7, 70, and 700!") telling him to lay-off the investigation and that he is constantly being watched. This all begins to worry Juliet, who also begins to believe that Tim is back on the junk (he begins to sweat profusely and pukes at the most inopportune times), but it turns out someone is actually spiking Tim's milk. Tim is strong-willed, nonetheless, and his investigation will lead him to a retired probation officer named Mr. Copsey (Wilfred Hyde-White; CHAMBER OF HORRORS - 1966) and a mysterious group known as the "Stepping Stones", which turn out to be the people Lucy helped rehabilitate. Can Tim unravel this mystery before the police arrest him or he is committed to a mental institution for seeing things that aren't there (such as Sgt. Matthews, who the police never heard of)? Or will he die before he discovers the truth?  This is an interesting murder mystery with a good performance by David Hemmings as a man who is slowly being persecuted by forces unknown, yet he remains unbowed in his determination to uncover the truth, even if it means losing the trust or alienating those he loves. Director Richard C. Sarafian (whose son, Deran Sarafian, would later directs such genre films as ALIEN PREDATOR [1984] and DEATH WARRANT [1990] before finding a comfortable niche directing episodic American TV such as CSI: and its spin-offs) and screenwriter Paul Dehn (GOLDFINGER - 1964) have created an excellent puzzle piece mystery that will not easily be solved by the viewer. What I liked about FRAGMENT OF FEAR is that it deals with several aspects of life (drug addiction, love, conspiracies, secret societies, etc.) in a frank and honest manner, without a hint of unwelcome humor, which belies its PG (originally GP) rating. I won't give more away except to say that the film manages to be thrilling and frightening without being particularly violent or bloody. This film is character driven and David Hemmings carries the film with his multi-layered performance. The finale may be a little too ambiguous for some people's liking, but it serves this film well. Richard Sarafian's last directorial effort was the disappointing disaster flick SOLAR CRISIS (1990), which Sarafian decided to take an "Alan Smithee" credit, a sure sign that he wasn't happy with the final product. Also starring Adolfo Celi (EYE IN THE LABYRINTH - 1972), Daniel Massey and Arthur Lowe. I don't believe FRAGMENT OF FEAR ever received a U.S. home video release (it did receive a theatrical release). The print I viewed was sourced from a British VHS tape from RCA/Columbia Home Video. Rated PG.

FREEWAY (1996) - The term "graphic" describes every facet of this modern retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. The violence, language and sex push this way beyond its R rating (did the MPAA actually review this film?), making it a thoroughly remarkable and funny tale of morals in this country. A juvenile delinquent (the wonderful Reese Witherspoon, who went on to become a major star is such films as LEGALLY BLONDE - 2001) takes a trip to her grandmother's house after her prostitute mother and junkie stepfather are busted by the police. Along the way, her car breaks down and she gets a ride from a child psychiatrist (Kiefer Sutherland) who turns out to be a notorious necropheliac serial killer. She manages to break free and shoots him a half dozen times but he clings to life, his face horribly disfigured. She is arrested for attempted murder. Due to her lengthly juvenile record, the police do not believe her story and she is made out to be the monster and he the innocent victim, due in a large part by the efforts of his bitchy wife's (an excellent Brooke Shields) media campaign of half-truths and misinformation. She is tried as an adult and sentenced to life inprisonment. Forced to use violence as a way to survive, she becomes a celebrity in prison and escapes with the help of three female inmates. Meanwhile, the police are getting closer to discovering the real truth. The finale takes place at Grandma's house, where the disfigured serial killer subs for Grandma and lies in waiting for his revenge. Writer/director Matthew Bright offers a sassy script, surreal scenes and off-kilter violence and blends it into a really satisfying brew. Oliver Stone was one of the executive producers. This film was such a hit on home video and cable that director Bright made a sequel FREEWAY 2: CONFESSIONS OF A TRICKBABY (1999). FREEWAY also stars Dan Hedaya, Amanda Plummer, Wolfgang Bodison, Bokeem Woodbine and Sydney Lassick. Made it's premiere on HBO with a video release by Republic Pictures Home Video. Rated R, but deserves an NC-17 although I'm not complaining.

HER VENGEANCE (1988) - Five drunk and violent brothers go to the "Casino Lisboa" and interrupt the stage show (a French can-can review) by acting rowdy and beligerent. When the manager of the club, Chieh Ying (Pauline Wong), asks them to calm down, they grope her, forcing Cheih to slap on of the brothers and call Security, who throw them out. The brothers wait for Chieh to get off work, where they grab her, bring her to a cemetery and gang-rape her (one of the brothers burns her with a disposable lighter when she refuses to move while he screws her!). In her shame, Chieh never reports the rape and returns to her regular routine. One day, she has a burning sensation between her legs, so she goes to a doctor, who tells her that she has a serious case of VD (His exact words are: "You must have had filthy sex partners. Your uterus will soon rot, leading to cancer of the uterus!") and she will soon die. What is a poor girl to do? Well, since this is a crazy, out-of-control Hong Kong thriller, she decides to get even with her five rapists before she kicks-off. After telling her blind sister her whole sordid story, Chieh leaves mainland China and heads to Hong Kong in search of Hsiung (Lam Ching-Ying), her wheelchair-bound Uncle, who was also her blind sister's lover (!). Hsiung, who runs a nightclub/whorehouse called the San Francisco Bar, knows a thing or two about vengeance, but he initially refuses to help Chieh in her plot for revenge since he knows the high price that usually has to be paid (for him it was the loss of his legs). He does give her a job as a waitress at his bar, where we watch how Hsiung deals with unruly customers (he uses his wheelchair as a weapon and is quite handy with it!). As luck would have it, the five rapist brothers are in town, so when Chieh spots one of them outside the bar, she tricks him into driving out to the middle of nowhere for a "snack" (i.e. a blowjob). She manages to tie the guy's hands behind his back and then cuts his ear off with a pair of scissors and finishes him offf by strangling him from behind as he kicks-out the car windshield. One down, four to go. Chieh tricks another brother into thinking he's inheriting some insurance money from his dead brother, but she fails to kill him, even after throwing acid in his face and stabbing him in the back. She is successful in her next attempt, impaling another brother in the stomach with a sharpened pipe while he is filming a porno flick. When the remaining three brothers find out Chieh's identity and kill her blind sister, Hsiung has no choice but to join Chieh in her quest for bloody revenge. The finale is a non-stop barrage of death in depravity that will make the most jaded gorehound sit up and take notice.  This sleazy, nasty rape/revenge thriller leaves very little to the imagination, as it is full of nudity, blood and scenes of brutal violence. As directed by Nam Nai Choi (a.k.a. "Simon Nam"), who also gave us THE SEVENTH CURSE (1986) and the ultra-violent and campy RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY (1991), the plot of HER VENGEANCE is your basic "rapist out for revenge" scenario, but the execution is anything but basic. It's absolutely delirious. Not only do we get to see various impalements, stabbings, dismemberments, slashings and head bashings (with exotic pointy fruit!), we are also privvy to the unusual sights of Hsiung bathing his two leg stumps (bot legs are cut-off above the knees) and a finale that is one of the most amazing and demented white-knuckle sequences in recent memory. Without giving too much away, it contains wheelchair-fu, a homemade crossbow and a never-say-die attitude displayed by one of the characters that's remarkable in it's savagery and grace. You'll know what I mean when you see it. If this film does have a fault, it's the subplot about Chieh Ying's friendship and possible romance with young man Hsiao Hao (Kelvin Wong). It's a rather pointless affair, since they will never be able to consummate their relationship (She's riddled with an STD after all!), but he eventually becomes a victim of his desires. While trying to stop Chieh from killing one of her rapists, he pays for it with his life. If you ever wondered what a Hong Kong version of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) would look like, here it is. What an amazing piece of trash cinema. Search it out. Would make a good double feature with Dennis Yu's THE BEASTS (1980). Also starring Wong Ching, Billy Chow, Shing Fu On, Shum Wai and Chan Ging as the rapist brothers and Elaine Kam as Susan, one of Hsiung's bargirls who befriends Chieh and also pays for it with her life. Originally released on VHS and laserdisc by MediaAsia (in Manadrin with burned-in English subtitles) and available on DVD-R from grey market seller Nightcrew Video. Be advised that an alternate version of this film exists on VCD (on the Deltamac label) that edits out nearly all the nudity and violence and replaces them with extended scenes and alternate footage. Not Rated.

HITCHER IN THE DARK (1989) - Slick, but boring, Italian-financed and Florida-lensed psycho thriller. Borrowing cues from THE HITCHER (1986), this film (also known as THE HITCHER 2 in some countries) tells the story of young psychopath Mark (Joe Balogh; MOONSTALKER - 1989; HOLLYWOOD'S NEW BLOOD - 1989), who picks up female hitchhikers in his Winnebago, rapes, kills and photographs their dead bodies with his trusty Polaroid and then drops their bodies in the alligator-infested waters. Mark then sets his sights on pretty Daniela (Josie Bissett) when he spots her in a bar. When Daniela catches her boyfriend Kevin (Jason Saucier; THE CRAWLERS - 1990) kissing another woman and storms out of the bar, Mark see this as his perfect opportunity to get Daniela into the Winnebago for a ride to the bus stop, which she gladly accepts. After a few minutes talking with Mark, Daniela can sense that there's a little something "off" about him, but when she spots Kevin's car skulking behind the Winnebago, she lets her anger and jealousy get the better of her and decides to stay with Mark. Bad move. After drinking a can of drugged Coke, Daniela later wakes up to discover that she is handcuffed and at the mercy of Mark. A bathroom break affords Daniela a chance to escape, but she is captured just after making a phone call to her sister asking for help. Her sister calls Kevin when the police refuse to help and Kevin begins his search to Daniela, picking up a clue from a pothead biker who said he saw Daniela get picked-up by a guy driving a motor home. Kevin begins following every motor home he spots (too bad the pothead wasn't more specific and told him it was a Winnebago), even breaking into one and getting the shit kicked out of him by it's angry black owner. Mark drugs Daniela, cuts and dyes her blonde hair brown to make her look like the photo of a 39 year-old Russian woman called Danyetska that he keeps in his RV, which turns out to be his whore mother. Daniela lets Mark make love to her, but Mark ejaculates prematurely and goes psycho, slapping Daniela around and then keeping her in a drugged stupor, where he takes naked Polaroids of her. When Kevin finally locates Daniela, he, too, becomes a prisoner of Mark (who carves the word "PIG" on Kevin's chest with a switchblade) and must watch as Mark threatens to shove a knife up Daniela's vagina (he doesn't though). It all ends rather badly as Kevin is stabbed to death, Daniela is left for dead (of a drug overdose) in the trunk of a car in an auto junkyard and Mark continues picking-up female hitchhikers, only his latest pick-up is none other than Daniela, who shoots Mark several times as a final "fuck you". Don't you just love tender love stories?  Although there is some stylish photography on view, the static direction by Umberto Lenzi (using his frequent "Humphrey Humbert" pseudonym), who gave us other genre films such as SPASMO (1974); ALMOST HUMAN (1974); EYEBALL (1975); GHOSTHOUSE (1987) and WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK (1988); the unbelievable screenplay by Olga Pehar (Lenzi's HUNT FOR THE GOLDEN SCORPION - 1991), which is full of convenient coincidences (such as Daniela trying to get away in the stolen Winnebago, only to get it stuck in the mud); and the questionable acting talents of the three main actors (You thought Jason Saucier was bad in THE CRAWLERS? Wait until you see him here!); all join together to make a film that is not only as slow as a snail with hemorrhoids, it also stinks of desperation and flop sweat. Not one person in this film acts or reacts like a real human being (especially Josie Bissett's character, who accepts her punching bag and rape status a little too easily), so Lenzi tries to divert us by throwing-in sleazy scenes of nudity (including a wet tee-shirt contest) and some quick glimpses of gore. The sad fact is that HITCHER IN THE DARK is a very minor Italian genre effort that is not worth your time, no matter how bored you are. Watching this will only increase your boredom. Available from Shriek Show either as a stand-alone DVD or as part of their triple feature HIGH SCHOOL HORRORS DVD box set, with HELL HIGH (1986) and THE MAJORETTES (1986) as the co-features. Rated R.

HOUSE OF TERROR (1972) - When an elderly couple is savagely knifed to death by some unknown person in the titular house, nurse Jennifer Andrews (Jennifer Bishop; BIGFOOT - 1970; MAKO: JAWS OF DEATH - 1976) arrives by bus several years later to take care of the suicidal Marsha (Jacquelyn Hyde; THE DARK - 1979; SUPERSTITION - 1982), wife of rich Emmett Kramer (Mitchell Gregg), in the very same house. Emmett is the son of the elderly couple that was murdered years earlier and ever since that fateful day, Marsha has gone off the deep end, trying to kill herself several times and the creepy housekeeper, Norma (Irenee Byatt), was struck dumb by the sight of the carnage and hasn't spoken a word ever since. Jennifer has some problems of her own, as her ex-con boyfriend, Mark (Arell Blanton), who was just released from prison after serving a three-year stretch for armed robbery and is the father of Jennifer's young son (who is staying with her mother while Jennifer does her nursing gig), follows her from San Francisco in hopes of rekindling their relationship. When Mark discovers that Jennifer is working for Emmett, one of the richest people in town, you can practically see dollar signs floating above his head in a circle. Jennifer is not treated very nicely in the Kramer household, as Marsha calls her a tramp and accuses her of having an affair with her husband; Norma gives her the cold shoulder; someone leaves a teddy bear with a knife in it's stomach on her bed; someone is spying on her in her bedroom through a peephole behind a painting; and Emmett slowly begins putting the moves on her. One stormy night, while Norma is masturbating in bed while holding a photo of Emmett, Jennifer wakes up when bloody water seeps from her bedroom ceiling and she discovers that Marsha has committed suicide by slitting her wrists in the bathtub. Mark comes up with a plan to make a lot of money off the suicide by proposing marriage to Jennifer, but first he must talk her into seducing and marrying Emmett (not a hard to do since Emmett has been madly in love with her since the fist day they met). Mark moves into the house and pretends to be Jennifer's brother and he now wants Jennifer to kill Emmett instead of divorcing him (He says, "Why have half when you can have it all!"). Mark also picks this time to tell Jennifer that he killed Marsha and made it look like a suicide, so in for a penny, in for a pound. Jennifer and Mark wait two years before the time is right to kill Emmett, but a monkey wrench gets thrown into their plan by the sudden appearance of Marsha's twin sister Dolores (Hyde again), a snarky actress who knows that Mark and Jennifer are up to no good (and has her own romantic eye on Emmett). Dolores tries to drive Jennifer crazy by restaging Marsha's "suicide", while Mark cuts the brake line on Emmett's car, hoping he'll die in a car accident (he doesn't, but he comes close). Mark then joins forces with Dolores and they throw both Emmett and Jennifer overboard in the middle of the ocean. Dolores inherits all of Emmett's money, but the finale finds Dolores trapped in a hot (and getting hotter) sauna with the corpse of Mark (who was stabbed in the neck with a steak knife), compliments of housekeeper Norma, who has regained her power of speech and is now laughing like an insane loon. Don't you just love happy endings?  This murder mystery/crime thriller, directed/produced by Sergei Goncharoff (his only directorial effort, although he has produced other films, such as the Robert Forster-starrer WALKING THE EDGE [1983]) and written by Tony Crechales (IMPULSE - 1974; THE GREAT SKYCOPTER RESCUE - 1980) and E.A. Charles, has a few effective scenes, but is mostly a boring talkfest. The acting is second-rate and stagey and the violence is limited to a couple of bloody stabbings and Emmett's wild ride in his brakeless car (this was rated PG when released to theaters, although the violence looks to be trimmed slightly in the stabbing scenes). There's plenty of colorful 70's fashions, hairstyles and music to keep your eyes and ears occupied (not to mention the ridiculous makeup applied to both Marsha and Norma, which makes them look more like zombies than human beings), but the story is an all-too-common tale of double and triple crosses, where no one is whom they seem to be, with a creepy (though not unexpected) final denouement. This is nothing but a typical 70's MFTV crime thriller with a little extra blood, some mild cursing and a brief bit of nudity thrown in for good measure. HOUSE OF TERROR is not terrible, just common. John "Bud" Cardos, the director of KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), THE DAY TIME ENDED (1979) and MUTANT (1984), was Second Unit Director here. Also known as HOUSE OF BLOOD, SCREAM BLOODY MURDER and FIVE AT THE FUNERAL. Originally released on VHS by Trans World Entertainment. Not available on DVD. Rated PG.

IN THE HEAT OF PASSION (1991) - Sexy and effective thriller with many comic moments. Auto mechanic Charley Bronson (!) (Nick Corri of THE LAWLESS LAND - 1988) lands a job on one of those "reality" crime shows portraying a serial rapist loose in the area. He nearly gets killed in real life while hanging out at a local Spanish bar when the patrons mistakenly identify him as the real rapist. While working at the garage he meets the beautiful, married middle-aged Sally Kirkland (who looks great here) whose car breaks down. Charley becomes smitten with her and soon he is donning various disguises so they can engage in acts of lovemaking behind her rich husband's back. He portrays a cable installer so he can screw her in her bedroom while her husband is downstairs. Sally gives him a blowjob in the ladies room of a chic restaurant while her husband is entertaining clients outside. He watches her masturbate while impersonating a busboy at one of her husband's parties. To fulfill one of Sally's fantasies, he dresses as a rapist and attacks her in her bedroom. In the middle of the game, her husband walks in on them and a struggle ensues. Charley accidentally shoots the husband and kills him. He comes up with a plan to blame the crime on the real serial rapist. Things begin to go wrong as Charley begins to realize that there's more to Sally than meets the eye. He begins to check up one her and does not like what he finds. He has another problem: The real rapist is also after him! The biggest irony of all is that he is asked by the host of the crime show (Jack Carter) to return and portray the real serial rapist to re-enact the crime he actually committed! The film has a satisfying conclusion which will shock and surprise. Director Rodman Flender (THE UNBORN - 1991; IDLE HANDS - 1999), who also wrote and produced, turns in a winner here. He has a keen eye for details and fills the screen with eccentric characters and a good dose of humor. This is no comedy though, as the ending will tell. Sally Kirkland (PARANOIA - 1998) turns in an excellent performance and look great in and out of clothes (although some scenes may use a body double). Hot, erotic and entertaining. Available in R and Unrated versions. Go for the unrated. A Concorde Home Video Release.

ISLAND OF BLOOD (1982) - A truly terrible murder mystery where the viewer must guess the identity of the unseen killer. It was originally titled WHODUNIT? and unless you have no more than a kindergarten education, it will not take you long to unmask the psycho. The storyline revolves around a group of aspiring actors sent to the remote Creep Island to make a film. Before long they are being slaughtered in various ways, with the murderer leaving a rock music cassette playing at the murder site. The lyrics to the song match the killing method, as when one of the actors is pushed into a pool filled with boiling water, the lyrics go, "Boil me, boil me, boil me, face to face." With no way to get off the island (their boat has blown up) and no telephone, the motley group of would be actors try unsuccessfully to stay alive. One is impaled on a spear ("Spear me, spear me..."), the producer is blown up ("Burn me, burn me..."), another is killed with a nail gun ("Nail me, nail me..."), still another takes a battery acid shower ("Burn me, burn me..."), the director, Mr. Flem (!), is run through wth a machete ("Stab me, stab me...") and one actor is cut to pieces with a chainsaw ("Saw me, saw me..."). The two remaining cast members think the other is responsible and try their damnest to avoid each other before the real culprit shows his face. (Hint: "Burn me..." is the only lyric played twice.) The supposedly surprise ending isn't much of a surprise (it has to do with making snuff films). Highly derivative of Agatha Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS, the only point of seeing this film is some decent makeup effects. The acid shower and chainsaw attack are particularly meaty, but the acting and hackneyed screenplay as well as some extremely choppy editing are way below par. The only recognizable actor in this mess is Rick Dean (credited as "Dean Richards" in some of the advertising materials), who later became a contract player for Roger Corman's Concorde Films, appearing in HEROES STAND ALONE (1989), BLOODFIST 3: FORCED TO FIGHT (1991), Cirio Santiago's RAIDERS OF THE SUN (1991), CARNOSAUR 3 (1996) and, in his best role to date, as a mysterious bum in Dan Golden's underrated erotic thriller NAKED OBSESSION (1990). Director Bill Naud, who started out directing cheap 60's fare such as THUNDER IN DIXIE (1964), also made the black actioner BLACK JACK (1972) and the boxing comedy RICKY 1 (1988), an asinine ripoff of the Sylvester Stallone ROCKY series. ISLAND OF BLOOD can be summed up with the following lyrics: "Spare me, spare me...". Also starring Marie Alise, Rod Gardner, Terry Goodman, Richard Helm and Jeanine Marie. An Applause Prods. Inc. Home Video Release. Rated R.

