THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD (1983) - One look at the title and you know what film this Italian/Turkish co-production is paying "homage" to. Rick Spear (the late David Warbeck), a globe-trotting adventurer and cat burglar, and his main squeeze Carol (Susie Sudlow) travel to Turkey on a business trip where Rick breaks into the mansion of Lord Dean (John Steiner), a crippled billionaire, and steals an ancient tablet that is a key to untold riches. He is caught, but it was all a test by Lord Dean. He hires Rick to locate and steal the Sceptor of Gilgamesh, located in the hidden Temple of the Sun God, somewhere in the Turkish desert. The sceptor is said to contain magical powers that will bring riches and good fortune to whomever possesses it. Rick has competition for the sceptor from Prince Abdullah (Aytekin Akkaya) and he has his inept men try to kidnap Carol, but Rick saves the day (with a well-aimed water hose). As Abdullah's bumbling goons try to stop him (they can't seem to do anything right), Rick begins a perilous journey through the desert with alcoholic tour guide Beetle (Luciano Pigozzi, a.k.a. "Alan Collins") and new sidekick Mohammed (Ricardo Palacios). Traveling by helicopter, they land at a mountain range that looks like a giant swastika. With Abdullah's men dogging their every move and Lord Dean revealing his ultimate secret, Rick and his team must maneuver a series of ancient boobytraps, including rats, snakes, a giant rolling stone wheel, lava and a sand and pulley puzzle (that nearly kills Rick) before they can get near the sceptor. Abdullah takes command before Rick can get his hands on the sceptor and he triggers one last boobytrap that brings down the whole temple.  Director Antonio Margheriti (CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE - 1980), here using his "Anthony M. Dawson" pseudonym, never saw a bandwagon that he didn't jump on and he was one of the best at churning out entertaining retreads. This film, along with HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA (filmed back-to-back with this one, using many of the same actors), are rip-offs of Steven Spielberg's RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD is good fun in it's own low-budget way. When Rick runs into more trouble than he anticipated, he turns to Lord Dean and says. "I didn't know Roger Moore would be needed!" There's also an outlandish car chase in the desert (using Firebirds and Camaros) that comes out of nowhere, gun fights, explosions, a sword fight and lots of humor. Not particularly bloody (it would probably have earned a PG if submitted to the MPAA) and no nudity at all, this film is an enjoyable fantasy/adventure that can be viewed by both children and adults. Just don't set your sights too high and you should have a good time. You haven't lived until you have seen Ricardo Palacios disco dance in an early scene and Margheriti's unusual "car chase" early in the film, which uses model cars in a miniature railroad park (done using Margheriti's miniature work, his second favorite thing to do besides directing). This is part of VideoAsia/Ventura Distribution's TALES OF VOODOO series (Volume 4) and, for once, these thieving pirates offer a halfway decent widescreen print of the film which the DVD sleeve renames as TEMPLE OF HELL. Thankfully, the print retains it's original title. Trans World Entertainment offered a fullscreen print on VHS in the SP mode and Interglobal Home Video offered the same print in the EP speed. Amazon Prime, on the other hand, offers a beautiful anamorphic widescreen print streaming for free to Prime members. Also starring Anthony Berner and Suleyman Turhan. A VideoAsia/Ventura Distribution Release. THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD is also available streaming on Amazon Prime. Not Rated.

BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS (1973) - Stupid, but bloody, Italian-made sword and sandal fantasy about a tribe of female warriors who look at men as nothing but slaves or vessels only good for their "seed" (One Amazon says, "The male of the species is the most inferior creature on Earth!"). When one of their own is caught making love to Zeno (Lincoln Tate), they take him prisoner (after he cuts an Amazon's arm off in a sword fight) and make him a slave and then hang his lover upside down over a pit of sharpened stakes and set the rope on fire. She eventually falls and gets impaled multiple times. Zeno escapes (by putting a poisonous scorpion down the back of an Amazon, killing her) and meets kindly Valeria (Paola Tedesco; RING OF DARKNESS [a.k.a. SATAN'S WIFE] - 1979) in the woods. After she tends to Zeno's wounds, he tells her that if she should ever need his help, he and his people will be there for her. That time will come all too soon. When Antiope (Gena Woods), the Queen of the Amazons, attacks Valeria's village with her warriors, killing Valeria's father and many of the women and older men, while kidnapping many of the young men as slaves (A few moments earlier, we witness the Amazons kill all their previous slaves in a mass slaughter to make room for the new ones!), Valeria travels to Zeno's village to ask for help. After making a deal with Zeno and three of his best warriors (She says, "Three sacks of crushed oats, ten panther skins, ten bear skins, five hogs and a measure of gold, but that's it!"), they go back to Valeria's village and begin training the villagers for combat. It's going to be an uphill battle, since the villagers are nothing but simple farmers. The Amazons, meanwhile, are busy having orgies with their new slaves (and each other) and planning their next attack on Valeria's village. Unbeknownst to Valeria and Zeno, Antiope has a spy in their village. When Valeria, Zeno and his men pull a surprise raid on the Amazon's slave camp, freeing all the slaves, Valeria's wannabe-suitor Erno (Benito Stefanelli), who is jealous of Zeno, turns traitor and goes to the Amazon's village to tell Antiope of Zeno's plans, only to learn of the spy and lose his life (by double spear impalement). When the Amazons attack Valeria's village in the finale, we learn the identity of the spy and Zeno and his men face-off against Antiope and her Amazons, with an able assist from Valeria and her female warriors.  This nonsensical fantasy owes a debt of gratitude to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960; which itself owes a debt to THE SEVEN SAMURAI - 1954), since the plot bears more than a passing glance to that film (Bruno Corbucci was one of the scripters here). Director Alfonso Brescia (using his frequent "Al Bradley" pseudonym), who also gave us the similarly stupid SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN (1974), the awful STAR WARS knock-off STAR ODYSSEY (1979) and the so-so Eurocrime film THE NEW GODFATHERS (1979), fills the screen with nudity and violence, including rape, orgies (both straight and lesbian), impalements (by spears, swords and spikes), dismemberments and hand-to-hand combat (including some hilarious gladiatorial martial arts). It's quite apparent in the final face-off between the Amazons and Valeria's village that many of the masked Amazons are actually men in wigs (the arms don't lie). If you like plenty of trampoline action (who doesn't?), topless women (count me in!) and head-shaking dialogue ("You interrupted my dance of love!" and "This world was made for hate, not love!"), you could do a lot worse than this mindless Italian fantasy. It's like one of those 60's Hercules peplum films, with added copious nudity and gore. Also starring Lucretia Love, Mirta Miller, Solvay Stubing, Francesco (Frank) Brana, Pilar Clement, Riccardo Pizzuti and Robert Vidmark. Never legally available on home video in the United States (it was released theatrically by American International Pictures), it can be purchased on an All Region DVD from Eurovista Digital Entertainment. It's a pretty beat-up widescreen print (lots of emulsion scratches and missing frames, just like their release of THE DEAD ARE ALIVE), but watchable. Rated R.

THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978) - During the late 70's, producers Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, the people responsible for the stop-motion puppet film MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967) and the classic Christmas TV annual RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (1964), teamed up with Japanese director Tsugunobu Kotani (better known as "Tom Kotani") to make three fantasy films, all dealing with giant creatures of some sort and all containing practical special effects mixed with miniature model work. Those three films, which made their Stateside premieres on television, were THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977), THE IVORY APE (1980) and this film, making its DVD debut as part of the Warner Archive Collection, a series of Warner Bros. Films made available on DVD-R for the first time to customers of their web site. THE BERMUDA DEPTHS is the story of a woman named Jennie Haniver (80's TV star Connie Sellecca in her film debut) and her friendship with a giant turtle (we're talking Gamera proportions here, folks). As a young girl, Jennie and a young boy named Magnus raised the turtle since it was a hatchling, but Magnus and Jennie lost touch when something huge killed Magnus' scientist father and destroyed their Cliffside Bermuda mansion, forcing Magnus to move away and be raised by relatives in the States. But now, the fully-grown Magnus (Leigh McCloskey; INFERNO - 1980) has returned to his childhood roots to learn the truth about his father's death. Magnus teams up with childhood chum Eric (Carl Weathers; BUCKTOWN - 1975), who works on a deep-sea trawler with marine biologist Dr. Paulis (Burl Ives; EARTHBOUND - 1981 and the narrator of RUDOLPH), who is looking for "unusual life" in the deeps of the ocean (evidence which they find rather quickly; for as soon as Magnus sets foot on the trawler, something chews its way through a metal fishing net). Eric wife, Doshan (Julie Woodson), doesn't like the idea of Magnus working with Eric because he has psychological issues that date back to the day Magnus lost his father (it is also revealed that Magnus lost his mother at sea the same year), which resulted in Magnus not being able to hold on to a job his entire adult life. When Magnus tells Dr. Paulis that he has just talked to Jennie Haniver, Dr. Paulis tells him that it is impossible because she is nothing but a local legend and never existed. Dr. Paulis' maid, Delia (Ruth Attaway), elaborates further about Jennie's legend (Flashback Alert!) and tells Magnus that Jennie only appears to those who are about to drown. To make a long story short, Magnus and Jennie fall in love and the question becomes to the audience whether Jennie is actually real or just a figment of Magnus' very fragile psyche. When Dr. Paulis backs out of the expedition (probably due to the film's budgetary restrictions), Eric and Magnus take the trawler and hunt the giant turtle with a new type of speargun (that looks more like a bazooka) that Eric has invented. When Eric accidentally spears Jennie instead, the giant turtle goes on a path of destruction in retribution, which results in the death of Dr. Paulis (in a hilariously inept helicopter crash) and Eric (who gets dragged underwater by his own contraption). Only Magnus survives and he leaves Bermuda much worse then when he returned to it, with a respected marine biologist dead and Doshan now a widow. My God, I hope he has no more friends!  Of the Tom Kotani - Rankin/Bass trilogy, THE BERMUDA DEPTHS is the least successful of the three, thanks to a deadly dull and slow-moving screenplay by William Overgard (who also wrote the other two films) and a wooden performance by Leigh McCloskey, who has the emotional range of a piece of granite (hell, the giant turtle shows more range than him!). Besides the beautiful Bermuda location photography and underwater camerawork (which really "pops" on this DVD-R), this film has very little to offer discerning fantasy film fans, as it takes over an hour to finally catch our first look at the giant turtle and, until then, it is just endless dialogue scenes with very little action, interspersed with flashbacks and some shots of obvious model boats in someone's bathtub. Since this is a Rankin/Bass production, don't expect any foul language or naked female flesh and the violence doesn't get any bloodier than a brief shot of Jennie floating motionless underwater with a spear sticking out of her side (a shot that was missing from the TV prints). Burl Ives over-emotes shamelessly (When Magnus asks him if his father was eaten, he screams, "YES, he was EATEN!") and poor Carl Weathers was probably thinking to himself, "Christ, this is the best I can do after ROCKY?" This may has some nostalgia factor to those who remember seeing this film as a kid on TV, but THE BERMUDA DEPTHS will be slow going for their adult sensibilities. Kotani went on to direct the much bloodier THE BUSHIDO BLADE (1981, a.k.a. THE BLOODY BUSHIDO BLADE), which is the only Rankin/Bass film to ever achieve an R rating. Also starring Elise Frick, Nicholas Ingham and Kevin Petty. A Warner Archive Home Video Release. As of this writing, THE LAST DINOSAUR is also a part of the Warner Archive collection, but THE IVORY APE is not. Not Rated.

THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE (1978) - I have to admit I wasn't expecting much when I pressed Play on my Roku remote to view this film, but I'll be damned if I didn't enjoy this Mexico/Spain/Italy co-production for the way it portrayed the "Devil's Triangle", where hundreds of boats and planes disappeared without a trace. Instead of giving us one explanation on how they disappeared, this film touches on all the theories, including supernatural, the area being the resting place of the lost city of Atlantis and even alien abduction. This film wants us to believe that all these aspects are involved and it does it in such a way that makes watching this film an eerie experience, even if some of it is too far-fetched to be believable.
     The hardest thing to believe is that the frail-looking John Huston (TENTACLES - 1977) is a deep-sea scuba diver named Edward Martin (his wetsuit looks three times too big!), who has chartered the boat "Black Whale III" (I wonder what happened to I & II?) and has brought his entire family along on a working vacation, where he hopes to discover the lost city of Atlantis and shame all the non-believers. First, there is son-in-law Peter (Carlos East; FEAR CHAMBER - 1968), who always has a glass of J&B Scotch (Italy's favorite beverage) in his hand and drunkenly puts down wife Sybil (Claudine Auger; A BAY OF BLOOD - 1971) as much as possible (though she gives as good as she gets). Edward's sexy young daughter Michelle (Gloria Guida; SO YOUNG, SO LOVELY, SO VICIOUS - 1975) wears the skimpiest bikini imaginable and gets the wanted attention of first mate Alan (Andres Garcia; ENCOUNTERS IN THE DEEP - 1979; look for a review soon), who ogles her as much as possible, even in front of Edward and his wife Kim (Marina Vlady), who doesn't even notice (or just doesn't care). Edward's young son Dave ("Al Coster"; a.k.a. Rene Cardona III; CEMETERY OF TERROR - 1984) is the brains in the family and hopes to become captain of his own ship one day (telling Alan he wants to have a woman in every port!). The captain of the Black Whale III is Mark Briggs (Hugo Stiglitz; CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD - 1980), who ignores the warnings of engine room worker Gordon (Miguel Angel Fuentes; THE PUMA MAN - 1980), who tells the Captain he has tempted fate much too often and it is only a matter of time until the Devil's Triangle curses his ship. Captain Briggs laughs and tells Gordon that his superstitions hold no water (so to speak), as he and his ship have been in the Triangle many times without incident, but Gordon tells him this time may be their last.
     The strange stuff begins to happen when Edward's very young granddaughter Diane (the single-monikered Gretha) spots something floating in the water and when Captain Briggs steers the boat to it, it turns out to be a creepy old doll, which Diane takes a special interest in, claiming it as her own. The doll never leaves her side from this point on and when Diane asks the ship's cook, Simon (Jorge Zamora), for something to eat, he asks her what she wants. She replies. "A cookie for me and some raw meat for my doll." Simon finds the request quite unusual, but he gives her both anyway. That night, a flock of birds attack Diane while she is standing on deck, so she uses the doll as a shield. When Peter and Sybil hear their daughter scream, they go running to her, and Peter notices that the doll has blood on its lips and littering the deck are the bodies of dead birds, all of them having their throats ripped out and nearly decapitated, as if someone (or something) had bitten them! The Black Whale III begins to violently rock back and forth and almost capsizes, but it stops as quickly as it started and Captain Briggs foolishly thinks strong undercurrents were the cause. Captain Briggs then sees a faint light shining in the distance and Alan realizes it is a ship signaling an SOS in Morse Code. When Alan answers the SOS with a spotlight, the distant light signals to him that the name of their ship is the "City Of Glasgow", but Alan says that couldn't be, the City Of Glasgow was lost at sea...a hundred years ago! The distant light then disappears and Captain Briggs tells Alan that the ship's radar said there was never anything out there the entire time he was signaling the ship. Now, any normal person would have gotten the hell out of there, but the stubborn Edward insists that the ship take him to the appointed destination, where he believes Atlantis is located.
     The next morning, Edward, Alan, Michelle and Billy (Andres Garcia, Jr.) don wetsuits and scuba gear and dive to the bottom of the ocean, where Edward believes Atlantis is located. They find a bunch of ancient stone pillars on the ocean floor (after killing two sharks for daring to swim in the same water as them!), but an earthquake (?) occurs and the stone pillars begin falling (this sequence is very well done and it looks like the stunt people earned their paychecks, as we see one stone pillar smack one of them on the head and their reaction couldn't be faked!), trapping Michelle's legs underwater, as her oxygen begins to deplete. A quick-thinking Alan surfaces and has Gordon and crewmember Tony (Mario Arevalo) get him full tanks of oxygen, saving Michelle from certain death. The Captain uses the ship's rope to pull the pillar off of Michelle's legs and Alan brings her on the ship. Peter, who is a doctor, tends to Michelle's legs, but the wounds are severe and Captain Briggs heads his ship to the island of Bimini, where there is a hospital. Diane, who has just locked Simon in the freezer (Peter finds him before he freezes to death), tells everyone over dinner that she talked to a man nobody on the ship knows and he told her how everyone on the ship is going to die, saying that Simon will be the first. Peter tells Sybil that Michelle's wounds are so severe that she will have to have both legs amputated if she is to survive. Captain Briggs overhears the conversation and asks Peter why he doesn't do the amputations if time is of the essence, a drunk Peter telling him he can't bring himself to do it, Captain Briggs calling him a coward. Believe it or not, there are more pressing problems, as the ship is not able to get in contact with anyone, not even in Bimini. And a bad storm is approaching the ship, the likes of which Captain Briggs has never seen before.
     Edward is sick and tired of Diane treating the doll as a real person, so he takes it away from her, placing it in the same room as an unconscious Michelle. Gordon tells the Captain that one of the engines is not working and it looks like the propeller hit a rock, but there should not be any jutting rocks in water this deep. As the ship is being battered by the storm, Kim and Edward see Diane on deck and they are knocked overboard by a wave trying to get to her. Alan and Tony take a rubber raft to find them, but they are unsuccessful. Simon is found dead in the galley, his death an apparent accident, looking like he fell on a broken bottle that slashed his neck during the storm. When the storm is over, the ship is in one piece, but they are hopelessly lost and only have one working engine. Only Gordon has sense enough to realize that the doll is the cause of their problems, seeing Diane talking to the doll and knowing it is the cause of all their problems, wanting to throw it overboard, but Captain Briggs tells him to leave the poor girl alone, ordering him to put on scuba gear and fix the broken propeller, only when he dives underwater, the propeller starts rotating and beheads him! The Captain and Alan run to the engine room to stop the engine and find Diane there. She tells them the doll started the engine and told her that her grandmother and grandfather are now with the "living people" underwater and now so is Gordon. The ship's radio then goes screwy, playing SOS and mayday messages from long ago and they then hear their own mayday message from the night before. A drunk Peter tells an unconscious Michelle, "Michelle, you're beyond hope!", but that is the least of their problems, as Diane knows who is going to die next.
     Alan takes Michelle and Dave on the rubber raft and head towards Bimini (Diane says, "Goodbye Michelle!", like it was her funeral). A sloshed Peter tells Billy that everything is hopeless, not knowing that his drunken rantings are actually true, as moments after Diane tells Aunt Sybil she is the next to die, she disappears. We then see that the doll has turned into a diabolical flesh-and-blood child with bloody lips. Michelle dies on the raft and something large and white appears under the raft. The film ends with Captain Briggs finally getting in touch with the Coast Guard in Bimini, but after hearing the Captain's mayday message, the assistant radio man tells his mate he must not have heard the message correctly, because the Black Whale III disappeared twelve years ago when the Martin family charted it for an outing. The closing credits then show us the real names of all the ships and planes that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle over the past hundred years and ends with, "Who Will Be Next?", as we see the creepy doll floating in the ocean, waiting for the next ship to pick her up.
     This is actually a creepy film that tries to explain nothing, doing it in a way that will give all believers in this nonsense the willies. I always thought that the theories about the Bermuda Triangle were a pile of crap, as any large body of water has the same amount of disappearances it has. Pilot or mechanical error are usually the causes of disappearances and the deep water hides its secrets and not leave a trace, as we learned by the recent disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on March 8, 2014, but some people will always have their own theories, no matter how outlandish they sound and the sheep-like populace are more than willing to accept them. Director/co-screenwriter Rene Cardona Jr. (NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS - 1972; TINTORERA - 1977; GUYANA: CRIME OF THE CENTURY - 1979; TREASURE OF THE AMAZON - 1985; BEAKS: THE MOVIE - 1987) mixes all those theories into one tasty stew and, sure, it is creepy, but does it make any sense? No, it doesn't. But that doesn't make it a bad film, far from it. It is actually a good little mystery with an unexpected (and well done) stinger, something that is missing from most films on this subject. This film is rather difficult to find for purchase in the United States. It was originally released on VHS on the VidAmerica label in 1985 and didn't see a DVD release until 2007, when VCI Entertainment gave it a widescreen release. They later paired it on DVD with Cardona Jr.'s CYCLONE (1978), made immediately after this film, using many of the same cast and crew. VCI no longer offers this for sale, but if you search on eBay, you should be able to find it fairly cheaply. If you just want to watch and not own it, Amazon Prime offers it streaming in a nice anamorphic widescreen print, free to Prime members. No Blu-Ray at the time of this review. Also featuring Adelberto Arvizu (GRAVE ROBBERS - 1989), Steve Uzzell, Mike Moroff (CAGE - 1989) and Nailea Norvind as the "Diabolical Doll". Not Rated, due to a couple of scenes, such as the sight of Michelle's mangled legs and Gordon being decapitated, but there is nothing here that goes beyond an R Rating if it were to be submitted to the MPAA.

BLACK MAGIC WITH BUDDHA (1983) - It's time once again for another crazy-assed Hong Kong fantasy horror film. In Papau, New Guinea, black magician Master Abdullah leads Ben (Chen Kuan Tai) through the jungle until they get to a cave. Inside the cave is a coffin containing a mummy, which Master Abdullah instructs Ben to stab in the heart with a sacrificial dagger. The mummy suddenly springs to life, but Master Abdullah cuts off it's head, performs a spell on it's skull (which involves Abdullah shooting laser beams from his fingertips!), splits the skull open and puts the mummy's pulsating brain in a box. He gives Ben the box and tells him that he can make one wish whenever he wants, but after he makes that wish, he must immediately sprinkle holy water (which he also supplies Ben), on the brain so the brain can find peace in the hereafter. If he doesn't, the wish could come back to bite Ben in the ass (I think we can all see where this is heading). Ben heads back to Hong Kong (Abdullah perishes in the cave when it catches on fire and boulders crush him to death!), where he is greeted by his fiancée Annie (Candy Yu) at the airport and makes the discovery that the brain can become invisible (a Customs agent asks to see what's in the box and when he opens it, the brain has disappeared). Ben has returned to marry Annie, but her elderly, hospitalized father objects to the marriage, as does Annie's brother Kit. Ben uses the brain to wish for a million dollars to impress Kit and Annie's father, but when the money doesn't come quickly enough, he asks his sister for a loan and she turns him down. Angry, he storms out of the house after wishing his sister would "go to Hell" and goes to a bar to drown his sorrows, not realizing that his latest wish is about to come true. While Ben is getting drunk as a skunk, his sister is attacked by supernatural forces, tossed off a balcony and, finally, thrown through a window and dies. Ben inherits one million dollars thanks to the death of his sister, but instead of following Master Abdullah's advice and using the holy water on the brain, he grows greedy and demands more wishes. As you can probably guess, things are about to turn bad for Ben and those around him. Ben wishes to marry Annie and suddenly her father changes his mind and gives his blessing. The wedding ceremony is a huge affair, but when Kit insults Ben at the reception, Ben storms off in a huff. That night, Ben takes a shower in his palatial new home and the water turns to blood. Annie spots the brain crawling up a window and screams, stepping on a dead monkey while running away! Ben pleads for the brain to leave them alone, but the brain will have none of that nonsense. The next morning, their maid finds a corpse of a dog missing it's brain at the front door. Folks, all this happens within the first thirty minutes of the film and what come next is even crazier, as Ben gets deeper in dutch with the brain. Ben wishes for the deaths of Kit and Annie's father so he can take over the family business, but when a nosy Annie accidentally breaks the bottle of holy water (which should have been used on the brain long before this), the brain goes totally berserk and no one is safe. Is there any way to put the genie back in the bottle before it is too late? Perhaps a sorcerer could help...  Filled with many strange sights and off-the-wall deaths, BLACK MAGIC WITH BUDDHA, directed by popular Chinese actor/filmmaker Lo Lieh (5 FINGERS OF DEATH - 1972; BLACK MAGIC - 1975; and hundreds of others; he appears as the sorcerer here) and written by Chiu Chi Kin, is a treat for fans of Hong Kong fantasy horror. This is a slight reworking of The Monkey's Paw, where the moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for because wishes never have a way of turning out how you hope they will. Half the fun here is watching the pulsating brain (a very cheap bladder effect, but strangely compelling nonetheless) doing its dirty work, whether it's crawling into Kit's bubble bath and killing him or slithering along the ground, walls and windows (while the sound of heaving breathing is heard on the soundtrack [which is strange in itself because the brain doesn't have lungs!]), as it attaches itself to people's bodies, sucking out their brains while pleading "Let me go!" (strange again, since it has no lips or tongue, not to mention a voice box!). All the brain wants is to be returned to the hereafter so it can be at peace, but the stupid humans keep trying to use it for their own gain. The latter part of the film is a complete hoot, as Ben tries to get rid of the brain any way he can; by burying it, crushing it under a boulder and setting it on fire, but time and time again the brain returns to terrorize him. On one such occasion, the brain covers the windshield of Ben's car in blood, forcing Ben to lose control of the car and run into the sorcerer, who loses his pants, but is otherwise unharmed! This sets up the film's wild finale, where the sorcerer performs an exorcism to rid Ben of the brain (but not before he gives Ben a good ass-kicking just for the hell of it!). Ben ends up vomiting the brain in little pieces, but the brain makes itself whole again (thanks to some reverse camerawork and stop-motion effects) and what comes next is a truly exceptional example of cinema of the bizarre. I won't spoil it for everyone by giving it away, but it involves a statue of Buddha coming to life, the brain growing to gigantic proportions and the film turning into a bastardized version of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (1976). I don't know what was in the water in Hong Kong during the 70's & 80's, but they turned out scores of these weird and wild films that puts anything made in the U.S. during the same period look timid in comparison. BLACK MAGIC WITH BUDDHA is a great example of this. Also known as BLACK MAGIC WITH BUTCHERY and EVIL BRAIN. Also starring Elaine Kin, Chau Sing and Man Yu Wu. Available on VHS & DVD from Tai Seng Entertainment in a hilariously English-subtitled fullscreen print. Not Rated.

