ALABAMA'S GHOST (1972) - When Alabama (Christopher Brooks) accidentally drives a forklift through a wall in the basement of San Francisco's famed Earthquake McGoon's nightclub, he finds a hidden passageway that leads to a room that contains all the possessions of "World's Greatest Magician" Carter The Great (E. Kerrigan Prescott), who mysteriously died years before. Alabama finds a box that contains the address of Granny (Ken Granthan), Carter's "sister". The box also contains some magical herb (called "raw zeta"), which he and Granny smoke in a pot pipe. Alabama is forced to team up with Zoerae (Peggy Browne), Granny's assistant, as he wants to become a master magician using Carter's found possessions. This leads Alabama on a weird journey that includes vampires, robots, voodoo ceremonies, ghosts, rock music, go-go dancers, a disappearing elephant, a biker gang, a disembodied heart and the occasional drooling fanatic. Alabama puts on magic shows at Earthquake McGoon's, billing himself as "Alabama, King Of The Cosmos", to packed houses. He is picked-up by promoter Otto Max (Steven Kent Browne), who tells Alabama, "Surrealism is in. Surrealism is where it's at!" Otto books him on a tour across the United States, where he achieves much acclaim. Things start going wrong for Alabama when one of his female assistants is severely injured while he performs a sword trick (she also has two puncture wounds on her neck). More accidents happen which leads up to the grand finale: A world-wide televised showing of Alabama doing Carter's "disappearing elephant act", which will have dire consequences on anyone who watches it. How it ends: I'll never tell. I've barely scratched the surface on this off-the-wall, rarely-seen supernatural thriller. Director/producer/writer Fredric Hobbs (ROSELAND - 1970; GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS - 1973) has crafted an intricate, multi-layered film which can only be described as one-of-a-kind. Hobbs was way ahead of his time, kind of a David Lynch of the 70's. ALABAMA'S GHOST veers off into many different directions, but never disappoints the viewer. Watch it straight or stoned; it doesn't matter. It's a facinating experience no matter what state you're in. E. Kerrigan Prescott, Christopher Brooks and Steven Kent Brown have appeared in all three of Hobb's above mentioned films. Also starring Karen Ingentron as Dr. Caligula, Ann Weldon as Mama-bama, Ann Wagner Ward as Marilyn Midnight and Neena the elephant. With special appearances by musical groups The Turk Murphy Jazz Band and The Landing Zone and improvational group The Cockettes. I've unofficially heard that Hobbs gave up film to become a sculptor after making GODMONSTER. That's filmmaking's loss. This film screams out for a re-release as it is now only available on VHS on the OOP ThrillerVideo label hosted by Elvira, who interrupts the film midway to do some of her shtick. Anchor Bay should do a restoration and release it on DVD so it can get the cult following it deserves. Believe it or not, this film was Rated PG when originally released. This is the strangest PG film you will ever view!
ALIEN BEACH PARTY MASSACRE (1995) - When you see a film with a title like this, your expectations automatically become lower than if you were to, say, watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster or even one of The Asylum's latest "mockbusters". But, when you insert this tape into your VCR and the first thing you see onscreen is "A Gizz Film", you just know that the last remaining brain cells will jump out of your ears, making your cranium ready for the onslaught of awfulness that is ALIEN BEACH PARTY MASSACRE. And what beautiful awfulness it is. After an opening credits sequence with a slammin' 60's style surfing instrumental (by The Insect Surfers, and you might as well get familiar to the tune, because it's apparently the only song they know how to play!), we are introduced to a race of friendly aliens as they head through space in their ship (which looks like a chopped-down model of the USS Enterprise from STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION [1987 - 1994]), who are on their way to Mirus 3 to deliver a prototype weapon called the Deathsphere. Bumbling alien janitor Nagillig (George Willis; and, yes, his name is "Gilligan" spelled backwards, so you know how bumbling he really is. Somewhere, Bob Denver is spinning in his grave.) and the rest of the crew watch a promotional video made by a nasty pig-nosed alien race on the planet Ghastor that shows how to use the Deathsphere (every time the gadget's name is shown onscreen, it is followed by the "Trademark" symbol!), which turns out to be a weapon that kills all people but leaves the planets intact. The friendly alien race (who speak in high-pitched reverse English and chicken noises, which are subtitled into English) are bringing the Deathsphere (which looks like a common beach volleyball) to Mirus 3 to dismantle it, but idiot Nagillig breaks the glass case it's stored in and the Deathsphere falls to the floor, just as head Ghastorian bad guy, Lord Odem (who is played by three different people, including the director), catches up to them in his spaceship and fires torpedos, damaging their ship and forcing them to crash on Earth, but not before Nagillig puts the Deathsphere into a torpedo chamber and ejects it, where it lands on the beach in a town full of jocks, cheerleaders, drunks and potheads. Nagillig is the only one to survive the crash, so he has to grab a tracking device (out of the pants of a not-quite-yet-dead comrade, who has been cut in half by the crash!) and find the Deathsphere before Lord Odem does. Only Dr. Bateman (John Eineigl) knows that aliens have come to Earth, so he jumps in his van to find proof, while dim-as-a-broken-lightbulb Nagillig wanders around town, stealing a blind man's pencil cup and being outfitted in awful beach gear by a huckster clothing store owner. Hilarity ensues when Nagillig is mistaken for someone's cousin from New Jersey (it must be his green skin!) and he joins hairy pothead Glue (co-screenwriter Eric Zumbrunnen), jock Bud (Perry Martin), cheerleader Babs (Stacey Havener), brainiac Robin (Kourtney Kaye) and others for some fun on the beach, while Lord Odem and his spiked leather-masked minion Number Two (who is played by two different actors) mistaken a common beach volleyball for the Deathsphere (Glue has the real one) and Dr. Bateman tries to prove the existence of aliens. This is surprisingly funnier than it has any right to be, if you watch it in the right frame of mind, preferably buzzed on a case of beer or a few joints. Director Andy Gizzarelli (the "Gizz" mentioned in the beginning of the film and his only directorial effort), who wrote the joke-filled script with co-star Eric Zumbrunnen and producer Mike Parente, keeps the film moving at a brisk pace and even throws-in a few scenes of bloody gore, mostly used for comical effect. While the cast is strictly amateur hour (especially John Eineigl as Dr. Bateman), in this film it actually works in its' favor. Zumbrunnen's character, Glue (real name: Elmer, and, yes, I laughed when that tidbit was revealed) has his long hair covering his face for 99% of his screen time (even when he is toking on a bong or a joint) and he, along with his two stoner friends, Jeff (Mark Fite) and Alan (Max Fisk), have some of the best lines in the film. They're mostly all pot-related (or influenced), but they're still funny nonetheless. I also like the way the film switched gears from a beach party flick to a haunted house thriller, as the entire cast go to the "old Willoughby place" to smoke pot and have sex, only to be stalked by Lord Odem and Number Two. There's a beheading (while Bud is getting head); Bud is shot in the crotch with an alien crossbow device (Babs is shot in the stomach with the same device); another girl has her arm cut off (Jeff says to her, "Linda, like don't worry, we know where your arm is!"); Dr. Bateman has his hand cut off (Glue says, "I hope that wasn't your stroking hand!") and then loses other appendages in true Monty Python fashion; Jeff is impaled on the fin of a surfboard; and other crazy nonsense (the bad aliens are allergic to suntan lotion!), all done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. While I know this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea (some people are going to hate this from the first frame) and the CGI and green screen effects are crappy, this does have a crazy charm that I found infectious. So sue me. Also starring Lisa Frankiel, Eric Jacobson, Judi Alley and Tom Terri. A McCarter Multimedia Marketing VHS Release (Yeah, I never heard of them either until I picked up this tape!). Not available on DVD. Not Rated.
ANGUISH (1986) - Warning: If you have yet to view this strange and manipulative horror movie (possibly the weirdest horror film made in the 80's to get a wide theatrical release), please do not read this review. This is a film that should be experienced for the first time with no previous knowledge of what you are about to be put through, because the narrative structure is quite unlike any film you've seen before. The film opens with severely troubled John (Michael Lerner; STRANGE INVADERS  and nominated for an Academy Award for his role in BARTON FINK ), a hospital orderly who is slowly going blind due to diabetes. He is having trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy thanks to his domineering mother (Zelda Rubinstein; best known for her role in POLTERGEIST , but she is absolutely unforgettable here), who hypnotizes him on a daily basis. After his hypnosis sessions, John travels around in a trance and removes people's eyes with a scalpel, bringing the orbs to his mother as gifts. It's during one of these eye removal scenes (about 22 minutes into the film) that we discover that what we are actually viewing is nothing but a film (titled THE MOMMY) being watched by an audience in a movie theater, but it seems like some audience members are also being affected by Mommy's on-screen hypnosis methods (It's a sequence you won't soon forget once you've viewed it). It seems to particularly affect one male audience member (Angel Jove), who seems to take Mommy's on-screen suggestions a little too seriously (subtle hints are dropped that he has seen this film many time before in this same theater) and begins murdering members of the audience, while John is on-screen killing members of an audience in a theater showing the 1925 dinosaur film, THE LOST WORLD. As John begins decimating everyone in the theater on-screen, the crazy male member in the real (?) theater begins shooting people with a silencer-equipped pistol. One girl witnesses him killing the ticket-taker and the candy counter girl and escapes the theater (leaving her nervous female friend inside), but the killer then locks the theater doors so no one can leave or get in. It's not long before the fictional film on-screen and the actual killer's actions are being played-out in-synch in a finale that is must be seen to be fully appreciated. Just when you think it's over, it's not. The best way to describe this film is that it fucks with your mind to the point that you're not sure what is real and what is fiction, much like what John is going through in the film-within-a-film. If I weren't a rational human being, I'd swear that I was actually being hypnotized while watching this. Director/screenwriter Bigas Luna (REBORN - 1981) masterfully makes us wonder if we are witnessing life imitating art or art imitating life, purposely keeping the viewer off-balance in a cacophony of sights and sounds that defy description (once you see the sight of a snail riding on the back of a pigeon, you'll swear that someone slipped you some hallucinogenics in your soda!). ANGUISH is probably one of the most original and overlooked horror films of the 80's; a total masterwork of the macabre (A lot of reviewers compare this to HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE  because of the film-within-a-film opening, but the comparisons end there). The only way to fully appreciate this unheralded classic of modern horror is in a packed theater (man, that must have been cool, not to mention goosebump-inducing!), but Anchor Bay Entertainment offers a nice widescreen DVD that tries to duplicate the experience. I can't recommend this film enough to fans of obscure horror. It plays with your head in so many ways, you won't know whether you're coming or going. Why isn't this film more popular? This is a one-of-a-kind trip into the bizarre mind of a mad genius (Bigas Luna is like a demented Spanish David Lynch, except his narrative structure is much easier to follow), who would gain international arthouse fame with 1992's JAMON JAMON (hey, even I like that one!). After viewing REBORN and ANGUISH, I really wish that Mr. Luna strayed to the dark side just one more time. Stay through the end credits because it adds further depth to the experience. My highest recommendation. Also starring Talia Paul and Clara Pastor. Originally released on VHS by Key Video in a fullscreen version (not the best way to watch it). Buy or rent the widescreen DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment instead. Rated R.
APPOINTMENT WITH FEAR (1985) - OK, let's get this out of the way before I begin the review: Any film that lists "Alan Smithee" as a director usually means the film you are about to watch is going to be a total mess. I just wasn't prepared for was a weird mess this film was going to be. We first spy chain-smoking Detective Kowalski (Douglas Rowe, who looks like he stepped out of a 40's detective movie) staking out the house of an unknown woman with a baby. When she leaves the house with the baby, he follows her, but she is also being followed by an unknown man (Garrick Dowhen) in a white van. Kowalski's car hits a lady vagrant's shopping cart and he loses track of the woman, but the man in the van is still following her. We then cut to Carol (Michele Little), whose favorite pasttime seems to be spying on people's conversations and taping them on audio cassette with a sound recorder shaped like a small satellite dish (you know the kind; cop movies use them all the time). She watches as the unknown woman stops at a house nearby and turns her listening device towards her, when the unknown man (who never utters a single word though the entire film) sits buy her side and she says, "You can't kill the baby. It's your baby. You can't kill him!", and then he plunges a knife in the woman's side and leaves. Neighbor Heather (Kerry Remsen, who for some unknown reason wears bright blue makeup covering her eyes, upper nose and lower forehead, like a neon mask, throughout most of the film) goes to the dying lady, who gives her the baby (Heather lost her four year-old brother a couple of years ago in a bathtub drowning when she didn't keep an eye on him and was talking on the phone) and tells her to not let the man get him. The man, we soon find out, is known as Attis, King Of The Woods (!), who Detective Kowalski put in a coma years before and believes he can leave his body to kill babies. You see, Attis needs to kill one baby a year to remain King Of The Forest (Don't try questioning it, just go along with it. Believe me, your brain will thank me later.) Kowalski visits Attis in the hospital on a regular basis (the room is nothing but a bed and a few electronic doo-dads) and tries to convince Detective Connors (the late James Avery in a needless role) that Attis is able to leave his body and appear at will anywhere, but Connors looks at Kowalski like he is crazy. Meanwhile, Heather (and the baby), Carol and a couple of her female friends spend a weekend at the house of Carol's's mother's newest boyfriend (the house looks like it was designed by someone high on LSD!) and, yes, you guessed it, Attis shows up and begins dispatching some of the girls to get to the baby. It turns out that Carol is a crack shot with automatic weapons (which her mother's boyfriend keeps out in the open!) and she pumps bullet after bullet into Attis' body, with no effect. It takes Heather to stab him with the silver tip of a flag pole (!) to finally kill Attis, as we see his body explode in his hospital room. Now, if any of this sounds interseting, I apologize, because it has to be the weirdest scripted film in recent memory. The screenplay, by Gideon Davis and Bruce Meade, is full of head-scratching dialogue and everyone speaks like they just stepped out of an issue of Psychology Today. Everyone talks like they just took a class on existentialism and there are other head-scratching elements in the film, too, like why would Carol let bum Norman (Danny Dayton) live in the back of her pickup truck? None of it makes much sense, such as when Detective Kowalski describes to Attis a dream he had involving a red pigeon by a clock, who gets eaten by a bat who gets impaled by the hands of the clock! I mean, what the fuck?!? Director "Alan Smithee" is actually Ramsey (Ramzi) Thomas, who never went on to direct another film again (surprise!), but he has worked in various capacities on other films, such as Producer on HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989), that was Executive Produced by Moustapha Akkad, who also produced this film. I haven't even scratched the absurdities in this film, like why does Bobby (Michael Wyle) ride a motorcycle with a female dummy in his sidecar or how does a group of dancers (direct from Denny Terrio's studio) suddenly appear in the driveway of the house and why does boyfriend Cowboy (Vincent Barbour) join-in on the dance? While there is some fleeting nudity on view, those looking for a gore-drenched slasher film are going to be very disappointed because the camera cuts away just as the killings get good (like Norman's decapitation) and there is much too little blood on screen to make it worth a slasher film fanatics list of must-see films. I will give it this: It is weird beyond belief and feels like it was filmed is some sort of alternate universe. If that turns you on, you may dig this film. All others beware. It was edited by Herbert L. Strock (who must have had a hard time making sense of the mess that was put in front of him), who earlier directed such classic badfilms like HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958) and THE CRAWLING HAND (1963). They look like CITIZEN KANE when compared to this film. APPOINTMENT WITH FEAR (also known as DEADLY PRESENCE, but I can find no advertising materials to verify it) was made in 1985, carries a 1986 production date at the end credits, but not released to home video until 1987. Also starring Pamela Bach-Hasselhoff, Deborah Sue Voorhees (who takes a topless swim at the house and is the first to die there), Mike Gomez, Nick Conti and Sergia Simone. An IVE VHS Release. Rated R.
ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES (1983/1985) - The best "no-budget,-filmed-in-Fairfield,-Connecticut,-trapped-on-an-island-full-of-Zuni-fetish-like dolls-gore-film" ever made. It's May 1920, somewhere in the North Atlantic and a cruise ship sinks, forcing a handful of passengers on a lifeboat called the Obelisk to drift aimlessly on a strange current for days until they come to some weird uncharted island. John Trieste (Robert Nolfi) and Case Quinn (Robert Lengyel) take over leadership duties and decide to look for fresh water and shelter, especially since one member of their party, Mr. Bruin (Robert Firgelewski, the film's not-so-special effects coordinator), is seriously injured. They put Mr. Bruin in the shade and search for water, with the one dissenter in the group (there's always at least one), Mr. Morgan (John Vichiola), complaining that Mr. Bruin is as good as dead and they should all be worried about their (by "their", he means "his") well-being. Leaving Mr. Bruin in the shade at the shore, the rest of the group, which includes Cathy (Julia Rust), Diane (Lisa Pak), Philip (Frank Murgalo), Mrs. Gordon (Kay Bailey) and a couple of disposable characters (in the STAR TREK universe, they would be known as "redshirts"), head inland to look for water, food and shelter. What they find instead is an island of horrors. While everyone id picking berries and commiserating about their bad luck and personal problems, one of the unnamed passengers comes upon a stream and takes a drink, only to discover too late that the water is actually acid and he lets out a blood-curdling scream as the flesh peels away from his body (it's probably the film's best makeup effect). The rest of the survivors decide to be more careful (no shit), but they will soon discover that the island is crawling with a tribe of miniature doll-like creatures with razor-sharp teeth (their resemblance to the Zuni fetish doll in TRILOGY OF TERROR  is uncanny) and they like the taste of human flesh. The toothsome little buggers make their presence known when John and Quinn go to retrieve Mr. Bruin down at the shore and discover that he has been picked clean (all that is left is his skeleton). John and Quinn keep their discovery a secret from the rest of the survivors (Mr. Bruin simply died from his wounds), but it's a secret that doesn't last for long. Their first night on the island, everyone is attacked by the creatures while they are sleeping around a campfire, as the little demons run on the ground or swing on vines and begin biting everyone. Luckily, no one is killed, but everyone is badly cut-up from the tiny terrors' teeth. Since the little demons have set their lifeboat adrift, the survivors are continuously attacked and killed one-by-one (Mr. Morgan seems to have caught rabies from a bite, as he foams from the mouth and decides to take an acid bath!). Will anyone survive this onslaught? Long a favorite of bad movie aficionados since its release on VHS in the mid-80's, ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES (made in 1983, but not released until 1985 and also known as HELL ISLAND) contains all the trademarks of a truly awful film: Terrible acting by a cast on non-pros (some of the emoting here is wince-inducing); special effects that are anything but special; a droning synthesizer score (by John P. Mozzi); and technical issues (include poorly recorded sound) that are inherent in films with budgets less than your cousin Schlomo's bar-mitzvah. Yet with all these faults, director/co-producer Michael Stanley (a still-active theater director in Connecticut whose only other film credit is directing DOING AGATHA in 2008) and screenwriter Robert A. Hutton manage to turn in a film that is utterly infectious in its badness. The attacks by the tiny tribe of whatever-they-are (they have painted-on bright white eyes that glow in the dark and little black mullets) are priceless, as it is plain to see that they are as animated as a block of wood (the only parts that seem to move are their mouths and their arms at their shoulders), yet they run as fast as lightning (with their little arms swinging back and forth), swing from vines and fly through the air. The attack scenes are simply incredible, as it is obvious that crew members just out of camera range are throwing the dolls at the actors, but the film is so damn bloody (including a nasty tree branch impalement and plenty of flesh eating), you can't help but be impressed. Even more mind-blowing is the scene where all the dolls gather at a giant wooden totem of themselves and pray (Cathy says, "There must be hundreds of them!", but we see no more than twenty!). For those who have never witnessed this film, it's about time that you did. For those who have seen it, it's time for a revisit. A totally weird viewing experience all the way. Also starring Frans Kal, Ronald A. Haupler Jr. and Joanne Stanley. Originally released on VHS by World Video Inc. and not available on DVD. Not Rated.
BABYSITTER WANTED (2008) - Ultra-religious Angie (Sarah Thompson; BRUTAL - 2007) leaves the safety of her mother's home and heads off for college in rural California, where she shares an apartment with slovenly, drug-taking Erica (Jillian Schmitz). Low on money and needing a bed (Erica's last roommate took the bed with her when she left), Angie goes to the college's bulletin board searching for a cheap bed, only to discover that there are many missing female student bulletins posted on the board (We know something is not kosher here because the film's first scene is of some poor gagged girl tied to a table, her half-naked body marked in black magic marker like a side of beef, as someone bashes her head in with a ball peen hammer). Unable to find a bed, Angie does find a "Babysitter Wanted" ad on the bulletin board and takes it, but Erica warns her that the location is out in the boonies, in "farm country". Angie calls the number and drives out to meet the couple, Jim & Violet Stanton (Bruce Thomas; TV's KYLE XY [2006-2009]; Kristen Dalton; CREEPY CRAWLERS ) and their young son Sam (Kai Caster), who wears a cowboy outfit and refuses to take off his cowboy hat, even while he sleeps (this will make sense later in the film). The Stanton's hire Angie immediately to take care of Sam on the upcoming weekend. Leading up to the weekend, Angie meets student Rick (Matt Dallas; Kyle of KYLE XY) and a romance is born, though it is rather chaste due to Angie's religious beliefs. She is also being stalked by some mysterious guy in a pickup truck, who keeps coughing-up blood into a handkerchief. When Angie finds a poster of a missing girl taped to her apartment door, she brings it to Sheriff Dinelli (Bill Moseley; HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES - 2002) and he tells he that a lot of that has been going on lately. When Friday night rolls around and her car won't start, Rick gives her a ride to the Stanton's, which seems to annoy Jim somewhat (he offers to drive Angie back when he and the missus return, rather than have Rick come back). This is going to be a night Angie will not soon forget, as the stalker keeps ringing the Stanton's phone, tries to get into the house and Angie discovers that Sam is a creepy little kid. Not only does his diet consist solely of little chunks of rare red meat, he likes to play hide-and-seek, forcing Angie to search the entire house looking for him and making some horrifying discoveries of her own. When the stalker (who is horribly scarred from head to toe) breaks into the house brandishing a weird, symbol-filled blade, Angie tries to grab Sam and flee, but she will soon discover that she is running from the wrong people, as the stalker turns out to be a priest, the Stanton's are actually satanic cannibals (!) and Sam may actually be the son of Satan (he has two little horns on the top of his head to prove it!). Can Angie escape from this infernal trio or will she become steak tartar for Sam's consumption? Let's just say God can be proud of Angie, as she begins to get all biblical on the Stanton's asses, but there's enough bad flesh left over for the inevitable sequel. This paean to the horror films of the 70's (it's equal parts WHEN A STRANGER CALLS , THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE  and THE OMEN ) basically defies normal description. It starts out as a tale about a fish out of water (Where Angie has her first experiences with the drug culture, romance, etc.), then turns into a "babysitter in peril" tale, then turns into some weird supernatural mumbo-jumbo involving priests trying to track down Sam the Devil Child to kill him and finally turns into a HOSTEL-like piece of torture porn (for lack of a better term), where Angie is forced to watch Jim butcher some poor girl into little pieces and placing the pieces in plastic bags for Sam's consumption later on, while Jim prattles-on to Angie about what he and his wife have to do to keep Sam from going hungry (This also helps some of the denser viewers better understand what they are watching). The film doesn't make a heckuva lotta sense, but first-time directors Jonas Barnes (who also scripted) and Michael Manasseri (also one of the Producers) inject a lot of excitement into the proceedings, as well as some hard-to-watch gore (the butchering scenes are brutal, as are the scenes of Sam brandishing a butcher knife while muttering "Hungry!" over and over), making BABYSITTER WANTED a good bet for fans of weird horror. I especially find it amusing that a naïve religious virgin would be the only one with the intestinal fortitude to go the ultra-violent route to get vengeance (not to mention dropping the f-bomb and other verbal obscenities while doing so). Put a gun in Angie's hand and she'll empty a clip in the bad guys' bodies without blinking once and she's also not above punching a small child in the face. Ah, religion. What would we do without it? Also starring Monty Bane, Nana Visitor, Jeff Markey and Scott Spiegel. A Lionsgate Home Entertainment DVD Release. Rated R.
BAD BIOLOGY (2008) - CAUTION: Read this review only after you have watched the film! Frank Henenlotter returns to the director's chair after a sixteen-year hiatus (most of those years spent working with Mike Vraney at Something Weird Video) and delivers a film that defies genre conventions. Jennifer (Charlee Danielson) is a freak of nature: She was born with seven clitorises (she may have more and everyone that knows her calls her "Crazy Pussy") and when we first meet her, she is cruising a bar looking for a perfect male subject to satisfy her unquenchable sexual desires. The only problem is, she gets so carried away during the lovemaking act, she sometimes ends up killing her male partner. Another annoying caveat is that she always gets pregnant, but it's quite unlike any normal human pregnancy. Two hours after her sex act is over with, she delivers an "unfinished baby", which she always abandons, be it in a hotel bathtub, an abandoned car in a junkyard or a garbage can. Yes, Jennifer has a severe problem (she may be the world's only true nymphomaniac) and when she can't find a man, she uses a homemade vibrator to do the job (it's unlike any vibrator you have ever seen!). Jennifer is also a professional photographer, whose oeuvre is grotesque death portraits of her male victims and she also takes equally disturbing shots during paid model shoots (such as women with brightly colored wigs wearing vagina masks!). What Jennifer needs is a man that can satisfy her every desire and that man just may be Batz (Anthony Sneed), whose penis is so hyperactive, it has a mind of its own (he has to tape it to his leg to keep it from tapping the underside of tables and desks!). Batz feeds his cock a wide variety of drug cocktails by hypodermic needle, including growth hormones, to keep it under control (he even has a Rube Goldberg-esque jerk-off contraption of his own design), but the fact is, his penis is getting way too big for his body. During a photo shoot at an apartment next to Batz's, Jennifer notices Batz's condition and becomes very intrigued. Later that day, she breaks into Batz's apartment with video camera in hand and ends up recording Batz making love to a prostitute. The prostitute continues to have orgasms long after Batz has finished (hours after he is done!), so he gags her and drops her off in an alley. Jennifer is so impressed, she plans on confronting Batz the next day with an offer he can't possibly refuse, but she is too late. Batz's mutant penis detaches itself from his body and leaves, going on a rape spree (but always leaving the women in orgiastic pleasure). When the mutant penis returns, Jennifer wants to nurture it, so she starts shooting drugs into it over Batz's objections. The detached penis then fucks Jennifer and for the first time in her life, she is sexually satisfied (She says, "It's like God is fucking me!"). Unfortunately, Jennifer, Batz and the mutant penis die, but not before Jennifer gives birth to a mutant penis/baby hybrid, who walks away into an uncertain future. I love happy endings! All I can say is: Welcome back Frank Henenlotter! BAD BIOLOGY may not be the best acted film (far from it, as some of the talent here is truly atrocious), but the ideas are truly original. The screenplay, by Henenlotter (BASKET CASE  and its two sequels; BRAIN DAMAGE - 1988; FRANKENHOOKER - 1990) and producer/rapper R.A. "The Rugged Man" Thorburn (a lot of rappers put in cameos and offer songs to the soundtrack here, including Reef The Lost Cause, Vinnie Paz, Prince Paul, Big Earth, Jzone and Remedy), is a wild black comedy about sexual morals taken to a degree never seen on film before (this would make a perfect double feature with Jonathan Yudis' PERVERT! - 2005). The sight of the mutant penis (a mixture of stop-motion animation and practical makeup effects by Gabe Bartalos) breaking through walls and floors to rape a bunch of nubile (and totally naked) women is a vision that is not soon forgotten, as are the weird camera set-ups; one being a POV shot from inside of Jennifer's vagina (showing all seven of her clits) looking out on the horrified face of one of her male victims (which is similar to the poster above, but the U.S. DVD will not use this artwork because, let's face it, we're a bunch of easily shocked puritanical prudes). This film may be low in budget, but it registers high on the originality scale (Henenlotter shot the entire film in 35mm and it looks gorgeous). Tina Krause appears as herself in a funny scene and director/producer James Glickenhaus (THE EXTERMINATOR - 1980) has a cameo as Jennifer's boss. Also starring Eleanore Hendricks ("Where's my Jimmy J?!?"), "Rude" Jude Angelini, Krista Ayne, Bjorn Milz, Vicky Wiese, Jelena Jensen, Rachael Robbins, Mark Wilson and Staff Sgt. John A. Thorburn. A Shriek Show DVD Release. Unrated.
BELIEVERS (2007) - Paramedics David (Johnny Messner; ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID - 2004) and Victor (Jon Huertas; THE INSATIABLE - 2006) answer a call of a woman passed out on Lake Road and when they get there, they find the woman, Rebecca (Deanna Russo), unresponsive, as her young daughter, Libby (Saige Ryan Campbell), screams at them to wake her up before "they" arrive. As David and Victor work to revive Rebecca (she has strange mathematical equations tattooed on her body), four men in white coats carrying guns pull up in a pickup truck, grab Rebecca and Libby and kidnap David and Victor, putting a bullet in Victor's shoulder to show they mean business. They are taken to a heavily guarded compound (actually a deserted missile base) of a cult of wackos called the Quanta Group, where David and Victor are "decontaminated" and questioned by a dweeb called IO (Erik Passoja), who informs them that in thirteen hours everyone in the cult will leave Earth to "perpetuate the species". David and Victor are then locked in bathroom stalls, as we watch the Quanta Group's leader, Dr. Talbot (Daniel Benzali; MESSENGER OF DEATH - 1988), also known as "The Teacher", using some psychic force on Rebecca's body in an attempt to revive her, but Libby tries to intervene ("You don't touch the Teacher!") and is locked in the same bathroom as David and Victor. Libby tells them that the Teacher is taking them to the other side of the universe, but they all have to go to sleep first. Thinking that everything is going to turn out like the Heaven's Gate mass suicide, David and Victor try to find a way to escape, especially when a seemingly-cured Rebecca shows up in the bathroom and offers to take them on their trip. Meanwhile, David and Victor's boss, Capt. Newsome (Dig Wayne), and David's pregnant wife Deborah (Elizabeth Bogush), try to locate them, but the Quanta Group have people on the outside covering up the evidence. The Teacher informs our captive pair that the Earth will cease to exist in a matter of weeks and offers to "save" them. The Teacher has a "formula" ("Numbers don't lie. People do.") that proves "a rain of fire will decend from above, incinerating all life on Earth" and explains to David and Victor that the Quanta Group, made up of scientists, researchers and philosophers, are the only people that will escape the Armageddon. The Teacher has knowledge of both David and Victor's lives that he can't possibly know about and it affects both David and Victor in very different ways (Victor is a devout Catholic and David is an Athiest). Is it possible that the Quanta Group is not a cult at all, but actually humanity's last chance for survival? I'm afraid you'll have to discover that for yourself. Let's just say that the ending is a killer. Slow-moving, yet never uninvolving, BELIEVERS is a taut tale of people who either believe or refuse to, not just about the end of the world, but also in God itself. Director Daniel Myrick (co-director of the cult smash THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT  and director of the horror films SOLSTICE  and THE OBJECTIVE ), working with a screenplay written by himself, Daniel Noah and Julia Fair (ALIEN RAIDERS - 2008), has fashioned a religious allegory disguised as a sci-fi thriller, a modern-day take on the Rapture. Myrick keeps us guessing whether the Quanta Group and the Teacher himself are real or just another brainwashing, mind-control cult with false doomsday prophecies. The scene where Rebecca seduces and the makes love to Victor while she repeats verbatim every word the Teacher (who has a Control Room full of TV's, where he can monitor every room in the compound) whispers in her ear (thanks to a small microphone implanted in her skull) is an example of how this film plays with audiences' expectations. The Believers think that the Teacher has real powers, while the non-believers will think it is nothing but a susceptible woman hypnotizing (by proxy) a man whose will has been weakened. In the end, it all boils down to the differences in David and Victor's backgrounds and those differences play a major role in how they react to the situation. While the film is not that bloody, there are extremely uncomfortable scenes, such as when David is "purged" with a car battery. The ambient soundtrack, full of low-range rumbles, electronic blips and whispering voices, adds to the creepy atmosphere. Though not for everyone's tastes, BELIEVERS is a seriously deranged take on how religion can be used for evil as well as good and how the best of intentions can come back and bite you in the ass. Also starring June Angela, John Farley, Carolyn Hennesy and Ray Papazian. A Warner Home Video DVD Release. Unrated.
BEWITCHED (1981) - For those expecting a review about the 60's TV comedy series starring Elizabeth Montgomery as a witch who makes things happen by twitching her nose or the abortive 2005 movie remake starring Nicole Kidman: Boy have you come to the wrong place! This film is actually a nifty Shaw Brothers production directed by the always-interesting Kuei Chih-Hung, who also gave us such Hong Kong masterpieces as BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973), THE KILLER SNAKES (1974), HEX (1980), CORPSE MANIA (1981) and THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983). This film opens with an on-screen scrawl (in Chinese; the film is subtitled in English) that explains that witchcraft has been practiced for centuries in the Far East; its main use being to get even with cheating husbands and boyfriends. We then switch to a family having a picnic in the woods and their food is being overrun with a larger-than-normal amount of ants. When the father pulls the blanket off the ground to find the source of the ants, he discovers the corpse of a seven year-old girl who has a huge spike driven through the top of her skull (shades of BLACK MAGIC 2 - 1976). The coroner removes the spike from the corpse girl's head and police inspector Bobby Wong (Huang Chin Shen; a.k.a. "Melvin Wong") is assigned to find her killer. A witness comes forward to say he saw a strange man in the area where the girl's body was found. So strange, in fact, that the witness jotted down the license plate number of the taxi he left in. The taxi driver informs Inspector Wong that he dropped the strange man at a temple, where the Inspector's men discover a photo of the dead girl on a spiritual tablet and that the strange man left enough money for ten years of incense burning in her honor. The Inspector notices a school badge in the girl's photograph, which leads him to the Mu Kuang School. After interviewing people at the school, the Inspector goes to the home of Lam Wai (Ai Fei), the father of the dead girl, and he is arrested and put on trial for her murder. Lam Wai explains in court that he killed his daughter because someone cast a spell on him, so the judge orders that he be examined by a psychiatrist before sentence is imposed (Lam Wai could be looking at a death sentence for his crime). The psychiatrist's report doesn't help him and Lam Wai is sentenced to hang. He asks to talk with Inspector Wong and tells him the whole sordid story, which began three months ago (flashback alert!) when he and some male friends went on an "anything goes" vacation to Nanyang, Thailand (30 years before THE HANGOVER PART II) . The married Lam Wai leaves the hotel to get a "body massage" (yeah, right!) and meets a gorgeous girl named Bon Brown (Chen Li Li; a.k.a. "Lily Chan"), who feigns an ankle injury to get Lam Wai to carry her to her apartment. Lam Wai thinks that she is a high-class prostitute (he buys her a fake diamond-encrusted "Love" necklace) and makes love to her on the beach (where she frolics topless), but he must end his vacation and return back to his life in Hong Kong. Bon Brown gives him a strange necklace to wear as a parting gift. The problem is, Bon Brown has fallen in love with him, but Lam Wai only thinks of her as a sexual conquest and brags about her to all his male co-workers (but not his wife). When he fails to return to Bon Brown on the promised date of June 30, 1981 (she writes "30-6-81" on a rock on the beach and takes a photo of Lam Wai posing next to it), Lam Wai begins suffering the supernatural consequences. At first he fails to achieve an erection when making love to his wife, but things are about to get much, much worse for him. It will all lead up to the murder of his daughter. Lam Wai begs Inspector Wong to find the spellcaster and bring the real killer to justice. Inspector Wong is about to run head-first into the Far East witchcraft culture, as he travels to Nanyang to uncover the truth. Can he save Lam Wai from the hangman's noose or will he fall victim to the deadly "Lemon Spell" (it's actually a lime, but believe me, you're going to want to see this), the "Split Head Spell", the "Raising Demon Child Spell", the "Strangling Spell" and the "Death Spell"? The moral to this story is that evil can never win over good, but you still shouldn't have casual sex. It always has consequences. Though slow to get started, BEWITCHED steadily builds to delirious heights, such as when the necklace Bon Brown gave Lam Wai starts leaking brown liquid on his chest, which refuses to wash off and then spreads all over his body in puss-filled boils and unwanted body hair. Add to that a young daughter who suddenly likes to eat raw meat and tries to kill Daddy on several occasions and you would think that's enough story for one film, right? Well, that's only the first half of the film, folks. The second half details disbeliever Inspector Wong's investigation, as he dovetails deeper and deeper into the supernatural subculture in Thailand; at first learning (at a lengthy spirit ceremony) that Lam Wai was put under the "Oil Of Carcass Spell". We watch (in another flashback) as this spell is performed, where a sorcerer collects the oil from a rotting pregnant woman's corpse (he sticks a needle in her foot, she sits up and the oil comes pouring out of her nose!), mixes it with live maggots and sticks the necklace the Bon Brown gave him in the liquid for three days. Inspector Wong then travels 100 kilometers up river to ask a monk and exorcist priest (Hussin Bin Abu Hassan; billed in the opening credits as "Renowned [sic] Malay Sorcerer") to remove the "Oil" and "Coffin Spell" from Lam Wai before it is too late. What we witness is an over-the-top (and downright informational) battle of the sorcerers. To say any more would spoil the surprises in store for the viewer, but director Kuei Chih-Hung and screenwriter Shih Tu An (CORPSE MANIA - 1981) pile-on weird visuals (the on-location photography is breathtaking as well as colorful), puss and maggot-spewing, some damn good wire work and even some strange creatures (including a bat statue that comes to life) to keep us wildly entertained. Highly recommended. Also starring Fanny, Liang Chen Ni and Lin Wei Tu. A Celestial Pictures VCD & DVD Release. Not Rated.
BEYOND REASON (1977) - Weird psychological thriller, directed and written by star Telly Savalas, his only stint as a director, except for a few episodes of his TV series KOJAK (1973 - 1978). Savalas is Dr. Nicholas Mati, chief psychiatrist at the criminal unit of a mental hospital, who has unorthodox methods of dealing with his patients (When the film opens, Dr. Mati is seen shooting craps in the men's room [the most logical place to play craps, if you ask me] with a group of male patients). His methods aren't popular with the higher-ups (When the Head of Psychiatry tells Dr. Mati to stop gambling with his patients, he replies, "I can't. I'm down thirty bucks!"), but he seems to get results with his patients, who have all been committed for various violent and heinous crimes. Dr. Mati has an unusually bright outlook on life, but it becomes obvious to the viewer early on that he is either losing his grip on reality or suffering from a serious medical illness. Dr. Mati begins to lose his grip on reality when the beautiful portrait of a young woman that his wife Elaine (Diana Muldaur; MANEATERS ARE LOOSE - 1978) just painted turns into a grim, colorless portrait of a hideous-looking old hag. He begins butting heads with student doctor Leslie Valentine (Laura Johnson; Wes Craven's CHILLER - 1985), who doesn't agree with his "pop psychology" approach and takes an interest in an unnamed patient of his. The questions soon become: Is Leslie real or a figment of Dr. Mati's imagination? Is the unnamed patient actually Dr. Mati? Things get downright bizarre when a man Dr. Mati has never seen before threatens to jump off the hospital's roof and someone phones Dr. Mati to talk him down. When he gets to the roof, the strange man whispers something into Dr. Mati's ear and then jumps off the roof, killing himself. When one of his prize patients dies suddenly, even Dr. Mati begins to doubt his sanity (When he tells his wife about her painting changing from beautiful to ugly, she jokingly says, "It's simple, you're crazy!", not realizing that she may not be too far off the mark), but he also thinks that someone may be trying to drive him over the edge. The rest of the film details Dr. Mati's search for the truth, but he might not like what he discovers. The audience may not either, depending on their tolerance for existential and oblique endings. Not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, BEYOND REASON (originally titled MATI) is still an interesting, if flawed, foray into one man's descent into madness. The movie plays like one long picture puzzle, where the viewer is given small visual pieces of the puzzle to put together as the film progresses, but unfortunately, some of the pieces we are given seem to belong to some puzzle never revealed. While Telly Savalas (HORROR EXPRESS - 1973; LISA AND THE DEVIL - 1973) is good as Dr. Mati, one wonders how this film would have turned out in the hands of a more capable director. While Savalas' script isn't too bad, the look of the film is much too flat and TV-ish, like some Movie of the Week (even though it was photographed by master cinematographer John A. Alonzo). There are some weird touches, though, such as the blind begging vagrant that gives Dr. Mati change for a ten-dollar bill and some of the hallucinations in Dr. Mati's mind. Since the whole story is basically told through Dr. Mati's eyes and mind, it's hard at first for the viewer to get a grasp on what is fact or fiction, but it becomes quite clear at the film's halfway mark that the reason why Dr. Mati is such an effective (or rather, affective) psychiatrist is because he, too, is harboring some deep, dark recessive memory that is slowly coming to the forefront. The film does drag in spots, but it manages to hold interest and the final shot may or may not imply that Dr. Mati is just a figment of a criminally insane patient's imagination, which gives everything that happened before it a whole new meaning. What's more puzzling to me is why Savalas picked this story as his only theatrical directing and writing credit. He seems to be exorcising some personal demons here, although the end result will leave the viewer unclear if he is pro or con on the subject of psychiatry. Also starring Marvin Laird, Bob Basso, Douglas Dirkson, Walter Brooke, Barney Phillips, Tony Burton, Lilyan Chauvin, Toni Lawrence, Larry Golden and John Lisbon Wood. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and not available on DVD. Rated PG.
BIG MEAT EATER (1982) - Here's something you don't see very often: A horror musical with original songs, in the same vein as THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975). Unfortunately, this micro-budgeted Canadian production is weak in every department, from the acting and mediocre original songs to all the technical aspects. The quiet town of Burquitlam may seem normal on the surface, but behind it's façade, it's a real horror show. Unbeknownst to town butcher Rob Sanderson (George Dawson), huge, hulking black stranger Abdullah (Clarence "Big" Miller) has just killed the town's mayor (by shoving his hand into the spinning radiator fan of a car) and his gangster henchman (he stuffs the body into a blazing furnace) and walks into Rob's butcher shop (Whose store's motto is "Pleased to meet you, meat to please you!") when some meat deliverymen accidentally carry the mayor's dead body into the store. Thinking that Abdullah was sent over by an employment agency, Rob slaps a butcher's smock on him and hires him as an apprentice butcher. At the same time, a UFO (a bad model on a string) lands in town and the aliens (two wind-up toy robots) revive the mayor's dead body and possess the body of young, budding scientist Jan Wczinski (Andrew Gillies). The aliens' goal: Construct a landing pad for an alien invasion and steal the contents in the pit of spoiled meat that Rob keeps beneath a trap door his butcher shop. It seems the contents are fermenting into a substance known as "Bolonium" (Really?), which is the fuel the aliens need to power their spaceships. The resurrected mayor tries to close down Rob's butcher shop to gain access to the Bolonium, only he doesn't count on the murderous Abdullah being there to stop him. Meanwhile, Jan (who, for some unknown reason, doesn't seem to be possessed anymore) has created a jet engine that runs on Bolonium, so he attaches it to the Mayor's vintage Cadillac and flies it on a collision course with the alien spaceship. The film ends on a happy note, but not once does it address the questions on every viewer's mind: Where did Abdullah come from and why does he want to kill everyone? This pretty bad horror musical tries way too hard to make itself into a cult film and it just doesn't work. Director Chris Windsor (his only directorial credit) places the film in some alternate 1950's universe, where people wear fedoras, drive Cadillacs (the kind with the big fins) and break into song and dance to advance the plot. Bluntly put, the songs (a strange mixture of ballads, doo-wop and new wave tunes) are terrible and the lipsynching by the cast of amateur actors rarely match the lyrics on the soundtrack. Windsor (who co-wrote this mess with Producer Laurence Keane) tries to make a musical version of PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE (1959), complete with dimestore special effects and deliberate bad line readings, but you can't purposely set out to make a bad cult film. It's the audience that decides whether a film becomes a cult phenomena and BIG MEAT EATER is just too low-rent and uninvolving to register with audiences the way PLAN NINE or ROCKY HORROR did. It tries too hard to be different, as Abdullah walks around wearing a fez, a sub-plot concerning a family of Gypsies (who either warn everyone in town about the alien evil or contribute to it) goes nowhere and Rob is one of the most clueless people in film history. There are a few shots of bloody gore, but it is so cheaply done and out-of-place here, I can hardly see anyone being impressed by it. I can see what Windsor was trying to achieve here, but his results fail to hit their intended mark. On a whole, BIG MEAT EATER can't even be considered an interesting failure. It's just a failure. Also starring Howard Taylor, Stephen Dimopoulos, Georgina Hegedos, Ida Carnevali, Sharon Wahl and Heather Smith-Harper. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and available on DVD from Koch Vision in a fairly sharp fullscreen print with a reworked Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Not Rated.