KEMPER: THE CO-ED KILLER (2008) - Totally fictitious account of serial killer Edmund Kemper who, in the early 70's, killed a series of female student hitchhikers, then had sex with their bodies before dissecting them. (First the true part: When he was a teenager in 1964, Kemper shot and killed his grandmother because he "just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma" and then killed his grandfather because he knew Grandpa would be angry with him for what he had done. He spent the rest of the 60's in a psychiatric hospital, where it was discovered he had an IQ of 136. He was paroled in 1971 into his mother's care, against the wishes of many doctors at the hospital. Now for the false portion: This film picks-up after these events. W-a-a-a-a-y after these events. Somehow, Kemper has miraculously transported himself to 2008 and is beginning his female student killing spree...) The film begins with Detective Tom Harris (Christopher Stapleton) checking out Kemper's latest murder scene: The home of a young co-ed Kemper has killed at the kitchen table, cut off her head and placed it in the oven. Detective Harris then receives a call on his cell phone and heads to another crime scene, where someone has chopped-up a young soccer mom with an axe and left her dead body on the side of a road. Detective Harris believes there are two killers on the loose, so he shows the crime scene photos to good friend Ed Kemper (Robert Sisko), not aware that Ed is one of the killers (Ed previously helped Harris on another case that proved beneficial). Ed has a sickly, domineering mother who verbally abuses him nightly, so while he helps Harris with the soccer mom case, he makes Harris' life difficult by picking up female hitchhikers and dumping their raped, slaughtered bodies for Harris to find. When Ed finally bashes his mother's head in with a hammer and kills her, Ed finally fesses-up to Harris (by cell phone, of course) that he is a serial killer and from then on, the cat-and-mouse game is on (Harris finds Ed's mother's decapitated head in the Kemper kitchen, hanging with the pots and pans). Ed constantly taunts Harris over the phone, eventually shooting Harris' partner, Detective Ross (Sean Thomas), in the arm and getting Harris pulled from the case. Ed does something drastic to get Harris put back on the case, which leads to a final showdown between Ed and Harris in an abandoned hospital; the hospital Ed was born in. The same hospital he may die in. You know, the circle of life and all that shit.  I could almost forgive that the story was moved nearly forty years into the future, but it becomes too easy to see why director Rick Bitzelberger and screenwriter Jack Perez (writer and director of MONSTER ISLAND - 2004) did so: It not only saves on the expense of outfitting the actors in 70's period fashions, automobiles and set direction, it also affords that most of the screen time is spent with the actors talking on cell phones. If I had to hazard a guess, I would estimate that 70% of screen time revolves around Ed and Harris talking to each other on their cell phones. The other 30% is either Harris talking on the phone to other people or him at various Kemper crime scenes looking at his handiwork. There is some blood and gore on view here (slit throats and decapitated heads are the specialties), but most of it is after the deed has been done. The acting never rises above the level of a bad TV movie, the worst being Christopher Stapleton as Detective Harris, who sounds like he's channeling his inner Clint Eastwood (all he does is talk in a low, whispering monotone). As far as serial killer films go, KEMPER: THE CO-ED KILLER is minor league stuff. It's not as bad as the recent Ulli Lommel serial killer crap, but not as professional-looking as the recent Michael Feifer stuff. As a straight-ahead thriller, it is just simply awful and contains some of the worst police procedurals I've ever seen in a movie. Any episode of CSI (take your choice of Las Vegas, Miami or New York) contains more depth, gore and excitement. Stay away from this one. Also starring Robin DeMarco, Kate Danson, Ken Weiss, Patricia Place, Samantha Colburn, Andy E. Horne, Stephanie Skewers, Zoe Canner and Nancy Harding. A Lightning Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.

THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN (1973) - Giorgio Mainardi (George Hilton) and his rich bitch wife, Norma (Teresa Velasquez), are having marriage problems. Norma has cut his bank account off, so Giorgio storms out of the house. He stops at a phone booth to call his mistress when he spots a killer (the skull-faced Michel Antoine) disposing a dead female body in a river (we earlier see the killer load the dead woman's body into a VW Beetle and he cops a feel after positioning her in the passenger seat!). Giorgio blackmails the killer into murdering his wife and making it look like a kidnapping (he takes the killer's monogrammed lighter and will only give it back to him once the deed is done) and Giorgio plans on getting a big ransom payday from Norma's wealthy father. Being a psychopath, the killer (we never learn his name, but his lighter has the initials "D.A." on it, certainly a tip-of-the-hat to giallo master Dario Argento) strangles Norma and puts her corpse in the trunk of his car, while Giorgio is at a party building an alibi. Complications ensue when a young couple, Luca (Alessio Orano) and Laura (Cristina Galbo), steal the killer's car and take it for a joyride, unaware that there's a dead body in the trunk. The killer steals one of Norma's neighbor's cars and goes hunting for the couple and his car. Meanwhile, when Giorgio gets home, he finds the police waiting for him. The police inspector (Eduardo Fajardo) is suspicious of the whole crime, which makes Giorgio nervous. The biggest question is why the kidnapper would steal a neighbor's car when neighbors saw the kidnapper's car parked in front of Giorgio's house (It's also a question that Giorgio can't answer since he's unaware of the complications the killer is going through). Luca and Laura have a few close calls (including being stopped by a cop who comes very close to looking in the trunk) while the killer stays one step behind them cleaning up their messes (He pays off a gas station attendant when the couple skips out on paying for a fill-up). Giorgio sweats it out back at his house, while the police inspector begins piecing the puzzle together. When Luca and Laura spend a night at a deserted seaside villa, Luca takes the car to get some food and the killer enters the villa and rapes Laura. When Luca returns (with a new female friend), Laura breaks free and stabs the killer to death. After the police inspector questions Luca and Laura, he lays a trap which he hopes will bring Giorgio's true colors to the forefront. Giorgio falls for it and ends up being charged with much more than his role in his wife's murder. He should have gotten rid of that damned lighter.  This Italian/French co-production, directed and co-scripted by Luigi Cozzi (STARCRASH - 1979; CONTAMINATION - 1980; THE BLACK CAT - 1989) and produced by Umberto Lenzi (ALMOST HUMAN - 1974), is a decent thriller, even though there isn't anyone here who can remotely be considered likable. We all know from the beginning that Giorgio and the killer are bad men, but Luca and Laura fail to build much sympathy, especially when we find out that Luca stole the car just to get into Laura's pants and that Laura (who may be a virgin) uses that knowledge to cocktease Luca into doing her bidding. Toss in robbing a gas station attendant and Luca hitting on a blonde (Femi Benussi) he picks up on the side of the road when he's running an errand for the blueball-inducing Laura, and these two kids look no better than Giorgio or the killer. When the killer rapes Laura, it's intercut with scenes of Luca screwing the blonde in the back seat of the killer's car. It's a powerful and ironic scene, but it would have been much more powerful if the kids were at least likable. As it stands, THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN is a sleazy, but not very bloody or violent thriller (there's only one very bloody murder and a face slashing that happens near the end of the film) that holds your attention thanks to some tense situations. Although categorized as a giallo by many reviewers, this film doesn't contain the elements usually found in most giallo films (i.e. mysterious gloved killer; POV shots; lots of bloody killings), though director Cozzi bathes a lot of scenes in yellow. Try to count how many yellow objects you observe in this to see what I mean. If it were a drinking game, everyone would be drunk after the first twenty minutes. The skeletal Michel Antoine makes an imposing, scary killer, but I just wish there were some people here we could actually care about. Filmed as IL RAGNO ("The Spider) and also known as THE DARK IS DEATH'S FRIEND and THE KILLER MUST STRIKE AGAIN. Made in 1973, but not released until 1975. Also starring Dario Griachi, Luigi Antonio Guerra and Carla Mancini. Available on DVD from Mondo Macabro. Not Rated.

THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS (1974) - Ten people arrive at a deserted theater, owned by Patrick Davenant's (Chris Avram; A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971) family, for Patrick's birthday party and someone is knocking them off one-by-one. All the people gathered here have secrets they would kill to keep. Kim (Janet Agren), who is married to rich businessman Russell (Howard Ross), is having an affair with playboy Duncan Foster (Gaetano Russo). Duncan, in turn, is dating Patrick's sister, Lynn (Paola Senatore). Patrick's wife, Rebecca (Eva Czemerys), is having a lesbian affair with Doris (Lucretia Love; THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW - 1974). Vivian (Rosanna Schiaffino) is having an affair with Russell. Albert (Andrea Scotti) owes Patrick a huge sum of money which he has no intentions of paying back. And a mystery man in a nehru jacket (Eduardo Filipone) shows up at various times to talk in riddles. Someone tries to drop a heavy wooden beam on Patrick, but misses, which causes a lot of finger-pointing amongst the partygoers. Things turn worse when Kim is stabbed in the back and killed while performing Shakespeare on stage. The group decide to call the police and then leave, but find the phone line dead and all the doors and windows locked, with no avenue of escape. After pointing fingers at each other once again, the group then realizes that no one there knows who the mystery man is, so they all search for him. Patrick relates a story to Vivian about how a similar incident happened at this theater 100 years earlier (to the day) and everyone inside was murdered. Is it possible that his family is cursed? Doris is the next one killed when the masked killer crushes her sternum with a heavy sliding wooden door. The killer next tries to dispose of Vivian (with a cigarette to her face), but Russell intervenes and they later find him hanging from a rope by his neck. Patrick finds an old family parchment and the drawings on it seem to fortell the order and modes of the deaths. Rebecca is next to die when the killer strips her naked, stabs her repeatedly in the vagina with a switchblade and hammers spikes into her hands, crucifying her. As more people end up dead, we discover who the killer(s) really is (are), but a surprise finale shows the killer(s) may indeed have a family curse of their head(s), and that curse takes an incestuous turn in the crypt in the canvernous dungeon of the theater.  Strikingly similar in tone to Peter Walker's THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW (1972) and Michele Soavi's STAGE FRIGHT (1986), this Italian giallo, directed and co-scripted by Giuseppe Bennati, is less bloody than either of those films, but packed with nudity, infidelity (it's hard to keep up with who's screwing who) and a pretty decent mystery. Although some of the dialogue is risable (One of the guests says, "It looks like Dracula's summer home!" when they first step into the theater), the plot is actually very well done and involving. Although talky at times, this film depends on those talky sections to supply the viewer with clues, so listen carefully. While most of the murders are bloodless, there are scenes that are hard to watch, mainly for what's implied rather than what is shown. Rebecca's vaginal penetration by switchblade is never shown, but the killer is shown stripping Rebecca and cutting off her panties with the knife just before he does the deed, leaving little doubt about what he's doing, as we watch him thrust the knife and the camera pans to Rebecca's anguished, pain-filled face. It's the film's standout sequence. Director Bennati (this was his last film; he passed away in 2006) gives us all the giallo staples: A masked and gloved killer, plenty of deaths, an inescapable location and a slowly-unravelling mystery, all served up in a highly-watchable package. Also starring Antonio Guerra. THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS was never legally available in the U.S. on home video. The print I viewed came from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

LIES (1983) - In this twisty thriller, it's hard to keep up with who's telling the truth and who is a big fat liar. The film opens with Stuart Russell (Bruce Davison; WILLARD - 1971) coming home one night, only to discover that two robbers are invading his family's gated mansion. After grabbing a shotgun, Stuart runs upstairs to discover that his mother and father are already dead and the robbers are about to rape and kill his sister Elizabeth (Julie Philips). Stuart blasts the two robbers with the shotgun and saves Elizabeth, but she ends up a babbling basket case who is committed to an asylum. Four years pass and we are introduced to struggling actress Robyn Wallace (Ann Dusenberry; CUTTER AND BONE - 1981). She has just walked off the set of a low-budget zombie film after the director tries to trick her into doing a nude scene, which is against her principles (The film's producer, Harry [genre vet Dick Miller], tells her, "Tits sell tickets!" to which Robyn replies, "Not these tits!"). Broke and unable to pay her rent, not to mention being fired from her agent Murray (Bert Remsen; EYE OF THE TIGER - 1986) and getting blacklisted from films thanks to her "no nudity" policy, Robyn answers a newspaper casting call looking for a "blonde femme" and is instantly hired by casting agent Jessica Brenner (Gail Strickland) to star as Elizabeth in a film version of the Russell Family tragedy. After telling Robyn that Elizabeth committed suicide a year earlier by slitting her throat with scissors and asking Robyn a few suspicious questions, like "How's your relationship with your family?" (it's not good), Jessica tells Robyn that the rehearsals are going to be unusual (that's an understatement) and that she must sequester herself away from all outside contact to get "inside" Elizabeth's head. What follows next is a plot that contains so many twists and turns, you will need a scorecard to keep track. After meeting Elizabeth's psychiatrist, Dr. Bartlett (Clu Gulager; RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1985), and doing some filmed rehearsals in character as Elizabeth in the asylum, Robyn is told by Jessica that financing for the film has fallen through and the movie will not be made. Robyn then meets Stuart, who tells her that Elizabeth is still alive and that Jessica is not a casting agent at all, but actually a psychiatrist at Elizabeth's mental hospital! Jessica is working in concert with Stuart's evil Uncle Charles (Stacy Keach Sr.) and they plan on using Robyn's rehearsal footage to convince lawyers that Elizabeth is not sane enough to claim her inheritance. Stuart convinces Robyn to impersonate Elizabeth in real life to get even with his Uncle Charles, but it turns out that Stuart and Jessica are actually working in tandem, as the real Elizabeth is then murdered and it is made to look like suicide. Robyn is then committed to the same asylum where Elizabeth has spent the last four years and is constantly kept in a doped-up state to stop her from revealing what actually happened. That's just the beginning, though, as this film displays so much pretzel logic, Hitchcock and Argento would be proud (Hint: Elizabeth was Stuart's wife, not his sister).  As directed/produced/scripted by brothers Ken & Jim Wheat (who directed/scripted the TV movie EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR [1985] and the horror anthology AFTER MIDNIGHT [1989], as well as writing the screenplays for such diverse films as THE RETURN [1980], THE FLY II [1989] and PITCH BLACK [2000]), LIES is an excellent thriller that keeps you guessing right up to the final shot. The subplot involving Robyn's on-again, off-again scriptwriter boyfriend Eric's (Terrence Knox; CHILDREN OF THE CORN II: THE FINAL SACRIFICE - 1993) search for her when she ends up missing doesn't come across as forced or phony, but as something that could actually play out in real life. There are so many double and triple-crosses (and beyond) that the viewer really has to pay attention to keep up. Bert Remsen, as Harry, delivers the best line in the film. After he and Eric visit Robyn in the mental hospital, where Jessica shows them Robyn's rehearsal footage and expects them to believe it is real, Harry later confesses to Eric that he knew Robyn was only acting, but amusingly tells Eric, "Any actress that can deliver a performance like we saw on that videotape can make her agent a bundle!" Great stuff. While it's apparent that the Wheats were working with a small budget, everyone turns in terrific performances, especially Dusenberry (who has a topless shower scene, proving she's nothing like the character she's portraying) and there's a surprisingly suspenseful elevator sequence that rivals any giallo film you may have seen. I really don't know why this film isn't more popular, because it's one of the best American thrillers of the early 80's. See it if you ever get the chance to get your hands on a copy. Also starring Douglas Leonard, Patience Cleveland and Ann Gibbs. Released on VHS by Key Video. This screams out for a DVD release! Rated R.

LITTLE LAURA & BIG JOHN (1972) - Regional (filmed in Florida) low-budget reality-based crime thriller based of the exploits of the John Ashley Gang (no, not the late actor/producer!), who robbed banks and murdered innocent people in 1920's Florida during Prohibition. The movie is told through the eyes of Laura's (Karen Black; THE PYX - 1973) mother (Ivy Thayer, who speaks directly to the camera), as she recounts the trials and tribulations her daughter went through being the partner and lover of John Ashley (singer/actor Fabian Forte; REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIE - 1981). We know, from the opening offscreen narration and stock footage of 20's & 30's gangster films, that John Ashley died at the age of 32, but what became of Laura? Her mother tells her daughter's story, beginning with Laura's childhood, when little Laura (Evie Karafotias) and best friend little John Ashley (Cliff Frates) use to pretend to be king and queen to try and forget their dirt-poor upbringing in the swamps of Florida. As a matter of fact, they made a game out of everything, right up till the end. When John is sought by the police for the murder of a Seminole Indian (it was actually an accident), he and Laura hide out in a tent in the Everglades, helped by John's brother, Bob (Jerry Albert). John eventually turns himself in to Sheriff Bob Baker (the late Paul Gleason: HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE - 1980) at Bob's urging, thinking that the case will be thrown out of court for lack of evidence (the Indian's body was mostly devoured by alligators), but when it looks like things aren't going John's way and he might be spending a lot of time in jail before a trial even starts, John breaks out of jail with Bob's help and a $100 reward is posted for his capture. John forms a gang with Laura, Bob, Ray (Ben Rossi) and Clarence (Lee Warren) and they rob a bank in the town of Stuart, netting themselves $5,000, but during the getaway Ray accidentally shoots John in the right eye. John is recaptured and put back in jail (He now sports a black eyepatch, which magically switches from his right eye to his left eye and back again in one scene!). Bob once again tries to break John out of jail, but fails and Bob dies in a hail of bullets (and killing a couple of deputies in the process). John is convicted of bank robbery and is sentenced to eighteen years hard labor at the notorious Raiford State Penitentiary, but he easily escapes (It's hilarious how easy it was!) and there is now a $500 reward for his capture. John and Laura hide out in New York City and begin to get homesick, so they begin robbing barber shops, bars and diners from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to finance their trip back to Florida. John gets his old gang back together, with the new addition of Hanford (Kenny Miller: BLOOD STALKERS - 1975) and try their hands at rum running using a boat along the Florida coastline. That doesn't work out too well for them (they are the most inept crooks I have ever seen), so they decide to rob banks again, this time the Bank of Pompano. When John's Pa (Phil Philbin) is killed by the law for protecting his son, John and his gang step-up their robbing spree and John now has a $1,000 reward for his capture, dead or alive. John and his gang are gunned-down in an ambush set up by Sheriff Baker, leaving Laura without a man for the first time in her life, turning her into a hopeless alcoholic. Let that be a lesson to you kids!  This is a ridiculously disjointed and badly edited crime film, co-directed and co written by Luke Moberly and Bob Woodburn who, thankfully, separately or collectively, never made another film. LITTLE LAURA & BIG JOHN just seems to meander along at a much too leisurely pace, with some of the worst-staged action sequences and headache-inducing, ear-bleeding original songs I have ever had the displeasure to see and hear (Wait until you hear the song about Raiford Prison. I felt like shooting myself in the eye before realizing that I was born with only one good eye!). Both Fabian Forte and Karen Black are terrible here, even if they really don't have much to do. For an R-Rated crime thriller, there's very little bloody violence and precious little nudity, except for a nude girl on the beach named Jacksonville (Terri Juston), who also gets her own embarassing song and is chased around by Kenny Miller (who looks like he would be more comfortable in the arms of a naked John). This is simply a horrible low-budget period film without much to recommend except that it is based on reality. Released theatrically by Crown International Pictures and originally available on VHS by VCI Home Video and then on many budget VHS labels. The defunct BCI Eclipse released this film as part of a double feature on DVD with VAN NUYS BLVD. (1979) as part of their "Starlight Drive-In Theater" line, which is long OOP. Rhino Home Video also released the film on DVD, as did Mill Creek, as part of their SAVAGE CINEMA 12-MOVIE COLLECTION. They are all fullscreen presentations. Rated R.

LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971) - Carol Hammond (Florinda Bolkan; LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH - 1978) has a recurring nightmare that begins with her running down the aisle of a passenger train trying to open the compartments, but being ignored by the people inside, like she is invisible. The aisle then transforms into the corridor of an apartment complex, full of naked writhing bodies that Carol must run through. At the end of the corridor is a big red bed, and waiting on that bed is a naked Julia Durer (Anita Strindberg; WHO SAW HER DIE? - 1972), a neighbor of Carol's. The nightmare finishes with Julia and Carol engaging in some lesbian sex (Hey, are we sure this is a nightmare? More like a wet dream if you ask me!). Carol's psychiatrist, Dr. Kerr (George Rigaud), tells Carol that what she is dreaming is probably her innermost desires manifesting themselves. Carol is an uptight, "proper" woman, whose dry, boring dinner parties are ruined by Julia's loud, music- filled sex parties in her apartment next door, but we get the feeling that Carol would much rather be over at Julia's place than having a stuffy dinner with her lawyer husband, Frank (Jean Sorel; MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD - 1973), and father, Edmond (Leo Genn). Carol's dreams get more bizarre and violent (such as being chased by a giant swan, watching a woman bleed to death while holding her exposed innards and seeing Julia slashed to death in her bed), so when Julia is actually discovered murdered in her bed, Carol begins to question her sanity. Police Inspector Corvin (Stanley Baker; INNOCENT BYSTANDERS - 1972) and Sgt. Brandon (Alberto De Mendoza; HUMAN COBRAS - 1971) are brought in to investigate Julia's death and they eventually question Carol (who believes she killed Julia with her one-of-a-kind letter opener). Frank (who is having an affair with a yet-unknown woman) becomes worried that someone is trying to set-up Carol by using her dreams as a blueprint for murder, so he goes to Edmond (who owns the high-priced law firm that Frank works for) to gain access to Inspector Corvin's files, especially when he notices Carol's fur coat and letter opener at the crime scene. As we will soon find out, the symbolisms and people in Carol's dreams will be key in unlocking the murder mystery. The audio tapes of her sessions with Dr. Kerr hold the clues to the murders. As more people within Carol's circle end up dead and Carol herself is viciously stabbed by a red-headed man, Inspector Corvin will get involved in a blackmail plot, a hunchback and various other undesirables before unmasking the real killer, who may or may not be suffering from a case of schizophrenia.  This excellent giallo, the first one to be directed and scripted by genre master Lucio Fulci (ZOMBIE - 1979; MURDER ROCK-DANCING DEATH - 1984; A CAT IN THE BRAIN - 1990), contains many striking and unsettling scenes, as well as some very unusual characters. The strangest character of all is Stanley Baker's Inspector Corvin, who has a bad habit of whistling at the most inopportune times, like when questioning suspects or standing over the bodies of murder victims. It's quite disorienting for the audience. Above all, this is a film about secrets. It seems everyone here is harboring at least one (Frank and his mistress; Carol's past; Edmond's suspicions about Frank; etc.), that it's quite possible that anyone here could be the killer. There are also some truly disturbing images on view, including the shocking view of three live dogs splayed open in a lab, their beating hearts exposed while they wimper in pain. It not only takes the viewer by surprise, it also leaves a lasting impression in your mind that won't likely leave for quite some time. While bloody and violent in spots, LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (what a great title!) is also one of Lucio Fulci's most cerebral films and will take a lot of fans of his later gore films by surprise. This is a lyrical, haunting film (scored by Ennio Morricone) that offers a lot of brain, as well as eye, candy. Some of the images and camera set-ups are so beautifully done (especially the large shadow of the swan chasing Carol), that they could be paintings and the plot moves at a brisk pace without seeming far-fetched. This is one of the best early 70's giallo films (released theatrically in the U.S. by American International Pictures in edited form inder the title SCHIZOID, which gives away the entire final act!) that is must-viewing for fans of the genre. Also starring Edy Gall, Sylvia Monti, Penny Brown, Mike Kennedy and Ezio Marano. Available on DVD in a beautiful uncut widescreen print from Media Blasters/Shriek Show. Not Rated.