THE BLIND WARRIOR (1985) - Another outrageous Indonesian fantasy from director Ratno Timoer, who previously gave us the unbelievable THE DEVIL'S SWORD (1984) and the unclassifiable REVENGE OF NINJA (1984). The film opens with an entire village being slaughtered when they won't give up the location of their ancestor's treasure. Enter blind warrior Barda (Advent Bangun; who looks to be wearing an outfit made from the skin of the Creature from the Black Lagoon!) and his pet monkey (who really serves no purpose in this film), as they walk through the village littered with the bodies of dead men, women and children and he makes a remark about man's inhumanity to man. We then cut to the village ruled by the evil Raden Parda, who is holding a huge ritual where the entire village prays to their god (a huge stone statue with red glowing eyes) and sacrifice a virgin to him. Unbeknownst to most of the villagers, when the virgin walks into the crotch of the statue, she is actually walking into Parna's private bedroom, where we see him make love to the virgin while miniature pink, white and red styrofoam balls fall around and nearly engulf them! When Parna sends his men to capture virgin village girl Sirimbi (Enny Beatrice), Barda steps in and defeats nearly a dozen of Parna's men (When they report back to their boss that they were beaten-up by a blind man, Parna says, "Godamned idiots! Are you telling me you can't even catch a blind man? Maybe I should have all of you blinded, huh? You bunch of idiots!"). Barda becomes the protector of Sirimbi's family (Her father says, "We all hate Raden Parna. He's got to be the forerunner of Satan!") and as he listens to Parna's men torture and kill some slaves that work in his gold mine (We see them kill a young boy by slashing his chest open with a sword and kill another man by impaling him with a spear), he vows to bring Parna down. While Barda is with Sirimbi's father, Parna's men capture Sirimbi and her hot-headed brother Yagi (Harry Capri). Barda steps in and creates a diversion where he throws a huge boulder in the air and shatters it by hurling his staff in it's direction. He then picks up Sirimbi and Yagi and flies away with them in his arms! Needless to say, Parna is pissed (He says to his head henchman, "Perhaps I should just pluck your eyes out of your stupid head! Because they're of no use to you, are they?"), so he travels to Sirimbi's village in his golden eagle chariot and offers to make Sirimbi his queen if she will marry him. She refuses and Barda challenges Parna to a magical duel. Then the shit really hits the fan. Since what I just described to you takes place during the first 35 minutes of the film, you can expect much more lunacy in the remaining 50 minutes!  As with all Indonesian fantasies, such as THE WARRIOR series (THE WARRIOR 2, also known as THE WARRIOR AGAINST THE BLIND SWORDSMAN, starred Advent Bangun playing basically the same character he does here, even if he uses a different name and carries a bigger staff in that film), it doesn't make much sense but, Jesus Christ, it's entertaining as hell. Filled with colorful characters (including a bad guy working at the mine with an unusual patch of chest hair that I just couldn't take my eyes off of!), outrageous set-pieces and some of the funniest dubbed dialogue this side of an Arizal film, THE BLIND WARRIOR is something every Indonesian fantasy fan should search out. The final 30 minutes is some of the most off-the-wall stuff you will ever see. Barda's battle with a flaming rag, his descent into the "Hole In Hell" (Parna's head henchman says to him, "It's a shame you're blind. If you were able to see, then you would die of horror!"), where he fights a bunch of decaying zombie women and Yagi and the rebel's assault on Parna's gold mine (where blowguns, arrows, pitchforks, swords and spears are used and the bad guy with the weird chest hair dies only after he takes an arrow, blowgun dart, knife and, finally, a spear to his chest!) are visual highlights. The final half hour is a non-stop gorefest (including three amazing decapitations as well as a guy getting cut in half at the waist!) and the film has some colorful set designs (including a really bright blood-red lake) and unintentionally hilarious dialogue (much of it relating to eye or lack thereof). Director Ratno Timoer is batting 3-for-3 in my book and someone should really release more of his films to English-speaking audiences. The fullscreen DVD I viewed looks to have been compiled from different sources (at one point, Japanese subtitles appear on-screen), but it is very sharp with rich colors. A must-own! A Terror Vision (British DVD; PAL Region 2) Release. Not Rated. Did I forget to mention that you'll witness a man being torn apart at his crotch?

THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983) - I think my mind has just been blown. In this insane Shaw Brothers production, Chan Hung (Philip Ko; SEEDING OF A GHOST - 1983) witnesses his brother getting his neck broken in a martial arts tournament by dirty fighting Thai boxer Ba Bo (Bolo Yeung). Chan promises his now paraplegic brother that he will get even for this injustice, so he travels to Thailand and tells Ba Bo that he will be dead within a year. Earlier, Chan (who is a Triad enforcer) was saved from a deadly trap in a warehouse by some criminal adversaries when a mysterious monk with a pronounced aura suddenly appears and kills all his rivals. Ever since that incident, Chan is haunted by visions of that monk and a strange glowing symbol, so when Chan spots that symbol on a temple when traveling by boat on a river in Thailand, he enters the temple and finds out that he was expected. A monk relates to Chan a story that happened a year earlier, where the monk in Chan's visions battled a black magician and lost. The monk was able to capture the black magician's spirit (in the form of a bat) and drives a spike through its heart. This only seems to piss-off the black magician, as we see him perform an unbelievable ritual where he milks the vemon of cobras, mixes it with the gooey brains of a human skull and feeds the mixture to three spiders (who drink the fluid through straws!). The black magician sneaks into the monk's sleeping quarters, defies gravity by climbing the wall and crawling on the ceiling and drops the spiders onto the monk's eyes, where they inject him with the poison mixture, killing him. It turns out that the monk was Chan's twin brother in a previous life and Chan only has one year to live, unless he can come up with a way to defeat the black magician and revert the poison eye curse so his twin brother can become immortal. Are you with me so far? Chan shaves his head and become a monk at the temple, learning the mystic ways of Buddhism, sometimes the hard way (he takes a meditative dip in a sacred pond and ends up covered with leeches!). Eventually, Chan (who changes his name to Kaidi Baluo) becomes an expert in Buddha magic and battles the black magician (in one of the most outrageous sequences you will ever see), defeating him. Chan then returns to his old life in Hong Kong, but his problems are far from over. It seems the black magician has associates, who revive the black magician (in the guise of a woman!) in a ritual that must be seen to be believed. Too bad for Chan that a curse of poison blindness is put on him in the middle of his bout with Ba Bo (remember him?). Chan must return to Thailand, where he must do battle against an evil unheard of until now, but first he must find a thousand year-old mushroom which will give him the "Essence of Iron". Oh, no, this battle is going to be fierce, especially when Chan lies to Buddha about breaking his vow of abstinence. I swear, I'm not making this shit up. It all ends in a temple in Nepal that will have you not believing your eyes, ears or your basic mental reasoning. Yeah, it's that good!  A simple review could never do this Hong Kong fantasy/horror film the justice it so richly deserves. It should come as no surprise to learn that this was directed by Kuei Chih Hung, who also gave us the demented classics BAMBOO HOUSE OF DOLLS (1973), THE KILLER SNAKES (1974), KILLERS ON WHEELS (1976), HEX (1980), CORPSE MANIA (1981) and BEWITCHED (1981). This is not only a very weird film, it is also a well-photographed one, with set designs and strange visuals that will have you laughing out loud and watching with a sense of wonderment, usually in the same scene (The walking bat skeleton and the slurping spiders are so low-tech, they reach a new plateau of entertainment and the final battle at the temple in Nepal, involving flying skeleton hands, carnivorous caterpillars and a hungry giant crocodile, is a thing of pure demented genius). There are some great set-pieces here, particularly Chan's battles with the black magician, such as when an army of bats rise out of the many crocodile skulls that lay on the magician's floor. When Chan defeats the bats with a spell of fire, the magician sends the snapping crocodile skulls in Chan's direction and it only gets increasingly surreal as the battle continues. There's entrail eating; a floating alien-like head with a spinal column that snaps like a whip; body piercing; and the black magician separating his head from his body and it flying through the air trying to strangle Chan with the many red tentacles that shoot from the neck. That's only the tip of the iceberg, as you will see a magic ritual that involves gutting a large crocodile; some full-frontal female nudity; a maggot-ridden corpse; a gag-inducing scene of men regurgitating their food and passing it on to the next person to eat; and bouts of martial arts action. THE BOXER'S OMEN, which was filmed on-location in Hong Kong, Thailand and Nepal (using many real landmarks to great effect), is top-notch entertainment for fans of the unusual. Once you watch this, I can guarantee you will never forget it. Christ, I haven't even touched on the total body skin peeling; the strangest birthing scene I have ever witnessed; and one-eyed creatures (that look like headless shaved poodles!) that shoot laser beams! What the hell are you waiting for? Also starring Lam Hiu Yin, Wai Ga-man, Johnny Wang and Elvis Tsui. Available from Celestial Pictures on VCD and Image Entertainment on DVD. Not Rated.

BOY GOD (1983) - You want proof that the Philippines never heard of child labor laws? Just watch this film, a Filipino fantasy with so many "What The Fuck?" moments, you'll need a scientific calculator to keep track. The film opens with a ghostly warrior in a headband raping a woman named Cora while she is sleeping. Nine months later, she gives birth to a baby boy and it's apparent from the moment he is born that he is special (When the midwife tries to cut the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors, the blade snaps in half!). When Cora and her husband Isabello are shot dead by Isabello's evil brother Robbie, Cora's mother escapes with the baby and raises him. A few years pass and the baby is now a young boy named Roco (Nino Muhlach; BRUCE LIIT - 1978; ENTENG ANTING - 1980), who tries to hide his superhuman powers (such as the ability to split cords of wood with his bare hands) from the other townspeople (Grandma is fully aware of his abilities). Granny tells Roco the truth about his parents' deaths (It seems Robbie was in love with Cora, but she chose his brother instead) and he vows to find Robbie and kill him. Roco does have a serious Achilles' heel, though: Whenever he comes in contact with water, he becomes weak and loses all his powers (His grandmother tells him, "Somehow you're like a limestone. That is why when you get heated, you get harder and when you get soaked in water, you begin to dissolve like the 'stone." Well, there's one mystery solved!). It also seems that there is something very sinister going on around the village. Not only are there big hairy werewolf creatures on the loose, who are murdering the local villagers at night, there is also an evil German scientist that is pouring a poisonous chemical into the ocean, which is killing all the fish. Of course, Roco gets embroiled in the entire mess when he follows one of the werewolves into a house occupied by three creepy spinsters. Roco accuses the spinsters of being werewolves, but they just laugh and force him to have dinner with them. When Roco sees that the meal being served is liver, he runs screaming out of the house and is hit by a Jeep! The evil German scientist witnesses the accident and notices that Roco is unharmed, so he orders his head henchman, who just happens to be Robbie, to kidnap Roco so he can use him in his illicit experiments. Meanwhile, the three spinsters, who are really werewolves (there's an amazing stop-motion transformation sequence that must be seen to be believed), and a vampire named Captain Hugo (!) attack the village at night, terrorizing and killing the townspeople (When the vampire, who looks like a flying monkey from THE WIZARD OF OZ, tries to bite Roco on the leg, he breaks his teeth!). A series of circumstances find Roco immobilized by water and being captured by the spinsters. They strip him naked, bathe him, tie him to a spit and begin roasting him over an open fire, not aware that heat only makes him stronger. He breaks free and clobbers the werewolf spinsters, only to be captured in flight by vampire Hugo. Roco breaks Hugo's wings in mid-flight, only to be dropped in the ocean, where he is saved by Valkan, a blind elder of a race of beings called the Immortals. He teaches Roco how to control and harness his powers and also tells Roco that he is the son of an Immortal. Valkan tells Roco that he can visit his parents (his real father was the ghostly Immortal who raped his mother in her sleep), but he must go on a long journey to get there, which starts off with a visit to the Land Of the Small People (Filipino midget alert!) and will also include a fight with a giant cyclops, a pair of Siamese cavemen joined at the back (!), who can separate at will, and a cave full of Shadow People who can shoot laser beams out of their eyes. Eventually, Roco will meet his parents again (alas, stepdad Isabello is not included in this package), but he will also be captured by Robbie and the evil German scientist, who we find out is responsible for the creation of the werewolves and the vampire. I've only touched on the craziness on view here. Needless to say, this is one film that is a must-see if you are a fan of Filipino insanity.  This outrageous fantasy, directed by J. Erastheo Navoa (HEPE, a.k.a. THE CRAZY BUNCH - 1980; TATLO SILANG TATAY KO - 1983) and written by Joeben Miraflor, is truly mind-boggling; not only for the zany plot, characters and violence, but also for the shameless way it puts a child in downright dangerous situations. No amount of alcohol or drugs can ever wash away the memory of watching the spinsters washing the nude body of actor Nino Muhlach (the son of Executive Producer Alexander Muhlach and the highest-paid child actor in Filipino film history, who had over twenty films under his chubby little belt before he starred in this), even if there's a well-placed flower in frame covering-up his naughty bits or the sight of his nude body roasting over a fire (with his naked ass prominently on display). It's just wrong for so many reasons, but the low-rent makeup and special effects, which includes cheap opticals, forced-perspective shots (especially during the Cyclops attack) and dimestore werewolf and vampire costumes, will have you roaring with laughter. Also amazingly hilarious are the scenes where Roco rolls himself up into a ball and uses himself in a game of werewolf bowling or the Arthurian Legend takeoff where Roco goes to pull a sword out of a stone and ends up breaking it in two. Nevermind that the actor playing the German scientist is obviously played by a Filipino and just go with it, because it's a trip filled with bloody violence (including a decapitation by a flying shield), colorful characters and a storyline that crowded with ideas that the meager budget can hardly afford to pull off. I put BOY GOD (which is also known as STONE BOY) on the same pedestal as THE KILLING OF SATAN (1983) and that's high praise indeed. Also starring Jimi Melendez, Isabel Rivas and Cecille Castillo. Originally released on VHS by Video City Productions and available on DVD-R from online gray market sellers, including Trash Palace. Not Rated.

BRUCE LI IN NEW GUINEA (1978) - Anthropologist Wan Li (Ho Chung Tao; better known as "Bruce Li"; BRUCE LI'S MAGNUM FIST - 1977) and his friend Chin Sang (Li Chin-kun) head out to Snake Worship Island in New Guinea; Wan Li to observe the different sects, such as the Luna Sect and the Devil Sect (who are said to be in possession of the legendary Snake Pearl) and Chin Sang to observe the different styles of kung fu practiced there, especially Snake Style kung fu. Their two guides lead them to the Snake Tribe, but it is a long and arduous journey through the jungle to get there. While Wan and Chin wait in the jungle, the two guides head out to look for food and begin stealing bananas and and melons from two clueless natives (played strictly for comical effect). That night, Wan uses his kung fu skills to save a native girl being chased by a group of natives, but the girl dies of snake poisoning after telling Wan that she was to be used as a human sacrifice in a ceremony performed by the Snake Tribe, who are now controlled by the Devil Sect and their leader, the Great Wizard (Chan Sing). The Great Wizard is the Master of Snake Style kung fu, as we see him use his skills on his two best students (one of them portrayed by Hong Kong regular Bolo Yeung [BLOODSPORT - 1988]). Wan and Chin meet fellow Chinaman Meh Cheng in the middle of the jungle and he tells them that he is looking for the Snake Pearl. When Wan and Chin tell him that they are not interested in the object, Cheng doesn't believe them and tries to kill their two guides (to slow down their progress), but Wan catches him in the act and uses his superior kung fu skills to defeat Cheng, who retreats into the jungle. Cheng is attacked by a large number of Devil Sect members, but he manages to fight them off, only to run into the Grand Wizard, who quickly defeats Cheng with his Snake Style kung fu and a poison ring. Wan and Chin are next to fight the Devil Sect and they split-up in the process and several months pass. Chin has returned home and thinks than Wan is dead, but a year later Wan returns home a changed man. It seems Wan had fallen in love with the Snake Tribe Chief's beautiful daughter, Princess (Danna), but the Great Wizard wants his idiot son to marry her so he can reap all the rewards and riches the Snake Tribe possesses (including the Snake Pearl). Wan tells his story to Chin (told in flashbacks) of how he fought the Great Wizard and lost (that damned poison ring again), but he was brought back from a certain death and nursed back to health by Princess (who has a pet gorilla named Cheetah, who protects her with his kung fu skills!) and they fall in love. A series of circumstances force Wan to leave Snake Worship Island, but Princess slips him a love potion that makes any other women who shows interest in him to see nothing but snakes! Wan must return to the island to defeat the Great Wizard and return to Princess, who has had Wan's baby, and it's about to be sacrificed! Can Wan arrive in time?  This ridiculous martial arts fantasy, co-directed by C.Y. Yang and Kong Hung (better known as "Joseph Kong" and "Joseph Velasco", who has directed other martial arts flicks like THE HONG KONG CAT - 1973; RETURN OF BRUCE - 1977 and CLONES OF BRUCE LEE - 1977), has all the prerequisite ingredients of a cheesy Hong Kong kung fu flick of the 70's: Laughable English dubbing ("Princess, you are a slut!"); exaggerated sound effects during the fight scenes; a music soundtrack full of stolen cues; and plenty of camera zooms. This film also has a guy in the chintziest gorilla suit you will ever see performing kung fu moves; some fantasy elements (what exactly is the importance of the Snake Pearl is never made clear); the late addition of an overweight white adventurer (Alan Ellerton) and his black sidekick (who sets race relations back fifty years with a single line of dialogue!); and a pit of poisonous snakes. All of this adds-up to one enjoyably nutty viewing experience that, while lacking in bloody violence, still manages to entertain with its plentiful fight scenes and off-the-wall storyline. It's one part martial arts flick, one part jungle adventure and one part fantasy. What more could you want? Also starring Chen Yen Chun, Lee Hoi San, Shan Mao and Lin Yang Yang. Originally released on VHS by Video Gems in a badly-cropped fullscreen print. The version I viewed was sourced from a nice looking widescreen print taken from some budget DVD release (possibly from Entertainment Programs, Inc.) which, for some reason, loudly bleeps out the word "bitch" whenever it is spoken, but leaves all the "bastards" untouched. Rated R.

CALAMITY OF SNAKES (1982) - Holy serpentines Batman! If you think THE KILLER SNAKES (1974) is the ultimate Hong Kong snake film, wait until you get a look at this piece of work. In the first few minutes alone, dozens of live snakes are graphically killed on-screen, proving once again that Chinese filmmakers have no regard for reptile life as long as it looks good on film. The story is simple: On a new constriction site, the workers unearth a huge nest of snakes. Rather than relocate the snakes to a new location, the crooked construction company owner, Mr. Chang, orders his workers to kill all the snakes (he personally operates the crane to chop up the snakes into little pieces as they are helpless in the pit, while his workers kill all the escapees with picks and shovels, all in loving close-ups), disregarding his religious wife's dire warning that the snakes will get their revenge. He should have listened to his wife. When a highrise apartment complex is finished on the construction site, a series of snake attacks begin to plague the building, causing many deaths and nothing but headaches for Mr. Chang, who tries to cover-up the snake problems any way he can. Only the building's architect, Shu Cheng Fang, seems bothered about the sudden appearance of the snakes, as the curse seems to be real because the snakes (whose leader is a big-ass boa constrictor) not only attack people in the apartment building, they also assault the dormitory housing the construction workers several blocks away and kill many of the workers in a mass attack. Shu Cheng Fang comes to the conclusion that if the leader of the snakes is killed, the problem will be solved, so he hires snake expert Master Lin (who puts on a show where he lets snakes bite his tongue!) to capture and kill the giant boa constrictor. After losing a couple of fingers due to the boa's wrath (it's quite the spectacle), Master Lin kills the boa by hanging it on a noose. Thinking that their snake problem is over, Mr. Chang throws a huge party at the apartment building, where the new tenants and potential investors for future projects are in attendance. Before you can say, "Man speaks with forked tongue", a huge amount of snakes (and I do mean huge) lay siege to the building. Nearly everyone dies before the police send men in with flamethrowers. The snakes get the final revenge when the giant boa puts in another appearance and coils it's flaming body around Mr. Chang, causing him to burst into flames. That'll teach him!  This is a film that is sure to give PETA and other animal rights activists conniption fits, as there are many disturbing scenes of snakes being killed in every way imaginable (including the removal of a live snake's gall bladder, supposedly an aphrodisiac, just like in THE KILLER SNAKES) and a lengthy sequence where several mongooses (mongeese?) are set loose to attack and kill a room full of cobras. None of it is very pretty and, while I would never condone live animal slaughter on film as a medium for entertainment, I must confess that I found some of the scenes fascinating and hypnotic in a sadistic sort of way. Director William Cheung Kei (HEROES OF THE WILD - 1977), who takes the name "William Chang Kee" here and co-wrote the screenplay with Chrile Lee Hang Leng, revels in the scenes of the snakes' demises, but he also gives them the chance to inflict pain on the cast (some of it looks very real) before they are dispatched. Here, they don't just slither, they also fly through the air, possess superhuman strength and, at one point, break all the windows of a car to get to their prey. If you have aversions to snakes, believe me when I say that this is not the film for you. Snakes attack people in elevators, in their beds, while playing Mah Jong, taking a bath and one lady in her wheelchair is attacked while knitting. There is nothing here left to the imagination and I give the actors a lot of respect for being willing to fall face-first and roll around in what are obviously piles of real snakes. Director Cheung Kei also tosses in some comedy (especially between Mr. Chang's assistant and an obese female tenant) and uses slow-motion photography to good effect, such as Master Lin's battle with the giant boa and the finale, where Mr. Chang swings a sword while hordes of snakes fly through the air in his direction. CALAMITY OF SNAKES isn't for everyone, but those of you that dig this genre will find much to enjoy here. Be aware that the print issued by Deimos Entertainment on DVD as part of their Eastern Horror series (Vol. 5) and by BCI Entertainment as part of their Eastern Horror Advantage Collection 10 Movie Set (a steal at $14.95 or less!) is struck from a soft widescreen Japanese-subtitled, English-dubbed VHS tape. It's watchable, but the English dubbing is hilarious (One girl actually says, "Mamma Mia!"). Starring San Luen Pan, Lo Pak Ling, Ko Leun, Auyan Sar Fa, Lo Tao Lan and Chow Chung Lim. Also known as REVENGE OF THE SNAKES. A lot of footage (and I mean a lot) from this film was inserted into the obscure 1986 American horror film THE SERPENT WARRIOR, starring Clint Walker, Eartha Kitt and Christopher Mitchum. Not Rated, but did I really need to tell you that?

CAVE OF THE SHARKS (1978) - Director Tonino Ricci, once again using his pseudonym "Anthony Richmond", treads the Bermuda Triangle for the first time with actor Andres Garcia, in this companion feature to ENCOUNTERS IN THE DEEP (1979), shot back-to-back with this film and also starring Garcia. As a matter of fact, the ocean seems to be a theme with both Tonino Ricci and Andres Garcia, Ricci also directing the water-themed giallo CROSS CURRENT (1971) and NIGHT OF THE SHARKS (1988), and Garcia also starring in TINTORERA: KILLER SHARK (1977), THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE (1978) and CYCLONE (1978), So what's the fascination with the seas, especially the Bermuda Triangle? If we are to believe Ricci, it's where alien civilizations live and have been living for thousands of years, mysteriously scuttling ships and, later, planes and submarines, for God knows what reasons. Regardless the reasons, Ricci's films are always entertaining, even though we never discover why the aliens want our vessels and, especially, the human occupants within them.
     The film begins with a group of windsurfers discovering a body floating in the water, as a news report informs us: "A survivor of a shipwreck that happened six months ago was found on a beach north of San Domingo. He is a man in his early 30s and was taken to the Hospital of the Redeemer, where one of the resident doctors, Ricardo Montoya (Máximo Valverde; TRAGIC CEREMONY - 1972), identfied him as his brother Andres (Andres Garcia; THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE - 1978). Andres' fiancee, Anjelica Costa Martinez (Janet Agren; EATEN ALIVE! - 1980), confirmed the identification. Andres is a native of San Domingo and an expert skindiver, along with the entire crew of the ship White Shark, he had been presumed lost when the boat disappeared six months ago. Andres is in a state of shock and has so far been unable to shed any light on the disappearance or how he found his way back home." So what really happened? That's the main crux of the film, that is, until the film veers off into territory so weird, you will think you are watching another entirely different film. But don't worry, the film then regains its traction and takes us on a journey into the unknown.
     Anjelica is worried about Andres' condition, thinking he is going insane (he has nightmares about a shark chasing him), but his doctor (Nino Segurini; BEYOND THE DOOR - 1974) tells her that it is normal for someone in Andres' condition and he should rapidly improve. The Police Commissioner (Sergio Doria; DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER - 1973) is questioning Andres in his hospital room, saying to Andres that he doesn't expect him to believe that he was floating in the ocean for six months, but Andres says the past six months are blank in his mind, he has no memory of what happened to him, the crew or the White Shark. The Commissioner reminds Andres that a group of American specialists hired him six months ago to assist them in some oceanic graphic studies (whatever that is), but Andres still insists he has no memory of it. The Commissioner tells him to think harder (That's not how amnesia works!), further reminding him that the White Shark had six days of normal sailing, but then something went wrong, insisting that Andres tell him what that "something" was. He continues with the ship's radio signals stopped and the White Shark just up and disappeared without a trace and for no known reason. The Commissioner finds it hard to believe that Andres can't remember a single incident leading up to this, not even a warning that something was going wrong, but Andres insists that he can't remember anything. The Commissioner says, "Very well, I can be patient...for the moment" and then asks Ricardo to walk him out.
     A few days later, Ricardo tells Anjelica that Andres will be released from the hospital soon and wants to know what she is going to do. She tells Ricardo that she will be by Andres' side, taking care of him. Ricardo says that she must sympathize with his brother, asking her, "Or is there some other reason? He wants you to marry him. Do you still love him?" Anjelica says, "I wish I knew. I suffered so much when he was given up for dead. For a long time I couldn't face having to live without him. You were the only person to help me." Okay, I thing we all can see where this is heading. Ricardo professes his love for Anjelica and she says she knew he fell in love with her and she began feeling the same way, but Andres has come back and he is very ill mentally, so they can't think about themselves when Andres needs the both of them. Anjelica doesn't want Andres to suffer because of what happened between them. Ricardo tells her to quit living in the past, but he won't try to stop her. Whatever she wants, he wants, too. Hey, ever hear the story of Cain and Abel? As the doctor is releasing Andres from the hospital, Andres asks if he will ever regain his memory. The doctor tells him that it will be better for his mental health if he never remembered what happened, but he'll probably remember the whole story one of these days. The doctor tells him to take a holiday with his girl and let things come naturally and that's just what he does, but with Ricardo tagging along as extra baggage. Every time Andres and Anjelica kiss or get intimate, a look of anger and jealousy takes over Ricardo's face.
     The film then takes a drastic turn into Weirdsville when we see a man in a trenchcoat and sunglasses (Oscar Alvarez), handing a metal box and a wad of cash to two men in an airport. We then see the two men piloting a small prop plane over the ocean (and in the Bermuda Triangle), when they discover that they are mysteriously off course. They try to get back on course, but they can't control the plane; it's like something else has taken over control. They notice a strange bright light below them, as if it is coming from the ocean floor. We then learn that this is an unauthorized flight, yet the two men contact the control tower to announce a mayday. The control tower asks their position, but neither of them know where they are, as all the plane's controls are going haywire. The plane then crashes into the ocean, right where the bright light is emitting, as the ocean water bubbles, as if it is boiling. We then see the trenchcoat man phoning Mr. Jackson (Arthur Kennedy; LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE - 1974), telling him that the plane carrying the metal box went down in the ocean and they have to somehow locate and salvage the plane, because "the box" must be found or "You'll know what they will do." Jackson tells him that he will take care of it, he knows the right people to salvage the plane and he will make sure they keep quiet and not tip-off the competition. What the fuck is going on here? What does 'the box" have to do with anything and why is it so important? We get answers to one of the questions, but the other question is leaves us hanging long after the film ends!
     We then see Jackson at a dock, talking to frogman Enrique (Pino Colizzi; BROTHERS TILL WE DIE - 1978), offering him and his partner, Andres (!), $15,000 to salvage the plane, but Enrique  tells Jackson he will need two days to make up his mind (He quickly says yes when Jackson offers him the use of a helicopter to locate the plane by air). Enrique spots the plane lying intact on the ocean floor, so he, Andres and Jackson take a boat to the location. Enrique and Andres, in full scuba gear,  dive into the ocean, unaware what they are about to discover. They find a cave full of sharks, but they are all sleeping and under the control of the bright light. They are chased away by one fully awake shark (the same shark that Andres is having nightmares about) and when they surface, they tell Jackson that they were unable to locate the plane because they were scared of waking up the sleeping sharks. They tell Jackson that sharks never sleep like that because they must keep moving; if they stop, they die (this is true). Jackson couldn't be more uninterested, asking about the plane. Enrique says that they will do another dive tomorrow morning, but Andres refuses, saying what he saw down there scared him and it may have something to do with his missing six months. As you can probably guess, things don't go swimmingly (pardon the pun). We then watch a bunch of hippies on a boat, one playing the guitar and singing (a really awful) ballad, while a young hippie woman (Cinzia Monreale; SILVER SADDLE - 1978) plays with tarot cards and the final card she turns over is the (gasp!) Death card. A young hippie girl, who is carrying a doll with a cracked, deformed face (!), walks outside the cabin, where she sees the bright light emitting from the ocean floor. She then jumps in the water and drowns, not even putting up a fight and soon all the other hippies do the same thing, their expressionless faces looking like they are in a trance and being controlled by the bright light. We watch their bodies sink to the bottom, and in a truly WTF?!? scene, we see the deformed doll slowly sinking, too, blood gushing out of its mouth!  The boat then lifts anchor and travels away all on its own, a true ghost ship. The hippies that do snap out of their trance are then devoured by sharks!
     The next morning, Enrique and Andres (who apparently changed his mind) dive into the ocean to look for the plane, swimming through the cave of the sharks to get to it. In the plane, they find the co-pilot, who is nothing but a decaying corpse with a cloudy intact eyeball in its left eyesocket. Enrique finds the metal box and, as they travel back through the cave, they discover that the sharks are no longer there. Andres shows Jackson that he has the box, but he and Enrique suddenly jump overboard, Enrique thinking the box is worth more then the $15,000 Jackson is paying them. Andres drops the box when he hits the water, but before he can retrieve it, he discovers a huge graveyard of ships (obvious models) from all centuries on the ocean floor and then sees Enrique being sucked into the cave  by a mysterious, powerful force. Andres surfaces, only for Jackson to try and run him over with the boat. When he is unable to do so, Jackson uses a pistol and shoots Andres in the back, seriously injuring him.
     In the hospital, but not hurt badly (he needs crutches to walk), Andres tells Anjelica that he must go back to the luminous cave, as he believes Enrique may be alive, but his injuries won't allow him to dive. He also tells Anjelica that he believes the  cave may have something to do with the missing six months he has no memory of. Jackson and some goons try to kidnap Andres so he can take them to the box, but he escapes. He's even more determined to find Enrique and get his memory back, even though Anjelica keeps telling him that he is wrong (She's so negative, I wanted to kick her in her lady parts!). Andres talks to an elderly fisherman, who tells him about his experiences with the bright light (cue the flashback), but he tells Andres that he has no memory of what happened next after seeing the light. For some reason (probably because of Andres' injuries), Miss Negativity wants to dive alone to the cave to see if she can find Enrique, so Andres lets her (It would be a perfect time for him to fill her oxygen tank with carbon monoxide!). Anjelica makes the dive and takes some photos with her camera. When she develops the photos, she can see Enrique standing on the ocean floor, apparently alive, but then his image disappears from the photo. Finally seeing the light (pardon the pun), Anjelica makes a second dive, while Andres and Ricardo wait topside on the boat, when Jackson appears, gun drawn. Ricardo kills him with his gun, unaware that Jackson has sent some divers to kill Anjelica. When Andres realizes what is happening, he suits-up, dives into the water and kills all the frogmen with his speargun. Anjelica discovers a world of wonders on the ocean floor, such as pyramids and even an entire underwater city, but will an alien with glowing eyes stop Andres from saving his true love by snapping all the sharks out of sleep mode? Believe me when I tell you this: There is no way in Hell you will guess how this film ends.
     Even though there are no answers to some important questions, such as why the box is so important  or what happened to Andres and the crew of the White Shark six months earlier, director Tonino Ricci (PANIC - 1982; THOR THE CONQUEROR - 1983; RAIDERS OF THE MAGIC IVORY - 1988) makes this entertaining nonsense just for the fact that these questions remain unanswered, leaving it up to us to decide what those answers are. This film avoids logic like the plague and while not much goes on for the entire running time, it still makes this film an entertaining piece of fantasy, if only for the strange scenes herein, such as the doll that bleeds from the mouth and the sight of sharks sleeping (How did they manage to do this? It's obvious that these are real sharks, but they never remain still like they do in this film. It's not freezing the frame that is done here, as it is easy to see other things moving in the frame.), so I can do nothing but give Ricci props for giving us even more unanswered questions to go along with the film's many head-scratching scenes. The screenplay, by Ricci, Fernando Galiana and Mauricio Melchiorre, is pure cheese all the way, but the story is helped immensely by the late Stelvio Cipriani's haunting music score, which goes along quite well with the mysteries the oceans hide. There's not much meat on the bone here, but what is here makes for a delicious little snack, not too filling, but still tasty. Nothing more, nothing less. I enjoyed it and as long as you don't put on your thinking caps, you should, too.
     Shot as BERMUDE: LA FOSSE MALEDETTA ("Bermuda: The Cursed Pit") and also known as THE SHARK'S CAVE and BERMUDA MYSTERY, this Italy/Spain/Mexico co-production had no type of legitimate release in the United States, no theatrical, VHS or disc release, leaving it to gray market companies, such as European Trash Video, Cinefear and other companies to offer in on DVD-R. I viewed it from a DVD-R that I purchased from Rogue Video (by way of Amazon), which was a beautiful uncut, anamorphic widescreen print, dubbed in English. You can also watch it streaming on YouTube from user "Eurocrime Realm", but be aware that it edits out Janet Agren's nude scenes (which amounts to less than 30 seconds), but retains all the violence. Since this film is hard to find in the U.S., YouTube will probably be the way to go if you don't want to spend money on a DVD-R (But I have no problem with it. In my opinion, DVD-Rs last just as long as pressed DVDs if you take care of them).  Also featuring Angelo Calligaris, Adriana Falco (THE MANIAC RESPONSIBLE - 1975) and Sergio Sinceri (AUTOPSY - 1973). Not Rated.