BLACK DEVIL DOLL (2007) - Director Chester Turner's BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL (1984) is one of those 80's SOV wonders which inexplicably has a huge following, not because it is a good film, but because it is the exact opposite. It is a turd of the highest order; a film that was shot (and edited) on a store-bought VHS camcorder; contains non-existant acting by a small cast of rank amateurs; has grade school special effects; has sound recording so bad that two tin cans and a piece of string would be considered a premium upgrade; and a droning, repetitive music score that was composed on a cheap Casio keyboard. Yet, it just has something that makes you sit there the entire running time slack-jawed. My opinion on why this film has achieved cult status is because jack-of-all-trades Chester Turner has turned out to be an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in total speculation. After making one more SOV film, the slightly better TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE (1987), Turner seemed to drop off the face of the Earth, which turned his life into a fanboy mystery. Those that knew him refused to talk about him (unsubstantiated rumors say that he died in a car crash or turned serial killer in Chicago, where BDDFH was supposedly filmed), making both of his films highly sought-after collector's items, even if they are really no better than spending the night on the couch at your Aunt Betty's house watching her vacation slideshow of her trip to Cancun. (UPDATE: A much-alive Chester N. Turner has been found , along with his star Shirley L. Jones, as can be seen by this photo taken in 2013 HERE.) Which brings us to this question: Why would anyone in their right mind remake this film? Well, the good news is that first-time director Jonathan Lewis and screenwriters Shawn Lewis & Mitchell Mayes have taken the original film's concept to a whole new raunchy level full of sex, body fluids, drug use and jokes so off-color, if Redd Foxx were still alive, he would have had that fatal heart attack and his last words would be, "Elizabeth, I'm coming to join you honey!" That's not to say BLACK DEVIL DOLL is a good film (it's not), but it is just different enough to merit at least one viewing. The film opens with an amusing piece of animation where BDD grabs a female member of the MPAA and fucks her doggie-style just after he butchers all the male members with a knife. The film proper then begins, as we watch a black militant prisoner fry in the electric chair and then the opening credits roll like some faux-70's blaxploitation film, with a funky, brassy music score playing on the soundtrack (by the excellent Giallos Flame; search out their soundtrack CD of the film and you won't be disappointed). High school girl Heather (the slightly plump and big-breasted Heather Murphy, who looks at least ten years too old to be in high school) gets bored and decides to mess with an Ouija Board (Will they never learn?) the same time the black militant (who raped and killed 15 white women) is being killed in the electric chair. His spirit enters Heather's white ventriloquist doll and transforms it into a black big-afroed, jive-talking, sex and drug-crazed puppet from Hell. The BDD professes his innocence to Heather (the "Man" set him up) and she instantly falls in love with him (performing oral and straight sex on him; he then goes down on her and they even take walks together at sunset!), while Heather's ex-boyfriend, White-T (Martin Boone) keeps close tabs on them. BDD soon grows tired of having one white "bitch", so he talks the infatuated Heather into getting all her other white girlfriends, Natasha (Natasha Talonz), Candi (Christine Svendsen), Buffy (Erika Branish) and Bambi (Precious Cox), to come over (We first see them all together washing a car in the driveway dressed in skimpy clothes, while BDD jerks-off and ejaculates an amazing amount of semen against a window!). After a not-so-sly endorsement for Rotten Cotton (Producer/co-scripter Shawn Lewis' tee shirt company, which also sells the DVD and posters of this film), the girls compare their boobs (lots of silicone on view) and play Twister in front of an increasingly horny BDD. Heather leaves the house and BDD proceeds to drug and rape the four girls (lots of jiggling silicone) and savagely kills them, but not necessarily in that order (instead of Nam flashbacks, he gets Black Panther flashbacks!), by knife, bathtub electrocution, baseball bat to the head and a slit throat, while Heather enjoys a burger and fries at a fast food joint. He even finds time to strangle and butt-fuck White-T ("Damn, that shit is tight!") when he comes to the house to win back Heather! When Heather returns home and sees the dead bodies of her friends ("I thought you were going to fuck them, not kill them!"), she blows several dozen holes into BDD (next to a poster of Patrick Dempsey from GREY'S ANATOMY) with a gun that seems to never run out of bullets (a really funny scene), but the she immediately gives birth to BDD Jr.! Like I said before, this is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets positive points for at least trying to be outrageous and paying homage to several genres (blaxploitation and spaghetti westerns immediately spring to mind). Unfortunately, the terrible, amateurish acting by everyone involved (Heather's four female friends look like they were grabbed from a strip club and told they were going to be in a film), except for the puppet, and the over-reliance on flashy editing (split, triple and quadruple screens are wildly overused) drag the film down a few notches. Still, where else are you going to see a puppet eat-out a girl's ass, jizz all over another dead girl's face and then have explosive (and acidic) diarrhea? The effects are low-rent (but effective) and there is plenty of near-X nudity and sex (although I'm not a big fan of women who are more plastic than natural), so if you are in the mood for something cheap, lewd and unusual, BLACK DEVIL DOLL might be right up your back alley. All others are forewarned. A Lowest Common Denominator Entertainment DVD Release (their logo is a shit-stained toilet!). Not Rated and for many good reasons.
BLOOD DELIRIUM (1988) - This film is going to be hard to explain. Music composer Sybille (Brigitte Christensen, who spends the first few minutes topless) comes home and listens to the phone messages on her answering machine. To her surprise, one of the messages is from herself......from the future! On the message, she tells herself that they are like two flames that burn as one. While the message is playing, Sybille's piano starts playing by itself and objects start flying around the room. When her fiance, Gerard (Marco Di Stefano), comes over and she tells him what she heard and witnessed, he tells her that she's simply been working to hard and her mind is playing tricks on her. At the same time, famous painter Charles Saint Simone (John Phillip Law), known simply as "Maestro", is at his dying wife Christine's (also portrayed by Christensen) bedside. Before she dies, she tells her husband about "two flames that burn as one" and how she will come back from the dead to be with him again. After his wife's death, the Maestro goes quite mad and, for a year, he is unable to paint anything to his satisfaction. He gets the bright idea to dig up Christine's corpse for inspiration, so he and his servant, Hermann (Gordon Mitchell), who secretly pined for Christine (we see him kiss her all over her dead body during her wake a year earlier!), dig up her body and place her maggot-ridden corpse by her piano. Yes, Christine was also a composer and her last composition, titled "Delirium", echoes in the Maestro's head. The Maestro paints a mask of Christine's face, puts it over the skull of his dead wife's corpse and starts painting again, but when the mask falls off, he loses his mind even more, as he imagines that his wife is laughing at him. He ends up burning over one hundred of his valuable paintings along with his wife's corpse. Now here's when it really begins to get strange. When Sybille is playing piano at her home, a window blows open and an invitation to one of the Maestro's gallery showings blows in. Sybille goes to the gallery and as soon as the Maestro sets sight of her, he thinks his wife has come back to him. To make a crazy long story short, Sybille ends up at the Maestro's castle and is soon wearing Christine's clothes and playing Christine's music, while the Maestro (who thinks he is the reincarnation of Van Gogh) begins painting in earnest again. He still can't seem to paint what he feels (He says to Sybille, "Can you give me the color of suffering?"), but when the even loonier Hermann rapes and kills a local girl, the Maestro finds that missing element in his paintings: Blood! He hangs the murdered girl upside down and drains the body of all it's blood and uses the red stuff liberally in his paintings. When Sybille accidentally discovers Hermann cutting up the body and disposing of the parts in an acid bath, the Maestro drugs and locks her in her bedroom. Things get weirder from here, as the Maestro runs out of blood ("I need more color!"), so he has Hermann kill one of Sybille's nosy friends. As Gerard rushes to help Sybille (he owns a two seater helicopter!), the finale finds "future Sybille" (thought the filmmakers forgot about her, didn't you?) saving both Gerard and Sybille (who are slowly being bled to death) and dropping pieces of the castle down on the Maestro (who, in keeping with the Van Gogh tradition, has cut off his own ear) and Hermann, killing them. Of course, none of this film makes an ounce of sense, but it is so out-there and unusual, it will hold you in it's loony, hypnotic spell. It should come as no surprise that this tale of obsession and possession was directed and co-scripted by Sergio Bergonzelli (identifed on some prints as "Peter Hudson"), who gave us the equally demented IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH (1970). Just like that film, BLOOD DELIRIUM is all over the map, throwing one twisted visual after another at us, whether it be Hermann's insatiable urge to fondle and kiss dead naked female bodies, the Maestro's obsession with Van Gogh or Sybille being kept drugged in a glass coffin (not to mention acid baths, which appear in both films). Also, just like in FOLDS, there's a twisted family dynamic going on, especially the relationship between master Maestro and servant Hermann. The Maestro professes his hatred of Hermann to Sybille, but the truth of the matter is one couldn't survive without the other. Both John Phillip Law (AMERICAN COMMANDOS - 1985) and Gordon Mitchell (ENDGAME - 1983) overact shamelessly (Truth be told, I've never seen either of them more animated than they are here, as they both are usually very stiff), but it suits this film like a comfortable pair of shoes on an aching pair of feet. Watching this film is like taking a short hallucinogenic acid trip, where time travel, body parts, copious amounts of nudity, necrophelia, paintings that bleed, spontaneously combust or explode, electrified doorknobs, vengeful spirits that manifest themselves as orbs of light and enough blood to satisfy the Red Cross for a month fleet across the screen and embed themselves in your brain. What more could you want? An undiscovered classic of weird cinema. Also starring Olinka Hardiman and Lucia Prato. Never released legitimately on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was taken from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.
BLOODSTREAM (1985) - This shot-on-super 8mm horror flick comes courtesy of director Michael J. Murphy, Britain's answer to Ted V. Mikels. Murphy has directed dozens of films, including the 47 minute infamous video nasty INVITATION TO HELL (1982) and it's 50 minute VHS partner THE LAST NIGHT (1983), followed by such titles as THE HEREAFTER (1983), DEATH RUN (1987), MOONCHILD (1989); SKARE (2009) and others so obscure, they don't even have an IMDB listing. There's a good reason for that. Many people find Murphy's films so sloppy and slow-moving (not to mention cheap) that they could tax the patience of a dead man. While I somewhat tend to agree with that assessment, Murphy does show a spot of intelligence and downright meanness every now and then. BLOODSTREAM opens interestingly enough, with a screaming man jumping out of his car and running through the woods while the flesh peels away from his body, eventually turning him into a bloody skeleton. It is then revealed that it's a VHS tape being watched at the office of B-movie czar William King (Mark Wells) and he's not happy with the results. He rips up the tape and fires the film's director, Alistair (Patrick Olliver), telling him he will never work in the film business again, before having him thrown out of the office by King's yes-man (and brother-in-law) Simon (Steven Longhurst). In reality, King (whose office walls are plastered with posters of his reel-life films, with titles such as SUCKED TO DEATH and AWAKEN ZOMBIE) really likes Alistair's film, but he is such a greedy bastard that he wants to keep the film's eventual profits all to himself. A dejected Alistair goes home and watches a series of horror films (possibly his own?) on TV where people are torn apart by zombies, axed in the head by a masked serial killer or have their head crushed by a mummy. While King is making a fortune selling rights to Alistair's film BLOODSTREAM around the world, Alistair snaps when he is informed by King's guilt-ridden secretary Nikki (Jacqueline Logan) as to what King is up to. With Nikki's help on the inside, Alistair begins his revenge spree, using the killings in the horror films he watches as a blueprint for his real-life murders. Dressed as the Grim Reaper, Alistair films his murders, beginning with actor Greg (David Slater), who has a barbell dropped on his neck (after dropping a 20 pound weight on his balls!). King's daughter Lisa (Samantha Page) is next, electrocuted in her bathtub and then stabbed with a sword. Simon is next in line, shot with a pistol and getting his hand and head cut off with an electric chainsaw (In a tasteless sequence, Simon's dog is tied to a tree, doused with gasoline and set on fire.). King's wife, Sally (Wendy Young), then has her throat cut with an electric knife. King's mistress, Judy (Catherine Rowlands), is tied to a chair and stabbed in the mouth with a butcher knife. King is then forced to watch Alistair's newest film, containing all the bloody deaths of his friends and family, before having his brains blown out with a pistol and making it look like a suicide. When Alistair finds out Nikki was only in it for the money, he kills her, too (by strangling her with a reel of film) and ends up in the insane asylum. Hooray for the British justice system! Since this is a super 8mm production, expect all the usual problems, including garbled sound recording (all the dialogue is recorded live with no post-production looping), chainsaw editing (sequences jump from one scene to the next, with visible splice marks and jumps in sound) and plenty of bad acting. Director Murphy and screenwriter Carl Humphries (who also wrote Murphy's INVITATION TO HELL) spend way too much time on the buildup (Alistair spends 75% of his screen time watching horrible horror films on his TV; films so cheap-looking, Andy Milligan would have probably turned them off) and not enough time on the payoff. While there is plenty of bloody violence, both within the film clips Alistair watches and the murders he performs, none of it is very well done or believable. There's not much to recommend here (although Murphy has a way displaying the nastier edges of people) unless you are a fan of ultra-cheap horror flicks where nearly every aspect of the production is lower-rung, both financially and professionally. Also starring Nanda Adkin, Lindsey Allen, Marina Bolton, Michael Clay and Dennis Daniels. Never legitimately available on home video in the United States (or, apparently, anywhere else); the print I viewed was sourced from an obscure bootleg British VHS tape. Sarcophilous Films, who have a distribution deal with Michael J. Murphy, say they are going to release a 25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of this film sometime in mid-2010. They also have (available now) a double feature DVD of INVITATION TO HELL/THE LAST NIGHT, as well as a DVD of SKARE, which has quite a history of problems (The negative was lost by a package delivery service, forcing Murphy to reshoot the entire film from scratch!). Not Rated. Update: Sarcophilous Films ceased operations and is out of business. The DVDs they released are considered rare and, therefore, command big bucks in collectors circles.
BLOODY PARROT (1981) - Another weird Hong Kong film from executive producer Run Run Shaw and his infamous Shaw Brothers production company that mixes martial arts, supernatural possession, spell casting, vampires and, of course, the Bloody Parrot of the title. Fans of the cult action/fantasy INFRA-MAN (1975) will be doubly delighted here, as director Hua Shan returns with another film that moves as quickly as a tornado being pushed by a hurricane and assaults the viewers' eyes with his hyper-kinetic, trance-inducing visual style. The film opens with this on-screen scrawl: "Of the world of spirits, in order to celebrate the birthday of the Demon King, they use their blood and change it to a Bloody Parrot. If you have the luck to meet it, it'll offer you three wishes to fulfill whatever you want." (It sounds like the old "rubbing the lamp and magic genie" story, only with blood mixed into the equation.). When thirteen caskets of treasures to the King of Dian, used to pay tribute to the Imperial Court, are stolen, the Prince sends Chief Guo Fan (Kuan Feng) to investigate. The Chief and his men are attacked by an invisible enemy and the Chief sets his eyes upon the Bloody Parrot (the sky turns blood red), who tells him he now has three wishes and as long as he lives, the wishes will come true. As we have learned from other wishing stories and films, you better be careful what you wish for. Being the good policeman that he is, the Chief's first wish is to find the thirteen caskets of treasure and, poof!, the treasures are returned to the Prince, but Chief Guo Fan, also the Prince's son, dies after falling off his horse when returning to the Dian home. The distraught Prince begs the Bloody Parrot to bring his son back to life and almost gets his wish, except his sister, the Princess, goes bonkers, stabs the Prince in the back with a sword and the commits suicide with the same sword. Their father, the King, dies of a heart attack a few seconds later. (Remember this scene. It is an important clue.). The thirteen caskets of treasure once again disappears, which causes a bloody upheaval in the Dian Dynasty, as all the martial artists across the land fight each other to the death looking to meet the Bloody Parrot and get their hands on the treasure. Enter Constable Yeh Ting Feng (Jason Pai Piao; BLOODY SORCERY - 1986), who is searching for Chief Guo Fan's brother, Guo Kan, the only surviving member of the Dian family who may know where the lost treasure is located. He meets Guo Kan for a few moments when he pops-up out of a casket at the now-deserted Dian house and tells Yeh Ting that the red streak he just saw dart across the sky means that the Bloody Parrot will soon visit. Guo Kan then suddenly drops dead and Yeh Ting has an autopsy performed on him (it's disgusting as hell and leaves very little to the imagination), only to find he was killed by a poison needle and that he has a huge pearl, part of the lost treasure, embedded in one of his legs. Yeh Ting joins forces with friend (and local lawman) Tieh Han (Tony Liu Yung; HUMAN LANTERNS - 1982) to find Guo Kan's killer, but the Bloody Parrot kills Tieh Han before they even begin to investigate. While at a bar mourning the death of his friend (he's brought Tieh's coffin with him!), Yeh Ting is attacked by three troublemakers, but the Bloody Parrot makes another quick appearance, killing the three goons (and a real parrot perched at the bar!) with it's supposed supernatural powers and leaving a few more pieces of the lost treasure, including a Bloody Rock, for Yeh Ting to find. The bartender gives Yeh Ting a clue, which leads him to the aptly titled Parrot Brothel, with Tieh's coffin in tow. Everyone at the brothel thinks Yeh Ting is a nutcase (Who travels with a coffin?), but prostitute Xue Nu (Jenny Liang Chen-Ni; LOST SOULS - 1980) welcomes him and the coffin into her strangely decorated bedroom (someone is watching them through the cut-out eyes of a Demon King mural painted on one of her walls). Yeh Ting learns from Xue Nu (who hands him a whip and practically begs him to use it on her!) that there is more to the Bloody Parrot legend than meets the eye. Xue Nu then grabs the Bloody Rock and swallows it! She becomes possessed by the Demon King (she begins licking her own naked breasts like they were made of candy!), shoves a huge pearl up her vagina and begins attacking Yeh Ting, until he hits her so hard that the pearl falls out of her twat! Folks, I've barely touched upon the insanity on view here (everything I have described happens within the first thirty minutes!), as Yeh Ting will encounter a hunchback servant, a vengeful witch named Madame Li (Mei-Mei Wong), a fighter with an extremely long sword and Constable Chang Xiao, The Deadly Sword, who may be a better martial artist than Yeh Ting. He will also have to deal with his friend Tieh rising from his coffin and turning into a vampire (he bites a priest on the hand, forcing the priest to cut off his own arm with a sword!). This all leads to a finale that proves that the Bloody Parrot was nothing but a royal scam, a way for the Prince and Princess (who faked their deaths with a trick sword) to keep the treasure all to themselves. But Yeh Ting still has one or two tricks up his sleeve to defeat this nasty duo. I've barely scratched the surface of this amazing film, which is parts martial arts actioner, supernatural horror and murder mystery (with a definite giallo vibe). Director Hua Shan and screenwriter I Kuang, who has written the scripts to some of the most enjoyably over-the-top Hong Kong horror, fantasy and action films (BLACK MAGIC - 1975; THE SEXY KILLER - 1976; BLACK MAGIC II - 1976; MIGHTY PEKING MAN - 1977), throw everything imaginable at the screen, including bloody deaths (lots of flying body parts, spurting blood and gory impalements), magic spells (one spell forces Chang Xiao's men to turn on each other, which leads to one nasty "sword implanted in a face" scene), dead animals (including a strangled cat and a hanging monkey missing it's brains), cannibalism and maggot eating, zombie attacks, snake attacks, an underground lair full of mirrors (a homage to ENTER THE DRAGON ), plenty of well-staged (and gory) martial arts fights, some welcomed full-frontal female nudity and even a mask made out of the skin of a human face (which is tossed around like a Frisbee!). Hua Shan's direction is frenetic, but never distracting and the set designs, photography (lots of red and green gel lighting) and art direction are all top notch. If you are a fan of Hong Kong weirdness, BLOODY PARROT will make you about as happy as a drug addict getting his next fix, but without the withdrawal symptoms a few hours later. Also starring Yeung Ching-Ching, Chan Shen, Chow Kin Ping and Meng Chun Hsia. A Celestial Pictures DVD Release. Not Rated.
BLOODY SORCERY (1986) - I don't pretend to be an expert on Hong Kong horror films, but when films throw demonic possession, worm-puking and battling wizards in your direction, you tend to take notice and enjoy these films for what they are: A ninety minute acid trip to another culture, where half-naked native tribes, erectile disfunction and magic spells are as common as a cheeseburger on a diner menu. BLOODY SORCERY (original title: XIONG ZHOU) is that kind of film. It opens with two explorers, Sau Au Yeung (Alan Chan Kwok-Gwong) and Li Ping (Han Ying-Chieh), being chased through the jungles of Burma by an angry tribe of natives because they have stolen a magic jade statue. As the tribe gets closer, Li Ping loses his life to a deadly booby trap (involving a cobra and a rope snare) and Sau Au Yeung (who was shot in the leg with an arrow earlier in the chase) begs the statue for protection. The jade statue begins glowing and suddenly makes Sau Au Yeung invisible to the tribe. Sau Au Yeung makes it back to Hong Kong safely, but must spend the rest of his years in a wheelchair. Back in Hong Kong, Mak Long (Jason Pai Piao; BLOODY PARROT - 1981) begins to experience a string of very bad luck and it looks as if black magic is the cause of it. First, his horny wife leaves him when he fails to get an erection while they are making love (They make pills for that now, honey!). Then, his leg starts bleeding for seemingly no reason while he is doing research in a library, drawing the attention of Dr. Au Yeung (Kwan Hoi-San), the son of Sau Au Yeung, who offers to help, but Mak Long runs away (leaving a rather large puddle of blood in his wake). Next, while having dinner in a restaurant, his plate of noodles turns into a pile of worms, which he unknowingly ingests in front of shocked customers while his leg still hemorrhages blood (One customer yells at him, "You bleed too much!"). While Dr. Au Yeung is driving home, he spots Mak Long passed-out on the side of the road, so he brings him to the hospital, where he patches up his leg wound, but thinks the injury is something he has seen before. Nurse Suk Fan (Jo Jo Ngan Lai-Yue) believes Mak Long was shot and wants to report him to the police, but when his x-rays come back and show no signs of a leg wound at all, Dr. Au Yeung decides that the police aren't the answer and launches his own investigation. When Mak Long wakes up in the hospital (just after his room fills up with blood, worms fall out of his leg wound and then everything disappears in a flash of white light), he tells Dr. Au Yeung and Suk Fan the whole sordid story. Flashbacks reveal that Mak Long was a reporter in Vietnam during the war, where he photographed and documented all types of atrocities with his camera. While on leave in Thailand, he meets a Burmese bar girl named Lina (Fung Git-Ling) and they fall in love, unaware that Lina's father is a powerful wizard. When Mak Long promises to come back from Vietnam to marry Lina and then breaks that promise (Turns out that Mak Long is a womanizer and already has a wife in Hong Kong), Lina's father puts a magic curse on him, which turns his life to shit. I know what you're thinking: "Wait a minute! What does this have to do with the jade statue and Dr. Au Yeung's father?" Well, it turns out that the wheelchair-bound Sau Au Yeung and Mak Long have one important thing in common: The leader of the angry native tribe and Lina's father are one and the same! Can Dr. Au Yeung save his father and Mak Long from the vengeful wizard's wrath, which includes vampire demons, even more disgusting worms and lots of supernatural mumbo jumbo (not to mention matching gaping leg wounds)? I'm afraid you'll have to watch the film to find out. This lunatic horror flick, directed and written by Do Gong-Yue (DEVIL SORCERY - 1988; LADIES KILLER - 1992), is full of the type of bloody nonsense we've come to expect from Hong Kong horror films. There's plenty of shots of bloody leg wounds oozing worms; showers of blood (including a bathtub, sink and toilet that magically flow with the red stuff), lots of magic rituals that include human sacrifices, battling magicians and burning incense; and tons of cheap optical effects and in-camera tricks. Other craziness also on view includes badly translated (and hilarious) hard-coded English subtitles ("Brother, why do you say that, we're friend?"); some graphic Vietnam War stock footage; and lots of "What the fuck?!?" moments, such as when Sau Au Yeung takes a supernaturally-assisted wheelchair ride down a road and passes his son (who is driving the opposite way), who, rather that trying to catch-up with his father, stops the car, picks-up his father's hat off the side of the road and tosses it into the car! Say what you want about these Hong Kong horror films; they may make very little sense (especially to our Western sensibilities), but they are entertaining as hell. BLOODY SORCERY (also known as BLOOD SORCERY and THE CURSE) is no exception. Also starring Ku Feng as the pissed-off wizard. As far as I can tell, this was only released on VHS and VCD by Ocean Shores Video and is not available on DVD. Not Rated.
BLOODY WEDNESDAY (1985) - Harry (Raymond Elmendorf) is having a nervous breakdown. He loses his job as a mechanic when he forgets how to put a car engine back together. He shows up at a church service in the nude. He is put into a mental institution but is soon released because he is not considered a threat to society. Harry's brother, Ben (Navarre Perry), sets him up with a new apartment in a deserted hotel and soon strange things, both real and imagined, begin to happen. Harry spots three thugs destroying an adjacent apartment and has them arrested, the thugs vowing revenge. Harry has a teddy bear that he imagines can talk. Before long, Harry's mind is playing so many tricks on him (his bedsheet turns into a snake; the deserted hotel suddenly has a bellhop and suicidal occupants) that no one believes him when the three thugs come back to get even. He manages to get away but is blamed for the damages. The FBI shows up at his door and accuse him of firing a rifle out his window at a passing plane. They find no rifle, only a broomstick. When the three thugs return again, Harry pulls a revolver from inside his teddy and plays an impromtu game of Russian roulette, scaring the shit (literally!) out of the hoodlums and then lets them go free. Harry has just made three new friends who are later instrumental in helping him obtain a machine gun. Harry falls in love with his psychiatrist (Pamela Baker), but she just wants to help him, trying to convince Harry to voluntarily commit himself. He refuses. Harry's wife (Teresa Mae Allen), whom he has seperated from, stops by to make his life hell. Many more things happen (some so surreal you'll have to watch it twice) to Harry until his mind completely snaps, causing him to grab the machine gun and slaughter dozens of patrons at a nearby diner. This is Bloody Wednesday. This is pretty strong material as an indictment against the mental health industry and outdated laws. Harry is an outcast in the outside world and since he hadn't committed any serious crimes until the finale, he couldn't be committed without his consent. Raymond Elmendorf is spellbinding as Harry, as we view his slow mental deteriorization resulting in the bloody and shocking final act of a confused man. This is not kid's stuff. Writer and producer Philip Yordan also scripted the strange horror film CATACLYSM (1980 - a.k.a. SATAN'S SUPPER and THE NIGHTMARE NEVER ENDS), DEATH WISH CLUB (1983) and many others dating as far back as the early 50's. BLOODY WEDNESDAY should be on your must-see list. A Prism Entertainment Release. Also available in a horrendous EP-mode transfer from Simitar Entertainment. Unrated. NOTE: I actually had some guy berate me by email for reviewing this film because he seems to think it sullies the memory of the people who died in the infamous slaughter at a McDonalds in California in the early 80's by a mentally disturbed man. Yordan may have based his screenplay on this incident but, seriously, lighten up! It's just a movie.
BRUKA, QUEEN OF EVIL (1974) - Yes, this is the seldom-seen and long-rumored not to exist sequel to the Philippines/Hong Kong co-production DEVIL WOMAN (1973). This film picks up directly where the first one ended: after showing a quick succession of re-edited scenes from the first film, Manda (Rosemarie Gil), the snake-haired woman, falls off a cliff after torch-carrying villagers burn down her home (actually, she fell off the cliff while doing battle with the film's hero, but let's not split hairs). Manda wakes up in a cave occupied by her grandmother, Bruka (Played by Etang Ditched, who, in the English subtitles, is referred to as "Carol Pak". The name "Bruka" is not mentioned once.), who has the head (and big fright hair) of an old woman and the body of a giant snake (a real sight to behold as she slithers around the cave with her dwarf assistants in tow!). Grandma gives Manda a black stone and tells her that when she puts it in her mouth, her snake hair will disappear and she will look normal and when she takes it out of her mouth the snakes will once again appear (Why would anyone create such a stone? The mind boggles!). Manda puts the stone in her mouth and, sure enough, her serpent-filled head turns into a beautiful black mane of hair. She is so grateful that she hugs her grandmother's huge snake body. Manda looks upon this new development as a way to get revenge on those who killed her parents (you really should watch DEVIL WOMAN, or at least read my review, before viewing this film to truly understand Manda's motivations) and Grandma gives her an army of dwarves, snakes, rock creatures, walking trees (!) and other strange monsters to protect her as she goes on her killing spree. At first Manda is just happy to appear in public without a scarf on her head (she prances around the forest is slow-motion, twirling around while her hair dances in the wind), but soon she starts getting even with the villagers. One unlucky gent (Filipino regular Charlie Davao) is bitten in the face and constricted to death by a horde of snakes. A horny young man with a guitar puts the moves on Manda, but she removes the black stone from her mouth and the young man is bitten to death by her head-full of snakes. Meanwhile, a gang of ruffians charge into a restaurant and beat-up the waiters ("Bring us wine!") and put their hands all over the female staff (at one point, the bald-headed leader of the gang makes the obviously gay manager kiss one of the girls, but gets a surprise when the manager plants a wet one on the top of his bald head!), which visibly upsets bouncer Hon Ping (Alex Lung), who ends up taking-on the gang single-handedly and beating them all to a pulp with his kung-fu expertise (and he gets fired from his job by the restaurant's owner because his fighting has chased away all the customers!). Upset that he has lost his job, because he has a young sister and sickly mother depending on him (When he gives his sister two dollars, she looks at her ill mother and says, "I'll cook for you tomorrow!" Why not cook for her today?), Hon Ping accepts a job from sleazy, cigar-chomping rich man Mr. Tong (after beating all of Mr. Tong's thugs in a long martial arts fight), who offers him fifty thousand dollars to rescue is daughter Louisa (Sandra de Veyra), who has disappeared in the forest on her way to her aunt's house (all the other men who were sent to find her were killed by a "ghost" in the forest). Manda continues her killing spree, picking up a guy at a disco (when she leaves the disco, one guy's plate of noodles turns into snakes and everyone leaves the place screaming, "Snakes...let's run away!") and killing him with the old black stone trick. When it is revealed that Manda kidnapped Louisa so she could be sacrificed in a full moon ceremony by Bruka (turns out Louisa is a virgin), it is up to Hon Ping to use his kung-fu skills (and a newly acquired weapon that must be seen to be believed) to battle Manda and Bruka's seemingly never-ending supernatural assault. Like the later Bruce Lee film GAME OF DEATH (1979), Hon Ping must fight a succession of more deadly opponents (including a boar-man who can punch so hard, he can leave holes in trees!) until he finally faces-off with Manda and Bruka and rescues Louisa and a group of female virgins. This crazy mix of martial arts (with plenty of wire work) and horror genres, directed by Albert Yu (who co-directed the first film) and produced by Jimmy L. Pascual (director of the martial arts flick FISTS OF THE DOUBLE K - 1973; although no screenwriter is listed, there is a "Dialogue By" credit attributed to Yuen Shiao Po), is full of "What The Fuck?!?" moments, including Hon Ping helping a monk (played by Filipino staple Ramon D'Salva) and his hunchbacked apprentice (this guy's hunch is huge!) bury the population of an entire village killed by snake bites (the monk and the hunchback are soon murdered by Manda and three dwarves); Hon Ping fighting an army of little people, tossing them into the air like rag dolls; Hon Ping's battle with the rock creatures (Hon Ping winces every time he hits or kicks them until he gets the smart idea of hitting them with boulders!); the sacrifice of a topless female virgin during a full moon ceremony, where the poor girl is crushed to death by the rock creatures' repeated blows and is then devoured by Bruka's minions until only her bloody breasts are left (!); and so much more (including a mysterious hermit in the forest who gives Hon Ping the tools to defeat the evil, but not before making Hon Ping suffer a couple of days before doing so). If you are lucky enough to score a copy (a special "Thank You" to Andrew Leavold for supplying my copy), you are gonna be in for one helluva good, weird time (I didn't even mention the bat-man, who wears one of the cheesiest bat suits that I ever recall seeing. It makes the one in TWILIGHT PEOPLE  look like a Rick Baker creation!). I don't believe BRUKA, QUEEN OF EVIL has ever had a legitimate home video release in any country (Andrew believes the copy he sent me was telecined from a rare English-subtitled Hong Kong 35mm film master and it looks damned good, except for some damage at reel changes), but it did play in U.S. theaters during the mid-70's to the early-80's (Those prints were English dubbed, not English subtitled. It would be interesting to find an English dubbed print of the film, just to spot the changes in names.). I consider it a miracle just to see this film at all. It was everything I hoped it would be and therefore gets my highest recommendation. Also starring Yukio Someno, Anthony Lee, Michael Kwan, Connie Angeles, Darius Razon, Tintoy, Roldan Rodrigo, Alfonso Carvajal and Eddie Nicart (the director of the perversely entertaining Weng-Weng actioner FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY - 1981). Rated R.
BUBBA HO-TEP (2002) - God bless Don Coscarelli's heart. He has made one of the most heartfelt homage/horror movies to come down the pike in quite a while. While you do have to wipe your mind blank and accept what follows in this film, you will be glad you did. An aging Elvis Presley (the always terrific Bruce Campbell), who has a cancerous growth on his penis, and a black man who claims to be President John F. Kennedy (the tremendous Ossie Davis), who claims that the C.I.A is keeping his brain alive by batteries in Washington D.C., must fight an ancient mummy who sucks the souls out of the assholes of the elderly people they live with at a home for the aged. This may sound ridiculous, but Campbell and Davis pull it off with such aplomb, that I almost forgot that we were dealing with a horror film here. Campbell's Elvis is a creature of regret, who misses his Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie (neither who gave their blessing to this film, but if they actually watched it, might have changed their minds) who comes alive when he and Davis must come up with a way to stop the killings in their home. The nurses and doctors (one played by Coscarelli regular Reggie Bannister) believe the deaths to be natural, but Elvis (who has some sort of psychic connection to the mummy) and Kennedy (who Elvis saves before his soul could be sucked out of his ass) know different. Filled with good humor and actual pathos, BUBBA HO-TEP should be congratulated on making a horror film with actual soul (no pun intended) and not the usual stalk-and-slash kill-a-thon that young people seem to love. The Elvis back-story is a hoot (I'm not giving it away here) and could have actually happened. The only drawback to this film is that there is no actual Elvis songs on the soundtrack as either it was too expensive or his estate refused to license them to the production. But just sit back and enjoy Campbell and Davis' performances. I doubt you see anything like this again and it wouldn't be a Coscarelli film without some flying lethal object: Here it is a giant scarab beetle which precedes every mummy attack. This is Coscarelli's first film since 1998's PHANTASM IV: OBLIVION. Let's hope he doesn't wait another 5 years until his next film (It would actually be ten years, with JOHN DIES AT THE END - 2012). Will someone please give him a big budget and creative control and see what he can make? I know it will be a winner. Also starring Ella Joyce, Harrison Young and Bob Ivy as the Cowboy boot and hat-wearing mummy (yeah, you read it right!). TCB baby! An MGM DVD Release. Rated R.
CENTIPEDE HORROR (1987) - No one ever accused Hong Kong horror films of showing restraint and here's a good example of restraint being thrown out the window, along with the bathwater and the baby. After showing us extreme close-ups of centipedes with accompanying voiceover narration giving us a short history of the many-legged buggers (apparently, they have 22 sections with two legs per section, which equals 44 legs; far short of "centipede" status, but still one of the creepiest bugs on the planet), we move on to the film proper, where young woman Kay is begging her brother Pak (Kiu Wai Miu) to let her go on a seven day vacation to Southeast Asia. He agrees to let Kay go (and not tell their "Mummy"), but only if she'll wear this big-assed medallion around her neck to ward-off evil spirits (People living in Hong Kong must believe that S.E. Asia is full of dangerous supernatural predators that feed on tourists). Kay reluctantly agrees, puts the unwieldy medallion around her neck and the next time we see her, she is jogging in S.E. Asia with a female friend. They stop at a pushcart selling "grass jelly" and enjoy eating a couple of bowls, but the guy running the pushcart notices Kay's medallion and gives it an ominous look. When Kay leaves her headband behind on the pushcart, the guy gives it another ominous look and you just know it's going to be used in some kind of crazy Asian spell (Or maybe I have watched too many Hong Kong horror flicks? Nah, it's gonna be used in a spell!). Kay's girlfriend talks her into taking off the medallion ("It's ugly!") and she throws it into her suitcase. Big stupid rookie mistake. Kay and her tour group go to a coconut farm, where Kay drinks too much coconut milk (Is that even possible?) and has to go wee-wee. She never makes it to the bathroom, as she and her girlfriend are attacked by an army of centipedes and they both pass out. Kay's girlfriend dies of a heart attack and Pak flies to the S.E. Asia hospital where his sister is being treated, only to find that Kay's entire body is covered with mysterious gaping wounds (the doctor first thought it was "Hiroshima radiation poisoning", but quickly discards it because, hey, they're not in Japan!) and she has been struck speechless. The doctor vows to find a cure to this "mystery disease", so Pak hooks-up with old schoolmate Yeuk Chee (Margaret A. Li) and they take a night stroll down the busy streets of S.E. Asia, where they meet Mr. Chan Hie, the "King Of The Centipedes", a man selling centipede ointment to cure poisonous centipede bites. Mr. Chan visits Kay in the hospital and tells Pak and Yeuk Chee that there is nothing he can do for her, but they should visit his teacher, who lives very far away. Before they can do that, Kay dies (with centipedes squirming out of her wounds) and Pak is given her suitcase, which contains the medallion. Pak is told by a fortuneteller that his generation is suffering from a curse put on his grandfather and there is no way to avoid his fate (The fortuneteller's advice: "Do more charity!"). Pak keeps catching glimpses of a red figure walking away from him and then flies back to Hong Kong, where Mummy (Chien Szu-Ying) tells Pak that when his grandfather was young, he did a "shameful thing" while in S.E. Asia. She is not sure exactly what that shameful act was, but she knows Pak's father found out just before he died. Pak, who is beginning to get bad headaches and is not feeling too well, vows to discover his Grandpa's sins and reverse them before it is too late. All of this happens within the film's first thirty minutes and what happens during the next 63 minutes will have Pak questioning his sanity. It seems that fifty years earlier, Pak's grandfather was responsible for burning down an entire village (on the same spot where Kay was attacked by the centipedes), killing everyone in the village and a vengeful wizard has made it his life's work to make Pak's family suffer. How is Pak going to fight this? Why, by hiring his own wizard to do battle! Although it takes a while for this film to get cookin', once it does, it's a non-stop sleazefest. Director Keith Li (a.k.a. "Lee Pak Ling"; VAMPIRE KIDS - 1991) and screenwriters Anna Chan & Suet Ming have fashioned a gory supernatural horror film that actually has a coherent plot for a change, but that's not to say that there aren't plenty of "What The Fuck?!?" moments, including Pak and Yeuk Chee spying on a wizard performing a ritual on a totally naked woman with a gangrenous stomach (it involves distilling the oil taken from the corpses of children, cutting off a chicken's head, using the chicken's blood to mark the woman's body with Chinese symbols and ends with her puking-up a bunch of bloody scorpions!); Yeuk Chee having a spell cast on her by the evil wizard, which leads to a battle between good and bad wizards (the good wizard loses after putting up a valiant fight); and plenty of centipede attacks (and even some centipede puking). The truly demented conclusion must be seen to be believed and includes reanimated chicken corpses, stealth fireballs, a cobra head impalement (!) and more centipedes than you will ever care to see for the rest of your life. Special props to actress Margaret A. Li for throwing-up what are obviously live centipedes! Only in Hong Kong, folks, only in Hong Kong, This may not be in the same league as the Shaw Brothers horror flicks THE KILLER SNAKES (1974) or BLACK MAGIC (1975), but CENTIPEDE HORROR still manages to entertain while grossing you out. Also starring Wang Lai, Stephen T.F. Lau, F.C. Chan, Yip Tin Hang and Yau Pui Ling. Bootleg company Apprehensive Films offers a reasonably sharp widescreen English hardcoded subtitled print on DVD. Not Rated.
THE COLOR OF LOVE (1974) - Unusual all-black cast religious supernatural film that can't be considered blaxploitation because of its earnestness. During a mass baptism at a lake, Femi (Bill Overton) stops the baptism of girlfriend Billie (Avis McCarthur) because it goes against their voodoo beliefs. Some of the male parishioners of the church take offense to Femi's actions and hold him underwater, drowning him. That night, the voodoo community performs a ritual over Femi's body (a live chicken has it's throat cut), where the voodoo priest promises that his death will not go unanswered and Lord Shango, the groups highest deity, will seek retribution. Billie's mother, Jenny (Marlene Clark; GANJA & HESS - 1973; BLACK MAMBA - 1974), is also pissed about Femi's death because of the emotional damage it has inflicted on her daughter, but Jenny's fiancé Memphis (Wally Taylor), a voodoo non-believer and a member of the local church, promises to get Jenny pregnant and give her a baby if it's the "Lord's will", something Jenny has wanted for a long time. While waitressing at the local bar, Jenny talks to Jabo (Lawrence Cook), an ex-jazz drummer and voodoo practitioner, who tells her that Femi's death was murder and then goes on to make ominous statements that "it's not over", especially where Billie is concerned. He's right, of course, because Billie becomes downright delirious from her grief and believes every man she meets is Femi, beginning with Memphis, whom she fucks. When Jenny finds out, she runs to the local church, where Memphis is repenting his sins. Jenny is not so forgiving, as she slaps Memphis silly and breaks off their engagement. Billie runs away from home and months pass with no word from her. Then bad things begin to happen. Memphis nearly cuts his arm off with a circular saw at his construction job. With Jabo's encouragement, Jenny goes to the local voodoo cult looking for retribution for her daughter's disappearance and Femi's death and, pretty soon, members of the local church, especially those involved in Femi's drowning, begin to die mysteriously. Billie returns home, too, and that bump in her stomach is not from overeating. Billie is pregnant with Memphis' baby, so Jenny demands that Memphis marries Billie. It's also apparent that Jenny will be paying a steep price for getting involved with the voodoo cult. When Jenny and Jabo become lovers (he delivers a devastating soliloquy about his life that will break your heart), all the pieces seem to fall into place, but a final twist will test everyone's faith, both voodoo practitioners and the church-going. Not quite a horror film and not quite exploitation, THE COLOR OF LOVE (originally released as LORD SHANGO) is more of an indictment against organized religion (of all types) and blindly following the rules without questioning them first. Director Ray Marsh (who also gave us the PG-rated comedy THE LAST PORNO FLICK - 1974) and screenwriter Paul Carter Harrison (YOUNGBLOOD - 1978) make this more of a slice-of-life drama about black life in a small southern town, with supernatural overtones added for some mystery. The theme to this film, "The price of life is sacrifice", is shown in many guises here, from Femi's drowning, the mysterious deaths of the church parishioners and even Billie's pregnancy, with Jabo appearing at all of them like some avenging angel as the connective tissue. Not much is known about Jabo, except he's an ex-musician and he drinks too much, but it's apparent that he's the catalyst to everything that happens here. The question soon becomes if he sits on the wings of angels or the horns of the Devil? While the violence here is rather tame and very little blood is spilled on screen, the story manages to hold your attention because the characters are tightly drawn (Marlene Clark and Lawrence Cook are excellent). These people aren't written in black and white, so it is up to us to form our own opinions about them. Those going into this film expecting a horror flick are going to be in for a major disappointment, so keep an open mind when watching it. I'm not a religious person, so let me say this: THE COLOR OF LOVE is a film about religion that everyone can understand, from the devoutly religious to the non-believer. Also known as SOULMATES OF SHANGO. Also starring John Russell, B.A. Ward, Stanley Greene and Maurice Woods. Originally released on VHS by Aries Home Entertainment and not available on DVD. Rated R.