MADHOUSE (1981) - Italian made slasher film lensed in Savannah, Georgia which shares many of the same plot elements as HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (made a year earlier). Unfortunately it's deadly dull, the boredom broken up by infrequent bits of gore. Julia (Trish Everly) is rapidly approaching her 25th birthday. Her grotesquely deformed twin sister Mary, riddled with a debilitating disease and mentally unstable, escapes from the hospital and starts killing Julia's friends and neighbors with the help of her equally deranged Uncle James (Dennis Robertson) and her pet rotweiller. Mary hates Julia because, since they were both born on the same day, she had to share her presents and the cake with her. Mary, along with Uncle James (who's a priest!), gather all their victims together and give Julia a birthday party she will not soon forget. Though bloody in spots, the film is edited to receive an R rating as is evidenced by the electric drill sequence and the finale (which involves a hatchet). It moves at a snail's pace, taking forever to get going. Dennis Robertson gives a hammy performance as Uncle James, spouting Mother Goose while slashing the cast. Director Ovidio G. Assonitis also made the terrible TENTACLES (1977) and the EXORCIST (1973) rip-off BEYOND THE DOOR (1974), both using the name "Oliver Hellman". Here he uses his real name. He must be proud of this one. I was just bored. Also starring Michael Macrae and Morgan Hart. A Virgin Vision Release. Rated R.

MADONNA (1990) - No, this isn't a film about the Material Girl, rather, this is an interesting cheapo thriller, co-written by Ed Kelleher, who also co-wrote the abysmal VOODOO DOLLS the same year and co-wrote the cult films INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS in 1972 and SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED in 1974. It opens when a son shoots and kills his father in a diner (after arguing about the son's mistress) and the cook kills the son with a shotgun. The wife of the son pays a private dick to get all the info he can on the woman, but that turns out easier said than done because the P.I. can't find any information on her as she doesn't seem to exist. That woman, who now uses the name Laura (Deborah Mansey), has her sights now set on married ad executive Richard Bloch (Eric Kramer), for reasons that, for now, are still unclear. He at first rebuffs Laura's feminine wiles, but a man can only stand so much. He finally succumbs at a party and the affair is on. Meanwhile, Richard's wife Annie (Pascale Devigne) becomes suspicious of Richard's staying out late with lame excuses (and, somehow, is connected to the father/son murder in the beginning) and the P.I. begins to patch together Laura's past and it's not pretty (DO NOT read the back of the video box if you want to stay surprised as it gives away the film's punchline). Since I'm not about to give away Laura's secret, I'll just say it's not Richard that Laura is after and this is all an intricate plot that is all related to Laura's past and the father/son murder in the beginning of the film. And, yes, the word "Madonna" does play an important part in the plot. Director Alain Zaloum (SUSPICIOUS MINDS - 1997) purposely builds the film slowly. Besides the first murders in the beginning, no blood is spilled until very nearly the end and when it happens, it hits hard because we have begun to care about the characters. For a change, people in this film actually act like real people, as we see Richard turn from loving family man to cold hearted bastard, thanks to Laura's influence. Don't get me wrong. This film is no great shakes, but it is a pleasant diversion from most of the "erotic thrillers" of this time period and the unusual twist to the basic cheating husband syndrome makes this more engrossing than most. This Canadian-made thriller is good for at least one viewing, but is harder than hell to find. If you get a chance to pick this up, do so. Also starring James Horan, Gordon Day and Ray Roth. Also known as MADONNA: A CASE OF BLOOD AMBITION to try to lure idiots to rent it thinking that it had something to do with Madonna's Blonde Ambition Tour. An Atlas Entertainment Corporation VHS Release. Also available on DVD from Code Red as part of a double feature with VOODOO DOLLS. Self-Imposed R Rating.

THE MAJORETTES (1986) - This film has a hard time making up its' mind what direction it wants to take. The first two-thirds concerns itself with a slasher dressed in camouflage who is murdering the high school majorettes "ONE BY ONE" (the film's alternate title). This portion has enough red herrings to feed a large Vietnamese family: There's the retarded janitor who likes to take pictures of the girls in the locker room from his closet peephole; the sadistic nurse who is taking care of the stroke-ridden grandmother of one of the majorettes. She is also the janitor's mother; the crazy drug dealer who got one of the murdered majorettes pregnant; the town priest who babtizes his disciples in a lake (the victims are stabbed then placed in water); and the sheriff (don't read the rest if you want to see the film!). When the retarded janitor accidently photographs the sheriff butchering a majorette in the locker room, this film veers off into many tangents. The nurse, armed with the incriminating photos, blackmails the sheriff to do her bidding. She wants him to kill the majorette related to the grandmother in her care after she turns 18 (two weeks away), so grandma will inherit her $500,000.00. She then plans on giving grandma a lethal injection of insulin so she will inherit it (it's in the will). Things go awry when the majorette in question and a boyfriend are kidnapped by the drug dealer and his gang because the boyfriend ratted to the cops about an arguement the dealer had with the dead pregnant majorette. Are you with me so far? The retarded janitor sees the kidnapping taking place and follows them to an abandoned warehouse. He walks in on the attempted  rape of the majorette and a struggle ensues. The janitor and the majorette are shot dead. The drug dealing gang flee leaving the boyfriend to vow revenge. He grabs an automatic rifle, goes to the gang's hideout and systematically slaughters them. But, you may ask, "What about the sheriff?" He goes to see the nurse, hangs her, leaves his camouflage clothing in her son's darkroom so it will look like he was the killer, takes the incriminating photos and is last seen watching a group of pre-teen majorettes performing their routines. THE END. The premise may sound interesting but it is hampered by a couple of factors. First, the acting is poor, too substandard to carry off the complex storyline. The second factor is the overall cheesiness of the production. This is a barebones production which never rises above a Grade Z level, with its' static camerawork, poor sound quality and lackluster direction. One expects more from screenwriter/producer John Russo and director Bill Hinzman since they were both involved in some capacity with the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Russ Streiner, also from NOTLD, puts in an appearance here as the water-happy priest. Hinzman later directed REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES (a.k.a. FLESH EATER - 1988), another poor, low-tech film. THE MAJORETTES (based on the novel of the same name by Russo) is a valiant try, but misses its mark by a New York mile. Russo's MIDNIGHT (1980) was much more entertaining than this. Starring: Kevin Kindlin, Terrie Godfrey, Mark V. Jevicky & Sueanne Seamens/  Dir: Bill Hinzman/  Prod & Sc: John Russo/  A Ross & Hinzman Production/  A Vestron Video Release/A Tempe Video Release/ Also available from Shriek Show as a stand-alone DVD or as part of their HIGH SCHOOL HORRORS TRIPLE FEATURE DVD compilation. Rated R.

MASSIVE RETALIATION (1984) - When news of an impending nuclear war is about to break out between the United States and Russia, three survivalist families head to their well-protected computerized ranch in the middle of nowhere with the intentions of surviving a nuclear explosion with their families intact. When the van with their children, driven by teenager Eric Briscoe (Jason Gedrick), doesn't show up at the ranch at the pre-arranged time (the van's water pump breaks), the families get worried and start arguing amongst themselves. Eric finds an auto parts store, but the owner refuses to take his credit card ("What good is credit if there's going to be a war going on?"), so Eric tries stealing the water pump. The owner pulls a shotgun and Eric gets arrested. The sheriff takes pity on Eric and sets him free, so Eric pays him back by stealing the water pump out of the sheriff's van! Eric hightails it out of town on his bike and makes it back to the kids (who are making fun of one little girl wetting herself). He installs the water pump and heads off to the ranch. Meanwhile, the families continue the in-fighting and Dr. Lee Briscoe (Peter Donat, who portrayed David Duchovny's father, William Mulder, on THE X-FILES [1993 - 2002]) begins wearing Army fatigues and starts barking orders to everyone else. Some townspeople, including rednecks Virgil (Johnny Weissmuller Jr.) and Ernie (Bob Goldthwait), try to steal gas from the ranch (gas stations start charging $20 a gallon, which is not unthinkable in today's economy and may become true earlier than you may think), but are chased off by Lee's gunfire. When Kirk Fredericks (Tom Bower, a terrific character actor [you may know him better as the gas station attendant in the 2006 THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake] who looks to be slumming here) shoots family friend Suzie Barker (Mimi Farina) by mistake, Lee refuses to help her ("If I help her, more will come!"), but Kirk's wife Lois (Marilyn Hassett) is a nurse and removes the bullet. Virgil and Ernie return in a cropdusting plane and taint the ranch's water reservoir with poison. Virgil and Ernie then intercept Eric's van and take the kids hostage. Lee loses what little mind he has left (he punches son Eric in the face for getting caught!) and starts talking about "acceptable losses" among the children during a planned rescue attempt. When Harry (Michael Pritchard) hears on the radio that the U.S. and Russia have agreed to a cease fire, he goes to tell everyone at the hostage standoff, but is shot by Virgil. To make a long story short, Lee goes crazy, shoots Kirk in the leg and the children get in between their parents and the hostage takers and join hands. Leave it to the children to be the voice of reason. Clean-up on aisle six! I just threw up!  The main problem with this boring thriller is the families are so unlikable (including the kids), you'll be wishing for their demise to be long and painful. Their constant bickering and back-stabbing is so annoying, you'll wonder how the hell they became friends in the first place. Not much happens during the entire film, as one-time director/producer Thomas A. Cohen has no idea how to end a scene. Many of them just fade to black and the next scene begins, which screams of inexperience or downright laziness. The action scenes are equally horrendous and badly staged. There's a terrible car chase through a minefield where, when the mine explode, they look about as dangerous as a toothless dog. The cheap dimestore moralizing is laughable and the breaking point comes in the unrealistic plan the families come up with to rescue their children. The whole film stinks of Christian religious philosophies, from the opening and closing gospel tune, making the medical doctor the bad guy (better to leave your fate to God, than in the hands of man) and the "A child shall lead them" corny finale. I've seen better morals in fortune cookies. The violence is non-existant (just a couple of bullet wounds) and the acting is way below par (Try not to laugh as comedian Bob(cat) Goldthwait, in his first acting role, says after being shot, "Virgil, I'm bleeding pretty badly!"). The soap opera dialogue (by scripters Larry Wittnebert and Richard Beban) and bleak outlook of the human condition (it basically says that everyone is better off dead should the bombs be dropped) could only appeal to religious zealots and those without a clue. If you don't fall into those two categories, just stay away and save yourself an agonizing 90 minutes. Should have been titled MASSIVE BOWEL MOVEMENT. The same story was told much better in Ray Milland's PANIC IN YEAR ZERO (1962) and THE TWILIGHT ZONE episode titled "The Shelter". Also starring Karlene Crockett, Susan O'Connell, Christopher Burton and Molly Cohen. A Vestron Video Release. Not Rated, but no stronger than a PG.

MIKEY (1991) - We first spot nine year old Mikey (Brian Bonsall) disposing of his adoptive family. He drowns his adoptive little sister, throws a plugged-in hair dryer into Mom's bath water and slugs Dad across the head repeatedly with an aluminum bat. When the police arrive, Mikey blames the deaths on a burglar. He is put up for adoption again and finds a new Daddy and Mommy to live with, the Trentons (John Diehl and Mimi Craven). Everything goes smoothly until Mikey meets (and instantly falls in love with) his next door neighbor's teenage daughter (Josie Bissett). When Mikey finds out she has a boyfriend, he tries to break them up, even going as far as killing her cat and blaming it on the boyfriend. When that doesn't work, he electrocutes the boyfriend in a jacuzzi. Meanwhile, Mikey's schoolteacher (the lovely Ashley Lawrence of HELLRAISER 1 & 2.) grows suspicious of him. She finds out that Mikey's real family was abusive and every foster family he has had since has turned up dead. She goes to warn the Trentons and finds Mikey a formidable opponent. This kid is smart. In the finale, Mikey disposes of his new family and anyone else who gets in his way. His weapons of choice are: bow and arrow, slingshot, claw hammer and molitov cocktail. He gets away with his crimes as we next spot Mikey (now called Josh) meeting his new adoptive parents. While basically a junior version of THE STEPFATHER (1987), this film works because of Brian Bonsall's chilling portrayal of Mikey. He acts like a normal kid when it suits him, but don't get him pissed off. He will not only kill you, he will also videotape your death. One of his favorite pasttimes is watching "Mikey's Funniest Home Killings", a compilation video of his murders! Bonsall also knows how to deliver his lines with goosebump-inducing effect. My favorite line is one he delivers to Lawrence on their final confrontation. He says to her, "Can you teach me one more thing? Teach me how to DIE!" before slingshotting a marble between her eyes. Bonsall, who was already an accomplished actor at this young age, once played the youngest Keaton on TV's FAMILY TIES (1982 - 1989) and was also seen essaying the role of Worf's son on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987 - 1994). He has since quit acting to concentrate on forming a punk rock band and getting into legal trouble. That's a shame, because this kid had talent. Director Dennis Dimster-Dank, who does a good job of maintaining suspense, was once an actor, starring with Katherine Hepburn in OLLY OLLY OXEN FREE (1978). He also co-wrote the screenplay for CYBORG COP III (a.k.a. TERMINAL IMPACT - 1995). Everyone involved with MIKEY has a right to be proud. This is good solid entertainment. Recommended. An Imperial Entertainment Release. Rated R.

MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD (1972) - If this futuristic Spanish thriller reminds you a little of Stanley Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), it's purely intentional (this film is also known as CLOCKWORK TERROR). As humanity enters the 21st Century, the teenage and young adult population are growing agressive and scientists can't understand why. A quartet of leather-wearing, whip-wielding hooligans, who ride around in a dune buggy while sporting red motorcycle helmets, roam the countryside breaking into houses, raping the occupants (both male and female!) and terrorizing the populace. Gang member David (Chris Mitchum) becomes tired of the lifestyle and wants to leave, but gang leader Mick (Antonio del Real) beats him to a pulp before he lets him depart. As he is recovering from his wounds, David spots Ana (Sue Lyons; END OF THE WORLD - 1977), an award-winning health caregiver (in other words, a nurse), disposing of the body of her latest victim (a man in a leg brace that she picked up at an auction of Flash Gordon comic panels!). Yes, Ana is a serial killer and her boyfriend, Victor (Jean Sorel; SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS - 1971), who has no idea of Ana's murderous behavior, is running secret experiments in a government laboratory where he tries to excise criminal and violent behavior from the human brain using a complex method of hypnosis and electroshock therapy. The police ask Victor to look into a string of violent murders of young men, stabbed in the heart with a scalpel, since they believe the killer is a homosexual psychopath with medical experience. Victor begins his investigation, not aware that the killer is actually Ana, who likes to listen to her victims' heartbeats (by putting her ear to their bare chests) before plunging in the scalpel. We watch Ana take on various disguises (old woman, maid, rich heiress) as she picks out her victims (she even dresses as a man and picks up a young guy at a gay bar!), bringing them back to her home for the kill, but this time she's unaware that David is hiding in her house, watching her latest kill. David eventually lets Ana know his intentions, blackmailing her for huge sums of money to keep him quiet, but David doesn't realize that he's being followed by Mick and the gang. They beat the shit out of David and he is brought to, you guessed it, the hospital that Ana works at. She begins to worry when Victor informs her that David is to be moved to Victor's lab for "rehabilitation" once his wounds are healed. This is not going to turn out well. Not well at all. This strange, off-the-wall thriller, from director Eloy de la Iglesia (CANNIBAL MAN - 1972), is at first hard to categorize because the first half hour is all over the map, introducing the characters, a rape sequence lifted directly from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (the film is also name-checked, just before the rape happens and all that's missing is Malcolm McDowall singing Gene Kelly's "Singing In The Rain") and the future's unhealthy habit of watching too much TV. The TV sections are a precursor to the scenes we would later see in ROBOCOP (1987), as we watch TV commercials for products like Blue Drink ("for a blue world") and Panther Underwear. Once we realize just exactly what Ana is (I had a good laugh when one of her victims was the actor who was selling Panther Underwear on TV), the film settles in and becomes more of a standard futuristic thriller, but with some strange quirks, visuals and music choices that make it stand out from the pack. The future depicted here can best be described as round and lacking sharp corners. Everything is circular in shape (the furniture, objects d'art and even the giant TV screens) with nothing remotely pointy in sight (besides medical instruments) and the main form of entertainment for future society seems to be TV. Lots and lots of TV. The screenplay, by de la Iglesia and four other scripters, implies that violence is needed if society is to survive. When Victor shows Ana three of his "successes" (victims of his experimental procedure), she is shocked, because all she sees are three soulless beings sitting around a dinner table, prattling on about nothing while acting like proper uppercrust members of society. Her "rescue" of David from his hospital bed, where she tells him, "They'll kill you with life. False life!" before killing him with a scalpel to the heart is a revealing moment, especially with the ironic and disturbing final shots that proceed it (I won't spoil it for you). This is an unusual, little-seen gem just waiting to be rediscovered. A young Chris Mitchum (who is poorly dubbed here) would go on to appear in the excellent THE MEAN MACHINE (1973) and FINAL SCORE (1986), probably the best Indonesian action film ever made. Also starring Ramon Pons, Alfredo Alba, David Carpenter, Eduardo Calvo and Charly Bravo as the unfortunate Panther Underwear actor. Available on DVD in a widescreen print from British label Pagan Films Ltd.. Never available legitimately on home video in the United States. Not Rated.

MURDER-ROCK: DANCING DEATH (1984) - Someone is killing the dancers at the Arts For Living Center in New York City. The first one killed is Susan (Angela Lemerman). She is chloroformed while taking a shower and then has a huge hatpin shoved through her left breast, puncturing her heart. Since Susan was a member of a group of dancers being auditioned for three available openings in a big musical show and she was considered "one of the best", police Lieutenant Borges (Cosimo Cinieri) believes the murderer may be one of the dancers trying to thin out the list of prospective candidates for the openings. Tough-as-nails choreographer Candace Norman (Olga Karlatos of CYCLONE - 1978), who keeps working her dancers to the breaking point as the bodies begin piling up, begins receiving threatening phone calls from some unknown person and she has nightmares about the mysterious George Webb (Ray Lovelock of LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH [1978] and LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN [1976]) attacking her with a giant hatpin, even though she has never met him and doesn't know his name. She begins an investigation of her own when she spots George's face on a billboard. Why does someone she has never met keep haunting her dreams? The next to die is Janice (Carla Buzzanca), who finds her pet canary impaled on a hatpin before the killer does the same to her. Lieutenant Borges has a large pool of suspects to choose from: Dick Gibson (Claudio Cassinelli), the Center's administrator, who has had an affair with both Susan and Janice; Willy Stark (Cristian Borromeo), Susan's lover and dance partner; Marge (Geretta Marie Fields), Candace's assistant choreographer who thinks Candace is working her dancers too hard; not to mention all the female dancers, who stand to gain a lucrative new job as the other dancers die. Candace makes contact with George Webb, who turns out to be an ex-model who is now an alcoholic. Candace cleans him up and they become lovers, but it's apparent that George is not telling her all about his past. When dancer Jill (Maria Vittoria Tolazzi) becomes the latest victim of the hatpin killer, Lieutenant Borges catches a break when Jill's wheelchair-bound sister takes a photo of the killing-in-process (It turns out to be a faceless photo of the killer in an Armani jacket holding the hatpin, but it does hold an important clue). The finale finds that Candace and George did meet once before (but only for a split second), which has permanently scarred her fragile psyche. His billboard photo triggered her thirst for revenge. Will she get away with it?  A lot of people tend to pass this film off as one of director Lucio Fulci's minor 80's films, but I disagree. I find this to be one of his most enjoyable, if far-fetched, 80's films, even though it's severely lacking in the gore department. Those looking for blood-and-guts in the same vein as his ZOMBIE (1979), GATES OF HELL (1980), THE BEYOND (1981) or NEW YORK RIPPER (1982) will be greatly disappointed, because this is more like a 70's giallo film. There's some blood, but the story (script by Fulci, Vincenzo Mannino, Gianfranco Clerici and Roberto Gianviti) is more interested in the mystery elements and this film has more red herrings than a fish market. Fulci manages to actually pull off a fair amount of suspense and atmosphere (Candace's nightmare being a standout). He also puts in his trademark "What The Fuck?" sequences, including a scene where Lieutenant Borges slaps the shit out of a false confessor when he calls the dead Janice  (who was Puerto Rican) a "spic". Apparently, the Lieutenant doesn't like racist remarks! Fulci also fills the film with plenty of nudity and lots of crotch and ass shots of the females dancing in their leotards to music supplied by Keith Emerson (who also scored NIGHTHAWKS - 1981). Most of the music is electronic New Wave or Hip-Hop (some of the dancers are seen break dancing and there's also a little nod to FLASHDANCE, which was made a year earlier), but there's an infectious tune ("Are The Streets To Blame", sung by Doreen Charter) that's repeated several times that will take days to leave your head (The lyrics go, "Paranoia's comin' your way...."). The film ends with a quote from John Huston from his film THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950). While not in the same league as the prime 70's giallos made by Dario Argento (DEEP RED - 1976) or even by Fulci himself (LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN - 1971), MURDER ROCK is still an entertaining little mystery with much to recommend. Also starring Giuseppe Mannajuolo, Berna Maria do Carmo, Belinda Busato, Carlo Caldera and Robert Gligorov.  A Shriek Show DVD Release. It's a deluxe two DVD edition with too many extras to list here. If you're a Lucio Fulci fan, this is a must. Not Rated.