CROCODILE FURY (1988) - It's time once again for another crazy piecemeal film from producer Tomas Tang and his Filmark International production outfit, directed by Godfrey Ho (here using the name "Ted Kingsbrook"). It was also written by Ho (as "Leo Beckman") and it's apparent to see that he was tripping on some hallucinogenic when he came up with the plot for this film. The majority of the film is footage from the Thailand fantasy film KRAI THONG II (1985), but Ho adds a subplot so strange and "out there", that you'll be laughing your guts out. Some of the dialogue here is priceless and I can just imagine the Australian dubbers laughing hysterically between takes at the absurdity of it all, but that is what makes this film so entertaining. It turns out that the film proper footage is just as crazy as Ho's new footage, making this film one wild, crazy ride for viewers.
     The film opens with new footage, as Vampire Witch Monica (Trudy Calder) summons hopping vampires to kill American mercenary Bruce (Kent Wills, as "Nick Reece"; Ho's ROBO VAMPIRE - 1988) and his team who are in-country to kill the Witch's Master, Cooper (actor unknown), the "Master Of The Sea World." Monica flails her hands wildy, invoking the vampires by repeating "Make it clear, clear I say!", followed by her best impression of Ralph Kramden, chanting "Ba-ba-ba-ba- Humina, humina, humina, humima!" We then see Bruce and his mercenary team fighting the vampires, Bruce losing all of his team, but defeating them all, much to the Vampire Witch's consternation and surprise. We then switch to the film proper, as we see a giant crocodile swimming in a river, devouring every native villager it comes in contact with (The crocodile can also fly and jump straight up in the air, swallowing villagers who are hiding in trees!). Villager Jack Thompson (Sorapong Chatree; EYES OF THE CONDOR - 1987), who is married to Peggy (Supansa Nuengpirom), recognizes the crocodile as his former love Maria (Aranya Namwong), whom Cooper  cursed, turning her into the Crocodile Queen (It makes as much sense as naming a native villager "Jack Thompson"!). Jack begs Maria to stop eating villagers or he won't love her any more (I wonder what Peggy thinks of this?!?), so Maria reverts to her human form, pissing off Master Cooper, who creates a Crococile King from a villager named Steven (Sombat Matanee; TIGER FIGHTING - 1976) to kidnap Peggy and bring her back to his undersea hideout. To makes sure Steve is successful in his task, Master Cooper gives him diamond crocodile teeth (one look at his grill and you will be rolling on the floor!). Long story short, Steven is successful and brings Peggy back to the hideout, where crocodile man Don (Sun Chien; HUMAN LANTERNS - 1982) sexually assaults Peggy in his human form with Master Cooper's blessing.
     With a wizard's help, Jack creates a magic weapon (a sword) that will rid the village of crocodiles, after Steven, in crocodile form, attacks the village, eating as many people as possible in the film's bloodiest sequence (It is obvious that real amputees were used as the crocodile's victims, as we see legs and arms bitten off and see the victims with bloody stumps, filmed in such a way as leaving no doubt that no special effects of any type were used in the attacks, except adding blood and shreds of meat to the amputee's stumps!). With his new weapon, Jack enters Master Cooper's hideout and when he sees Peggy bloody and bruised, he accuses Don of rape. In what can best be described as the film's most delirious moment, Don says to him, "I didn't rape her. I may have taken some liberties, but I didn't rape her! Even crocodiles have their honor!" (Wow, just wow.).  Don and Jack then get into a martial art fight, where Jack is seriously wounded with a spear. Don then attacks him with his crocodile powers, turning Jack into a crocodile. During this rukus, Maria takes Peggy back to the village alive, surprising Jack (Who is no longer a crocodile. It's apparent that some footage was excised from the film proper to accomodate Ho's new footage). The film proper ends with Jack killing all the cursed crocodiles with the power of prayer! (WTF?!?)
     In Ho's new footage, which interrupts the film every fifteen minutes or so, we see Bruce battling Monica's hopping vampires and zombies (yes, zombies are also in this film!) and winning. Monica also picks up a new helper called Rudy (Ernst Mausser; THE SEVENTH CURSE - 1986), a fedora-wearing wannabe wizard, who we first see puking up maggots and worms when he discovers the bloody remains of Bruce's victims. The finale comes when Monica sends more vampires and zombies to kill Bruce when he discovers her hideout, but Bruce kills them all with flaming playing cards! Monica attacks Bruce with her Freddy Krueger-like metal fingernails, but Bruce slices her stomach open and a flying head-like monster comes flying out of the wound. After Bruce kills it, he slaps the handcuffs on Monica and tells her she is under arrest (What?!?). Rudy then attacks, but Bruce kills him with a throwing knife to his head. When Bruce turns around, his handcuffs are empty. THE END (using the same red card Ho uses on all his other pastiche films).
     There are so many hilarious scenes in this film, it's near impossible to list them all. The crocodile suit, which is obviously worn by a human walking on all fours, is just so crazy, you'll be amazed by its movements, especially the way it flies out of the water over a boat full of villagers. What astounded me the most is that even though the villagers know there's a deadly crocodile in the river, most of them still go for a swim and then become devoured, as we see the crocodile swimming with bodies in its mouth. You cannot escape the crocodile, even on dry land, as it has the ability to jump high in the air, picking off villagers hiding in trees or crashing through the top of huts as villagers hide on the roof. There's nothing this crocodile can't do! In one of the films more weird sequences, the villagers hire a crocodile hunter who is a fraud; he appears with a talking skeleton (!), who lauds the crocodile hunter as he touts how good he is, daring the villagers to doubt him by saying, "Is what the skeleton saying to us true or is he lying to us?" Of course, when he sees the crocodile, he beats a hasty retreat, only for the crocodile to make a tasty meal out of him. In Godfrey Ho's canon of cut-and-paste films (and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of them), this one is probably his craziest. And that's saying a mouthful! Also known as SORCERESS OF THE DEEP, I first saw this film on Roku-only streaming channel B-Movie TV. This has had no official release in the U.S. in any format, but it can be found streaming on YouTube from user "Wu Tang Collection". It's a crappy fullscreen print of a VHS tape with Greek subtitles, but beggars can't be choosers (The user also has a nicer version, but it's in French only). Also featuring Lucas Byrne, Harry Markham, Anthony Webb, Jack Mackay, Patrick Douet and Nina Bannen. Not Rated.

DARK WATERS (1993) - "I am she that liveth and was dead. And behold, I'm alive forevermore and have the keys of Hell and death." A bell rings on a hilltop of a seaside village village on a small Island off the coast of Russia. It has been raining for several days, as we watch the island's church being destroyed by the quickly rising tide, killing the priest (Valeriy Kopaev) inside. We then see a nun hiding in the rocks on the shoreline, clutching an ancient stone amulet in her hands. She then climbs to the top of the rocks, but a supernatural force pushes her off and she dies on the rocks below, the stone amulet breaking into several pieces. A group of nuns collect the pieces, putting each piece in its own wooden box laden with religious symbols and hiding those boxes in the catacombs beneath their convent. Are the nuns hiding the pieces so the amulet can never be whole again or is there another reason?
     Twenty years pass and Londoner Elizabeth (Louise Salter) is going to the island after getting a letter from her friend, a nun named Theresa, saying to come to the island because she misses her friend, but warns Elizabeth that the island is like living in the Middle Ages, as there are no cars, telephones or even electricity, none of the modern convienences she might expect in the latter part of the 20th Century. Elizabeth's father has recently passed away and she discovers that he was giving the convent on the island a huge yearly stipend, so Elizabeth has two reasaons to go to the island: to see Theresa and try to find out why her father was sending the convent huge amounts of money for the past twenty years. Elizabeth inherited her father's fortune and hopes to discover the reason why her father was secretly sending the convent money and if she will continue doing it. While Elizabeth is traveling to the island, we watch the nuns gather together in the catacombs for a round of self-flagellation. Theresa (Anna Rose Phipps) accidentally finds one of the boxes containing a piece of the amulet, but a robed figure stabs her over and over with a dagger, killing her. The nuns continue chanting, as Theresa's bloody body falls near them, her blood mixing with the constantly flowing water and covering a painting of a crucified Jesus Christ.
     When Elizabeth gets to the mainland, she tries to find transportation to the island, first from a fisherman (Valeriy Bassel), who refuses to take her there today, but tells her he will take her there next week, no charge. When Elizabeth tells him she needs to go to the island immediately, he asks her, "Are you afraid of death?" A boat captain (Pavel Sokolov) offers to take her to the island right now, asking for a large sum of money which Elizabeth pays. While traveling to the island in the pouring rain, she sees a creepy deckhand eating recently caught fish raw, am insane look on his face and he rips apart the fish with his teeth. The boat captain says to Elizabeth, "Don't mind him. He keeps the other freaks away." Once on the island, young nun Sarah (Venera Simmons) greets Elizabeth, takes her to the convent and shows her the room she will be staying in. It is small and bare, with no electricity and no plumbing, but the sound of running water can be heard throughout the convent, as it doesn't ever seem to stop raining. Sarah tells Elizabeth that one day she hopes to visit London and Elizabeth says, "England? Why? You'd hate it, Sarah." We then learn that Elizabeth's mother was born on this island, telling Sarah, "She died giving birth to me." She also tells Sarah that her father spent most of his life trying to forget about this island. So why was he giving the convent a very healthy yearly payment? Elizabeth is determined to get to the bottom of the matter, but it just may be the death of her, or worse.
     The convent's old, blind (and ugly!) Mother Superior (Mariya Kapnist) agrees to talk to Elizabeth, but it's Mother Superior's Assistant (Lubov Snegur) who does all the talking because Mother Superior can't really talk; she just croaks and grunts, but her Assistant seems to understand what she is saying, acting like her translator. Elizabeth wants to know why her father was so secretive about the yearly donations and why he suddenly converted to religion since he spent most of his life an athiest. The Mother Superior croaks something and the Assistant says, "Sometimes secrecy is a blessing. We are a very secretive order, Elizabeth. We don't allow the corruption of the outside world to divert us from our divine purpose." Elizabeth asks if money counts as a corrupting factor and Mother Superior grunts something unintelligible and the Assistant says, "There's such a thing as a necessary evil, my child. Unfortunately, there are things not solved by prayer alone." Elizabeth appreciates that statement, but she wants to know why she should carry on with the payments. Neither Mother Superior or the Assistant say anything; Mother Superior plays with her rosary beads and the Assistant holds the wooden cross around her neck. After a short while, the Mother Superior croaks something and the Assistant says, "They serve a purpose, Elizabeth. Your father understood that and I trust you will, too, in time. In the meantime, I will do all I can to help you." (as long as that "help" doesn't involve telling her what the money is for!). She gives Elizabeth free access to the convent's extensive library, their ceremonies and everything that the convent has to offer. She also appoints Sarah to be Elizabeth's assistant, telling Elizabeth that Sarah will make a "willing" assistant.
     The rules of the convent state that Elizabeth is not allowed any personal belongings while she is there and she has to wear what is basically a burlap sack while she is in the convent. Sarah hands Elizabeth a letter from Theresa, saying Theresa left the convent a couple of days ago to go to London. Elizabeth knows this is a lie based on Theresa's previous letter. Elizabeth finds a book in the convent's library that has a deawing of a tentacled creature and the text underneath it reads: "The beast that thou sawest was and is not, and they that dwell on the Earth shall wonder when they behold the beast that was and is not, and yet is. And they shall make an image of the beast, for the whole of the image shall make the beast ascend out of the bottomless pit. And power will be given unto the beast. and all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, that sawest the face of the beast shall receive a mark, the mark of blindness that is and yet is not. For those who are blind shall see the true face of the beast and forever suffer it in their soul. The beast shall say unto the world, 'I am alpha and omega, the first and the last. I am she that liveth and was dead, and behold, I'm alive forever more and have the keys to Hell and death.'" Elizabeth then hears faint voices and sees nuns carrying a bloody dead body. she follows them and finds the area where Thereas was killed; a pit occupied by a blind man called "the Painter", who paints artwork on the pit's walls (and canvas), one of them depicting Theresa's murder. She tells Sarah what she saw and says she is sure the nuns murdered Theresa. Sarah seems genuinely surprised, telling Elizabeth they should try to discover the truth. Let me sum up the film in the following two paragraphs...
     While in the convent, Elizabth has dreams about two young girls playing in the convent and holdong the amulet, offering it to some unknown person. We are led to believe it is a young Elizabeth and Theresa, but we will soon discover that we were very, very wrong. Dead wrong. When Elizabeth actually discovers Theresa is dead (she gives the island's lazy postmaster [also the village butcher] a bribe and finds a letter from Theresa to her, telling Elizabeth not to come to the island because something is not right here), the nuns make several attempts on Theresa's life (strangulation by chain, stabbing and setting her on fire), but she manages to escape them all. She becomes scared and attempts to leave the convent, but the ship that would take her back to the mainland left a couple of minutes ago and won't be back until next week. She meets an old blind woman, who knows Elizabeth under a different name, but before she can learn more, the nuns invade the old woman's house and toss a flaming cross inside, burning the old woman to death. Elizabeth then learns that her mother isn't dead at all and that Mom's not human and neither is the sister she never knew she had...Sarah! (Wait until  you see Sarah when she removes her habit!). Her mother lives in the catacombs beneath the convent, where the nuns pray to her. Those that see her image go instantly blind, so why do the nuns pray to her?
     It turns out the nuns weren't trying to hide the pieces of the amulet, they were actually trying to find every single piece for the past twenty years so they could put it back together. They now have all the pieces and a ritual is about to take place. They weren't praying to God or Jesus at all, they were praying to a tentacled creature from Hell. Why do they pray to this creature? So they could summon it and create a Hell on Earth. (All the clues are in the book quotation above). So, does Elizabeth survive this? I'm afraid her fate isn't a happy one; it's actually a fate worse than death, but I'll leave that for you to discover (I will tell you this: She goes blind).
     It's no surprise that this film has many Lovecraftian touches, as this Russia/United kingsom/Italy co-production was directed by Italian Mariano Baino, his only feature film (he directed numerous shorts that also have Lovecraftian touches), as he is a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft. This film is very loosely based on Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", but the finale is straight out of "The Dunwich Horror" (fans of Lovecraft's stories will know what I mean since, if I say any more, it will give away the film's finale). This is a fantastic film to look at, thanks to cinematographer Alex Howe (THE WOMAN IN BLACK - 2012), who filmed this in many real locations in Ukraine, including the peninsula of Crimea and the Odessa Catacombs, giving each location a feel that death is around every corner. Water also plays an important role in this film, as it permeates nearly every frame of film. If we don't see water, we hear it, giving the film a very eerie vibe. It's almost as if water is a character, a very uncomfortable character for the viewer. While not a classic (I'm not a huge nunsploitation fan, as readers of this site know, and Baino and Andrew D. Bark's sceeenplay is a little too slowly paced, taking its time in the revelations department), it's still a beautiful, atmospheric feast for the eyes and gets a recommendation from me. Fans of Lovecraft are bound to dig it, as are those looking for something different to watch on a rainy night. This film is ideal under those circumstances.
     While this film didn't receive a theatrical release in the United States, it was released on VHS in 1998 and as a stand-alone DVD in 2000, both by York Entertainment, who also released it as part of a 4-film, 2-DVD (double sided) set titled BOX OF HORRORS, also in 2000, all using the title DEAD WATERS. Unfortunately, all of them are fullscreen editions, so it is best to avoid them. The no-longer-with-us NoShame Films released a beautiful widescreen version on DVD in 2005, either as a stand-alone disc or a 2-DVD Special Edition, which contains as extras Mariano Baino's short films, a Baino commentary track, as well as a replica of the film's stone amulet. In 2017, Severin Films released the film on DVD & Blu-Ray, the BD porting over all of NoShame's extras (except for the amulet replica), as well as new extras. The anamorphic widescreen version is also available streaming on Amazon Prime, free to Prime members. Not Rated, for reasons made perfectly clear when you watch the film.

THE DEMONS OF LUDLOW (1983) - The town of Ludlow, New England (actually filmed in Wisconsin) is celebrating its' 200th anniversary. The Ludlow Estate in England sends over an antique gold plated harmonium (a panio that sounds like a harpsicord) as a gift and soon people start dying. A reporter (Stephanie Cushna), who left Ludlow when she was nine, returns to do a story on the town's bicentennial. She knows that this is not the first time that the harmonium has been in town. Her grandfather once told her a story about the cursed harmonium and how it killed many of Ludlow's townspeople years before. She begins to dig for information and does not like what she finds. Meanwhile, strange things are happening in Ludlow. Object begin to levitate. Toy dolls come to life. A young retarded girl is torn apart by the demonic ancestors of Ludlow (hence the title). Blood mysteriously appears everywhere. Can the reporter and the town priest (Paul Von Hausen) stop this madness before it wipes out the entire town? Do you really care? This example of regional filmmaking comes to us from Bill Rebane, who first gained notoriety when Herschell Gordon Lewis took Rebane's unfinished film, TERROR AT HALFDAY (1965), added new scenes and released it as MONSTER A GO-GO. THE DEMONS OF LUDLOW is slightly better than most of Rebane's films (mainly because of the fleeting nudity and gore, including a bloody decapitation), but he still has a long way to go before he reaches the stature of Al Adamson. Rebane also photographs most of his films (including this one) using the pseudonym "Ito" (?!). Former GINGER heartthrob Cheri Caffaro is listed as one of the associate producers. If you decide not to rent this one, don't worry. You're not missing much. For more on Bill Rebane see BLOOD HARVEST, THE GAME and INVASION FROM INNER EARTH reviews. A TWE Home Video Release. Not Rated.

DESERT WARRIOR (1988) - Holy fuck! This is one truly terrible film. So terrible, in fact, that it could quite possibly be one of the most unintentionally entertaining movies ever made. On a post-nuke Earth, the world is ruled by evil warlord Baktar (Kenneth Peerless, here using the pseudonym "Kenneth Peer"), who stages gladiator fights in a miniature Thunderdome-style arena. Running out of fresh food and water, not to mention everyone is slowly dying of radiation poisoning (Baktar's attempt at getting women pregnant results in mutant babies), Baktar sends out his top warrior, Zerak (Lou Ferrigno, who isn't dubbed), to search for a woman who is not contaminated by radiation. That woman happens to be Racela (Shari Shattuck; THE NAKED CAGE - 1985), who is a member of an advanced race of humans called The Drones, who have lived underground since the nuclear bombs fell and therefore are radiation-free. Racela grows tired of living in caves and comes to the surface without permission to blow-off some steam. She is promptly captured by a tribe of mutant ninjas (!), but is soon saved by Zerak. As soon as their eyes meet (well, in Zerak's case, eye, since he wears a black patch over his radiation-scarred left eye), it's love at first sight. Meanwhile, Racela's father, Cortaz (Anthony East; FAST GUN - 1987), obtains permission from the Drones president, Antarius (Mike Cohen), to go to the surface to look for his daughter, but he is warned that if he decides to return to the Drones society, he and everyone he brings back will be executed (they don't want to be contaminated with radiation). As Racela tends to Zerak's battle wounds and nurses him back to health, Cortaz and his group of laser pistol-equipped soldiers begin the search for Racela, first running up against a tribe of mutant pygmies and then battling a tribe of radiation-scarred spear-chuckers. Racela and Zerak trek on foot through the blazing hot desert and just when it seems all hope is lost, they are rescued by Baktar, who plans to mate with Racela and bear normal children (Never mind that Baktar is contaminated. It's best not to dwell on those plot points.). This doesn't sit too well with Zerak, who reunites Racela with her father and send them on their way. Racela refuses to leave Zerak behind, so she steals one of her father's bubble-domed dune buggies and heads back to Baktar's village to free an imprisoned Zerak. She brings Zerak back to Drones headquarters, not aware of the death sentence imposed on all returnees, but they are both saved by Drones scientist Dr. Crea (Mike Monty), who has developed a serum that reverses radiation poisoning (He first uses it on Zerak and we watch as his mutant left eye returns to normal). Trouble ensues when Baktar and his men show up at the Drones' front door and a battle breaks out. Zerak then does something so fucking unrealistic to end the fight that I had to rewind the tape just to make sure I wasn't halucinating. I wasn't.  I have the feeling that we're either dealing with a demented genius or a clueless idiot in one-time director Jim Goldman. This Philippines-lensed film, produced by Hong Kong's Silver Star Film Company, is so poorly made and badly acted (Ferrigno has never been worse than he is here), I'm beginning to believe that Jim Goldman (who has no other credits in the motion picture industry) is actually a pseudonym for a Filipino director (Willie Milan [CLASH OF THE WARLORDS - 1985] would be my best guess). The film is full of many badly-staged action scenes, where the stuntmen can plainly be seen anticipating the explosions around them (yet they still are a good microsecond or two late in jumping in the air!) and laser gun battles where the optically added laser beams hit many people but they don't react. This flick is hilarious for it's many distractions, from the flubbed lines (no second takes here), badly recorded sound, fight scenes that look as if they were choreographed by someone with cerebal palsey and Lou Ferrigno's incredibly lame line readings (yeah, I know he's deaf but, c'mon people, he's simply awful). This is a total embarassment for everyone involved and is enjoyable for that fact alone. Watching this film is like passing a bad accident in your car. You know when you slow down to look at it, you may not like what you see, but you just can't help yourself. DESERT WARRIOR is one of the best train wrecks ever committed to celluloid and is a treat for all badfilm fans. You gotta love a film where Lou Ferrigno's Zarek says to Baktar in the finale, "Let me give you a hug!" and then does so, ending the final battle in a peaceful manner. Un-fucking-believable! The cliche-ridden script was written by Carl Kuntze (BLACK MAMBA - 1974) and Bob Davies, who definitely watched too many MAD MAX and STAR WARS rip-offs before penning this. Sonny Sanders (PHANTOM RAIDERS - 1988) was the Assistant Director. Not to be confused with Enzo G. Castellari's TUAREG: THE DESERT WARRIOR (1984), starring Mark Harmon. Also starring Jerry Bayron, Tony Young, Jim McKensie, Ernest Olsen, Christine Landson and Don Holden. Originally released on VHS by Prism Home Entertainment and not yet available on DVD. Rated PG-13, but don't let that put you off. There are several instances of topless female nudity and enough carnage (including Baktar grabbing a girl by her hair and ripping the top of her scalp off to prove she's a mutant) to keep you pleasantly surprised. UPDATE: Screenwriter Carl Kuntze wrote me an email explaining his (non) involvement with this film. To read it, click HERE.