THE COTTAGE (2008) - This British production is an offbeat mixture of crime and horror genres, with a healthy dose of dark humor. Two bumbling crooks, brothers David (Andy Serkis; INKHEART - 2008) and Peter (Reece Shearsmith, who looks like a battered Kevin Spacey), kidnap the buxom and foul-mouthed Tracey (Jennifer Ellison) and bring her to the title abode in the middle of nowhere. It's quite obvious from the start that Tracey isn't your average kidnap victim, as she managed to break Peter's nose with a few well-placed head-butts, even though her hands are tied behind her back and her legs bound together. It turns out that Tracey is the stepdaughter of crime boss Arnie and David and Peter are holding her for a 100,000-pound ransom. Arnie (whose office is in the basement of a strip club) sends his son Andrew (Steven O'Donnell) to deliver the ransom (not knowing that Andrew is a part of the kidnapping), but Andrew is unaware that dear old Dad has also sent two Asian hitmen, Muk Li San (Logan Wong) and Chun Yo Fu (Jonathan Chan-Pensley), to follow him and kill those responsible for Tracey's kidnapping and then return with Tracey. Andrew (who is just as bumbling as David and Peter) shows up at the cottage with the satchel of ransom money, but when they open it, all that is inside is wads of tissue paper (Andrew incredulously says, "I probably should have checked it."). Things rapidly go from bad to worse when David is forced to go to Plan B, but Peter blows it and manages to let Tracey get a good look at all their faces. David is forced to leave the cottage and look for a working phone after Peter drops their cell phone in a pond, while Arnie makes his way to the cottage to join the waiting Asian hitmen. David finds a phone booth and makes a new ransom demand and, after being warned by the town's off-kilter elderly citizens that it is not safe to be outside at night in these parts, David returns to the cottage to find Peter and Tracey missing and Andrew unconscious on the floor. It turns out that Tracey has now taken Peter hostage and escaped into the woods, where they find a creepy farmhouse that would give goose bumps to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE's Sawyer clan. David and Andrew go looking for them and discover Muk Li San's body tied between two trees with his throat cut. It's now obvious that there is another killer on the loose, as Peter and Tracey check out the farmhouse and make some frightening discoveries, including a freezer full of disembodied human hands and a hideous mutated monster, who stabs Tracey in the stomach with a machete and chases Peter throughout the house. In the finale, brothers David and Peter, both seriously wounded, must defend themselves from the mutant farmer, but when Peter becomes trapped in the farmhouse's basement, he will make a discovery that he will not soon forget. And neither will you. Be sure to stick through the end credits for a final stinger, as the until-now unseen Arnie arrives on the scene, only to meet the sharp end of a pickaxe. THE COTTAGE is a funny genre-bending film that has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, including Andrew's unfortunate choice of ski mask and Peter's phobia of moths (one moth turns him to jelly, but when he makes the unfortunate choice to enter a room in the farmhouse that is full of the winged insects, hilarity ensues). Director/screenwriter Paul Andrew Williams (the brilliant LONDON TO BRIGHTON - 2006) wisely chooses to wait until the film is almost two-thirds over to reveal the horror elements, as we are given ample time to get to know these fucked-up characters and actually care about some of them, especially Peter, who takes more damage to his entire body throughout the film (including getting his right foot cut in half) then what is shown in a dozen Three Stooges shorts. The violence in this film is brutal (including one major character getting their head cleaved in two at the jaw line with a shovel), but a lot of it is played with a wicked sense of humor (poor accident-prone Andrew suffers the worst of it, stepping not once, but twice, on bear traps and later stepping on a rake and getting clobbered on the head [like in the old cartoons of yore], only to have the mutated farmer use the same rake to put a few holes in his noggin before stabbing him in the balls and cutting his head off, with the spinal column still attached!). I enjoyed this film immensely and so should you. It's a near perfect mixture of comedy, crime and atmospheric horror that's sure to please fans of black comedy and, believe me, it doesn't get much blacker than this. Bloody good show. Doug Bradley (HELLRAISER - 1987) puts in a cameo as a doomsayer local. Also starring Simon Schatzberger and David Legeno as the mutated monster farmer. A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD Release. Unrated.
CRASH! (1976) - It's interesting to compare director/producer Charles Band's earlier films (this is his second effort; his first being LAST FOXTROT IN BURBANK ) with his later ones (like THE GINGERDEAD MAN - 2005) to see how much he has progressed. The funny thing is that Band has done just the opposite, he has regressed, as his earlier films, such as this one, are much more entertaining and fun to watch. CRASH! is actually two films in one. It's partly about a possessed car that runs other cars off the road (causing fiery crashes) and partly a supernatural murder drama about a husband trying to knock-off his wife. The wife in question is Kim Denne (Sue Lyon; END OF THE WORLD - 1977), who we see walking around a flea market (in the parking area of a drive-in theater). She spots a weird one-eyed stone idol and buys it from a strange man (played by Reggie Nalder; MARK OF THE DEVIL - 1969), after talking him down in price. Kim's husband, Marc (Jose Ferrer; DRACULA'S DOG - 1978; BLOOD TIDE - 1982), is a bitter, jealous old man that keeps tabs on Kim's every move. He's never forgiven Kim for confining him to a wheelchair, the result of a car accident where Kim was behind the wheel. After their latest fight, Kim storms out of the house, attaches her newly-bought idol to her keychain and takes off in her car (a Hemi Cuda convertible), only to be attacked by Marc's vicious dog (who he trained just for this purpose) and getting into a terrible car accident. Confined to a hospital bed and in a coma (and still grasping the idol keychain in her hand), Marc must figure out a way to kill Kim before she wakes up and spills the beans. He sneaks into her hospital room undetected (!) and pulls out all her tubes and wires, which lets a stream of her blood trickle down on the idol in her hand. The idol, we will later find out, is the image of Akaza, the God of Vengeance. Oh, no. Luckily, Kim's life is saved by nurse Kathy (Leslie Parrish; THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION - 1975) and Dr. Greg Martin (John Ericson; FINAL MISSION - 1984). Kim (whose entire face is bandaged) makes a full recovery, but suffers from a bad case of amnesia. While all this drama is taking place, Kim's driverless car goes on a murder spree, killing innocent (?) motorists and destroying dozens of police cars, the possessed car always coming away without a scratch. Dr. Martin borrows Kim's idol and brings it to an expert on the subject, which just happens to be Marc Denne. This is not going to turn out well at all, is it? Marc finally gets his hands on Kim, locks her in the sauna and works out a foolproof alibi. Too bad that alibi left no room for a possessed car, as it chases the wheelchair-bound Marc outside and pushes him off a cliff, the car exploding on top of him. This is a weird mixture of car chase/crash exploitation (which was very popular during the 70's) and supernatural possession genres (Director Elliott Silverstein would mine the same premise the following year with THE CAR). There's something spooky about a driverless car speeding down the highway, causing death and destruction, and director Charles Band spends much of the film showing the possessed car causing accident after accident, usually culminating in a car flying in slow-motion through the air, crashing through objects (like signs, buildings or other cars) and then exploding in a fireball. When the final edit was turned in, the running time must have come up a little short, because Band repeats every car crash a second time when Marc locks a possessed Kim in the sauna during the film's closing minutes. The film is a stunt-filled extravaganza, but there are a few creepy moments, too, such as when a possessed Kim (her eyes get all big and red) forces her husband's wheelchair to run over his attack dog over-and-over until it is dead. Though very little blood is spilled, CRASH! (also known as DEATH RIDE and AKAZA, THE GOD OF VENGEANCE) is an entertaining quickie that should please both action and horror fans. If Band spent more time making films like this and less time on killer dolls and puppets, his resume wouldn't be half as bad as it actually is. Also starring John Carradine (in his usual five minute cameo), Jerome Guardino, Paul Dubby and cult director John Hayes (MAMA'S DIRTY GIRLS - 1974). I don't think that this ever received a U.S. home video release, although it was released on British VHS label VCL (the print I viewed) and on German DVD under the title DRACULAS TODESRENNEN ("Dracula's Deathrace"). Now available on widescreen DVD from Full Moon Direct. Rated PG.
CREATURES FROM THE ABYSS (1994) - As soon as I put this DVD into the player, I felt that I had stepped into some sort of alternative universe. I can't quite come up with the words of how I felt when watching this really, really bad creatures-on-the-loose film, except to say that I could not take my eyes off the screen. It's like viewing the aftermath of an awful train wreck: you try to turn your head away from the carnage but your brain tells you otherwise. Five really, really annoying teenagers stupidly take their rubber raft out to the middle of the ocean and run out of gas. They stumble upon a deserted yacht that was actually an oceanographic biology laboratory and turn the ship into their own private party boat. Some deep ocean fish, previously unknown, have eaten radioactive-poisoned plankton and have killed the yacht's previous inhabitants. Now it's the kids' turn. After finding one mentally-challenged professor hiding in the engine room, Mike (Clay Rogers) decides to investigate what has happened and does not like what he finds. The professor has turned the poisoned plankton into a powder, which Bobby (Michael Bon) snorted up his nose, thinking it was cocaine. Hey, you're going to have to watch the rest of this brain-damaged flick to find out how it ends. I can't begin to detail everything that is wrong with this film. It could be the incredibly bad dubbing and voice acting. It could be the jackhammer editing that doesn't make sense half the time. It could be the extremely poor special effects and stop-motion animation. It could be the insane dialogue. Here's a sample: MIKE: "Professor? Have you been fucking fish?!" PROFESSOR: "They were old enough!!!" Or it could be that this is most probably the best badfilm that I have personally witnessed in quite some time. Directed without a shred of talent by one Al Passeri (real name: Massimiliano Cerchi), this Italian-made, Miami, Florida-lensed disaster (originally titled PLANKTON and also known as PIRANHA 4) contains nothing of value yet entertains with it's cheesy charms. A train wreck has nothing on this. A Shriek Show DVD Release. Not Rated, but CREATURES FROM THE ABYSS contains several sex scenes along with the ritual slaughter. Also starring Sharon Twomey, Loren DePalma and Ann Wolf. While all three are great to look at, they have brains the size of guppies.
THE CROSS OF SEVEN JEWELS (1987) - Try to keep up with me if you can. This film opens up with a robed Gordon Mitchell presiding over a sacrificial orgy where women are naked and getting whipped while other couples are just getting it on (including a guy with a hairy back and a huge potbetty, bleech!). Mitchell keeps asking for "Aborin" to appear and when it does, it looks like something that would have resulted if Chewbacca and a gorilla mated. The film then cuts to Marco (director Marco Antonio Andolfi using the name "Eddy Endolf") meeting his long-lost cousin Carmela in Naples for the first time in 20 years. While they are walking down the street, a man on a motor scooter steals Marco's necklace, which happens to be the title creation. He acts like someone just stole his testicles and flags down two police officers and they chase the man down, but he unfortunately has passed the cross on to someone else. So leads us on a long journey for Marco's search for his necklace as we learn bits and pieces why it is so important to him. Marco soon finds out that the person he thought was his cousin actually wasn't, which soon leads him down a road which includes thugs, drugs, crime, the Mob and other very, very bad things, all which are tied to the possession of the cross. And what is Gordon Mitchell's role in all this? It's soon apparent that the cross holds some mystical powers as Marco begins having flashbacks, a naked wolf-man with hairy hands and an even hairier face (but, strangely, hair no place else) begins killing people (they melt when he touches them), and a Mafia boss snatches Marco and holds him prisoner. Somehow, this all ties in to the sacrificial orgy that was taking place in the beginning of the film. Good luck in piecing it together. This obscure Italian hybrid, directed by one-time wonder Marco Antonio Andolfi (who also supplies the cheapjack time-lapse transformation effects), is one big jumbled mess but is all the more watchable because of it. Mixing horror, crime, action, thriller and supernatural genres, CROSS is a hard film to understand, even if you pay 100% attention to it. The further you get into the film, the weirder it gets, as you never know what direction it's heading. One minute you're witnessing a man melting before your eyes, then you see an acid trip-like flashback, then you are watching a Mafia drama and then......Aargh! My head's spinning! There's a truth serum interrogation, a stuttering mob informant, a truly hilarious werewolf transformation (try not to laugh at the absurdity of it all), a visit to a whorehouse, a love story, exploding bodies and too many other things (including beastiality) to mention. I'm still trying to figure out how the werewolf mysteriously loses all his clothes when he transforms (just a tiny piece of cloth hides his package) and then they magically re-appear when he changes back. If you are going to watch this film, please proceed carefully as a large number of you will not come out unscathed. I believe that's my highest recommendation. This film would leave David Lynch scratching his head. Also starring Annie Belle, Paolo Fiorino, Giorgio Ardisson and Zaira Zoccheddu. I managed to snag a German subtitled English-language copy of this film on DVD-R from a private collector as it never had a legitimate release in the States. Not Rated, as it is chock-full of sex, nudity and bloody violence, including the death of a prostitute that contains all three elements. NOTE: This film is titled THE CROSS OF SEVEN JEWELS (it's the title on-screen) not CROSS OF THE SEVEN JEWELS as what seems to be printed on all the foreign VHS packaging I have seen.
DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS (1992) - If you liked MYSTICS IN BALI (1981) and LADY TERMINATOR (1988), then this film should be right up your alley. All three share the same director (H. Tjut Djalil, using the pseudonym "John Miller" here and using "Jalil Jackson" on others), the same Indonesian locales and the same twisted logic that could only exist in some alternate universe. This film opens up in Jakarta with a car chase between three diamond robbers and a cop with a chip on his shoulders. When the robbers' car crashes, dismembering one's arm and another's finger and spilling buckets of blood on the local flora, a model called Linda (Kristin Ann) witnesses the whole thing and is questioned by police. In a scene that can only be described a surreal, the dismembered finger walks to a hidden amulet (with a mirror in it) which swallows it up, the blood dripping from the plants is ingested by the amulet and the bones of a long-dead witch (Amy Weber) begin to re-attach themselves. Not quite fully developed (she only has one good arm and leg, the other two just skeletal), the witch beheads a nosy dog and sucks out all it's blood. She is then grabbed by the hands of Hell and pulled underground! Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Linda's sister Suzy (Tonya Offer) is being raped and brutalized by her boyfriend. She phones her sister who tells her to come to Jakarta to stay with her. Suzy goes to Jakarta just as Linda is sent to Bali on a modeling assignment. Suzy finds a book of Indonesian spells given to Linda by an expert on local legends. Suzy recites one of the spells and brings the witch to her full-length mirror. The witch possesses Suzy and soon she is dressing in sexy clothing, picking up men and draining them of all their blood. She goes back to the mirror, slits her throat and feeds the blood (it comes out in a tidal wave) to the witch on the other side of the mirror. The cop becomes suspicious and meets his death when Suzy levitates his car in mid-air and blows it up. The man who gave Linda the spell book shows up in the nick of time to save Linda and Suzy, only to be sucked in the mirror. When Suzy opens the amulet, she sees the demonic face of the man. THE END. That's the best I can describe this delirious exercise which is part horror, part travelogue, part dance film and part model posing. There's plenty of blood, as one man is speargunned through the leg and pinned to a wall while Suzy slices him with a fish hook, three other horny men are slaughtered by meat hook and cleaver in meat locker and Suzy's abusive boyfriend (who tracks her down) is hung by his ankles and sliced and decapitated by flying shards of glass. It's all rather disjointed (just like LADY TERMINATOR) and the English spoken could only come from the pages of Indonesian writers who think this is the way Americans actually talk. That's part of it's charm. Another is the little bits of lunacy that occur throughout the film: The American diamond robber continuously slugging his driver while being chased in the beginning of the film is knee-slapping funny; the way the decapitated finger walks is also hilarious; the jazz score during the robbery chase is definitely out of place; the sex scenes have all the men still wearing their underwear, and some of the effects are truly priceless, especially the witch's reincarnation. This all adds up to a really weird experience which all of us need every once in a while. One caveat: The version on DVD released by Mondo Macabro optically censors the female nudity by placing white dots on nipples and ass-cracks. The version released on DVD-R by Midnight Video does not optically censor the nudity. It really doesn't hurt the film as nudity is at a minimum, but one wonders why Mondo Macabro released this version. American special effects artist Steve Prouty (TRUTH OR DARE?: A CRITICAL MADNESS - 1986) was imported to do the effects for the picture. They are memorable. Director Djalil has many more Indonesian films that are ripe to be discovered. Someone should release them. Any takers out there? Unrated for all the really good reasons.
DEAD INN (1997) - Existential horror comedy about a funeral supply salesman named Bob Marley (Mark Miller, and, no, he doesn't have dreadlocks) who makes his first delivery to the creepy Hillcrest Inn, which doubles as both an Inn and a mortuary (who the hell would stay there?), both run by the equally creepy Doc (Edgar Allan Poe IV, and, yes, he is related) and his beautiful granddaughter Billie Jo (Kerstin Steinback). Romantic sparks fly between the nerdy Bob and cute Billie Jo (they both share an interest in big hairy spiders) and Billie Jo talks him into taking a room at the inn for the night. Trouble ensues when a quartet of escaped cons, led by the dastardly Johnny Burns (Todd Kimsey) and his girlfriend Kelly (Jessica Russo), pick the Hillcrest Inn to hide-out in for a couple of days. It's apparent that Doc, who is a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, welcomes the company of the criminals, as he begins playing mind games with them using his black magic powers. One of the cons, Jackson (Joey Covington), looks out a window and watches as two zombies rise from their graves and sing "The worms go in, the worms go out..." to him while they sway to the music. Johnny rapes and kills Billie Jo (offscreen), beats the crap out of Bob and then slashes Kelly to death with a strait razor when she disobeys him. Doc and his wheelchair disappear, so Johnny sends his goons to find him, while Bob brings Billie Jo's dead body down to the mortuary and revives her with a magical white powder created by Doc. Bob is the next to die when he challenges Johnny to a fight and loses (badly). When Johnny discovers that Doc was just in the bathroom taking a crap (!), Doc convinces Johnny and his gang to stay for a séance that he holds for a bunch of old broads every week. Meanwhile, Billie Jo has reanimated Bob with the white powder and they join the séance, much to the surprise of a shocked Johnny. At the séance, a possessed Billie Jo rips a Devil tattoo off of Johnny's forearm and throws it on the middle of the table, where it transforms into a lifesize skeletal Devil (complete with wings), forcing Johnny and his gang to split up and flee into different parts of the inn/mortuary. The first one to die is Pyles (Julian Chachula Jr.), whose hands become possessed and he blows his brains out. After chopping-up Pyles' possessed body with a machete, Hernando (Stuart Barron) is killed by the skeletal Devil. Jackson tries to escape through the graveyard, but is captured by some zombies and hanged by his neck. Only Johnny seemingly escapes, but three months later, he is gunned down and his car blown up by a gang that are the spitting image of his dead comrades. A twist ending reveals that Johnny may have gotten his hands on Doc's magic white powder. Doc has got some 'splaining to do! This half-baked horror comedy, directed by Jim Goodman (his only feature directorial credit) and written by Henry Lindley, has some effective scenes but is for the most part a hit-or-miss affair, with more misses than hits. The standout performer here is Edgar Allan Poe IV as Doc, who is creepy as hell whether he is spitting out metaphysical dialogue or returning from a particularly odorous bathroom break. The inn/mortuary is another creepy plus, with its organic, vine-filled hallways and dusty air. You can almost feel the chilly draft and choke on the musty air as the characters navigate the building. The minuses, on the other hand, are many, as most of the other performers couldn't act their way out of a traffic ticket, there are too many comic sound effects (when someone gets hit on the head, we hear birds tweeting, just like in cartoons), and most of the dialogue goes way beyond metaphysical and borders on pretentiousness (At one point in the film, Billie Jo and Bob quote verbatim the lyrics of Meat Loaf's song "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights" as they confess their love for each other. I half-expected the Loaf to make a cameo appearance to wipe both their brows with his sweaty doo-rag, but no such luck). There are a few creative makeup effects on view, but most of the bloodshed is purposely left out of camera range (Johnny's bloody demise is an exception). There is also female nudity on view, but none of it is very titillating (ahem) unless the sight of naked corpses turn you on (You sick fucking bastard!). There is a nice topless scene towards the end when a (very beautiful) girl rises from a lake and kisses Johnny, but it, too, turns perverse very quickly. When all is said and done, DEAD INN (also known as ANOTHER EVIL DEAD II: DEAD INN) can be best described as an interesting failure. Filmed in North Carolina. Also starring Frankie Rich, Rick Marshall and Chris Marshall. A Spectrum Films/Dead Alive VHS Release. Not available on U.S. DVD, but a Spanish DVD is available with English audio. Not Rated.
THE DEMON LOVER (1976) - This film gained notoriety over the decades, thanks to the excellent documentary, THE DEMON LOVER DIARY (1980), which showed the behind-the-scenes bickering and back-stabbing that went into making this independent no-budget film, but the sad fact is the actual film is a chore to sit through, as it is badly acted and the technical credits (photography, lighting, sound, editing and music) are all sub-par. This was the first directorial credit for the late Donald G. Jackson (ROLLER BLADE - 1986 [and its many increasingly-inferior sequels]; HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN - 1987 [and its many increasingly-inferior sequels]; ARMAGEDDON BOULEVARD - 1998), who shares directing/producing/screenwriting chores with Jerry Younkins, who never made another film thanks to the experience of making this one. The film opens with black magic practitioner Laval Blessing (Christmas Robbins, who lost a finger prior to making this movie, which is why he wears a strange leather glove-like object on his left hand) calling forth a demon, which slaughters Pamela (who wakes up from a nightmare, grabs the keys to her AMC Gremlin and drives it to the middle of the woods while still wearing her nightie!) and drags her bloody body through the forest. The film switches to earlier that night (it doesn't state so, but after watching the film a few times, it's the only thing that makes sense) to a party at Laval's castle, where a guy who looks just like Frank Zappa lets the sarcastic Damian (Val Mayerik) into the house. Damian complains about everything he sees (except the two overweight and ugly people doing the Bump in the living room while generic rock music plays), while Laval tries to talk Damian's girlfriend, Pamela, into joining him in a sexual magic ritual (both Laval and Pamela are sitting in a pyramid-like tent set-up in one of the upstairs bedrooms!). Pamela freaks-out in front of everyone and we learn that this is not only a party, it is also one of Laval's regularly scheduled coven meetings, where he imparts nuggets of wisdom (and a little black magic knowledge) to his followers while he has sex with the female members. Only this time Damian and the rest of the coven (who all have last names of well-known comics artists, horror directors and cult personalities, like Gould, Corben, Ormsby, Romero and Ackerman) are having none of Laval's nonsense and want to stop the orgies and pseudo-supernatural shenanigans. Damian doesn't believe Laval is the real thing, so he leads Pamela and the rest of the coven out the front door in a mass exodus (but not before Laval slaps Damian across the face with his gloved hand and ominously says, "You mess with the bull, you get the horns!"). Laval decides to get even with his followers, so he performs a ritual in his black magic room (complete with a pentagram on the floor, a huge crucifix with a human head attached to it on the wall and a totally nude woman sprawled and writhing on the floor!) and calls forth a horned demon (David J. Howard, in a ridiculous get-up) to kill all those who mocked him at the party. The demon has no choice but to follow Laval's orders, but it warns Laval, "I will kill you! I will kill you!" after all the partygoers and coven members are dead. When Pamela's body is found torn apart in the woods, Detective Frazetta (Tom Hutton, who is simply a horrible actor) begins interviewing Pamela's friends, beginning with Elaine Ormsby (Linda Conrad), who refuses to cooperate and is shortly killed by her friend Janis Romero (Kathy Stewart), who becomes possessed after Elaine kills her with her own possessed car (This is getting confusing!) and she bloodily tears Elaine apart when Elaine tries to drive her to the hospital. Damian has a "gut feeling" that Laval is involved (No shit, Sherlock!), while Detective Frazetta and his wife seek advice from Professor Peckinpah (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE's Gunnar Hansen in a useless cameo), an expert on the occult. Damian phones-in an anonymous tip to Detective Frazetta that he must talk to Laval, so Frazetta drives to Laval's castle and interviews him (Laval [when he realizes Frazetta is a cop]: "I quit using that stuff two years ago!" Frazetta: "Hey, I don't care if you drop Bufferin in your tea!"). When the rest of the girls are slaughtered by the demon at a pot party, the guys and Detective Frazetta head to Laval's castle, where everyone dies except Frazetta (he goes mad) and the demon keeps his promise and kills Laval before disappearing in a puff of smoke. I won't prattle on-and-on about how bad this film really is. That's already a given. There are sequences here which serve no other purpose than filler, such as the sequence where Laval goes to karate class and then immediately thereafter gets into a (very badly choreographed) bar fight with a bunch of patrons (the whole sequence seems to be inserted to stroke Christmas Robbins' ego), the scene where Garrett Adams (Michael McGivern) and his male friends stiff a gas station attendant out of $5.00 or the scene where Susan Ackerman (Susan Bullen) and her female friends get stoned and have a whipped cream fight with cans of Readi Whip. There are scenes of bloody gore (pitchfork through the neck, throat rippings, axe to the back, Alex Redondo [Phil Foreman] stabbing himself in the chest over-and-over with a dagger, and the film's highlight, where Paul [the guy who looks like Frank Zappa] is shot in the groin with a crossbow bolt and he writhes and screams in pain on the floor while his friends just stare at him!), but they are so badly filmed, they lack any impact. Co-director Donald G. Jackson made a career out of churning-out junky, cheap, fractured films like this right up to his death in 2003, so THE DEMON LOVER is a fitting debut. Also starring Sonny Bell, Carol Lasowski and Jan Porter. It should be noted that no one in this film (besides Gunnar Hansen) ever appeared in another movie. That statement should speak volumes. Originally available on VHS from Unicorn Video, Regal Video, Inc. and Premiere Entertainment Group, all using the title THE DEVIL MASTER. Also known as COVEN and MASTER OF EVIL. An unauthorized DVD was issued by pirate outfit Televista, so the less said about it, the better. Rated R.
THE DEMON'S ROOK (2013) - Say what you want about this film: The plot is incoherent. The acting is worse than bad. It has the look and feel of a cheap 80's film (but, to me, that's not a problem). The sound recording is all post-synch. But I'll be damned if I wasn't entertained for the film's entire 103 minutes and was never bored. And it can all be chalked-up mostly to one-man wunderkind James Sizemore (in his feature film debut), who stars, directed, co-produced (with Tim Weis, who also worked in many capacities here), co-wrote (with Akom Tidwell, who, like Weis, also worked in many capacities), did the extremely gory make-up effects, was sound designer, composed some of the music, and even designed the film's poster art! Not bad for a first-timer. The plot is convoluted, but I'll try to explain the film's main points: A young boy named Roscoe (Emmett Eckert) is visited nightly by a demon named Dimwos (John Chatham), a creature from another dimension with big horns sticking out of his head who speaks to Roscoe in a language we can't understand. Roscoe's only friend, Eva (Grace Kilgore), is the only one who believes him about being visited by Dimwos and his art teacher Barbara (Melanie Richardson) has some psychic connection to Dimwos and the only way she can get him out of her head is to draw pictures of him and other demons (I know, I don't understand it, either!). One night Roscoe's parents are killed in their beds (all we see is their burned indentations in the mattress) and Dimwos tells Roscoe to go down a red hole in the ground, where something happens to Roscoe (but more about that later). Years pass and an adult Roscoe (Sizemore, who looks like Jesus Christ) emererges out of the hole barefoot and shirtless, with only tatters left as pants. He steals a camper's backpack and finds a pair of jeans and a shirt that fit him perfectly (what are the chances?) and heads to his parent's home, which is now abandoned and empty of most furniture (except a lamp!). It's apparent that Roscoe has gained some supernatural powers with the time he spent in the hole, because all he has to do is raise his hand and the light goes on. He then starts to remember what happened with all the years he spent in that hole. Dimwos teaches him the dark ways and says such mindbending things to him like, "Each of us were raised in dark wombs." and "You will become Master of the Three Vessels". They speeak to each other in that strange language (which is now English subtitled) and as Roscoe grows older, he asks for more power, which Dimwos gives to him by breathing something into his mouth. Big mistake. Roscoe ends up shattering the three vessels, which each held a demon with extraordinary evil powers and one of the demons rips off Dimwos' head. And they followed Roscoe out of the hole and are now walking the Earth. It first starts to go wrong when one of the demons, Ogrom (Josh Adam Gould), turns Barbara's soon-to-be fiancé (also played by Gould) into a mutant creature called Owrefewl, who chows down on his three friends (this is where the film becomes extremely gory) and then goes after Barbara, who manages to keep him away for a while by drawing more pictures, but he eventually gets to her and bites a healthy chunk out of her neck, killing her. Another demon, Rolmortus (Dustin Dorough), possesses the campers (the ones who Roscoe stole the backpack from) and they start killing each other in gory ways (the hardest part to watch was the guitar player strumming the strings so hard that his fingernails tear off!), including neck-snapping, rock bashing, slit throats and one girl cutting open her stomach until all her innards fall to the ground. The third demon, Valurga (Sade Smith), the only female demon and the most powerful, raises a bunch of zombies from a graveyard and the first thing they do is attack a grown Eva's (Ashleigh Jo Sizemore, real-life wife of James Sizemore) father, tearing him apart and eating his intestines, while Eva pulls out a rifle and shoots one of them in the head (a POV shot of Eva through the giant hole in the zombie's head), but these are not ordinary zombies because head shots don't kill them and they chase Eva, who manages to jump in her pickup and escape. She nearly runs over Roscoe and, at first, can't believe it is him until he mentions something from their childhood that only the two of them would know (It has to do with a clear marble that Eva gave Roscoe as a child, which he then hid behind a brick in his attic. Don't try and make sense of it, just go along!). Roscoe takes Eva back to his parents' house and psychically explains what happens to him during his missing years simply by touching hands (which also includes Roscoe being forced to drink a gross bubbling pea soup-green liquid out of the ground to give him powers and make him more passive in this other dimension, while Dimwos teaches him the ways of being the Master of the Three Vessels and obeying the "Dark Mother", which we never see). Eva is now on board to try and destroy the three demons. Meanwhile, Valurga finds two bow hunters walking in the forest and possesses one of them, who then shoots four arrows into his friend's chest and then stops two girls in an SUV (One of them is his girlfriend. What are the chances?), shoots an arrow in one girl's chest, killing her, and then shooting an arrow into the other girls foot, pinning her to the ground while the zombies tear her apart (one bites her in the neck and stretches her skin like it was a piece of cheese before it snaps off!). Roscoe defeats Ogrom after the demon enters a house party (where everyone is yelling "Cake! Cake! Cake!") and makes three party girls strip naked and kneel before him. Roscoe uses his supernatural powers to make Ogrom's head explode. There is much more gory fun on view (including Valurga possessing everyone at a barn band party where a band called "Bovine Fantasy Invasion" [actually a real band called "El Fossil"] is playing and is probably the film's non-stop gory highlight as dozens of people kill each other in various graphic ways) as Roscoe shares his powers with Eva (the same way Dimwos shared his with Roscoe) to battle the final two demons, but unfortunately it is not a happy ending for our couple (although it does end up being rather romantic). I won't say any more because you should experience this film for yourself. It is clear James Sizemore and his small crew (nearly everyone, including the actors and technicians, do double, triple and more duty both in front and behind the camera) were working with a small budget (it was filmed on weekends over a two year period in Moreland, Georgia), but the unrated gore for the most part is extremely well done (although some of the blood spurting does not match up with the wounds) and the makeup effects for the demons and the zombies are terrific (Sizemore was self-taught and learned effects from watching tutorial videos). The whole film plays like some fever dream and makes very little sense, but once you get past the prologue with the young Roscoe, you won't care, as it is a non-stop barrage of blood, gore and body parts. Faces are ripped-off, innards are lovingly displayed and eaten, heads explode and appendages yanked-off. The story is so convoluted that you'll be scratching your head if you think about it too much, especially the part where Owrefewl finds Roscoe's clear marble behind the brick and drops it to the floor. The final shot has the camera panning on that marble, so it must represent something, but damned if I could figure it out. The only problem I really had with this film is the sound (Due to noisy generators and the lack of proper sound equipment, the film's sound work had to be done entirely in post and within Sizemore's basement). Some of the dialogue is recorded so low that you have to turn up the volume and then it suddenly gets so loud, you have to turn it down again. You'll find yourself doing this several times during the film, but, for the most part, the dialogue is minimal and the majority of the film is just non-stop killing. There are some funny inserts during the film's final credits showing various animals eating the flesh of the victims, zombies and dead demons and a final shot of a cat licking the bloody fingers of the film's only surviving member (but I'm not going to tell who it is) after the credits end. For a first feature film, James Sizemore does a bloody good job, but he really has to write a coherent screenplay the next time, not that I'm complaining about this one. It is about as strange as a film can be and still be enjoyed for all its old-school special effects (no CGI here). Highly recommended for lovers of bizarre and extremely gory films. Also starring Chris Crofts, Zoe DuChamps, Marla Haras, Megan Joyce, Brian Morton, Elizabeth Murphy and Fritz J. Noble as Eva's father. A Tribeca Film/Cinedigm DVD Release. Not Rated and proud of it.
DEMON WITCH CHILD (1974) - Proving that the Italians didn't corner the market on churning out EXORCIST-"inspired" rip-offs during the 70's, here's a wonderfully out-there Spanish clone that has to be seen (and heard) to be believed. That it comes from the director of the four BLIND DEAD films (1972 - 1975) just makes it all the more insane. The film opens with ugly old hag Mother Gautère (Tota Alba; INQUISITION - 1976) walking down the aisle of a church (the filmmakers like this scene so much, they play it twice in a row!) and destroying the area in front of the pews by overturning the candle holders and destroying the furniture. She then steals a holy chalice out of a cabinet and leaves a lit candle at the feet of an odd-looking statue, which looks to be a cat-like creature with horns sticking out of its head (Hey, what kind of church is this?). We then see Father Juan (Julián Mateos; THE COLD EYES OF FEAR - 1971) discussing the theft of the chalice with Police Commissioner Barnes (Ángel del Pozo; HORROR EXPRESS - 1972), where Father Juan mentions that the lit candle left at the base of the statue could be taken as a sign of black magic. Mr. Barnes replies that the only deviltry going on is of the human kind and asks the good Father if he believes in such mumbo-jumbo. Father Juan believes this theft is related to a male baby who was kidnapped recently, but Mr. Barnes scoffs at such a connection, stating the baby was probably stolen by a mad, childless woman. Mother Gautère also left a piece of root behind when she was in the church, which Father Juan calls the "Root of Magic" and tells Mr. Barnes that he believes something Satanic is going on. Mr. Barnes assures the Father that the baby will be found and that the chalice is probably in the hands of some unscrupulous antiques dealer. Mr. Barnes asks Father Juan not to make his views public, because the citizens are already on edge with the kidnapping. Mr. Barnes says that he will pick up old hag Mother Gautère, who is supposed to be a witch, to see if she has any information to offer ("I'll wring it out of her!"), not knowing that Mother Gautère is actually the culprit in both stealing the chalice and kidnapping the baby. We are then briefly introduced to Mr. Barnes' young, barely teenage daughter Susan (Marián Salgado; NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD - 1975; who supplied Linda Blair's voice in the Spanish-dubbed version of THE EXORCIST!), who will become an integral part of the film. The Police Chief (Fernando Sancho; SWAMP OF THE RAVENS - 1974) arrests Mother Gautère (who is doing a Tarot Card reading), but she says her "Master" will protect her. As they are driving away, a nameless young gypsy witch (Kali Hansa; THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF - 1973) curses the Police Commissioner, the Police Chief and the entire police force. The Chief sweats Mother Gautère, even bringing in the missing baby boy's mother to beg, "For the love of God, my lady, return my son to me!" Mother Gautère callously replies. "Shut up, bitch! Don't you call me your lady and don't invoke your God. You'll never see him again. He'll be sacrificed to the Great Master!" (Well, so much for being innocent!). As the missing boy's mother is dragged away still pleading for her baby's life, the Police Chief threatens to use truth serum on Mother Gautère to get her to tell him the location of the baby, but she tries to commit suicide by jumping out the window and landing on the pavement below. Even though she is bleeding profusely from her head, she is still alive and taken to the hospital. The young gypsy witch gives Susan an evil-looking idol, which she hides in her teddy bear. She also gives Susan a cursed necklace and as soon as she puts it around Susan's neck, her happy-go-lucky attitude suddenly changes, and when her nanny, Anne Crawford (Lone Fleming; IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN, a.k.a. A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL - 1973), who is in a park with her fiancé, newspaper reporter William Grant (Daniel Martin; DEVIL'S KISS - 1976), asks Susan where she got such an ugly necklace, Susan blurts out, "You're horrible! You're pigs! You let him do dirty things to you! You're both filthy dogs!" (That may be the truth, but did she have to be so blunt?). Later that night, Mother Gautère dies in the hospital and we see her ghost rise from her hospital bed and travel to Susan's bedroom, where she enters Susan's body while she sleeps (This is all done using double exposure photography, but this simple technique works well here and it is very creepy). An invisible force pulls the bed covers off of Susan (who is still asleep) and she levitates in the air (If you look closely at the wall behind Susan, you'll be able to figure out how this effect was achieved). Mr. Barnes is surprised that Susan didn't say goodnight to him before she went to bed, so he goes to her bedroom and gives a sleeping Susan a kiss on the cheek, but when he leaves, we discover that Susan was only pretending she was asleep, as she wipes off his kiss with her hand in disgust, while the eyes of the idol in her teddy bear glow red. We then watch as the young gypsy witch performs a satanic ritual with her faithful flock of Devil worshippers. She orders Susan to "Come, come, come, imeeeeediately!" and Susan rises rises from her bed in a trance-like state, where she walks to the ritual, kneels before the gypsy witch, renounces God and all he stands for and puts her faith in Lucifer (The gypsy witch pronounces her the "Princess of the Old One"). When members of the flock demand proof that Susan is telling the truth, Susan transforms into a miniature version of Mother Gautère (complete with thinning, white stringy hair and rotten teeth), pulls out the kidnapped baby, plunges a dagger into the child and fills the stolen chalice with the baby's blood, which members of the flock take turns drinking. Suddenly, lighting strikes and it starts to rain, so the flock scatters, as we watch the possessed Susan chowing-down on the baby's dismembered arm! The next morning, the Barnes family maid, Helen (billed here as "La Pocha", but is actually actress Julia Saly; NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF - 1980), delivers a tray of breakfast to Susan in her bedroom and when Susan knocks the tray from Helen's hands and yells "Bullshit!", she is admonished by Anne, so Susan says to her, "Why don't you suck your boyfriend and leave me alone!" (Kids say the darndest things, don't they?). Anne reports Susan's behavior to her father and at the same time, a bunch of schoolchildren discover the mutilated corpse of the missing baby. When Susan sees Father Juan in the park, she bluntly asks him if he has a girlfriend and does he have sex with her. When Father Juan (who looks puzzled that a girl so young would ask him such a question) replies that men of the cloth have to resist such urges, Susan says, "Either you're a goddamn queer or impotent!" and runs away (Kids, you gotta love 'em!). Father Juan has a flashback when he was younger and was in love with a beautiful girl named Esther (Maria Kosty; EXORCISM - 1975; another Spanish demonic possession film). He tells her that he can no longer see her romantically because he has decided to become a priest and walks away, leaving her crying, something he still regrets to this day. He decides to search for Esther to see how she is doing. Meanwhile, the entire town is in turmoil, because it is obvious that the mutilated baby was killed after Mother Gautère died, but they decide to dig up her body, douse it with gasoline and set it on fire. What they didn't expect was that the dead body of Mother Gautère would scream as it burns into ashes. Even more surprised is the Barnes household, as they watch Susan slithering on the floor like a snake and moving objects (like closing a door) with just a wave of her hand. Mr. Barnes calls in a doctor (Fernando Hilbeck; LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE - 1974), who tells Mr. Barnes that Susan spoke to him in several languages, a few of them he never heard before (Mr. Barnes is shocked, as he tells the doctor, "Susan couldn't even memorize a few French words when we brought in a tutor!"). The doctor ends up strapping Susan to a table and sedating her, as he calls in Father Juan for some possible help. Even though the doctor doesn't believe in the rites of exorcism, he wants to keep the good Father handy in case his scientific methods don't work. Helen finds the evil idol in the teddy bear (all the furniture in the room moves when she picks it up) and she gives it to Anne, who in turn gives it to William to do some research on since he is a reporter. Father Juan finally locates Esther, only to discover that she has turned into an alcoholic whore. Esther blames Juan for what she has become (Jesus, can it get any worse? Why yes, it can!). William tells Mr. Barnes to have his police force keep watch on the house because he feels that someone may be out to kidnap Susan (Boy, has he got it wrong!), while Susan, who now speaks in Mother Gautère's voice, nearly breaks Anne's wrist when she tries to remove the necklace from her neck. Susan then calls William on the phone using Anne's voice and asks him to meet her in the park, while the real Anne goes to the church to ask Father Juan to perform an exorcism, which he will only agree to do when all scientific methods fail and he gets permission from his superiors. Susan, who has once again transformed into a miniature Mother Gautère, spider-walks upside down the outside wall of the Barnes' household and strangles a policeman who is keeping watch on the house. In the film's most WTF?!? scene, Susan kills William in the park and then cuts off his balls (!), taking them with her and putting them in a small giftwrapped box with a nice bow on top. Once William's mutilated body is found, Father Juan believes an exorcism is in order, but the Police Chief has a recording of Anne calling William (not knowing it was actually Susan) and brings Anne into the police station, accusing her of murdering her fiancé. Susan shows up at the police station and gives Anne the giftwrapped box and when Anne opens it and discovers William's testicles and screams, everyone now believes an exorcism is in order. Father Juan learns that Esther committed suicide, leaving a note addressed to him blaming him for her taking her own life (which is a cardinal sin). Will Father Juan be able to perform an exorcism since he may have lost his faith? Susan steals a baby for sacrifice, so Mr. Barnes, Father Juan, Anne and the entire police force try to stop Susan, the gypsy witch and her flock from sacrificing the baby for their Dark Lord. The Police Chief shoots and kills the gypsy witch as her flock scatters, but Susan escapes with the baby into a graveyard. Father Juan is knocked off his feet by Susan's powers, but when she comes in close for the kill, Father Juan presses his crucifix on her forehead, which burns the sign of the cross into her skin. Father Juan performs an impromptu exorcism, where Susan tries every trick in the book to defeat him (even speaking in Esther's voice), but the exorcism works and Susan is finally free. Unfortunately, one of the sharp stones in her necklace has impaled her heart and she dies in her father's arms. Oh, well. Win some, lose some. Believe me when I say there is never a dull moment in this film. Director/writer Amando De Ossorio, who also made FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD (1969); NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS (1973); THE LORELEY'S GRASP (a.k.a. WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS - 1973), as well as the aformentioned four BLIND DEAD films, fills this flick with unbelievable dialogue (the things that come out of Susan's mouth are priceless) and some bad-taste violence. While there isn't much gore and most of the violence is off-screen, De Ossorio films it in such a way that still makes you wince. One you see Susan eating a baby's arm, you will never forget it (it is filmed in a long shot, so you will have to freeze-frame the scene and really take a look) and, while we don't see Susan cut off William's testicles, it is filmed in such a way that still makes us feel uncomfortable. We watch Susan bent over William, who is lying on the ground, and see her slice "something" over and over between his legs and then wrap it in a hankerchief, so just watching a child castrate a man is creepy all on its own. De Ossorio (who passed away in 2001), went on record to say that he hired Marián Salgado to portray Susan just because she supplied Linda Blair's voice in the Spanish-dubbed version of the film which was the inspiration for this movie, which is also known as THE POSSESSED, and she does a good job here portraying a possessed young teen who says some things that really make you laugh and cringe at the same time. It is apparent that the people responsible for the English dubbing were having a good time recording the dialogue for this film, as many of the lines are read in such an overwrought manner (especially the woman who dubbed the young gypsy witch), that you will have fun with the entire film (One totally hilarious scene has Father Juan conducting a children's choir, where all they do is sing, "Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na" over and over!). This is one of the better demonic possession films of the 70's (sometimes for all the wrong reasons) and is a good addition to your library. Originally released on fullscreen VHS (as THE POSSESSED, which Anglicizes all the Spanish actors' names) from All Seasons Entertainment and then on fullscreen VHS (as DEMON WITCH CHILD) from Simitar Entertainment. Code Red offers this film on a double feature DVD (ingeniously paired with director Charles Nizet's sublimely weird THE POSSESSED! - 1974) in a beat-up 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen print, with plenty of emulsion scratches and missing frames which cuts off some of the dialogue, but the print is still highly watchable and reminded me of viewing these types of films in grindhouses during the 70's. If you look close enough, you will see a full-length poster of David Cassidy hanging in Susan's bedroom. Even though most reference sources list this film as being made in 1975 or 1976, the closing credits list it as a 1974 production. Also starring Roberto Camardiel, Maria Vidal, Ernesto Vanez, Lucy Tiller, Paquita Trench, Monty Prous and Beatriz Villasante. A Code Red DVD Release. Rated R.