MY FRIENDS NEED KILLING (1976) - Army veteran and former P.O.W. Gene Kline (Greg Mullavey) has recurring nightmares about the atrocities he was forced to view while a soldier in the Vietnam War. He comes to the conclusion that the only way to set things right is to kill all those responsible for the atrocities he witnessed and was forced to participate in. He sends all his former Army buddies letters telling them he is coming for a visit and then kills them in ways that are fitting to their war crimes. The first man he visits, he ties to a bed, inserts a needle and tube in his arm and slowly bleeds him to death. He then travels to Texas, to the home of Gil Perkins (Clayton Wilcox) and his wife Susan (Carolyn Ames). Gil and Gene go hunting, get drunk and talk about the "good times" in Vietnam. That night, Gene goes to the Perkins' bedroom, makes Susan tie-up Gil (after he pumps a couple of bullets into his hand and leg) and then rapes Susan ("Shut up, you slant-eyed bitch!"), making Gil watch (Gil screams, "She wasn't even there!"). Gene then kills them both (off-screen). Gene's wife, Laura (Meredith MacRae), becomes worried when Gene doesn't come home, so she calls his psychiatrist, Dr. MacLaine (Eric Morris), for some help. Laura finds an address book with the names of Gene's Army buddies and gives it to the doctor. Meanwhile, Gene travels to San Francisco to visit Army pal Les Drago (Roger Cruz), who is now a stage actor. After some sightseeing, Les takes Gene to the theater, where Gene forces Les to perform Shakespeare and them makes him swallow an overdose of pills while reminding him of the children they killed in Vietnam. After calling his wife and saying his goodbyes, Gene travels back home to Los Angeles to visit Walter Miller (Bill Michael), a fellow P.O.W.. After watching Walter parachute out of a plane, Gene stabs him numerous times with a bayonette in a field after talking about their time in the war camp. Laura and Dr. MacLaine drive to Walter's house after talking to Walter's wife, Georgia (Laurie Burton), on the phone. In a scene sure to raise goosebumps, Gene confronts the pregnant Georgia in her bedroom, knife in hand, just as she goes into labor. Rather than kill her, Gene delivers the baby. When Laura and Dr. MacLaine arrive at the Miller's home, they find Georgia and the baby safe in the bedroom. Laura finds Gene dead in the backyard, swinging from a tree, a rope around his neck. His nightmare is now over.  This grim revenge thriller, directed/produced/scripted by the late Paul Leder (I DISMEMBER MAMA - 1974; THE BABY DOLL MURDERS - 1993), benefits greatly by Greg Mullavey's tortured performance as a man without hope. Mullavey, a regular in many of Leder's films, is a top-notch actor who was woefully underutilized in films, but he gained a modicum of recognition starring as Louise Lasser's husband on TV's MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN during 1976 to 1978. This film is Mullavey's show all the way, as he quietly travels from town to town, leaving bodies in his wake, letting the punishment fit the crime. Leder films most of the scenes statically, mainly in medium or extreme close-ups, all the time letting the camera linger on Mullavey's agonizing, tortured face. Leder was never a great filmmaker (his daughter, director Mimi Leder [DEEP IMPACT - 1998], and son Reuben Leder, a TV producer and writer [WALKER, TEXAS RANGER {1993 - 2001}], found much more success in the business than he did), but he always turned out interesting, low-budget mysteries and thrillers (SKETCHES OF A STRANGLER - 1978; THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT - 1987). Co-star Meredith MacRea was Mullavey's real-life wife at the time (they were divorced in 1987). MY FRIENDS NEED KILLING is a short (73 minutes), unapologetic look at a damaged Vietnam veteran. It's bloody without being graphic and relies on Mullavey's acting talent to convey an atmosphere of hopelessness. It's not for everyone's taste (it generally gets panned when reviewed), but I liked it. Available in a hard to find DVD from Jef Films. The print I viewed was a grainy dub of a Dutch-subtitled VHS. Rated R.

NAKED YOU DIE (1968) - This late-60's giallo opens with a black gloved killer strangling a woman taking a bath and stuffing her nude body in a trunk. During the opening credits, we follow the trunk; it's first strapped onto the roof of a taxi, then loaded onto a train and, finally, strapped to the roof of a van that contains the new hires heading to the all-girls St. Hilda College. Some of the new hires include: riding teacher Richard Barrett (Mark Damon), a good-looking chap who headmistress Miss Transfield (Vivienne Stapleton) doesn't trust with her young female staff and students; and gym teacher Mr. Di Brazzi (John Hawkwood), who plans to teach the students skin diving and has brought the equipment with him. We learn that most of the students are away for the holidays (only six have stayed behind) and the schoolgrounds also contain a zoo, full of exotic animals looked after by the elderly Professor Andre (Aldo De Carellis). When student Betty Ann (Katleen Parker) goes down to the basement to collect a piece of her luggage, she notices the trunk (the one with the body in it) and pays for it with her life. The killer strangles her and leaves her lifeless body in the basement. When the other students notice Betty Ann is missing, Miss Transfield searches the basement, but by then the killer has moved her body. When Miss Transfield and her assistant, Mrs. Clay (Ludmila Lvova), search the grounds and come up empty, they put the rest of the girls on a curfew. Of course, one of the girls, Lucille (Eleonora Brown), breaks curfew and finds Betty Ann's body in the bughouse of the zoo. She believes the creepy groundskeeper, La Floret (Alan Collins), is responsible, but when Richard (who is having a fling with Lucille) checks the bughouse, Betty Ann's body is gone. As La Floret watches outside, peeping onto the women's shower, he spots the killer strangling Cynthia (Malisa Longo), who the killer mistakenly thinks is Lucille. Police Inspector Durant (Michael Rennie) is called in to investigate Cynthia's death and Betty Ann's disappearance and the killer murders La Floret to keep him from talking to the police. Can Lucille convince Inspector Durant and Richard that she is telling the truth? The killer has a few more people to dispose of before the motive becomes clear (the first murder of the woman in the bathtub plays an important part in solving the mystery).  This giallo may seem tame today, but for 1968 it was quite daring, with it's scenes of nudity mixed with murder. Director/co-scripter Antonio Margheriti (using his "Anthony Dawson" pseudonym), who also directed the gothic giallo SEVEN DEATH IN THE CAT'S EYE (1973), the gore-filled CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980) and dozens of other film in many other genres, has fashioned a murder mystery (Italian maestro Mario Bava gets a co-story credit) that's easy to solve early on if you really try. Maybe I've seen too many giallo films in my lifetime to be partial, but this was an easy one to solve. But, since this was one if the first crop of films that kick-started the modern-day giallo genre, it should be required viewing to fans of the genre, if just to see how far the boundaries were pushed when giallo caught fire in the 70's. This film contains restrained nudity (just quick flashes and no full frontal) and violence (the bloodiest it gets is a shot of a sickle sticking out of La Floret's stomach), nothing like the sights on view in 70's giallo films. This film may also be too comedic for some giallo fans' tastes, especially the finale, which is a take-off on James Bond films. Michael Rennie (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - 1951; THE POWER - 1968) is wasted here in what amounts to nothing but an extended cameo. I would still recommend this film for fans of Margheriti's body of work and for those interested in late-60's giallo films. Also known as THE YOUNG, THE EVIL & THE SAVAGE (released theatrically in the U.S. under this title by American International Pictures with 12 minutes of footage edited out), SCHOOLGIRL KILLER (on U.S. VHS from AIR Video using this title and shorn of nearly 15 minutes of footage), THE MINISKIRT MURDERS and SEVEN VIRGINS FOR THE DEVIL. On-screen title: NUDE...SI MUORE. Also starring Sally Smith, Patrizia Valturri, Franco DeRosa, Ester Masing and Sylvia Dionisio. Available in a nice widescreen uncut print on DVD from Dark Sky Films. Not Rated.

NIGHTMARE (1973) - Haunting and deliberately paced supernatural thriller that is based on a play called VOICES, written by Richard Lortz, which played on New York's Broadway at the Barrymore Theater in 1972 for only eight performances (with Richard Kiley and Julie Harris starring). The film stars David Hemmings (DARK FORCES - 1980) as Robert and Gayle Hunnicutt (THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE - 1973) as Claire, a married couple who are on a boating holiday with their young son David (Adam Bridge), when the unthinkable happens. While drunk and making love on the boat as they are docked near a dam, little David takes a stroll across the dam and disappears. Robert and Claire panic when they find David's life jacket at the foot of the dam and their extensive search of the area (in which the police get involved in) turns up nothing. It's believed that David fell in the water and drowned, with the strong currents carrying him away to places unknown. Claire tries to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping pills, but Robert stops her. Another suicide attempt by slitting her wrists with a razor lands Claire in a sanitarium, where she and Robert separate for a while. They reconcile by taking a car trip to Claire's dead aunt's country home, but they nearly don't make it there when the extremely foggy road nearly causes a head-on collision with another car. Once at the country home, Robert makes crass jokes about suicide while Claire can only think about the day they lost David and her stay at the sanitarium. Both are dealing with the loss of their son in their own way, but neither are doing a good job at it (She accuses Robert of having a lover while she was committed and Robert just wants to get her drunk and make love, which is what led to this whole disaster in the first place). The country home has no electricity or heat, so they must rely on oil lanterns and the fireplace (when they try to light candles on a candelabra, a strange breeze blows them out), but the lack of basic modern necessities leads to further problems, like Claire hearing the voices of children and telling Robert that there is something wrong with the house and they should leave. It's clear to the viewer that Robert and Claire should no longer be together because the harder they try, the worse it gets. When the truth comes out that Claire's family is rich and Robert may have married her only for her money, which he still hasn't seen a penny of thanks to Claire's nasty mother, the question becomes: Did Robert bring her to the house to kill her (the thought of it excites Claire, who accepts death more than life) or to drive her crazy? Is Claire actually seeing the ghostly visages of children Jessica (Eva Griffith), John (Russell Lewis) and their mother (Lynn Farleigh) or is this part of Robert's plan? Claire believes she is psychic and tells Robert that when David first died, she went to a medium (Peggy Ann Clifford), heard David's voice and is convinced that David is still alive. When Robert also begins to see and hear the ghosts (after he and Claire make love for the first time since David died), it sets the stage for the film's eerie final reveal and seals the fate of our two main characters.  While nothing more than a two character filmed stage play, director Kevin Billington (THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD - 1971) and screenwriters George Kirgo & Robert Enders (also the Producer) had the good sense to have accomplished actors David Hemmings and Gayle Hunnicutt (who also appeared together in FRAGMENT OF FEAR [1970] and were actually married to each other at the time, divorcing in 1975) speak the words and make the most of the limited locations (80% of the film takes place in the main room at the country estate). Billington also makes the wise choice to show Claire's thoughts and flashbacks as a series of tightly edited shock cuts, which are effective and unnerving. While NIGHTMARE (also known as VOICES) is nothing more than two great actors insulting each other for ninety minutes, it still has the same creepy vibe you'll find in THE UNINVITED (1944), THE INNOCENTS (1961) and THE HAUNTING (1963). Those looking for a more conventional haunted house thriller like THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) will be disappointed, though. The ending may remind people of CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962), but let's remember that this film was made years before CARNIVAL would find cult success on home video. It should be noted that David Hemmings (who passed away in 2003) was not only an accomplished actor, he also directed a great deal of American TV during the 80's & 90's, including episodes of MAGNUM P.I. (1980 - 1988), WEREWOLF (1987 - 1988) and QUANTUM LEAP (1989 - 1993) and was once quoted as saying during his long sabbatical as an actor: "People thought I was dead. But I wasn't. I was just directing THE A-TEAM (1983 - 1987)"! A Mirisch Video Company VHS Release. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

NIGHTMARE COUNTY (1971) - You gotta love a film that opens with a quote from John F. Kennedy ("Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.") and then immediately shows two hippies being brutally gunned-down as they step out of their VW Beetle, doused with gasoline and set on fire. Then the real film kicks in. Too bad. In a small town that survives on it's orange orchards, a group of migrant workers, mainly hippie types, have been toiling in the orchards for months and wish to vote in the town's upcoming elections, but can't since they have no permanent residence in town. Their savior turns out to be Jonas Smith (director/screenwriter Sean McGregor), an ex-townie who returns to his hometown riding on a motorcycle and signs over his late father's farm to the migrant workers, giving them a permanent address and, therefore, a right to vote in the upcoming elections. This doesn't sit too well with the local political bigwigs, including the Mayor, Judge and Sheriff, who team together to harass Jonas every opportunity they get. It doesn't help that Jonas rekindles his romance with County Clerk Eva Michaels (Gayle Hemingway), who happens to be the Sheriff's daughter and a romantic interest for Harlan (Chase Cordell), the Sheriff's deputy. At least Harlan thinks he's the romantic interest, but Eva only has eyes for Jonas. As election night draws nearer, things in town get downright dangerous, especially when the migrant workers register to vote. When Jonas discovers that one of the workers, a hulking dude named Cowboy, killed the two hippies in the beginning of the film because they were going to tell Jonas that he was using heroin, Jonas kicks him out of the group, with Cowboy vowing revenge. Election night comes and all of the cronies are voted out of their offices, replaced by "long haired hippies", so the cronies devise a plan to drive the hippies out of town before they come into power. The Sheriff and Harlan begin arresting the workers on trumped-up charges and offer them all a deal: Do hard county time or get the hell out of town. Things backfire for the cronies when TV reporters and camera arrive in town and an outpouring of positive public opinion for the hippies turn things around, but just like JFK, his brother Robert or Martin Luther King, all good causes come with a deadly price to be paid.  This terribly dated film, made in 1971 but not released until 1975, is full of "Us vs. the Establishment" dialogue and scenes of hippie abuse (always a good thing in my book), but the violence level is much too tame for it's own good. The biggest problem in director/scripter Sean McGregor's  (GENTLE SAVAGE - 1973; DEVIL TIMES FIVE - 1974) BILLY JACK (1971) rip-off is that he decided to cast himself in the lead role of Jonas. He's simply terrible in the role, as he couldn't act his way out of a paper bag and whenever he opens his mouth, his pronounced lisp makes it very hard for the viewer to understand a single word he is saying. After a promising violent opening, the film quickly deteriorates into a young against the old scenario and, besides a couple of fistfights and an instance where a pressure hose is turned on a bunch of hippies in a jail cell, nothing much happens until the finale, where Cowboy, strung-out on junk, invades Eva's home, smashes her face into a mirror and then rapes and kills her (off-screen). The Sheriff then gets into a knock-down, drag-out fight with Cowboy (I've never seen more breakaway furniture in one room since a Wild West barroom fight), killing him, grabs his daughter's dead body and carries her to a televised press conference, where he shoots Jonas two times in the chest on live TV in the downbeat finale. Toss in a music soundtrack filled with sappy hippie ballads with titles like " Grass Of Solution", "Gods And Raging Winds" and the titular "November Children" (the film's early release title), and what you end up with is a film that tries to address serious issues, but hasn't got a clue in it's tiny little head how to do it. There's a reason why this sat on a shelf for over four years. It's horrendous and was outdated before it was even finished. Also starring Jody McCrea, Beau Gibson, R.N. Bullard, Woody Lee, Robert Reynolds, Michael Verona, Conchita Thornton, Duke Douglas and Ted Wilde. Originally released on VHS by Family Home Video and not available on DVD. Rated R.

NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON (1973) - David (Dack Rambo) and Jill (Rebecca Dianna Smith) have just gotten married in a big ceremony on Jill's widowed father Henry's (Pat Hingle) sprawling Mississippi estate. They have a big hurdle to clear before they can have their honeymoon: Henry has a family tradition to interrupt all family honeymoons by having the entire clan sing beneath the window of the honeymoon suite all night long. David and Jill, looking to break that tradition, hop into a car in the middle of their wedding reception and speed off, with Dad and the rest of the family in hot pursuit. They manage to lose the posse by hiding out at a remote motel in the Louisiana bayou. They decide to go for a swim when they witness Lee (John Beck) and Sandy (Roy Jenson) murder Mr. Carroll (David Huddleston) over a deal gone bad. Lee (who is a psychopath) and Sandy corner the couple, where they knock out David and rape Jill (off-screen). David wants to go to the police but Jill stops him, because she does not want anyone (especially her father) to know she was raped. David and Jill are now two totally different people than they were a couple of hours before. They drive down the highway to go to their honeymoon suite and, when they arrive, they are just two broken human beings. Unable to consummate their marriage (would you be able to?), they argue for a while and then Vietnam veteran David decides revenge is the best answer. Using the info he heard Lee talk about at the murder scene and using the phone book for his first clue, David and Jill embark on a journey where they meet more violence and death before they learn that nothing will change the way they really feel about each other.  Never available on home video in any format in the U.S. (when will MGM open their vaults and start releasing these forgotten gems?), NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON played on TV during the 70's and early 80's before disappearing into the ether. Director Elliot Silverstein (THE CAR - 1977) has made a film that's not especially violent (it's rated PG), but it is a very intense film. Made back in the day when films rated PG weren't just kid's films, the change in tone from freewheeling to menacing is quite shocking to the system and although we never see much of the violence, the threat hangs heavily in the air. The scene where Jill calls her father on the phone to tell him what happened and then realizes that she can't bear to do so is a wonderful piece of emotional cinema. Although talky in spots, it acquits itself by continually surprising the viewer as the screenplay (by S. Lee Pogostin) never panders or talks down to the audience. This is an adult story where the bad guys are extremely bad (Lee threatens Jill with a knife by saying, "Quiet knives are for loud girls.") and the good guys find out that doing bad things always comes with a price. Be prepared to pay it. This is an excellent underappreciated thriller that, unfortunately, is not available to the general public. Also starring Jay Robinson, Dennis Patrick, Jim Boles and Dennis Burkley. I got this on DVD-R in an excellent print from a seller who wishes to remain nameless (for legal reasons). Search the internet for this one. Rated PG.

NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR (1969) - Ah, memories. I was 12 years old when I first saw this flick on a double bill with WOMEN AND BLOODY TERROR (also 1969). I was disappointed, to say the least, when neither film lived up to their titles (see ad mats). Well, I’m older now and decided to review both films with a more mature mind (insert your own joke here). They’re both still trash, with WOMEN hardly worth a mention because it’s basically a soap opera with a couple of gunshots thrown in, but NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR does contain some horrific moments. Both films were directed by Joy N. Houck Jr. (NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER - 1972; CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE, a.k.a. DEMON OF THE LAKE - 1976) and star Gerald McRaney (TV’s MAJOR DAD [1989 - 1993]). In NIGHT, McRaney portrays Wesley, a confused man prone to blackouts (complete with a superimposed hypno-wheel to give you a headache) with a domineering religious fanatic mother. When his fiancee is stabbed in the head at a church confessional and a nurse friend is axed in the chest, Wesley is arrested and charged with both murders. Out on bail, he must figure out if he indeed did the murders during his blackouts or if someone else is involved. It doesn’t help his case that he spent 13 years in a mental institution for accidentally shooting his brother when he was 5 years old. Or was it him? It won’t be hard for you to figure out (Hint: Mother did it.). Wildly outdated, with garish colors, 60’s fashions and hairdos (you can see that even in 1969, McRaney was beginning to lose his hair) and spots of fake gore (axe attacks, stabbings and a severed hand), one can only view this film as an obscure artifact from a baby boomer’s childhood. It’s neither good or bad, it just is. Also starring Gaye Yellen, Herbert Nelson and Evelyn Hendricks with an appearance by an awful rock group called "The Bored". No longer available on a legitimate video label (Paragon), NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR can be purchased through various internet order outlets including Video Search Of Miami (VSOM) or eBayRated R.

NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER (1979) - "I gotta feeling it's gonna be another goddamned New York day." Those words, spoken by police Lt. Tonelli (Richard Castellano), perfectly describes what is about to happen to ex-cop-turned-truck driver Sean Boyd (James Brolin). Sean is a divorced dad who has custody of his young daughter Kathy (Abby Bluestone) and today is Kathy's 13th birthday. While walking her to school, Kathy is grabbed by mistake by delusional kidnapper Gus Soltic (Cliff Gorman), who thinks he is taking the daughter of rich real estate investor Hampton Richmond Clayton III (Marco St. John). As Gus gets away with Cathy in his car, Sean commandeers a cab (driven by a young Mandy Patinkin) and gives chase. And what a chase it is. When both Gus' car and the cab crashes, Gus takes Kathy down into the subway system, with Sean close behind. The chase then leads from the subway to the streets of Times Square, where Gus steals a phone company van and Sean grabs a station wagon belonging to a street preacher (Barton Heyman). The chase continues until Sean crashes the wagon and Gus finally gets away with Kathy. Gus brings Kathy to his dilapidated tenement building (he complains to Kathy about how all the "spics and niggers" have ruined his neighborhood), but he doesn't believe Kathy when she tells him that her father is not wealthy. Lt. Tonelli (who is always complaining about his daughter's upcoming wedding) arrests Sean and brings him downtown, where he runs into old cop nemesis Sgt. Otis Barnes (Dan Hedaya) who, when Sean was a cop, reported Otis for being on the take. Otis tries to give Sean the old rubber hose treatment, but Sean knocks him out, escapes from the precinct and begins his long search for Kathy. Gus calls the Clayton household and demands one million dollars in ransom, still not aware that he has the wrong girl (the man simply won't believe Kathy). The Claytons call the cops and Lt. Tonelli takes Gus' second call, pretending to be Mr. Clayton and suddenly realizes that Gus has Sean's kid. Not only does Sean have to look for his daughter, he must now also dodge the vengeful Otis, who is looking to kill Sean. As Lt. Tonelli sets up the ransom drop, Sean goes through a series of encounters, including a porn house peep show, a guard dog training center and fighting a vicious street gang, as he inches closer to Gus and Kathy.  This is one of those films where the City of New York is just as valid a character as the rest of the cast. This is the old New York City, before Rudy Giuliani grabbed it by the shirt collar and shook all the dirt out of it. This is New York City when you could find a hot dog vender on every corner and Times Square was still full of hookers, porn shops and grindhouses. This is New York City when, as soon as you park your car in a "bad" neighborhood, gangs would strip it on the street in a matter of minutes. Ah, the good old days! I almost have a tear in my eye thinking about it. NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER is a gritty, grimy thriller that pulls no punches and definitely is not a postcard for New York City tourism. Sean meets the dregs of society, including slimy porn shop workers, pimps, hookers, street gangs and, of course, crooked cops. All is not hopeless for Sean, though, as he does find some helpful people, including a hooker (porn legend Sharon Mitchell) with an important clue, a dog trainer (Julie Carmen) who helps him get through a bad part of town and a couple of cabbies, one who is the only cabbie willing to drive him to Gus' neighborhood. The film's highlight is when Otis chases Sean through the busy streets of New York, firing his shotgun at Sean without caring about all the innocent pedestrians that may get in the way. As Otis is blowing apart newstands, hot dog carts and store windows while Sean is ducking for cover, it looks like the pedestrians on the streets were truly not aware what was about to happen, adding greatly to the realism. The film also takes an unusual turn when Gus and Kathy begin to actually talk to each other, talking about her weight problem (she's a little on the chunky side), his abusive mother and how his neighborhood has literally gone to the dogs, thanks to greedy real estate developers (his reason behind the kidnapping). Gus talks to Kathy as he would to an adult, revealing a lot about his motivations behind all this. James Brolin and Cliff Gorman have never been better, but director Robert Butler (who is mainly a TV director, who occasionally left that medium for theatrical films, like TURBULENCE [1997]) wisely lets New York City take center stage and it never looked more like a junkie begging for a fix than it does here. It just oozes sleaze. I wonder if then-Mayor Ed Koch knew what he was signing-on for here when he OK'd the permits for this. This is a true unsung classic just screaming out for a long-overdue DVD release. Also known as PURSUED and NEW YORK KILLER. Also starring Linda G. Miller, Sully Boyar, Dorothy Lyman and a cameo by porn star Serena. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Rated R.

NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER (1972) - Dated racial revenge thriller with an unusual storyline and an even more unusual leading man. The film opens with Vance (Micky Dolenz of The Monkees) meeting his sister Denise (Susan McCullough) at the New Orleans airport. Denise has just flown in from Vassar and has some important news to tell Vance, but she wants to wait to spill the beans until they get to the house of their older brother Dan (James Ralston), a strict Southern lawyer who makes Archie Bunker look like the Pope. Once they are at the house, Denise tells Vance and Dan that she is quitting school because she is getting married next week in New York. Oh, and by the way, she's pregnant and her new husband-to-be is black! Vance, the more liberal of the two brothers, is slightly shocked, but seemingly takes the news in stride. Dan, on the other hand, flies into a blind rage, slapping Denise repeatedly about her face while screaming, "You let a degenerate nigger enter your body?!?" and demanding that she get an abortion. Dan disowns Denise on the spot when she refuses and threatens to kill her "nigger boyfriend", while rubbing Vance's face in the fact that he is marrying Vance's ex-girlfriend Carol (Ann Barrett) because "she couldn't take any more of your nigger-loving ways!" Vance trys to talk Denise out of the marriage ("These things just don't work'"), but seems to come over to her side once he sees how serious she is about it. Denise flies back to New York and is walking in a park with her black boyfriend Jesse, when a hippie on a bicycle (Michael Wright) carrying a guitar case stops by a park bench and opens the case, which contains a high-powered rifle. He takes careful aim and kills Jesse (attentive viewers will notice that we never see Jesse's face), much to Denise's horror. Denise writes an entry in her diary that says, "The only thing I know is that Dan is responsible for Jesse's death! And Vance - I just don't know about him - Vance?" Someone wearing black Army boots, black gloves and a "Peace" symbol belt buckle then sneaks into Denise's apartment and drowns her in the bathtub. He strips her naked, slits her wrists with a razor and positions her body in the tub to make it look like a suicide; taking a few of Denise's belongings (including her diary and a photo of Vance in the Army) before he leaves. We then follow black priest Father Jessie (Chuck Patterson) as he returns to New Orleans after a long absence in a seminary. Father Babbin (Stocker Fontelieu) informs Jessie of Denise's suicide (he was a family friend since childhood) and asks him to mend the huge rift between Vance and Dan that the suicide caused. Vance has become an alcoholic and shows up at the wedding of Dan and Carol blind stinking drunk. Father Jessie breaks up a fight between Dan and Vance by punching Dan in the face (Dan calls Jessie a "damn black nigger" in church) and escorts Vance outside (but not before a soused Vance calls the wedding "beauty and the bigot"). It's not long before a series of murders begin, all intricate booby-traps that seem to be rooted in Vietnam. Carol is bitten in the face by a poisonous Asian snake that was delivered in a vase of roses that came from Vance's flower shop. Dan, of course, blames Vance, although it is clear to the audience that the killer wears gloves (this time they are white) for a reason. After Dan is forced to shoot and kill his black gardener Willie (Warren J. Kenner) when he holds a knife to Dan's throat (Dan fired Willie for having the gall of talking to Carol without his permission, which led to the death of Willie's sick wife due to him having no money for her medicine), the same hippie that killed Denise's boyfriend attempts to kill Dan (It seems Dan refuses to pay the Mob for the contract hit he put on Jesse in the park, which is a real stupid move), but he is shot and killed by a passing cop before he can fire his rifle. The real killer steps-up his murder spree, killing Vance's new bride, Anne (Katie Tillie), with a booby-trapped, curare-soaked spring-loaded arrow that impales her back when she sits down in the passenger seat of Vance's car. This makes Vance think that Dan was responsible, so he goes to Dan's house and stabs him in the chest, but Dan shoots and kills Vance with a pistol. The killer reveals himself to a dying Dan (it's really no surprise) and thrusts the knife deeper into Dan's chest after explaining to Dan why he did what he did and declaring, "This jive-ass nigger got you all!" A savvy police detective, Lt. DeVivo (Michael Anthony, who is quite good here), has the final laugh when the killer believes he got away with it all.  The first thing you'll notice about NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER (also known as IS THE FATHER BLACK ENOUGH?, which is a much more appropriate title and a nice play on words, and ACE OF SPADES, which is just downright racist) is how well Micky Dolenz (HEAD - 1968; DEADFALL - 1993 and the all but lost KEEP OFF MY GRASS! - 1972) holds his own here. A lot of people don't realize that he was a child actor before he became a member of The Monkees. He's actually pretty good as a brother that's torn between two sides: His strict Southern family upbringing and his own conscience, which changed once he served in the Vietnam War. Although the storyline is way too dated (although I can still imagine some Southerners rooting for Dan), director Joy N. Houck Jr. (NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR - 1969; WOMEN AND BLOODY TERROR - 1969; CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE - 1976) and screenwriters J.J. Milane, Robert A. Weaver and Jeffrey Newton keep the film moving at a brisk pace, even though it is rather obvious who the killer is. The Jesse/Father Jessie connection is just too much of a coincidence to be overlooked (especially since we never see Denise's boyfriend's face). James Ralston paints a rather broad stroke as Dan, who is not only a Southern bigot, he's a lawyer, to boot (double hiss!). There's some nice early 70's New Orleans photography and some violent scenes (the car seat booby-trap is a doozy) to keep viewers entertained and there's an air of sleazy 70's exploitation that you just can't replicate in films today. On those points alone, I would recommend NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER. Also starring Harold Sylvester Jr. and Ed Brown. Originally released on VHS by Paragon Video and not available on DVD. Rated R.

NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS (1974) - This is one of those films which played throughout the 70’s and 80’s under numerous titles such as LAST HOUSE-PART II; THE NEW HOUSE ON THE LEFT, SECOND HOUSE FROM THE LEFT, TORTURE TRAIN, LAST STOP ON THE NIGHT TRAIN and LATE NIGHT TRAINS. The first three alternate titles suggest that it is a sequel to Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972). Don’t you believe it. What we have here is a sleazy Italian thriller about grue-some sexual murders committed aboard a travelling train during the Christmas holiday. Two nubile young girls, on vacation from their parents, get more than they bargain for when they are held captive on the train by a trio of degenerates (a psychopath, a drug addict and a nymphomaniac!). They force the two girls to strip, give the drug addict a hand job and pull a peeping tom passenger into the rail car and force him to rape one of the girls. When the drug addict has trouble raping the other girl, who is a virgin (He exclaims, "She’s as tight as a frightened asshole!"), he tries to loosen her up by shoving a knife up her vagina! Needless to say, she dies and the other girl tries to escape by jumping off the train but dies in the attempt. The parents of one of the girls meet the train at the junction to pick up their daughter. When she does not come off they figure she took a later train. The father (who is a doctor) is asked to help a woman who is bleeding from the leg. It turns out the woman is the nymphomaniac and before long the parents are inviting the trio over to their house, neither party knowing who the others are. Circumstances lead the parents to find out the truth and they exact bloody revenge. Hey, wait a minute. This could very well be a sequel to LAST HOUSE! Although slow in the beginning, the film picks up steam (pardon the pun) in the middle and never lets up. Director Aldo Lado (WHO SAW HER DIE - 1972; THE HUMANOID - 1979; DISOBEDIENCE - 1981) leaves nothing to the imagination as you’ll view rapes, knifings, beatings and two impalements to the groin (one male, one female) all under the subtext of nonviolence. Not a bad little flick if you’re in the right frame of mind (say, the mind of a sick psychopath!). Starring Flavio Bucci, Macha Meril, Gianfranco De Grassi, Enrico Maria Salerno and Irene Miracle. Music by Ennio Morricone. Available on video in many cut versions. Luminous Film & Video Wurks (who no longer seem to be in business) use to offer a pristine uncut version (with German subtitles), the only way to watch it for a long time. Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Blue Underground fully uncut and in widescreen.

PACT WITH THE DEVIL (2002) - I am a huge Malcolm McDowell fan. So huge, in fact, that I could watch him painting a house for two hours. That being said, I have noticed lately that he's been appearing in, how should I say this, less than stellar films. But he always seems to rise above the material. This is one of those films. In this modern retelling of the Dorian Gray legend, McDowell stars as Henry, a manager of a fashion photographer who, in 1980, discovers Louis (Ethan Erickson), a handsome gofer on a photo shoot who Henry thinks could be the next big male supermodel. Henry manages Louis' career and he indeed becomes the next big thing. Henry opens up to Louis about growing old (He says, "By 50, every man has the face he deserves.") and tells him the story of Dorian Gray and gets the brilliant idea to change Louis' name to Dorian. Dorian goes home half-drunk and stares at a huge framed head shot of himself that Harry had taken. He stares at the photo on the wall and writes "Dorian" in his own blood on a mirror opposite the photo. From that moment on, Dorian's life will never be the same. No matter how much punishment Dorian dishes out to his body (with drugs, alcohol, sex or violence), it does not seem to affect him. His photo, on the other hand, shows all the effects of the abuse. As time passes by, Dorian becomes hugely successful but, privately, is a wreck (but always looks perfect) as he abuses drugs, abuses women and abuses life, all under the watchful eye of Henry. Dorian begins a slow spiral into depravity which ends in a double murder.  Told in a series of flashbacks, PACT WITH THE DEVIL opens up at the scene of the double murder, with Henry telling Detective Giatti (Ron Lea) Dorian's story as the bodies are taken away. Since we are not privy to who is murdered or the reasons behind the murders, Director Allan A. Goldstein (DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH - 1994; VIRUS - 1996) teases the viewer throughout the running time (not necessarily a bad thing), but anyone familiar with Oscar Wilde's novel won't be surprised by the outcome. As always, McDowell steals the show as the smarmy manager who we all know is just the Devil in disguise. He can be threatening by just raising his eyebrows and be your best friend by doing the same exact thing. The ever-changing photo of Dorian is also a good visual gag. As Dorian is abusing himself, the photo really takes a beating. Ethan Erickson must have been in the makeup chair a few times as, by the end, he looks like a rotting corpse in the final photo. This is an average film made above-average by Malcolm McDowell's performance and some perverse situations. Harry Alan Towers was on of the producers on this Canada/UK production. Also known as DORIAN. Also starring Jennifer Nitsch, Christoph Waltz, Victoria Sanchez, Karen Cliche and Amy Sloane. A DEJ Productions Release. Rated R. For other good McDowell performances in the same vein, see my reviews of ISLAND OF THE DEAD (2000) and THE BARBER (2001).

PERFECT VICTIMS (1988) - A sick thriller that's truly a product of it's time. A psychotic man named Brandon Poole (Tom Dugan), mad at the female race because he's contracted the AIDS virus, travels around in his pickup truck infecting women with the disease. Brandon, who works for a moving company, picks his next two victims, aspiring models Carrie (Jackie Swanson) and Melissa (Nikolette Scorcese), when he moves their belongings into a new apartment in Los Angeles. When in the apartment during the moving phase, Brandon drugs the milk in the refrigerator and returns that night to find them passed out on the floor. He breaks into the apartment and what he does next in unbelievably sadistic. He spits through a plastic tube directly into Carrie's nose (!) and then cuts his wrist and bleeds into Melissa's mouth. He then rapes Carrie and when he hears her baby crying in the next room, he screams to Carrie, "I have news for you, slut. Your kid is an orphan!" Police Lt. Kevin White (Clarence Williams III) is assigned to investigate when Carrie and Melissa are brought to the hospital. He at first thinks that the girls are nothing but two cokeheads, but when the medical report comes back that their assailant is infected with AIDS, he knows that there's a new type of serial killer on the loose. Liz Walters (Deborah Shelton, also one of the Executive Producers), the owner of a modeling agency who just signed Carrie and Melissa to contracts, shows up at the hospital concerned about her newest charges. When she appears on TV and condemns the vicious acts of violence, calling the rapist an "animal", Brandon views it and begins stalking her. His first attack on Liz is unsuccessful, thanks to a stun gun in Liz's purse and the sudden appearance of her boyfriend, Steve (Lyman Ward; CREATURE - 1984). After infecting another woman he meets at a bar and killing a nosy co-worker and the prostitute he is with, Brandon begins calling Liz on the phone ("Hello, bitch!") and tells her that she, Carrie and Melissa are "dogmeat" and will not escape his wrath. Lt. White gets an important clue from an old guy walking his dog (genre vet John Agar) and Liz picks up Carrie, her baby and Melissa and brings them to Steve's seaside villa, which is protected by guard dogs. They stupidly put the guard dogs in the garage, which gives Brandon the chance to enter the house and terrorize the three women (and the baby). It's gonna be a long night.  The idea of an AIDS-infected serial killer was daring for it's time (it's not even mentioned on the VHS box and any mention of AIDS was edited out of the TV prints!), when contracting the disease was considered a death sentence. We have, of course, come a long way since then, but this film is so sleazy in it's depictions of the way Brandon infects his victims, it's hard to shake-off the dirt. Director/co-scripter/composer Shuki Levy, who would later give us BLIND VISION (1992; also with Shelton, who was once Levi's real-life wife) and was one of the main people responsible for unleashing the extremely popular kid series, THE MIGHTY MORPHIN' POWER RANGERS, to TV in the mid-90's, delivers a film that is devoid of humor (The closest it comes to humor is when Clarence Williams III introduces his character to a hospital nurse by saying, "Hello, I'm White!", or when one of Brandon's co-workers says to him, "Why don't you lighten up Brandon? Take a dump or something!") and that's hard to watch in spots, especially the rape scenes. Some scenes bring up the emotional impact of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) or I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978), especially the attack on Carrie and Melissa early in the film. If you aren't aware that Brandon has AIDS when this attack takes place, it loses resonance, so a second viewing is required for this scene to pack an emotional gut-punch. Tom Duggan (NIGHTWISH - 1988) is just plain nasty as the woman-hating Brandon. Looking at his pock-marked face and hearing his Southern drawl as he spits out vitriol, calling women "pigs", "stupid twats" or worse, is as horrendous a villian as you'll ever see in 80's cinema. I wouldn't exactly call PERFECT VICTIMS entertaining cinema, because it's not. What it is, though, is cinema of the extreme, a dirty little film that doesn't shy away from showing us something really seedy and demented. It brings everyone's fear of AIDS (whether justified or not) front and center, a scare film and a cautionary tale from the unsure late 80's. The ending is a little too pat (it feels like it was tacked-on at the last minute to give audiences something to feel good about), but there's also a shocking last-minute discovery hidden in Brandon's apartment that sent chills down my spine (it proves that he has been doing this for quite some time). Not for everyone's tastes, but well-made. Filmed under the more appropriate title HIDDEN RAGE. Worth Keeter (DOGS OF HELL - 1982) was First Assistant Director. Also starring Geoffrey Rivas, Phil Roberson, S. Marc Jordan, Lorinne Vorzoff, Alan Berger and Jill Jacobson. An Academy Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER (1974) - Comedic psycho-thriller starring Michael Callan (FREEWAY - 1988) as Adrian Wilde, a nature-cum-fashion photographer (dog photos are his specialty) with more than one shutter out of synch. The first time we meet Adrian, he has talked aspiring model Quinn (Susan Damante) into posing nude in his studio (all tastefully done, since this is a PG-rated film) before taking her to a secluded section of Griffith Park for the conclusion of the photo shoot, where he poisons Quinn's drink and takes photos of her in the throes of death. After placing her corpse back in her car, Adrian heads home to have dinner with his overbearing, alcoholic mother (Barbara Nichols: THE POWER - 1968), who constantly belittles him every chance she gets. Adrian was seriously scarred emotionally as a child when he discovered his mother screwing some random guy and was nearly strangled by mom's lover when he was caught spying on them. It seems Mrs. Wilde hasn't changed much since Adrian was a child, as she still has affairs with younger men, including Adrian's friend Clinton (Associate Producer Spencer Milligan). Adrian's childhood psychosis forces him to kill women, with each victim being a temporary replacement for the disgust he has for his slutty mother. Over-the-hill cops Lt. Luther Jacoby (Harold J. Stone; MITCHELL - 1975) and Sgt. Sid Collins (Edward Andrews) are assigned to investigate Quinn's murder, but they have few clues to work with. Luther can't seem to get over the surprised look on the face of Quinn's corpse and he vows to find her murderer. When forensic pathologist Joe Hennesey (Jed Allen) ties Quinn's murder to an earlier killing of another young woman, Luther and Sid realize they have a serial killer on the loose. Adrian kills middle-aged Karri Stephenson (Betty Anne Rees) next when he comes to her home to take photos of her prized schnauzer and she makes a pass at him (He throws a clock radio into her bathtub, electrocuting her, after screaming over-and-over, "Don't kiss me, Mother!" in a scene that will have you howling in [unintentional?] laughter). Adrian's favorite hangout is a bowling alley (One day I'm going to do a list of genre films that have scenes of bowling alleys in them, as there are just too many for it to be a coincidence), where he and Clinton spend their time bowling a few frames, hatching hair-brained schemes and ordering beer from pretty waitress Candy (Patty Bodeen), who has the hots for Adrian. Adrian steps-up his killing spree (he strangles the owner of a dog show and hangs another model in a deserted mansion) and starts to get sloppy, leaving clues at the crime scenes which Luther and Sid slowly begin putting together. But before they can arrest Adrian, he is stabbed to death by Candy (the only woman Adrian showed any romantic interest in), who has a deadly secret from her past and is much more psychotic than Adrian could ever hope to be. Her secret is a doozy and makes for a fitting and ironic demise for poor Adrian.  While THE PHOTOGRAPHER could never be accused of being a good film (it's just too disjointed to gel as a whole), it is still a fun film to watch, if only for the strange predilections of nearly every main character. Director/producer/screenwriter William Byron Hillman (who remade this film in 1982 as DOUBLE EXPOSURE, with Michael Callan returning as Adrian Wilde) certainly gives his characters some strange habits, whether it's Adrian's hatred of women (he's not gay, but he performs some uniquely outrageous monologues, where he looks into a mirror and takes on the personae of both his mother and his younger, boyish, self that must be heard and seen to be fully appreciated); Mrs. Wilde's nightly excursions to get soused and laid; Clinton's obsessions with dogs and stolen merchandise; Luther's promise to himself to stick to a healthy diet while partner Sid crams junk food into his mouth in nearly every scene he is in; and, finally, coroner Joe trying to create the perfect tomato soup or eating opulent meals in the morgue. Callan overacts shamelessly as Adrian (at one point he growls like a dog while chasing one victim [there's a lot of images and talk of dogs strewn throughout the film]), so much so, he quickly becomes more a caricature than character, but he's a hoot-and-a-half to watch. Director Hillman (who also made the David Heavener actioner RAGIN' CAJUN - 1991) may have been reaching for something a little more serious than the final product (although there are many examples of intentional humor to be found here), but he has fashioned a weird little flick that deserves to be a camp classic, John Hayes, the director of such genre fare as DREAM NO EVIL (1970), GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) and MAMA'S DIRTY GIRLS (1974), was one of the Executive Producers. THE JEFFERSONS' (1975 - 1985) Isabel Sanford puts in a cameo as Mrs. Slade, a witness who breaks the case wide open. Also starring Liv Lindeland, Jennifer Leak and Ronda Copeland. Originally released on VHS by Charter Entertainment and still awaiting a DVD release (Sage Stallone and Grindhouse Releasing own the DVD rights, but have been dragging their feet on getting this released). Rated PG, but remember, this is the 70's version of a PG, not the sissy PG of today.