THE DEVIL'S SWORD (1984) - As a sorcerer is sitting on a hilltop, he is nearly hit by a meteorite that whizzes past his ear. He grabs the meteor and takes it to his home, where he fashions it into a magical sword (the sword of the title). So begins another wild Indonesian fantasy, filled with violence, nudity and, above all, fun. We are next introduced to the Crocodile Queen (who can become invisible or turn into a crocodile). Every year a tribe of people sacrifice one of their male members to her, by throwing him naked into the lake where she lives (in a subterranean cave). The Queen resurrects warrior Banyu Jaga (Advent Bangun) to stop a wedding being performed by the tribe. He flies through the air, standing atop a boulder (like he was riding a surfboard!) and disrupts the wedding (when he jumps off the boulder, it crushes a tribal member against a tree). He tells the tribal leader that the Queen wants his newly-married son-in-law as a sacrifice (She fucks all her sacrifices and turns them into love slaves or cannibals that she keeps locked in a cage). When the tribal leader refuses, Banyu Jaga goes about killing nearly every male member of the tribe (decapitating a few and sending one guy twenty feet up in the air with a strike of his two curved swords). He then fights the tribal leader (he cuts off his hand and then disembowels him) and his daughter, the Bride, (and her umbrella of doom), before warrior Mandala (Barry Prima) arrives in town to save her. Mandala and Banyu Jaga (who once had the same master) fight it out, but Banyu resurrects some Crocodile Men out of the earth and they keep Mandala busy while Banyu delivers the groom to the Queen. Mandala gets a telepathic message from his master that he is in trouble and rushes to his home where Mandala discovers his master near death, his legs infected with puss-filled lesions. Mandala goes to the forest to retrieve a magic mushroom (in a scene that screams out "What The Fuck?!?"), grabs one, makes a potion and gives it to his master. He then cuts off both his master's legs with a sword to save his life! His legless master then gives Mandala a parchment, which is actually a map to the "Mountain of Swords", the location of the Devil's Sword we saw being made in the beginning of the film. Mandala the joins forces with the Bride to rescue her beloved from the clutches of the Crocodile Queen, but first they head to the Mountain of Swords to retrieve the Devil's Sword. He is not alone in his quest, as the Queen sends Banyu Jaga to also get the sword and three other evil warriors (each with different abilities and weapons) are also looking to get their mitts on it. Expect lots of gory goodness to follow.  If you're expecting logic, boy, do you have the wrong film! But if you want to be totally entertained, you picked the right flick. There are too many outrageous scenes and pieces of dialogue to describe in this review, but my favorite happens when Mandala and the Bride take a River Styx-like raft ride on their way to the Mountain of Swords. They are met on the bank of the bubbling, smoke-filled lake by a robed figure on a raft. When they are in the middle of the lake, the robed figure reveals itself to be a skeleton (!) and then they are attacked by three crocodiles that stand up on their hind legs (you really gotta see it to believe it!). The crocodiles attack them with huge serrated-edged swords (they look like chainsaw blades), until Mandala, the Bride and even the skeleton dispatch them by impalement or decapitation (a preferred way of death in this film). I guarantee that you will rewind this scene a few times, just to satisfy yourself that you didn't imagine it. The whole film has a delirious feel to it (the set design of the Crocodile Queen's underground lair is a marvel of imagination), including the trio of nasty warriors looking for the sword. They include a toothless old woman with a whip (She says to one warrior, "Wanna play around a little?); a bald-headed guy with a flying hat that decapitates people (He calls the old woman a "dirty daughter of a whore!"), which is a direct steal from MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1975); and a guy with a snake that turns into a fighting staff (He tells the old woman, "You smell worse than death!"). Their fight against each other and Banyu Jaga at the mouth of the cave that holds the Devil's Sword is a classic of weird cinema and I love that the old woman gets most of the insults directed at her (Including, "You polluted bitch-hound!). Her death is also truly memorable. Barry Prima and Advent Bangun have appeared together in many films, including Ratno Timoer's REVENGE OF NINJA (1984; Timoer also directed this film) as well as THE WARRIOR 2 (1983) for director Dasri Jacob. Like I've said before, there's nothing quite like the experience of watching Indonesian-made fantasy films and this one is an easily obtainable example if you need to pop your cherry or just to have a good time. Wait until you see the cyclops Prima has to fight in the cave. Simply unbelievable. Also starring Gudhy Sintara, Enny Christina, Rita Zahara, I.M. Damsyik and Kandar Sinyo. This film, produced by Gope T. Samtani for Rapi Films (Indonesia's prime supplier of sleaze) is available on DVD in a nice widescreen print from Mondo Macabro. Not Rated. Did I forget to mention that there's a crocodile that shoots laser beams from it's mouth?

DEVIL WOMAN (1973) - Weird Hong Kong/Philippines co-production that mixes martial arts action with horror elements. A woman gives birth to a strange-looking female baby during a torrential lightning storm and soon thereafter a rash of snake attacks takes place in the nearby village. The townspeople blame the killings on the little girl and her dirt-poor family, as the little girl, Manda, seems to have supernatural powers to control snakes. As a little girl, Manda is constantly taunted and teased by the town's children. When one of the kids tries to pull the scarf off of Manda's head (she's never without it), he is bitten by snakes and dies. The townspeople burn down Manda's parents house in retribution, killing her mother and father. Years pass and Manda (Rosemarie Gil; BLACK MAMBA - 1974), now a grown woman, lives in an underground cave in the mountains by herself. Manda has not forgotten about her parents' murders and every once in a while she and her snakes travel close to town to get some payback on those responsible for their deaths. She blackmails a clan of nomadic bandits to help her get revenge (she threatens them with her horde of snakes to keep them in line) and she has them try to kidnap Tina, the daughter of a wealthy local. Luckily, visiting Chinaman Shu Wen (Alex Tang Lec), arrives just in time to save Tina and kicks the asses of the bandits with his superior kung fu skills. This only pisses off Manda, who sends her snakes into town to commit more murders, which forces the townspeople to rely on reluctant stranger Shu Wen and his unbeatable martial arts techniques to help them defeat Manda, her snakes and the bandits. When Manda and the bandits finally do manage to kidnap Tina, Shu Wen must single-handedly defeat the hordes of bandits (who seem to get larger in number as the film progresses) in hand-to-hand combat, karate-chop a bunch of snakes (some of the flying variety!) and then face-off with Manda, who finally removes her scarf to reveal a bunch of slithery snakes where her hair should be. The finale reveals that Manda doesn't just control snakes, she can also shoot fireballs from her fingertips and become invisible at will. Too bad the snakes on her head didn't look behind her, because as Manda is walking backwards while doing battle with Shu Wen, she falls off a cliff and dies.  While the English dubbing is atrocious, DEVIL WOMAN is not without it's weird charms. Co-directors Albert Yu and Felix Villar (ISLA DE TORO - 1971), working with a script by producer Jimmy L. Pascual, offer enough demented moments to keep the viewer off-balance, especially the party Manda throws in her underground lair for the bandits, where she allows them to rape a bunch of local girls while she sits on her throne watching it all, until she suddenly changes her mind and sics her snakes on one bandit who is raping just a little too rough! While the film is obviously lensed in the Philippines, the only person in the cast who is worth a damn is Chinese and, even though he refuses to fight, he manages to kick butt every ten minutes or so. While this film can't match the craziness or real-life snake slaughter of Hong Kong productions like THE KILLER SNAKES (1974) or CALAMITY OF SNAKES (1982), it does manage to give you the willies on several occasions, such as when Manda seduces a local man and when he goes to kiss her, he ends up slipping his tongue to a snake instead. Believe it or not, DEVIL WOMAN is really a love story at it's core, where Manda wishes she could have a normal relationship with a local man she was friends with since they were kids, but her Gorgon-like head full of snakes makes that dream an impossibility. While not a good film by any stretch of the imagination (the poor English dubbing, where everyone, including the women, speak with the same halting mid-sentence pause like William Shatner ["I are here!"], turns this film into an unintentional parody), DEVIL WOMAN (also known as EVIL SNAKE GIRL and MANDA THE SNAKE GIRL) is just different enough to hold your attention. A year earlier, the Filipino production NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN (1972; also starring Rosemarie Gil) covered much of the same ground as this film. Also starring Romy Diaz, Yukio Someno, David Yao, Lito Legaspi, Peter Multan, Joe Garcia, Yuen Yan Wei and Cheri Gil (Rosemarie's daughter) as the young Manda. This actually got a theatrical release in the U.S. in the mid-70's (the artwork on the ad mats gave away Manda's not-so-secret reveal), but never received a legitimate U.S. home video release until Something Weird Video released a scratchy print on VHS in the late 90's. BRUKA, QUEEN OF EVIL was shot back-to-back with DEVIL WOMAN and is not, as is erroneously reported on several sites and reference books, the same film, even though it shares some of the same actors, director and crew. Now available on an anamorphic widescreen double feature DVD (with Jim Sharman's THE NIGHT THE PROWLER - 1978) from Code Red. Also available from Code Red on Blu-Ray, with DRAGONS NEVER DIE (1974), the second feature when it opened in U.S. theaters as a double feature.    Rated R.

THE DIVINE ENFORCER (1991) - This is the best laugh that I've had in a long time although I doubt the filmmakers intended it that way. I also doubt that this film will be endorsed by any Catholic organization. Father Daniel (Michael Foley) is the new priest in town. When he hears confessions, he uses that information to punish sinners vigilante-style. With his arsenal of cross-shaped weapons and martial arts skills, he kills all the heathens that cross his path, but not before giving them one last chance to repent. Father Daniel also has "the sight", the ability to know something is going to happen before it does. The town is also under the grip of terror known as the "Vampire Killer" (terribly overplayed by a chunky Don Stroud), a psychopath who kills women by draining and drinking their blood then cutting off their heads. He then boils the heads and uses the skulls for his enjoyment (he uses one as a cereal bowl!). He makes a couple of visits to Father Daniel's confessional, where he taunts the poor Father. Since the confessional is sacred, Father Daniel must take the law into his own hands. Spouting such hilarious lines as, "Open the gates of Hell, for I am the right hand of God!", he hunts down the Vampire Killer and plants a crucifix-shaped dagger into his heart. The strange finale suggests that Father Daniel may indeed be God himself! This habit-forming (no pun intended) piece of sacreligious schlock is poorly made but holds your attention due to its offbeat subject matter. The sound is bad, the actors step on each other's lines and the plot situations have to be seen to be believed. Judy Landers plays the miniskirted housekeeper (!) of the parish. Erik Estrada (spelled "Eric" in the opening and closing credits!) is the bored monsignor. Jan Michael Vincent (again showing what alcohol and cocaine abuse can do to a career) is another priest who gets knifed in the neck by Stroud. Jim Brown and Robert Z'dar portray drug runners who get swift justice from Father Daniel. Carrie Chambers portrays a girl who also has "the sight" and helps Father Daniel find the Vampire Killer. There's even a Japanese Madonna-wannabe named Hiroko who sings us her latest hit. I'll bet none of these people will ever use this film as a reference! Yet, it is facinating in so many ways with its religious themes mixed with extreme bits of violence, nudity and strange visuals (including a talking skull) that I would have to recommend THE DIVINE ENFORCER to those looking for something unusual. It's bad but it's entertaining! I wonder what first-time director Robert Rundle, with his skewed sense of reality, will offer us next? (Turns out that would be the extremely bad, yet grossly entertaining sci-fi actioner CYBERNATOR - 1992; Rundle would also co-write the screenplay to RUN LIKE HELL [1995], a film so awful, it would sit on the shelf for nearly 15 years before its eventual release, or rather, escape, on home video). A Prism Entertainment Release. This film is Unrated.

ENCOUNTERS IN THE DEEP (1979) - "No one can be certain of the identity of UFOs. According to some sources, they belong to our planet. To others, they come from space. However, there can be no doubt of their existence. There are thousands of irrefutable recorded testimonies. We'll site only a few. Joseph Allen Enoch, astrophysicist and professor at the University of Chicago, who has founded a center for the investigation and study of UFOs: [Joseph] 'I've worked for 18 years with the Air Force and have examined 12,681 different phenomenon, all of them unexplainable. I haven't the slightest doubt of the existence of UFOs, however, I have no explanation as to what they are in reality, nor where they come from.' [Narrator] I now quote from Professor Felix Ziegler of Russia, who has documentation of the only known catastrophe caused by a UFO: On June 30th, 1908, the greater part of the District of Tunguska, in Siberia, was destroyed by a tremendous explosion. It was produced by the falling of a flying object, which crashed after maneuvering in a wide circle. After a large radioactive cloud lifted, some metallic fragments were found, which could not have belonged to any meteorite. In 1945, at a naval base in Fort Lauderdale, a squadron of fighters on training maneuvers disappeared. The squadron was recently discovered in a deserted region in Mexico." After this long-winded narrative opening (and there is much more I haven't bothered to mention), we are on a naval ship in the waters of the Bermuda Triangle, when a bright yellow light comes out of the ocean and fries everyone on board the ship.
     We then see newlyweds John (Carlos Pinar) and his bride Mary (Carole Andre; THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY - 1971) taking a cruise off the coast of Florida on a yacht Mary's father, Mr. Miles (Gabriele Ferzetti; THE PSYCHIC - 1977), gave them to use on their honeymoon, as they cruise to Nassau. As John and Mary are talking to Mr. Miles on the ship's radio, the water around them begins to boil and the yellow light engulfs the ship, causing the radio to lose contact with them. Mr. Miles, who loves his daughter with all his heart, sends a Coast Guard helicopter and a ship to look for the newlyweds, but the chopper has mysterious engine trouble and so does the ship (blamed on "magnetic interference"), forcing the Coast Guard to cancel the search and return to base. Mr. Miles is not satisfied and tries to hire Professor Peters (Manuel Zarzo; MY DEAR KILLER - 1972), based on his writings and theories about "alternate dimensions" caused by "whirlpools of energy" that are capable of attracting objects and absorbing them, sending the objects to another dimension. Professor Peters tells Mr. Miles to accept the fact that his daughter and son-in-law are gone, because the waters surrounding the Bermudas can never be explained, but Mr. Miles still has hopes of finding them alive and unharmed. Mr. Miles offers to finance all of Peters' experiments if he will help him and wants no guarantees, just hopes that they are still alive. Peters accepts, but first he has to assemble a crew. Peters' first hire is Scott (Producer Andres Garcia; the star of similarly-themed THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE - 1978), an old friend of his, who captains his own boat. Scott hires Mike (Gianni Garko; THE NIGHT OF THE DEVILS - 1972) as his First Mate ("He's the only man that I trust") and Scott, Mike, Peters and Mr. Miles, along with a small crew, including Pop (Alfredo Mayo; IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH - 1970), Ronnie (Alan Boyd; TENTACLES - 1977) and a dog named Mickey, head for the waters off the island of Bimini.
     Once there, Scott and Peters dive to the ocean floor, where they are almost devoured by a shark, but they find a cave emitting a bright yellow light (uh, oh!). As Mickey starts barking uncontrollably, Scott and Peters decide to go back to the boat, putting off looking in the cave for another time. Once on board, Peters gives Mr. Miles some hope, telling him, "There exist forces from outer space situated below the seas. John Spencer sustains, however, that other beings from outer space visit us periodically on this planet, carrying out authentic kidnappings. Unifying these two theories, I've come to the conclusion that these disappearances are due to the workings of extra-human intelligences and that they work in the depths of the seas." (I just have two questions: Who in the hell is John Spencer? And what the hell is an "authentic" kidnapping?). As Peters is talking to Mr. Miles, the sea in front of them begins to bubble with a yellow hue, but then it stops as quickly as it began. Ronnie tells Mr. Miles that he thinks this alien intelligence were the first humans on Earth and now they want to come back to claim the planet as their own.
     The next morning, Mike dives into the ocean to try out a new camera, but an orb of yellow light engulfs him, sucking all the oxygen out of his scuba tank. Scott dives in and brings Mike to safety, but he has been without oxygen for over three minutes. Scott is able to revive him, but Mickey begins to bark and growl at Mike like he doesn't know him. It is obvious to the viewer that Mike is no longer Mike and it is also not lost on Scott, who tells Pop to keep an eye on him while he, Ronnie and Peters make a second dive to the cave. On their way to the cave, Peters' gear gets caught on some rocks, so Scott frees him and they all head back to the boat, but Ronnie never surfaces. Mike tells them not to bother to look for Ronnie because it is useless to attempt it. Scott dives in anyway, but his search for his friend is unsuccessful. Peters tells Scott that they are closer than anyone to solving this mystery, especially when he discovers one of the rocks he collected during their dives is made out of pure plutonium, a metal that solves the problem of force versus weight, in other words, this part of the ocean floor could be a storage base for outer space provisions (I know, WTF?!?). The Coast Guard radios Scott, asking for his position and when Scott gives it to them, the Coast Guard informs him that a freighter is heading right for him, but they lost contact with them when they radioed in that they were surrounded by yellow lights. Scott's boat then enters a thick fog bank and radar shows they are close to the freighter, so Scott and Peters decide to board it, even though Mr. Miles informs them that's not why they are here (but there are rules at sea that Scott must follow and that includes boarding a ship that doesn't respond to radio contact).
     Scott and Peters board the freighter, but no one is on board, it's a ghost ship, even though someone's pipe is still smoking and the ship's engines are still warm. They head back to Scott's boat and radio the Coast Guard with the freighter's position, so they can tow it back to shore. Suddenly, the freighter disappears on Scott's radar and when they go on deck, it is nowhere to be seen. Scott then wants to dive to the bottom to take a closer look at the cave and Mike talks him into letting him to tag along with him and Peters, telling Scott that he no longer fears dying.
     When they dive to the bottom, Scott and Peters get caught in a whirlpool land are engulfed in the yellow light. Only Mike surfaces and tells Mr. Miles and Pop not to look for them because their "fate has been pre-arranged". We then see Scott and Peters surfacing, but the boat is nowhere in sight. They are actually in an underground grotto in the cave and it soon becomes clear that they are no longer on Earth, at least no Earth they are familiar with. Mr. Miles hears his daughter's voice and then she appears, telling him she is alive and will return when the "Earth is a better place." She leads her father into the water and Pop sees them both disappear from view. The Coast Guard then arrives, but they cannot find the freighter or Scott's boat. We see a drunken Pop laugh and discover that Scott and Peters are now on the alien's spaceship, as they have a close encounter of the third kind (these are "gray aliens"). Scott and Peters approach them and they are met by John, Mary and Mr. Peters, all of them smiling. The film ends with the Coast Guard ship witnessing an island that shouldn't exist in the area exploding and an alien spacecraft flying into space. We then see that Pop and Mickey were rescued, but no one believes Pop's story, one official telling another that we may be the crazy ones, not Pop.
     There's really not much meat to this Spain/Italy fantasy film, directed by Tonino Ricci (CROSS CURRENT - 1971; BAD KIDS OF THE WEST - 1973; WHITE FANG TO THE RESCUE - 1974; RUSH - 1983; THOR THE CONQUEROR - 1983; NIGHT OF THE SHARKS - 1988), who uses his frequent "Anthony Richmond" pseudonym here. The screenplay, by Jaime Comas Gil (Ricci's PANIC - 1982; and RAGE - 1984), is nothing but a series of unexplained events that happen, trying to mystify the audience, but if you have no knowledge about the Bermuda Triangle, all it will leave you with is confusion. Also adding to the confusion is the scientific mumbo-jumbo that comes out of Peters' mouth, which we are supposed to take as fact, but very few people will understand it because it really makes no sense at all. Even with all this against it, the film works as a fantasy if you can put your mind in neutral and just go along for the ride. Be aware that there is no nudity or bloody violence and you may find yourself enjoying the experience. It is a decent little mystery that has a proper finale, but you'll forget about the film as soon as it ends because nothing about it is memorable.
     Shot as INCONTRI CON GLI UMANOIDI ("Meeting With Humanoids"), this film never received a U.S theatrical release and, as far as I can discern, never had a legitimate VHS or disc release in the U.S. either. Amazon Prime offers a decent fullscreen print of this film streaming, which seems to be open matte, as no information seems to be lost on screen, not even the opening credits. It should be noted that Tonino Ricci directed a film called CAVE OF THE SHARKS (1978) made back-to-back with this film, also starring Andres Garcia, which touches on many of the points in this film, but it is very hard to find (I tried). When I find a copy, I will be reviewing it.  Also starring Olga Bustoldo, Manuel Madeira and Jose Riesgo (NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF - 1980). Not Rated, but there is nothing in this film that goes beyond a PG Rating, not even any foul language.

GHOST BRIGADE (1993) - This is a strange genre film (also known as THE KILLING BOX) that deals with a group of undead soldiers attacking both Union and Confederate platoons during the Civil War. A Union officer (Adrian Pasdar of NEAR DARK - 1987) releases a Confederate officer (Corbin Bernsen) from prison to help him track down the renegade battalion. Clues left behind point to Bernsen’s former troop as committing the massacres, even though they have died two years earlier in a Union "killing box". Bernsen discovers that his former battalion have been possessed by an unseen force, brought from Africa years before on slaver ships, making them impervious to bullets or knives. A mute slave girl (Cynda Williams), who is clairvoyant, helps Bernsen and Pasdar track the undead brigade which results in a battle to the death. This compact film (80 minutes; an uncut 92-minute version was released on DVD under the title GREY KNIGHT) contains some striking visuals and gory effects (supplied by KNB Effects, the busiest effects house in the business) and the unusual subject matter manages to hold your attention. Although it is leisurely-paced, I found it to be a good bet for renters. Also starring Ray Wise, Roger Wilson and Martin Sheen (enough already!). Directed by the late George Hickenlooper (HEARTS OF DARKNESS: A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE - 1991), produced by Brad Krevoy and Steve Stabler and written by Matt Greenberg. The sets were left over from TBS’ production of the four hour telefilm GETTYSBURG (1993; also featuring Sheen). A Turner Home Entertainment Video Release. Rated R. Other similarly-themed films include  NIGHT OF HORROR (1978), CURSE OF THE CANNIBAL CONFEDERATES (1982), the slow-paced but affecting EYES OF FIRE (1983) and the disappointing THE SUPERNATURALS (1986).

GHOST WARRIOR (1986) - In 1552 Japan, samurai master Yoshi (Hiroshi Fujioka) is shot with an arrow and crashes through the ice of a frozen lake after unsuccessfully trying to rescue his wife from a rival clan (she dies after an enemy fighter impales her with a throwing knife). Over four hundred years later, Yoshi's body is found encased in ice and a scientific team, led by Dr. Alan Richards (John Calvin), attempt to revive him. Viewing the procedure is oriental antiquities expert Chris Welles (Janet Julian), who is given Yoshi's sword to study. The sword is "the best of the best", belonging to a man who would be considered a bushido master, according to Professor Takagi (Robert Kino), a Japanese sword expert. When Yoshi comes to, Chris and Dr. Richards try to speak to him (without much luck) and then Chris gives him back his sword and clothes (a risky move that pays off). Chris begins to build a friendship with Yoshi, but he doesn't particularly care for Dr. Richards (he's a good judge of character). When a greedy guard tries to steal Yoshi's sword (it's worth a fortune), Yoshi kills him and escapes the facility (he gets his first taste of TV [a W.A.S.P. music video!] while passing the guard station and doesn't like what he sees) and faces the modern world for the first time. He is amazed at the sight of cars (he's smart enough to know to disable a car by puncturing the tires), the city skyline at night and saves an old man from a street gang led by Johnny Tooth (an unrecognizable Peter Liapis of GHOULIES), by slicing up his gang with the sword. The police, led by Detective Berger (Frank Schuller), investigates the murder of the guard (Berger calls it "A terminal mishap of major proportions") and pretty soon there are reports of a strangely-dressed man walking around town. Chris begins searching the street for Yoshi, fearing for his life, as Yoshi battles Johnny Tooth and the rest of his gang, who use motorcycles and guns with little effect. Chris finally catches up with Yoshi and tries to shield him from Dr. Richards (who wants to dissect him) and the police, but Richards kidnaps Yoshi and tries to kill him by injecting an air bubble in his heart. It doesn't work and Yoshi and Chris steal a horse with the police and Dr. Richards not far behind. The police capture Chris while Yoshi leads a police helicopter on a chase. After killing Dr. Richards, saving Chris and getting shot by Detective Berger, Yoshi plunges into a lake after telling Chris, "There are no second chances."  This film, a Charles Band production for his Empire Pictures outfit (which included such films as ZONE TROOPERS - 1985 and RE-ANIMATOR - 1985) and directed by J. Larry Carroll (his only directorial credit, although he did co-write the screenplays for TOURIST TRAP - 1979 and THE DAY TIME ENDED - 1980, other Charles Band productions), is a slow-moving, but never boring, fantasy fish-out-of-water tale. Yoshi's interaction with the modern world is never played for comic relief on his behalf, but rather as how an intelligent person would react to things that are unknown (one comical scene has two diners mistaken Yoshi for Toshiro Mifune when he walks into a Japanese restaurant!). There are bloody bits of violence whenever Yoshi uses his sword, as hands and other appendages are sliced up or open (both Johnny Tooth and Dr. Richards die memorable deaths). While this film was primarily made to cash in on the success of ICEMAN (1984), it has enough merit and heart to stand on it's own. It's a nice way to spend a laid-back 81 minutes that's punctuated by some unexpected moments of graphic violence and some racist dialogue (Johnny and his gang call Yoshi "nip", "slant eyes" and "bonzai", although I'm not sure if "bonzai" is a racist term). Originally made as SWORDKILL in 1984 and not released to home video until 1986. Also starring Charles Lampkin, Joan Foley, Bill Morey, Andy Wood and Larry Cedar. A Vestron Video Release. Rated R.