DEVIL FETUS (1983) - In this wild and crazy Hong Kong horror film, a woman named Shu Ching buys a strange jade vase at an auction (it looks like a small demon straddling a giant penis), brings it home, places it next to her bed and, that night, she begins fondling it like a sex toy and starts getting horny. Before she knows it, the vase has turned into a slimy, worm-infested demon, who fucks her brains out. When her husband comes home from a six-month business trip and finds Shu Ching using the vase as a dildo, he smashes it into tiny pieces, only to have his face become a maggot-infested decaying piece of flesh. When he looks in the mirror and sees what he has become, he kills himself by jumping through the bedroom window. It's not long before Shu Ching discovers she is pregnant ("I feel disgusting!"), which is not good considering her husband's time away from home. Her husband comes back from the dead to haunt her and, after turning into a black cat (!), he kills Shu Ching by knocking her off a staircase. End of story, right? Not by a long shot. A priest has a vision of a monster baby bursting out of Shu Ching's corpse during her funeral, so he tells her family (including her mother, a sister and her husband and two bratty nephews) that Shu Ching and her husband are wandering spirits, but he is able to stop their wandering by placing magical protective parchments in their bedroom and tells them that if the parchments aren't disturbed for twelve years, they will rest in peace for eternity. Fat chance that is going to happen. Nearly twelve years pass and one of the nephews, Kent Chong (Eddie Chan), has returned home after after winning one of his many sword-fighting competitions (he's very handy with a rapier). Kent falls in love with a young woman named Juju (Shirley Lui), who is staying with the Chong family. Juju accidentally touches the protective parchments in the bedroom, the parchments burst into flames and the Chong's guard dog, Boby, ingests the ashes of one of the parchments. Boby attacks Kent and Juju, forcing Kent to kill Boby with a sword (Kent's mom blames the attack on her husband, saying that he always fed the dog chili!). Now things really get strange. Kent's brother, Wei, is possessed when he buries Boby in the back yard, later digging up the dog and eating its corpse! While driving home one night, Ma and Pa Chong think they have hit a woman who looks exactly like Shu Ching, but when they get out of the car, no one is there. When they get home and park the car, it suddenly has a mind of it's own and runs over the Chong's butler. A possessed Wei tries to drown Juju in the family pool and then rapes and strangles the family maid. Only Granny Chong (Ouyang Sha-Fei) seems to understand the gravity of the situation and hires an elderly white-haired priest to fight the evil. What happens next is better left for the viewer to discover, as describing it in a review would simply not do it justice. Needless to say, there's plenty of mind-warping sights on view and a few "What The Fuck?!?" moments that will leave your head spinning (if not detaching from your body and flying through the air). Like most Hong Kong supernatural and horror-themed films of the 70's & 80's, DEVIL FETUS doesn't make much sense, but, by god, it is never boring. I'm sure a lot of the plot is lost to cultural differences and bad translation (the English subtitles are hilarious), but the film is a delirious mix of horror and martial arts genres. There's cannibalism (and dog-eating); a gooey death by crushing when the walls of a sauna close-in on Pa Chong (Ho Pak-Kwong); an arm reaching out of the grave and stretching like rubber to grab a frightened old priest; plenty of wire work; cheap opticals where Wei shoots laser beams out of his eyes; lots of reverse and stop-motion photography; worm-puking (a Hong Kong staple); and even a few scenes of nudity. Director Lau Hung Chuen (A CHINESE LEGEND - 1991) keeps everything moving at a brisk pace, even when you're not sure what the hell is going on. My only complaint is that the version I saw, which was sourced from the fullscreen Ocean Shores VHS tape, cuts off the subtitles on both the left and right sides of the screen and seems to edit out much of the dog-eating scene and nudity, especially Wei's rape of the maid. Those are small complaints considering what is still left on view (You want flying heads? The finale has more than it's fair share.). Also starring Gam Wing Cheung, Lau Dan and Leung Saan. Fortune Star has released an uncut widescreen print on DVD and there is also a widescreen VCD available from both Media Asia and Delta Mac. Not Rated.
DEVIL'S EXPRESS (1975) - For years I have been searching for a good-looking copy of this film, after watching EP-Mode VHS abortions under its alternate title GANG WARS, but I was never able to find one. All those tapes were so dark and dingy, it was impossible to make out what was going on in the underground scenes. But now, finally, specialty genre label Code Red has come up with a print on DVD that is so crisp and clear, you get to see the entire weird film without squinting, warts and all (and there are plenty of warts). The film opens in China 200 B.C., where a bunch of monks lower a wooden crate into a large hole after attaching a large gem amulet on the top of the crate. It is obvious that the amulet was put there to keep whatever is in the crate from escaping. The leader of the monks then kills all the monks and slits his own throat so no one can ever tell where the crate was hidden. Cut to the present in New York City, where martial arts teacher Luke (Warhawk Tanzania, here billed as "War Hawk Tanzania"; FORCE FOUR - 1975, his only other film) is teaching police detective Cris (Larry Fleishman) the finer points of kung-fu while beating the snot out of him (Luke, who doesn't care for the police, was once saved by Cris from certain death, so he feels he owes him), when they are interrupted by Luke's student/best friend Rodan (Wilfredo Roldan, in a performance that has to be seen to be believed). Rodan tells Luke that there will soon be a war between the black gangs and the Chinese gangs because of what he did to one Chinese guy at a card game earlier that day. Luke is happy that he and Rodan are taking a trip to China (by way of Hong Kong) that night to brush-up on their kung-fu skills with a Chinese grandmaster. When they get to China (actually the Brooklyn Botanical Garden!), Luke is being taught the finer arts of martial arts by the Master, while Rodan finds the giant hole and removes the gem amulet (which he nows wears as a necklace!) and they both head home to New York City. Meanwhile, a demon breaks out of the crate and takes over a Chinese businessman (played by Aki Aleong, a popular Asian actor who has appeared in hundreds of films and is still going strong today) and the possessed businessman takes a slow boat from China to New York City (How do we know the businessman is possessed? Why he has his eyelids painted like ping pong balls! The clearness of the DVD affords us to see it.) When the demon businessman makes it to New York City, he finds that he/it cannot stand the light (never mind that everyone on the street doesn't give a damn that he looks like a monster!), so he heads for the nearest subway and hides out in the tunnels. He sheds his businessman skin (the film's most effective scene) and is now a full-fledged demon. Rodan and a friend make a deal with a cocaine dealer for a brick of cocaine, but they are then ripped off by members of a Chinese gang in retaliation for what Rodan did at the card game. The demon then kills his first victim (a businessman who misses his subway train, portrayed by late I DRINK YOUR BLOOD  director David E. Durston, who hears a young girl cry "Help me!" in the tunnel and goes to investigate) and Cris and his new partner Sam (Stephen "Sam" DeFazio), who is really wet behind the ears, look at the mangled body, while a cop pukes and a priest (portrayed by Brother Theodore, but more on him later) gives the body the Last Rites. Sam offers a theory so out there that no one could take it seriously: When the subway tunnels were first created, it released a bunch of mutated dogs and cats, who probably still roam the tunnels today. Unfortunately for Cris, a newspaper reporter is at the scene and hears Sam's theory and it makes front page news the next day (which pisses off Cris and Sam's boss). As more and more people are being slaughtered in the tunnels (including a rapist who is about to sexually assault a woman) and Rodan continues his war against the Chinese gangs (he steps on one gang member's neck until he spits out that bright red blood that was so popular in 70's films), Cris and Sam are flummoxed as to what can be causing these deaths (Cris actually begins to believe Sam's idiotic theory!). When Rodan is killed by the demon, Luke blames the Chinese gang, so he goes on a one-man war against the Chinese (in a gold lamé jumpsuit!), until the leader of the gang convinces Luke that their gang was not responsible for Rodan's death. He takes Luke to an old Chinese wise man (in makeup so bad, you can actually see the crease marks, something you could never see in the VHS versions), who tells Luke that the demon is after the gem amulet (Luke now has it in his possession). If the demon gets its hands on the amulet and destroys it, he/it will become immortal and nothing will ever be able to stop it. Luke does the only natural thing that a sane person would do: He goes down into the subway tunnels and challenges the demon to a fight, but the demon does not fight fair, first appearing as Luke's girlfriend (Elsie Roman), then splitting into two separate twin fighters and then turning invisible, hitting Luke with invisible punches and kicks. Luke finally gets the upper hand and destroys the demon (thanks to the amulet) and then gives it to the old Chinese wise man, who takes a slow boat to China to return it to its natural place. At the hospital, Cris, Luke's girlfriend and Sam congratulate Luke on a job well done and Sam makes an old reference to a 40's song and the film ends! While this has some of the worse martial arts fights ever committed to film (you can clearly see about 75% of the punches and kicks thrown miss their targets by a country mile), this is just such a weird film, you cannot help but like it. Director Barry Rosen only directed one other film, YUM YUM GIRLS in 1976, but he has been working in other capacities on films and television, including Line Producer on the cult item HIGHWAY TO HELL (1991) and Producer of the 1992 - 1993 season of the TV series HIGHLANDER. Personal fave Brother Theodore (GUMS - 1976; NOCTURNA - 1978) is basically wasted here in what amounts to a three minute cameo (he improvised all his lines) as a priest who hangs out at subway entrances, but he still manages to give one of my favorite quotes of his when he warns people not to go into the subway: All the great spiritual leaders are dead ... Moses is dead ... Muhammed is dead ... Buddha is dead ... and Im not feeling so hot myself! Brother Theodore (rest his soul) was such an expert at absurdist intellectual humor that he was a favorite guest on the late, lamented David Letterman Show for years (look for his appearances on YouTube) and always had me howling with laughter in my seat while his type of humor went over most of the audiences' heads (but not Letterman's). Theodore had a one-man show on Off-Broadway for years and I went to see him a couple of times. He never disappointed and I would always leave the show with a splitting headache from laughing so hard. The rest of the actors in the film are what we call "semi-professionals" although the bag lady (Sylvia Mann) who roams the subway cars yelling out antedotes about the passengers is a hoot (she was also the mother of this film's cinematographer, Paul Glickman; GOD TOLD ME TO - 1976). The standout is Wilfredo Roldan (VELVET SMOOTH - 1975, which also co-stars this film's Moses Illiya and Elsie Roman) as Rodan, who shouts out every line he is given and becomes unintentionally comical in a good way. When he is killed, the film loses some of its charm (luckily it is late in the film). The demon makeup (by Lowell Patton and David Wood) is pretty good for such a low-budget affair (it was filmed in two and a half weeks) and you can see it much more clearly in this DVD presentation than in any version of the VHS you may have (and it's 1.78:1 Widescreen Anamorphic, to boot). It took five people (including Rosen) to write the screenplay to this mess of a film, but as a cult item, you could do a lot, lot worse (Besides, it gives you a nolstalgic feeling on how the streets and subways [which was 50¢ at the time!] of NYC looked back in the 70's). The blood and gore may be sparse, but when it does show up, it is effective. The Code Red DVD offers both trailers for the film. The trailer for DEVIL'S EXPRESS plays up the supernatural angle, while the one for GANG WARS totally omits any mention of a demon in the subway and was definitely made to appeal to martial arts fans (a lot of people seem to think these are two different cuts of the film, but they are wrong). This is one film where I can honestly say to throw away all those crappy VHS tapes and try to find the Code Red DVD version (like all things Code Red, it may be hard to find). This is an entertaining throwback to the 70's where anything could be mixed together and form a nice tasty stew. Also known as DEATH EXPRESS. Also starring Moses Illiya (as Rodan's partner in crime, who gets killed when he and Rodan are ambushed by members of the Chinese gang), Tsikagi Tanzania (as the Chinese grandmaster), Tom Chapogas (as the rapist), Matt Forbes (as the reporter) and Jack Yates as the Demon. A Code Red DVD Release. Rated R.
DIGGIN' UP BUSINESS (1990) - This is the type of film no actor in their right mind would put on their credit sheet. Not that it would matter as it is populated by a bunch of has-been or washed-out thespians using their paychecks to supply themselves with enough booze or cocaine until their next job offer comes along. Get a load of this cast: Ruth (LAUGH-IN [1968 - 1972]) Buzzi, Murray ("The Unknown Comic") Langston, Billy ("Don't call me midget!") Barty, Gary ("I can't get my hand off my ear!") Owens, Yvonne (Batgirl) Craig and Linnea ("Just Linnea") Quigley. You would think that with a cast like this the film would hold some camp value, but the sad fact is that this is such a lame, juvenile comedy that all you feel is sadness and pity for all those involved. The pathetic plot involves a funeral parlor employee (Lynn Holly Johnson, a long way from ICE CASTLES . Hell, it's a long way from ALIEN PREDATOR(S) .) who needs immediate capital to fix discrepancies in the parlor's books. She comes up with a plan of performing "specialty" funerals which will bring the funeral home out of debt. A corpse is shot out of a cannon to fulfill his last wishes. Another cadaver dances one last soft shoe with his old vaudeville buddies. A dead stripper pops out of a cake for her final exit. It sounds funnier than it is. Lame jokes include a heart attack victim literally kicking a bucket, the burning of a sled called "Rosebud" and many more well-worn dead jokes. It must of had a rocky production history as two directors are listed. Mark Byers (TUNNELS - 1989) is credited for the original version and Tom Pardew (who also stars) is credited for the final version. Mr. Pardew is a better director than actor and that's not a compliment. Watch Tony Richardson's excellent 1965 funeral black comedy THE LOVED ONE to see how it should be done. You'll have more fun going to an actual funeral than watching DIGGIN' UP BUSINESS. A Monarch Home Video Release. Rated PG so don't expect to see anything disgusting.
DISCO GODFATHER (1979) - Rudy Ray Moore (who is enjoying a semi-comeback as of late, even though he could never act a lick) portrays Tucker Williams, an ex-cop and proprietor of the Blueberry Hill Disco. He goes on the warpath when his nephew Bucky (Julius J. Carry III of BRISCO COUNTY JR.) trips out on Angel Dust. In between scenes of disco dancing, Tucker uses his feet and hands to fight his way to Stinger (James H. Hawthorne), the biggest supplier of Angel Dust in America. Even though I think Rudys acting abilities leave a lot to be desired, I have found his films to be highly entertaining in a goofball kind of way. This one is no exception. First of all, Rudy makes an unlikely action hero. With his spandex jumpsuits and paunched-out stomach, he reminds me of that strange Uncle that everyone in your family talks about over Thanksgiving dinner. Definitely not action hero material. The scenes of people tripping out on Angel Dust must be seen to be believed. Bucky hallucinates that his hand is chopped off by a witch with a sword. Cartoon blood pours out of his wounds when he also imagines that he is being shot by three Brothers with big guns. This is really wild stuff. The action scenes are also unbelievable. Rudy has to be the stiffest martial artist in the world. He looks like he is in deep intensive pain every time he lifts a leg to plant a kick. The final 20 minutes are the most brain-numbing minutes I have sat through in quite a while. I couldnt believe my eyes. Rent it to see what I mean. Directed by J. Robert Wagoner. Also starring Carol Speed (ABBY - 1974), Jimmy Lynch (who also did the makeup effects), Jerry Jones and Lady Reed. You could find a worse way to spend 90 minutes. A Xenon Home Video Release. Also known as AVENGING DISCO GODFATHER. Rated R. For more Rudy Ray Moore madness, check out DOLEMITE (1975), THE HUMAN TORNADO (1976) and PETEY WHEATSTRAW (1977). (NOTE: MAD TV did a hilarious send-up of Rudy's films. They managed to do a spot-on parody full of bad acting and awful kung-fu. Catch it in repeats if you get the chance.) UPDATE: Rudy Ray Moore passed away on October 19, 2008 at the age of 81.
ESCAPE FROM THE INSANE ASYLUM (1986) - This is the notoriously hard-to-find badfilm, better known as NIGHT OF TERROR and the final film to star Renee Harmon (she also scripted and produced this), who starred in such clunkers as LADY STREET FIGHTER (1978), FROZEN SCREAM (1981), THE EXECUTIONER PART 2 (1983) and HELL RIDERS (1984), before leaving the acting business to become an author of filmmaking books and then dying of a heart attack in 2006. Ms. Harmon (and her thick German accent) stars here as Chris, a woman unjustly committed to an insane asylum where her husband, Alex (Henry Lewis), is a doctor. Alex is cheating on Chris with hospital nurse Inez (Susette Andres), but when Inez threatens to tell Chris of the affair, Alex injects her with an overdose of an opiate, killing her. Alex, along with asylum head Dr. Harper (Frank Neuhaus), are using Chris' family fortune to fund illicit experiments on the "retards" in the asylum. When one of the braindead retards, Paul (Steven Neuhardt), suddenly awakens, slits an orderly's throat and escapes, he follows a recently released Chris (Alex and Dr. Harper have hatched a plan to drive her permanently insane) and stepdaughter Becky (Lauren Brent) to a "haunted" house in the mountains (as luck would have it, it is the recently murdered Inez's house!), where Chris plans to convalesce. She begins to have horrible visions and nightmares (footage lifted from FROZEN SCREAM) and is chased around the house by someone wearing a black hood, while creepy stuff (such as a hamburger patty turning into a dead rat!) begins happening to her that no one else can see, including Becky and nosy neighbor Ellen (Lynn Whitmire), who just happens to be Dr Harper's wife (Oooh, I smell a conspiracy!). Chris and Ellen become fast friends and go to a fancy pool party thrown by Dr. Harper (where an awful New Wave band called "Inz 'N' Outz" are playing), where Paul's psychic mother, Celeste (Arline Specht), warns Chris to leave Inez's house and go back to the safety of civilization. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that most of this is a ploy by Alex and Dr. Harper to drive Chris insane so Alex can become executor of her vast fortune, but when the house turns out to really be haunted and the ghost of Inez leads Chris to the truth, she may get the upper hand on her husband. When Chris overhears Alex talking on the phone about having Paul (who is recaptured) murder her when she is recommitted, Chris escapes in her car, with Alex following her. Chris is captured, brought to the asylum and nearly killed, but the ghost of Inez appears (her face melts like wax in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - 1981) and scares Alex and Dr. Harper to death. Chris, Becky and Paul live happily ever after. As directed by one-time wonder Felix Gerard, ESCAPE FROM THE INSANE ASYLUM is a complete mess. Not only does it have the cheap look of a mid-80's porno film, with barebones sets (check out Dr. Harper's bar at the pool party or the insane asylum sets for lessons in minimalism), muffled sound recording (where the music and foley effects drown out the dialogue), hamfisted editing (really, it looks like someone was holding an entire ham while editing this, as scenes jump from one sequence to the next with jarring jumps in sound to match) and flat photography (it looks like it was shot on video, but it's actually 16mm film); it's also shot so dark (many of the night scenes look to have been shot without the aide of external lighting), a clear 50% of the film is nearly unwatchable. Despite all these faults and Ms. Harmon's questionable acting ability (although, to be fair, the rest of the cast isn't that hot, either), this film works on a psychedelic level, like you are watching someone's fragmented fever dream. While the plot may be a jumbled mess (thanks to Ms. Harmon and her skewed understanding of the English language), with a subplot about Becky and a bunch of teens, who decide to check out "the haunted McFarland place", that leads nowhere, the film as a whole works for some strange reason. I just can't put my finger on it. It has minimal blood and gore (most of the gore is from the FROZEN SCREAM inserts), no nudity (although there are many shots of young women in bikinis and Ms. Harmon dons some spandex for a gym workout) and hardly any foul language, but it does have a funny Ouija board scene, a sequence where a hooker is picked from the streets and killed (I'm still trying to figure out what it has to do with the rest of the film), gratuitous New Wave music inserts and lots of dialogue scenes where Ms. Harmon talks to herself while mangling the English language. I don't know why, but this is my favorite Renee Harmon film. Maybe it's because it is her last or maybe because I'm just a masochist at heart. You decide. Also starring James Lewis, Marian Wayne, Jan Vandenberg, Ivan Corda, Joni Barns and Graham Galloway. Image Entertainment supposedly released this on laserdisc in the late 80's, but I have yet to see a copy of it anywhere, though. The U.S. VHS release (as NIGHT OF TERROR), from Video Pictures Corp., is about as rare as they come and commands big bucks in collectors circles. The print I viewed was sourced from the Australian VHS tape on the Palace Explosive Video label. Not Rated.
THE EXECUTIONER PART II (1983) & FROZEN SCREAM (1981) - Who is Renee Harmon and why is she doing this to me? Out of all the films reviewed in this web site, these two are the absolute worst. The only constant between the two films is producer, screenwriter (story credit on FROZEN) and star Renee Harmon. Even though the storylines (if you could call them that) are completely different, both films are strikingly similar in so many aspects that Ms. Harmon has to take the majority of the blame. Both films contain bad post-synch sound (as if they were filmed silent), chainsaw editing that leaves the viewer both confused and disoriented, plenty of voiceover narration (spoken by the same person in both films) and the ever-present Ms. Harmon, who with her thick German accent, sounds like Dr. Ruth if she were to go to Nazi training school. Harmon speaks every line as if she were saying, "Ve have vays of making you talk!" THE EXECUTIONER PART II is definitely the worst action flick your eyes will ever catch sight of with its poorly staged action scenes and disbelief-inducing plot. It's all about a Vietnam vet who kills criminals vigilante style and a cop (Chris Mitchum) and TV reporter (Harmon) who try to stop him. Try to make sense of the story if you can. I sure as hell couldn't. Many of the scenes are unconnected which leads to mucho confusion. To add insult to injury, there never was an EXECUTIONER PART 1 (thank God!) and was probably given that title to dupe an uneducated audience into believing it was a sequel to the then popular film THE EXTERMINATOR (1980) starring Robert Ginty. This proves how important it is to stay in school. This is unfortunately not director James Bryan's only film. He also directed the bloody but bad DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (1981; which LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT actor Vincent D'Onofrio turned into a musical horror film in 2009!!!) and the just plain bad HELL RIDERS (1984), which also starred Harmon. FROZEN SCREAM is an excreable horror flick (co-written by Michael Sonye, who also wrote the script to BLOOD DINER - 1987) about a doctor and his assistant (Harmon) who create a small army of zombies by attaching a device to victims' necks and freezing them. The zombies are then sent out to collect more bodies and to capture a girl (Lynne Kocol) who is getting close to discovering the truth. In comparison, FROZEN SCREAM makes Ted V. Mikel's ASTRO ZOMBIES (1968) look absolutely professional. Director Frank Roach also made the bad biker flick NOMAD RIDERS (1981). Renee Harmon can also be seen (and heard, dammit!) in LADY STREET FIGHTER (1978 - also directed by Bryan) and one of the worst films of all time, NIGHT OF TERROR (1986). The now-defunct Continental Video label issued THE EXECUTIONER PART II and FROZEN SCREAM as a double feature on one cassette, both features edited to 75 minutes so they could fit on a T-150 tape (which only makes both films seem even more fragmented then they originally were!). You may find it for rent in some of the older video stores or for sale on eBay or other on-line auction sites.. I dare you to watch them both in one sitting. Both films are Rated R.
EXTRA TERRESTRIAL VISITORS (1983) - Most people know this film under the title POD PEOPLE, thanks to the comic drubbing it took on MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (in one of their funniest episodes). While that edition is a comic delight, it doesn't hold a candle to the experience you'll have watching this, the theatrical release version. The film opens with three poachers driving to the forest to pilfer nightingale eggs (!) out of a tree (One poacher says to another, "Go get that ladder!" and he replies, "OK, OK! Heil Hitler!"). As they are stealing the eggs, one of the poachers spots a bright light in the sky and watches it crash into the forest. Also witnessing the crash is pre-teen Tommy (Oscar Martin), who watches the bright light decend to Earth through his telescope. The poacher leaves his two friends to fend for themselves, steals their truck and drives to the crash site, where he enters a cave and finds hundreds of alien eggs lying on the cave floor. Then something attacks and kills him. Rock star Rick (Ian Serra, who we see performing a terrible pop song in a recording studio, where an obviously gay engineer is wearing an "I'm A Virgin" t-shirt) and his entourage (including a quartet of horny women) hop into an RV and head to this forest for a weekend of rest and relaxation, while Tommy goes to the cave and steals one of the eggs. While Ricky and his friends are sitting around a campfife, Laura (Connie Cheston) goes for a walk in the woods and runs into the two poachers, who chase her (One of the poachers says, "Jesus, that little bitch can run a lot faster than I thought!", to which the other one replies, "Well, you're a jerk!" What?). While Laura is running away, she almost runs into a strange furry beast (we only see it's legs) and she ends up falling down a ravine, seriously injuring herself. Rick and Brian (Emil Linder) rescue the unconscious Laura and bring her back to the RV. Tommy, meanwhile, has hidden the egg from his mother Molly (Susan Blake) and crusty Uncle Bill (Frank Brana) by keeping it under his bed. Just as the egg hatches, Rick and his gang pull up to Molly's house and ask to use the telephone to call for help. The phone is dead (big surprise), so Molly tells them to stay the night because a rock slide has blocked off the only road to civilization. The two poachers (who don't seem too concerned about their missing friend) get paid a visit by an alien while they are sitting next to a campfire (One of them says non-chalantly, "What on Earth is that? Looks like a cross between a pig and a bear." Actually, it looks more like a cross between an elephant and a bear!). After saying, "Be careful, it could be dangerous!" (duh!) and then talking to the alien as if it were just another human being, the two poachers try to capture it ("You think it may be worth something?"), but fail terribly. After they try to subdue the alien (including sneaking up behind it and then shooting it with a crossbow bolt), it slaughters the two poachers. Tommy's pet alien, whom he dubs "Trumpy", grows to adult size in less than four hours, thanks to Tommy feeding it saucers of milk and a jar of Planter's peanuts (I guess Reese's Pieces weren't available). What Tommy doesn't know is that Trumpy is able to shoot death rays out of it's eyes! Bill and Brian hop in Bill's car to try and find a way out of the forest (after one of the girls says, "What a fuck-up this back-to-nature crap is!"), while Trumpy amazes Tommy with feats of magic and levitation, moving objects around his bedroom (done using stop-motion animation) and making a CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977)-like song play on Tommy's Simon toy (Remember that fun plaything? After ten minutes playing with it, it went on my pile of "Toys To Never Be Played With Again"). Apparently, Laura has died (Bill alludes to it while speaking to Brian in the car) and Tracy (Maria Albert) wants to watch DALLAS (1978 - 1991) on TV because, "Seeing other people's problems makes me forget mine." Bill and Brian drive to a Forest Rangers cabin, where Brian is attacked and killed by the rogue alien. Trumpy escapes from Tommy's bedroom, while Rick and girlfriend Sharon (Nina Ferrer) worry why Brian and Bill haven't returned (Rick says, "Bill's as thick as two planks!"). Tommy spies Trumpy killing Tracy in the RV through his telescope, as an injured Bill returns and gets off a shot at Trumpy with his shotgun, but misses. Rick is getting antsy and wants to leave (He says, "I ain't hanging about to find out who's next for the chop!"), but Bill and Molly talk him out of it (by simply stating, "It's getting dark outside!"). Trumpy returns and tells Tommy that he didn't kill Tracy, his brother did (!), so Tommy disguises Trumpy (by putting a monk's robe on him!) and Trumpy spies on Kathy (Sarah Palmer) while she takes a shower, scaring the shit out of her. Tommy finally tells everyone about Trumpy and the other alien's existence ("They just want to be your friend, but nobody will let them!"), so they try to kill Trumpy! Tommy and Trumpy escape into the forest, with everyone close behind, guns in hand. Bill gets killed by the other alien and Rick then kills it witha couple of rifle shots (the ground opens up and swallows the dead alien!). Tommy, in a bit of false anger, shoos away Trumpy ("Go away, I hate you!") and rejoins his mother and Rick. The last we see Trumpy, he's walking off into the fog-filled forest, all alone. The End. Wow! This Spanish/French co-production is an obvious rip-off of E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (1982), but since it was directed by Juan Piquer Simon (PIECES - 1982; SLUGS - 1987; CTHULHU MANSION - 1990), you know you're in for something special and this film delivers it in spades. It's apparent that Simon originally lensed this as a gore film, but post-production editing (against Simon's wishes) cut out all the gore (every time someone is about to get killed, there's an obvious jump-cut) to make it more "family friendly", but they forgot to edit out all the foul language (it's plentiful) and brief nudity (Do the gore inserts exist anymore?). The script, by Simon and Joaquin Grau (who has his name Anglicized to "Jack Gray") is just one non-stop piece of unbelievable dialogue after another and I was laughing until I had tears in my eyes (I had to rewind a few times, just to make sure I heard correctly!), due to the absurdity of it all. This film didn't need the MST3000 treatment, because the acting, dialogue and strange situations (there's so many scenes where day and night are in the same scene, due to frequent editing errors, the timeline in this film is like some surreal fairytale) all lend itself to self-parody. Trumpy and his ilk are a marvel of bad make-up effects. They look like someone took a dwarf, slapped a miniature bear costume on him and then put a modified elephant mask on his head. I haven't seen a costume this bad since ROBOT MONSTER (1953). The scene where Trumpy magically moves everything around in Tommy's bedroom is a marvel of low-tech special effects and I nearly coughed-up a lung when Trumpy transformed Tommy's telescope so that, when he looked through it, he saw stock footage of elephants in Africa (maybe a distant relative?). This is now one of my favorite badfilms of all time and it should be one of your's, too. To sum it up: Try to find the non-MST3000 version and enjoy it on it's own twisted merits. You won't be sorry. Executive Producer Dick Randall added some scenes from Don Dohler's GALAXY INVADER (1985) to the beginning of this film for THE POD PEOPLE version of this film. Don't ask me why. EXTRA TERRESTRIAL VISITORS is also known as THE RETURN OF E.T. (paging Mr. Spielberg!), THE UNEARTHLING and TALES OF TRUMPY. Also starring William Anton, Frank Suzman, Gary Richardson, Hugo Astral and Mark Treving. The print I viewed was sourced from a Spanish-subtitled VHS tape that was dupey, but watchable. Not Rated.
THE FORGOTTEN WELLS (1989) - If you thought Sweden was just a country full of beautiful blonde women and really cold winters, here's a film that may change your mind. Then again, maybe it won't. At least it is co-directed by the genius behind THE NINJA MISSION (1984), Sweden's best and bloodiest martial arts film. After we watch a crew of people filming Peter Savage (A.R. Hellquist; one of the Executive Producers) water skiing and parasailing on a lake, we then switch to the Speedo-wearing Mr. Savage and his bikini-clad squeeze Suzy (Eva-Karin Bengtson) enjoying a soak in a hot tub. Savage's boss, Bellamy (Frederick Offrein), enters to tell Savage he has an interesting job for him (we still don't know Savage's profession since the opening of the film is rather vague), but he will wait until tomorrow to tell him (Why not just tell him now? Why, because it will spoil what happens next!). When Bellamy and Suzy leave the room, two guys enter and tell the short, but muscular, Savage not to take the job. When Savage tells them he has no idea what they are talking about (he really doesn't), one of the guys pulls a gun and Savage gets a chance to show off his martial arts skills, throwing both guys into the hot tub. We then switch to "Dr. Forham's Mental Institute", where someone in a black leather overcoat and blue jeans (a wearing a white stocking over their head) frees a patient whose face is bandaged and they both escape. We then find out that Savage is a news reporter (!), as Bradley assigns him and his crew to cover a story about the legend of Shequa Fall, an area that has an old irrigation system containing several deep wells where, twenty years earlier, the government forced the Tanner family to move out after their ten year-old son got lost in the underground tunnel system and was never found. Rumors abound that he is still alive and an "ape creature" has been spotted in the area over the years. In two days, the missing son will be legally declared dead (there's a fortune to be inherited by the surviving family members), so Bellamy wants Savage and his news crew to check out the place and "do what you do best" (Huh?). Savage then gets a call from police Lt. Craig Lammar (Gareth Hunt), who warns Savage not to go to the old Tanner place until he talks to him in person first (He says, "Don't go in there like General Custer. You remember what happened to him?"), a request that Savage immediately ignores. Meanwhile, the bandaged escaped mental patient (who the film is extremely careful not to give a name) goes on a murder spree and heads toward the Tanner place, where Savage and his crew have already arrived. What happens next is a mixture of FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and Scooby-Doo, as Savage and his crew creep into the tunnels under the Tanner place, while the bandaged psycho knocks them off one-by-one during a torrential thunderstorm and Lt. Lammar, working on orders given by old man Tanner (Taggen Axelson), sends some gun-toting hitmen to the Tanner place to make sure no one makes it out alive. Will Savage survive or will he become the lead story in the headline news? This mind-boggling combination of horror and mystery, co-directed by Anders Nilsson (FATAL SECRET - 1988; and editor of the ultra-violent WARDOGS - 1986; here using the pseudonym "Andrew Nelson") and Mats Helge (THE NINJA MISSION - 1984; BLOOD TRACKS - 1985; EAGLE ISLAND - 1986), is so brain-fryingly awful that it transcends its cranium-pulverizing putridness and becomes an exercise in unintentional humor that should be seen by all. First off, almost everyone in the cast (except for English actor Gareth Hunt) speaks Swenglish, a combination of English with a Swedish accent that manages to murder the English language (to add insult to injury, Gareth Hunt tries his hand at a southern U.S. accent and fails miserably). Secondly, anyone who actually believes this takes place in the U.S. and that Pete Savage is a respected news reporter should have their heads examined. The mulleted Savage is so short in stature and butchers the English language so badly, I can't imagine any U.S. TV news organization (with the exception of Fox News) who would want him as a reporter, never mind an anchor. Thirdly, Helge's story (he co-wrote the screenplay with Nilsson, Tina Ljung, Tim Earle, Gunnar Trusso, Madeleine Bruze and star Hellquist) is way too complicated for its own good and none of the many aspects of the script, whether it be horror, mystery or revenge actioner, is properly fleshed-out for anyone to give a damn what happens to anyone. Still, you have to love the way the script has Savage lose his shirt numerous times so the audience can watch him beat the snot out of the bad guys with his diminutive muscular naked torso. The violence is rather tame (mainly gun violence, as the bandaged psycho chooses to strangle his victims) and there are only a couple of fleeting shots of topless female nudity, so don't expect the usual Helge bloodbath. You can't beat THE FORGOTTEN WELLS for pure brain damaged entertainment, especially when the bandaged psycho fights the now-grown mutated missing Tanner son in the tunnels. Also starring Adent Cederblad, Camilla Lunden, Eva Anderson and Helen Anderson. Available on Swedish-subtitled DVD on the House Of Horror label under the title JAGAD I UNDERJORDEN. Not Rated.
FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY (2013) - As readers of this site are well aware, I am not a big fan of "found footage" films. I usually find them headache-inducing, cheap and downright lousy, but I'm glad to report that this film defies all those categories and turns this unwelcomed genre on its head, producing a weird, wild and downright entertaining movie that should satisfy all fans of horror films. The first thing that separates it from most films of the found footage genre is that it takes place during World War II, where a platoon of Russian soldiers, led by Novikov (Robert Gwilyn), are deep within Nazi territory, answering a distress call from another platoon of Russian soldiers in a remote village. Following them around is cameraman Dimitri (Alexander Mercury), who is filming their every move with a handheld 16mm camera (way before videotape, so this film looks great). On their way to the village, they begin to view some strange things, like a human skeleton that doesn't look 100% human and a dead German soldier's body in the woods, who's not quite dead yet and looks to have some metal modification done to one of his arms. When they get to the village, the first thing they notice is that it is strangely empty and seems deserted until, that is, they find a pile of human bodies stacked upon each other, smoldering like they were part of a human bonfire (Vassili [played by Andrei Zayats], the violent one in the platoon, spots a still-living female on top of the burning pile and stabs her in the neck, killing her). They also notice that every body in the village's graveyard has been dug up, only empty coffins left in the graves. They decide to use the local church as their headquarters, but once they are inside it, it looks like no church they have ever been in (One of the platoon members says, "Looks like a factory."). When Sacha (Luke Newberry) goes downstairs to turn on the generator and restores the electricity, the first thing they encounter is a not-quite-human body, with an electrical wire attached to its head, that becomes reanimated and attacks Novikov. He lays there with his intestines spilled all over the floor and Sergei (Joshua Sasse) mercifully kills the not-quite-dead Novikov with his knife to stop his suffering. This leaves Sergei in charge, which doesn't sit too well with sadistic Vassili. For some reason, their radio is being jammed and they can't call-out for help, so they begin searching the church and find a bunch of animals in cages (Vassili grabs a rabbit and slams its body against a table). As this is happening, Viktor (Karel Roden; HELLBOY - 2004; THE ABANDONED - 2006), enters the room, is shot in the leg and is taken prisoner. When he won't talk, Vassili cuts off one of his fingers. Viktor then offers to take them to what they seek and leads them through a series of labyrinth-like passageways until he disappears. Then all hell breaks loose. The platoon is beseiged by a bunch of human-like creatures with metal parts fused to their bodies (called "zombots"), many of the parts taken from military weapons, vehicles and aircraft (They should have known something was up when they first entered the village. Just before they entered, there was a strange vehicle that looked like a tank, but wasn't quite a tank. You have to see it to understand it.). When Ivan (Hon Ping Tang), the brute muscle of the platoon, has his head and helmet crushed together by a zombot with a snapping bear trap-like device attached to its head, the rest of the platoon rescue him and hold-out in another building, where they run into Eva (Cristina Catalina), Nazi soldier Fritz (Jan de Lukowicz) and a couple of other people also running away from the zombots (None of them last long enough for us to feel any empathy for them). Eva offers to remove the helmet from the still-living Ivan's head, but when she does so, his brain is still in the helmet! As the numbers begin to dwindle due to the attacks by a variety of zombots, including one with an airplane propeller for a head (Sergei cuts off its power, causing the propeller to break into pieces, with one of the blades impaling Fritz in the head.), we discover that it was cameraman Dimitri jamming their radio signals. It turns out that the Russian government knows about Viktor's experiments (he's a descendent of the Frankenstein family, as we find out when Dimitri films Viktor's living quarters, where we see a painting of the original Dr. Frankenstein and a living female head attached to the body of a stuffed teddy bear encased in a glass cage!) and they want Dimitri to try and convince Viktor to join their side. The rest of the platoon is disposable. When Dimitri ventures off by himself, he discovers a huge refrigerated warehouse covered with human bodies hanging on chains and follows one zombot as it carries the still-living body of Hans (Zdenek Barinka), minus an arm, on a car attached to railroad tracks. It leads him to Viktor and Dimitri makes his offer. Before Viktor gives him an answer, Dimitri watches as Victor and a strange female zombot remove half the brain of Fritz and put it in the head of Sergei, who has had half of his brain removed. Viktor hopes to achieve the best of both sides, creating a Nazi/Russian hybrid with a portable handheld "generator" of his own creation (the brain removal scenes are all shown in loving close-up, including Viktor removing a piece of Fritz's brain from Sergei's head because there is "too much"!). Viktor then refuses Dimitri's offer and ties him to a table, putting Dimitri's camera at his feet to record Dimitri's transformation into a zombot. Before Viktor can operate, the allies begin bombing the village and Viktor is shot dead by Sacha, who cuts-off Viktor's head and takes it and Viktor's journals to safety, leaving Dimitri strapped to the table to meet his doom. This is by far one of the best (and funniest, but not in a "ha-ha" kind of way) horror films to come down the pike in quite a while. Dutch Director Richard Raaphorst, who also created the designs of the zombots, hits a home run on his first feature film (He directed a handfull of shorts before this.). The screenplay, by Chris W. Mitchell and Miguel Tejada-Flores (FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 - 1988; SCREAMERS - 1995; BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR - 2003), based on a story by Raaphorst (with a nod to Mary Shelley), never takes itself too seriously, but be prepared for some extreme gore and some of the strangest human/machine creations ever to grace the screen. What I especially liked about this film is that most of the effects and strange metal/flesh hybrids were done practically (by Rogier Samuels and his crew), with a minimum of CGI employed. Believe me when I say that you have not seen creatures like this before on film. Some of these creations are downright surreal (I won't spoil what some of the stranger ones look like, but think of Steampunk on crack and you'll get an idea). For those of you worried that this is a "found footage" type of film, let me relieve your fears by saying that the camerawork is pretty smooth, with very little of that "shakey-cam" technique applied that usually wrecks most films in this genre for me. The film does stop a few times while Dimitri changes to a new cartridge, but it doesn't hurt the movie at all. I recommend this film to all readers of this site. FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY has everything you need to satisfy your hunger for a horror film (even brief female nudity, but it's not titilating at all). See it! Filmed in English in the Czech Republic. Also starring Mark Stevenson as platoon member Alexei (who suffers a memorable death by the lead zombot, a terrific creation with a huge spinning drillbit for a nose), Klaus Lucas and Linda Balabanova. This first played simultaneously as a limited theatrical release and as a Video On Demand title (something which is becoming very commonplace for independent films). A Dark Sky Films Blu-Ray/DVD Release. Rated R.