POINT OF TERROR (1971) - More soap opera than anything else, this film still has enough exploitative elements to qualify it as a thriller. Over the opening credits, we watch lounge singer Tony Trelos (the enigmatic Peter Carpenter; VIXEN - 1968; BLOOD MANIA - 1970), dressed in a horrendous red frilly jumpsuit, crooning his tune "This Is..." at a cocktail bar called the Lobster House ("No Cover. No Minimum."). He then, for some unknown reason, begins to scream and we find out it was all a nightmare. He wakes up at the beach, where he is relaxing and catching some rays. Along comes Andrea Hillard (Dyanne Thorne; ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS - 1974), the sexy wife of wheelchair-bound record executive Martin Hilliard (Joe Marston; THE DISEMBODIED - 1957), and they strike up a conversation. She agrees to come to the Lobster House to hear him sing (and to start a romantic relationship). Andrea brings along boozy friend Fran (Leslie Simms; AUNTIE LEE'S MEAT PIES - 1991) to the Lobster House, where they watch Tony belt out "Drifter Of The Heart". Andrea invites Tony back to her house, where she agrees to cut a record of an original song Tony has wrote and then they make out a little. Martin hears and sees the whole thing and when Andrea brings Tony to the recording studio to sing "Lifebeats", everyone likes what they hear, even Martin, who gets a phone call from one of his cronies at the studio. Martin tells his crony to release the record (hey, he likes to make money just like the rest of us!), but it will be the last recording of Tony's career, because he will make sure that his contract will ensure that he will never cut another record again. When Martin spots Andrea and Tony making love in the huge built-in pool (Thorne nudity alert!), he waits for Tony to leave and confronts Andrea. They get into a terrible fight (It seems Andrea was drunk one night when driving her and Martin home, which resulted in an accident that put Martin in the wheelchair. She may also have been involved in the stabbing death of Martin's first wife, where, in flashbacks, we see someone in a mask stabbing her over-and-over with a huge knife, the only really bloody scene in the entire film.) and Andrea uses Martin and his wheelchair like some mock bullfight, where Martin falls in the pool and drowns. The police deem it an accident, but little does Andrea know is that Tony never really left. He watched the whole murder just out of sight. At Martin's funeral, Tony meets Martin's daughter Helayne (Lory Hanson), a beautiful young woman who Andrea made Martin send away to boarding school in Europe when they were married. It's apparent that it is love at first sight for the both of them, but Andrea threatens to destroy Tony's career (even after telling her that he saw her murder Martin) if he gets any closer to Helayne. While Andrea is away for a month on business, Tony ignores Andrea's threats and romances Helayne (taking her on a romantic horseback ride), even after Fran tells her that Tony and Andrea were having an affair. Helayne doesn't care because she actually cares about Tony and they quickly get married in Tijuana, Mexico. When Andrea comes home and finds out that Tony has married Helayne, she laughs in his face, telling him that Helayne will get none of Martin's vast fortune, because there is a stipulation in his will that states if Helayne gets married before she turns twenty-five, she is cut out of the will. When Tony tells Andrea that he doesn't care (turns out he loves Helayne as much as she loves him), Andrea gets pissed-off and tells Tony his recording days are over. Tony tells her that he'll find some other way to make a living, which further infuriates Andrea and she begins kicking him in the nuts and biting his leg. When she jumps on Tony's back, he twirls her around and she falls over the fence by the swimming pool and dies on the rocky shore over a hundred feet below. The detective involved in the case determines it is an accident (while he helps himself to all the deserts and fruits at the poolside!) and Tony and Helayne are free to continue their happy marriage. Well, almost. Just before they got married, Tony's sometimes-girlfriend Sally (Paula Mitchell; THE MAD BOMBER - 1972) informs him that she is pregnant. Tony told her to get an abortion and when he got back from Tijuana, he would check in on her. After Andrea's death, Tony gets a call from Sally and she wants him to meets her at her house. Once there, Sally unloads a few bullets into Tony's chest and Tony falls down to the ground. He screams his last dying breath and suddenly wakes up on the same beach as we saw in the beginning of the film. Yes, this was all a nightmare, but when Andrea stops by to introduce herself, Tony realizes that he is about to relive the nightmare all over again. Ah, the circle of life!  Director Alex Nicol (THE SCREAMING SKULL - 1958), who also acted on TV [most notably on the original THE TWILIGHT ZONE episode titled "Young Man's Fancy" - 1962, and the original THE OUTER LIMITS episode titled "Moonstone" - 1964] and in such films as BLOODY MAMA (1970), THE NIGHT GOD SCREAMED - 1971 and THE CLONES (1973), does what he can with the weak script by Ernest A. Charles (his only film writing credit; he also appears here as the food-stealing detective) and Tony Crechales (HOUSE OF TERROR - 1972; IMPULSE - 1974; THE GREAT SKYCOPTER RESCUE - 1980), but the film doesn't really add up to much. This was the last film in the short-lived career of Peter Carpenter (who co-produced and co-wrote the story of this fim with Chris Marconi and starred/co-wrote in the previously-mentioned BLOOD MANIA, also co-produced by Marconi and co-written by Crechales [which was paired with this film for many years as a theatrical double bill by Crown International Pictures]), who the IMDb lists as passing away in December of 1971 and co-star Leslie Simms (in a DVD interview extra; she says that Marconi was gay and that the definitely straight Carpenter's real first name was "Page", which his agent made him change to "Peter") claims he died between 1978 to 1981 of complications due to pneumonia. Whatever the truth, it's a shame, because Carpenter could have been a fairly decent leading man in B-films (he actually sings all the songs in this film, too) and he is clearly the best thing about this film (well, besides Thorne's naked breasts, that is). He even does some full backside nudity, so you can see his ass, a treat for all the ladies and gay men in the audience. Carpenter only made four films, including (besides the three already mentioned) LOVE ME LIKE I DO (1970), a wife-swapping drama also starring Dyanne Thorne. POINT OF TERROR definitely has that early-70's vibe, with the long sideburns, funky hairdos and colorful clothes, but besides that, Thorne's nudity and Carpenter's acting, there's not much to recommend here. The story is so old hat that it has been done a thousand times before and the leisurely pace kills any potential this film had. Not released until 1973. Also starring Al Dunlap, Dana Diamond, Tony Kent and Roberta Robson. The print used for the DVD, from Scorpion Releasing, looks sharp, colorful, mostly blemish-free and is shown in it's original aspect ratio. Rated R.

PRIVATE OBSESSION (1994) - Lee Frost returns! After nearly 20 years away from directing, Lee Frost comes back to the fold with his take on Stephen King’s MISERY (1990). A somewhat crazed fan named Richard (Michael Christian, who is also the Associate Producer) kidnaps world-reknown model Emanuelle (Shannon Whirry) and locks her in a specialy built area of his house complete with breakproof glass, electronic locks and hidden cameras. Richard begins a slow, torturous campaign to turn Emanuelle into his idea of the perfect woman. Richard knows that she is an advocate of women’s rights and keeps her locked in the room, playing one of her televised speeches over and over again on a TV set next to her bed. When she unplugs the TV, Richard turns off the water, takes away her clothes and refuses to give her anything to eat until she plugs the TV back in. After a couple of days without water or food (she stoops so low as to drink some water from the toilet tank!), she gives in and plugs the TV set back in. Richard turns the water back on, buys her some expensive clothes and cooks her a gourmet dinner. She gets drunk, does a striptease in front of the camera and has hot sex with Richard. After the act is done, Emanuelle unsuccessfully tries to escape, which really ticks Richard off. He takes all her clothes, towels and blankets and turns off the water again until she repents and tells him that it is a man’s world and she will do whatever he wants. Richard accepts her apology and has sex with her again. The tables are turned when Richard is duped by Emanuelle and gets trapped in his own escape-proof rooms. It is now Emanuelle’s turn to play her televised speech over and over again to an unappreciative Richard. And she likes it! Completely devoid of violence, this low-budget erotic thriller relies heavily on the ample naked charms of Shannon Whirry (ANIMAL INSTINCTS - 1992) and the unrated, so-close-to porn, sex scenes. Michael Christian (POOR PRETTY EDDIE - 1973; a.k.a. HEARTBREAK MOTEL; a.k.a. BLACK VENGEANCE) plays Richard as someone who doesn’t need to resort to physical violence to get his way (even Emanuelle’s kidnapping is painless). Richard would rather use mental torture than harm Emanuelle physically. Bo Svenson and Rip Taylor (sans hairpiece) have cameos as a private dick and travel agent respectively. Lee Frost not only wrote and directed, he also edited (he shows some editing prowess in a scene involving a doggie door), wrote the lyrics to some of the songs and puts in a brief appearance as a private dick named Jerry. This film is basically a two character play, and while it is slow going in some spots, it does hold the attention due to Whirry’s uninhibited performance. This is not the best film of Frost’s career, but new Frost is better than no Frost at all. Welcome back, Lee! A Triboro Entertainment Group Home Video VHS & DVD Release. Unrated.

PUNK VACATION (1987) - If you haven't read the profile of RaeDon Home Video in the "Video Companies Of The 80's" section of this site, I would recommend that you do so before reading this review. It may give you some insight as to why RaeDon released some of the worst films on VHS; films so bad that even Troma would turn their nose up at them. PUNK VACATION fits perfectly into RaeDon's canon of pure crap, but it is crap that's strangely fascinating. A gang of motorcycle-riding punks (both male and female) stop in some podunk California town and kill the father and rape the sister of Lisa (Sandra Bogan), who all run a small café/gas station. Lisa's boyfriend, Deputy Steve Reed (Stephen Fiachi), responds to an alarm at the café and hits one of the punks with his car, sending him to the hospital, along with Lisa's sister, who is now catatonic. Ramrod (Roxanne Rogers), the leader of the punks, refuses to leave this sleepy little burg until they rescue their comrade in the hospital, but Lisa is so enraged she tries to stab the hospitalized punk with a pair of scissors, but fails. Steve tells Lisa to leave the punks to him and the police, but she tells him that she'll handle this on her own terms. Lisa grabs a pistol and heads to the punks' temporary hideout, where she tries to capture them but ends up as their prisoner instead. Ramrod, who incredulously changes her appearance to look exactly like Lisa (!), goes into town and enters the hospital, where she unsuccessfully tries to free her handcuffed comrade before barely escaping herself. When Steve realizes that the punks have Lisa, he has Deputy Don (Don Martin) help him try to rescue her. They sneak-up on the barn where the punks are hiding (Steve shoots the punk's lookout with a rifle he has outfitted with a cucumber silencer!) and rescue Lisa, but not before shooting Ramrod in the hand and another punk in the leg. Steve, Don and Lisa (who is only wearing her bra and panties until Don, not Steve, offers her his jacket!) escape into the rocky terrain and, eventually, to town with the punks not far behind (Steve kills another punk on a motorcycle). After burning all their dead in a huge bonfire, Ramrod (shouting "Kill the Pigs!") leads the rest of the punks on a raid of the town. They cut off the town from outside interference and begin their attack, but the police have formed a posse full of gun nuts, who begin hunting down the punks on the outskirts of town. After a pretty even match between the punks and the police, Lisa ends the ordeal by wounding Ramrod and allowing her and the rest of the punks to leave town. I guess she forgot about her dead father and comatose little sister. She not only turns the other cheek, she totally fails in her role as a vigilante. What a fucking disappointment she turned out to be, not to mention failing to satisfy our taste for bloody revenge.  Although competently filmed, one-and-only-time director Stanley Lewis manages to botch nearly every other aspect of the film; hiring hammy amateur actors (Louis Waldron, who portrays Sheriff Virgil, should win some type of bad acting award for over-emoting as a stereotypical Southern hick sheriff); forgetting that action films should at least have a handful of action scenes (there's really none until the anemic finale); and padding the film with unnecessary filler. The screenplay, by Lance Smith and Harvey Richelson, does try to be humorous at times (Ramrod elects one of the punks to be the military leader because he had some ROTC training in high school!) and portrays some of the punks (though not all) as normal teenagers looking to have one final childish fling before becoming and acting like adults, but the majority of the film is just extremely stupid people (both the punks and the townspeople, especially Steve and the cops) doing the most asinine things at the most inopportune times. If you don't mind the stupidity of it all and the almost total lack of bloody violence, PUNK VACATION may scratch that small itch you have for little-seen regional rarities (filmed in and around Santa Monica, California). All others stay away. Also starring Patrick Reynolds, Billy Palmieri, Robert Garrison, Kevin Lewis, Delta Giordano, Jesse Galante, Gary Retmeier, Allegra Swift, Karen Renee and Raymond Fusci. A RaeDon Home Video VHS Release. Believe it or not, this was released on Blu-Ray & DVD from wonderful new label Vinegar Syndrome in its original aspect ratio. Who would have thought we would see the day?. Unrated.

RABID DOGS (1974) - After robbing a pharmaceutical company of their weekly payroll (and leaving several dead), Doc (Maurice Poli), Thirtytwo (Luigi Montefiori) and Blade (Aldo Caponi) take innocent bystander Maria (Lea Lander) hostage and hijack a car with a father (Riccardo Cucciolla) and his sick, unconscious son on board. I do not want to spoil the outcome but you will experience what is probably the sweatiest, most-claustrophobic terror-filled ride of your life. This is filmmaking at it’s best, since 90% of its’ running time takes place inside the close confines of a car and yet never gets stale or repetitive. Not very graphic by today’s standards, this film still raises the hair on the back of your neck due to realistic performances, natural scenery, implied rape and degradation (Maria is forced to urinate standing up while Blade and Thirtytwo laugh hysterically). Add to that a totally surprise ending and what you have here is a totally unique and worthwhile discovery. Directed by the late maestro Mario Bava (PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES - 1965; BAY OF BLOOD - 1971) in 1974, it was never completed due to a key investor being killed in a traffic accident. The film sat in legal limbo for over 20 years and was completed by star Lea Landers and others using Bava’s editing notes (the same way Orson Welles’ TOUCH OF EVIL [1958] was reconstructed recently). A new opening was filmed (it makes sense after viewing the ending) and it was released on DVD only in 1997. It’s a shame it wasn’t released in 1974, because it would have given Mario Bava more respect than he had received in his later years (he was 60 when this was made). In Italian language with English subtitles supplied by Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog fame. If you have a DVD player (everyone should!), this is an important film to add to your library. Besides, it’s the only way you’ll discover why Montefiore’s (a.k.a. George Eastman) character is called Thirtytwo! RABID DOGS (Cani Arrabbiati), also known as KIDNAPPED, is available from Lucertola Media (and is now long OOP) and by Starz Home Entertainment. Not Rated.

SCREAM FOR VENGEANCE (1979) - In this atypical low-budget thriller, a foursome of masked burglars break into the house of a wealthy jewelry store owner and hold his wife and daughter hostage while three of the burglars drive the owner to his store, where they plan on grabbing a small fortune in diamonds and jewels. While the three burglars are driving to the store with Dad, the lone cackling burglar, Luke (Bob Elliott), begins undressing and feeling-up the tied-up teenage daughter while holding a butcher knife to her throat. Mom kicks Luke in the nuts and then kicks the ski mask off his face, revealing his identity. Luke loses it and viciously slashes Mom's throat and repeatedly stabs her in the chest and stomach, then turning his attention to the daughter, whom he rapes and then kills with his silencer-equipped pistol. At the jewelry store, Dad sets off the alarm and the burglars shoot him several times with their silencer-equipped pistols. As they run out of the store with their loot, the burglars are spotted by Jenny Bradley (Sally Lockett) and Mark Davis (Nicholas Jacquez), who were just leaving the Laundromat. They are taken hostage and driven to the burglars' hideout cabin in the woods. As luck would have it, Jenny is the granddaughter of a wealthy Senator, so the burglars have hit a double payday. Not only did they get the jewels, they now plan to ransom Jenny to her grandfather for a bundle of money. Alas, they never get the chance to do so. Jenny and Mark, who have never met each other before that night, pretend to be engaged to throw their captors off balance. They overpower and kill one of the burglars when the other three head to town for supplies and grab a shotgun, a .45 and a .38. They then steal a pickup truck and head towards civilization, but are immediately spotted by the other three burglars and the chase is on. Mark kills another burglar with a shotgun blast through the windshield, but during the chase, their pickup is disabled, forcing Mark and Jenny to flee into the woods. Luke and the last remaining burglar flank the couple on both ends, wounding Jenny in the leg with a rifle shot. They are recaptured for a short time, but turn the tables on their captors. Jenny shoots the other burglar several times in the back and the rape-happy Luke gets a pitchfork in the gut after he seriously wounds Mark and tries to sexually assault Jenny. Even though they have just met, Mark and Jenny have come to depend on each other and eventually fall in love.  Though ultra-low-budget, this regional thriller (lensed in Spring Hill, Missouri) is remarkable for a few reasons. It's well-acted by a cast of unknowns, has an effective music score and contains bursts of eye-opening graphic violence and nudity. Director/screenwriter Bob Bliss (who, as far as I can tell, has never directed another film) manages to tell a compelling story with a meager budget and a cast of non-pros (who also don't seem to have appeared in anything else), which only adds to the film's strange atmosphere. It starts out as a crime drama, turns into a chase actioner and ends as a revenge thriller. While the film is technically sloppy in spots (the editing is choppy and there are some bad camera setups), the overall tone of the proceedings is dark and brooding. You are never sure what is going to happen next, as the film switches gears so often, the viewer is left off-kilter and uncertain what the next scene will bring (I was certain that Mark was a jerk and a gigolo, especially when he comes-on to Jenny in the Laundromat, but he steps up when the situation demands it). Don't get me wrong; this film has no higher aspirations than a cheap thriller, but it's down and dirty, with plenty of violence (bloody bullet squibs, a brutal stabbing, the pitchfork impalement) and two very uncomfortable rape scenes (especially Luke's rape of the daughter in the beginning, as he runs the knife across her body while saying things like, "Sixteen and never been...kissed!"). At it's core, SCREAM FOR VENGEANCE tells a simple story rather effectively. If you can get past some of the technical shortcomings and several of the actors' 70's porn-style bushy moustaches, I think you will find yourself liking this. Also starring Walter Atamanuik, R.E. Roudebush and Steve Scearchy as the other burglars. Featuring Leonard Belove, Jane McMahon and Susie Gardner as the unfortunate family that sets the whole film in motion. The version I viewed was ripped from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Released on VHS in the U.S. by Magnum Entertainment under the title VENGEANCE, but this uncut tape is long OOP and very hard to find. Most grey market seller offer the Dutch version on DVD-R because it is also uncut. The British VHS on the Intervision label is missing nearly two minutes of footage. Not Rated.

SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE (1973) - The unexpected arrival of young Corringa (Jane Birkin) at the Scottish MacGrieff Castle couldn't have come at at better, or worse, time, depending on who you talk to. The financially-strapped MacGrieffs, Lady Mary (Francoise Christophe)and her mentally ill son Lord James (Hiram Keller), have just hit-up Corringa's mother, Lady Alicia (Dina Ghia), for a loan, but she refuses, telling Lady Mary that Corringa will soon inherit the family fortune on her rapidlly approaching 18th birthday. The sexually liberated Corringa (who was just expelled from school) accidentally throws her Bible in the roaring fireplace and you know what that means: Something bad is about to happen. At dinner, the mad Lord James insults everyone at the table, forcing Lady Alicia and Corringa to get up and walk out of the room. Family physician Dr. Franz (Anton Diffring), who loves Lady Mary, explains to everyone left at the dinner table, including Father Robinson (Venantino Venantini) and Suzanne (Doris Kunstmann), that when Lord James was a child, he killed his sister and spent some time in an insane asylum. Dr. Franz begs Lady Mary to sell the castle, but she stubbornly refuses. Could she be hiding something? That night, Lady Alicia is savagely attacked in her bedroom by an unseen gloved assailant and killed, while Corringa finds a hidden passage in her bedroom and is assaulted by the same assailant when she follows the passageway to the castle's basement. The only witness to both crimes was an orange-haired tabby cat and, at Lady Alicia's funeral the next day, Lady Mary orders that the cat be locked-in Lady Alicia's crypt. Lady Mary now hopes that Corringa falls in love with her son, which will in turn infuse the family fortunes and save the castle from foreclosure. This is where things get weird. Corringa discovers that Lord James keeps a live circus gorilla in his artist studio, Dr. Franz is sleeping with Suzanne (who is bisexual) in some plan to gain control of the castle (Corringa's sudden appearance has thrown a monkey [ahem!] wrench into their plans) and the butler, Angus (Alan Collins), is murdered by the gloved killer when he sets the cat free from the crypt. As more people are killed, the question becomes: Who is the killer and what is his/her motive? Is it possible that the killer is a vampire? Or is it the gorilla? (Wouldn't it be sweet if it were a vampire gorilla?) Alas, it's none of the above, as we find out Lord James may not be mad after all and one member in the castle isn't who they say they are.  This French/Italian/German co-production, directed by Antonio Margheriti (CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE - 1980; TIGER JOE - 1982; ARK OF THE SUN GOD - 1983), using his frequent pseudonym "Anthony M. Dawson", is a decent, if uneventful and soap opera-ish, murder mystery. It's like a cross between the gothic horror films of the 60's (which includes Margheriti's CASTLE OF BLOOD - 1964) and the giallo films that became so popular in the 70's. As with most giallo films of the 70's, most of the action in SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE takes place at a secluded location. Here it is a castle and, like all giallos (gialli?), there is no shortage of suspects. The addition of a gorilla as one of the suspects is indeed offbeat, but it is only used sparingly (a good thing, too, because it's nothing but a man in a cheap gorilla suit) and you know it's only use is as a red herring. It's nice to see Anton Diffring (CIRCUS OF HORRORS - 1960) playing such a callous character, but he doesn't dub his own voice, so it's a little distracting. The murders on view are restrained for a giallo. While blood splashes on the walls and there are some macabre sights on view (including rats eating a corpse in the beginning of the film, which is an important clue in solving the mystery), we never actually see the murders committed, as they are either filmed in the shadows or the camera moves away before the killer strikes. As with YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY and CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT (both 1972), a cat witnesses every murder and plays a key role in unmasking the killer. Cats, you gotta love 'em! This is an OK mystery that will entertain you as long as you don't expect buckets of gore. On-screen title: SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CATS EYES. Also starring George Korrade, Serge Gainsbourg and Bianca Doria. Originally available on VHS from Prism Entertainment. Available on DVD from Blue Underground. Not Rated.