GUNAN, KING OF THE BARBARIANS (1982) - I was never a fan of Italian Sword & Sorcery films of the '60s or even the '80s revival, where graphic violence and nudity were added into the mix, but I'll be damned if I didn't enjoy this weird, compact little flick, which clocks in at a scant 78 minutes. Maybe I'm just getting soft in my old age or maybe I'm just thankful it didn't waste more of my time, but there's something about this film that had me not hating it like I do most films in this genre (which is why precious few of them are reviewed on this site). I think I have it figured out, but that will come after a description of the plot.
     A tribe of brutal barbarians called the Hungat, led by the evil Nuriak (Emilio Messina; THE BIG RACKET - 1976), attacks a peaceful village just as Mevian ("Lucky Aras", a.k.a. Fortunado Arena; MEAN FRANK AND CRAZY TONY - 1973) and midwife Nayda ("Alba Lines", a.k.a. Alba Maiolini; THE OTHER HELL - 1980) are about to deliver young Mina's (actress unknown) baby boy, Mevian telling Mina that the baby boy will be called Zukahn and his "awesome presence will bring peace to this world again. The Sacred Prophecy will come true!" It turns out that Mina drops two baby boys, twins, just as Nuriak and his men attack the village. Mevian orders Nayda to take the twin baby boys away and make sure they are safe, because in her hands are their people's destiny, telling her to run away as fast as she can. The Hungat kill everyone they come in contact with, cutting off heads and slaughtering men, women and children with axes and swords. Mevian puts up a gallant fight, but he is run-through several times by Hungat barbarian swords, leaving Mina on her own at the mercy of Nuriak, who decapitates her with his sword. When he learns Mina has just delivered a baby boy (he has no idea there are two of them), he orders his men to look for and kill it. We then see Nayda running like the wind to avoid the Hungat, the twin boys in her arms. When she reaches a beach, she collapses, when a band of Amazons, members of the Kuniak tribe find a dead Nayda on the beach, the twin baby boys lying next to her.  One Amazon says, "But the Prophecy said only one child would be found on the beach!", so they pick up both the baby boys and bring them back to their village.
     Over twenty years pass and we see the Queen of the Kuniak (Rita Silva; THE NEW YORK RIPPER - 1982) telling the fully-grown twins that they must fight each other in a contest of strength and endurance. The winner will be crowned "Zukahn The Invincible" and the loser will be killed at their brother's hand. For over twenty years, both brothers were not given names, only referred to as "Nameless" (For twins, they don't look much like each other, they also have different color hair!). One brother ("Peter McCoy", a.k.a. Pietro Torrisi; CRY OF A PROSTITUTE - 1974) wins the contest, but he refuses to kill his brother ("John Richmond", a.k.a. Giovanni Cianfriglia; THE FINAL EXECUTIONER - 1983), who will always be known as "Nameless" and be kept prisoner in the village for the rest of his life (Wow, this is a strict tribe of Amazons!).
     Zukahn leaves the Kuniak village to kill Nuriak, the man responsible for beheading his mother, not knowing that Nameless has stolen a horse and has escaped the village. We then see Nuriak telling his tribe of barbarians that he must kill Zukahn before the Prophecy comes true (How long is this Prophecy anyway???). Nameless is looking for Nuriak, thinking that if he kills him, the Kuniaks will let him live a free life. He runs into Nuriak in the desert and tells him he is Zukahn, but Nuriak doesn't believe him and they get into a sword fight, leading to Nuriak beheading Nameless with his sword. While the real Zukahn is roaming the desert looking for Nuriak, he spots Nameless' head on a pike and vows vengeance. Now he must kill Nuriak for the deaths of his mother and brother. Zukahn faces down Nuriak, only to get an arrow in his back, shot by another member of the Hungat tribe, forcing him to retreat. Weakened, Zukahn makes his way back to the Kuniak village, where Kuniak Amazon witch Marga (Melisa Lang" a.k.a. Malisa Longo; SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN - 1974) attends to his wounds (Marga has the power to turn into a lion at will).
     As Zukahn is recuperating from his wounds, he meets Lenni (Sabrina Siani; 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS - 1982), a beautiful woman the Amazons kidnapped to "copulate" with their men (The Amazon women are barren and unable to bear children, so they kidnap women to screw with their mates and get pregnant, therefore letting their tribe continue to exist). Marga gets extremely jealous when she sees Zukahn falling in love with Lenni, so she decides to do something to Lenni so Zukahn doesn't copulate with her. Zukahn is knocked out by four men he has never seen before and Lenni is kidnapped. When Zukahn wakes up, he puts a gory beatdown on the four men, killing them, and rescues Lenni. He tells her that they belong together, but he must leave because he is on a mission to avenge his mother and brother's deaths. Thanks to Marga's treachery, the Queen banishes Zukahn for crimes against the Kuniak (the four men he killed were Kuniak tribe members), telling him that Lenni will be given to one of their men to procreate with. Zukahn refuses to leave, challenging the best Amazon warrior to a fight to the death. He wins (thanks to the Queen's magic shield) and the Queen tells him he can stay in their village until he kills Nuriak.
     Marga wants Zukahn to make love to her, but he refuses, telling her it is forbidden for a man to even touch a Kuniak Amazon, pissing her off. Marga brings Lenni to Nuriak, telling him that Lenni is his to do what he pleases, also telling him that Zukahn will try to rescue her, setting up Zukahn for certain death. Marga tells Zukahn that Nuriak kidnapped Lenni, knowing full well that he will go to Nuriak's village half-cocked, letting his emotions overrule his brain. Zukahn is captured and tied to a rack and Nuriak makes Lenni hug Zukahn goodbye, as wooden spikes slowly pierce the flesh on her back. Nuriak leaves, telling Zukahn that he will watch helplessly as the spikes slowly go through Lenni's body, but Zukahn and Lenni escape (Don't ask me how!). The Queen discovers Marga's treachery and kills all of Nuriak's men with her magic shield (Don't ask!), leaving Zukahn and Nuriak to fight each other in a battle to the death, Zukahn wins, disemboweling Nuriak with his sword (his innards spill out of his body and fall to the ground), before cutting off Nuriak's head with the same sword. Zukahn gets his revenge, gets the girl and parts company with the Kuniak on good terms.
     If it seems like large parts of the film are missing, it's because they are, as this film gets right to the bloody action (most of it shown in super slow-motion), cutting out nearly all of the exposition. It's also very gory and chock-full of female nudity. Director "Frank Shannon" is actually Francesco Prosperi, who also gave us RIPPED OFF (1972), MEET HIM AND DIE (1976), DEADLY CHASE (1978), LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH (1978) and THE THRONE OF FIRE (1983), another bloody sword & sorcery flick starring Pietro Torrisi and Sabrina Siani, and screenwriter "Peter Lombard" is Piero Regnoli, director of THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE (1960), as well as writer of PATRICK STILL LIVES (1980), BURIAL GROUND (1980) and VOICES FROM BEYOND (1991). There's not much meat to the plot of this film, but it's never boring, as it is basically people losing their heads and other appendages to swordplay and not much else. The plot is paper thin, but the gore and nudity are plentiful, making this trifle of a film a good bet for people with nothing much better to do. I know that's not high praise, but it is the best you will get from me, as I do not have such a high opinion for this genre of film. Hey, it's better than nothing!
     Shot as GUNAN IL GUERRIERO ("Gunan The Warrior") and also known as THE LOST WARRIOR, this film never had a theatrical release in the United States, but it did get a couple of VHS releases, from Prism Entertainment and its sub-label, A.N.E. Home Video, both using the title THE INVINCIBLE BARBARIAN. No legitimate disc releases in any format in the States, but Amazon Prime offers it streaming using a fairly nice anamorphic widescreen print dubbed in English. Also featuring Roberto Alessandri (BATTLE OF THE AMAZONS - 1973), Artemio Antonini (THOR THE CONQUEROR - 1983), Omera Capanna (CONTRABAND - 1980) and Bruno Di Luia (SYNDICATE SADISTS - 1975). Not Rated. NOTE: Not once do we hear the name "Gunan" uttered in this film!

HUMAN LANTERNS (1982) - Another amazingly bizarre martial arts fantasy courtesy of the prolific Shaw Brothers and director Sun Chung. Master Lung (Liu Yung, a.k.a. Tony Liu) and Master Tan (Chen Kuan Tai) are bitter rivals who try to embarrass each other in public as much as possible. At a gathering of their entire village, Master Tan insults Lung by not only announcing that he will have the winning entry in the upcoming Lantern Festival, he also trots out Lung's ex-mistress Yen Chu (Linda Chu) and declares her to be his newest concubine, which is not only a slap in the face to Lung, but also to Lung's wife, Chin (Tanny; BLACK MAGIC 2 - 1976), who is also in attendance. Determined to win the Lantern Festival, Lung hires master lantern maker Chung Fang (Lo Lieh; BLACK MAGIC - 1975), an old rival of Lung's who, seven years earlier, dueled Lung for Chin's hand and lost (he still bears the facial scars from Lung's sword), to make him the finest lantern money can buy. Fang reluctantly agrees, but only on one condition: Lung cannot return to Fang's workshop (a marvelously macabre place) until he is finished with the lantern. Lung agrees and celebrates their collaboration by taking Fang to a brothel, where Lung runs into Yen Chu and threatens her life for becoming Tan's concubine. Later that night, someone wearing a costume (best described as looking like an ape with a hairy skull mask and big-assed claws) kidnaps Yen Chu, brings her back to his place and proceeds to skin her alive (a graphic effect where he first cuts the top of her scalp open and pours mercury into the wound so her can remove her skin in one piece [I've looked this up and it was really done in ancient China!]). When the brothel's madam reports Yen Chu missing and tells Sergeant Poon (Sun Chien) that she heard Lung threaten Yen's life the day before, Lung becomes the town's pariah, shunned by everyone. When the costumed killer, who turns out to be Fang (no surprise there), kidnaps Master Tan's sister Mei (Lin Hsiu Chun) and skins her alive (offscreen this time), it sets off a series of deadly events involving a hired assassin (Lo Meng), the kidnapping of Chin by Fang and an escalating game of one-upmanship between Lung and Tan. The dueling duo realize too late that they are the ones being set-up to take the big fall, as Fang rapes, then kills, Chin (her skinning-alive is done in graphic close-up), Lung discovers Fang's beautiful completed skin lantern (which contains Chin's all-too-familiar mole!) and Fang and Tan team-up, along with Sergeant Poon and his men, to fight Fang in the well-choreographed finale, where Tan loses his life, Fang is burned alive and Lung is left horribly scarred (much worse than he left Fang seven years earlier). Lung finds redemption in his suffering, as he tells Sergeant Poon to give away all his riches to the poor while he travels the countryside to rediscover his humanity.  This sumptuously photographed film (the cinematography and set design are sights to behold) is one part martial arts actioner and one part graphic horror. Director Sun Chung (SEXY KILLER - 1976; BIG BAD SIS - 1976), who co-wrote the screenplay with I Kuang (THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN - 1977), offers many excellent fight sequences (with lots of well-done wire work), along with gory scenes of flaying, beheadings and other bloody mayhem. What's truly amazing about this film is its total lack of likable characters (the finale not withstanding), yet director Chung still makes it totally mesmerizing from beginning to end. The art and set direction, along with the colorful lighting schemes, also make this film stand out from most films of its type. Fang's basement workshop is a thing of surreal beauty, with its oversized spinning wooden gears, multitudes of pieces of hanging human flesh and predominantly neon red-lit color scheme, making it look like a piece of Hell has risen from below and set up shop in the outskirts of the village. Some other standout scenes include: Fang's fight with Mei in a barren forest; the village square littered with the hanging severed heads of Fang's victims; Lung and Tan's fight in a restaurant; and Lung's battle with Fang in the finale, where Fang's basement lair literally collapses around them (the effects work done in this scene is truly astonishing and looks dangerous as hell). Although there are only two skinning scenes shown onscreen, they are effective and brutal. There is some female nudity on view, but director Chung makes sure that none of it is the least bit sexy, as it is shown only during the flayings, which makes it all the more unnerving and disturbing. Fans of Hong Kong weirdness will find much to enjoy here. A classic of its kind. The only way to really enjoy HUMAN LANTERNS is to get your hands on the excellent DVD released by Celestial Pictures, which contains a beautiful widescreen print in Cantonese with optional English subtitles. Not Rated.

THE HUNGRY SNAKE WOMAN (1987) - More Indonesian weirdness that mixes jungle action, vampires, sex and, of course, snakes. In this second sequel to THE SNAKE QUEEN (1982), bad-ass rapist Brian (Advent Bangun; THE BLIND WARRIOR - 1985) must flee into the jungle after unsuccessfully trying to sexually assault virginal new girlfriend Carlita (Nina Anwar). Carlita escapes (but not before Brian shoves a screwdriver through her hand!) and runs home to her parents, where her father says to her, "Oh no, dum-dum! Always thinks she knows best. It's really your own fault!" Brian runs deep into the jungle, where he meets a female snake spirit (you really have to see her!) and her dwarf husband. Brian wants to know the location of the legendary Snake Queen (Suzzanna; QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC - 1979), so the snake spirit wraps him in her tail and tosses him there! Brian wakes up in a cave where trees are made of gold (unfortunately, they are guarded by snakes and scorpions) and the Snake Queen puts in an appearance. Brian offers to be her sex slave is she will make him rich, so the Snake Queen makes Brian an offer: He has a week to kill three women, drink their blood and then dine upon their breasts! If he accomplishes these tasks, she will make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. Suddenly, Brian is dressed like Count Dracula, complete with fangs, and kills his first female, a girl making out with her boyfriend in the woods. Brian bites her on the neck, drinks her blood and then bites off both her nipples! He then goes on to attack Suzy (also played by Suzzanna), but she is saved by Carlita's brother, Joe (George Rudy), and soon becomes Suzy's lover and protector. Brian tries to have it both ways and makes a side deal with the female snake spirit to kill the Snake Queen (it seems that the Snake Queen is responsible for the snake spirit's current condition). Using a pin supplied by the snake spirit, Brian stabs the Snake Queen while making love, permanently turning her into a snake and losing her powers. Suddenly, Brian has more money and power then he knows what to do with, so he becomes the boss of a criminal organization and tries to buy Carlita's hand in marriage from her father. He turns Brian down and shortly thereafter (with the snake spirit's help), Carlita's father is throwing up centipedes at the dinner table and dies when a huge snake bloodily bursts out of his chest. Carlita is then supernaturally taunted by a pair of scaly hands while sitting on a couch in a bid to convince her to marry Brian. All hell breaks loose when Joe removes the pin from the snake's body and the Snake Queen takes human form once again. Thinking that she is Suzy, he makes love to her, which opens a whole new can of snakes, involving revenge, a fake séance, mistaken identities, kidnappings and a fight involving a chainsaw. Love wins out in the end and all the good girls and guys live happily ever after. So does the Snake Queen.  I've said it once and I'll say it again: Watching these Indonesian fantasies is the closest you'll come to a fever dream without actually having a fever. Director Sisworo Gautama Putra, who also gave us the equally delirious films PRIMITIVES (1978), SRIGALA (1981), THE WARRIOR (1981), the previously-mentioned THE SNAKE QUEEN and it's first sequel PERKAWINAN NYI BLORONG ("Snake Woman's Wedding" - 1983), fills this film with weird visuals (you haven't lived until you have seen the Snake Woman flying through the air in her horse-drawn chariot or her transformation from snake to human in Joe's bedroom), outrageous set-pieces (the fake séance, where the Snake Queen turns the phony medium and his assistant into chickens!) and a lot of hilarious dubbed dialogue (After the first vampire attack, one guy reading a newspaper article of the attack says to another man, "He bit off her tits!" to which the other man replies, "He must have been hungry!"). Strangely, the non-linear storyline (script by Naryono Prayitno; Putra's SATAN'S SLAVE - 1982) begins to make sense as the film progresses and the finale, which involves fights to the death between the Snake Queen and the snake spirit (her snake body makeup can't be described using mere words) and Joe vs. Brian and his men (a chainsaw is involved), are best left for the viewer to experience. I haven't even mentioned that earlier in the film, the Snake Queen magically makes a disobedient man's clothes disappear and then impales him through the stomach with a sharp spike that suddenly pops-up out of the ground. Then, the Snake Queen's handmaidens cannibalize his body until only his bloody skeleton is left! Do I have to describe anything else to convince you to search this out? I didn't think so. A lot of sources list the production date of this film anywhere between 1983 and 1986, but I'm going to say it was made in 1987, since the tombstone of a recently deceased character shows that year as the date of his death. Also starring Dorman Borisman, S. Bono, Rita Supard and Yorita Murni. This was available on VHS and DVD-R in a widescreen Japanese-subtitled print from the now-defunct Midnight Video. You can still find copies available at various gray market sellers. Not Rated.

THE HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA (1982) - After the success of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), countless rip-offs appeared around the world. This Italian production, filmed in the Philippines, was one of the first. During the last months of World War II, the United States delivers an air strike on a Japanese outpost in Palawan, Philippines, while two commandos, Bob Jackson (David Warbeck; TIGER JOE - 1982) and Capt. David Franks (John Steiner; YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE - 1983), attempt to capture the outpost's leader, Yamato (Protacio Dee), on the ground. Yamato escapes on a plane that also contains a mysterious object that Yamato kills to keep, so Jackson and Franks steal a Jap Zero and give chase, which leads to a dogfight in the air and Yamato's plane crashing into the jungle. Jackson parachutes out of the Zero to check on Yamato's status, but when he gets to the downed plane, he finds Yamato and the object missing. After a short chase, Jackson catches up to Yamato, but before he can take possession of Yamato and the object (which is a statue of a cobra made out of solid gold), a tribe of headhunters shoot poison darts into both Yamato and Jackson. Yamato ends up dead, but the leader of the headhunters, a beautiful white woman with blonde hair named April (Almanta Suska), takes pity on Jackson, pulls the poison dart out of his body and floats his unconscious body on a tree branch down river to civilization. It's now one year later and WWII is over. Jackson is now a hopeless drunk who bets on cockfights in Manila. Capt. Franks shows up and offers Jackson a huge amount of money to go back into the jungle and retrieve the Golden Cobra statue, which legend says gives it's owner great supernatural powers. Jackson reluctantly agrees (after demanding $40,000 and, much to his surprise, it's agreed on) and, from that moment on, Jackson's life will never be the same. Not only are several attempts made on his life, but he is also introduced to American archaeologist Greenwater (Luciano Pigozzi, a.k.a. "Alan Collins"; CODE NAME: WILDGEESE - 1984) and his niece Jane (Suska again), who is the identical twin sister of April, who was lost in the jungle as a child when her parent's plane crashed in the jungle. Julie (who was sent to school in the States as a child) and her Uncle have come to the Philippines to find April (or so they say). After Capt. Franks is killed in a car bomb, Jackson, Julie and Greenwater head to the jungles of Palawan to search for April and the Golden Cobra. People will fall in love, motives will be revealed and lives will be lost, as the search gets more treacherous the deeper they travel into the jungle. Greed proves to be the undoing of two of the main characters and the surprise appearance of another character proves to be a lifeline to the survivors as a volcano gets ready to blow it's stack.  While nothing but a low-budget variation of RAIDERS (an ancient object with mythical powers; a pit of snakes; and ancient booby traps are just some of the similarities on view here), director Antonio Margheriti (using his frequent pseudonym "Anthony M. Dawson), who would plunder RAIDERS territory even further with his films ARK OF THE SUN GOD (1983) and JUNGLE RAIDERS (1985), and screenwriter Tito Carpi (Margheriti's ALIEN FROM THE DEEP - 1989) offer enough clumsily-staged action set pieces (some copied verbatim from RAIDERS) and bloody carnage to keep viewers entertained for 95 minutes. David Warbeck is no Indiana Jones (his emotional range runs the gamut from stone-faced to wooden), but he is pretty athletic here, getting into fistfights, dodging bullets and outsmarting booby traps. There are also human sacrifices; blowgun attacks, a cave full of deep, dark family secrets; a pit of lava; bloody bullet squibs; and Margheriti's patented miniature effects work (including the climatic volcano eruption). HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA (originally titled RAIDERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA until level, less litigious, heads prevailed) is nothing special, but it's an OK action adventure/fantasy for those looking for a little diversion that doesn't demand much brainpower on the viewers' part. Also starring Rene Abadesa. Originally released on VHS by Vestron Video in a cropped fullscreen print. The print I viewed was sourced from a nice widescreen Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

HUNT FOR THE GOLDEN SCORPION (1991) - Entomologist Tom Maitland (David Brandon; STAGE FRIGHT - 1987) is traveling down the Amazon River in Brazil when he is attacked by military types in three helicopters. Tom barely escapes into the jungle with his life, dropping a satchel containing his monogrammed cigarette lighter and American Express card (Don't leave home without it!). When a Brazilian official arrives at the Miami home of Tom's sister, Mary (Christine Leigh; JUST A DAMNED SOLDIER - 1988), with Tom's effects and a cock-and-bull story on how he died, Mary immediately grows suspicious. Later on that day, when Mary finds her home ransacked and her German Shepard, Apollo, beaten brutally to death with a baseball bat, she grows even more suspicious. The capper comes when she receives a letter from Tom that is postdated two days after he supposedly died and inside the envelope are two photos of Tom standing next to an object that he says is so remarkable, he can't describe it to her in a mere letter. Mary heads to Brazil, where she learns Tom is being held prisoner in a jungle camp on trumped-up drug running charges and that he knows the location of the legendary Golden Scorpion, a mythical statue that is said to contain the largest emerald known to man. Mary's life is in constant peril and when she is saved from a kidnapping by down-on-his-luck adventurer Jim Foster (Andy J. Forest; MARK OF THE SCORPION - 1986), she talks him into helping her find her brother and locate the Golden Scorpion. Tom is being held in a military prison by the same people who blew up his boat in the beginning of the film, on orders from evil Scottish businessman Guy McDonald (Denis Bourke), who wants Tom to give him the map to the Golden Scorpion location, but Tom says it was destroyed when the military blew up his boat. Jim and Mary join forces with Ahmed (Max Saura), a Lebanese national, when he saves their lives in the jungle from a band of raping pirates. The trio eventually break Tom out of prison after a lengthy gunfire and explosion-filled battle (where, incredibly, Mary proves adept with automatic weapons and hand grenades) and they head towards the location of the Golden Scorpion, with McDonald and the corrupt military not far behind. Tom leads them to the Golden Scorpion, where Ahmed shows his true colors (his greed proves to be his undoing) and McDonald shows up with his own private mercenary force (He sticks it to the military). McDonald takes the Golden Scorpion, but instead of killing Mary, Tom and Jim, he hands them three plane tickets back to the States! After being saved from the corrupt military officials by a blowgun-toting native, the trio head back to the States, where Jim has a couple of pleasant surprises to spring on Tom and Mary. He's actually a jewel thief who went to Brazil to steal the Golden Scorpion and he gave McDonald a cheap replica he had made and was carrying in his possession the whole trip. Now all three of them can enjoy the riches the Golden Scorpion will bring them. Holy stretching credibility, Batman!  Although nothing spectacular, HUNT FOR THE GOLDEN SCORPION is a fun and violent Italian action adventure film with plenty of action and bloodshed. Veteran director Umberto Lenzi (ALMOST HUMAN - 1974; SPASMO - 1974; CANNIBAL FERROX - 1981; GHOSTHOUSE - 1987), working with a screenplay by Olga Pehar (Lenzi's BLACK DEMONS - 1991), gives us numerous action set-pieces and plenty of bloody bullet squibs and fiery explosions, even tossing some humor into the mix (My favorite bit of humor comes when Jim breaks Tom out of prison and they hear the head of the military radioing-in, inquiring why he is hearing so much gunfire and explosions. Jim gets on the radio and tells him that everything is OK, they're just watching RAMBO III on TV!). Although the film doles-out convenience after incredible convenience (Watching Jim, Mary and Ahmed take-on nearly a hundred soldiers armed with rocket launchers and tanks while breaking Tom out of prison and coming out without a single scratch is one big leap of faith to throw on the viewer, if you ask me) and some of the dialogue risible (Tom: "You son-of-a-Scotsman!"  McDonald: "I thought for a moment you were going to call me a son-of-a-bitch!"), this film is enjoyable hokum if you don't set your sights too high. Sadly, Lenzi (who is still alive at the time of this review) would only direct two more films before retiring from the business. Also starring Philip Wagner, Cristina Amadeo, Renato Cutinho and Cecil Thire. Never available legitimately on home video in the States, but it can be found for purchase on many online gray market seller sites. Not Rated. UPDATE: Umberto Lenzi passed away on October 19, 2017. A sad day for Italian genre film fans.

THE IMP (1981) - Down on his luck Keung (Ching Hsiang Lin) is looking for a job to support his pregnant wife Lin (Yu Yee Ha), but he's not qualified to do much since quitting his job as a bra maker at Lin's father's sweat factory, a job he hated doing (For his whole life, Keung has had problems holding on to a job; a fault it seems that is not of his own making but is something written in the stars). With the gas just shut off in their apartment (the angry gas deliveryman tells Lin, "I hope your baby is born without an asshole!" Yipes!), Keung is willing to take any job offered to him, if only to stop the nagging, angry Lin from making him feel like an unfit father-in-waiting. While pounding the pavement looking for work, Keung answers a help wanted ad at Goldfield Enterprise Limited, only to find the building crawling with police and news reporters. It turns out that a crazy man has just killed the manager Keung was supposed to interview with and as the paramedics are carting away the manager's butchered body away, his bloody hand touches Keung's trousers, leaving a rather large blood stain on them. The crazy guy (who is led out of the building with a paper bag over his head) was just fired from Goldfield and he returned with a machete to chop-up his ex-boss. Could all this have happened because fate didn't want Keung to have this job? Keung eventually finds a job as a night watchman at a huge multistoried office building (he finds the job after the newspaper he is reading mysteriously blows open to the page with the help-wanted ad), working with other veteran watchmen like Fatty (Kent Cheng; RUN AND KILL - 1993), Old Uncle Han (Chan Shen) and Mr. H.K. (Wing Ching). It takes a while for Keung to adjust to working the night shift, and Lin, who is due to drop her baby in about a month, doesn't care for her husband's new hours (there is just no pleasing this bitchy woman). Mr. H.K. tries to cheer-up Keung by saying such priceless nuggets as, "Our wives just live like widows." and "After a few months, you can't tell when is daytime and when is night&ldots;seeing people as if you're seeing ghosts.", but Old Uncle Han tells him to quit scaring Keung, with Mr. H.K. retorting, "Really, it's true!" Mr. H.K. may be onto something because, as the film progresses, his statements begin to look like truth. One night while Keung is making his rounds, he gets a radio call to come down to the command center because his wife is on the phone. Thinking that Lin is about to have her baby, he hops on a freight elevator and begins a trip to the Twilight Zone. The elevator seemingly takes him to some sub-basement levels that don't exist, begins filling up with water and then opens its doors to reveal a green mist where a spooky laughing noise can be heard and a creepy portrait hangs on a wall. Of course, when Keung finally escapes and tells his co-workers what he saw, they think he is crazy because the elevator is dry as a bone. They should have believed him. The lights in the office fluctuate from going dark to ultra-bright and during their meal break, Mr. H.K. gets a bone stuck in his throat (they are all eating a dog that Mr. H.K. killed for messing with their trash!) and has to be rushed to the hospital. When the doctors remove the lodged bone (graphic operation footage), Mr. H.K. suddenly wakes up as if he is possessed, steps off the operating and spews mud all over a doctor before collapsing and dying. Old Uncle Han, who knows more than he is letting on, blames Keung for the strange events that are happening and asks the building's manager to bring in some monks "to clean the place". The manager flatly refuses, but leaves Keung's fate as a watchman in Old Uncle Han's hands. Han will never get to make that decision as, later in the day, a possessed newspaper (!) suffocates him in his apartment just before Keung comes to visit him. Is it possible that Keung is somehow responsible for everything that has or is about to happen? And why does Fatty's dog want to kill Lin's unborn baby? When Keung discovers that the building he is patrolling was once used as a hideout for child kidnappers and many children were murdered there, he must make the connection on how his birth date, the building and his pregnant wife all tie together. With the help of Fatty and a Chinese ghostbuster, let's hope he makes the connection before it is too late. Keung will have to take a trip once again on the haunted elevator and try to destroy the ghost of a devil child (the "imp" of the title) before Lin delivers her baby and it becomes possessed by its spirit.  This Hong Kong horror film, directed by Yu Wan Kwong (better known as "Dennis Yu" of THE BEASTS - 1980 and EVIL CAT - 1986 infamy), moves at a deliberate, slow pace, but rewards patient viewers, especially in the second half. While not overly gory, THE IMP does have its fair share of inventive kills (the possessed newspaper is a hoot) and plenty of creepy atmosphere. This is one of the first films where I can recall "fung shui" is used as a major plot device (if you don't know what fung shui is, Google it). The screenplay, by Cheung Kam-Moon, Kam Ping-Hing and Lee Dun, also uses numerology, protective scrolls and other Chinese-centric devices (such as ghosts not being able to cast shadows at noon and people having too much ying and not enough yang), but is refreshingly humor-free (unless you count the tee shirts Fatty wears; the first one says "Am I A Girl?" and later in the film he wears another one that says "No! I Am A Man", just before he drives his car into the green mist and is burned alive). Some inventive camerawork and a good music score also enhance this film, making it worthwhile viewing for Hong Kong horror fans (and since this is a Hong Kong horror film, don't expect a happy ending). A Mei Ah Entertainment DVD & VCD Release. Not Rated.