FUNNY MAN (1994) - When Callum Chance (Christopher Lee) loses his ancestral home in a game of high stakes poker to record producer Max Taylor (Benny Young), after Max makes a straight flush using the Joker as a wild card (Callum only had a pair of deuces, so it's apparent he wanted to lose), Callum makes the following statement to Max: "You're a funny man, Mr. Taylor, but I've met funnier. And so will you." Truer words were never spoken. Max moves his family, including wife Tina (Ingrid Lacey), teenage daughter Jamie (Jamie Heard) and young son Harry (Harry Heard), into the Chance ancestral home and it's not long before the Chance family curse, in the shape of a grotesque hunchbacked court jester known as the Funny Man (Tim James, who is marvelous in the role), begins terrorizing and killing the Taylor family, beginning with young Harry. Meanwhile, Max's ex-rocker brother Johnny (Matthew Devitt) is driving a van full of Max's personal belongings to the Chance home, when he stops to pick up four hitch-hikers: Frumpy bird watcher Thelma Fudd (Rhona Cameron), a "Crap Puppeteer" (George Morton), a "Hard Man" (Chris Walker), and a "Psychic Commando" (Paulene Black), a black woman who reads tarot cards and knows that they are all heading into serious and deadly trouble. By the time Johnny and the four hitch-hikers make it to the Chance ancestral home, the Funny Man has already killed Harry (off-screen), Tina (bloodily bludgeoned to death) and Jamie (electrocuted and burned to death when jumper cables are attached to her ears) and Max has disappeared. The Psychic Commando warns everyone about a bad presence in the house (after she injects some unknown drug between her fingers), but Johnny disregards the warning and has everyone split up to look for his brother and his family. This gives the Funny Man ample opportunities to dispatch them in various bloody, yet comical, ways. Max is going on a nightmare tour of the house, riding through the hallways and rooms while trapped in a shopping cart like it's some cheap carnival horror house ride. Johnny makes some discoveries about Max's treachery towards him (like Mick Jagger wanting Johnny to become a member of the Rolling Stones, but Max kept the letter and never told him), so it's up to the Psychic Commando (who can now shoot rockets from her fingertips!) to do battle with the Funny Man, but is she strong enough to defeat him? Sadly, no, but Johnny gets his wish to be a rock star before being sent to Rock 'N' Roll Heaven and Max gets to suffer an eternal fate that's far worse than death. This British horror comedy, directed and written by Simon Sprackling (his only feature-length directorial effort), is, for the most part, a funny, scary thrill ride, but there are a few times when the low budget shows its edges and some of the accents could have benefited by the use of subtitles. Some of the deaths on view are downright ingenious, such as when the bespectacled Thelma (who is a dead-ringer for Velma on SCOOBY-DOO) has her brains and eyeballs blown out of her head (with her eyeglasses still attached!) and they go flying through the air, landing in a cooking vat; or when the Crap Puppeteer has the top of his head and hands blown off when they are used in the Funny Man's twisted Punch & Judy puppet show. The overall effectiveness of the Funny Man character is cheapened somewhat by having him speak directly to the camera, like we are in on the joke. I could have done without those bits because it reminds the viewer that we are watching a movie, but as the film progresses, it gets a little darker in tone and much bloodier (the Hard Man has a woman's high heel shoe jammed in his eye; the Funny Man gorily bursting through the Psychic Commando's body; Max's final fate is a sight that won't easily be forgotten [and it looks painful as hell]). Some of the set designs are also very good (the titty bar scene had me in stitches), as are the various disguises that the Funny Man wears throughout the film. As far as horror comedies go, FUNNY MAN is one of the best the 90's had to offer. Although Christopher Lee's screen time is minimal here (and it's implied that this whole film may be nothing other than a fantasy played-out in the obviously insane Callum's mind), he does sing the title tune (with a children's choir!) during the closing credits: "Funny Man, Funny Man. He's cheeky and he's cruel. Funny Man, the naughty Funny Man. He'll play you for a fool. The joke's on you!" Priceless. Also featuring Bob Sessions, Ed Bishop and John Chancer as the poker players in the film's opening scene. Originally available on VHS from Arrow Video. A Subversive Cinema DVD Release. Rated R.
GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS (1973) - While most reviewers have given this obscure film bad press as a hokey monster flick, I believe that theyve missed the whole point of this film. Sure, it contains a badly-assembled mutant 8 foot sheep (yeah, you heard me right), but I doubt that is all director/producer/writer Fredric Hobbs (who was also responsible for the title creation) was aiming for in this film. It is also a finely-crafted piece of political Americana. There are actually two monsters here: One is the mutant sheep. The other is more dangerous. He is the mayor and patriarch of Comstock, Nevada, a historical wild west tourist trap. He controls the town with an iron fist, keeping tabs on the local citizens by means of electronic surveilance and is not above committing murder to keep his town under control. The subplot deals with a mutant sheep being born due to escaping yellow phosphorous gas from a nearby mine. A scientist takes the fetus to his lab in Indian Flats (located next to Comstock) and nurses it to adulthood. Meanwhile, a representative from a huge corporation comes to Comstock in hopes of buying the towns mining rights. The mayor has eyes on the mining rights for himself and sets-up the representative on a trumped-up attempted murder charge. The mayor gathers up an old-fashioned vigilante group and tries to hang the rep, but he escapes and ends up at the laboratory at Indian Flats. Events that follow lead to the mutant sheep escaping and causing havoc in Comstock. The mayor orders "the damaged mongoloid beast" to be captured alive so he can display it to paying customers ("Feast your eyes on the 8th Wonder of the World!"). The finale is a surreal experience as the townspeople turn on the monster and the mayor. You have to see it to believe it. Director Fredric Hobbs (ROSELAND - 1970; ALABAMAS GHOST - 1972) is a true film fanatics dream. Daring to take chances that sometimes fail, you still get the feeling that at least he is trying something different and sticking to his vision. This film contains a dog funeral, assorted bad guys (one is a disgraced Wall Street broker!), a tear gas shooting party and the aforementioned mutant sheep. The most unusual aspect of this film is that the corporate representative is the only black man in this film and not once is race ever brought up as an issue. It is truly refreshing to watch a film where a black person is treated just like everyone else, a real rarity for a 70s exploitation film. Watch GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS with an open mind and you may find yourself having a good time. Starring Russ Meyer regular Stuart Lancaster (FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! - 1965) as the mayor, E. Kerrigan Prescott (ALABAMAS GHOST - 1972) as the scientist, HILL STREET BLUES (1981 - 1987) actor Robert Hirschfeld as the sheriff, Christopher Brooks (THE MACK - 1973), Peggy Browne, Erica Gavin (CAGED HEAT - 1974) and Richard Marion (CHILDS PLAY 3 - 1991; who later directed episodes of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND [1996 - 2005] on TV!). A Something Weird Video Release. Not Rated, but would probably get a PG-13 in todays climate.
GRIZZLY 2: THE PREDATOR (1983) - Here it is folks. The holy grail of unfinished and unreleased 80's horror. The cast contains such well-known names as George Clooney, Charlie Sheen (who passed on starring in THE KARATE KID to appear in this!), Louise Fletcher, Laura Dern, Deborah Raffin, John Rhys-Davies, Dick Anthony Williams, Charles Cyphers, Marc Alaimo and Jack Starrett. The story is simple: The crooked superintendant of Summit National Park (Fletcher) agrees to have a huge rock concert in the park, much to the displeasure of the park rangers, who feel they are spread too thin as it is. As luck would have it, a 20 foot tall grizzly bear is wrecking vengeange in the park, thanks to a poacher killing it's offspring for it's gall bladder. When the grizzly kills the poacher, the other poachers (led by Starrett) go hunting for it. The grizzly then kills three campers (which includes a horny Clooney and Dern and a very young Sheen) and makes it's way towards the concert. When the rangers start finding the bodies of the grizzly's victims, they enlist the help of French bear hunter Bouchard (Rhys-Davies) to track it down. This doesn't sit too well with local grizzly bear conservationist Sam (Raffin), who would rather capture it alive. Bouchard, Sam and head ranger Hollister (Steve Inwood) go searching for the grizzly while the poachers shoot and injure another ranger (he eventually ends up as a grizzly meal). The poachers dig a huge pit with wooden stakes to kill the bear, but greed and the grizzly get to them first. The grizzly makes it to the crowded concert (it arrives backstage, so it must have had a pass) where it sets off the pyrotechnics, impales Bouchard on a metal spike and flips the Jeep Hollister and Sam are in. Hollister electrocutes the grizzly on stage where the audience thinks it's part of the show (you gotta see that shot to believe it) and applaud wildly. The End. Since this is just a workprint, the film is in very rough shape. The temp music soundtrack contains unauthorized tracks by Michael Jackson ("Beat It" and "Wanna Be Starting Something") and the bear is never seen until the finale. The attack scenes consist of reaction shots of the actors waving their hands around their body and screaming and when the bear is to be shown, all you see is a blank screen. Since there is only the shots of the mechanical bear at the end, it stands to reason that the other bear attack footage was to be shot later on. All the sound on this workprint is live and no post-production looping is present. This is especially noticable when the actors talk on police radios or telephones and the reply voices are coming just off-camera. The question remains this: Would this have made a good film if it were finished and released? It's hard to say. From the footage I have seen, the film is not that bloody (the effects shots were probably also to be added later) and the story is pretty weak. The music acts in the concert, which consists of a bad early 80's New Wave all-girl singing group and an effiminate male headliner who dresses in a silver metallic jump suit, dates the film severely. The finale is unfinished and is represented as a series of outtakes, but you can get the gist of how it's supposed to end by watching the outtakes. It's the ecclectic cast that's the biggest draw. Seeing George Clooney, Charlie Sheen and Laura Dern at such early stages in their careers is a hoot, but their screen time amounts to less than five minutes. There's a subplot about Hollister's daughter Christy (Deborah Foreman) working as a gofer for the concert manager (Dick Anthony Williams) and falling in love with the girly-man headliner (before the concert, he prances around in a tight pair of short shorts!), but it eventually leads nowhere. Cannon Films was supposed to distribute this film, but went into bankruptcy, dooming this film before it was finished (There were other factors involved, too, such as the producer, Joseph Proctor, taking a lot of the production money for his own use. He is still serving time in a federal prison for tax evasion.) . Filmed partly in Budapest, the Hungarian government seized most of the production's equipment for non-payment of bills. This film was directed/executive produced/co-scripted by David Sheldon (The unauthorized Hungarian [at least to director Sheldon and his co-writing partner, wife Joan McCall] concert scenes were directed by unknown André Szöts at a real Russian Army base [and it was advertised as a real concert attended by over 10,000 rabid Hungarian teens!], his only try at directing and failing miserably. He had a nervous breakdown while filming, the concert was called off and Szöts passed away in 2006), who co-wrote and produced the original GRIZZLY (1976). There are claims that this film ended up on TV in the late 80's. Don't you believe it. It is just one of those urban legends that refuses to die. Another film, CLAWS (1977), which also deals with a rogue grizzly, was retitled GRIZZLY 2 for overseas distribution and TV showings when the original film turned out to be an unexpected financial success. This workprint is about as complete as you are ever going to see it and is in no way in any condition to be shown on TV or in theaters. This is about as rare a find that I have ever received. I would like to thank the person that sent it to me, but I'll leave his name anonymous so he doesn't get clobbered with requests for copies (Thanks William Wilson!). I know of no artwork for this film. If anyone has any preproduction ads for this or any promotion material (the artwork for this review is a fake poster created by a fan), please contact me at my email link and we can work work something out. NOTE: The workprint finally escaped into the torrent community (and it wasn't me, no matter what that turdburglar William Wilson claims; I have never uploaded a film to a torrent site in my life and I would love to see asswipe's Wilson's proof to the contrary) and some people have made their own fan edits, inserting scenes from the first film to replicate the missing bear attacks and reworking the music soundtrack. Some of the fan edits are pretty good, while others are god-awful. According to sources, the footage sits in a lab in Paris, while the soundtrack sits in a New York vault. NOTE 2: For more information on the making of this film, check out the Email Section HERE.
HEAD OF THE FAMILY (1996) - Outrageous horror-comedy that blends the right amount of grossness and black humor. In the sleepy little town of Nob Hollow, the shopkeeper, Lance (Blake Bailey), is having a torrid sexual affair with Loretta (Jaqueline Lovell), the wife of the towns only drug dealer. They conspire to get rid of her husband, but cannot come up with a foolproof plan until Lance spots the towns weirdest (and richest) residents, the Stackpools, kidnap an unsuspecting motorist for use in some strange genetic experiments in their mansions basement. Lance blackmails the head of the family, Myron Stackpool (J.W. Perra), into kidnapping Lorettas husband to use in the experiments. Myron agrees and the plan goes off without a hitch. Then, Lance gets greedy and demands money from the Stackpools in exchange for keeping his mouth shut about the experiments. Lance and Loretta will soon come to regret messing around with the Stackpools. If this plot sounds generic, consider this: Myron has a giant head and a super-small body. He is the brains of the family and controls his two brothers (one has huge eyes and acute hearing while the other is just huge and dumb with the strength of ten men) and sister (a looker with a great body) using telepathy. Myron sees through their eyes and feels what they feel. Mix that with good acting and a crackling, sarcastic screenplay (by Benjamin Carr) and what you have is a film thats hard to resist. The standout is Jacqueline Lovell (HIDEOUS - 1997; KILLER EYE - 1998), who can really act in and out of her clothes (full-frontal nudity and what a body!). She has quite a future in the business. Director Robert Talbot (MYSTERY MONSTERS - 1997) is actually a pseudonym for Charles Band, who this time actually keeps you entertained, tossing in frequent nudity, comedy and grotesque situations (including a Joan of Arc play performed by Myrons failed experiments!). Hard to believe that this came from Charles Bands production company or even from Band himself!. Also starring James Jones, Bob Schott, Diane Colazzo and Gordon Jennison. A Pulp Fantasy Home Video Release. Rated R.
HEX (1980) - More Hong Kong craziness from the Shaw Brothers and director Kuei Chih-Hung, who also gave us such memorable films as BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973), THE KILLER SNAKES (1974), BEWITCHED (1981), CORPSE MANIA (1981) and THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983). The Chan's were once a powerful family for several generations. That is, until recently. Their only surviving daughter, Sau Ying (Tanny), was forced into an arranged marriage with abusive Yeung (Wang Jung), in hopes of continuing the Chan family line with some new blood (babies). Sau Ying has failed to get pregnant and caught a bad lung ailment instead, forcing her to be bedridden. Sau Ying's parents died of consumption and since her family name no longer carries the clout it use to and divorce is not an option in this society, the self-absorbed Yeung has turned to a life of gambling, drinking, visiting prostitutes and abuses the only female servant, Ah Sim, left on staff (Sau Ying and Yeung are dead flat broke and all they have left to their name is the crumbling Chan family mansion). When Ah Sim leaves the Chan's employ (She tells Sau Ying, "I will not be his punch-bag!"), the cruel Yeung refuses to take care of Sau Ying as she grows sicker. Enter Leung Yi Wah (Chen Szu-Chia), the daughter of a servant who once worked for Sau Ying's mother. She shows up at the Chan's front door and offers to attend to Sau Ying's needs, even though they can't afford to pay her (When Sau Ying warns Leung of Yeung's bad temper, she responds, "Don't worry, I'll take good care of him."). When Leung discovers the depths of depravity of Yeung's cruelty (She watches as he slaps around a sickly Sau Ying for not lighting his cigarette!) and he rapes her after she tells him "You are not a man!", Leung has had enough when he punches and kicks her and then steals Sau Ying's jade bracelet (it was her mother's and the only thing Sau Ying had left that had any monetary value) and uses it for gambling and whores. She and Sau Ying drown him in a vat of water when he returns home drunk and then throw his body into a nearby pond to make it look like an accidental drowning (it's not the first time he has fallen into the pond while walking home blind stinking drunk, so this seems like an excellent plan). But, like all perfect murders, something goes wrong and Yeung's body disappears from the pond and Sau Ying begins having nightmares about being chased around the mansion by Yeung's water-bloated corpse. She begins regretting killing him and grows sicker and more delusional, while Leung tries to hold it together as the village drains the pond due to an odorous stench emanating from it. When nothing is found in the drained pond except the rotting corpse of a pig, Sau Ying and Leung are both surprised. Or are they? When Sau Ying dies of her illness (helped, in part, by being scared to death by an oozing corpse hovering over her bed), it is revealed that Yeung is very much alive and was working in concert with Leung to hasten Sau Ying's death (it turns out that Sau Ying was hording a treasure trove of jade and priceless jewelry). As we have learned in many Hong Kong horror films, being dead is not an excuse not to return from the grave to get even with those who have wronged you and Sau Ying is no exception. Her retribution against illicit lovers Leung and Yeung will be deadly as well as hugely entertaining. This twisted variation of the classic French mystery LES DIABOLIQUES (1955) proved to be so popular with Hong Kong audiences that two official sequels were made, HEX VS. WITCHCRAFT (1980) and HEX AFTER HEX (1982), both also directed by Kuei Chih-Hung, as well as many unofficial ones. While the first 35 minutes are rather tame, taking time to set up the phony murder and deception, the remainder of the film is a goofy delight (screenplay by the director and Tan Chin-Hua), as the tone suddenly shifts from dead serious to outright lunacy. Workers at the mansion piss their pants (one guy dispenses so much pee, it's insane!); Sau Ying appears as a vampire (one worker notices she doesn't cast a reflection in a mirror and is then chased around the mansion by someone wearing a white horror mask that spews large amounts of blood from its mouth!); skinned frogs and snakes appear out of nowhere; Sau Ying chases her husband around the house with a meat cleaver; Yeung beats a nosy local traveling merchant to death with his cane, only to discover that he is still alive when he tries to bury him (which leads to a funny and suspenseful chase with a bloody denouement); Sau Ying's disembodied head scares the shit out of a monk, who is nearly strangled by Sau Ying's severed arm; some surprising full-frontal nudity when Leung hires a female wizard to rid her of Sau Ying's ghost (which involves nude body painting and ear-rippings); and lots of other gory goodness. The finale is as ridiculous as they come (think twins), but it just adds to the film's over-the-top charms. If you are a fan of Hong Kong weirdness (and if you're not, you should be!), add this film to your must-see list. Also starring Han Kuo-Tsai and Yu Tsui-Ling. A Celestial Pictures DVD Release. Not Rated.
HITZ (1988) - Weird story about child gangs in L.A. that tries to be a biting social commentary while mixing in some over-the-top humor. It doesn't quite gel as the comedy elements seem out of place next to (and within) scenes of extreme violence. A beautiful, yet ulcer-ridden, Juvenile Court judge (Emilia Crow) tries to cope with her job and her relationship with wheelchair-bound social worker boyfriend Francesco Quinn. She catches presiding judge Elliott Gould hypnotizing and feeling-up his court stenographer (Karen Black). When he is unable to snap Black out of her hypnotic state he is arrested and forced to leave the bench. His replacement (the late Thalmus Rasulala) is a child-hating judge who thinks all kids who commit crimes should be tried as adults. This leads to a head to head confrontation between him and Crow, who thinks kids are a product of their environment and can be changed if taken away from that environment and placed in a loving home. Crow is also under a doctor's (Sydney Lassick from THE UNSEEN  and SONNY BOY ) orders not to get too excited as her ulcer could kill her. This is not easy, as people are shot in her courtroom, people she cares about are viciously murdered and people she trusts (including Gould) continually let her down. Things come to a boil when a child witness she is protecting is hunted down by a street gang for giving evidence in a trial. Many people die before the story reaches its finale and there is a semi-happy ending. Strange humor abounds in director William Sach's (THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN ; GALAXINA ) screenplay. Rasulala, complaining of a bad Mexican meal the night before, asks the courtroom if anyone has any Pepto Bismol. He is offered Tums, Rolaids and Alka Seltzer but refuses them all saying, "What kind of courtroom is this?" This happens right after he sentences a child (who kills Gould with a stun gun after he observes Gould raping an underage girl in his charge) to stand trial as an adult. Black (in what amounts to a cameo role) returns to the courtroom after her hypnotic trauma dancing to "Mary Had A Little Lamb", slits her wrists and starts shooting up the courtroom with an Uzi. Gun violence is very prominent in this film. A girl, who douses herself and her newborn baby with gasoline, is shot in the head. A child is shotgunned. People are blown away for no reason. This is an uneasy film that would have worked better if the comedy elements were eliminated. Unlike most badfilms, the humor here is intentional making it a tough film to judge. New rap music was added to this 1988 film for its 1992 video release. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. Rated R.
HOMEBODIES (1973) - Here's a very interesting and unique premise: When their apartment building is condemned, a group of elderly tenants band together and begin killing all those they deem responsible for their situation (The poster art tagline reads: "A murder a day keeps the landlord away!"). At first, the silver-haired old fogies sabotage a highrise construction site down the street, messing with a cable that hauls steel girders, which snaps, killing a construction worker who was riding a girder to the top (One worker says, "Call an ambulance!" to which another replies after seeing the body, "Why bother?"). The octogenarians hope that accident will delay their eviction, but when it doesn't, they get more creative. When the callous Miss Pollack (Linda Marsh) shows up with eviction notices for everyone and expects then to vacate the premises immediately, the tenants, led by blind Mr. Blakely (Peter Brocco; TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE - 1983) and feisty, prune-eating Mattie (Paula Trueman, who is probably best known as the no-nonsense Grandma Smith in Clint Eastwood's THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES - 1976), make sure she knows in no uncertain terms that they are never leaving. Miss Pollack retaliates by turning off everyone's electric, gas and water, so the tenants fight back, first sabotaging the construction site's elevator, which kills three more construction workers. It forces the site to close down, which pisses-off the site's owner, Mr. Crawford (Douglas Fowley; BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY - 1977), who is also the new owner of the tenement building. When Mr. Crawford spots the elderly Mr. Loomis (Ian Wolfe; THX 1138 - 1971) giving the tenement building a new coat of paint, he sends Miss Pollack with the police to forcibly remove the old farts to their new digs: a colorless, lifeless retirement home. Miss Pollack notices that not all the tenants made the move, so she returns to the tenement building later that day and gets a butcher knife rammed into her stomach by Miss Emily (Frances Fuller), a slightly senile old woman whose father originally owned the building (Miss Emily repeatedly talks to an urn containing her father's ashes as if he were still alive). After getting rid of Miss Pollack's body (they push her down the street in a wheelchair and dump her body over a bridge into the coal car of a passing train), the geriatric set concentrate their attention towards Mr. Crawford, whom they capture and encase in a block of wet cement that is used as one of the foundation pilings of his highrise building. Alas, all this hard and dirty work does nothing to solve their problems, as another bigwig takes Mr. Crawford's place and pretty soon Mattie begins killing her elderly friends to keep them from talking to the police. It seems that even at a ripe old age, people can lose their moral compass and begin killing for self-serving reasons. This biting black comedy, directed/co-written by Larry Yust (TRICK BABY - 1973), has much to recommend. First and foremost, the cast of veteran old timers (which also includes Ruth McDevitt and William Hansen), pull off the seemingly impossible task of making their characters sympathetic and downright deadly at the same time. Particularly effective is Paula Trueman as Mattie. The sequence where she has to get rid of Miss Pollack's car is a thing of beauty. She hasn't been behind the wheel of a car in over forty years and as she haphazardly drives the car, nearly hitting a young boy (who sticks his tongue out at her) and getting into several accidents, you can see the wonder in her eyes as she views sections of Cincinnati, Ohio (where this was filmed) that she hasn't seen in nearly half a century. The emotions she conveys with just her eyes says more than ten pages of dialogue ever could. Since this film was made in the 70's, don't let it's PG rating deter you. There are several grisly scenes, including Miss Pollack's stabbing (not only do you see the knife entering her stomach and the blade exiting out her back, you also see a close-up of Mattie pulling the knife out) and Mr. Loomis chopping off the toes of Mr. Crawford's foot when he finds his shoe sticking out of the concrete foundation (That is the scene I best remember when watching this on TV in the mid-70's). While there are a few funny deaths (the wrecking ball crushing a man taking a shit in a Porta-Potty being one of them), HOMEBODIES takes a deadly serious tone in the finale when Mattie begins killing her oldest and dearest friends, which forces Mr. Blakely, Mr. Loomis and Miss Emily to deal with her on her own terms. The sight of three elderly people chasing Mattie in paddleboats in a park lake sounds comical, but I assure you it's anything but. The film concludes on a totally satisfying note that's surprising as well as goosebump-inducing. I won't spoil it for you here. This is an unsung classic from the 70's that is must viewing for fans of macabre cinema. Director Yust only directed one other feature after this, the screwball comedy SAY YES (1986). Also featuring Kenneth Tobey, Wesley Lau, Norman Gottschalk and Joe De Meo. Released on VHS in the mid-80's by Embassy Home Entertainment and still awaiting a legitimate DVD release. Rated PG.
IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH (1970) - As escaped convict Pascal Gorriot (Fernando Sancho) is evading the police, he spots Lucille (Eleonora Rossi Drago) disposing of her dead, headless husband's body on the grounds of the castle she lives in with her son Colin and step-daughter Falesse (We don't know how the husband was killed, but we do see Mom and the kids standing over the dead body, the head lying a few feet away from the torso). The police surround the castle and capture Pascal (they almost catch Lucille in the act of buring the body), yet he keeps his mouth shut on what he just saw (including watching Lucille sending her husband's motorboat driverless into the ocean, making it look like he disappeared in a boating accident). Thirteen years pass and it's plain to see that Lucille and her now-grown kids are one fucked-up family. Besides Falesse (Pier Angeli, here billed as "Anna Maria Pierangeli") and Colin (Alfredo Majo) having a none-too-subtle incestuous relationship, it's even obvious to the casual observer that the entire family is psycho crazy. A family friend named Michele visits the castle with his dog and they both lose their lives rather quickly. The dog finds the grave of Daddy and begins digging it up, so Colin strangles the dog with his bare hands. Michele tries to rob Falesse of some jewelry, so she stabs him in the back with a dagger. Lucille and Colin dispose of Michele's body with a nice acid bath. A friend of Michele's named Alex comes to the castle the next day and ends up decapitated with a sword after he removes Falesse's blonde wig while they are making love (A flashback reveals that her father molested her often when she was a child). We also learn that Falesse has a twin sister named Ester (also played by Angeli), who is in an insane asylum in Zurich, Switzerland. Pascal, who has just been released from prison, shows up at the castle and blackmails the entire family. After making them dig up the grave of their murdered husband/father and only finding the corpse of Michele's dog, an angry Pascal holds the family at gunpoint, rapes both Lucille and Falesse and makes Colin shine his shoes. Pascal doesn't realize who he is dealing with, though, and he's eventually murdered in a unique way while taking a bath. Things take a really strange turn when someone claiming to be Lucille's late husband shows up at the castle and we finally learn the truth of what really happened on that day thirteen years earlier. There are quite a few more twists and turns ahead, but you really have to pay close attention if you want to keep up. As you'll soon find out, no one is who they pretend to be, so you may want to keep a scorecard handy to sort it out. Seriously, I'm not kidding! From the opening minutes, where the first image we see is a decapitated corpse, a spoken word (as well as on-screen) quote from Freud and a disjointed timeframe that seems to have been done on purpose, you know that you're in for something special. The film just gets weirder as it progresses, as it tosses in incest, rape, a pair of vultures kept in cages as pets, a truly distasteful Nazi flashback that results into an even more amazing deadly bubblebath and trippy visuals and editing techniques that come straight out of a 60's LSD film. Toss in numerous decapitations, acid baths and a general sleazy tone and what you get is a surreal familial dynamic that would make the Addams Family quake in their boots. Director/co-scripter Sergio Bergonzelli (MERCENARY SQUAD - 1987; BLOOD DELIRIUM - 1988) constantly keeps the viewer off-balance, introducing new characters up to the very end, only to dispose of them just as quickly in gruesome ways and zig-zagging left when you think he's going right. The finale is a bit too much, as it piles on revelation-upon-revelation (This family has more secrets than Heinz has varieties) until your head spins, but it's never boring and contains some truly demented sequences as well as a surprising bit of full-frontal female nudity, unusual for a film made in 1970. IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH, an Italian/Spanish co-production, is a one-of-a-kind experience that should be a top priority for fans of weird cinema. Co-star Pier Angeli, who was once the lover of James Dean and was married at one time to singer Vic Damone, committed suicide the following year after starring in the awful horror film OCTAMAN (1970). She left a note saying that Dean was the only man she ever really loved (Ouch, Vic Damone!). Also starring Emilio Guiterrez Caba, Maria Rosa Sclauzero, Victor Alcazar, Giancarlo Sisti, Gaetano Imbro, Luciano Lorcas and Bruno Ciangola. Available in a watchable, but far from perfect, widescreen print on DVD-R from Luminous Film And Video Wurks and on VHS from British label Redemption Films. Not Rated.
KAMILLIONS (1989) - If you are a fan of truly weird cinema, this is the film for you. It's colorful, outlandish, funny, sexy, scary and, above all, entertaining as hell. Overweight scientist Nathan Wingate (co-scripter Harry S. Robbins) creates a machine in his laboratory that allows him to view a parallel universe "occupying the same sub-atomic space as our universe". Nathan is constantly interrupted in his lab by his nagging wife Nancy (Laura O'Malley), who reminds him that guests are arriving for their son Sam's (Dan Evans) birthday party. Teenager Sam spends most of his time fawning over the image of Jasmine (Dru-Anne Cakmis) on his computer and on a poster he keeps hidden in his closet, but he realizes that she is just an image of a woman he will never meet (much like the teens and their posters of Farrah Fawcett in the 70's). Sam helps his father finish-up in the lab before the party starts and Nathan sends him to Miskatonic University (!) to pick up a waveform amplifier because he needs more power for his machine. As guests begin arriving for the party, including Nathan's bitch-of-a-sister Angelica (Kate Alexander) and rich cousin Count Desmon (Christopher Gasti), Nathan looks through the portal to the parallel universe and spots several small creatures scurrying about the landscape. After making a comment that looking through the portal is like looking through "a window to Heaven", Nathan is painfully sucked through the portal ass-first (like being sucked through a hole in a spaceship in outer space) and the small, tentacled slug-like creatures, called Kamillions (a take-off on the word "chameleons"), escape into our universe and infest the Wingate mansion. One of the creatures attaches itself to Desmon and duplicates him, while another creature becomes trapped in Sam's bedroom and transforms itself into the image of Jasmine. When Sam finds the naked Jasmine in his bedroom, he thinks best friend Alex (Andrew Ross Litzky) hired a look-alike stripper as a birthday present, yet Sam treats her with respect. The alien Jasmine tells Sam to trust her and that she is looking for someone, while the alien doppelganger Desmon entertains the party guests with gravity-defying tricks, eventually making Angelica believe her teacup is full of cockroaches and making the mouth of ex-male escort-turned-reverend Larry Newman (David Allan Shaw) fill with blue goo. The alien Jasmine confesses to Sam and Alex that she came through the portal with another, more-dangerous alien and she must capture him and both return to their world before the portal is closed. Sam works with Jasmine to try and bring alien Desmon back to the lab, but there are obstacles in their way (the main one being that the alien Desmon is really nothing but a bratty ten year-old alien child and the alien Jasmine is his babysitter!) before the two aliens can return home and everything can return back to normal. Well, as normal as the Wingate family can ever hope to be. This low-budget unclassifiable film, sort of a cross between David Cronenberg's THE FLY (1986) and Stuart Gordon's FROM BEYOND (1986), with a healthy dose of intentional humor, is the kind of flick that you will either love or hate, leaving very little middle ground. Director/co-scripter Mike B. Anderson (listed here as "Mikel B. Anderson"), who also gave us the bizarre comedy ALONE IN THE T-SHIRT ZONE (1986) and directed many episodes of TV's THE SIMPSONS, offers many off-beat set pieces, including Reverend Larry's penis turning into a snake-like alien (the film's alien effects are decidedly low-rent, but somehow work within the film's confines), which he chokes with both hands (I laughed hard) before it bites him on the face. There are many more comical/horrific scenes, such as when Angelica's fox stole comes to life; Desmon shoving a phone receiver down the throat of Sam's abusive sister Linda (Allison Rachel Golde); Desmon turning Angelica into a spider (it's a hoot, as well as being creepy as hell); Desmon shoving Alex's entire body into a tiny fishbowl (drowning him!); Desmon's attempted rape of maid Emma (Lynn Applebaum); and many others. If you like your films as far south of weird as humanly possible, then KAMILLIONS should be right up your alley. All others are forewarned. Originally two hours long, the film was edited-down to 91 minutes by the Asian investors. Supposedly, the original edit will be released on DVD sometime in the future. Also starring Chuck Bartelle, Jeff Robins and Marc Hayden Bryman. Also known as THE WINGATES. Originally available on VHS from SBM Video (never heard of them before). Not Rated.
KILL BY INCHES (1999) - Here's something you don't see very often: An art house horror film. Thomas Klamm (Emmanuel Salinger) works at his father's tailor shop, where his father (Marcus Powell) is a cruel, domineering man, but a master tailor. Unfortunately, Thomas is not such a great tailor because he has a severe problem correctly taking down his customers' measurements, an inadequacy that his father belittles every chance he gets. It's as if the measuring tape is Thomas' worst enemy. The sudden appearance of his sister Vera (Myriam Cyr), who is definitely Dad's favorite sibling, throws Thomas' life into a spiral of madness. Like her father, Vera is also a master tailor and can tell a person's measurements by just looking at them. Also, like her father, Vera has a cruel streak and when she learns of her brother's deficiency with a tape measure (She says to him, "A real tailor can take measurements by eye!"), she belittles him endlessly in front of customers. It doesn't help that most of Thomas' customers have the oddest shapes and deformities this side of a Charles Addams drawing (extremely obese; exceedingly long arms, etc), but Thomas still soldiers on in hopes of perfecting his craft. It gets to the point that when he looks at anyone, all he sees are numbers, but those numbers are usually always wrong. When customers begin complaining about Thomas' work and Vera has to fix them, Thomas slowly goes mad. The questions to the viewer are these: Is everything Thomas sees real or is it all in his mind? Is the annoying sewing machine repairman, Hector (Christopher Zach), having an affair with his sister? Does he even exist at all? When Thomas starts noticing that his customers are now going to rival tailors, he begins killing them, starting with young boy Albert (Nicholas Tafaro), who complained that the pirate costume Thomas made for him was cutting off circulation to his hand. Thomas then turns his deadly intentions towards his sister. He disposes of all her asthma medication (At least I think it's asthma medication. It's a thick, black viscous liquid that Vera secretly inhales in the bathroom when she doesn't think Thomas is looking.) and when she passes out, he wraps her in measuring tape and safety pins, making her look like some weird mummy. He then goes to the annual Tailor's Ball, where he wins the competition, yet all his father has to say to him is that maybe next year his sister will show up, win the competition and make him proud. What does a son have to do to win his father's approval, get a sex change? Before anyone starts jumping down my throat, let me begin by saying that this film is not for everyone. Hell, I'll even go as far as to state that this film is not for 95% of the movie-going audience. This is an extremely slow, deliberately paced psychological chiller that takes it's own sweet time to get to the payoff. This is also a well-made independent film (partially financed by the Independent Film Channel), directed/produced/scripted by Arthur Flam and Diane Doniol-Valcroze, who would later write the screenplay for the horror film PENNY DREADFUL (2006). The film is relatively (though not completely) dialogue-free until the Tailor's Ball finale, where Thomas must face-off with other tailors by guessing the measurements of various models that they have never seen before. It's a surreal experience that can't be properly explained with mere words. I guess "surreal" is the best way to describe the whole film, as the people appearing in it don't look or act quite like any human beings you're ever liable to meet and the entire film has an otherworldly, yet familiar, look to it, like David Lynch shot a film set in the 1950's but left some modern-day items on view in the background just to throw us off. It's very disarming and creepy, especially with the ambient music soundtrack that drones in the background of nearly every scene and Thomas constantly eyeing that sharp spike that protrudes from the tailor shop's wall. Though not for everyone's tastes, KILL BY INCHES is a relatively oddball and effective little psycho flick for those who care more about mood than blood and guts. According to the IMDB, the only previous credits Mr. Flam and Ms. Doniol-Valcroze have before this are a series of short films they directed in the 90's. I, for one, will definitely check out anything the make in the future because they have a signature that's hard to duplicate. Available on VHS & DVD from Fox Lorber Films. Not Rated.
KING OF THE ANTS (2004) - This strange film by Stuart Gordon, rewards the patient viewer. This is not a horror film, so those looking to rent it for the horror aspects (including the nifty, if deceiving box art) are bound to be disappointed, even though there are horrific images on view. This begins like a standard thriller where down-on-his-luck housepainter Sean Crawley (Chris McKenna) is propositioned by electrician "Duke" Wayne (a terrific George Wendt) to come and work for his boss Ray Mathews (Daniel Baldwin). Ray asks Sean to follow Eric Gatley (Ron Livingston) around town and report Gatley's movements back to him. Sean follows Gatley around on his bike (!), taking pictures and notes. He spies on Gatley's wife, Susan (Kari Wuhrer) and begins to fantasize about her. While sitting drunk in his car, Ray asks Sean to kill Gatley for $13,000. Sean agrees and kills Gatley in his home (a real disturbing scene that ends with Sean dropping a refrigerator on the refusing-to-die Gatley, who keeps repeating, "There's someone at the door."). As a precaution, Sean takes some incriminating papers from Gatley's briefcase, which point to Ray's involvement in Gatley's death. When Ray refuses to pay Sean for the hit, Sean tells Duke that he has a folder that will fall into the right hands if he is not paid. This is where things get weird. Sean goes through long, goosebump-inducing torture scenes at the hands of Ray, Duke, Carl (Lionel Mark Smith) and Beckett (Vernon Wells) which involves golf clubs, foam rubber and a locked shed in the desert. Sean never gives up the folder and it begins to seem like he looks forward to the next torture session. He has hallucinations of Susan, at first sporting a penis and then as some deformed monster that eats her own shit. Sean escapes with the help of his friend George (Timm Sharp) after killing Duke by taking a giant bite out of his neck. Sean goes to the homeless shelter where Susan works, where she nurses him back to health and eventually takes him home, the same home where he killed her husband weeks before. Then things get even weirder....... To give away the rest of the film would be doing a total disservice to the viewer. This remarkable film is a disturbing look of how a seemingly normal person can shift gears and become something that we would rather not dwell on. Everyone involved in front of the camera does a terrific job (even the usually routine Wuhrer excels here), but George Wendt (who is also a co-producer) steals the show, shedding his Norm image from the CHEERS (1983 - 1993) TV series, portraying a mean-as-dirt goon (with what looks like a bad case of facial sunburn), who has no patience for disobedience. Director Stuart Gordon (DAGON - 2001) takes an obscure novel (screenplay and novel by Charles Higson) and turns it into a film devoid of morals and it works thanks to his always-peculiar spin on the human condition. KING OF THE ANTS may not be for all tastes, but I found it an exhilarating ride on the wild side, a side that too few films are willing to take. Filled with grotesque images and brutal violence, I was surprised to find out that it was passed with an R-rating without any cuts. Go out and rent or buy this film! Viewers who liked this film are encouraged to seek out Gordon's EDMOND (2005; with a screenplay by David Mamet) and STUCK (2007), two non-horror films with the Gordon brutality gene fully intact. A DEJ Productions Release. DEJ was a defunct label once owned by now-defunct Blockbuster Video, but don't hold that against this film. Rated R.
LADY STREET FIGHTER (1978) - Renee Harmon and director James Bryan strike again. Harmon, who starred in and produced Bryan's THE EXECUTIONER PART 2 (1983) and HELL RIDERS (1984) and starred in other films such as FROZEN SCREAM (1981) and NIGHT OF TERROR (1986), tops all these films in sheer badness and total unbelievability. This is one brutal 73 minutes to sit through. When Linda Allen (Harmon) hears that her sister is killed (we see the sister tortured in the beginning by being tied to a table topless and having her hands whacked with a pool cue) by a league of hitmen called Assassins, Inc. (No, really!) looking for a master file containing all the hitmen's names, she flies to L.A. to seek revenge. Realizing that they have killed the wrong sister, they try to kill Linda at the airport but she gets away after shooting a driver/assassin and stealing his car. Corrupt FBI Agent Rick Pollard (Joel D. McCrea Jr.), who has ties to Assassins, Inc., is sent out to stop her, but finds himself falling in love with her. The rest of the film contains copious nudity, very badly staged car chases, gun fights and kung-fu fights, an orgy where a murder mystery party takes place (and a murder actually happens), bad post-sync dubbing (why, oh why, didn't they dub Harmon's thick German accent?) and an ending which is so lame that you shake your head in disbelief (check out that toy burning house!). It even promises a sequel at the end credits, which thankfully never happened. While most reference materials list this film as being made in 1985 and there is no production date in the credits, I seriously doubt it as the fashions and cars on display clearly put it in the mid-to-late 70's era. Liz Renay shows up in a cameo doing a strip routine and the music soundtrack is a direct rip-off of Ennio Morricone's score of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). Also starring some unknown named Trace Carradine (an obvious pseudonym), who gets a sword rammed through him by Harmon after he tries to make her give him a blowjob ("Take off my pants bitch!"). Director James Bryan is best known for directing the bloody, goofy film DON'T GO IN THE WOODS (1981; which LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT actor Vincent D'Onofrio turned into a musical horror film in 2009!!!)), which stands head-and-shoulders above anything else he has made and that's not saying much. Renee Harmon left acting and took up writing books on auditioning for movies, surviving as an actor and film producing and directing before passing away in 2006. I've been dying to see LADY STREET FIGHTER for years. Now I wish I just died. In 1985, director Bryan re-edited this film and added new footage (both film and SOV) over the course of seven years and released it as RUN COYOTE RUN, which is a sort-of sequel to LADY (Harmon portrays Anne, the sister of Linda Allen, who is also a psychic police officer!), but it is very hard to find and is surreal as hell. It makes the pastiche films of Godfrey Ho look downright professional in comparison. A Unicorn Video VHS Release. Also available on widescreen DVD as part of Rare Flix Triple Feature Vol. 3. Not Rated.
LION MAN (1975) - Turkish genre films have become quite popular lately. Not because they're good, mind you, but because they are crazy, off-kilter and defy description. For a long time, grey market boots of Turkish versions of STAR TREK ("Turist Omer Uzay Yolunda"), THE EXORCIST ("Seytan"), SUPERMAN ("Superadam"), STAR WARS ("Dunyayi Kuraran Adam") and even THE WIZARD OF OZ ("Aysecik Ve Sihirli Cuceler Ruyalar Ulkesinde") have been floating around in fuzzy third generation dupes. LION MAN was one of the first Turkish films to get a legitimate VHS release in the States and it's a hoot. King Solomon and his pregnant queen have their kingdom overthrown by his scheming second-in-command. Solomon manages to block the door so the Queen can escape (He refuses to move from the door, even after being run-through several times with swords. He eventually relents when they cut both his hands off!). The Queen dies giving birth in the middle of the forest and the child is raised by lions! Lion Man (Major Turkish star Cuneyt Arkin, billed here as "Steve Arkin"), now all grown-up, looks to win back his kingdom by killing all the enemies of his father. This entails swinging from vines, uprooting trees with his bare hands and beating people to death with them and roaring like a lion (he can't speak) while using his hands like lion paws to rip the faces off his enemies. Along the way, he falls in love with a patriotic farm girl, even though she stabs him a couple of times. Eventually, he will get into a final showdown with his father's killer. Expect lots of blood and flying body parts. LION MAN is enjoyable trash, even if it's for all the wrong reasons. First off, the dubbing is atrocious, as all the voice talent speak in a monotonous drone and it's never more noticable as when the Queen goes into labor or when Lion Man's girl tries to teach him English (he picks it up quickly). You'll be in stitches. Secondly, the music score is wildly inappropriate. Most of the music cues seem to be lifted from romance movies as the orchestras hit those crescendos usually reserved for when people kiss. The only problem is that they play it during the battle scenes. The film is also full of hilarious dialogue. You'll hear lines like: "That's King Solomon's bitch!" or ""Lock her up until she dies!" and "What do you want you lousy bitch?" Let's not forget the outrageous action scenes where Lion Man and his new fighting force (one guy looks loke Robert Tessier) maim, mangle and generally decimate anyone who stands in their way. You'll marvel at people who are mortally wounded that still fight as if it were only a scratch, well-placed trampolines and poles that Lion Man (who's now a gymnast!) uses to jump, spin and flip over his enemies. The "choreography" used in the fight between Lion Man and his half brother is better viewed than described. Let's just say that if you don't laugh, it's quite possible that you were born without a sense of humor. Director Natuch Baitan tosses in enough graphic bloodshed, including gut-spilling, stabbings, appendage removal, face-rippings and acid burnings (Lion Man loses the use of his hands to acid, so he simply has the blacksmith fashion him a pair of steel claws "bigger and sharper than a lion's"!) to make this a must-see for fans of gory shenanigans. The sight of Lion Man scaling a castle wall with his new hands is a sight to behold. Recommended viewing for those who like it weird. Followed by an inferior sequel titled LIONMAN II: THE WITCHQUEEN (1979). Also starring (all names Anglicized) Barbara Lake, Charles Garret, Alison Soames, Tim Jackson and Natasha Moritz. A Best Film and Video Corp. VHS Release. Not Rated. For more info on the zany Turkish film scene, read Pete Tomb's excellent tome Mondo Macabro.