SOUNDS OF SILENCE (1989) - Swedish director Peter Borg follows-up his weird horror film SCORCHED HEAT (1987) with this, a supernatural murder mystery involving ghost children, personal demons and death (and, thankfully, no Simon & Garfunkel on the soundtrack). Struggling American photographer Peter Mitchell (Peter Nelson) learns from lawyer Larry Haughton (Troy Donahue; BLOOD NASTY - 1989; in a quick booze money cameo) that he's inherited a house in Sweden when his spinster relative, Annie Holst (Elsa Gastrin), died in her sleep. Never knowing that he had such a relative, Peter still hops on a plane with novelist fiancée Sarah (Kristen Jensen) and her deaf son Dennis (Dennis Castillo) and heads to Sweden. They are met at the Swedish airport by lawyer Thomas Hansen (Rico Ronnback), who hands Peter the keys to the house and written directions on how to get there, but otherwise mysteriously avoids answering any of Peter's other questions. Of course, Peter manages to get lost on the drive, but whenever he asks the locals where the "Annie Holst House" is, he is met with cold, quiet stares. Peter eventually finds the house, which turns out to be a forty-room mansion, but it is Dennis who immediately senses something is wrong here. Annie's housekeeper, Margaret Johnson (Vanja Rodefeldt), tells them the story of Annie's illegitimate son Bill (Jonas Iversson), who was put in a nearby orphanage (Annie couldn't bear the shame of having other people know she had a child out of wedlock), but died with all the other orphans in some catastrophic incident when he was a young boy. Annie loved her son, even after he died, so she and Margaret would make weekly walks to the deserted orphanage to talk and hug Bill's ghost. Bill begins appearing to Dennis, leading him to the orphanage and slowly giving Dennis clues as to really what happened that fateful night. Dennis also has nightmares about a creepy kid and a ghastly-looking man carrying a cane, but they may not be nightmares at all (Dennis wakes up the following morning with muddy feet, like he's been walking in his sleep). The deaf Dennis convinces Peter that Bill is real, but Peter cannot see him (Maybe the photos he has taken will prove Dennis correct?). As Dennis and Peter get closer to the truth, it becomes apparent that some people involved in the catastrophe are still very much alive and would rather not have the truth uncovered. A visit from lawyer Thomas and Sarah nearly getting raped by plumber Frank (Johnny Harborg) leads Peter, Dennis, Sarah and Thomas to the home of elderly Charles (Gunnar Ohlund), who Dennis instantly recognizes as the older version of the man with the cane that haunts his dreams. It turns out that Charles was in charge of the orphanage during the deaths of the children and Dennis believes that he is a murderer. After Thomas is killed by Frank, Dennis and the ghost orphans have a final showdown with Charles and Frank in the unmarked graveyard next to the orphanage. The final score: Ghost Children: 2. Bad Guys: 1.  As far as supernatural thrillers go, SOUNDS OF SILENCE delivers it's fair share of shivers (especially when the ghostly children appear), but the mystery angle is way too easy to figure out since the cast of living suspects is very small. Director Peter Borg, who co-wrote the script with Marc Fiorini, fills the screen with creepy, fog-shrouded visuals and the use of a deaf kid as a conduit for ghostly revenge is a novel idea, but the film is so lackluster in nearly all other departments, including acting (at least the main actors here don't speak Swenglish, that odd combination of Swedish/English that permeated Borg's SCORCHED HEAT) and the storyline (Sarah is a poor excuse for a mother, as she doesn't believe a word her son tells her in sign language. Truth be told, Dennis would be lucky to have Peter as his step-father, even though he doesn't understand sign language at all.), that it moves at a snail's pace (At 105 minutes, the film runs at least 20 minutes too long). The lack of any substantial blood or violence (just a hand being cut with a knife and the after-effects of Thomas getting hit on the head with a sledgehammer) will also turn-off those looking for more than a simple ghost story. There are some scares to be had here, but only for those that can look past the shortcomings. At least the deaf Dennis doesn't miraculously get his hearing back in the finale. That's something, anyway. Proceed at your own risk. Also starring Bruno Desire, Hasse Andersson and Peter Borg as Young Charles. Available on VHS from Magnum Entertainment. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.

SPASMO (1974) - Weird giallo that begins with a necking couple discovering what they think is a woman hanging amongst the ruins of an old Spanish fort next to the ocean. They are relieved, but weirded out, when they find out that it is only a life-like latex doll. We are then introduced to Christian Bauman (Robert Hoffman) and his girlfriend. They are near the same Spanish fort when they discover a female body lying on the beach. After being led to believe it's another latex doll (thanks to the eerie opening credits), we soon discover that it is actually Barbara (Suzy Kendall) who, for some reason, is passed out. Before she can explain to Christian why she is on the beach, she disappears, but leaves behind a thermos with the word "Tucania" printed on it. Christian is instantly smitten with Barbara and traces the thermos to a yacht named Tucania, owned by the mysterious Alex (Mario Erpichini). At a party on the yacht, Christian hooks-up with Barbara (after he callously ditches his girlfriend), but a hired killer named Tatum (Adolfo Lastretti) is watching the boat. Barbara brings Christian to a motel for some mattress dancing, but she makes him shave his beard first (She says, "I'm very suspicious of men with beards."). While he is in the bathroom shaving, Tatum appears and there's a struggle for his gun. Christian shoots Tatum in the stomach and he and Barbara are about to split when Alex arrives. All three of them go back to the yacht when Christian realizes that he left his necklace in the motel bathroom (he removed it when he was shaving). He goes back to retrieve the necklace only to find Tatum's body missing. Christian and Barbara hide out in an empty seaside mansion, only to discover that they are not alone. After finding a bloody pair of pruning shears, they discover that the mansion is occupied by strange couple Malcolm (Guido Alberti) and Clorinda (Monica Monet). Soon, Christian begins to doubt his own sanity, as the yacht and Alex disappear, Tatum (who looks no worse for wear) shows up at the mansion looking to finish his job and a multitude of life-size latex dolls are found scattered throughout the town, all missing limbs or with knives sticking in them. Is Christian going mad or is something strange and sinister going on? Bet on the latter, as Barbara seems to be influencing Christian's actions and the appearances of a man called Luca (Franco Silva) and Christian's brother Fritz (Ivan Rassimov) play an important part in unlocking the mystery. And what does Clorinda have to do with Christian's mysterious past?  This maddening mystery is all over the map, with scattershot acting (Robert Hoffman and Suzy Kendall make for stiff leading actors) and a script that bites off more than it can chew (there a way too many subplots to keep track of), but director/co-scipter Umberto Lenzi (ALMOST HUMAN - 1974; ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH - 1976) manages to throw in some perversity and a lot of weird visuals to keep you watching till the end. The sight of numerous female dolls strewn about town, tied to trees with legs or arms missing, is an eerie sight and the importance of their discovery isn't made clear until the film is nearly over. And it's a doozy. While most of the film turns out to be nothing but your standard "Drive your brother crazy so you can inherit your father's business" scenario, there are some good points to this film, including an evocative Ennio Morricone score, some decent deaths (including a nasty death-by-car scene) and some atmospheric camerawork, but, surprisingly, very little blood. A sequence I found utterly ridiculous was the home movie that Ivan Rassimov (THE HUMANOID - 1979) watches towards the end of the film. It's so tightly edited and well-shot, it's hard to believe that it was shot by anyone who didn't have a masters in editing and cinematography. The film also contains almost no nudity, unless you count the exposed breasts on the latex dolls. The lack of blood and nudity was done purposely by Lenzi (who reveals in an interview on the DVD that Lucio Fulci was originally slated to direct, but dropped out to make another film), who wanted this film to be more psychological and show the "darkness of the human soul." SPASMO is nothing exceptional, but it is diverting enough to keep you entertained for 93 minutes. Too bad that the leads are so damn stiff and boring, though. Also starring Maria Pia Conte, Luigi Antonio Guerra and Rosita Tirosh. This did get a U.S. theatrical release in the mid-70's (with a lurid and misleading ad campaign), with an extra ten minutes of gory footage (shot by George A. Romero, of all people!) to beef-up the death scenes. Umberto Lenzi calls this extra footage "reprehensible" in the interview on the DVD. Be aware that the widescreen DVD released by Media Blasters/Shriek Show is the original Italian cut of the film and is missing those inserts. Not Rated.

STORM WARNING (2007) - Australian lawyer Rob (Robert Taylor; THE HARD WORD - 2002) and his French wife Pia (Nadia Fares; THE CRIMSON RIVERS - 2000) take a small motor/sailboat out on the ocean for a little fishing/pleasure cruising when an approaching storm forces them to find safety in a twisty tributary of a swampy enclave. This place is the antithesis of safe. After passing many disabled and derelict boats on their journey, the bickering duo are forced to leave their craft when they run out of navagatible water and have to make their way on foot. They get hopelessly lost and stumble upon a farmhouse, which, at first, seems deserted, but, as I am sure you can guess, is anything but. It is actually the home of a family of psychotic pot farmers, which includes father Poppy (John Brumpton) and brothers Jimmy (David Lyons) and Brett (Matthew Wilkinson). Rob is a bit of a wuss ever since he was violently mugged a few months earlier, so Pia wears the pants in the family. She's going to need those balls, as the inbred family takes pleasure in making life unpleasant for the duo, first stealing their clothes and making Pia show her naked ass to them and then threatening to castrate Rob unless Pia kills and cooks a wallaby (a small species of kangaroo) for dinner. When Rob and Pia try to escape and are recaptured, Brett breaks Rob's leg and the brothers try to rape Pia, even when she reveals that she is two months pregnant, but they are cut short by Poppy, who has bigger plans for her. It seems Daddy wants her all to himself (He says to Brett: "You can have him [Rob] if you want, but the Sheila is mine!"), but Pia is not about to go down without a fight. She turns into a French female Rambo and before this stormy, rain-filled night is through, there will be three brutal deaths: one by fishing gear and a head-bashing; one by a bottle with a very jagged opening (you gotta see it to believe it), followed by the even sharper teeth of a canine; and one by the spinning blades of an airboat. The French, they are a funny race (and, according to this film, not ones to be fucked-around with).  Although it takes a while to get in gear, STORM WARNING turns out to be a bloody, if preposterous (Why in the hell would you lock your prey in a barn full of potential weapons?), horror flick. Director Jamie Blanks (URBAN LEGEND - 1998; VALENTINE - 2001), who also composed the film's effective music score (a mixture of electronica and traditional Australian instruments), and veteran Australian film screenwriter Everett DeRoche (LONG WEEKEND - 1977; PATRICK - 1978; ROAD GAMES - 1981; RAZORBACK - 1984) deliver a small bodycount, but pile-on the degradation and abuse and, when the deaths do come, they are bloody and memorable. It may be a little too hard to swallow when, all of a sudden, Pia becomes a master of boobytraps, but the results are hard to ignore. There's a nasty death by fish hooks that's bound to make a lot of viewers turn their heads in disgust, but it's a walk in the park compared to Pia's homemade IUD device, which I guarantee will not soon be forgotten once you see it put into action (Let's just say you should always check every orifice for sharp objects before sticking your dick into it and, if you forget to, don't let the hungry family dog see the results!). Although this film is nothing but a riff on a story made popular by THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), director Blanks and scripter DeRoche turn the premise on it's head, making it an absurdist black comedy (With lines of dialogue like, "I smell the cunt of a bitch who's going to die!", how could it not be?) which presents the lone woman character as a strong individual (Rob is absolutely worthless here and the other male characters have no redeeming qualities whatsoever) and leaves no room for a sequel (unless the inbred family's dog wants to get revenge, but I doubt it because he's pretty well-fed by the end of the film). An enjoyable piece of bloody fluff which has no higher aspirations than to entertain. A Dimension Extreme Films DVD Release. Unrated and bloody well proud of it.

TERROR ON ALCATRAZ (1986) - Aldo Ray portrays real-life Alcatraz escapee Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood portrays the same character in ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ - 1979, which gets name-checked here) in this fictional horror thriller. Years have passed since his escape (and the closing of Alcatraz as a prison) and Frank is a bitter and violent man (he puts a cigarette out on girlfriend Mona's breast for removing a newspaper from his suitcase!) who needs to return to Alcatraz to retrieve a key that opens a safety deposit box full of stolen loot. After killing a former Alcatraz guard who use to torture him (he slits his throat with a straight razor and then impales him on a piece of wood), Frank hops on a boat as part of a sightseeing tour of Alcatraz. One member of the tour group, Greg (Scott Ryder), an avowed Alcatraz expert, recognizes Frank, but no one else believes him. Franks stays on Alcatraz while the other tourists embark back to port. A group of young tourists decide to sneak back on to Alcatraz to check out Greg's claim, which pisses off Frank, since he's been planning this caper for years. He then proceeds to kill the tourists and Park Rangers, so he leaves no witnesses. Since Greg knows the most about the island, he becomes the unofficial leader of the group, but he proves more stupid than knowledgable. Frank plants a meat cleaver in the face of Kenneth (Gary Gorman) as he's tooting on some cocaine. He then kills a female Park Ranger by drowning her in a vat of water. Greg proves to be a complete idiot as he tries to talk Frank into letting him live. Frank repays him by splitting his head in two with the meat cleaver. After killing another Ranger by disembowelment (off-screen) and taking his uniform and hanging (off-screen) tourist Dean (Peter Kienaas), last remaining Terry (Lisa Ramirez) and Clarissa (Alisa Wilson) run for their lives as Frank snaps the neck of Matthew (Peter Rodriguez), a militant Indian. Frank kills everyone but Terry (the police blame Indian Matthew for all the murders and don't believe Terry's story about Frank), finds the key and sets out to retrieve his loot. In a finale that seems to never end, Frank meets a surprising demise in the bank vault, when someone related to his past gives him his comeuppance.  This film works better as a brochure for Alcatraz tourism than it does as a thriller. It takes over 45 minutes to set up the plot (and character quirks) before the first tourist murder takes place. Until then, the film plays like an actual tourist documentary, as the on-location photography and tour guide narration by Ranger Emily (Veronica Porche Ali)  and Greg takes up much of the screen time. When the murders finally kick in, it's really no big deal, as the deaths aren't that original and only a couple are bloody. Aldo Ray skulks around the prison in an overcoat and fedora, looking like some third-rate Mickey Spillane (and did we really need to see his overweight hairy man-boobs as he walks around shirtless in the beginning and end of the film?) and screaming his lines ("I'm gonna kill YOU!") like a madman without a cause. I'm sure if the real Frank Morris were alive, he would take offense to this. I like to think this film was made to piss him off and make him come out of hiding. It didn't work. It's a pretty mild film, marred by weak acting (even Ray, in a rare end-of-career starring role, is pretty one-note), lame effects (the bloodiest effect is the last shot of the film) and a finale that never ends. It takes 20 minutes after leaving Alcatraz for Ray to get to the bank vault. First he goes out to dinner with girlfriend Mona (Sandy Brooke), complains about his steak and refuses to pay the bill! I wonder what director Philip Marcus (KANDYLAND - 1987) was trying to achieve here? It's part horror, part thriller and part pseudo-documentary, none of it very good. Also starring Robert Axelrod, Phildi Carlo and Nancy Wheeler. A Trans World Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated.

TOGETHER BROTHERS (1974) - When a well-respected black street cop nicknamed Mr. Kool (Ed Bernard) is viciously gunned-down in the street one night and it is witnessed by little boy Tommy (Anthony Wilson), his brother H.J. (Ahmad Nurradin) and his gang of teenage friends try to protect Tommy while they try to find the killer. The trauma of witnessing the murder has struck Tommy dumb, so Tommy's grandmother hires Dr. Johnson (Glynn Turman, in a glorified cameo) to help him. Dr. Johnson tells H.J. to stay close to Tommy, because he could snap out of his condition at any moment. During Mr. Kool's funeral, Tommy breaks free of H.J. and his friends and is almost icepicked by the unseen killer (H.J. says to Mr. Kool's widow, "He was really a together brother." to which she replies, "What my husband died for was bullshit!"). The police (including the black officers) look down on H.J. and his gang (One black officer says to H.J., "He believed in you and look where it got him."), so H.J. does his own investigation into Mr. Kool's death. He and his gang go to the Spanish part of town to talk to gang leader Vega (Richard Yniguez) and ask him to help steal some files pertaining to Mr. Kool's arrests out of the police station. Vega and H.J. stage a fake rumble between their gangs as a diversion to pull the police out of the station so H.J. and Vega can enter the station and steal the files. Once he has his hands on the arrest records, H.J. doles out names of recently released felons that may have had a grudge against Mr. Kool for his friends to track down. Their investigations lead them to whorehouses, run-down tenement buildings, a poolhall (where they get the shit kicked out of them for asking questions) and other places kids have no places being in. They strike out with everyone on the list, until they find out that a psychotic baby kidnapper (and homosexual) named Billy Most (Lincoln Kilpatrick, who also starred in CHOSEN SURVIVORS the same year) was just released from prison and he had a definite grudge against Mr. Kool. When Billy Most discovers H.J.'s investigation, he knifes and kills H.J.'s girlfriend and then goes after Tommy. H.J. nearly shoots Billy Most, but Tommy suddenly breaks his silence and calls out his name, stopping H.J. from becoming what Mr. Kool preached against: Becoming a criminal.  Although this film gets called a blaxploitation film in many reference books and web sites, that about as far from the truth as you can get. Even though the majority of the cast is black, this is a straightforward thriller that deals with friendship, loyalty and the search for the truth amongst a population of pimps, hookers, low-level criminals, drug addicts and even transvestites in this unnamed town of urban blight (actually filmed in Galveston, Texas). Director William A. Graham (HONKY - 1971; CALENDAR GIRL MURDERS - 1984) keeps everything as real as possible, by filming on locations that are bleak and colorless, hiring a group of non-pros that makes up most of the cast (making most of the interplay seem loose and natural) and making the violence suspenseful without being too graphic. Mr. Kool's death is shocking, as the killer pumps a full clip into his body and then strips him down to his underwear, just to add insult to injury. The final third falls apart once we find out who the killer is and his motivation for killing Mr. Kool is revealed (it's a little too melodramatic for my taste and doesn't fit in with the realism of the rest of the film), but TOGETHER BROTHERS is a fine, little-seen thriller from the mid-70's that holds your interest throughout. This is an adult film about how kids can do the right thing, sometimes doing it the wrong way, but doing it with the best intentions. Although this film is rated PG, it's definitely not made for younger kids, as it id full of foul language, adult situations and violence. This was made during the time when a PG rating didn't automatically mean dumbed-down kiddie fare. I miss those days. Also starring Nelson Sims, Kenneth Bell, Owen Pace, Kim Dorsey and Craig Campfield as Maria, the ugliest, hairy-chested transvestite you will ever see. Since this is the 70's, he pays for his transvestism with his life. This film has never been legally available on home video in the United States, probably because 20th Century Fox (who released this to theaters) didn't want to pay for the music of the two Barry White (and the Love Unlimited Orchestra) songs that are on the soundtrack. Maybe that will change in the future, now that Mr. White is no longer with us. The gray market DVD (on the Blax label) has a decent fullscreen print, along with a couple of trailers (one has the Something Weird Video bug burned onto it) and a really racist Merrie Melodies cartoon, titled "Jungle Jitters" (black cannibals cook a white vacuum cleaner salesman, "Hold the onions!") as extras. Rated PG.

THE VISITATION (2005) - This supernatural thriller starts off on a strong note, but soon deteriorates once it reveals it's religious agenda. Pentacostal priest Travis Jordan (Martin Donovan) lost his faith three years earlier when his wife was brutally murdered by an unknown serial killer (he carves numbers into his victims' bodies while crucifying them). Suddenly a mysterious stranger by the name of Brandon Nichols (Edward Furlong) enters the town of Antioch and a series of "miracles" begin to occur: Travis' dead and buried dog comes back to life. New town vetenarian Morgan Elliott (Kelly Lynch) gets into a serious car accident and walks away without a scratch. Brandon holds an old-fashioned town tent revival and begins healing people with serious health issues (a paraplegic can suddenly walk; a woman's cancer is cured; etc.) as long as they profess their love and devotion to him. The townspeople, including once-suspicious Sheriff Brett Henchle (Richard Tyson), who had an inoperable brain tumor until Brandon laid his hands on him, begin to worship Brandon as the Second Coming of Christ, but Travis has severe doubts about Brandon's (and the trio of black trenchcoat-wearing strangers he brought with him) motives. He's right, of course. The people Brandon "healed" begin acting violently (even Travis' dog) and begin attacking all those who oppose or doubt Brandon's powers, as Travis and Morgan, who's son Michael (Noah Segan) is also under Brandon's spell, join forces and dig (literally) for the truth. It also seem Brandon's healings don't last very long and those people cured must go back to Brandon and ask for more healing, which requires more of their soul. Travis must regain his faith in God, as his investigation reveals that when Brandon was a child, his preacher father crucified him on a fence for asking help from a rival preacher (his father was sexually abusing him) and Brandon made a deal with the Devil for his release. The Devil gave Brandon temporary healing powers as long as he kills one believer in God every three years and one of Brandon's victims was Travis' wife. Now, Travis must save new love Morgan from becoming Brandon's latest victim and also save Antioch from eternal damnation.  Based of Frank Peretti's novel of the same name (his father was a Pentacostal preacher), THE VISITATION grabs you with the mystery elements and works well as a supernatural thriller for nearly half the running time. It begins to fall apart when the Christian imagery becomes abundantly clear and the pretty flimsy CGI (swarms of insects come flying out of the mouths of those possessed) start taking center stage. If Martin Donovan's character seems familiar, it's probably because it bears a striking similarity to Mel Gibson's in M. Night Shyamalan's SIGNS (2002). Just substitute the Devil for the aliens. Edward Furlong is downright creepy as Brandon (Lord knows he's had a tumultuous private life since appearing in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY [1991], which nearly wrecked his acting career) and a cast of genre vets, including Randy Travis, Ellen Geer, Pricilla Barnes, Joe Unger and Don Swayze do their best with their underwritten roles. Director Robby Henson, who also gave us the excellent crime drama THE BADGE (2002) and the religious-themed THR3E (2006), supplies a lot of atmospheric scenes and disturbing images, but the film falls apart during the latter half, thanks to the heavy-handed religious subtext (others may find this appealing, but I don't like to be force-fed religion). I really wanted to like this but, once the film ended, I felt cheated a little. Produced by Namesake Entertainment, who also made the LEFT BEHIND series and HANGMAN'S CURSE (2003), all Christian-themed genre films. Released on DVD by 20th Century Fox. Rated PG-13.