INVASION FROM INNER EARTH (1974) - Watching this Bill Rebane-directed dud is the ultimate test of patience. Once again, Rebane (using the pseudonym "Ito") delivers another film that goes nowhere, seems twice as long than it actually is and contains effects so cheap that it makes PLAN 9 look hi-tech in comparison. The basic premise is this: Five people are trapped in a cabin deep in the Manitoba, B.C. woods (actually Wisconson) while people all over the world are dying from a disease spread by an alien spacecraft using red lights and smoke. The five people bicker endlessly as they run out of food and get sporadic messages over their ham radio from an alien voice. One guy steals an airplane and it explodes on take-off. And then there were four. Another guy takes a snowmobile to get some help and is killed by the red lights. And then there were three. The final three (two guys and a girl) head out for civilization by foot, walking in the freezing snow looking for food and other signs of life. One of the guys is killed by the red lights as the remaining man and woman are turned into children (complete with loincloths!) by the aliens. The last shot is of the children walking hand-in-hand down a green field, the beginning of a new human race on a now-unoccupied Earth. Oh, brother! Relentlessly boring, this film begs for action, any type of action, to pop up unexpectedly. You'll get none of that here. What you do get is a non-stop talkfest and none of it is a least bit interesting. The only explanation given for the invasion is that Martians may have been living at the center of the Earth for the past 8,000 years and they're not happy with the way we're treating it. The special effects are laughable and consists of someone waving a red light around or setting off red smokebombs. The brief glimpses of the flying saucer reminds one of a modified hubcap. (To add insult to injury, the Genesis video box shows the Starship Enterprise from the STAR TREK series as the attacking alien ship!) The acting is amateurish, the sound (by H.G. Lewis regular Ray Sager) is tinny and the music (including stolen riffs from "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly") is atrocious. For more on badfilm director Rebane, see BLOOD HARVEST, THE GAME and THE DEMONS OF LUDLOW reviews. INVASION FROM INNER EARTH (a.k.a. THE SELECTED) is about as much fun as stepping on a rusty nail. And as painful, too. A Genesis Home Video Release. Not Rated, but nothing objectionable. Why bother? NOTE: Platinum Productions released this film under the title HELL FIRE in 1991. The description on the box would lead you to believe that it is actually a retitling of the 1986 film PRIMAL SCREAM but it is wrong. It also cuts out the entire finale of the film! It's a dupey picture and not worth your time or money. Avoid all versions at all costs!!!

JUNGLE HEAT (1988) - An Indonesian jungle cannibal flick starring Peter "Rambu" O'Brian! The film opens with archaeologist Albert (Charles Kaufman) leading a small group of scientists (including his wife and small daughter, Jessica) into the jungle looking for ancient artifacts. Their guide, Smith (Michel Banctel), has just stolen a fortune in diamonds from an angry native tribe, so Albert chases him into the jungle to retrieve the diamonds and return them to the tribe. The natives kill everyone at Albert's base camp except for little Jessica, who they take back to their village for human sacrifice. Meanwhile, Albert has caught up with Smith and a gunfight erupts, where Smith is killed and falls off a cliff with the diamonds and a seriously injured Albert stumbles into the jungle crying out for his wife and daughter. When the witch doctor is struck down by lightning and explodes (!) trying to kill Jessica with a phosphorous blade, the natives look at it as a sign from their god and make Jessica their new queen. Years later, when Albert has died a lonely, crazy man, his diary is discovered, which contains a map to the fortune in diamonds. Lola (Alba Fuad) and her lover, John (Johann Saimima), have possession of the diary and hire soldier of fortune Peter (Peter O'Brian) to guide them to the diamonds, unaware that evil Dutch businessman Nick (Didier Hamel) wants the diary. Nick's men kidnap Lola, which leads to a car chase where Peter and John crash their car and Peter chases them on foot to a train station (where a small gun battle erupts), but the bad guys get away with Lola. Nick forces Lola to lead him and his men to the treasure (he drags her behind a canoe in crocodile-infested waters until she agrees), but Peter and John are just a couple of steps behind them (Peter and John watch in the bushes as two cannibals cripple one of their own and let a leopard feed on him). Lola escapes from Nick when he and his men are captured by a headhunting cannibal tribe and brought to their village. Peter and John find Lola and they continue on their destination to the diamonds, while the cannibals begin decapitating and devouring Nick's mates (Nick avoids the same fate by showing the cannibals how to use pistols and shotguns!). After taking an unexpected ride over a waterfall, another tribe of natives captures Peter, John and Lola, the same tribe now presided over by a fully-grown Jessica, who is now called Mozizi. After Peter cures one of the tribe's sick children, Mozizi (who is now a blonde and buxom woman) takes a shine to Peter, which upsets tribal member Mogos (Advent Bangun; THE HUNGRY SNAKE WOMAN - 1987), who has had his eyes on her for many years. This leads to a battle to the death between Peter and Mogos, which ends with neither dying and Peter marrying Mozizi in a native ceremony. The honeymoon is short-lived when Nick and the cannibals invade the village with Mogos' help. This leads to a final battle between Peter and Mogos (there will be a death this time), while John and Nick fight it out next to a cursed pool containing a fortune in diamonds and jewels. Yes, it is all as strange as it sounds!  Even though this is a badly-dubbed mess (whoever dubs Peter O'Brian is at least two pitches too high), director Ratno Timoer (THE DEVIL'S SWORD - 1984; REVENGE OF NINJA - 1984; THE BLIND WARRIOR - 1985) and screenwriter Darto Joned (THE WARRIOR - 1981; THE SNAKE QUEEN - 1982) pack in enough craziness for a dozen films, including gunfights, car chases, gory shots of cannibalism, topless native women, arrow and spear impalements, a ride over a waterfall and plenty of decapitations. The fact that Lola is such a repugnant cunt throughout the film only adds to the fun. She's not much of a heroine in the traditional sense, as she screams out orders, squashes frogs with her hands, pushes native children around for stealing her bag of cigarettes and makeup (!) and generally makes every situation more tense than it needs to be. Peter O'Brian (THE STABILIZER - 1984; THE INTRUDER - 1986) gets the lion's share of the bad dialogue, though, and listening to him scream out, "You dumb fucking cocksucker fuck!", while fighting Advent Bangun to the death reminds us why we watch these Indonesian action flicks in the first place. This is as far from "realism" as one can get. Recommended on so many levels, I don't even know where to begin. Also starring Piet Burnama, Herman Saren Sudiro, Yani Timoer, Harun Syarief and Joseph Hungan. Produced by Gope T. Samtani for Rapi Films, Indonesia's premiere purveyors of sleazy entertainment. Never available on home video in the U.S.; the print I viewed was sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

JUNGLE RAIDERS (1985) - Italian RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK rip-off that contains equal amounts of action and humor. The film opens in 1938, as adventurer Duke Howard, a.k.a. "Captain Yankee" (Christopher Connelly; RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS - 1983) and his sidekick Gin Fizz ("Alan Collins"; real name: Luciano Pigozzi)) are leading Beverly Hills snob Logan (Dario Pontonutti) on a search in the Malaysian jungles for a rare golden statue, while being chased by headhunters. While Gin Fizz acts as a lookout, Captain Yankee and Logan enter a cave (A leech falls from the cave ceiling and attaches itself to Logan's neck as he screams out, "It's sucking my blood!" Captain Yankee ironically replies, "You're a millionaire. You should be use to that."), where they find the golden statue, but (of course) it is booby-trapped. Captain Yankee disables the traps and they steal the statue, but when they leave the cave, they discover Gin Fizz's body is riddled with arrows and is dead. They are chased by the headhunters and only Logan manages to escape by plane, but we then discover that Gin Fizz is very much alive and the "headhunters" are nothing but peaceful locals working in cahoots with Captain Yankee to fleece the rich and influential into believing that they are stealing rare and invaluable ancient artifacts. Yes, Captain Yankee is your classic con man and his next mark is pretty socialite Maria Janez (Marina Costa), whom he rescues from an attempted kidnapping, but Maria is well aware of his reputation and slaps him across the face, thinking that the kidnapping was his work. It wasn't, of course, as Maria is wanted by Tiger (Protacio Dee), the leader of the Borneo Pirates, who is working in conjunction with bad guy Da Silva (Rene Abadeza), because Maria and her partner, Professor Lansky (Mike Monty), have a diary that will lead them to the legendary Ruby Of Gloom. Captain Yankee and Gin Fizz get themselves involved when crooked Inspector Warren (Lee Van Cleef) blackmails them to lead Maria and the Professor through the jungle to find the ruby. They are not alone in the jungle, as Tiger and Da Silva have sent pirates to follow and kill them once they have found the ruby. And what is Inspector Warren's interest in this case and why does he break someone out of prison for as yet unknown reasons? Could it have something to do with the ruby? These questions will be answered as Captain Yankee leads his motley group into the belly of a live volcano (a required staple in these films) that is full of hidden passageways, contains a lake of fire and is protected by an ancient masked race called the Guardians. Once the ruby is found, the Professor turns out to be a traitor on Tiger's payroll and he steals the ruby, only to be rewarded by being beheaded by Tiger. Captain Yankee, Gin Fizz and Maria try to steal the ruby back and it leads them to Tiger's secret ammo depot, which ends in an explosive finale abetted by Inspector Warren (who is dressed to look like he just stepped out of a Spaghetti Western!).  Directed by Antonio Margheriti (using his "Anthony M. Dawson" pseudonym), who was an old hand at directing RAIDERS "inspired" films, including HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA (1982) and ARK OF THE SUN GOD (1983), and written by Giovanni Simonelli (Margheriti's giallo film SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE - 1973), the premise of JUNGLE RAIDERS (also known as CAPTAIN YANKEE AND THE JUNGLE RAIDERS) may seem tired and old hat, but a cast of old gung-ho pros manage to breathe some life into the proceedings. Add some of Margheriti's special brand of miniature effects (including a volcano eruption, an ammunition depot explosion and a couple of obvious model car crashes), a few gun battles and fistfights and a lot of intentional humor (especially between the late Christopher Connelly and Alan Collins) and what you end up with is a totally predictable, yet fun, jungle action adventure. This film doesn't have an original bone in its body, but it still manages to entertain. If snakes creep you out, wait until you see a young native boy and his pet cobra. The way the kid handles the snake will have you shitting your pants. Filmed in the Philippines, where there are apparently no child labor laws. Also starring Cirillo Vitale and Francesco Arcuri. Originally available on VHS in the U.S. from MGM/UA Home Video in one of those oversized cardboard flipper cases. Not available on DVD. Rated PG-13, but the violence level is ramped rather high, with decapitations, stabbings, impalements and bloody bullet squibs.

LEFT-HANDED FATE (1966) - Is it possible that people are born to be murder victims? And is it also possible that other people are born for the expressed purpose of being their executioners? This film, a Spanish arthouse fantasy/thriller, the first feature film from brilliant director Vicente Aranda (THE EXQUISITE CADAVER - 1969; THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE - 1972), tries to answer those questions, but whether you believe them to be true or false makes no difference, as this film is a visual treat for the eyes and an aural feast for the ears. It's also great to see some popular Spanish genre actors early in their careers doing a fantastic job in their roles. While this isn't the typical film I normally review on this site, that by no means is any reason why you should avoid it. It's at least twenty years ahead of its time and says quite a lot in terms of what it means to be a victim and a killer. Frankly, they are nearly identical.
     The film opens as a series of comic strip panels, where a mysterious man hires private investigator J.J. to save the life of a woman named Gim, the man telling J.J. that she will be murdered within 24 hours by a serial killer who took the life of another woman in 1965 (This film seems to take place in the future at some unspecified year). J.J. accepts the assignment even though the mysterious man doesn't explain how he knows all this. The film then switches to live action, where the camera is facing J.J. (Marcos Martí) as he is running down a dirt road. We then see an unnamed Professor (Antonio Ferrandis; THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE - 1977) shaving while listening to his notes on a lecture he will be giving that day about what it means to be a born victim and their killer. His wife (Gloria Roig) then appears and turns off the tape recorder, telling the Professor that she is leaving him, but he pays her no mind, even when she walks out the door (Giving us a good reason why she is leaving him!). When she leaves, the Professor turns the tape recorder on and continues listening to his notes.
     We then see beautiful model Gim (Teresa Gimpera; NIGHT OF THE DEVILS - 1972; in her acting debut) walking down the deserted streets of Barcelona and every male she comes in contact with wants to give her help, even the people in a strange vehicle, where a man with a bullhorn announces that people should gather at a certain spot in the city with as little personal property as possible, so they can be picked up and transported out of the city (some unknown catastrophe has happened, which is referred to as “collective fear”). Gim spurns all their advances and continues walking quickly, but she bumps into a blind man who whispers in her ear, "You are going to die today", which really spooks her. She arrives at the house of her best friend, Alvaro (Alberto Dalbes; THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE - 1972), and tells him that someone punctured the tires on her car, so she had to walk here, also telling him what the blind man said to her. Alvaro tries to calm her down, but his lover, Miriam (Mariane Benet), hates Gim because she takes up too much of Alvaro's time for her liking She also believes that Alvaro loves Gim more that he does her (She's right on both counts). Miriam's husband Jerry, a sculptor of some very odd and unique pieces, has disappeared without a trace, something he has done before. There's a room in Alvaro's house devoted to Jerry's sculptures and Miriam plays with with a piece shaped like a fish that has a spring-loaded sharp metal spike that comes out of its mouth (like a switchblade). She angrily stares at Gim while playing with it.
     Gim is a famous advertising model (which Teresa Gimpera was before she became an actress) whose billboards are all over the city. We watch a group of male teens walk up to one of those billboards, climb a ladder and use an electric jigsaw (with a very long electrical extension cord!) to cut Gim's image off it. They then carry the large image to the auditorium where the Professor is about to give his lecture; the teens nailing Gim's image to a wall facing the audience. Yes, Gim's image is used as the face of a born victim, but just who is her born killer? After the Professor is done with his lecture, he goes to his dressing room and covers his face and hands in white bandages (Looking like Claude Rains in THE INVISIBLE MAN [1933]!). He then meets J.J. in the middle of an empty soccer stadium and gives him some important information on where to find Gim, revealing himself to be the man who hired J.J. in the film's opening comic strip panels.
     When Gim gets back to her apartment, she believes someone  has been there and becomes very frightened. She phone Alvaro and pleads for him to come over immediately, which he does, pissing off Miriam even more (While Gim is waiting for Alvaro to arrive, she turns on the TV, but only gets static, a running theme throughout the film, proving that something quite catastrophic has happened in Barcelona, if not to the whole of Spain [or even further]). When Alvaro arrives, he professes his love for Gim and asks her if she feels the same way. She looks at Alvaro and says, "I don't love you, but I need you." While that would depress most people, Alvaro seems okay with that statement, as "love" and "need" mean the same thing to him. When Alvaro returns home, Miriam is missing and, more importantly, so is the spiked fish sculpture. So, do you think you have it all figured out? Will J.J. save Gim in time or will he fail? And just who is Gim's intended killer?  All the clues are in this review if you read it very carefully, but I will tell you this: Two people will die by the spiked fish.
     Remember in the '80s when a forensic scientist stated that people with an extra "X" or "Y' chromosome (I can't remember which one it was and I'm too lazy a bastard to look it up) will most likely end up being a serial killer? Even though that was quickly proven false, this film plays with that fear over twenty years earlier and does it in such a way that it becomes almost believable, even if we all know better (at least I hope we do, but in today's society you can never tell!). That's all thanks to Vicente Aranda's insightful direction and the cutting screenplay, co-written by Aranda and Gonzalo Suarez (BLOODBATH - 1979), based on Suarez's original story. While this film has a dream-like, almost nightmarish, quality to it (some portions of the film are non-linear, but fairly easy to understand), especially the unknown “collective fear” catastrophe, those looking for concrete answers are bound to be disappointed, but those who are willing to just go along for the ride will find much enjoyment, even in the little things, such as Gim at one of her photo shoots, where the female photographer tells Gim to make up the words to Shakespeare's "To live, perchance to dream" soliloquy when Gim tells her she can't remember what comes next. What Gim says next tells us more about her character than ten pages of dialogue could ever convey. It's little scenes like this that make the film so special, especially since it is Vicente Aranda's first film as sole director. Nearly all of his films have this quality to them, which is why Aranda was considered one of Spain's most highly-regarded directors (He passed away in 2015 at the age of 88). Hey, I'm not a big arthouse film fan (I find most of them pretentious), but when it's got a quality quite unlike any other film out there, I have to admire it. And I admire this film.
     Shot as FATA/MORGANA (A term for a mirage, which, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, means a term "in which atmospheric conditions stretch, invert or otherwise distort distant objects, making them appear taller". It is also the Italian name for Morgan le Fay, translating to "Morgan The Fairy", who was a sorcerer of medieval legends. Pick the one best suited for this film, if you can!), this film received no theatrical or home video release in any format in the United States (it was nearly impossible to find any advertising material, too!). I found it streaming on YouTube from user "Nathaniel Ketcham" under the disguised title "Wyrd And Rare Vol. 62.3999" (Why did he do this? Fuck if I know!). The print is in anamorphic widescreen, but there is a slight crackling static on the soundtrack. It's not so bad as to turn you off from watching it, though. Also featuring Antonio Casas (AWKWARD HANDS - 1970), Carlos Hurtado (DANGER! DEATH RAY - 1967), Josep Castillo Escalona (THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI - 1975) and Manuel Muñiz (DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT - 1972). Not Rated.

THE LEGEND OF WISELY (1986) - Consider this to be a Hong Kong version of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), but that's not really fair to Chinese audiences because the character of Wisely predates Indiana Jones by many, many years. The film opens with a Nepal monk placing a baby next to the legendary Dragon Pearl somewhere in a secret temple location. A ray of sunlight from a hole in the ceiling hits the Dragon Pearl and it levitates and grows, looking like something alien in origin. We then switch to somewhere in the Egyptian desert, where a phony David Ko tries to sell a fake Dragon Pearl to the mysterious Harry Hope (Bruce Baron; CRUEL HORIZON - 1989), but Harry isn't falling for it. The fake David Ko pulls out a pistol and empties a clip into Harry with no effect and the imposter Ko spontaneously bursts into flames and dies. We then watch Wisely (producer Samuel Hui; MAD MISSION - 1981), a noted adventurer and best-selling author, as he studies life in Egypt (he is standing next to a pyramid and photographing a lizard). He believes that ancient advanced civilizations were visited by extraterrestrials, who shared their knowledge (like how to build perfect pyramids) with humans in exchange for something that is not yet known. Enter Harry Hope and his female assistant (Heidi Makenin). He asks Wisely if he knows where his good friend David Ko (director Teddy Robin Kwan) may be, but since Harry doesn't give Wisely a good reason why he wants the information, he drives away in his Jeep and heads to his hotel, leaving Harry holding his dick (not literally!). Once at the hotel, Wisely receives a letter from David telling him to come to Nepal. David's father spent half his life looking for the Dragon Pearl and when he died, David took over the search. Wisely pilots his own plane to Nepal and meets good friend David, who tells him he has found the location of the Dragon Pearl, but it is in a mountain village in the possession of an evil cult of religious monks. Since the Dragon Pearl may be the evidence Wisely is looking for that validates extraterrestrials visited humans in ancient times, he will do anything to get his hands on it. Unfortunately, the mysterious Harry Hope (who can best be described as a Howard Hughes-like recluse with evil supernatural powers) also wants the Pearl, only his reasons are not scientific. It seems David is quite the con man and fakes his own kidnapping to give Wisely that extra "push" to find the Pearl before Harry does. Wisely disguises himself as one of the evil monks, but his ruse is quickly discovered, leading to a lengthy martial arts fight, as Wisely takes-on all the monks single-handedly, while David suddenly appears and steals the Dragon Pearl from the "Little Master" (the slightly older baby boy from the beginning of the film). The evil monks chase Wisely and David through the mountains, but they are able to escape in Wisely's plane. The Dragon Pearl makes the plane's instrumentation go wacky and Wisely bails out into a lake and watches the plane explode with David and the Pearl on-board. A dejected Wisely returns to David's house, where the Little Master and the evil monks are waiting for him. The Little Master (who has ESP and can hear Wisely's thoughts), tells Wisely that David is alive and has left the country with the Dragon Pearl. Since the Little Master knows by reading his thoughts that Wisely is a "righteous" man, he asks Wisely for his help in retrieving the Pearl and returning it to the temple (the Pearl gives those that possess it supernatural powers) and Wisely agrees (seems the monks aren't so evil after all). Wisely goes to his yacht in Hong Kong, where Harry's female assistant tells him that the Dragon Pearl use to belong to Harry's ancestors and he is willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get it back. Since Wisely has all the money he needs and he's a good guy, he declines the offer and with the help of Sue Pak (Joi Wang), a martial arts master and the sister of Pak Kei-Wei (Ti Lung; BLACK MAGIC - 1975), an associate of David's, tries to get the Dragon Pearl back and return it to Little Master. It's going to be a dangerous trip frought with many obstacles and booby-traps.  Diminutive director Teddy Robin Kwan (SHANGHAI SHANGHAI - 1990) and producer Samuel Hui make a pretty good comical on-screen duo and it's easy to see why this was a big hit in Hong Kong and Mainland China, with sumptuous on-location cinematography in Egypt and Nepal, plenty of martial arts fights, car crashes and stunts (not to mention the evil American baddie). Yet, while watching it, there seemed to be something missing from the film that just didn't satisfy my action and fantasy sensibilities. While there is plenty of derring-do and some great action set-pieces, not once did I fear that Wisely, David or Sue were in any danger of losing their lives. I realize that this is a fantasy/action/sci-f/comedy, but for all those times they are shot at, chased or forced to fight using both their hands and feet, not once did I ever feel any of them would be killed. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my danger to have an element of death involved (not to mention some blood and guts, but this seems to have been made as a "family friendly" flick), but THE LEGEND OF WISELY has none of that. It's good for what it is, but it could have been so much better if they made it just a smidgen more adult-oriented. I will give it this, though: The finale is certainly unique and explains why the Chinese believe in dragons. Also starring Alan Kuo and Sau Leung 'Blacky' Ko. A Universe Laser & Video Co., Ltd. DVD & VCD Release. Not Rated, but really nothing objectionable to those who love weird Hong Kong fantasy films.

THE LOST EMPIRE (1983) - Fun adult fantasy from genre hack Jim Wynorski, his first directorial effort (He's still cranking out films up to this day, either using his real name or such pseudonyms as "Jay Andrews", "H.R. Blueberry", "J.R. Mandish" or "Jamie Wagner"). An ancient race of superhumans called the Lemurians have put all their powers into two jewels called The Eyes Of Avatar (Hmmm...I wonder if James Cameron ever saw this?) and have separated them for thousands of years. Legend says that whomever finds the two jewels and joins them together will gain all the superpowers of the Lemurian race. The film opens with three black-clad ninjas (with cobra patches on their chests) breaking into a Chinese jewelry store and trying to dislodge one of the Eyes Of Avatar from a statue in the store, killing the proprietor with a throwing star and then doing battle with three cops, where everyone is seemingly killed. Or are they? We then switch to black leather-wearing Police Inspector Angel Wolfe (Melanie Vincz), who rides-in on a motorcycle and kills three gang members who are holding a bunch of school children hostage in a classroom. She and her lover, FBI agent Rick Stanton (Paul Coufos; FOOD OF THE GODS PART 2 - 1989), then rush to the hospital, where Angel's brother, police officer Rob Wolfe (PHANTASM's Bill Thornbury) is hanging on to his life by a thread. Rob was one of the cops involved in the jewelry store massacre and after handing-over one of the throwing stars to Angel (and telling her, "The Devil...he exists!), he passes-out after saying, "Find 'em and get 'em!" Rick recognizes the throwing star as something that belongs to "international terrorism, mass murder and a legend of supernatural horror that goes back over 200 years" (Please, tell us more!). Rick relates the story of Lee Chuck (PHANTASM's Angus Scrimm), also known as "Satan's Hatchetman", who sold his soul to the Devil for immortality, but in order to stop him from aging, he must send his Master one human soul every 24 hours (Lee Chuck has reportedly been seen at every major disaster in the last century, including the Chicago Fire, the sinking of the Titanic, the bombing of Hiroshima, the Jonestown Massacre, etc). Without hesitation, Angel buys Rick's story, so they go to the jewelry store to look for clues. She meets famed oriental detective Charles Chang (Art Hern), who tells Angel and Rick that Lee Chuck already has one of the Eyes Of Avatar in his possession and is looking for the second one. What no one (including Angel) knows is that the second Eye is in Angel's purse (!) and when Angel is told that her brother has died, she decides to travel to an uncharted island ruled by Dr. Sin Do (who is actually Lee Chuck in disguise) to get revenge, but not before picking up Native American friend Whitestar (Raven De La Croix) and female prisoner Heather (Angela Aames) to accompany her on the trip. Complications arise when Dr. Sin Do's head henchman, Koro (Robert Tessier; STARCRASH - 1979; NIGHTWISH - 1988), begins training the women to become assassins (first by putting them through a lot of topless medical procedures) and Rick discovers that Angel forgot to bring her purse with her (which sets-up a funny gay gag) and then he discovers the Eye inside. The Eye imbues Rick with the knowledge he needs to assist Angela and her two top-heavy friends to defeat Lee Chuck and keep the Lemurians' secret safe in the finale.  This is a fun, low-budget fantasy which is akin to watching those old serials of yesteryear, with the added incentive of plenty of female nudity and bloody violence. Sure, the dialogue is corny and the action scenes low-rent, but THE LOST EMPIRE is one of those films that gets under your skin and infects your bloodstream from the very first frame (which happens to be an extreme close-up of a woman's ample cleavage!). Director/producer/screenwriter Jim Wynorski (CHOPPING MALL - 1986; NOT OF THIS EARTH - 1988; SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II - 1990; SORCERESS - 1994) throws everything at the screen to see what sticks, including cheesy matte paintings and miniature models, insensitive Native American jokes, robotic spiders, a pet gorilla, a giant Death Ray (that's UL listed!), cheap opticals, bad martial arts fights and some Peckinpah-inspired slow-motion violence. While a lot of it falls flatter that a pancake (some of the dialogue is groan-inducing), there is still plenty here to keep viewers entertained, especially the line-up of cameos, which includes Kenneth Tobey, Angelique Pettyjohn, Gary Goodrow, Linda Shayne, Tom Rettig and the unforgettable Blackie Dammit (the father of Red Hot Chili Pepper's lead singer Anthony Kiedis) as Prager, a rape-happy police officer-turned-Lee Chuck disciple who gets a laser castration in the finale before burning to death (The name "Lee Chuck" is an amalgam of the names Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris). So, if your tastes run towards good-looking women in various states of undress, a shameless sense of juvenile humor and graphic violence, you could do a lot worse than THE LOST EMPIRE. Also starring Anita Merritt, Annie Gaybis, Gary Don Cox, Thomas Rosales and Rick Barker (also the Stunt Coordinator). Be aware that some prints, including the one released on VHS by Lightning Video, are shorn of some nudity and violence. My print was sourced from an unedited Dutch-subtitled VHS tape. Available on widescreen DVD from Polyscope Media Group. Rated R.