THE MANIPULATOR (1971) - Sure, you could dismiss this film as a piece of arty claptrap with an incoherent plot and an over the top performance by Mickey Rooney, but you would be missing the point. It's worse than that. It is an assault to the senses to any sane person who watches it. I was a babbling idiot for at least four hours after viewing this rare piece of pseudointellectual trash. Here's the story in a nutshell: Demented person B.J. Lang (Rooney), who believes he is the best film director in the world, kidnaps Carlotta (Luana Anders) to star in his latest film. The only problem is that Lang is making this movie in his mind and torments Carlotta every chance he gets. Rooney dresses as Cyrano De Bergerac, puts on red lipstick and blue eyeshadow, sings "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" over and over, and gives orders to imaginary people as he holes up in a cobweb-filled abandoned theater (or meat storage facility, it's that confusing). He makes Carlotta recite lines and sees old naked people prancing around in his mind. Director Yabo Yablonsky (his only directorial effort, thank God, although he had written screenplays for REVENGE FOR A RAPE , JAGUAR LIVES!  and others before passing away in 2005), films the sets with weird camera angles, freeze frames, sped-up and slo-mo photography, non-stop talk and imaginary scenes taken from the mind of Lang (including an orgy). All of this is done to cover the fact that there is just not enough movie here to fill a thirty minute time slot, even though the film runs over 90 minutes. I never thought I would say this in my life: I actually felt sorry for Mickey Rooney and he has made some bad choices in his career (SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 5: THE TOY MAKER  anyone?). This one (also known as B.J. LANG PRESENTS) is probably the lowest point of his career. It also contains a cameo by Keenan Wynn as a wino, who gets run through with a sword by Rooney. Lucky Keenan. Stay away from this and keep your sanity. I'm sure Yablonsky was shooting for something here, but it either went way above my head or just sucks shit. I choose the latter. Stay tuned for a "What the FUCK???" moment after the credits. This once played as a theatrical double feature with THE CULT (1971), which would later be renamed THE MANSON MASSACRE. A Vestron Home Video Release. Rated R.
MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (1966) - I've been sitting on this DVD of this notoriously bad regional El Paso, Texas-lensed horror oddity for several years (I have never seen it!), because I heard that it should only be watched in a certain "state of mind", but since I've given up most recreational activities (In other words, I'm old and boring), I have decided to watch this film with a clear mind. If I were a religious man, I would ask you all to pray for me, but since I'm not, a pained expression will do. The film opens with a vacationing family; husband Michael (director/producer/screenwriter Harold P. Warren), wife Margaret (Diane Mahree), small pain-in-the-ass daughter Debbie (Jackey Neyman) and pet poodle Pepe, getting hopelessly lost in their car. A couple of cops pull them over for a missing taillight (Michael: "Can't you give us a break, Officer? We are running kind of late." Officer: "If you're running late, you should have started earlier!"), but instead of asking the cops for directions, Michael lets the cops get back in their car and drive away. After a few minutes of badly-shot travelogue footage photographed from the passenger side of Michael's car, Michael makes a wrong turn and ends up on a dirt road he can't seem to find a way to get off of. They finally find a house in the middle of nowhere and stop to ask for directions. They should have kept driving instead. They meet Torgo (John Reynolds, who committed suicide shortly after this film was completed), a twitchy, bearded hippie-like character who dresses like a hobo and walks around carrying a strange staff topped-off with a sculpture of a hand. He introduces himself by saying, "I am Torgo. I take care of the place while The Master is away." (Succinct and to the point. I think I'm gonna like this guy!). When Michael ask Torgo for directions out of this hellhole, Torgo replies, "There is no way out of here!" (He also makes a comment that The Master doesn't like children or small dogs). Rather than questioning Torgo's response, Michael asks Torgo if they can spend the night at the house (Torgo: "The Master wouldn't approve...[awkward long pause]...Very well. The Master will be very disturbed!") and then carries their luggage into the house (John Reynolds is wearing prosthetics that are supposed to be goat's legs and hooves, but he mistakenly wore the prosthetics backwards, giving him one of the funniest fake walks since Monty Python's "Silly Walks" sketch. It's a shame that director Warren never pans the camera down to his feet so we can see the prosthetics, because the pain it caused Reynolds led to his addiction to pain killers, which led to his suicide!). Once inside the house, Michael and Margaret are spooked by a painting of The Master posing with a Doberman pincher with glowing eyes. Margaret is under the impression that The Master is dead, but Torgo quickly interjects, "Not dead the way you know it. He is with us always." (Torgo repeats it several times, just so Margaret understands, but she just blankly stares at him). When Margaret hears howling outside, she begs Michael to "make it stop", so Michael goes outside and grabs a flashlight and pistol out of the car's glovebox (this is Texas after all!), but Pepe gets loose and is torn apart by whatever is making the howling noise (Michael picks up Pepe's lifeless body like it is radioactive and buries it in the desert). Debbie is heartbroken over the loss of Pepe (she shows her volatile emotions by rubbing her eyes a couple of times!), so Michael and Margaret decide to leave, but (surprise!) the car won't start. Torgo tells Margaret when they have some alone time together that The Master wants her as his wife ("He has many wives."), but Torgo puts the moves on her (She begs Torgo to stop in one of the worst acting performances of the 60's and then suddenly agrees not to tell Michael about it!). Things come to a boil when Michael and his family discover The Master (Tom Neyman) laying on an altar with all of his wives (dressed in white flowing gowns) standing around him in a hypnotic trance. Torgo knocks-out Michael and ties him to a post while The Master wakes up from his deep sleep and performs a ritual in front of a statue of Manos. The Master's wives awaken and argue over the fate of Debbie (some want to kill her and others don't), so they all get into a giant catfight! The Master punishes Torgo for his infidelities by burning off his hand (and holding the hand in front of the camera while it burns down to the bone!), while his first wife (Stephanie Nielson) has had enough of his chicanery and pays for it with her life (after The Master slaps her silly!). Michael and his family escape into the desert and then suddenly decide that the best place to hide is back at the house (after Michael shoots at a stock shot of a rattlesnake!). The finale reveals that Michael is now the new Torgo and Margaret and Debbie are The Master's new wives! I almost had a tear in my eye (from laughter, that is!). The film ends with a "THE END?" title card, but I think it's safe to say this is the last time we'll see the exploits of The Master and his gang. Awful doesn't adequately describe how truly horrible MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (which literally translates to "Hands: The Hands Of Fate"!) really is and if it wasn't for all the hysterical acting, bad post-synch dubbing and simply unbelievable dialogue, this film would be a chore to sit through. Director/producer/screenwriter/star Harold P. Warren was a fertilizer salesman by trade and it's obvious he had no idea how to make a film, as scenes look incomplete, most of the time the camera never moves (except for some zooming-in on objects that have nothing to do with the scene, such as the camera closing-in on Michael and Margaret holding hands when they realize Debbie has disappeared) or is out of focus and the piano and saxophone music score (a faux kind of jazz) is totally inappropriate. Thankfully, the film is only 69 minutes in length (although it seems at least twice as long), so it didn't take up too much of my time. MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 devoted one of it's best episodes to this film (which I watched immediately after viewing the film "dry") and can be found on VHS and DVD from Rhino Home Video. It's really the only way to watch this film. Also starring Bernie Rosenblum and Joyce Molleur as two boozing teens in a roadster who keep getting busted by the same two cops that stopped Michael. It seems you can't get all liquored-up and make-out in a car without the cops hassling you! Available on DVD from Alpha Video or from Mill Creek as part of their TALES OF TERROR 50 MOVIE PACK compilation. Not Rated.
THE MANSON FAMILY (1997-2003) - Let me set the record straight: I am a horror enthusiast and have seen some of the most brutal and unflinching films that have ever been released. I usually walk away after they are finished and begin writing a review. I couldn't with this film because I couldn't finish a thought in my head. After this film's 93 minutes were up things kept getting scrambled in my noggin and I walked around in a daze for several minutes before I could compose myself and head off to bed. There, I laid awake all night in fear of closing my eyes. This hasn't happened to me since I was a kid. I was never a big fan of director Jim Vanbebber. I found his DEADBEAT AT DAWN (1988) to be a pretentious, amateurish, rather boring, if extremely bloody, exercise in revenge. Now, after watching his latest film, I'm under one of two opinions: 1) He's one of the best independent directors around and deserves all the accolades he is receiving for this film, or; 2) He's one of the most dangerous and insane men on the planet and should be put away for the rest of his natural born life. Everyone born before 1969 knows the story of Charles Manson. If not, I'm not going to explain it here as you can go out and rent or buy both versions of HELTER SKELTER (1976 & 2004) or THE HELTER SKELTER MURDERS (1970) or countless other films that dwell on Manson (including the seldom-seen THE MANSON MASSACRE - 1976). This film is not his story, but the story of his followers, a bunch of drug and sexed-out outcasts just looking for someone to lead them on a path to glory. And what glory they achieve. When not dropping acid, smoking pot or having group sex, they really have nothing else to do except listen to the crazed ramblings of Manson (played here with extreme minimalism by Marcelo Games). Told as a series of interviews using both film (with fake emulsion scratches) and video, flashbacks and intercut with scenes of four kids in 1996 about to attack a TV studio that is going to run a Manson documentary the next day, THE MANSON FAMILY is a hard film to take your eyes off of. It is also an assault on the senses, both aural (especially if you watch it in 5.1 Dolby Surround) and visual. Filled with shock cuts, bloody violence (especially the final 15 minutes), full frontal nudity and sex (but not pornographic), this is a tragic story about how the end of the 60's came to be known. Before the killings (Sharon Tate is never mentioned here, but you know it's her when she is killed), the 60's were known as the free-love, pot-smoking, anti-war generation, where everything was permissible as long as it felt good. The Manson family changed all that. The story Vanbebber tells is a vivid and mostly true one (the 1996 sections nonwithstanding), told in such an in-your-face way, that you can't help but get involved. All the actors (including Vanbebber as Bobby) are non-pros, whichs adds to the realism and, when the violence does erupt, it is unrelenting. I would give this film a big thumbs-up if I weren't afraid of pissing off the victims' families of Manson's followers (whose names are never mentioned thoughout the entire film, probably due to legal reasons). It's still a powerful document of how people with nothing to look forward to are easily manipulated and how it can still happen today. Jim Vanbebber started this film in 1997 and did not have the funds to complete it. Blue Underground stepped up to the plate and gave him the capital to finish the film. I endorse this film only for people that can handle violence in a realistic way and realize that something like this can (and does) happen all the time. This is a film about the alienation of youth and unless we, society in general, do something about it, history will keep repeating itself over and over. Also starring Marc Pitman, Leslie Orr, Maureen Alisse, Amy Yates, Tom Burns and Michelle Briggs. The soundtrack also contains actual songs sung by Manson. A film hasn't affected me like this in a long, long time. A Dark Sky Films DVD Release. THE MANSON FAMILY is available in R Rated and Not Rated cuts, with the R rated cut missing 9 minutes of footage. Also available in a 1 disc or 2 disc set. If all you want is the film, get the 1 disc set. The 2 disc set contains over 160 minutes of extra material, including interviews with cast and crew and a demented actual interview with Charles Manson. Also known as CHARLIE'S FAMILY. If you think that over 35 years of prison has changed this maniac, think again. He's still a complete sociopath and will never, ever get parole. And remember: "Charlie Can't Surf!" It's Creepy-Crawl time!
MARILYN ALIVE AND BEHIND BARS (1982/1993) - First a little back-story about this film: In 1982, director John Carr (FUGITIVE LOVERS - 1975; DEATH WISH CLUB - 1983; DEAD GIRLS DON'T TANGO - 1992) started this film but never finished it. Then, in 1985, thirty minutes of this footage (along with condensed versions of DEATH WISH CLUB and the horror film CATACLYSM - 1980) were used in the loony anthology film NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (all three segments were juiced with newly-added stop-motion special effects). Then, in 1993, Carr decided to finish the film, rehiring star John Phillip Law (who looks appreciably older in the new scenes, not to mention that Carr shot the new footage on video rather than film!) and adding a subplot involving a captive Marilyn Monroe (played by Francine York; WELCOME HOME, SOLDIER BOYS - 1972). That film became MARILYN ALIVE AND BEHIND BARS. Then, in 1997, screenwriter Philip Yordan (who wrote MARILYN) ditched the Marilyn footage and compiled his own unauthorized (and unfinished) version, titled it SCREAM YOUR HEAD OFF and sold the VHS rights to Simitar Entertainment, who released it on crappy, unwatchable EP-mode tapes only as part of their "From Academy Award Winner Philip Yordan" series (Yordan died in 2003). The question remains: Is MARILYN worth all the trouble? I guess the answer depends on how you feel about stitched-together films. The film opens with newly-shot footage of halfwit Sidney (Mark Petrich) putting a rose on Marilyn Monroe's crypt and then biking over to Pinewood Sanitarium (where Richard Moll, in 1982 footage, greets him but they are never in the same shot), where he serves a still-alive Marilyn Monroe breakfast in her opulent apartment/prison cell (the walls are decorated with photos and memorabilia of her career, including a candid shot with Robert Mitchum). We then switch to Harry Billings (John Phillip Law; BLOOD DELIRIUM - 1988), as his car containing his wife of one-day flies off a bridge in a terrible accident, killing her. Harry tries to commit suicide and ends up a patient of Pinewood Sanitarium, where the evil Dr. Brewer (Arthur Braham), love-lorn Dr. Fargo (Sharon Ratcliff) and brutish orderly Otto (Moll) give Harry electroshock treatments to keep him in line. They brainwash Harry into becoming their new minion, but when he finds Marilyn's locked door, he steals the keys and meets the real Marilyn Monroe (Or is she?). She tells him a story about a lookalike Marilyn being killed years earlier and she's been locked in this room ever since (probably with the help of the Kennedy family), but Harry is so brainwashed, he refuses to believe Dr. Brewer or Dr. Fargo are bad people. They hypnotize Harry into kidnapping girls just off the bus and bringing them back to the sanitarium, where Dr. Brewer and Fargo "condition" them and sell them to white slavers on the black market. Harry pays more midnight visits to Marilyn and discovers that the doctors are giving her shots to "forget" who she is (on one visit, she tells Harry she is twelve years old!). Things start to fall apart when Harry kidnaps barmaid Verna (Lisa Watkins) and is followed by a mysterious white-haired man. Harry begins questioning his role at the sanitarium (he begins to have terrible nightmares of his crimes), so Dr. Brewer increases his hypnotic injections, but Harry starts to get a conscience and refuses to bring any more girls back to the sanitarium. Can Harry find happiness with Marilyn and escape the sanitarium? Or will the horny Dr. Fargo get Harry all to herself? The main difference between this version and the versions on NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR and SCREAM YOUR HEAD OFF (besides the obvious Marilyn footage) is that MARILYN ALIVE AND BEHIND BARS deletes the gory black market human organs subplot that is so prominently displayed in the other two versions. Gone is the sequence where Otto is in a big meat freezer chopping up a body as the camera lingers on decapitated human heads and other body parts. As a matter of fact, MARILYN is a rather chaste and bloodless film (we do get to see Otto with the meat cleaver, but the scene is re-edited in a way to convey he's killing an escaped female captive rather than chopping-up an already-dead body), with no nudity, very little violence (we get a quick shot of two severed heads stored in jars, but most of the other violence, including Otto's beheading and a lobotomized Dr. Brewer performing an "operation" on Dr. Fargo, has all been edited out) and no foul language. Considering the subject matter, that's quite a feat. If you can forgive the obvious change in film stock and Law's change in age and hair style from scene-to-scene, you may find some enjoyment here, especially if you have seen the other two versions first. An interesting piecemeal film. Also starring Rick Barnes, Jini Flynn, Charles Parker, Micki Corbin, Peter Creadick and Carla Marlenee. A Trinity Home Entertainment DVD Release. Not Rated.
MICROWAVE MASSACRE (1978) - This bad taste horror comedy has only one redeeming feature: The dry delivery of late comedian Jackie Vernon (he was the voice of the animated Christmas perennial FROSTY THE SNOWMAN , for chrissakes!). Construction worker Donald (Vernon) has a very serious problem: His forever-nagging wife May (Claire Ginsberg) hasn't made him an edible meal in months (his latest box lunch was a whole crab slapped on a roll) and he's getting tired of eating all her mis-prepared meals. He even begins to eat dog food because he thinks it tastes better than May's slop. Things only get worse when May purchases a big-assed Major Electric microwave oven (Model #X1-74A) and cooks Donald faster and even more inedible cuisine (which she pronounces "coo-zine"). Donald fantasizes about killing May until one day he goes too far and actually kills her (he gets drunk at a bar, comes home, spits water on dinner, pisses in the fireplace and caves May's head in with a pepper grinder). He wakes up the next morning and finds May in the microwave and, as a final tribute, microwaves her body on high. He saws up her body into pieces, wraps them in aluminum foil and puts them in the refrigerator next to the other leftovers. One night, he accidentally grabs one of her body parts (thinking it's a leftover) and eats it. He likes the taste and soon he is bringing box lunches of May meat to his construction site. His friends, Rosie (Loren Schein) and Philip (Al Toupe), take bites and Donald's lunches become the hit of the construction site. Soon, he is creating different dishes from May's body parts and serving them to his friends. When Philip mentions that the meat is beginning to taste old and tough, Donald gets the idea that maybe younger women would taste better. He begins bringing prostitutes home and giving them the old X1-74A treatment ("I'm so hungry, I could eat a whore!"). The microwave proves to be Donald's achille's heel, however, as the pacemaker in his chest malfunctions every time he uses the microwave. He can't help his addiction, though, as Rosie and Philip find him lying next to the oven, dead of a heart attack, a full plate of arms and hands sitting in the microwave. This really is a pretty piss-poor film only made bearable by Jackie Vernon (who actually died of a heart attack in 1987), in a rare filmic outing. Director Wayne Berwick (whose father, Irv Berwick, directed MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS - 1959, HITCH-HIKE TO HELL - 1977, MALIBU HIGH - 1978, amongst others) throws in every cheap sex joke imaginable and only about 10% of it is funny. Thankfully, Berwick also throws in plenty of female nudity to keep your eyes occupied through the slow parts. The acting is uniformly awful from the mostly non-professional cast and even Vernon looks like he's reading off cue cards on several occasions. The gore, such as it is, consists of severed body parts lying on the counter, in the microwave, in the refrigerator or being eaten by the cast, all of it used for comical (?) effect. Things reach the nadir when "dark meat" jokes are made about eating the flesh of a dead black hooker and when Donald's sexy next door neighbor uses a cordless vibrator to dig holes in her garden. Another tasteless bit is when Donald is shown cutting up a Chinese woman (for his "Peking Chick" dish), all you see on the counter is a kabuki wig and a big pair of round eyeglasses. How you feel about this film totally depends on your tolerance for cheap jokes, bad acting and severed body parts. I must admit, I did laugh out loud a couple of times even though I knew I shouldn't. The late Robert A. Burns was art director on this. Also starring Lou Ann Webber, Cindy Gant, Sarah Alt, Phil De Carlo and John Harmon. A Midnight Video Release. Not Rated. "Hello, Coast Guard? Is the coast clear?"
MR. NO LEGS (1979) - This head-scratcher of a film will have you doing double takes (and maybe even spit takes!). This is mainly an action film concerning drug dealing, double crosses and car chases but the title character is so mean and unrelenting that it deserves to be in the total weirdness category. A legless, wheelchair-riding mob enforcer (Ron Slinker) works for his drug-running boss (Lloyd Bochner), killing rivals with shotguns hidden in the armrests of his wheelchair or jumping out of his chair (using his arms!) and karate-chopping or knifing snitches and goons who get in his way. When the daughter of a cop (Ted Vollrath) turns up dead, he and partner Richard Jaeckel (GRIZZLY - 1976) begin to track down those responsible. When they begin to get too close, Mr. No Legs tries several times (quite unsuccessfully) to kill the cops. This worries his boss, who begins to see him as more of a liability than an asset, and orders him snuffed out along with the cops. This does not sit well with Mr. No Legs...... While basically a cops and robbers film, the unusual Ron Slinker, who can't act a lick (this was his only film role), makes you take notice. When he leaps out of his chair (in slow motion), beating people up with his stumps and even jumping into a swimming pool to take on two hitmen, you begin to realize that this is strange stuff. Director Ricou Browning (who played the Gillman in all three CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON films) falters toward the end, when Slinker is killed two-thirds of the way through the film and it turns into a 25 minute car chase (provided by Joie Chitwood and the Danger Angels), where crooked cop John Agar (NIGHT FRIGHT - 1967) races around the Florida panhandle trying to avoid capture. Still, it's not a bad little film. It manages to keep your attention due to the strange subject matter and the frequent bloody fights, stabbings, legless kung-fu and shotgun blasts. Also starring Rance Howard as a sidekick of Mr. No Legs. I picked this one up on DVD-R from 5 Minutes To Live. It's kind of dupey, but watchable. Not Rated.
MOONCHILD (1972) - I really have nothing against arty horror films, but it seems to me that some actual horror should be thrown-in with all the pretentious philosophical dialogue and fancy camerawork, no? After an on-screen quote by Edgar Cayce ("You may not even have to come back at all if you become perfectly developed in this life."), we witness our young protagonist, known throughout most of the film as the "Student" (Mark Travis), running through some dark catacombs, trying to escape some unseen force chasing him. Our narrator, an old man called Mr. Walker (John Carradine; FRANKENSTEIN ISLAND - 1981), takes us back in time to show us how the Student ended up in this predicament. It's 1920, and the Student, who is a pastel painter and sketch artist, is hitchhiking through the California desert, when he ends up at an old mission that's been converted to a hotel. Mr. Walker happens by while the Student is painting a picture of the hotel and tells him that he should pay close attention to "the bells", especially the one with a "No.7" stamped on it. The seemingly-mad Mr. Walker takes him to the hotel, where the Student becomes fascinated with the building's architecture and meets an odd assortment of characters, including the hotel's manager (Pat Renella), who makes the Student register by signing the guestbook with his name and birthdate (the manager may be the Devil himself); a mysterious gentleman called the Maitre D' (Victor Buono; THE EVIL - 1977), who tells the Student that everything he sees is an illusion (he may actually be God or one of his angels); the hunchbacked, one-eyed servant called Homonculus (Frank Corsentino); the creepy maid (Marie Drew); and a beautiful girl (Janet Landgard), who haunts the Student's dreams. When the manager finds out that the Student's zodiac sign is Cancer, he dubs him "Moonchild No. 7" and from that moment on, he begins having flashbacks to a previous life, when the hotel was just a mission a couple of centuries earlier. It doesn't take a genius to deduct that Moonchild No. 7's life is pre-destined to end up here and play out the same pre-determined outcome as he did in six previous lives, with the same set of characters that now occupy the hotel. The rest of the film is a series of flashbacks-within-flashbacks, told in an artsy-fartsy style (weird camera angles; close-ups of red meat being sliced and consumed; quick, jackhammer-style editing) and containing many obtuse conversations about life and death. This continues for 78 agonizing minutes, as Moonchild No. 7 tries to alter his fate from repeating itself. He fails miserably. MOONCHILD amounts to be nothing more than a USC film student's master thesis on the cyclicity of life and reincarnation (this would make a great companion piece with director Christopher Speeth's equally long-winded MALATESTA'S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD ). Director/writer Alan Gadney (Not surprisingly, his only film credit. He's now a successful book marketer.) and Director of Photography Emmett Alston (who went on to direct such genre fare as NEW YEAR'S EVIL , TIGERSHARK  and DEMONWARP ) have fashioned a philosophical horror film where Renella's Devil and Buono's God characters relentlessly battle for the soul of the Student, while Carradine (who sometimes speaks directly to the camera) tries to keep us up to speed in his dulcet, Shakespearean voice. This is really nothing but a cheap reincarnation horror tale dressed-up in convoluted dime-store Psych 101 dialogue ("Seek the life to perfection." "God preserve us. The Devil rides in women's loins!") and the occasional quick glimpse of early-70's gore (blood gushing out of a sword wound; a throat slashing). The flashback sequences (conceived by editor Jack Conrad, director/writer of the obscure actioner COUNTRY BLUE ), which take place in a Spanish Inquisition-like atmosphere (where we find out that the Student actually has a proper name, "Gavilan"), contains the film's only horror sequences, but it comes so late in the film and you'll have to put up with dialogue that's so heavy-handed and forced, it's hard to imagine for anyone but those with the patience of a saint would give a damn. Both Victor Buono and John Carradine (who has more spoken lines here than ten of his latter-day horror films combined) are consummate professionals (and, apparently, willing to help out a film student for little or no money), but it's hard to give a rat's ass when the film around then is such a pretentious bore. When MOONCHILD was released to U.S. theaters in 1974, it was advertised as an EXORCIST (1973)-type film (The tag line reads: "Racing Towards His Final Exorcism!). Man, audiences must have been pissed when they realized they were conned. Filmed at the still-standing (and operating) Mission Inn in Riverside California. Also starring William Challee and Robert Randles. I don't believe that this ever got a legitimate home video release in the U.S., but it can be purchased on VHS and DVD-R from Sinister Cinema. The version I viewed was sourced from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Rated R.
A NAME FOR EVIL (1973) - John Blake (Robert Culp) is feeling the pressures of big city living. He has a combination deadbolt on his apartment door to keep out burglars. He is so fed up with what he sees on TV that he throws the set off the apartment balcony. He also has a hard time separating fantasy from reality. Every time he sees his shrewish, unloving wife (Samantha Eggar), he has visions of naked dancing girls and people dressed in skeleton costumes. Blake leaves his family-owned architectual business and moves himself and his wife to his late great grandfather's country estate, called The Grove. There is a problem with this estate: Blake's great grandfather, known as The Major, built The Grove and swore that after his death, no one would ever inhabit it. Blake and his wife are the first people to live in The Grove in over 50 years and almost immediately Blake begins to experience strange phenomenon. A white horse mysteriously appears and disappears. A voice continuously warns him to get out of the house. He sees strange shadows cast on the walls. He is attacked by a stream of fire. He also believes that The Major has his sights set on Mrs. Blake. Oh, did I mention that he takes part in a nude dancing orgy led by the town's preacher? It is up to us, the viewer, to decide if all the stuff that is happening is in Blake's mind or if it is real. If it is real, is The Major the cause or is someone else trying to drive him mad? You try and figure it out. I sure as hell couldn't. This Bernard Girard (THE MAD ROOM - 1969; THE MIND SNATCHERS - 1972) directed psychodrama has a surprising amount of full frontal male and female nudity (in Culp's case, one could say, "I Spy with my eye an average-size penis!"), but very little else. Girard's idea of telling a story involves layering multi-colored lighting with arty camera angles. His screenplay is confusing and moves at a snail's pace. Samantha Eggar (THE BROOD - 1979; CURTAINS - 1982; RAGIN' CAJUN - 1991) has a hilarious scene describing Culp's masturbatory habits and tries to castrate Culp with a straight razor. Culp, who starred in his share of stinkers, including BIG BAD MAMA 2 (1987), SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 3: BETTER WATCH OUT (1989) and XTRO 3: WATCH THE SKIES (1995), wanders around looking confused and seems embarassed during his nude scenes. The sad fact is, if it weren't for the nude scenes, I would have fallen asleep long before A NAME FOR EVIL reached its' mind-numbing conclusion. Also starring Sheila Sullivan, Mike Lane, Clarence Miller and Sue Hathaway. A Paragon Video Release. Rated R. NOTE: Beware of the version of this film shown on American Movie Classics (AMC). It is shorn of all the nudity, contains alternate scenes and actually makes less sense than the version on tape. Avoid both at all costs!
NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER (1990/1995) - With so many good genre films screaming-out to get their DVD debut, I have to question why Code Red DVD would spend time, money and energy to release this abomination (filmed in 1990, but not given a copyright until 1995) on a shiny silver disc; a film so devoid of any entertainment value, it was deemed unreleasable when screened (to show you just how bad this film really is, it was made around the same time by the same producer [Roger Racine] of VOODOO DOLLS and MADONNA: A CASE OF BLOOD AMBITION [both 1990], yet it was the only one in the trio not to obtain a distributor). Maybe Code Red obtained the distribution rights for little or no money, but in this tough economy, I fail to see Code Red's thought process, never mind their business acumen, in hoisting such an unknown and terrible film on an audience starving for quality product (or at least something with entertainment value). To me, it's business suicide, but what do I know, I bought the DVD so I could review it! I certainly doubt that this will be a best seller, but I'm sure some genre fans will pick this up just for the novelty value, but it's a novelty that wears off after watching the first five minutes of this filmic turd. Actor/impressionist Fred Travalena (who passed away in late June of 2009, a little more than two months before this was finally released on DVD) plays three roles in this kitchen sink comedy, which aims for AIRPLANE (1980)-like laughs, but has to settle for sub-PANDEMONIUM (1982) and HYSTERICAL (1983) guffaws instead. It's about a killer in a tracksuit and a basketball mask who goes around murdering members of the world's worst college basketball team, the Watergate Plumbers (my head hurts already). After a teammate is found beheaded (the head being led away on a stretcher while the team takes a group photo), Coach Cherry (Travalena) wonders out loud if this is going to affect the attendance of tonight's game (this is when I popped my first Tylenol). At that game, play-by-play announcer Dick Airhead (Travalena again; and I swallowed my second Tylenol) does several impressions (including Clint Eastwood and Sammy Davis Jr.) while introducing the members of the Plumbers to a very sparse crowd (not because of the beheading, but because of the film's miniscule budget). Equipment manager Stan Bates (Gregory Calpakis) complains to the coach that he is never put in the game as a player (Hint! Clue!), while Dick Airhead does more impressions (including Bela Lugosi and Herve Villechaize) as the game progresses (at this time, I switched from Tylenol to Advil). Stan's girlfriend Becky (Flavia Carrozzi) makes a remark that Stan's a better player than anyone on the team, but Stan replies that it will probably take more teammates being killed before he gets any play time (at this point, I switched to smoking a joint, not only to forget about my headache, but because everything seems better with a little pot). After the Plumbers lose once again to their rivals, the Greenfield Gators (the Plumbers haven't won a game in six years), Dean Cook (Michael Sullivan), the head of Greenfield, makes a bet with Watergate head Dean Marks (Cynthia Mantel) that the loser of their next basketball game will have to get a tattoo on a body part of the winner's choice and will also have to ride naked on the rival's parade float. When the Plumbers' star player, High Top (George Thomas, who plays his role like a young Elvis Presley and provides behind-the-scenes info on the DVD's commentary track, along with Travalena), loses both of his hands while performing a slam-dunk during practice (thanks to a ring of razor wire put around the hoop by the cackling, basketball-masked psycho), Coach Cherry still doesn't put Stan in the game, much to the disappointment of Stan, Becky and Stan's J.R. "Bob" Dobbs-like father (Bill Saddler), but the coach comes up with a new play for his players called the "King Lear" (Player: "Coach, why is it called the King Lear?" Coach: "Because it's a great play!"). Dean Marks pressures Coach Cherry not to lose the game or else he will lose his job, but when player Joseph Krunch (Michael Burns) is blown-up with a basketball bomb (complete with lit fuse!), wisecracking cop Danny Gibson (Travalena yet again) and black partner Mel Glover (Sherwood Kendall) are put on the case (at this time, I switched from smoking pot to popping amyl nitrate, if only for the inane Gibson/Glover LETHAL WEAPON  reference). To make an extremely long and unfunny story short, more players end up dead, Stan becomes the main suspect and then become a player (winning the game), the killer is unmasked and I became a hopeless heroin junkie. Thanks, Code Red! This embarrassingly cheap film, directed by Jack Bravman (JANIE - 1970; ZOMBIE NIGHTMARE - 1986) and written by Maurice Thevenet (not surprisingly, his only film credit), is so unfunny, it may be one of the worst comedies ever made (consider it the anti-comedy comedy). About 80% of the film is a showcase for Fred Travalena's impressions (he even does Rod Steiger and Michael Jackson!), but nearly everything he does here falls flatter than a ten year-old girl's chest. This film's idea of funny is having everyone ask Coach Cherry, "Can I have a word with you?" and him replying with single word answers like "Poodle", "Capitalism" and "Aphrodisiac". There are also cheap "Master Bates" jokes, idiotic lines like "His loss may be your game!" and grade-school gore, complete with superimposed words on-screen like "P-O-WWW!!" (ala the old BATMAN 60's TV series) whenever the masked killer murders someone (it's done to cover-up the transition of the gore effects, since the film's paltry budget can't afford to show someone getting their hands cut off, being blown-up or, in one case, getting shot!). NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER is about as entertaining as sliding down a razor blade while being covered in lemon juice. Also starring Glenn Scott, Brigitte-Anne Pelletier, Alex Thoby and Ikkee Battle. A Code Red DVD Release. Not Rated.
NIGHTWISH (1988) - Confusing horror nonsense with a few atmospheric and extremely gory sequences. The film opens with Donna (Elizabeth Kaitan; SILENT MADNESS - 1984) leaving a prom at a mansion, following a trail of bloody clothing and dismembered body parts (including a still-twitching hand) and then spotting Jack (Clayton Rohner; DESTROYER - 1988) gnawing on a human body. He chases Donna down an alley that never seems to end and strangles her while a group of people watch from a window. It is then revealed that Donna is merely dreaming all this from an isolation tank; she is part of a dream interpretation experiment run by Doc (Jack Starrett, the director of such films as THE LOSERS  and RACE WITH THE DEVIL ), who is trying to record his subjects worst fears and eventual deaths in their dreams, but is falling short because all his subjects, which includes Donna, Jack, Kim (Alisha Das) and Bill (Arthur Cybulski), keep waking up before they actually die in their dreams (Why Doc wants to do this is the film's biggest mystery). To "toughen them up" and get them to "accept" death, Doc sends his subjects to a house in the middle of the "Valley Of Fear", a section of the desert that contains a long-closed mine where UFOs and other strange phenomena have been reported for centuries. Doc sends along the musclebound Dean (Brian Thompson; COBRA - 1986) to act as their driver and bodyguard (Dean purposely runs over a rabbit while driving the van to their destination, explaining to the others, who are sickened by his callous and cruel act, that "the highway's mine!"). After changing a flat tire and buying peaches from a facially deformed female fruit peddler, our group finally makes it to their destination: A strange house that has partially collapsed into the mine (Kim calls it "The world's biggest basement."). After dropping everyone off at the house, Dean leaves to do some business and meets the retarded gatekeeper, Wendall (Tom Dugan; PERFECT VICTIMS - 1988), who tells Dean in no uncertain terms, "Wendall guards the property. Wendall locks the gates. Wendall feeds the animals and Wendall phones the house. I do!" Dean sarcastically replies, "You don't drink the water, do you?" (The water is reportedly contaminated by some unknown and unclassified substance). Now the film gets really strange. Doc and his subjects set up some electronic equipment in the house (which is riddled with secret passages) and hold a séance, where doors slam repeatedly, the temperature falls to freezing and a worm-like creature comes out of the chimney. It turns out that everything but the ectoplasmic worm was rigged by Doc to elicit fear responses from the group, but they have also seem to have awakened what Doc calls "a demonic entity with the power to project hallucinations." Is this also part of Doc's mysterious plan for getting his subjects to accept death or is something really paranormal going on here? No, really, I wish someone would tell me, because what happens next is some of the most confusing (albeit gory, gooey and bug-ridden) sequences in 80's horror film history, as the subjects begin to die horrible, strange deaths and the film's closing shot seems to suggest that this whole film was someone's bad dream and ends on that old chestnut that goes: "If a man dreams he's a butterfly and wakes up, how does he know if he's a man who dreamed he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he's a man?" Save that crap for your Philosophy 101 class, Doc! I would rather have watched a film that didn't make my head spin trying to figure out what the hell was going on. NIGHTWISH is high in atmosphere and strangeness, but director Bruce R. Cook's (HUSBANDS, WIVES, MONEY & MURDER - 1984) screenplay make absolutely no sense at all except to showcase some excellent gore and makeup effects (by KNB Effects Group) in the film's second half (the optical effects, on the other hand, are pretty poor). Robert Tessier (STARCRASH - 1978) also puts in an appearance rather late in the film as Doc's loyal assistant, Stanley, who likes to collect "souvenirs" from Doc's subjects, such as cutting one of Jack's fingers off with a pair of tin snips. Jack Starrett was beginning to show the ravages of the cancer that took his life the following year (his face is very gaunt here and he is much skinnier than normal) and the late Robert A. Burns once again contributes some excellent Art Direction (just like he did in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE  and TOURIST TRAP ). All-in-all, NIGHTWISH is nothing more than a mishmash of ideas, mixing paranormal activity, haunted house themes, alien invasion paranoia and dream interpretations into a confusing amalgam of visuals that leads nowhere. Originally available on VHS from Vidmark Entertainment in R-Rated and Unrated Editions. I shouldn't have to tell you to search for the Unrated edition since it lingers longer on the gory deaths (especially Brian Thompson's, which is a doozy) and welcome female nudity. Not available on U.S. DVD. Rated R or Unrated.
NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984) - After the unexpected success of ENTER THE NINJA (1981), Cannon Films founders Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus produced two official sequels (both starring Sho Kosugi), REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983) and this one, a strange and entertaining mixture of martial arts and horror genres. The film opens with a seemingly indestructible ninja killing a millionaire industrialist, his girlfriend and several bodyguards on a golf course before leading the police on a chase, where he kills numerous cops (as well as destroying a police helicopter) before being gunned-down by several officers (we see all the officers' faces in close-up, as well as one cop whose face is obscured by the sun, so we know that their lives will be in danger later on), The mortally wounded ninja (he has been riddled with over 50 bullets and shotgun blasts) manages to escape in a puff of smoke and stumbles into the desert, where telephone line repairwoman Christie (Lucinda Dickey; CHEERLEADER CAMP - 1988) offers him help, but instead is attacked by the ninja and then possessed by his spirit after accepting his samurai sword. The pretty Christie then begins having visions of all those officers' faces and begins killing them one-by-one while possessed by the ninja and then has no memory of committing the murders when she wakes up (The first clue Christie should have known something was wrong was when she suddenly has knowledge of martial arts and beats the snot out of a street gang when they threaten to rape her). Christie begins dating persistent street cop Billy Secord (Jordan Bennett) when he refuses to take no for an answer (He follows her to her aerobics class and shortly afterwards he's licking V8 juice off her bare breasts!) and, wouldn't you know it, Billy's partner is one of the cops involved in gunning-down the ninja. As Christie's behavior becomes more bizarre (the possession scenes are simply priceless, as the samurai sword floats in mid-air [on a visible wire] and Christie travels to the dead ninja's secret cave to grab some weapons and don his ninja outfit) and more cops end up dead, including Billy's partner, the sudden appearance of eye patch-wearing Master Ninja Yamada (Sho Kosugi) arriving in town from Japan can only mean one thing: An eventual showdown between him and the possessed Christie. Billy grows more concerned with Christie's demeanor, such as her sudden interest in Japanese culture and her "black-outs", so he takes Christie to Miyashima (James Hong; THE JITTERS - 1988), a phony expert on Japanese possession, who chains Christie up at the waist and performs a ritual over her body. A totally surprised Miyashima is not prepared for the result (think THE EXORCIST  on steroids) and warns Billy that Christie is possessed by a "Black Ninja" and "only a ninja can destroy a ninja." I think we can all see where this is headed, but the question still remains: Who is the officer whose face was obscured by the sun? Could it possibly be Billy and will the possessed Christie kill him? This totally absurd martial arts/horror film, directed by Sam Firstenberg (AVENGING FORCE - 1986; SPIDERS 2 - 2001) and written by James R. Silke, who both handled the same chores on REVENGE OF THE NINJA, as well as AMERICAN NINJA (1985), is so outlandish and full of "What The Fuck?!?" moments, you can't help but enjoy yourself. There are plenty of moments to relish here, especially Christie's EXORCIST-like transformation in Miyashima's shop, where she spins around like a wound-up propellor on a toy airplane, while her face and hair get all spooky and she starts speaking in tongues. Another outrageous scene is the possessed Christie's slaughter of several police officers at a cop's funeral. Watching cops being killed at an officer's funeral is one of the strangest sights I have ever seen in a film. But my favorite scene, bar none, is when Christie tries to fight off one instance of possession by (get this) aerobic dancing at a furious pace! If you aren't laughing hysterically at this sequence, I can guarantee that you don't have a humorous bone in your entire body. Think FLASHDANCE (1983) by way of a Solid Gold Dancer high on PCP. This film has it all: Bloody deaths (most by sword impalement of some kind), martial arts fights (choreographed by Sho Kosugi), gravity-defying stunts, car crashes, Lucinda Dickey in the nude and plenty of optical and laser effects (including Christie being scanned by an arcade console game called Bouncer, a real prototype game system that was never mass produced). This is one of those films that restores your faith in American action films. Unfortunately, this was the last in the series, as Yoram/Globus and Cannon Films went in a different direction (but not any less enjoyable), making action films starring Michael Dudikoff, starting with the aforementioned AMERICAN NINJA. Sho Koshugi left Cannon Films and went on to appear in a string of martial arts actioners, including NINE DEATHS OF THE NINJA (1985), PRAY FOR DEATH (1985), RAGE OF HONOR (1987) and hosting a VHS series of martial arts flicks for Trans World Entertainment. Also starring David Chung, Dale Ishimoto, Bob Craig, Pamela Ness and Roy Padilla. Originally released on VHS by MGM/UA Home Video and available on many gray market DVDs floating around with custom DVD covers. UPDATE: Available on Blu-Ray/DVD from Shout! Factory sub-label Scream Factory. This is the one to get if you want to watch the film in all its original aspect, unedited glory. Rated R.