WHAT BECAME OF JACK AND JILL? (1971) - This Amicus Production, from producers Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, played in the States on a double bill with THE STRANGE VENGEANCE OF ROSALIE (1972) and then disappeared from view, never receiving a TV showing or a home video release (in any form) in the U.S. I'm not sure if it was a rights issue or if Twentieth Century-Fox, the U.S. theatrical distributor, just didn't have any interest in releasing it to TV or home video (a fate that has befallen many films from the 60's & 70's), but JACK AND JILL is a good psychological thriller that definitely doesn't deserve to sit in obscurity. Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on an uncut print (it was trimmed in the U.S. to receive a PG rating), taken from a battered 35mm print. Johnny Tallent (pop singer-turned-actor Paul Nicholas; SEE NO EVIL - 1971) lives with his elderly grandmother Alice (Mona Washbourne; FRAGMENT OF FEAR - 1970), stealing money from her purse, medication from her nightstand and waiting not-so-patiently for her to die so he can inherit her fortune. Johnny's girlfriend, Jill Standish (Vanessa Howard; GIRLY - 1970), is sick of waiting and tries to talk Johnny into quickening Grannie's demise (Johnny's favorite hangout is the graveyard, where he sits opposite his grandfather's tombstone. Next to it is a blank tombstone, where Jill writes "Gran!!" on it in lipstick). Gran and Johnny have differences of opinion about the way Johnnie lives his life (She wants him to get a job and he see no use in it), but Johnny is able to control her by catering to her every need and scaring the wits out of her with fake stories about "Youth Power" (In one telling scene, Gran and Johnny are watching a riot on TV involving police and young people. Gran says, "Young people. Why don't they wait?" Johnny replies, "No one waits today, Gran. There's no guarantee there'd be anything to wait for."). Johnny hopes to scare Gran into a fatal heart attack by continually telling her untrue horror stories about how young people are taking over the world and making decisions about the fate of the elderly, using scare tactics like cutting stories out of the newspaper (that have nothing to do with "Youth Power", but making her believe they do) or having Jill call her on the phone, pretending to be the Census Bureau and asking Gran her age. Pretty soon, Johnny has Gran so scared, she refuses to take her heart medication (he tells her that the leading source of friction between the young and the elderly is that modern medicine makes the elderly live too long, robbing the young of their future), but the old bird refuses to kick the bucket, no matter how many horror stories he tells her. Jill becomes impatient with Johnny's progress (they originally agreed on a five year "schedule" to get Gran six feet under) and they finally get Gran to have a fatal heart attack (how they do it is quite fascinating), but like all perfect murders, mistrust between Johnny and Jill leads to their downfall, especially when Gran gets her revenge at the reading of her will.  This is a very British production that is basically a three-character play, with 85% of the film taking place in Gran's house. Director Bill Bain (this is his only theatrical film, although he had directed many episodes of British TV, including episodes of THE AVENGERS [1961 - 1969], THE PROTECTORS [1972 - 1973] and UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS [1971 - 1975] before passing away at the age of 52 in 1982) and screenwriter Roger Marshall (AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS - 1973) break-up the "staginess" of the production by visualizing Johnny's daydreams, such as when he imagines himself in a Nazi uniform and orders a bunch of soldiers to gun down a line of old people standing next to a wall or when he dreams that he has a machinegun and shoots Gran in her bed. Johnny's psychological torture of Gran is about as cruel (and original) as you'll see in any film, whether it's writing "Out With The Oldies" on a neighbor's wall so Gran can see it out her window; frightening her with made-up stories of old people being carted away by the youth movement; or the final, fatal straw: when Johnny and Jill stage a mock youth protest in front of her home, making Gran believe they are coming for her and giving her a fatal heart attack. Like all good psychological thrillers, there's a nasty sting after Gran's death (I won't spoil it here) that sets the stage for a fitting finale. If you get a chance to catch this film (it can be downloaded from some popular torrent sites), by all means do so, because, besides some dated verbal slang, clothing and hairstyles, this is about as satisfying as thrillers get. Also starring Peter Copley, Peter Jeffrey, George Benson, Angela Down, Patricia Fuller, Renee Roberts and Lillian Walker. Originally Rated PG, but the version I viewed restored some minor nudity, violence and language that was cut for its U.S. theatrical release.

WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS (1993) - It was a slow week at the video store, so I decided to rent this film even though it seemed the usual video fodder, at least by the synopsis on the video box. Boy, was I wrong! This is a true unknown sleeper that is must viewing for all mystery fans. When seven severed hands are discovered one rainy night in a Texas town, Police Chief Martin Sheen (doesn’t he ever take a rest?) and his crew try to figure out why the hands (from young girls ages 5-13) were numerically tattooed. Enter a forensic expert (Ally Walker in a knockout performance) to assist the police in solving these crimes. Ally (who has a dark past and a "Don’t mess with me" attitude) methodically fits the pieces of the puzzle together for a really startling (and sick) conclusion. That’s all the plot that I’m going to give away because this is one of the few mystery films that had me fooled and I want you to experience the same jolts that I did on the first viewing. On second viewing, I realized that all the clues were well laid out (some of them are hidden in conversations) but it was possible for the viewer to solve it before the final 15 minutes. God, I love this type of film because you have to use your brain as well as your eyes. You not only watch this film, you get involved in it. Also starring Ron Perlman (CRONOS - 1992) and Rob Knepper (WILD THING - 1987). Directed and written by Michael Cohn (INTERCEPTOR - 1992), who has real talent in both categories. A Prism Entertainment Home Video Release. Rated R for scenes of severed body parts and foul language. You would be nuts to pass this one up. A sequel was made in 1998, titled WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS II: PERFECT PREY (Dir: Howard McCain). Avoid it as it does not star anyone from the original. It's a real letdown.

WHO SAW HER DIE? (1972) - France 1968: A young girl has her head bashed-in with a rock by some gloved killer while she is riding her sled in the snow. The killer buries the girl's body in a shallow grave in the snow and when her body is discovered, the police investigate, but her homicide goes unsolved. Venice, Italy 1972: Famous sculptor Franco Serpieri (George Lazenby) picks up his young daughter, Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi), at the airport. Roberta has come to spend some quality time with her father since her fashion model mother, Elizabeth (Anita Strindberg), lives in London (Mom and Dad's marriage is going through bit of a rough patch). Franco dotes on Roberta, taking her everywhere, even to the house of his agent, Serafian (Adolfo Celi), where she overhears a heated conversation between a young couple. Serafian also gives her a necklace depicting the zodiac sign of Aquarius, her birth month (February). It's apparent Roberta is being stalked by the same killer who murdered the young girl in France four years earlier (the killer's POV shots looks like the unknown assailant is looking through a black lace veil) and the unthinkable happens. Roberta is abducted on the street while her father is having an afternoon tryst with Gabriella (Rose Marie Lindt), Serafian's beautiful assistant. When Roberta doesn't come home, Franco goes looking for her, but comes up empty. He calls the police and a couple of days later her body is discovered floating in the canals. Elizabeth comes to Venice for the funeral and to try to fix her marriage to a distraught Franco, who blames himself for his daughter's death. When Franco discovers that the death of a young girl a year earlier bears a striking similarity to his daughter's death (both were found floating in the canals and were sexually assaulted), he begins his own investigation (which includes a strange game of ping pong while questioning an informant, who tells Franco, "If you can't play ping pong, don't get mixed-up in politics!"). Franco's investigation will bring him into the world of the rich and influential (involving some of his closest friends), some of who are involved in a string of child molestations, sexual perversions and brutal murders. Gabriella is strangled in a movie theater and one of the main suspects is stabbed to death in his home, but Franco gets some help from the crippled son of a murder victim, who shows him a film that unmasks a society that partakes in sick sex games, some involving children. Franco must find the identity of the individual who's back is only seen in the film, before the killer murders Elizabeth, himself and gets away with a string of child killings that dates back to 1968, where this film began.  This intriguing giallo, a co-production between Italy and Monaco, offers a great mystery for fans of the genre and gives a rare starring role to one-time James Bond George Lazenby (THE MAN FROM HONG KONG - 1975), a personal favorite of mine. Unfortunately, Lazenby doesn't supply his own voice in the English dub track, which diminishes his performance somewhat, but he manages to convey quite a bit of emotion as a father out for revenge. Director Aldo Lado (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS - 1971; NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS - 1974; THE HUMANOID - 1979) gives us stunning panoramas of Venice (his home town), from the sad funeral procession by boat through the canals to various landmarks used as backdrops as the story unfolds. The fog-shrouded streets and canals are used to great effect here, providing atmosphere and menace to many scenes. Director Nicholas Roeg would use Venice much to the same effect in his similarly-themed DON'T LOOK NOW (1973). Lado reigns-in the blood and gore on this film, letting the mystery elements and sleazy undercurrents of sex and perversion grab us instead. All the women, including Anita Strindberg (YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM... - 1972), disrobe as often as possible and Ennio Morricone's score (which contains a child choir that sings a haunting "la-la-la-la" theme every time a murder occurs) elicits the right amount of creepiness to the proceedings. This is also one of the first films that I can remember where a telephone answering machine was used as a plot device. Aldolfo Celi (EYE IN THE LABYRINTH - 1972; MANHUNT - 1972) manages to be menacing with a minimal amount of dialogue. He was one of Italy's best utility actors in the 60's, 70's & 80's and greatly enhanced any film he appeared in. Lado explains (in an interview on the DVD's supplements) how Italian censors made him put a final line of dialogue in the film, since the killer was a pedophile and (gasp!) a religious icon. The line of dialogue is as obvious as it is ridiculous and nearly ruins the effect of the entire film. Still, WHO SAW HER DIE? is an enjoyable murder mystery that should please diehard, as well as casual, giallo fans. Also starring Peter Chantal, Piero Vida, Jose Quaglio, Dominique Boschero and Allesandro Haber. Originally available on DVD as part of a four-film box set called THE GIALLO COLLECTION from Anchor Bay Entertainment and now available as a stand-alone DVD from Blue Underground. Not Rated.

THE WIND (1986) - Best-selling mystery author Sian Anderson (Meg Foster), who boyfriend John (David McCallum) refers to as a "ballsy wench", takes a breather from her hectic metropolitan lifestyle and rents a house in the ancient (and creepy) seaside Greek village of Monemvassia from a jovial Elias Appleby (Robert Morley). After showing her around the deserted village (most of the occupants are in Switzerland, spending the money they made during tourist season), Elias leaves Sian with a cryptic warning: "Beware of the wind." Sure enough, as soon as Elias departs, a mysterious howling wind appears and with it enters enigmatic stranger Phil (Wings Hauser), the house's caretaker. Sian's life is about to get strange. Working on her latest mystery novel, Sian (who signs her books with the male pseudonym "Sean Anderson") imagines Phil killing Elias as she types her next chapter. The problem is, it may all be true, as she spies on Phil burying something in the town's ancient cemetery. She goes outside to investigate, but the gale force winds prevent her from making it to the cemetery. Convinced that Elias is dead, Sian calls John back in the States for help, but all she gets to tell him is that a murder has been committed before the line goes dead. Sian's extensive knowledge of ways to murder people, thanks to research she has performed for previous novels, makes her believe that Phil is out to kill her. It seems she is right when Phil breaks into the house brandishing a sickle, forcing Sian to barracade herself in the attic. Phil then calls her on the phone, admits to killing Elias and freaks out when Sian calls him insane. When Elias' wife shows up looking for her husband, she ends up with a sickle buried in her back. It's not long before Sian and Phil start playing a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, but just who is the hunter and who is the prey? John is able to get in touch with the local Greek police and Kesner (Steve Railsback; THE SURVIVALIST - 1987; ED GEIN - 2000), an American seaman stranded on the island due to bad weather, agrees to go check-up on Sian to make sure she's OK. He arrives at the house, searches it and tells Sian that there's no danger present, but in a few short moments he will end up with a sickle in his back, too. The ending is as enigmatic as Phil, who may be the killer or who may be nothing more than an innocent victim in Sian's over-productive mind. Does the wind really kill Phil or is it nothing but a plot device for Sian's next book? Does it really matter?  This creepy little film, filmed in Greece and Los Angeles by director/producer/co-scripter Nico Mastorakis (ISLAND OF DEATH - 1975; THE NEXT ONE - 1981; NIGHTMARE AT NOON - 1987), is an effective psychothriller with plenty of atmosphere and some genuine scares. The always-present sound of the howling wind on the soundtrack enhances the feeling of dread, as does the sight of the fog-enshrouded deserted village streets at night. This film taps into that fear that most visitors to foreign countries seem to have: Being stranded in a strange land with no way to escape and not understanding the language. Only Mastorakis puts a twist on it. Even though it takes place in a small coastal town in Greece, all the protagonists are American (or British, if you count David McCallum). Meg Foster (THEY LIVE - 1988; LEVIATHAN - 1989; IMMORTAL COMBAT - 1994), with those haunting, steely blue eyes, is very good here as an author who lets her writing go to her head. Wings Hauser (VICE SQUAD - 1982; MUTANT - 1984; DEAD MAN WALKING - 1987) is not given much to do here but act crazy. It may seem like he's overacting and is too "out there", but there really is a reason for it, as the ending reveals. Die-hard mystery and thriller fans will see the surprise ending long before it's disclosed, but it doesn't matter much since the film has a definite nasty edge to it. While there is no nudity and very little blood, THE WIND (also known as EDGE OF TERROR) is a suspenseful thriller good for at least one viewing. Check it out. Also starring John Michaels and Tracy Young as newlyweds who nearly become victims in the finale. Originally released on VHS by Lightning Video and available on DVD in a fullscreen no-frills edition from Simitar or a deluxe widescreen edition by Mastorakis' own label, Omega Entertainment. Not Rated.

WOLF LAKE (1978) - Before I go into reviewing this film, a little history is required. You may have seen this film on TV in the late 80's to early 90's under the title THE HONOR GUARD. I would advise you to try and ignore this version because it completely alters the original ending of the film and omits important pieces of plot that are necessary to enjoy the film. In other words, a typical TV bastardization of a film that has something to say, but TV doesn't think we are adult enough to take it. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, on with the review. The film opens with Vietnam War deserter David (David Huffman) carrying the lifeless body of his girlfriend Linda (Robin Mattson) to a dock at a secluded lake deep in the woods. So begins a series of quick flash-forwards that populate the first half of the film, tantilizing and teasing us of the action to come. Old World War  II buddies Charlie (Rod Steiger), Wilber (Jerry Harding), George (Richard Herd) and Sweeney (Paul Mantee) arrive at a secluded lakeside cabin by plane for a hunting trip and meet David, the caretaker. Immediately Charlie makes a wisecrack about David's unkempt appearance, mocking his long hair and beard (calling him a "bearded lady"). Wilbur manages to calm David down and sees that David is quite handy with a rifle, learning that he served in the Marines (or did he?). Wilbur deducts that David is a deserter, waiting deep in the woods for amnesty to come. Wilbur tells David that Charlie lost his son in Vietnam, so he better not find out David's secret.  The other three war buddies begin to ogle Linda, who acts as cook and maid in the cabin. Charlie gets on the wrong side of Linda, who lifts up her blouse to taunt Charlie. Charlie gives Linda a slap in the face. Almost immediately Wilbur tells Charlie that David is a deserter (nothing like having a close friend!) and Charlie begins a spiraling plan to taunt David, at first shooting his high-powered rifle near David while he is working on the dock, telling David that he's not going to leave this place alive and culminating in the debasing rape, and eventual death, of Linda. David finally ditches his pacifist ways and begins to systematically kill the four hunters, but not before taking some licks himself. I will not destroy the rest of the film for first-time viewers, and there are about to be many, since this film is not very well-known. Director/writer Burt Kennedy, who usually directed Westerns, does a fine job here in creating tension that finally leads to slaughter. Kennedy did step out of the Western genre now and then, as he also directed the TV movie ALL THE KIND STRANGERS (1974) as well as THE KILLER INSIDE ME (1976), both starring Stacy Keach. Rod Steiger (AMERICAN GOTHIC - 1987), who was known to ham it up occasionally, gives a fine, semi-restrained performance here as a Father who can't understand why anyone would desert their country (or him, for that matter, as we find out later in the film). David Huffman (BLOOD BEACH - 1981, who was murdered in 1985 by a thief as he was walking out of a theater) is also good as someone who can only be pushed too far before reaching the breaking point. Pacifism be damned! Everyone else in the film, Mattson (ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? - 1978), Hardin  ("Deep Throat" on the first season of THE X-FILES), Herd (SCHIZOID - 1980; TRANCERS - 1986) and Mantee (THE MANITOU - 1977) are given precious little to do except to die, although Hardin does try to act as the voice of reason in several scenes. This is basically a film about contrasting personalities, one who loves his country so much and is willing to kill for it and one who loves his country so much that he has to kill because of it. The TV version has a completely different ending as the one who died in the original lived and the one who lived, died (and omits all the flash-forward and the rape). WOLF LAKE (which was filmed in Mexico with Canadian money) should be your cup of tea if you liked DEATH WEEKEND (a.k.a. THE HOUSE BY THE LAKE - 1976), another Canadian film which shared the same tone, if not the same plot. This is grim stuff and not for the faint-hearted. Some people have complained, saying that the flash-forwards give away too much of the plot. I think that they serve to show everyone that we knew revenge would eventually happen anyway, considering the circumstances. A Prism Entertainment Release. Not yet available on DVD in the U.S.. The British DVD is heavily edited and only runs 83 minutes. The complete, unedited running time is 88 minutes, not 105 minutes as it is printed on the Prism sleeve. Rated R.

THE ZERO BOYS (1986) - A group of weekend warriors, known as the Zero Boys, win their latest war games tournament (which is a combination of paintball guns, blank pistols and special effects technician-supervised bullet squibs, played at a Mexican village ghost town) and head off for a weekend of fun and relaxation with their girlfriends in the deep woods. Steve (Daniel Hirsch; SKY HIGH - 1985), the leader of the Zero Boys, brings his opposing team leader's girlfriend, Jamie (Kelli Maroney; NIGHT OF THE COMET - 1984; CHOPPING MALL - 1986), along for the ride, since he won a weekend with her on a side bet. Before you can say "murderous backwoods hillbillies", the young guys and gals find themselves in a heap of deadly trouble. Jamie hears a woman scream, so they all go to investigate. They find a trail of blood which leads them to a seemingly uninhabited farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and, being the geniuses that they are, decide to spend some time there celebrating fellow member Rip's (Jared Moses, who sports a ridiculously fake patch of white in his dark hair) birthday and partake in booze and sex. Right on cue, a violent storm appears and everyone opts to leave. Alas, someone has tampered with Steve's truck, so everyone is forced to spend the night. The Boys search the area and find a room in the barn with a two-way mirror and video equipment. It soon becomes apparent that the unknown occupants are deranged killers making snuff films for their personal enjoyment. The (at first) unseen killers taunt the Zero Boys, kidnapping Trish (Crystal Carson) and taping her torture session before returning her to the group (still alive with a plastic bag over her head). It gets deadly after that, as Rip is shot through the back with an arrow and is instantly killed while the trio of backwoods hicks chase the rest of the group through the forest at night using a crossbow, a machete and a big-ass knife. Encountering spike-filled and other booby traps, the Zero Boys (and girls) fight back, using their war games training to turn the tables on the hillbilly clan. A typical 80's-style "surprise ending" reveals that all their hard-fought victories may have been for nothing.  This is one of Greek director/producer/co-scripter Niko Mastorakis' (ISLAND OF DEATH - 1975; THE WIND - 1986; NIGHTMARE AT NOON - 1987) weakest films, helped in part by the revelation during the middle of the film that the weapons the Zero Boys carry are, in fact, real and not paint guns or blank-filled semi-automatic weapons. To make matters worse, the Zero Boys waste more of their ammunition shooting at objects rather than the hillbillies (they waste over four clips of ammo shooting-up the torture room, when using a pipe or a piece of wood would have accomplished the same thing). Don't get me started on the dynamite and stun guns the Zero Boys have conveniently packed for their fun weekend. To show you how completely embarrassing and unrealistic this film really is, Joe Estevez, who plays the head of the hillbilly can, appears here using the pseudonym "Joe Phelan", a nom-de-plume he has used several times since (such as Mastorakis' TERMINAL EXPOSURE [1987]). This from an actor that has starred in more than his fair share of crappy films (ARMED FOR ACTION [1992] anyone?) using his real name. The violence on view is also fairly restrained (arrow impalement, speargun bolt to the leg, death by spiked pit) and the finale, where Jamie tries to electrocute the head hillbilly by shoving her stun gun in a lake, defies all logic. Since most of the violence takes place in the dead of night and the film is woefully underlit, why put yourself the trouble of watching it? A total misfire from beginning to end. Also starring Tom Shell, Nicole Rio, Gary Jochimsen, John Michaels and Elise Turner. Originally released on VHS by Lightning Video and later released on budget DVD by Simitar Entertainment. In 2003, director Mastorakis released a re-edited version of this film on DVD (he also did this for many of his other films) through Image Entertainment. Since I haven't seen this version, this review only pertains to the original version, but you can put a colorful bow on a pig, but in the end, it's still a pig. Rated R.