MACISTE IN HELL (1962) - Here's a real strange one, a totally weird Italy/France co-production that is a mixture of two genres that usually don't go together: Gothic horror & Peplum (Sword-and-Sandal). This film is a treat for anyone looking for something unusual, mainly because of the wonderful production design, a Dante's Inferno-like depiction of Hell and some unintentional humor (at least I think it was unintentional). The film opens in the year 1550, where a witch named Martha Gaunt (Vira Silente; ATLAS IN THE LAND OF THE CYCLOPS - 1961) is about to be burned at the stake in a small village in Scotland for performing  satanic rituals and aligning herself with the Devil. As Judge Parris (Andrea Bosic; FORMULA FOR A MURDER - 1985) reads off Martha's crimes, she tells Parris that the only reason she is going to be killed is because he was once hot for her body when she was young and beautiful, but now that she's old and ugly (she is), he just wants her dead. Martha then curses the entire village, telling everyone watching her die that they and their future kin will suffer fates worse than death. As she is aflame, she then curses Judge Parris, telling him she will be waiting for him in Hell. Truer words were never spoken.
     One hundred years pass and the Scottish village is suffering from a rash of strange deaths. It seems all the young women in the village are trying to commit suicide, many of them trying to hang themselves on the dead "Witch's Tree", said to be the cause of all the trouble since it is possessed by Martha Gaunt (whenever a woman hangs herself on the tree, beautiful flowers bloom on the dead tree's limbs). It is said that anyone brave enough to topple the tree will end the curse, but none of the villagers are brave or strong enough to do it. All the village's young women are now being kept prisoner in a large room in a church to stop them from committing suicide, but there's something far more deadly on the horizon. We then see newlyweds Charley Law (Angelo Zanolli; UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE - 1959) and his bride arrive in the village, moving in to the local castle, since it belongs to the bride's family. When villagers at the local pub see a light in one of the castle's windows, they go apeshit, since the castle has been empty for a hundred years and it belonged to Martha Gaunt. The Coachman (John Francis Lane; A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY - 1968) who dropped off the newlyweds tells people in the pub that the bride's name is Martha Gaunt (also portrayed by Vira Silente), so the villagers grab torches and weapons, thinking the bride is the cause of the village's troubles, and storm the castle. They grab the innocent Martha, tie her to a stake in the castle and are about to burn her alive, when Maciste (Kirk Morris; STAR PILOT - 1966) arrives on the scene and saves her, but Martha's troubles don't end there. She is put on trial for being a witch and when the local Burgomeister (John Karlsen; SLAUGHTER HOTEL - 1971) tells her to put her hands on the Bible and say she is not a witch, pledging herself to God, she does, only the Bible catches on fire! She is immediately branded a witch and is to be burned at the stake in a few days, but Maciste promises Charley and Martha that it will never happen. The village's friendly doctor (Charles Fawcett; THE DEATH RAY OF DR. MABUSE - 1964) tells Maciste about the legend of the Witch's Tree, so he decides to uproot it, but when he does, it opens a doorway to Hell, which Maciste enters (the tree then goes upright as if it were never toppled over). Maciste must then traverse Hell so he can destroy witch Martha Gaunt, who watches him battle various obstacles and barriers with Judge Parris by her side (She was right about him joining her in Hell). As Maciste wins every obstacle put before him, he then meets the lovely Fania (Hélène Chanel; GANGSTER'S LAW - 1969), who heals his burned hands and promises to help him in his quest to defeat Martha, but she's really there to do the exact opposite, giving him an apple that makes him totally forget why he is in Hell. Will Maciste regain his memory and defeat Martha? What do you think?
     While the plot may seem nothing but a cliché, it's the presentation that will wow you. Forget how Maciste turns up in 17th Century Scotland (!), since most peplums take place in the years before Christ was born, and concentrate on the stunning visuals, which are very Mario Bava-like in presentation (Reminding me of Bava's HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD - 1961). The depictions of Hell are very strong for a film made in 1962, as we see hundreds of people suffering eternal fates such as cannibalism, trying to push a heavy boulder  up a hill, being whipped and other atrocities [I even caught a quick bit of female nudity!). The fire effects are also very eerily atmospheric, including a scene where fire seems to follow Maciste with every step he takes. Director Riccardo Freda (THE DEVIL'S COMMANDMENT - 1957; THE GIANTS OF THESSALY - 1960; DOUBLE FACE - 1969; TRAGIC CEREMONY - 1972; and many others), under his nom-de-plume of "Robert Hampton", uses the screenplay (by Oreste Biancoli [Freda's THE GHOST - 1963] and Piero Pierotti [ERIK THE CONQUEROR - 1961]) to good effect, as Hell is a place where anything could happen and it usually does. There's a very unintentionally funny scene where Maciste must battle the giant Goliath (Pietro Ceccarelli; THE THRONE OF FIRE - 1983) and whenever Maciste and the giant are shown together in the same frame, it is obvious that Maciste is portrayed by a young boy in a rubber muscle suit in order to make Goliath seem much bigger than he actually is! But that's just a minor complaint compared to the rest of the film, which is very adult in themes of love, hate, mass hysteria and trying to cheat the Devil (who never appears in the film!). It is also fairly accurate to Greek mythology, as Maciste meets Prometheus (Remo De Angelis; GET MEAN - 1975) in Hell. He is chained to a boulder as vultures feed on his entrails. Maciste defeats one of the giant vultures (Apparently, there are a lot of animals in Hell, as Maciste also fights a lion and a herd of stampeding steer!) and unchains Prometheus, who tells him what Fania has done to him and to remember why he is here. When Maciste regains his memory (by watching footage from his previous films in a puddle of water, Prometheus showing him how he helped the masses, where Morris suddenly transforms into Gordon Scott in one segment!) and goes to thank him, he finds Prometheus chained to the boulder as vultures once again feed on his innards, giving us an example of what an eternity of suffering really is.  It turns out Fania is actually Martha Gaunt and she falls in love with Maciste, ending her curse (the tree catches on fire just as the innocent Martha and Charley (Who doesn't want to live without his wife. Now that's dedication!) are being burned at the stake, but a heavy rain begins to fall, putting out the flames and proving that Martha is not a witch (and also bringing all the captive young women to their senses). This genre-bending fantasy is perfect for people who don't care about the '60s Peplum genre (I don't care for them, which is why none are reviewed on this site), because the Gothic horror elements shine through. I have to say that this may be one of Riccardo's Freda's large body of works that I enjoyed the most, as nearly all his '60s Gothic horror films were very good to excellent to begin with. Give it a try, you may like it, papier-mâché boulders and all (and there are a lot of 'em)!
     Filmed as MACISTE ALL'INFERNO (a literal translation of the review title), this film obtained a severely edited U.S. theatrical release under the title THE WITCH'S CURSE from Medallion Pictures, missing over 15 minutes of footage, including two obstacles not shown in that edit, those being Maciste caught in a cage where the ceiling, which is full of spikes and swords, slowly descends towards him and a scene where he is attacked by two rather large snakes. Martha's trial is also longer in the unedited version, as are various other scenes which are trimmed in the edited version. It is this edit that fell into the Public Domain (PD), as there were many budget VHS tapes and DVDs released, including one legitimate DVD from Something Weird Video (but it was a scratchy fullscreen print, just like all the PD releases). If you want to see the unedited widescreen version of this film, you will have to go on YouTube and find user "Blake Adam", who offers a really beautiful widescreen print in Italian, subtitled in English. It's a feast for the eyes. Also featuring Antonella Della Porta (THE HEROIN BUSTERS - 1977), Gina Mascetti (LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN - 1976), Antonio Ciani (THE 10TH VICTIM - 1965) and Howard Nelson Rubien (Freda's excellent Gothic horror film THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK - 1962). Not Rated.

MAD AT THE MOON (1992) - Some video stores will try to pass this off as a horror film. It's not. It is actually a tale of sexual repression and suppression in the Old West by director Martin Donovan of APARTMENT ZERO (1988), an unusual black comedy that won critical appraisal. Mary Stuart Masterson plays Mary, an opera-loving western gal, who accepts a marriage proposal from James (Stephen Blake) after being spurned by James' half-brother Miller (Hart Bochner), whom Mary really loves. Mary refuses to make love to James. As a matter of fact, she won't even let him touch her. One morning she discovers James boarding up the windows. He tells her to stay in the house, lock the door behind him and not to let him in no matter what he says or does. It seems James suffers from "moon sickness", a disease that causes him to go crazy like a wolf when the moon is full. When Mary experiences James' mental transformation (the physical transformation is minimal), she becomes terrified and moves back to town. Her mother (Fionnula Flanagan) strikes up a bargain with Miller: He is to stay with Mary at James' house that one day a month the moon is full to serve as her protector. This leads to much sexual tension between the three parties. The finale shows that the love of a good woman can cure what ails you. This is a slow-moving (it crawls sometimes), though atmospheric, period film. Donovan photographs the film using the natural light available, giving the film a realistic tone. The sexual angle is also realistic for the time period. Back then, it was a woman's place to stay with her husband no matter what the problem (If only my first wife followed that code!). It would have been unthinkable to get a divorce. A bullet in the head would have been a better choice (Now why didn't I think of that?). Hart Bochner can also be seen in Donovan's APARTMENT ZERO, as well as TERROR TRAIN (1980) and SUPERGIRL (1984). Cec Verrell of Cirio Santiago's SILK (1986) and EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987) plays a barroom prostitute here. Daphne Zuniga (THE FLY 2 - 1989) has a cameo role as James' mother during the black and white flashback sequences. MAD AT THE MOON is a well made film but may be not to everyone's tastes. A Republic Pictures Home Video Release. Rated R.

MAGIC CURSE (1977) - When his uncle's plane crashes somewhere in the jungles of Borneo, nephew Lin Wen Ying (Jason Pai Piao; BRUTAL SORCERY - 1984) flies to Borneo by helicopter, grabs a few native guides and heads into the jungle to search for his uncle, who was carrying a fortune in jewels on the plane. They run into a tribe of lepers and the guides run away in fear, forcing Lin Wen Ying to kill a few of the attacking lepers with his shotgun. It turns out that their leprosy was caused by a magic curse put on them by high priest Abdullah and only death by an outsider will release the curse (One of the dying lepers reverts back to his normal human form, tells Lin Wen Ying the whole story and then begs for one final shotgun blast to finish him off, which Lin obliges). Abdullah is the high priest of the Snake Tribe, who periodically sacrifice nubile young virgins to the Snake God, while their priestess, Filona (Pinky DeLeon), watches unapprovingly. Abdullah has the hots for virgin tribal girl Sophia and when he sees that she is about to lose her cherry to tribe member Chow Ming, he performs a magic ritual where Sophia turns into a vampire and bites off Chow Ming's penis, killing him (Just as she bites it off, the camera switches to a tribe member peeping on the couple as he bites into a banana!). Lin Wen Ying witnesses Sophia committing suicide after waking up from her trance and seeing what she has done, so he runs over to her and all she says is "Abdullah!" before she dies (To which Lin replies, "Him again?"). When Lin asks members of the Snake Tribe if they have seen his uncle and the jewels, he gets an arrow in his shoulder for his troubles. He escapes and is found unconscious by Filona and some handmaidens (who we see frolicking buck-naked in a pond with some surprising full-frontal nudity), she nurses him back to health and they fall in love. Now here is where it gets weird. Filona tells Lin that the Snake Tribe witnessed his uncle's plane crash and Abdullah stole the jewels from his uncle's corpse. Filona, who doesn't approve of Abdullah's magic or his virgin sacrifices, shields Lin from Abdullah, but once Abdullah finds out Filona is in love with Lin, he fashions a voodoo doll from Lin's pillowcase (!) and puts a magic curse on him, which Filona counters using her magic powers. Lin leaves the jungle and promises to come back, but just to make sure he does, Filona puts a magic curse on his lips, telling him if he kisses any other girls while he is away, they will die a horrible death and he must return to the jungle within a year to marry her. This leads to a whole lot of trouble for Lin once he returns to civilization and it's best left to the viewers to witness for themselves. Needless to say, Lin forgets about his promise to Filona rather quickly (What do you want? He's a man!), which leads to death, destruction and plenty of snakes. Will Lin learn to keep it in his pants before more women meet their maker in horrible fashions?   This Hong Kong Production (partially filmed in the Philippines), co-directed and co-written by Tommy Loo-Chung (actually Lu Chin Ku; THE BLACK DRAGON [1974] and TIGER OVER WALL [1980]) and To Man Po (a.k.a. "Lee Tso Nam"; EXIT THE DRAGON, ENTER THE TIGER [1976] and THE TATTOO CONNECTION [1978]), is a crazy combination of fantasy and martial arts genres with plenty of fighting, gore and nudity. While not as outrageous as BLACK MAGIC (1975), you have to give points to MAGIC CURSE for making Lin such a horndog, even though he knows there's a curse on his lips. He picks up women at bars and parties, beds them immediately and then the women die horribly shortly thereafter (they hallucinate they are being attacked by hordes of snakes, making the die from fright, heart attack or falling down a staircase). Lin simply moves on to the next woman, telling himself that their deaths were merely coincidences! Particularly hilarious is that during these lovemaking sessions, brassy lounge or jazz music plays on the soundtrack, which makes it sound like some cheap porn film. The plot of the film is all over the place, opening up in a bowling alley, then switching to the jungles of Borneo (the bloodiest section of the film; with human sacrifices, stabbings, impalements, bloody magic rituals and, of course, the penis-biting), then back to civilization and, finally, back to the jungle again, where a cop returns with Lin to make sure his story about magic curses is true. The finale, where Filona battles Abdullah (who walks around carrying a staff with a human skull attached at the top), contains fireballs, snakes and a funny shot where Abdullah catches a huge (and obviously Styrofoam) boulder right in the chest. As usual, this is a worthwhile Hong Kong effort for those who know what to expect from these kind of films: Non-stop craziness with a sense of the absurd. Also starring Peter Chen Lau, Tan Chia Bee, Mong Hu, Woung Eune Em, Nam Soon Joung, Hwang Kun Chi and Choi Mu Ung. Never legitimately available on home video in the U.S., the print I viewed was sourced from a widescreen English-dubbed British VHS tape. Not Rated.

MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE (1987) - Quirky and outlandish supernatural fantasy from the Philippines that is full of strange characters and wild set designs. Circus magician Professor Jamir (Michael DeMesa) performs the same magic trick that he does every night in front of an audience: He makes his young daughter Freza (Sunshine) disappear from a wooden trunk and then reappear in a puff of smoke. Only this time, when the puff of smoke comes, his daughter is nowhere to be found. Not knowing where his daughter went, Jamir brings his assistants, wife Lovina (Tanya Gomez) and young chubby boy Bojok (Tom Tom), to a prophet named Ahura (Turko Cervantes) to discover just where Freza went. Ahura uses his black magic talents (which includes cutting the head off a live monkey and making the trio taste it's brains before Ahura slurps it down in one gulp!) to locate Freza and begins talking in Freza's voice saying. "Daddy, Mommy, save me!" Lamir, Lovina and Bojok then travel to the next town to perform his magic act (Hey, the show must go on!), but when Jamir performs a magic trick involving swords (to a very sparse, unappreciative audience), all three disappear into the same netherworld as Freza, yet only Lovina is reunited with her daughter while Jamir and Bojok must go on a long, arduous trek to save them. Lovina and Freza are being kept in a cage by the evil, big pulsating-foreheaded  Mikula (Armida Siguion-Reyna), an old hag that was cursed by Jamir's grandfather Lolo Omar (also played by DeMesa) to live eternally and never experience the pleasure of bearing children. Mikula has kidnapped Freza and Lovina to lure Jamir, the last male in his family line, into a trap to kill him and lift the curse. Lolo Omar appears as a ghost to warn his grandson about the troubles ahead and tells Jamir that the medallion he wears around his neck (a gift from his deceased father) will protect him and begin to glow when he is near the "Regalia", an object Jamir will need to defeat Mikula. As Jamir and Bojok search for the Regalia, they will encounter many weird characters on their trip, some who want to help them and some who were sent by Mikula to stop them. Jamir and Bojok are captured by a tribe of pigmy cannibals (It just wouldn't be a Filipino film without dwarves, would it?), but Jamir astounds them with his magic tricks and they become friends. Bojok steps into the woods to take a shit and is captured by Mikula's ogres (giant pig-faced creatures with horns in the middle of their foreheads), who imprisons him with Lovina and Freza. Jamir is now on his own, as Mikula and her menagerie of monsters party and dance in a cave (in a scene that defies description; try imagining the STAR WARS cantina scene as seen through the eyes of a junkie going through withdrawal). Bojok is forced to fight a sharp-clawed female demon while Mikula watches, which affords Lovina and Frenza time to escape. Will Jamir find the Regalia in time to save his family and destroy Mikula? Will I ever stop being amazed by these Filipino fantasies? I hope not!  While nothing more than a twisted take-off of Alice In Wonderland, director Tata Esteban (ALAPAAP - 1984; a.k.a. CLOUDS) and scripter Grace Hill Serrano add so much looniness, strange creatures and superb set designs (Mikula's lair is an amazing amalgam of colorful lighting, fog and inventive designs) to make this a trip worth taking. While this is indeed a fantasy, this is not a film for children's eyes, since monkey brain-eating, bloody deaths and intense situations (including child endangerment and cannibalism) runs rampant here. Particularly effective is the sequence where the escaped Lovina and Freza  are saved from a swamp creature (Ricky Sujede) by Arbutus (Filipino film staple Dick Isreal) and brought back to his camp, where he introduces them to his wife, Madera (Odette Khan), who is slowly being turned to stone by a curse place on her by Mikula. When Mikula recaptures Lovina and Freza, she punishes Arbutus by speeding-up Madera's curse. It's very unpleasant to watch, but very effective. There are also many strange creature effects on view, including the rubbery Globo (imaging the floating head in INVADERS FROM MARS [1953] on a $1.99 budget), who acts like Mikula's crystal ball, and other assorted monsters (Mikula herself, with her incredible throbbing brain, is an incredible sight), most played by actors and stuntmen in full body makeup, store-bought costumes or latex masks. There's also plenty of optical work, including laser beams shooting out of people's eyes; the Regalia (nothing but a magic wand with a tassle attached to it!) shooting electrical charges into Mikula's head (making it explode); as well as an explosive finale. How come fantasies like this are never made in the U.S.? I think out child labor laws play a big part with it. Also known as MONSTER OF THE UNIVERSE. Also starring Rex Roldan, Sonny Erang, Liza Lorena, Gina Alajar, Rene Johnson, Nunong De Andres and Bobby Beso. Be aware that the English-dubbed widescreen print used by BCI on the DVD for both their Eastern Horror Vol. 3 (a double feature with COUNTER DESTROYER [1988]) and Eastern Horror Advantage Collection 10 Movie Set was sourced from a Japanese VHS tape with the Japanese subtitles matted out, forcing the print to lose 25% of it's picture information (all on the bottom of the frame). A BCI Eclipse Release. Not Rated.

MARK OF THE SCORPION (1986) - Another cheesy Italian RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK rip-off. This one takes place in West Sahara during 1936 and finds tomb raider Phil Stone (Andy J. Forest; APPOINTMENT IN BLACK - 1990; HUNT FOR THE GOLDEN SCORPION - 1991) stealing a priceless serpentine ring off the corpse of some long-dead princess in a snake-filled tomb. Hard-up for money, Phil tries to pawn the ring to a desert shiek, but after witnessing another thief having his hand chopped-off for stealing a necklace from another tomb, he has second thoughts and instead loses the ring when he uses it as collateral during a street wager, where he and another person stick their hands in a box containing a poisonous snake and only one person will survive. Phil wins the bet but, unfortunately, is arrested before he can collect and is carted off to prison. Phil was formerly the leader of "The Scorpions", a group of freedom fighters who, besides Phil, have all been killed (The police captain shows Phil his collection of scorpion tattoos, all cut from the bodies of Phil's dead comrades!). The sickly prison warden, Fontaine (Paul Muller; LADY FRANKENSTEIN - 1971), makes a deal with Phil: If he can find the fabled "Cleopatra's Treasure", he will pardon Phil as well as split the treasure 50/50. Phil agrees to the deal and, together with fellow prisoner Johnson (Danilo Mattei; a.k.a. "Brian Redford" of CANNIBAL FEROX - 1981), sets off on a journey to find the treasure, with sadistic guard Sergeant Kemal (Mohamed Attifi), an old enemy of Phil's, dogging their every move. Did I forget to mention that Phil and Johnson never have to leave the prison to find the treasure? It seems it's located somewhere in a mine located directly beneath the prison. Phil manages to con Warden Fontaine into furloughing him to collect more info on the location of the treasure (and some scuba gear), but the warden manages to slip Phil some slow-acting poison to make sure he returns within twelve hours to receive the antidote. When Warden Fontaine suddenly dies and Sergeant Kemal takes over (he begins shooting prisoners in the back for no reason at all), Phil and Johnson must find the treasure and escape the prison before Kemal and his flunkies flush them out. If you were like me, you would have quit caring about 90 minutes ago.  This little-seen action adventure contains a lot of bloody violence, including dismemberments, stabbings, shootings, bloody ball-grabbing and even force-feeding a man a live rat (!), yet the film still manages to be an exercise in tedium. Director/co-scripter Massimo Pirri (FATAL FIX - 1980) manages to mishandle every opportunity at action and suspense, always zigging when he should have zagged (not to mention continually betraying the 1936 time period, especially the distinctly 1980's Jeep that Phil uses in his twelve hour furlough from prison). The main problem, though, is the character of Sergeant Kemal. He thoroughly makes Phil's life in prison a living hell, even after Phil agrees to help Warden Fontaine locate the treasure. It seems to me that all of Kemal's savagery could have been stopped immediately if Phil would have just mentioned it to Fontaine. If you like treasure hunting movies, you're in for a disappointment here, because the search for Cleopatra's Treasure is saved for the film's final fifteen minutes and contains some of the lamest boobytraps ever committed to the screen. A five year-old could spot them a mile away. These are not the life-threatening traps that we would expect from the likes of Cleopatra (I had to laugh when a single stalagmite falls and Phil says to Johnson, "That old girl really knew her traps!"). It should come as no surprise that Cleopatra's Treasure is encased in a object that looks exactly like the Ark of the Covenant in RAIDERS and when Phil opens it, all it contains is a scroll (which immediately blows out of his hands) and a single gold object. Jeez, that Cleopatra is one stingy bitch! The majority of this film is nothing more than a tepid prison drama with plenty of overt homosexual subtext. Save your valuable time and pass this one by. Also starring Dannys Cole, Milly D'Abbraccio, Abdelsalam Sadoo, Leslie Thomas and Antonio Scarano. Released on VHS from Imperial Entertainment Corp. and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

THE MASTER DEMON (1988/1996) - There's not enough ice in the world to cover-up the stink that is THE MASTER DEMON. Scientists will be dissecting this film for decades to come in hopes of trying to figure out how to remove that awful smell that oozes out of VCR and DVD players once unknowing viewers press the "Play" button on their remotes. Gallons of tomato juice will be used with no effect, thousands of cans of Lysol will give up and call it a day and millions of Ziploc bags will retreat like the French Army. Will anything stop this stench? Our only hope may be to collect every copy of this film and bury them in a mile-deep hole at the center of the Arctic ice caps (right next to THE BLOB), but God only knows if doing that would cause the Earth to tilt off its axis and destroy mankind. Yes, THE MASTER DEMON is that bad, making shit films like SAMURAI COP (1991) seem like a breath of fresh air. The film begins with an epic battle (if epic battles were poorly photographed martial arts fights filmed by a crackhead holding a camera) between the White Warrior (producer Eric Lee in a ridiculous white wig) and the Master Demon (Gerald Okamura; CAGE II - 1994), where a mortally wounded White Warrior cuts off one of the Master Demon's hands and stumbles off with it, delivering it to a bald monk who performs a ritual over it and sticks it in a box, while an offscreen narrator tells us the world will be safe as long as the Master Demon doesn't find his hand and reattach it to his body (I've simplified the narrator's comments because he spouts nonsense that they wouldn't even put in fortune cookies). Cut to the present, where Tong Lee (Eric Lee again) wakes up from a bad nightmare and finds the White Warrior's "Sword of the Furious" impaled (and smoking) on his front lawn. He picks it up and is instantly appointed the savior of the Earth. We the switch over to a museum next to the La Brea Tar Pits (actually the George C. Page Museum, but I doubt they would lend their name to this film), where Chinese philanthropist Qua Chang (Gerald Okamura again) donates the box with the Master Demon's hand as an exhibit for permanent display, only to have it stolen and fenced for $1,500. Qua Chang summons evil spirit Medusa (female bodybuilder Kay Baxter Young, who died in a car crash in 1988, shortly after principal photography of this film ended) to retrieve the box and, after snapping Qua Chang's neck for disturbing her restful slumber (!), she goes about killing everyone who touches the box, beginning with the thief (who also gets his neck snapped). The black miniskirt-wearing Medusa then goes after Link The Fence (Bob Roberts), but he manages to escape (with a huge knife impaled in the middle of his forehead, courtesy of Medusa) and hands the box (Ha! A play on words!) to private dick Cameron Massey (Steve Nave) before he dies (All Cameron can say is, "How am I going to get these stains out of this rug?"). Medusa soon appears to take control of the box, but before she can kill Cameron with her squad of ghostly (and badly made-up) kung-fu fighters, Tong Lee crashes through a window and defeats them all (in hilariously inept fashion), while Medusa disappears with the dismembered hand and rejoins it to the body of the Master Demon. Cameron (who cracks a BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS [1946] joke) joins forces with Tong Lee and police detective Wayne Bersecker (Sid Campbell) to get to the bottom of all this nonsense, while the Master Demon, Medusa and an army of martial arts fighters with black shoe polish on their faces try to kill them, especially Tong Lee, who is now the reincarnated spirit of the White Warrior. What follows next are some of the lamest martial arts fights in Grade Z film history (making the fight scenes in ROBOT NINJA look like ENTER THE DRAGON in comparison), mixed with humor even a drooling retard wouldn't find funny. This epic piece of crap was co-directed by Sherman Oaks Experimental College film instructor Samuel Oldham (who also wrote the screenplay), who shot the film proper in 1988, and stunt/fight coordinator Art Camacho (who also directed such Pepin/Merhi productions such as THE POWER WITHIN [1995] and RECOIL [1998], as well as such recent actioners like SOFT TARGET [2006] and HALF PAST DEAD 2 [2007]), who added some narration and extra fight scenes in 1996 for its official home video release. This film has all the earmarks of an ultra-cheap production, including: bad sound recording; hilarious post-synch dubbing (where we not only hear the characters' thoughts, we also hear plenty of "Oh, shit!" remarks whenever our heroic trio are attacked); a music score that sounds like it was recorded on a Casio keyboard; dialogue that harkens back to the Charlie Chan films of the 30's & 40's ("Silence, you son of a white dog!"); some extremely cheap gore (including torturing a man with an electric drill to his testicles and then ripping-off his face and eating it!); and dozens of martial arts fights that could have been performed better by a bunch of pre-teens in their backyard with a super 8mm camera. Add all this together and what you have is either one of the worst martial arts/horror films ever released on home video or one of the biggest put-ons in film history. I'm leaning towards the former. THE MASTER DEMON is so bad, it crosses the line from awful to demented entertainment. Bad film fans should eat this one up. Also starring Ava Cadell as Jan, Cameron's big-breasted secretary. Originally released on VHS by an outfit called Rising Sun Productions and available on a Dutch-subtitled DVD. Not Rated.