NO SUCH THING (2001) - Billed as a modern day fairy tale, I believe it is more about the miracles of life and death. In what can only be described as an alternate universe, the film first takes take place in New York (Manhattan has been bought by an entertainment company) where Beatrice (Sarah Polley of DAWN OF THE DEAD - 2004) works as a gofer for TV news bigwig and unfeeling The Boss (the always entertaining Helen Mirren). When Beatrice finds out that her fiance is missing in Iceland covering a story, she asks The Boss to let her go find out what really happened. The plane that Beatrice is on crashes into the ocean and she is the only survivor. With nearly every bone in her body broken and nearly no chance of walking again, Beatrice undergoes an experimental procedure with the help of kindly Dr. Anna (Julia Christie) which lets her walk again. Beatrice then goes to Iceland where she finds a monster (Robert John Burke of DUST DEVIL - 1992; THINNER - 1996 and HIDE AND SEEK - 2005) who speaks perfect English, breathes fire and wants her to destroy him. Even after discovering that he has killed her fiance, Beatrice cannot find herself to kill the beast. (She does pump a slug into his stomach but it has no effect. The monster then points the gun at his head and pulls the trigger and it also has no effect!) The monster confesses to Beatrice that he is immortal (he has seen mountains decay), is an alcoholic, insomniac and the only one of his kind in the world. The only person able to destroy him is Dr. Artaud (Baltasar Kormakur), who the monster wants Beatrice to find to end his misery. The only way Beatrice will do this is if the monster accompanies her in the search, which leads back to New York. To give away any more of the plot would be to destroy the film as it is one of the most humanistic portrayals of good and evil (and what defines them) to be portrayed in films. Who would have thought that this fertile gem would come from Long Island director Hal Hartley, who mainly does romantic dramas (He also did the haunting music score here). The use of authentic locations and actors in Iceland greatly enhances the drama and Burke is a hoot as the monster (makeup courtesy of Mark Rappaport), spewing diatribes and downing massive amounts of alcohol. Though short on blood and gore, that's not the point of this film. The real point is how the public views you and how long the entertainment industry (including the news division) can keep you in the spotlight before they chew you up and spit you out. I guess it's not an alternate universe after all. This did get a theatrical release and many good reviews but bombed at the box office. I believe the normal viewing audience will let most of the parables drift right over their heads. Don't let this happen to you. This is a masterpiece of weird (but true) cinema. As Dr. Artaud says: "What would the world be without monsters?" An MGM/UA Release. Rated R.
OGROFF (1983) - The French, they are a funny race. This ultra-low-budget French horror cheapie opens with a family pulling their car over to the side of the road so Dad can take a pee. While Dad is draining the lizard, Mom gets out to stretch her legs and small daughter Letricia and the family dog go to play in the woods for a few moments. Poor little Leticia is immediately axed in the chest by a limbering leather mask and wool cap-wearing backwoods creep known as Ogroff (director Norbert Georges Moutier) and he drags her body away by her feet. When Dad goes to look for her, Ogroff chops off his head with the axe as Dad's headless body is able to walk to the side of the road before collapsing. Mom runs away from Ogroff and is able to flag down a car, but a circus clown gets out, yells at her ("Walking does you good...What a stupid bitch!"), gets back in his car and speeds away without her (I told you the French were a funny race. Not "ha! ha!" funny, just funny in the head). Mom continues to run away from Ogroff until she comes to a fork in the road (hey, what about the dog?). Should she go left, right or straight ahead? She decides to follow a man who is walking a bike with a cart attached to it and when she catches up to him, she discovers that the man is Ogroff (What The Fuck?!?) and the cart contains the corpse of her daughter. Ogroff ties Mom's hands behind her back, but he apparently failed knot-tying in the Boy Scouts (He was probably more into drinking wine and smoking cigarettes during his childhood!), because Mom escapes and runs further into the woods, right into, you guessed it, Ogroff's shack. Mom goes inside and finds that the place is decorated in early TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) fashion, with bones hanging from the ceiling, nude centerfolds plastered on the walls and bloody human remains everywhere. Ogroff recaptures Mom as she comes outside, chains her to a wooden post and cuts out her tongue to stop her from screaming and feeds it to the family dog (Wait a second. How did he have time to bring the dog to his shack before Mom arrived there? Mon dieu, my head is spinning!). Ogroff then saws and chops little Leticia's body into pieces on a tree stump in full view of Mom and feeds some of the flesh to something he keeps behind a trap door in his basement. Mom's sister sets out to find her when the police won't help (Too late, though, as Ogroff has already chopped Mom into little pieces) and the rest of the film is a series of bloody set pieces, as Ogroff and Sis chop and stab their way through a bunch of forest dwellers before meeting each other. Sis accidentally releases a bunch of zombies (some dressed in World War II military uniforms) that Ogroff has kept in his basement (so that's what they were!). For some unknown reason, the dead begin rising from their graves and Sis must flee from them as well as Ogroff, who has now jumped on a motorcycle and is giving chase, axe in hand. What's the French word for "overkill"? Like the French during wartime, I surrendered myself to the fact that there's no point in putting up a fight, as I let the film run its course until it finally ended. There is not much to recommend about this very cheap French horror film besides some early gore effects from Benoit Lestang, who committed suicide shortly after finishing the tough-to-handle make-up effects to the French/Canadian horror film MARTYRS (2008). Director/producer/screenwriter/actor Norbert Georges Moutier (usually credited as "N.G. Mount"), a French fanzine publisher, decided he wanted to make a horror film and this was his first effort. Unfortunately, it is amateur hour in nearly every department, from acting (people don't act here; they mug for the camera); editing (there are so many unneeded jump cuts here that I would say the editor was either blindfolded or drunk); sound (this was shot without sound and was badly looped later); photography (lots of medium and long shots with static camera placement that go on for far too long); music (a droning synthesizer score); and screenplay (there's really no story here, but if you want to see a masked killer masturbating with his axe while lying in bed, then this is the film for you!). The only real reason for watching this film is for Lestang's plentiful gore effects, which includes beheadings, dismemberments, face slashings, stabbings, impalements and cannibalism. Otherwise, there's not much of a point in watching OGROFF (also known as MAD MUTILATOR), as it reminds me of someone's amateur backyard film they made over a weekend with some friends. The late Howard Vernon (who must have owed someone a mighty big favor) appears in a cameo as a vampire in the film's "surprise" finale (and he gets top billing!). Director Moutier would go one to make some even more obscure films, including OPERATION LAS VEGAS (1988; with Richard Harrison!); ALIEN PLATOON (1991); TREPANATOR (1991); DINOSAUR FROM THE DEEP (1993) and BROOKLYN COP (1998). Also starring Philippe Kaufman, Sonia Kannouche, Robert Alaux, Francois Deniel, Pierre Pattin, Alain Petit, Jean-Pierre Putters, Christophe Lemaire and Michel Prati. The print I viewed was a DVD-R sourced from a French VHS that was English fansubbed (There's only about five lines of spoken dialogue in the entire film!). I don't believe this film ever got a legitimate home video release outside of France. Not Rated.
PANDEMONIUM (1982) - Director Alfred Sole is somewhat of an enigma in the filmmaking business. Although he still very active in the business today (mainly as a Production Designer on TV shows), during the 70's & early 80's he made four films of such diversity, it's hard to believe they were made by the same man. His first film, DEEP SLEEP (1972), was an X-rated porn comedy about necrophilia (edited prints still exist, but it looks like the unedited version is lost forever, not unusual for a porn film from this time period). His second film, the masterful ALICE, SWEET ALICE (a.k.a. COMMUNION and HOLY TERROR - 1976), was as close as one could get to making a perfect American giallo film and it's combination of murder mystery, gory deaths and religious allegory still holds up today. His third film, TANYA'S ISLAND (1980), was a twisted erotic tale (starring Prince protégé Vanity using the name "D.D. Winters") about an ape's love for a beautiful woman and vice-versa; a strange mixture of erotica, a terrific ape suit (designed by Rick Baker), jealousy and beautiful tropic island scenery. After watching those three films, nothing will prepare your for his fourth (and last), PANDEMONIUM, his first "studio" film (for United Artists), a mostly unfunny kitchen sink horror comedy (and, yes, a kitchen sink is used as a prop!) that was definitely inspired by the successes of AIRPLANE! and FRIDAY THE 13TH (both 1980). Originally filmed under the title THURSDAY THE 12TH, this film opens in 1963, in the town of It Had To Be, Indiana, where a maniac has just killed and entire cheerleading squad with a single javelin throw (One spinning newspaper headline reads: CHEERLEADERS SLAIN IN SHISH-KE-BOB MURDER! - HUNGARIANS QUESTIONED). As more and more cheerleaders are killed (all off-screen) throughout the 60's, the cheerleading camp is finally closed down. Cut to 1982 and the cheerleader camp reopens, with Bambi (Candy Azzara), a cheerleader-wannabe from 1963 who never made the squad and was teased by the other cheerleaders, taking over the reigns of the camp. Potential new cheerleader victims include Candy (Carol Kane, looking way too old for the role), a CARRIE (1976)-like teen with telekinetic powers; Mandy (Teri Landrum), a beauty queen and an airhead; Sandy (Debralee Scott), a no-nonsense girl who needs references from the drivers who pick her up hitchhiking (she eventually chooses to take a ride with then-President Reagan, but refuses his offer of jellybeans); Randy (Marc McClure) and Andy (Miles Chapin), two horndogs who are in it only for the sex; and Glenn Dandy (Judge Reinhold, in a ridiculous blonde wig), a naïve teen virgin who masturbates so much, he has to shave his palms (you would, too, if your parents are Kaye Ballard and blind pencil salesman Donald O'Connor!). At the same time, mass murderer Jarrett (Richard Romanus) escapes from Warden June's (Eve Arden) prison, so transplanted Canadian Mountie Sgt. Cooper (Tom Smothers), his trusty horse Bob (who goes everywhere with Cooper...everywhere!) and the much put-upon Officer Johnson (Paul Reubens, basically doing Pee Wee Herman with a harder edge) are assigned to recapture Jarrett, who has now joined forces with escaped asylum maniac Fletcher (Jim Boeke). It's not long before cheerleaders and camp personnel begin getting murdered (explosive trampoline; drowning in a milk bath; industrial strength toothbrush; pom-poms shoved down throats) and Cooper, who has been searching for the cheerleader maniac for the last twenty years (because a Canadian Mountie "always gets his man"), begins to fall in love with Candy. Will love win out over all and the killer(s) be caught? Though not as bad as the Hudson Brothers abysmal HYSTERICAL (1983), Sole's PANDEMONIUM, written by Richard Whitley and Jaime Klein, relies too much on jokey names (Salt & Pepe, played by Izabella Telezynska and David L. Lander; Crystal & China, played by twins Candi & Randi Brough; the cheerleaders rhyming names), lame sex jokes; lots of toilet humor (with fart noises, of course) and bloodless killings. Since the film is rated PG, there is also a complete lack of nudity (even during a strip poker game!), which is a crying shame considering the cheerleader premise. There are a few original laughs to be had here, such as Jarrett turning his victims into opulent pieces of furniture (His psychiatrist says, "Why, yes, I have one of his victims in my bedroom!") or Bob (who is mostly shown as an animatronic horse head) showing up in unusual places, like the back seat of a car or standing behind his own police desk, but most of the humor falls flatter than a ten year-old girl's chest, even though a cast of seasoned pros give it their all (including cameos by Sydney Lassick, Gary Allen, Lenny Montana, Tab Hunter, Edie McClurg, Eileen Brennan [who decided to take the pseudonym "A Friend"], Phil Hartman and Pat Ast). I have no doubt in my mind that studio interference hampered Alfred Sole from making the type of movie he wanted, which is probably why he gave up on directing after making this. That's too bad, because the man obviously has talent if you let him rip. Here's to hoping that he tries his hand at directing again...soon! Originally available on VHS from MGM/UA Home Video and not available on DVD. Rated PG.
PREMONITION (1972) - This is the first directorial effort from Alan Rudolph, a trippy counterculture horror film that displays touches of Rudolph's quirkiness that would blossom much later in his arthouse films, including CHOOSE ME (1984), TROUBLE IN MIND (1985) and MADE IN HEAVEN (1987). The film opens with hippie guitar-playing troubadour Neil (Carl Crow) singing a ballad while walking through a deserted, windswept town and then sitting down and talking directly into the camera. He begins narrating a story that begins three years earlier, when he took a job as a driver/assistant to Professor Kilrenny (Victor Izay; BILLY JACK - 1971), who is looking for an ancient Indian village somewhere in the Mexican desert. As the Professor sets out on his own, Neil builds base camp and smokes some weed. The Professor finds a skeleton lying amongst a field of some strange red plants and runs back to Neil to help him retrieve it. When Neil gets close to the skeleton, he has visions of a horribly-scarred head and when he helps the Professor load the skeleton on the back of the pickup truck and they drive away, Neil has another vision which causes him to crash the truck and destroy the skeleton. The experience forces Neil to give up drugs for three years (although he's smoking a joint while narrating this tale). The story then skips ahead two years, where Neil and his best friend Baker (Winfrey Hester Hill) join a rock band and get a gig at a bar, but Neil's strange behavior gets him and Baker kicked out of the band. Neil and Baker join fellow musician Andy (Tim Ray), who also suffers from some serious nightmares, and form a musical trio. They head for San Francisco on their motorcycles (leading the way for several EASY RIDER -like vignettes) in hopes of hitting the big time, taking up residence in an old abandoned farmhouse. Andy immediately has a bad case of déjà vu and tells Neil and Baker that something bad happened here (He says, "I saw the Devil here. She was here!" to which Baker jokingly replies, "She couldn't have been here. I left her at home!"). Pretty soon, both Neil and Andy begin sharing the same nightmares, which involves a smoke-shrouded demon, three hippie chicks in a field and Andy getting decapitated. The question soon becomes: Are these nightmares or prophetic visions? When Andy begins smoking the leaves of the red plant (the same red plants that were growing around the skeleton in the Mexico desert), he begins to unravel the mystery, much to Neil's dismay. A chance encounter with Professor Kilrenny and a rock concert at the farmhouse results in Neil and Adam discovering the truth about their nightmares and possibly unleashing a force that will continue to kill for years to come. PREMONITION is a confusing and dated, yet, somehow, very involving horror film. Sure, it's full of drug references, dated hippy dialogue and trippy visuals (including freak-outs and weird camera angles), but director/producer/writer Alan Rudolph (whose next film would be the god-awful BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD  and would later make the interesting cattle mutilation/conspiracy thriller ENDANGERED SPECIES ) spins a highly involving yarn that rewards the patient viewer. Rudolph tosses-in every visual trick in the book, including flashbacks-within-flashbacks, subliminal editing, solarized shots of hippie chicks dancing, psychedelic trip sequences with lots of colorful gel lighting and a very early example of Steadicam work. While the film is not very bloody (just a quick shot of a decapitation, a burned corpse and bloody head wounds), it is absolutely creepy in spots (especially the shared nightmare) and the droning electronic score that accompanies those sequences are sure to raise some goosebumps. This is an interesting and rarely-seen first feature from a director whose acclaim has come due to his odd choices in subject matter. To the untrained eye, this film may seem to be nothing more than a minor hippie drug horror flick, but auteur Rudolph is actually revealing much more to the viewer. Like most of his films, PREMONITION (also known as HEAD and THE IMPURE) has layers to it that can be peeled away if you know what to look for. This would make a great double feature with Fredric Hobb's ALABAMA'S GHOST (1972). Not to be confused with director Robert Allen Schnitzer's THE PREMONITION (1975), an equally weird and worthwhile foray into minds damaged and destroyed. Also starring Judith Patterson, Durt C. Lodd, Michelle Fitzsimmons, Barry Brown and Shelley Snell. Originally released on VHS by Active Home Video and not available on U.S. DVD. Rated PG.
PSYCHO KICKBOXER: THE DARK ANGEL (1992/1997) - Kickboxer Alex Hunter (Curtis Bush) seemingly has it all: His kickboxing career is taking off, his girlfriend Julia (Stephanie Godfrey) has just accepted his marriage proposal and his father, Chief of Detectives Alan Hunter (George James), is about to put away crime lord Hawthorne (Tom Story) for a long time. Hawthorne's not having any of that (He's so mean, instead of cutting off an underling's pinky finger as a sign of loyalty, he cuts-off the poor schmuck's entire hand!), so he has his thugs kidnap Alex, Alan and Julia as they walk out of a restaurant and brings them to a warehouse, where a tied-up Alex is forced to witness his father getting his head blown-off with a shotgun (a very gory effect) and then watch Julia being gang-raped, followed by having her throat cut. Alex is shot, beaten and left for dead, but he is saved by black wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran Joshua (Rod Suiter), who nurses Alex back to health and turns him into the "Dark Angel", the psycho kickboxer of the title (We soon find out it was Hawthorne who put Joshua in the wheelchair, not the Vietnam War). Alex, who is wanted by the police in connection with his father and Julia's deaths, thanks to evidence planted at the scene by Alan's crooked cop partner Harry O'Reilly (Ray Brown), dons a black ninja outfit and begins cleaning-up the streets of rapists and drug pushers, which begins to interfere with Hawthorne's criminal enterprises. The cops put a bounty on the Dark Angel's head and Alex gets more attention than he needs when he saves tabloid reporter Cassie Wells (Kim Reynolds) from three rapists. Cassie joins forces with private investigator Jack Cook (Rick Clark) to discover the true identity of the Dark Angel so Cassie can get a front page story and they both can split the reward. As Alex goes on a bloody revenge spree, Hawthorne kidnaps Cassie, Jack and Joshua and forces Alex to fight a series of increasingly more difficult opponents in Hawthorne's nightclub. When Alex runs out of opponents, he turns his attention towards Hawthorne's right-hand man, Hawk (Del Potter), who slit Julia's throat in the beginning of the film, and then Harry, while Joshua, (sans wheelchair), makes sure that Hawthorne doesn't live to see tomorrow. This ultra-low-budget actioner, directed/produced by Mardy South (his only directorial credit) and written by Kathy Varner, took 14 months to film and nearly five years to find a distributor, yet it is not nearly as awful as it should be. Sure, some of the acting is sub-par, the sound effects over-amped and the photography grainy, but the film has a visceral energy that can't be denied and there is some extreme gore on display here that is surprisingly well-done (and unusual in a flick like this). The visceral energy comes courtesy of star Curtis "The Explosive Thin Man" Bush, who was 5-time World Kickboxing Champion and a professional middleweight boxer at the time of this film's release. While he's not much of an actor (he's usually plays a background extra on TV shows like LOST [2004 - 2010]), his martial arts sequences are usually very well done and violent as hell. This is the type of film where every rapist, drug dealer and street scum has extensive martial arts experience, which makes for highly improbable, yet entertaining, street fights. My favorite scene comes when Alex saves a woman from a carjacking by beating her attacker to a bloody pulp. The woman then becomes so enraged, she starts her car and runs over her attacker's head, squashing it like some ripe watermelon. It's scenes like this which keeps the viewer totally off-balance and while I would never call PSYCHO KICKBOXER a good film by any stretch of the imagination (it's anemic budget shines through in nearly every scene), I must say that it was much better than I expected it to be. It's got paraplegic-fu, a knife in the forehead, full-frontal female nudity and bursts of graphic gore (although the DVD artwork, depicting Alex kicking some guy's head completely off his shoulders in a geyser of blood, appears nowhere in the film). You could do a lot worse and probably have. Filmed entirely in Hampton Roads, Virginia using local talent exclusively in front and behind the camera. Also starring Frank Gagnano, George James and Andrew Peele. Originally released on VHS by E.I. Independent Cinema and now available on DVD from Shock-O-Rama Cinema as part of a double feature, with the equally weird, but less than stellar CANVAS OF BLOOD (1997). Not Rated.
THE RAPE AFTER (1985) - Holy Christ! What a demented film. I mean that in the best possible way and, because it was made by the director of BLACK MAGIC (1975), it may just be one of the best Hong Kong horror films I have ever seen. Believe me, that's saying a lot. Model Shu Ya (Chun Wai Man) has one of the most depressing lives I have ever witnessed. When she is not posing for photographs, she is either visiting her severely deformed brother Doggie (Who names their kid "Doggie"?!?) at a special facility run by nuns (Shu Ya tries to teach Doggie proper table etiquette, like serving tea, but she ends up puking her guts out when Doggie stirs the tea with his deformed hand!) or visiting her ultra-religious mother, who hates her husband (Shu Ya and Doggie's father) so much, she has Shu Ya bring her special tea to mask the "stink" of her husband's clothes (Mom is also a terrible housekeeper since Dad disappeared two months ago, as her apartment is full of cobwebs and rats, but we will find out more about that as the film progresses). One night, Shu Ya goes to the apartment of photographer Mo Hsein-Sheng (Melvin Wong), who has just finished snapping photos of her at a temple for an advertising job. His apartment is full of grotesque artifacts and statues, including a nasty-looking demon statue that he has just stolen from the temple, and they both get drunk on champagne, throw-up and pass out. The demon statue comes to life and rapes Shu Ya on the bed (the demon is covered with pulsating pustules and is quite the disgusting sight) while Mo is unconscious, passed-out on the coffee table. The following morning, they both wake up as if nothing has happened, but it is quite obvious by the worried looks on the monks at the temple when they discover that the statue was stolen, that Shu Ya and Mo are never going to be the same again and we, the viewers, are going to be in for one wild ride. First, Shu Ya discovers that Mo is a womanizing bastard (she should have realized it when she discovered a pair of panties on his bed and he tells her that they are his mother's!) and he blows her off by giving her some photos of them together. Next, she discovers her father's rotting corpse (a rat crawls out of his mouth!) in her mother's closet and Mom tells Shu Ya that she murdered him two months ago when he came home drunk and tried to rape her. She also tells Shu Ya that dear old Dad was full of syphilis, which would explain why Doggie is severely deformed and retarded. Mom ends the conversation by telling Shu Ya that she should get a medical check-up (Mom is one piece of work, isn't she?). Meanwhile, Mo puts the moves on Li Ting Ting (Tsang Hing Yu), the pretty daughter of the Master of the temple where he stole the statue. When Shu Ya discovers that she is pregnant, Mo takes her to an illegal abortion clinic (that he has used before), where Shu Ya discovers a refrigerator full of aborted fetuses. When the doctor tries to perform an abortion on Shu Ya, the demon suddenly appears, strangling the nurse and shoving a hypodermic needle in the doctor's eye. A few months later, Shu Ya forces Mo to drive her to the hospital when the baby is due, but when Mo refuses to accept that he is the father (he's right, of course, but he's still a cad) and tells her he is in love with Li Ting Ting, they get into a car accident and Shu Ya is burned alive, her last words cursing Mo's life. The events that happen next are some of the most gruesome and amazing set pieces in Hong Kong horror film history, as a grotesque monster baby is born during Shu Ya's autopsy (it rips-off the medical examiner's head!) and escapes into the night seeking revenge on Mo and those close to him. To say any more would be a great disservice to the viewer (everything I have described happens in the first 40 minutes!), so be ready for a wild ride, because revenge is a dish best served dead. Even the most jaded Hong Kong horror film fanatic will be surprised by this dark, brooding piece of depravity. For once, there is not one iota of humor in this film, as director Ho Meng-Hua (BLACK MAGIC - 1975; THE OILY MANIAC - 1975; BLACK MAGIC 2 - 1976; THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN - 1977) piles-on scene after scene of atmospheric and unbelievable sights, such as frog-puking (a priest performs some unsanitary brain surgery on some poor possessed man and pulls out a live frog!); grave robbing and desecration; a scene where Li Ting Ting's housekeeper dices the fingers of her hands with a cleaver before burying it in her skull; a giant zombie with a taste for human ears; a horde of zombies rising out of their coffins and making a meal out of some unfortunate monks trying to help Mo; and some disturbing sequences where possessed children plead with Li Ting Ting's father to "Pass me the embryo!" This movie has the distinction of having the most scenes of people puking than any other horror movie in history (discounting the "vomit gore" films Lucifer Valentine, but they hardly register as films, never mind horror films). This is unforgettable stuff, folks, so be prepared for what you are about to witness. Strong stomachs required. Some review and reference sites list cinematographer Tom Lau Moon Tong as the director of this film, but the on-screen credits plainly state that Ho Meng-Hua is the director. Also starring Ha Ping, Chan Yau Hau, Chang Cheng-Yu and Sul Tsui. THE RAPE AFTER was never legitimately available on home video in the U.S.; lucky viewers may find the VHS tape or VCD, both released by Ocean Shores Video (In Mandarin, with hardcoded Chinese and English subtitles) on eBay or other auction sites. Not Rated.
THE RAPTURE (1991) - Should be subtitled THE DAY ALL HEAVEN BROKE LOOSE. Attempting a description of this film is like trying to explain the color orange to a blind man. Mimi Rodgers (great performance) is Sharon, who by day has a boring job as a telephone operator and by night cruises airport bars and motels with her sexual partner, Vic (Patrick Bauchau), looking for couples to swing with. At her job she overhears a trio of her co-workers talking about "The Dream" and "The Boy". No one will tell her what it means explaining that she will understand it all if she puts her trust and love in God. "The Dream" is actually a vision of The Rapture, when God comes down to Earth to pass judgment. All those who do not believe in Him will perish, and will not be able to enter Heaven. "The Boy" is a black child prophet who knows the year when the Rapture will happen. Sharon becomes born again and leaves behind her life of sexual debauchery. She marries and has a baby girl. Six years pass and she and her family are still living the life of God. Tragedy strikes when Sharon's husband (David Duchovny) is gunned down, along with a half dozen other people, by an alcoholic ex-employee he recently fired. Sharon has a vision which she interprets as meaning God wants her and her daughter to go to the desert and wait for Him to take them to Heaven. After many weeks and some false alarms, Sharon becomes disillusioned. Partly due to malnutrition and exposure and partly due to her religious fervor, she decides that God wants her to kill her daughter so she can be in Heaven with her daddy. Sharon cannot kill herself because that would be a sin. She is arrested and loses her faith. The remainder of the film is genuinely eerie and goosebump-inducing, so I will not spoil it for you. This sleeper of 1991 is sure to become a classic in the years to come. Sprinkled throughout with weird visuals (i.e. religious symbolism tatooed on a naked lady), nudity and shocking bits of violence. It's like tripping on acid without the after effects. Everyone is to be congratulated in front and behind the camera. Highly recommended! Director Michael Tolkin (THE NEW AGE - 1994) could never top this one in a million years. A New Line Home Video Release. Rated R.
REBORN (1984) - This would make a great double feature with THE RAPTURE (1991). This one is an ultra-weird indictment against televised evangalism. Dennis Hopper is Reverend Tom Harley, who performs bogus faith healings coast-to-coast via satellite. The Reverend's associates catch wind of a true faith healer in Italy and send Michael Moriarty to bring her back to the States so she can tour with the Reverend's group. Mary (Antonella Murgia), the faith healer, is a virgin and falls in love with Moriarty. In one of the strangest scenes in film history, Moriarty's dick gets stuck inside Mary's vagina when she passes out while making love for the first time (every man's nightmare!). Mary is soon separated from Moriarty by the Reverend, as she is taught English, shaved under the armpits and generally Americanized. The Reverend has made her a viable commercial property. Mary slips deeper and deeper into depression and Moriarty begins to hear voices emanating from his boom box and television. Moriarty finds out Mary is pregnant and steals her away from the Reverend. Mary delivers her baby (a boy) at a gas station with the help of three old attendants. (Get it?) After seeing one of Mary's true healings, the Reverend becomes a true believer and is born again. And did I mention that God pilots a helicopter? This little-seen film is a must for fans of the bizarre. It boasts a fairly restrained performance by Hopper, Moriarty's usual quirky acting (an asset for most films he appears in), along with nudity and some strange religious imagery. No blood is on hand because the story line is devoid of violence. Director Bigas (I bet he was teased a lot in school) Luna also made the equally weird and enjoyable ANGUISH (1986). Co-star Francisco Rabal can also be seen in CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD (1980), William Friedkin's SORCERER (1977) and his final film, Stuart Gordon's DAGON (2001). REBORN is immensely entertaining. An Ace Video Release. Rated R.
REDNECK (1973) - What a ridiculously entertaining film. Two thieves, Mosquito (Franco Nero) and Memphis (Telly Savalas, sporting the phoniest Southern drawl I've heard in quite a while), rob a jewelry store in Rome and kill the owner. In their haste to escape, their getaway driver, Maria (Ely Galleani), wrecks the car (she drives straight into a funeral procession, dislodging the coffin from the back of a hearse and dragging it across the pavement!), forcing them to steal another car. They don't realize that thirteen year-old Lennox Duncan (Mark Lester) is in the back seat until they stop for gas. Lennox tries to escape by running through a field of sheep, but the trio recapture him and Memphis murders a little boy shephard just so there will be no witnesses (a truly shocking scene). When Mosquito's connection doesn't show up at the prearranged location (an auto junkyard) to fence the stolen jewels for cash, the trio (plus boy) must find a way to get safely to France, using little Lennox as a "passport". When they are forced to stop at a roadblock and the dope-smoking Memphis notices how the police are helpless as long as they have Lennox captive, Memphis sees this as his ticket to easy street. They steal a Rolls Royce from two old ladies on the side of the road and Memphis picks up two street hookers for some personal enjoyment. When he goes to pay them with some of the stolen jewels, Memphis discovers that all he and Mosquito stole from the jewelry store was nothing but worthless cutlery. Everything changes after that. The trio turns on each other and Lennox uses that knowledge to his advantage. Maria wants to leave on her own, but Memphis rapes, then kills her. He then puts her body in the Rolls and pushes it over a cliff. Lennox, meanwhile, has aligned himself with Mosquito, as they search for a now-missing Memphis and the now-dead Maria (Mosquito lets Lennox take sips from his J&B bottle to keep warm and he gets drunk!). They come upon a mansion of an aging Princess (Maria Michi), who feeds and gives then shelter. Mosquito and Lennox slowly become friends (Mosquito even shaves in the nude in front of him!), but one gets the feeling that Lennox is wise beyond his years. A psychotic Memphis shows up at the mansion and soon it's a battle of wills. Lennox begins playing Memphis and Mosquito against each other as they try to stay one step ahead of the police while trying to make it across the border. Of course, things turn out badly for everyone involved, but only one will make it out alive as a totally changed individual. This British/Italian co-production is a real hard film to categorize. One moment it's a heist thriller, then it's a chase drama and then it's a slapstick comedy, but all the while it has a real nasty edge to it, thanks to the over-the-top performance by Telly Savalas as Memphis. Maybe "over-the-top" is being too mild, as Savalas plays his character as a no-remorse, soulless psychopath, who sings "Jesus Loves The Little Children" while blowing away kids, women and even a dog (!) and then screaming incoherently, "I didn't want to do it! They made me do it!" While Savalas' laughable Southern accent comes and goes, his savagery never wavers, especially the scene where he locks a family in a mobile home and dumps them in a lake, blaming his act on Lennox for trying to tell them who he is (Memphis' balls get caught on the trailer hitch when he pushes the trailer and he spends the rest of the film with a huge blood stain on the crotch of his pants!). Surprisingly, the only nudity on display here is from Franco Nero (THE FIFTH CORD - 1971; DAY OF THE COBRA - 1980) and Mark Lester (SUDDEN TERROR - 1970; WHO SLEW AUNTIE ROO? - 1971), as director Silvio Narizzano (THE CLASS OF MISS MACMICHAEL - 1978; BLOODBATH - 1979) uses Win Wells' script as a showcase for a battle of personalities. While no one trusts anyone else, they stick together because they have no one else in their lives to care about them. Even Lennox's wealthy mother (Beatrice Clary) doesn't know her own son's age when she reports him missing to the police, so it's no wonder why Lennox is such a fucked-up, conniving kid. I especially liked the nihilistic ending that shows people like Memphis aren't born that way, they're created as a by-product of their environment. Memphis is really the only person in this film who truly understands Lennox and his motivations (and, therefore, doesn't trust him), so it comes as no surprise who Lennox morphs into in the final shot. REDNECK is a strange hybrid of a film that works, thanks to (and, sometimes, in spite of) Telly Savalas' grandstanding performance. Strictly 70's in terms of actions and consequences, morality and greed. Catch it if you can. Also starring Duilio Del Prete, Aldo De Carellis and Tom Duggan. This use to play on TV (in edited form, naturally) during the 70's and early 80's and I don't believe this ever got a legitimate U.S. home video release. Available on British DVD from WHE Europe Limited. Not Rated.
RUNAWAY NIGHTMARE (1982) - I doubt that you'll find a stranger film like this one in a long while. Two worm and snail farmers (Director Michael Cartel and Al Valletta) witness a live burial in the Death Valley, California desert. They dig up the body and find a breathing nude girl in the coffin. They take her back to their farm and they themselves are kidnapped by a group of all-female cult members. After numerous lame jokes and a gunfight gone terribly wrong, the two men are voted into the group, entitling them to share in all their communal property. It seems the girls were dealing with the Mafia and were cheated out of a load of platinum (!?). The girls make the men do menial chores like chopping wood into splinters and moving boxes from one place to the next for no apparent reason. You'll be shaking your head in disbelief as you witness one inane scene after another, strung together for no other purpose than to make the film a decent running time. One of the guys gets a hot foot (!) while another scene shows a girl destroying a TV with an axe after being rebuffed for sex by one of the guys. The men have sex with the girls except for one who is a lesbian ("I hate MEN!"). The men help the girls get back their platinum from the Mafia. I haven't even scratched the surface of this weird film. There are bar fights, gun fights, girl fights, a warehouse explosion, strip chess, pinball playing and vampirism! Absolutely no one in this film can act a lick. One wonders where director Michael Cartel's (who also acted in the 1974 sexploitationer PETS) head was at when he made this atrocity (Thank God, his only one). Was it up his ass or was he just high on peyote? In either case, you will be glued to the screen just to view and believe the awfulness of it. You won't be able to take your eyes off of it because of the sheer badness in every aspect of filmmaking it shows. It's the REEFER MADNESS of the 80's. Also starring Cindy Dolan, Jody Lee Olhava, Cheryl Gamson, Georgia Durante and Sijtske Vandenberg. An All Seasons Entertainment Home Video Release. Not Rated because it contains a lot of nudity (which seems inserted after the movie was finished because it looks like it was shot on videotape) but, oddly, contains very little blood or gore. This is one weird film that will have your head shaking in disbelief so much, that you're likely to get whiplash! Now available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Vinegar Syndrome with the nude video inserts removed and included as extras (seems like the All Seasons Entertainment VHS was unauthorized).
THE SEVENTH CURSE (1986) - This Raymond Chow Production for his Golden Harvest Films is a great mixture of action, adventure and horror elements, all done in the usual wild Hong Kong style, thanks to director Nam Nai Choi (a.k.a. "Simon Nam"; HER VENGEANCE - 1988; RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY - 1991), producer Wong Jing (HARD BOILED 2: THE LAST BLOOD - 1991; who plays a girl-happy wannabe playboy at a poolside party) and screenwriter I Kuang (HUMAN LANTERNS - 1982). The film opens at a cocktail party, where Mr. Yi (screenwriter I Kuang, also the film's narrator) tells a group of people about the latest adventure of Dr. Yuan Cheng-ha (Chin Siu-Hou; FIST OF LEGEND - 1994), a famous explorer and archaeologist (Dr. Yuan Cheng-ha is actually at the cocktail party, but he is too modest to tell the story. Or maybe he might like the way Mr. Yi embellishes it.). The story opens with a group of terrorists taking over a hospital and asking for a doctor to attend to one of their hostages, who has had a heart attack. Enter Dr. Yuan, who agrees to help the hostage with female police Inspector Chiang (Kara Hui), who is pretending to be his nurse (They plan on planting a flash grenade in the hospital to confuse the terrorists long enough for the police to rush in and save the hostages). Idiotic news reporter Tsai Hung (Maggie Cheung; THE HEROIC TRIO - 1993) knocks-out Inspector Chiang (with a brick to the back of her head!) and takes her place, following Dr. Yuan into the hospital to get the story of a lifetime (other reporters on the scene mockingly call her "Wonder Woman"). Once in the hospital, Dr. Yuan begins administering to the heart attack victim, but Tsai Hung draws unwanted attention to herself when she shows she doesn't even know the basics of first aid. Dr. Yuan bravely saves the day by setting off the flash grenade (just after one SWAT team member is graphically shot in the head) and kicking the shit out of the head terrorist, while the cops kill all the other terrorists. Amazingly, Dr. Yuan lets Tsai Hung off the hook and congratulates the now-conscious Inspector Chiang on a job well done in front of her boss, Captain Ho (all Inspector Chiang can do is scratch her head in befuddlement). Dr, Yuan is constantly hounded by Tsai Hung, who wants to do a story on his life, but Dr. Yuan doesn't care for her (besides, he has a beautiful white girlfriend, played by Joyce Godenzi, who is now Samo Hung's wife). At his palatial home, Dr. Yuan is attacked by Heh Lung (Dick Wei; WITCH FROM NEPAL - 1985) and a glass-shattering fight ensues. When the fight is over, Heh Lung informs Dr. Yuan that a blood spell was performed on him nearly a year ago and he needs to travel to Thailand to have it removed before he dies. Dr. Yuan doesn't believe it, but he changes his tune rather quickly when all the veins in his leg start swelling while he is making love to his girlfriend and one of them bursts, spraying blood all over her. A flashback reveals how a blood spell was put on Dr. Yuan when he visited Northern Thailand a year earlier. He and a group of explorers, including the Professor (Ken Boyle; OPERATION CONDOR 2: THE ARMOUR OF THE GODS - 1987), witnessed a sacrificial ceremony performed by the Worm Tribe and Dr. Yuan saves a beautiful young girl, Betsy (Tsui Sau-Lai), the fiancée of Heh Lung, from being sacrificed by evil sorcerer Aquala (Elvis Tsui, who keeps a bloodthirsty baby-like creature called a "Little Ghost" on his back and sends it out to eat his enemies from the inside-out!). After saving Betsy from the "Old Ancestor" (a skeletal creature that likes to chew on human flesh and then transforms into a winged ALIEN -like monster), Dr. Yuan and the Professor are captured (the rest of their party is butchered by the Worm Tribe) and Aquala pours goop over the Professor's head, forcing his body to erupt in a shower of maggots (Dr. Yuan pukes at the sight). Aquala then performs the blood spell on Dr. Yuan, but before he can complete it, Dr. Yuan uses a magnifying glass to burn off the ropes that bind him and escapes, while veins and arteries in his body explode. A naked Betsy slices off a piece of her breast (!) and makes Dr. Yuan eat it, which temporarily cures him of his affliction, but for only a year (Which beggars the question: Why did Dr. Yuan dismiss Heh Lung's warning a year later?). Now, with the help of best friend Mr. Wei (Chow Yun Fat) and Tsai Hung (who turns out to be Mr. Wei's cousin!), Dr. Yuan returns to Thailand to remove the blood spell before his heart bursts. This is going to be one wild, violent and bloody ride! If you ever wondered what an Indiana Jones film would look like with ultra-bloody violence and plenty of gore (it makes the heart-ripping scene in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM  look like a Disney film), then look no further. Director Nam Nai Choi fills THE SEVENTH CURSE with so much bloody action set pieces, including martial arts fights, gun battles, encounters with weird creatures and Dr. Yuan popping blood vessels at the most inopportune times, I can't imagine that any fan of Weird Asia can afford to pass this up. There are also some truly amazing stunt sequences on view (it is hard to conceive that some stuntmen weren't seriously injured here, especially when Dr. Yuan drives his Range Rover into the middle of the Worm Tribe's village, knocking over tribe members like bowling pins), children being sacrificed, booby traps, weird tribal rituals and monster battles (Believe me, you haven't truly seen it all until you witness the Little Ghost fight the fully-transformed Old Ancestor. It puts ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM  to shame) to please even the most jaded action/adventure/horror fan. Be aware that Chow Yun Fat has a secondary role here and doesn't do much more than act scholarly. Chin Siu-Hou and Dick Wei are the action stars here and they perform admirably, along with scores of stunt personnel. Bloody good show, I say. Also known as DR. YUEN AND WISELY, but the English subtitles betray this, as Yuen is spelled "Yuan" and Chow Yun Fat's character is changed from Wisely to "Wesley" or Mr. Wei. Also starring Chor Yuen, Sibelle Hu and Yasuaki Kurata. Available on DVD & VCD from Fortune Star as part of their "Legendary Collection" (the English subtitles are hard-coded and sometimes hard to read since most of the films in the Legendary Collection are not remastered). Not Rated.
SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1985) - What is the facination with snakes in Oriental cinema? Fourteen women have been brutally murdered by a giant snake-like creature and the police are clueless. A vampire witch with long metallic fingernails performs a ritual while Richard (Richard Harrison) is screwing a female hitchhiker in a porno screening room. The hitchhiker pulls out a knife and tries to stab Richard, but he stops her and she dies while spewing yellow goo out of her mouth. A cackling madman breaks into policeman Jackie's (Bernard Tsui) apartment, handcuffs him, rapes his girlfriend and injects her with a drug. Jackie manages to free himself from the handcuffs and beats the crap out of the laughing madman while three young women watch the fracas from their apartment window. The snake creature then kills the three women in their apartment while a blind man plays the flute outside. Another madman has a woman in his apartment tied spread-eagle while he plays a game of nine ball with her vagina (he shoots pool balls with his cue right at her snatch!). Richard is nearly killed by a plumber he calls to fix his leaky pipes, but kills him with the exercise bar he was using to work out. Jackie and his girlfriend are then attacked in their moving car when it suddenly fills with snakes. They crash but manage to escape. Does this review seem severely fragmented? Believe me when I tell you that this is nothing compared to watching this film. It seems the vampire witch has something to do with newspaper reporter Helen (Juliet Chan) turning into a snake monster at the worst times imaginable. She attacks and kills a waiter and a couple taking a bath while transformed into the snake creature and her cheating boyfriend Jackie begins to worry about her. Meanwhile, Richard is being attacked by people under the power of the Queen of Scorpions, the vampire witch, who wants the ring Richard is wearing, as it is the only object that can destroy her. Richard goes to a prophet, who gives him a golden sword and a mystical mirror to defeat the Queen. Helen confesses to Jackie by saying, "I am not a human being. I am a snake demon!" and then tells him a story (told in flashbacks) that is right out of a twisted Mother Goose tale. To make a long story short, everytime the Queen of Scorpions bangs on her tom-toms and the blind guy (who is a security guard!) plays his flute, Helen turns into the snake creature. In a scene that must be seen to be believed, Helen transforms into the snake creature in front of a bunch of policemen, grabs Jackie's real girlfriend and flies through the air. Jackie saves his girlfriend by slicing his chest open with a knife and letting the snake creature suck on the wound! In the finale, Helen is shot and killed while Richard must fight numerous possessed people before he can square off with the Queen of Scorpions using his ring, mystical mirror and golden sword. Yes, this is another one of director Godfrey Ho's cut-and-paste jobs for producers Joseph Lai and Betty Chan (see reviews of COBRA AGAINST NINJA -1987 and NINJA THE PROTECTOR - 1986) for their IFD Films and Arts Ltd. production company, but this one is different. Instead of the usual martial arts chicanery, SCORPION THUNDERBOLT is an honest-to-goodness horror film and, although the newly shot footage of Richard Harrison has him fighting numerous opponents, not once does he or anyone else don a ninja costume (the old footage is taken from a Korean film titled GRUDGE OF THE SLEEPWALKING WOMAN ). Since there's not a lot of interaction between the old and new footage, it doesn't seem overtly obvious like some of Ho's martial arts "epics". Nevermind that the film doesn't make any sense, there's a lot of things to like about this, from the crazy snake monster (it's jaw-dropping), the bloody murders (including in the flashback, where a guy [actually the flute player] gets his eyes yanked out of their sockets by a couple of snakes), the crazy set-pieces (I dare you not to laugh at the loony pool player), frequent nudity (even Richard Harrison get to screw a young woman) and, of course, the insane dubbed dialogue (after transforming from snake demon back to human form, Helen says to Jackie, "Jackie, my arms hurt!). I'm beginning to appreciate these Godfrey Ho pastiches, even if it's for all the wrong reasons. You should dig this one, too. Also starring Nancy Lim, Cynthia Ku, Maura Fong, Samson Kim and Cathy Evan. Available on DVD from those thieving bastards at Videoasia/Ventura Distribution as part of their TALES OF VOODOO series (Volume 5). It's a slightly letterboxed, but overly dark, VHS port. Also available on DVD from Ground Zero, as part of their "Brooklyn Zu" series. Not Rated.
SONNY BOY (1989) - I still haven't figured out this movie. Either it's one of the greatest put-ons ever committed to film or a serious statement about child abuse. It begins 17 years ago when Weasel (Brad Dourif) steals a red Caddy (after shooting the occupants) and brings it to Slue (big Paul L. Smith), who runs a stolen property ring on the outskirts of a barren desert town (filmed in Deming, New Mexico). Slue runs the town with an iron fist, the sheriff (Steve Carlisle) and all the occupants bow to his every whim or die. What Weasel doesn't realize is that there is a baby boy in the backseat of the Caddy and when Slue finds it, he wants to kill it or sell it. This doesn't sit well with Slue's wife, Pearl (played by David Carradine in drag!), who wants to keep it and raise it as her (his?) own. Slue relents, because he wants to keep Pearl happy, but practices a particular brand of tough love to the baby, who everyone now calls "Sonny Boy". As the years pass, we watch as Slue whips Sonny, crucifies him on a pole and sets a fire around him (to toughen up his skin!), and finally cuts his tongue out. Cut to the present and Sonny Boy (Michael Boston aka "Michael Griffin") is a feral animal, chained to a pole, filthy with tattered clothes. Slue uses Sonny for some of his more violent robberies, setting Sonny free to kill and eat Slue's robbery victims (including a priest, who tries to stop Sonny from stealing a statue of Christ off a cross). Things begin to go terribly wrong when Charlie (Sydney Lassick), one of Slue's yes-men cronies, and Weasel use Sonny for one of their private robberies, unknown to Slue. Sonny bites off the tip of Weasel's thumb and escapes, making his way to the town and killing a woman who comes on to him. The townspeople revolt and chase Sonny back to Slue's home. The mob kill Slue and Pearl, setting fire to the compound. A kindly doctor (Conrad Janis) saves Sonny, brings him home and attaches a monkey tongue (!) to Sonny, where the first word out of Sonny's mouth is "No!". I haven't really begun to scratch the surface of what this film has to offer the viewer. The acting is uniformly excellent by a cast of veterans, the music moody (including a haunting song titled "Paint", written and performed by Carradine), the photography (by Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli) elegant, and everything else is above par. SONNY BOY is likely to be one of your favorite films once you see it. David Carradine is a wonder here. If you thought he was supreme in KILL BILL (2003 - 2004), wait till you see him in this. He plays his role as a woman straight without a trace of campiness. You really feel the compassion, even if it's twisted, he/she shows for Sonny and Slue. Pay attention to Carradine's transformation through the 17 years. Paul L. Smith (PIECES - 1982), Brad Dourif (he's excellent in HBO's DEADWOOD [2004 - 2006]) and the late Sydney Lassick (THE UNSEEN - 1980) give grimy performances as people berift of souls, especially in the shot of Slue blowing away an officer with a howitzer for questioning his orders. I'll leave the rest up to you to take in. Director Robert Martin Carroll has made just one other film: the hard to come by BABY LUV (1999 - a.k.a. BABIES FOR SALE), a surreal tale of baby-selling and the unexpected consequences that come with it. Based on these two films, someone should give Mr. Carroll some financing to start making more films! We need someone like him to juice-up the business. SONNY BOY is required viewing for anyone with an interest in the unusual, the way-out and the wacky. Also starring Savina Gersak, Alexandra Powers, Steve Ingrassia and Stephen Lee Davis. Produced by Ovidio G. Assonitis (BEYOND THE DOOR - 1974; TENTACLES - 1977 and many others, sometimes using the pseudonym "Oliver Hellman"), which would explain why some reviewers seem to think that Carroll is a pseudonym for some Italian director. It's simply not true. A Media Home Entertainment Release. Rated R. This film screams for an uncut DVD release, since the version I saw on VHS seems to cut out some of the more brutal bloodletting. NOTE: This film had a midnight showing at the Landmark Nuart Theater in Los Angeles on May 12, 2006 with Mr. Carroll as guest speaker. USELESS TRIVIA: The lyrics for Carradine's song "Paint" now adorns a marker at his Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills resting place. Above the phrase "The Barefoot Legend", it reads: "I'm looking for a place where dogs don't bite and children don't cry and everything always goes just right and brothers don't fight." RIP David Carradine.
SOUL VENGEANCE (1975) - Originally titled WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES when released to theaters, this film opens with Charles (Marlo Monte) standing on the edge of a building, ready to jump while a police detective tries to convince Charles' wife Christina (Reatha Grey) to talk him out of it. The film then flashes back in time to detail why Charles is in this predicament. Charles is a small time dope dealer who is busted by brutal white cop Harry (Ben Bigelow), who hates black people because his wife cheated on him with a black dude. Harry viciously beats Charles in the back of his squad car and caps it off by nearly castrating him with a straight razor. Harry's partner, Jim (Stan Kamber), is the exact opposite of Harry, but goes along with the beating because Harry is considered a hero in the public's eye because he diffused a bomb at an airport. When Charles is brought to trial, he is railroaded into prison by Harry's false testimony and the legal manouevers of a crooked prosecuting attorney. After three years in prison, Charles is released and learns that everything on the outside is much different now. Drugs are rampant, his girlfriend has been turned into a stripper by his best friend and his younger brother has joined a street gang. Hoping to stay on the straight and narrow, Charles gets a new girlfriend (and later wife) in ex-prostitute Christina and tries repeatedly to get a job, but time and time again he is unsuccessful. After seeing how everyone from his past that have done him wrong are now doing so well and seem to be prospering off of his misfortune, Charles decides some payback is in order. Since his release from prison, Charles has gained some unusual supernatural powers: The ability to get women to do anything he says just by staring in their eyes and the truly amazing ability to make his penis grow enormously long (I'm talking yards, not inches!). Long enough to strangle his enemies, which includes racist cop Harry, the conniving prosecuting attorney and the judge who presided over his trial. This all leads back to the scene on the roof, where Christina offers Charles a one last word of advice (and it is chilling). This amazingly cheap exploitation film (some may call it blaxploitation, but I think it offers more than that) comes to us courtesy of one man wunderkind Jamaa Fanaka (the PENITENTIARY trilogy [1979 - 1987]; STREET WARS - 1992), who always turned out one-of-a-kind jaw-droppers. SOUL VENGEANCE (his first film) is no different. It plays like a real cheapjack (but sincere) "Bad Man Goes Straight" drama (where, surprisingly, not a single gunshot is fired), where we witness Charles go through a series of setbacks, although he always manages to maintain his composure thanks to the loving care of Christina. That is, until the final third of the film. From the moment Charles goes to the doctor to discuss is unusual "condition", the film takes a sudden U-turn into the surreal. His seduction of Harry's wife (Tiffany Peters) right up to the subsequent penis strangulation of the prosecuting attorney (where we finally see the full monstrous monty in action) are classic moments of "What The Fuck?" cinema. Christina's final word to Harry (which freeze frames at that exact moment) is also unexpected but also rings true-to-life. It did give me goosebumps. SOUL VENGEANCE (I still think WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES is a better title) is must-viewing for anyone interested in something really strange. It contains Fanaka's patented jumpy editing, static camera work and extreme close-ups, but the subject matter is straight out of the twisted mind of a madman. A madman named Jamaa Fanaka (whose real name is Walter Gordon). That's the reason why I like his films. They always go in a direction you don't expect them to. Also Starring Jake Carter, Jackie Ziegler and Ed Sander. A Xenon Pictures Release. Rated R.
STRANGERS IN PARADISE (1984) - Director/producer/co-screenwriter Ulli Lommel (THE BOOGEY MAN - 1980) has made some strange and awful films in his life after leaving his native Germany and moving to the States, but nothing he has done could be depicted as strange as this sci-fi/musical that can be best described as a cross between THE STEPFORD WIVES and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (both 1975), only this film is so bad that I was busting a gut laughing at what was taking place on the screen. Master mesmerist Jonathan Sage (director Lommel) escapes Germany during World War II to England after Hitler (Lommel again) wants to use him to hypnotise the populace to do his bidding. While London is being bombed, Sage is cryrogenitically frozen with instructions not to be dethawed before the time is right. Cut to the town of Paradise Hills, California ca. 1984, and the parents of punk rockers, homosexuals, prostitutes, etc. try to straighten out their children using a device called the "Repentogram". The device works for about five minutes but then the kids revert back to their usual ways. Frustrated, they have one of the parents fly to London and thaw out Sage in hopes that his powers will work in place of the Repentogram. Sage, at first, is in awe at all the new inventions, including televisions, computers in every home (the only thing Lommel got right in the future, even if he was 15 years early), and all the modern conveniences. He begins working on converting a homosexual and lesbian and his powers turn them straight! Needless to say, he is a hit with the parents but there will be a steep price to pay. What make this film so funny are the frequent musical interludes that describe what Sage is doing to the mind of these youngsters. The homosexual/lesbian sequence is so funny/bad that I nearly peed my pants. He turns a Jim Morrison lookalike from a rock 'n' roller into a folk singer who then throws rock records into a bon fire in another laugh-out-loud sequence. The parents think they now have the "ultimate weapon" in the war on teenage rebellion, but they don't realize that teenage rebellion has been going on forever and that's what shaped the world. Lommel is so low-key in his role (He says, "Most things that are forbidden are the most fun" before going bowling and playing video games in another musical interlude!) that he is not so much an imposing figure as a good guy just misunderstood. Some of the musical numbers are good (especially the WWII number in London, which is intercut with German bomber planes destroying the city), but most of the numbers either fall flat or are unintentionally funny. If you are in the mood for a good laugh, I recommend this film highly. Just don't be looking for a good film. It's definitely cult material, just not good cult material. Also starring Ken Letner, Thom Jones, Geoffrey Barker, Cliff Brisbois, Ula Hedwig and a cameo by co-writer Suzanne Love (Lommel's wife at the time). Lommel is still making films today, including CURSE OF THE ZODIAC (2006) and a bunch of other crappy SOV true life serial killer films (including ones on the B.T.K. and Green River killers) released by Lions Gate Films for home video release . A Vestron Video Release. Not Rated. The WWII number also appears as the opening theme of Domonic Paris's compilation film FILM HOUSE FEVER (1986) with early appearances by Steve Buscemi and Mark Boone Jr. as an avid film watchers who are turned into zombies in the end.
SURGIKILL (1988) - When one thinks of Andy Milligan, the thought of intentional humor doesn't automatically spring to mind. Quite the contrary, as Milligan's body of work is notorious for it's unintentional humor (not to mention the many anachronisms in his period horror films), bad acting and hectic camerawork. SURGIKILL is Milligan's last film (he died of AIDS in 1991), a kitchen-sink hospital comedy (with bits of gore) that tries to be a parody in the vein of AIRPLANE (1980), but fails on nearly every level. The acting is still uniformly awful and the sets simple (bare, white cinderblock walls are the norm here), but the camerawork is so static, it's like a filmed stage play, proving that Milligan's heart wasn't in this (he was merely a hired hand here) and was running on fumes. The story (if you can call it that) is about the employees and patients of Goode Community Hospital (the most understaffed and bare-bones hospital I have ever seen), run by Dr. Grace Goode (the single-monikered Bouvier, who is truly awful), as the hospital tries to find a way to stop from closing down and being turned into a shopping mall. This is the worst run hospital on record, as orderlies keep spilling bedpans and urine on patients and the desk nurse, Rona Ratchitt (Dan Foster-Jones in drag), cracks wise to the admitting patients, their family and the staff over the public address system. Trouble ensues when an escaped mental patient, Lizard Lips (Jim Allen), roams the halls disguised as a doctor and begins killing the patients and staff, while a new hire, 16 year-old Dr. Albert Schweitzer (Doug Eames, who sucks on a giant pacifier he wears around his neck), learns the ropes from Dr. Goode, Dr. Harvey (Michael Lunsford) and Dr. Fine (Al Silver), who are all just as inept as they come. As more patients end up dead or injured (one patient explodes when her anesthesia tank is substituted with an acetylene tank; another patient is castrated; another is pushed down a flight of stairs; and still another is hung by the neck), Dr. Goode and her staff cover-up the crimes for fear the bad publicity will shut their doors (Well, duh!), Too many patients end up dead to go unnoticed, though, as the relative of one dead patient threatens to sue and Nurse Ratchitt turns out to be Dr. Goode's only surviving male relative, who wants to kill Dr. Goode and take over the hospital. Folks, this is the longest 88 minutes I have ever experienced, as the jokes fall flatter than Olive Oyl's chest and the pacing is slower than a loved one's funeral. This is truly painful to watch, as the script, written by Milligan, never rises above the schtick a third-rate Jewish comedian would perform in the Borscht Belt of the Catskill Mountains in the 50's & 60's (Most of the jokes here would make Henny Youngman wince. Yes, they're that bad.). Those expecting Andy Milligan's patented gorefest (including such films as TORTURE DUNGEON , LEGACY OF HORROR , CARNAGE  and MONSTROSITY ) will be doubly disappointed here. The gore is sparse (the only real instance of gore happens when the female patient explodes [offscreen] and obvious animal guts and intestines are thrown on everyone in the operating room) and the acting (including an undertaker that looks and acts like Oliver Hardy!) is even broader (and brutally terrible) than normal. I honestly can't imagine what Milligan was thinking when he was making this, as it is desperate even by his standards (Maybe he was experiencing the early effects of AIDS). Even as a little-seen relic, SURGIKILL is so unfunny that it transcends being unfunny and becomes the sort of film a Death Row prisoner would watch to make what life he has left on Earth seem a little longer than it actually is. A total abomination and not the way to end a career, even if your name is Andy Milligan. Also starring Peter Linardi, Carroll Oden, Jeremy Logan, Lynn Angus, Patrick Thomas, Michael Buckband, Robert Odell (who gets the patented Milligan "meatcleaver-to-the-head" death), Shari London, Kip Reynolds and porn star Joey Silvera. Produced and released on VHS by Media Arts Productions, LLC. The film was supposed to get a DVD release in 2011, but it looks like it never happened. Not Rated, but there's nothing here (nudity, foul language or violence) that goes beyond a PG-13 rating.
TEENALIEN (1978) - Before I proceed with the review, I first must explain why I am being kinder to this film than most no-budget junk that riddled the video store shelves in the 80's. This is one of those rare films where a bunch of teens in Utah decided to make a horror film without any knowledge of how to do so and actually achieved their dream, if their dream consisted of making a horror film that contains absolutely no blood, nudity or foul language. And then get a deal to have it released on home video! It's actually a throwback to the sci-fi/horror films of the 50's, when none of that stuff was needed to tell a story. TEENALIEN is most certainly an awful film, but it is fascinating to watch. The film opens in the late 50's with old man Dobbs (Keith Nelson, whose idea of acting is to lick his lips and continuously wipe his face with his hands) making his special brand of "squeeze" liquor while some creature with red glowing eyes lumbers outside his cabin. Dobbs hears a loud buzzing sound outside, so he grabs his squeeze and checks out the commotion, only to witness an alien spacecraft rising from behind a building known as the Old Mill. The spaceship flies directly overhead of Dobbs and emits a green ray, whose purpose seems to be to evaporate the squeeze liquor in the jar Dobbs is holding (Maybe the aliens needed a drink before their long trip). Twenty years later, teenager Carl (Michael Dunn) is looking for a house to put on a Halloween spook show, so kindly old-timer Mr. Cranston (Vern Adix), the owner of the Old Mill, offers it to Carl to use free of charge. Carl is a little reticent about accepting the offer because the Old Mill is said to be haunted (a flashback to 100 years earlier shows the red-eyed alien killing the dog of a couple of miners when it enters an open window of the Old Mill), but Mr. Cranston talks him into it. This doesn't sit too well with Carl's rival, Tony (Dan Harville), who was planning to put on a spook show of his own, but there is no way he can compete with the Old Mill. Tony gets some unexpected help from a nameless white-haired teen (Mike McClure, who is as stiff as a mahogany headboard), who offers to help Tony and his gang scare Carl and his friends out of using the Old Mill. Carl and his friends, which includes the hulking Tiny (Dale Angell), begin to get the musty Old Mill ready for the spook show and discover some creepy mannequins in a closet that are made from some unknown material, so they decide to use them as props in the show. After also discovering some strange bones (that make strange metallic sounds when dropped) and a hidden tunnel that leads to a secret laboratory, it becomes obvious to Carl that there's more going on here than meets the eye. When members of Carl's crew begin being abducted by mysterious figures wearing black hooded robes, Carl and his friends must uncover the truth before it becomes too late. Of course, the people in the hooded robes turn out to be Tony and his friends, but that strange white-haired teen turns out to be something more sinister: an alien called a Varrow, who has come to Earth on a mission to take over our planet because theirs is overpopulated (Which begs the question: Why would they wait over a hundred years to do so?). Carl discovers the truth, as the Varrow transforms itself to its normal big red bug-eyed self and chases Carl and everyone elser around the Old Mill. Can Carl and younger brother Mike (Chad Bennion) convince the police that this isn't a Halloween prank before more Varrows arrive on Earth? Also known as THE VARROW MISSION, first (and only)-time director/producer Peter Semelka tries his damnedest to give this film a "Hey gang, let's put on a show!" atmosphere, but the amateur acting, bad cinematography (which mainly consists of medium and long shots) and out-of-place music score doom the project from the start. The screenplay, by Semelka and executive producer James Crofts (based on a story by Ed & Sherma Yeates), has some decent ideas, but the paltry budget is unable to communicate those ideas in an effective manner. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely fun watching everyone trying their hardest to communicate those ideas, but it fails at every turn, making this film akin to watching the after effects of a bad car wreck as you slowly drive by it. The majority of the film is nothing but teens mucking about the Old Mill wearing various Halloween costumes, but there are a few creepy scenes, including the arrival of a female Varrow (Judy Richards); the transformation of the male Varrow from human to alien (which is nearly ruined by Mike McClure's horrible acting ability); and the revelation that the Varrow have been living amongst us for decades (one is even a local cop), which leads to an INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)-like finale. This was truly a community production (filmed in Salt Lake County, Utah), as many of the "actors" in front of the camera also worked behind them doing various jobs to keep costs down. TEENALIEN may be strictly amateur hour, but it is still an entertaining artifact from the 70's. Also starring Alex Churchich, Steve Bartlett, Ken Johnson, Roger Hamblin, Holly Harkness, Sally Jones and Dave Olson as the Varrow alien (which is your typical BEM). Originally released on VHS by Prism Entertainment and available on DVD (as THE VARROW MISSION) from JEF Films, who are not known for quality replication, not to mention legality of licensing. Rated PG.
THUNDER OF GIGANTIC SERPENT (1988) - Yes, this is another one of director Godfrey Ho and producers Joseph Lai & Betty Chan's (for their IFD Films & Arts production company) cut-and-paste jobs, where newly shot footage of English-speaking actors is spliced into a pre-existing Hong Kong film (originally titled KING OF SNAKE - 1985), but I'm glad to report that there are no ninjas to be found here, as this is more of a horror fantasy with action elements in the vein of Ho's SCORPION THUNDERBOLT (1985), only this is possibly more bizarre and awesome in it's outrageousness. Simply put, this is a story about a little girl named Ting Ting and her intelligent pet snake Mozlar, who grows larger and larger thanks to a top secret experimental formula dubbed the "Thunder Project" but, as with most of Godfrey Ho's patchwork films, the majority of fun to be had here is in the hilarious English (actually Australian) dubbing and cockeyed storytelling, not to mention the incredibly chintzy special effects. Dr. Lee has created a formula that can make plant life grow up to 300 times it's normal size, thereby eliminating world hunger, but when the military confiscates the formula to test it on reptile life (they test it on a frog and it instantly grows huge, but nowhere near 300 times) and a group of terrorists invade the facility, a lone female scientist grabs the formula and escapes in a car. When she gets into an accident and the formula is ejected from the car (it's kept in a Plexiglas case), a young girl named Ting Ting (Who was just being teased by a couple of boys, who tell her, "You're the worst because you're a girl!") finds it and decides it would make a good cage for her pet snake Mozlar (Who nods it's head yes and no to Ting Ting's questions; an effect obviously achieved by tying fishing line around a live snake's head and pulling on it!). As soon as Mozlar is put in the cage, he grows about twenty times it's normal size, dwarfing Ting Ting and forcing her to sneak it out of her bedroom (her parents don't want her having a normal size snake, never mind a giant one!) and keeping him in a shed in her backyard (it's small on the outside, but big as a warehouse on the inside!). Mozlar and Ting Ting become very close (they toss a beach ball back and forth and Mozlar saves her from a falling tree), but she has a hard time hiding her giant friend, because every time he comes into contact with electricity, he grows bigger and bigger. In the newly shot footage, which cuts into the film proper every 15 minutes or so, government agent Ted Fast (Pierre Kirby; star of Ho's FULL METAL NINJA  and NINJA OF THE MAGNIFICENCE ) tries to stop head terrorist Solomon (Edowan Bersmea; Ho's ZOMBIE VS. NINJA , also starring Kirby) from getting his hands on the formula, which leads to several gunfights, usually resulting in Solomon's goons being riddled with bullets. To make a long story short, the terrorists kidnap Ting Ting and hold her in a highrise building. Mozlar, who is now truly gigantic, wraps his body around the outside of the building, searching floor-by-floor for his best friend (and killing innocent bystanders with falling debris!), while her parents wait nervously outside. The military send in some fighter jets to kill Mozlar, not understanding that he only wants to save the little girl. Mozlar dies in the same manner as King Kong, Ting Ting throws a hissy fit and Ted finally meets Solomon face-to-face, killing him with a couple of bullets to his chest. I found myself laughing out loud hysterically on several occasions, usually whenever Mozlar and Ting Ting are on-screen. In his early growing stages, Mozlar grunts like a chimpanzee and, when he's fully grown, he roars like a lion! Any electrical shock will make him grow, so when the plot calls for it, Mozlar is hit with a lightning bolt (which also gives him flying powers!) and then zapped by a homemade electric fence built by the extremely inept terrorists. The amazing snake effects are realized by full-sized puppet mock-ups (Believe me, you haven't lived until you've seen Ting Ting take a ride on the back of Mozlar's head!) until the final stage, which is done on obvious miniature sets and blue screen work. I was sitting there slack-jawed at the cheesiness of it all. This also contains all the standard Godfrey Ho (who directed as "Charles Lee" and scripted as "Benny Ho") trademarks: Badly-matched old and new footage; hilarious dubbed dialogue (When one of Solomon's goons informs him that they have lost the formula, he replies, "Brilliant deduction, Sherlock!"), exaggerated sound effects and the same park location as in all his other patchwork films. There's also the sight of kids practicing the sport of roller skiing down a grassy hill (Why didn't this catch on?). The woman who dubs Ting Ting's voice is really annoying, especially the extended screaming/crying jag she goes through in the finale. If I were her father, I believe a hard slap to her face would have been called for. She also can't seem to make up her mind if her pet snake's name is "Mozlar" or "Martha", as she calls it both. Still, this is an oddly entertaining mixture of sickly sweet family drama, bloody shoot 'em up action and giant monster genres. Ignore all of Ho's new footage and enjoy the tale of a girl and her giant snake. I certainly did. Also known as TERROR SERPENT. Also starring Lee Hsiu Hsien, Carol Chang, Lin Shin Cin, Andy Lee, Danny Raisebeck, Dewey Bosworth, Jorge Gutman, Patrick Frbezar and Jim Lau. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S.; the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Available on foreign DVD from Attackafant Entertainment. Not Rated.
TOP LINE (1988) - Franco Nero (REDNECK - 1973; ENTER THE NINJA - 1981) is Ted Angelo, a down-on-his-luck writer living in a Columbian tropical paradise and looking for a story to pull him out of poverty. When part-time girlfriend Juanita (Shirley Hernandez) shows Ted a knife, along with some other relics, her fisherman boyfriend Paco found in the mountains, Ted takes a closer look at them and finds an old manuscript that will lead him on a long, strange trip. It seems whomever he shows the manuscript ends up dead, so when good friend Alonzo Kintero (William Berger; HELL HUNTERS - 1986) is found tortured and murdered, Ted heads to the jungle compound of Heinrich Holzmann (a badly-dubbed George Kennedy; DEMONWARP - 1988), a collector of pre-Columbian artifacts (and possible Nazi) for some information on the manuscript. Heinrich turns Ted away like an unwelcomed guest, so Ted returns home and has Paco show him where he found the relics. This leads to a hidden cave in the mountains where Ted and Paco discover a hidden door; behind it lies a fully intact ancient sailing ship that Paco mistakens for Noah's Ark. Ted recognizes the ship as a 15th Century vessel, but the question still remains: How did a huge ship get concealed in a cave in the mountains? As Ted examines the ship more closely, he discovers what can only be described as alien artifacts in the ship's cargo hold. When Ted touches one of the artifacts, the whole mountain starts to rumble, forcing Ted and Paco to flee. Ted begins to see dollar signs, but the dastardly Heinrich also wants to protect the cave's location and sends his men to kill Ted (Ted has to run barefoot through a field of cactus [cacti?] to avoid a cackling Heinrich, who is trying to run him down with a car). It turns out that an alien spaceship plucked the ship out of the water five hundred years ago and crashed into the mountains. Heinrich has been plundering the location for years and will kill to keep it a secret, so Ted sends for a team of treasure hunters from New York to help him document the find. It turns out the treasure hunters are actually professional killers and after they unsuccessfully try to kill Ted, he joins forces with June (Deborah Barrymore; WARRIORS OF THE APOCALYPSE - 1985, who also acts under her real name, Deborah Moore), Alonzo's assistant, to find out why everyone will kill to keep the cave location a secret. As they will soon find out, no one is who they seem to be and some are not even human. Ted gets to write his next book, but the odds are good it will never get published. Talk about your Pyrrhic victories! This Italian-made, Columbia-lensed film is a hard one to categorize. Throughout most of it's running time, it plays like a straight-ahead action adventure, but later takes a darker, nastier tone as the film starts moving into sci-fi and horror terrotories. Director/co-writer Nello Rossatti (THE SENSUOUS NURSE - 1975; TIDES OF WAR - 1990), who is credited as "Ted Archer" on some prints, has no problem showing children being murdered, people being shot in the head or back and other bloody mayhem, as the film then veers into a government conspiracy thriller. Ted and June are hunted down by all factions of governments from around the world, as Ted theorizes that the alien artifacts in the cave will technologically advance our planet by thousands of years and anyone who has knowledge of the location must be destroyed. Things head into surreal territory when someone sends a cyborg (one such instance of alien artifact reverse-engineering) to kill Ted and June, turning the proceedings into a bastardized version of THE TERMINATOR (1984). There's so much more here to take in (including the cyborg [who, unfortunately, picked today to wear a red shirt] getting clobbered and dismantled by a raging bull!), so down a fifth of Jack, smoke a joint and then try to figure out if Chris Carter ever saw this before he came up with the idea for THE X-FILES (1993 - 2002). There are more than a few comparisons to make here. TOP LINE is also known as ALIEN TERMINATOR, but, to be fair, he's only in the film ten minutes, tops. Also starring Mary Stavin, Rodrigo Obregon, Larry Dolgin, Steven Luotto and Robert Redcross. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., but English-dubbed prints can be found on VHS from Japan and Britain. The print I viewed was sourced from an Italian TV showing with the station ID bug on the bottom right optically fogged-out. Not Rated.
VANISHING ON 7TH STREET (2010) - If you thought director Brad Anderson scared the shit out of you with films like SESSION 9 (2001), THE MACHINIST (2004) and some of the best episodes of TV's FRINGE (2008 - 2013), then he will have you looking at shadows in a whole new light (pun intended). These aren't the shadows you see in film noir or the kind director Francis Ford Coppola played with in his version of DRACULA (1992), but these shadows are deadly (THE X-FILES [1993 - 2002] had an episode with the same premise, but this film wildly diverts from the TV show's storyline). The film opens with a theatrical projectionist named Paul (the always-welcome John Leguizamo; LAND OF THE DEAD - 2005) showing a film when there is a blackout. When the backup power comes on and he doesn't hear the usual hoots and hollers from the audience, he goes downstairs to take a look, only to find a piles of clothes where the people were sitting. Something knocks him out and then our attention is turned over to TV reporter Luke (Hayden Christensen; AWAKE - 2007), who awakes in his office only to find the same circumstances. The city has no electrical power (except backup power), none of the cars work and to be in complete darkness means certain death (There's a scene where Luke is surveying the damage of the outside streets when a jet plane crashes in the background. It will not only shake you to the bone, it will have you rewinding the DVD to see it again). Luke carrys a flashlight and sees on the Internet that there is still life in Chicago (where his wife has traveled for a story) and notices that Sammy's Bar down the street still seems to have electricity. When he goes to check it out, he is confronted by a young black boy named James (newcomer Jacob Latimore), who is carrying a shotgun and looking for his mother, who worked at the bar. Luke knows that James' mother is dead and builds a friendship with James and they are joined by Rosemarie (Thandie Newton; THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK - 2004), while they try to figure out what the hell is going on (Theories abound, including alien abductions, illicit goverment experiments, the Rapture and other scenarios, but the truth is that we are never given an explanation why this is happening, only that the days are becoming much shorter than they normally should be. Animals, on the other hand, don't seem to be affected by this phenomenon.). When they hear Paul screaming for help on the street, Luke brings along some light and saves him, bringing him back to the bar. The bar is running on a generator and they are quickly running out of gas, so Luke come up with the idea of using a pickup truck whose headlights work (When Rosemarie asks why the headlights work on this truck and none of the other vehicles, Luke dryly says, "It's a Chevy."). The only problem is that it needs a jump to start and the only item that can do that is the generator. The biggest trouble is that the truck is several blocks from Sammy's bar and since Paul is too badly injured to help, it is up to Luke and Rosemarie to push the truck to the bar. James stays with Paul while the generator keeps trying to stay on. After some close calls with the shadows (I will explain in a few sentences) and losing Rosemarie, Luke gets the truck to the bar where he and James get it started (the shadows have already taken Paul). James notices a church and thinks that his mother will be there, making Luke crash the truck into the front of the church to save James. This proves to be Luke's undoing, as the truck quits running and the headlights go out, leaving him wide open for the shadows to take him. James meets a little girl named Briana (Taylor Groothuis), who has been living at the church. As the sun sets, the two children are seen riding a police horse down the clothes-and-cars strewn streets on their way to Chicago (Perhaps these two are the new Adam & Eve?). Director Brad Anderson and screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski offer the viewer a frightening view of what people would do when something happens that they don't understand. The shadow effects are simply top notch (think of the black shadows that carry away the baddies in GHOST - 1990, and mutiply the scare factor by ten) and should frighten the bejeesus out of horror movie fans. Some of the shadows appear as people against walls, while others looks like tentacles on an octopus (or elongated human arms with hands), but it doesn't matter what they look like; if you don't have a light source on your body, you are instantly turned into a pile of clothes as the shadows close in. This is the reason why I always have a large supply of batteries and flashlights in my apartment. I firmly believe that there are things that come out in the night that we can never see (for those of you that look at me like I'm some kind of mental defective, there are things that go bump in the night, whether you believe or not). If you believe that, too, you will absolutely love this movie for the goosebumps it will induce. There's a headscratching scene about a locked door in the bar's basement that leads to an underground tunnel system (probably an escape route from the days of Prohibition) whose only means of making it to the outside world is bricked-off, but don't let that put you off to one of the best horror films of 2010. It's like watching one of your own nightmares. Larry Fessenden (the director of WENDIGO - 2001; THE LAST WINTER - 2006 and many others) has a quick cameo as a bike messenger before the shit hits the fan. Otherwise, VANISHING ON 7TH STREET is basically a four-character horror flick for 90% of its running time. Filmed in Detroit, Michigan. A Magnolia Home Entertainment DVD & Blu-Ray Release. Rated R.
THE VISITOR (1978) - Weird Italian/German co-financed fantasy/horror strangeness that mixes alien invasion motifs with strong religious allegory, where even Jesus Christ makes an appearance, yet the storyline makes about as much sense as hitting a pillow with a sledgehammer. But, boy, what a cast. The film opens with robed figure Jerzy Colsowicz (famed director John Huston, who has also appeared in this film's Producer Ovidio G. Assonitis' TENTACLES in 1977) staring at an alien sky and saying, "It's happening again. Her name is Katy Collins and she'll be eight years-old." We the switch to a professional basketball game in Atlanta, Georgia, where new Atlanta team owner Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen; MANSION OF THE DOOMED - 1977) is watching his team playing San Francisco (When an "11 Alive" sports reporter questions Raymond's "open checkbook" policy and asks him where the money is coming from, Raymond simply answers, "God"). With eight seconds left and Atlanta leading 100 to 99, little Katy Collins (Paige Conner), who is sitting in the front row wearing oversized sunglasses and a shit-eating smirk on her face, gives San Francisco's leading point scorer a weird look and when he goes to slam-dunk the ball for the winning shot, the ball explodes before it reaches the basket and Atlanta wins. Both Katy and Raymond give sly smiles, like they already knew the outcome of the game. Raymond's fiancée is Barbara Collins (Joanne Nail; SWITCHBLADE SISTERS - 1975), Katy's mother, and Katy voices her displeasure of being left alone with babysitters (she is seen playing Pong by herself on a huge projection TV, with an unconscious babysitter sitting in the chair next to her) while Mom is cavorting and having sex with Raymond. Katy's eighth birthday is rapidly approaching and when Barbara asks her what she wants, Kath responds, "I want a brother!", which shocks Barbara because she doesn't want to have any more children (She tells Raymond that Katy "scares the shit" out of her). Jerzy arrives at the Atlanta airport (When the customs agent asks him about the purpose of his visit, Jerzy replies, "I am a Visitor.") and he is escorted to the roof of an abandoned building where a group of shaven-headed followers carrying metal briefcases form a straight line for Jerzy's approval. What exactly does this mean? Raymond asks Barbara to marry him, but she refuses (not only doesn't she want to have any more children, she also makes veiled references to Katy's father, saying he's a "good man", but doesn't elaborate). We then find out that Raymond belongs to some ultra-secret society headed by Dr. Walker (Mel Ferrer; CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD - 1980) and Raymond was promised wealth and a winning basketball team if he marries Barbara and gets her pregnant with a baby boy, but he is failing miserably (When Raymond asks who is going to take care of the Visitor, Dr. Walker answers, "Katy has been designated for that."). Dr. Walker and the members of the society reveal to Raymond that Barbara is the only woman on Earth able to have children with special powers and that Katy must have a brother. What the hell does this mean? At Katy's eighth birthday party, someone gives Katy a loaded pistol as a gift and she accidentally (?) shoots Barbara in the back, sending her to the hospital, where Dr. Walker operates on her and eventually sends her home as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic. Jane Phillips (Shelley Winters; POOR PRETTY EDDIE - 1974), a Jerzy associate, shows up at the house to be Barbara's caretaker and it's clear to see that Katy is not pleased. She's also not pleased that police Detective Jake Durham (Glenn Ford; HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME - 1980) is investigating Barbara's shooting (He shows up at her school and when he doesn't fall for her "charms", she calls him a pervert and tells him to "eat shit"), so she sends her pet bird Squeaky to peck his eyes out while he's driving, forcing him to crash and die in the inferno. What happens next is the ultimate fight between good and evil, as Barbara is kidnapped by Dr. Walker (the whole kidnapping sequence plays-out like some alien abduction) and artificially impregnates her, little bitch Katy gets more powerful, Jerzy tries to stop her and Jesus Christ himself (portrayed by Franco Nero) shows up to redeem Katy, who is now bald and angelic! Director Giulio Paradisi (an actor and assistant director on Federico Fellini's 8 1/2  and listed in the credits here as "Michael J. Paradise") fills THE VISITOR (originally titled STRIDULUM) with religious imagery (including a wicked "Last Supper" homage at a dinner ball), but the screenplay, by Luciano Comici and Robert Mundi, is confusing as hell, as characters appear and disappear for no reason at all and good chunks of the film seem to be missing, especially the events leading up to Glenn Ford's death. Paige Conner is quite good as Katy and she really begins to get under your skin with her cruelty, both physical and emotional (there's a standout sequence at an ice skating rink), so when Shelley Winters starts slapping her silly for calling Barbara her "whipping boy", you'll stand up and cheer (Ms. Winters does the scene with extreme conviction and the film becomes better because of it). Sam Peckinpah, of all people, shows up as Dr. Sam Collins, Barbara's uncle, who agrees to perform an abortion on her. There's plenty inventive camerawork on display in THE VISITOR (including a sequence in a hall of mirrors) and lots of bird symbolism, but one has to wonder why such well known actors (and directors) would appear in such head-scratching material like this, which seems to imply that angels, demons and Jesus Christ may actually be aliens! Far out man! Also starring Jack Dorsey, Johnny Popwell and J.A. Townsend. THE VISITOR was originally available on VHS by HBO Video and United American Video. Code Red has released the film on DVD in its "Uncut European Version". Rated R.
VOODOO SWAMP (1960/1961 est.) - Tucked away as an unannounced extra on Media Blasters/Shriek Show's DVD of Barry Mahon's 1961 shocker BLOOD OF THE ZOMBIE (a.k.a. THE DEAD ONE), this early sixties homemade horror film/travelogue is a sight to behold even if for all the wrong reasons. Shown sans titles or credits (According to Carl Morano, one of the head mucky-mucks at Media Blasters, this is an unfinished, never released feature from Mardi Gras Productions, the same company responsible for THE DEAD ONE. That's all the info they have!), this compact little film begins with a woman traveling to Louisiana looking for her missing twin sister. She hires a bossy private dick, whose favorite weapon is a machine gun. Together, they travel by row boat down the Louisiana bayou looking for her sister, who has been turned into a zombie by a white voodoo queen. The queen's muscular, grunting henchman kidnaps the girl and it's up to the private dick, along with the clueless police and even more idiotic friends, to save her. I dare anyone not to laugh while watching this. It's filled with priceless post-synch dubbing and incredible visuals. When the private dick finds his friend passed out on the banks of the swamp, his friend increduously says, "I'm so hungry. Have you got anything to eat? I'll take anything!" Another scene has the private dick talking to a friend at a strip joint while a pastie-wearing dancer gyrates to some unheard music (remember this is an unfinished film). Still another scene has the private dick teaching the girl how to shoot the machine gun. She proceeds to shoot their row boat full of holes. The next shot is of them boating down the swamp as if the previous scene never happened! As a matter of fact, nothing much happens here until the finale, where someone loses their head in a quite graphic (for its' time) machete decapitation and a bunch of people get machine-gunned to death. The only real gripe I have with this film is the glee it shows in killing animals. The ASPCA would have a field day here as we witness the real-life killing of wild boars and other animals for our viewing enjoyment. Was this really necessary? Since this is the first time that this film has been released to the general public, don't go looking for details of it on the Internet or in any review books. You won't find any. This is a minor gem that should please those looking for some new kicks, if your kicks involve double exposure editing, colorful swamp scenery (some of it very well photographed), dreadful acting and dubbing and, most of all, stupid people doing stupid things. If anyone out there has any information on this film (director, producer, screenwriter, actors, etc), please send me an email by clicking here. This is the first major find of 2003! A Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD Release. Not Rated. UPDATE!!! An Australian reader sent me the following information concerning this film via email: The writer, cinematographer, director and producer of VOODOO SWAMP was Arthur Jones. He was the inventor of Nautilus and MedX exercise equipment. He plays a small cameo as one of the patrons in the bar. It was made in 1960 or 1961. A little info about the movie is also in Arthur Jones' biography, "Younger Women, Faster Airplanes, Bigger Crocodiles" by John Szimanski. Have a look at the arthurjonesexercise site. Go to "And God Laughs." Click on chapter 18. On page 5 of the chapter he mentions something about the origins of the movie and why it was not released. There's another mention of Bill Pearl and VOODOO SWAMP in the book, but I can't remember where. The inspiration for VOODOO SWAMP was MACUMBA LOVE (1960). The bodybuilder in the movie is Bill Pearl. Some details of the movie are written in a chapter of his latest book, "Beyond the Universe." Bill was a Mr. America and 4-time Mr. Universe. (His contact details are on his website: www.billpearl.com). Arthur's recollection about Bill and the movie are somewhat different though. Arthur invented a gyroscopic camera mount for filming animals from a moving jeep. Check out Arthur Jones (inventor) on Wikipedia. It gives a very brief outline of some of his accomplishments. There is a book called Crocodile Trader (written by Rory Macaulay), which details one of his expeditions to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in the late 50's. He was a big time importer of animals to America for zoos. You may have heard of Arthur's TV shows: CAPTURE and WILD CARGO. They were older, more hardcore versions of the later Wild Kingdom. Arthur made another movie, called SAVAGE (a.k.a. MISSION TO HELL) in 1962. Arthur Jones died on the 28th of August 2007. If I can find more details about VOODOO SWAMP, I'll e-mail again. Hope this helps.
WEIRDO: THE BEGINNING (1988) - This is director Andy Milligan's next to last film (the final one being SURGIKILL also in 1988) before succumbing to AIDS in 1991 and I must say that I was surprised in a good way. Milligan was known as the auteur of trash and, while this film can also fit in that category, it also is much better made than most of his films and has some stinging criticism of Catholicism (probably due to the way the Church treated AIDS and homosexuals). Mentally retarded Donnie (Steve Burington) lives in a shed of the home of Miss Martins (Naomi Sherwood), who lets Donnie run odd jobs and generally treats him well. Donnie gets picked on constantly by a gang of motorcycle toughs led by Nails (Shawn Player), who punch, stab and try to drown him and generally make his life miserable. Donnie finds a friend in Jenny (Jessica Straus), a girl with a leg brace who was raped when she was fourteen. Donnie also has a problem with sex and he is a voyeur, watching one of the gang nailing Boots (Julie Winchester) and tries to put the moves on her himself when the gang leave her alone in a shack, only to be threatened with a knife by Boots. Jenny (who is warned by a preacher to stay away from Donnie because he is "different" and suffers from a sexual urge that cannot be treated) runs away from home and stays with Donnie in his shed where they make love for the very first time. Donnie goes to the house of his abusive alcoholic mother (Lynne Caryl) who tells him that his father was also his uncle as his mother had an incestual relationship with her brother, making Donnie the way he is. She wants to sell Donnie to a man in Mississippi for $1500.00 to be used for manual labor (in other words, a slave). When Donnie refuses, Ma beats him with a belt and Donnie picks up a meat cleaver and cuts off her head and plants a pitchfork through the neck (a Milligan staple) of the Mississippi man. With his mother's head in a plastic bag, Donnie goes to the church where he is abused by the preacher's wife (who threatens to separate him and Jenny) and he plants a giant cross through her chest. He strangles and electrocutes the preacher with a string Christmas lights when he calls the cops. When Miss Martins catches Donnie and Jenny together (and calls Jenny a "slut"), Donnie finds out that Miss Martins is actually his aunt and kills her by burning her with the stove and alcohol. When Donnie tells Jenny everything he has done, he tells her that he is running away and will come back for her. She refuses to leave him as the entire town searches for him. Nails and his gang find them first and Donnie slits Nails' throat and cuts off both his hands. Realizing that he is doomed, he knocks out Jenny and faces the angry mob, who beat him to death with clubs and tree branches. When Jenny comes to, she sees Donnie on the ground in a pool of blood, but when she comes back with a policeman, the body is gone and only Donnie's bloody clothes remain. With a smile on her face, Jenny walks away......While weak in the acting department (this is a Milligan film), the story still packs a punch and has a lot to say about society in the 80's. It really helps if you read the book THE GHASTLY ONE: THE SEX-GORE NETHERWORLD OF FILMMAKER ANDY MILLIGAN by Jimmy McDonough to truly understand what type of person Milligan really was. It's a facinating read into a world most of us will never see. To read it is to get a glimpse of Milligan's lifestyle. It's not pretty. Neither is this film, which is long out of print and should be getting a DVD release shortly (Note: The DVD release never materialized due to the company that was going to release it going out of business.). The OOP tape was released by Raedon Home Video under the title THE WEIRDO. For more on Milligan, read my reviews of TORTURE DUNGEON (1970), LEGACY OF HORROR (1979), CARNAGE (1982), MONSTROSITY (1987) and SURGIKILL (1988). Not Rated.