MIDSOMMAR (2019) - After watching director/screenwriter Ari Aster's groundbreaking HEREDITARY and declaring it my favorite film of 2018 (in any genre), I was looking forward to watching this film in a theater, but the closest movie screen showing it was over fifty miles away. Since I am a lazy bastard, I bit my lip and decided to wait until the film was released on disc and VOD. Well, that time is now, so will it be my favorite film of 2019? Before I answer that question, let me tell you a little something about the plot of the film (and it's a doozy!).
     A worried Dani (Florence Pugh; THE FALLING - 2014) is reading an email sent by her sister Terri and becomes instantly worried. The email reads: "I can't anymore - everything's black - mom and dad are coming too. goodbye." Dani calls boyfriend of four years, Christian (Jack Reynor; KIN - 2018), to tell him that she is worried about Terri because she emailed her three times and she didn't answer a single one of them. It's obvious that Dani and Christian's relationship is troubled, because he tells Dani that she's in "crisis mode" again and she gets that way for no reason at all. After hanging up the phone, we see Christian is having dinner with his male friends at a restaurant. They try to get Christian to dump Dani, telling him that she's too needy and she takes up most of his time, sometimes over nothing at all. Christian won't do it, telling his friends he loves Dani, but it is plain to see that the notion has crossed his mind more than once. Dani then phones him once again, only this time she is crying so loud, it sounds like she is screaming. Turns out Terri and her parents are dead, the victims of a devastating automobile accident, which may have been caused by Terri. Dani is inconsolable, so Christian takes care of her. A short time later, Dani and Christian go to a party, where she learns Christian is going to Sweden in two weeks with his friends and she knew nothing about it. Dani gets into a "discussion" with Christian, guilting him into inviting her to go with him to Sweden, thinking she will not go. However, Dani decides to go, which pisses off Christian's male friends, but Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), who was raised in a commune in Sweden, is surprisingly okay with it. He wants to return to his Hargas commune in Sweden in time for the Midsommar Festival, a ritualistic ceremony that involves......hold it, this is way too soon to reveal!
     Once in Sweden, Pelle introduces the group to a few members of his commune, including his brother Ingemar (Hampus Hallberg). It seems other members of the commune have also brought strangers to the commune, which includes Londoners Connie (Ellora Torchia) and Simon (Archie Madekwe). Christian's insecure friend Mark (Will Poulter; THE MAZE RUNNER - 2014) wonders why it is still light out at 10:30 PM and Pelle tells him this is normal for Sweden; it's called the "Midnight Sun". Mark says he "doesn't like" this, it makes him very uncomfortable, but Pelle tells him not to worry, his body will adapt to the lack of darkness quickly (it never gets fully dark this time of the year). It's rather obvious that Dani suffers from some deep psychological problems (she's studying psychology in college, but the college gave her a semester off to deal with her family's death), as she tells Christian that members of the commune are laughing at her. Are they? The next day, Pelle takes his friends to meet the leader of the commune, Father Odd (Mats Blomgren). He shakes the hands of all the males and hugs Dani, telling her he is glad she is here to celebrate the "Hargas tribute to Ymir and her hermaphrodite qualities", also saying to everyone that Pelle has "an immaculate sense for people." The commune leads a very spartan, almost pioneer-like existence (but they do watch DVDs!), wearing matching white frocks and doing everything (and I mean everything!) together. Everyone watches as Ingemar welcomes all the strangers to the commune and wishing them a happy Midsommar. He says it has been 90 years since their last great feast and it will be 90 years before their next. It's also the hottest and brightest Summer on record. He then tells everyone to raise their glasses and toast the commencement of the nine-day feast. As they drink, Dani and the rest of the group find the taste rather odd. And why are some members of the commune severely deformed? Could incest be involved?
     We also learn that it's Dani's birthday and Christian has forgotten about it, but not Pelle, who hands Dani a hand-drawn portrait of her as a birthday present. Pelle takes his friends on a tour of the commune, where large stone runes mark the borders of the commune, there's a large live bear in a small wooden cage (you won't believe what the bear is used for!) and there's a large yellow wooden teepee-like structure, which Pelle says no one is allowed to enter. Pelle also says that the commune celebrates age like the four seasons. From when you are born until you are 18, you are a child (Spring). From the age of 18 until 36, you go on your Pilgrimage (Summer). From ages 36 to 54, you are of working age (Fall). And From ages 54 to 72, you are a Mentor (Winter, but Pelle never says it). When Dani asks what happens when you are older than 72, Pelle jokingly runs his hand quickly across his neck, as if to say "death", but is he actually joking? The group will actually witness such an event very shortly. While taking the group on a tour of the communal building where everyone sleeps together until they turn 36, Dani notices a wall full of photos of young women wearing flower crowns and asks Pelle if they were the May Queen. Pelle tells her she will be around when they choose the new one. Every Midsommar, the commune holds a dance competition where the winner is crowned the May Queen. Pelle tells everyone that they will, too, sleep in this communal structure (The building has black shutters which block out the sunlight).
     The next morning, Dani and her group take part in a ritual near the yellow teepee-like structure, where everyone silently wait for an elderly man and woman to walk out of the structure to sit at the tables arranged in an unusual pattern and eat a meal (a kind of Last Supper, as it were). The two elderly members take turns talking Swedish while the other chants, which results in everyone raising their glasses to them. The elderly woman is carried away on her chair (like Cleopatra) and everyone gathers at the bottom of a cliff, looking up and smiling. The elderly woman appears at the top of the cliff and jumps off, her body smashing face-first to the altar-like rock below (there's a scene where they show her body and her face is missing!), The elderly man has the palms of his hands slit open and rubs his blood over a large stone rune with strange symbols carved into it. He then appears at the top of the cliff and jumps off, but he doesn't die (One of his legs has snapped off at the knee and lies beside him!). The group of communal spectators begin to moan out loud when they see the elderly gentleman isn't dead, so a member of the commune walks over to him and smashes his head in with a ceremonial long hammer! Dani and the rest of the group stand there in shock as they watch other members take turns caving-in the old man's head with the hammer (nothing is left to the imagination). Connie and Simon try to leave the commune (Simon yells out, "This is fucked!"), only to be told by a female member that this is a great joy for the victims, as this is the end of their "life cycle" and the next two babies born in the commune will bear their names so they'll never be forgotten. If Dani was having psychological problems (She has bouts of crying fits which she makes sure no one else sees), imagine what she is feeling now. Christian, after seeing the two elderly people taking their own lives, decides to do his college thesis on the ancient practices of the Hargas commune, knowing full well that his friend Josh (William Jackson Harper; THEY REMAIN - 2018) came to Sweden to do the same exact thing. They become instant enemies. Dani wants to leave the commune, but Pelle talks her out of it, telling her that she needs a "real family" and this commune can offer her that, something that Christian can't offer her (As he is saying this, we watch as the mutilated corpses of the two elderly people are incinerated in a fire).
     Pelle's sister Maja (Isabelle Grill) leaves a love rune under Christian's bed, so Pelle tells him that's it's permitted if he has sex with her. Connie is disappointed when Father Odd tells her that Simon has left the commune without her, something Dani refuses to believe and tries to discover the truth. As you can see, the commune is basically tearing friendships and relationships apart, especially when Christian has a total disconnect from Dani and seems more interested getting it on with Maja. Fuck-up and serial complainer Mark urinates on the "Sacred Tree", which pisses off all the members of the commune. Christian and Josh become bitter enemies over their separate theses. And did Dani put her pubic hair in the meat pie she baked for Christian or did Maja put it there so she could have communal sex with him (a scene you need to see to believe!)? If you want to know what happens next, you are going to have to watch the film yourself. Who will live and who will die  and what bloody, graphic manner will they meet their deaths? Believe me, you'll have to have a strong stomach to survive this. Be prepared to be shocked and surprised. I certainly was.
     Slow-moving, but never boring, this film runs 147 minutes, but I guarantee you will never be watching the clock, because this film offers a plethora of visual treats, many you have never witnessed before. I especially like that our heroine, Dani, is a far-from-perfect human being and it's refreshing to watch a nearly-broken person try to repair her life while going through things she has never experienced before at the commune. Like most cults, this commune works very hard to tear away a person's personality and identity, making them as vanilla as the next member. If they don't succeed, that person must die, but they die in ways you will find hard to believe, but you will never question it, because it is the commune's longstanding beliefs that dictates the manner of their deaths. The dance competition to crown the new May Queen is a thing of absolute beauty and terror; a combination marathon dance mixed with musical chairs, in which Dani comes up the winner and is made to wear  a large crown of colorful flowers (It gets much larger as the film comes to its conclusion!). But what role does the May Queen play in the Midsommar Festival? Half the fun of watching this film is picking up the clues which explains to us what Dani's pre-determined fate is to be. The other half is the shocking, bloody and very graphic ways people die in this film. It had to be submitted to the MPAA three times before they would give it an R-Rating. Director/screenwriter Ari Aster also released a nearly three-hour "Director's Cut", which restores all the gore he had to cut out before the MPAA would give him a rating that was acceptable to the releasing studio (A24). It quite hard to imagine what he had to remove from the film in its present state, when it is shocking to the extreme, but I hope to get my hands on the uncut version very soon to see what I was missing. It's hard to believe that this is only Ari Aster's second film as a director, as he shows a sure, steady hand here, much like a director of numerous films, but be assured that he has a style he can call his very own.  So, is this my favorite film of 2019? I really can't tell you that since I have only seen a handful of films from that year, but I will tell you this: Did the ending of a film ever leave you tingling inside? You know the feeling, when it feels like goosebumps are forming from the soles of your feet and traveling quickly to the top of your head, leaving you in a quite emotional state? That's what this film did to me. I also guarantee that you will never listen to Frankie Valli's "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" the same way again. Available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment  and now streaming on Amazon Prime, free for Prime members. Rated R, but full of graphic bloodshed and full-frontal male and female nudity (Christian runs around the commune totally nude, his willie swinging in the breeze!).

THE MINES OF KILIMANJARO (1986) - Another Italian knock-off of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, also set during the rise of the Nazi empire. When Professor Thomas Smith (a badly-dubbed Christopher Connelly) is murdered by a blond-haired German with a gun hidden in a cane, it leads the Professor's associate, Dr. Ed Barkley (Tobias Hoesl), on a trip halfway around the world to Africa, where he searches for "The Secret of Africa", a hidden area on Mt. Kilimanjaro filled with diamonds that is guarded by a tribe of headhunters. While in Mombasa, Dr. Barkley is kidnapped by Chinese crimelord Ti-Ling, who threatens him with torture (he watches as Ti-Ling's men force feed a prisoner live mice through a funnel) if he doesn't reveal the location of the diamonds. Dr. Barkley is saved from certain doom by Dutchman Rolf (Gordon Mitchell) and agrees to lead a safari through the jungles of Africa to look for the diamonds. Along on the safari is Eva Kilbrook (Elena Pompei), who seems to be looking for more than the diamonds. After some badly-edited stock footage of African wildlife (it's very obvious, as the film stocks don't match), the group camps out for the night and someone tries to kill Dr. Barkley, but fails. They do manage to kill all the porters and guides, though, as Dr. Barkley and Eva are captured by the Leopard Men, a tribe of cannibals. They eventually escape and, for some unknown reason (to me, anyway), Rolf and Ti-Ling join forces and are looking for Dr. Barkley, but manage to miss him at nearly every turn. The blond-haired Nazi is also on the trail, keeping an eye on the action at a safe distance (he obviously knows something we don't know). Dr. Barkley (who is wounded by a poison arrow) and Eva are then rescued by a group of black-robed monks who have a photograph that was taken in 1917. It shows that the late Prof. Smith was once a German soldier who ventured to the Secret of Africa and actually found it. Now, Dr. Barkley and Eva will retrace Prof. Smith's steps to Mt. Kilimanjaro. They meet an all-female tribe, headed by The Empress (Francesca Ferre), who wants Dr. Barkley's seed so they can replenish the tribe. More hijinks and deaths follow to the unexciting conclusion.  Highly racist to the extreme (the Chinese are portrayed by white actors who say "ahh-so!" and can't pronounce their "r"s) as well as offensive to all of Africa (all blacks are portrayed as cowards or bloodthirsty cannibals), director/screenwriter Mino Guerrini (THE THIRD EYE - 1966) can't seem to make up his mind if he wants to make an adventure film like RAIDERS or a gore film in the vein of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. While there is gore present (a hand chopped off, arrow piercings, a bat impaled on a hook), it's apparent some of the more extreme gore has been edited out, such as when the Leopard Men draw-and-quarter a fellow native or when Ti-Ling force feeds a prisoner live mice. The dubbing is also highly dubious (only Gordon Mitchell seems to have redubbed his own voice) and there's some glaring mistakes in the timeline, such as when a 1980's Land Rover can be spotted in what is supposed to be 1930's Africa. None of it is the least bit exciting (it's all rather statically filmed) and the reveal in the finale (the Nazis have occupied The Secret of Africa for the past 15 years and have been mining the diamonds to finance the Nazi cause) is one of the lamest surprises I have ever witnessed. German TV star Tobias Hoesl makes a bland and emotionless hero (He's no Harrison Ford. Hell, he's no David Warbeck!) and there's no nudity, not even any topless natives. What's an African adventure without topless natives? Save your money and time for a real adventure. THE MINES OF KILIMANJARO is also known as AFRIKANTER. Also starring Al Cliver, Matteo Corsini, Josette Martial, Kit Dickinson, Tino Castaldi and Peter Berling. An Imperial Entertainment Corp. Home Video Release. Not Rated.

A NYMPHOID BARBARIAN IN DINOSAUR HELL (1990) - This early sci-fi/fantasy film from director/producer/screenwriter Brett Piper (DRAINIAC - 2000; PSYCLOPS - 2002; ARACHNIA - 2003; BACTERIUM - 2007; MUCKMAN - 2009; THE DARK SLEEP - 2012; TRICLOPS - 2014; QUEEN CRAB - 2015) was acquired by Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Films, who then proceeded to re-edit the film to fit within the "Troma Universe", adding a stupid post-credit sequence (where the Tromaville sign is prominently displayed and footage from TROMA'S WAR [1988] is inserted) and lame female voiceover narration to justify Troma's new, ridiculously long title (the original title was DARK FORTRESS). Thankfully, most of Piper's film remains intact; an ultra-low-budget remix of TEENAGE CAVEMAN (1958) and ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966) that contains Piper's patented mix of cheesy creature stop-motion effects, full-size mock-ups and forced perspective photography. After a devastating worldwide nuclear holocaust (at least that's how it is explained in Troma's re-edited version), the survivors have resorted back to their barbarian, almost caveman-like, ways; some turning to cannibalism, some becoming mutants and household pets and other animals and insects turning into gigantic mutated creatures. In this dangerous new world, we meet the bikini-clad Lea (Linda Corwin), who seems to be the only pretty, non-infected woman in the territory, so she naturally is desired by every male with a working penis, both normal and infected. She is saved from being raped by a bunch of Neanderthals led by Marn (Paul Guzzi), so they join forces to survive. When Lea is captured by a tribe of cannibal mutants led by Clon (co-producer Alex Pirnie) and Marn is seriously wounded, an old man who calls himself a "Digger" (K. Alan Hodder) nurses Marn back to health and gives him an old gun to help in his search for Lea. Meanwhile, Lea is saved from Clon by a mask-wearing, white-haired stranger (Mark Deshaies), who teaches her to read (using old childrens books) and gives her a Bic lighter (!) to start campfires. The masked stranger (whose real face is nothing but a burned skull) is soon killed by Clon after a long, drawn-out fight and Lea is recaptured (she proves herself quite useless and ineffective when trying to defend herself, which makes me wonder how she lasted this long!), but she is saved when a giant worm erupts out of the ground (Like in DUNE, only much cheaper, but effective nonetheless) and bites off Clon's arm (in one of the film's few gore scenes). Lea battles a giant flying monster and ends up in a cave full of the flying critters (who sleep hanging upside down like bats), while Marn fights a swamp creature (Pirnie again in a rather good rubber monster suit) and learns Lea's location from the mortally wounded masked stranger. Will Lea and Marn find each other before the pissed-off, one-armed Clon turns Lea into "lizard meat" by feeding her to the creatures he keeps in a pit?  This dialogue-light flick (I doubt there is more than two pages of spoken words in the entire script if you discount the tacked-on Troma prologue) fails miserably as a sci-fi fantasy, but Brett Piper's stop-motion and full-sized creature effects are, as always, fascinating to watch because, no matter how cheesy-looking and low-rent in appearance they are, at least Piper took the time to do them the old fashioned way, preferring not to use CGI or dress real lizards with fake fins and film them on miniature sets. You can tell that most of Piper's matte effects and other photographic tricks were done in-camera without the help of post-production work, which gives this film a definite 50's feel. Too bad the storyline is so generic (there is only one instance of female nudity and it comes at the very end), but the numerous creatures and effects work will keep monster fans fairly entertained. Piper still prefers old-style effects up to this day, which make most of his films, no matter how hackneyed storywise, a treat for those with Harryhausen and Danforth tastes. Also starring Russ Greene, Rick Stewart, Scott Ferro and Ryan Piper. Available on VHS and DVD from Troma Films. Not Rated.

THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (1987) - Infectious low-budget fantasy adventure from the prolific Fred Olen Ray, which plays like a condensed version of the serials from the 30's & 40's, only with more gore and female flesh. The film opens with a couple (and their dog) on a picnic being attacked by a ridiculously fake-looking monster, who disembowels the dog and rips off the guy's head before the girl kills it by beaning it over the head with a cooler. A woman named Danae Chambers (Susan Stokey; STAR SLAMMER - 1986) hires Cort Eastman (Ross Hagen; ALIENATOR - 1989) and Eddy Colchilde (Dawn Wildsmith; HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS - 1988), the owners of C&C Salvage, to explore the cave that the monster came out of because she believes, based on the fortune in unpolished jewels the monster was wearing around it's neck, that it came from the fabled lost city of R'Lyla. After obtaining a map of R'Lyla from Bill (Russ Tamblyn in a cameo), the only person known to actually have seen R'Lyla and live to tell about it (he ended up losing a leg, though), Cort, Eddy, Danae, archaeologist Andrew Paris (Jeffrey Combs; DEAD MAN WALKING - 1987) of Miskatonic University (!) and mineralogist Professor Strock (Robert Quarry; SPIRITS - 1991) enter the cave (actually Bronson Canyon, a location used for many horror films) and begin their journey. After bedding down for the night, the group are interrupted from their drinking and carousing by the sudden appearance of a mute babe in a bikini (Michelle Bauer; TOMB OF THE WEREWOLF - 2003) who is being chased by a bunch of mutated cannibals. They save the mute babe, but Danae is kidnapped by the cannibals, who tie her to a spit and begin slow-roasting her over a fire (She screams, "You won't like how I taste!"). Cort, Eddy and Andrew save her and the mute babe then leads the group to the entrance of her city (which is guarded by a laser-firing Robby The Robot from FORBIDDEN PLANET!). The city happens to be (surprise!) the lost civilization of R'Lyla and they are met at the entrance by the Alien Queen (Sybil Danning [THE TOMB - 1986] in a tight, bra-busting outfit) who, along with her tribe of all-female bikini-clad mutes, takes everyone prisoner. It seems the Alien Queen crash-landed there years ago and needs our motley group to mine the caves as slaves to retrieve the materials needed to repair her ship. She also has the hots for Andrew, but the mute girl he saved also like him, which sets up the conflict that will help our group escape in the finale. After finding diamonds that will make them rich beyond their wildest dreams, they steal the Alien Queen's rocket car and successfully make it back to civilization, with the Alien Queen vowing revenge in a sequel that was never made.  While cheap to the point of poverty (the cannibals wear static rubber masks and there's dinosaur footage cribbed from PLANET OF DINOSAURS [1978]), director Fred Olen Ray (DEEP SPACE - 1987), working with a screenplay written by himself and T.L. Lankford, has infused the film with a sense of playfulness and humor (He reportedly shot this film in six days and it shows). Nothing is taken seriously, as no one is killed (besides the mutant cannibals) after the poor picnic guy is beheaded in the beginning. Most of the film is one bad burlesque joke after another, but Ray realizes this and plays the entire film as pure camp. The special effects (the ones that weren't borrowed from other films) are laughable but seem to be done that way on purpose to keep the spirit of the serial adventure films of the past (the forced perspective shots are a hoot, as is the FLASH GORDON-style rocket car the Alien Queen uses to travel through R'Lyla). The nudity is saved for the final third of the film, where we get to see Sybil Danning's exposed nipple when she gets into a fight with Ross Hagen and then Michelle Bauer trots around topless for a couple of minutes after getting into a catfight with one of her tribe members. The gore, on the other hand, comes in the beginning of the film with the extremely graphic beheading. The rest of the violence is strictly comic book level; just bloodless gunfights, a mutant being disintegrated by Robby The Robot's laser blasts and an explosion in the finale. THE PHANTOM EMPIRE is just goofy, mindless fun from beginning to end. Mr. Ray promised a sequel during the end credits, but it never materialized. This is basically a remake of the 1935 Gene Autrey 12-part serial with the same name. Made in 1987, but not released until 1989. Also starring Michael D. Sonye (the scripter of BLOOD DINER - 1987) and Victoria Alexander as the picnic couple. Originally released on VHS by Prism Entertainment and later released on DVD by Fred Olen Ray's label Retromedia Entertainment. Rated R.

QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (1979) - During a Muslim wedding, someone puts the bride under a black magic spell, where she hallucinates that her husband-to-be is turning into a rotting zombie and her flower necklace is turning into a snake, which puts a serious crimp in the wedding ceremony. It also doesn't help that the wedding feast turns into a pile of maggots and a storm blows in from nowhere. The bride becomes a complete basket case (she imagines that snakes are everywhere) and the wedding is canceled. This all seems to benefit local peasant girl Murni (Suzzanna; THE SNAKE QUEEN - 1982), who was madly in love with the groom, Kohar, before he callously dumped her and decided the marry the daughter of a wealthy businessman. When the local witch doctor is mysteriously killed by some supernatural magic (his body is repeatedly slammed to the ground by some invisible force), he utters in his final breath, "The evil spirit comes from the west!" Kohar interprets this to mean that Murni is responsible, so he gathers all the townspeople to hunt down Murni (The only thing Murni is really responsible for is losing her virginity to Kohar, who promised to marry her after he popped her cherry). Kohar and the villagers capture Murni, burn down her house (killing her mother in the process) and drag her to the top of a mountain, where they throw her off a cliff ("One...two...three...away!"). Luckily, Murni lands in the arms of a black magician (W.D. Mochtar), who nurses her back to health and teaches her the finer points of the Black Arts. Murni becomes the Queen of Black Magic and uses her newfound powers to avenge her mother's death and make all those responsible pay with their lives, especially the dastardly Kohar. Pretty soon, villagers are being attacked by bees; breaking out in huge boils that explode in huge gushers of blood; swallowed under the ground and devoured by snakes; hung from trees by the neck; and, in one case, Murni steals an infant out of a cradle and breast feeds it, getting a huge sexual thrill from the experience! The appearance of a stranger in town named Permana may be just what the villagers need to battle Murni and her teacher. After Murni kills Kohar, she wants to stop the reign of terror, but her teacher won't let her (it's apparent he has an agenda). Things get weird when Murni and Permana fall in love, not knowing each other's true identities. As Permana gets the villagers to accept religion back into their lives, which lessens the black magician's powers, one villager spots Permana cavorting with Murni in the forest. Mistakenly thinking that Permana is in league with the Devil, the villagers may undo everything good Permana has brought into the village.  This is another wild and delirious fantasy film from Rapi Films, Indonesia's premiere supplier of filmed dementia. This is a sort-of second sequel to the 1975 Hong Kong horror film BLACK MAGIC (1975) and BLACK MAGIC 2 (1976; a.k.a. REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES), but director Liliek Sudjio and screenwriter Imam Tantowi (THE WARRIOR AND NINJA - 1985) give this film it's own unique spin, mixing religion and black magic as a metaphor for good against evil. This film is full of weird visuals, such as when the silhouette of Murni can be seen flying through the air (with the obvious help of a trampoline) against the backdrop of a full moon; Murni using black magic to force Kohar to rip off his own head (!) and then the head flies through the air biting villagers; the black magician's use of a voodoo doll to make the rich businessman's stomach swell-up to gigantic proportions; and the final attack on the village, where an unjustly deceived Murni and Permana face-off and family secrets are revealed. Expect fireballs, flying objects, toe-sucking and other strange sights. There's a lot of blood spilled here and a few shots of semi-nudity as Indonesian films tend to shy away from showing women's nipples. Even in the breast-feeding scene, we see the baby suckling on Murni's breast, but no nipple, yet this film finds clever ways to cover-up the naughty bits, by use of strategically-placed objects, blurred lenses or camera framing, making the viewer believe they are seeing more than they actually are. QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC is another winner from what seems like a never-ending supply of strange films from Indonesia. Also starring Teddy Purba, Sofia W.D., Alan Naury, Siska Widowati, Dorman Borisman, Doddy Sukma, Tizar Pyrbaya and I.M. Damsyik. Originally available on VHS from Twilight Video under the title BLACK MAGIC TERROR and available on widescreen DVD from Mondo Macabro. Not Rated.

THE RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS (1983) - Confusing Italian nonsense, originally titled THE ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS and also known as ATLANTIS INFERNO, LES PREDATEURS DU FUTUR and THE LAST WARRIORS, from Ruggero Deodato, the director of the gut-munching classic CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980). Two mercenaries (the late Chris Connelly and Tony King) rescue a band of scientists from a floating platform hit by a tidal wave in the Pacific ocean. It seems the scientists were trying to raise a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine which is resting on what was the lost continent of Atlantis. Somehow, the sub's nuclear missiles have reanimated the populous of Atlantis, causing the island to resurface (complete with a bubble dome) with the inhabitants thirsty to kill any humans they come in contact with. Connelly and the group try to stay one step ahead of the Atlantidians, occaisonally meeting them head-to-head for some bloody contact. Eventually, Connelly and the group make it to the formerly submerged island and try to disarm the missiles. They also try to free a captured scientist ("Marie Fields"; real name: Gioia Maria Scola; TOO BEAUTIFUL TO DIE - 1988) who knows the secrets of making Atlantis the ruler of the world. They succeed and Atlantis once again sinks to the depths of the ocean. Accomplishing this feat has cost many lives. Who will survive? This filmed in the Philippines fantasy/actioner boasts some over-the-top effects (including a decapitation by electrical wire and an arrow in the mouth) and nice scenery, but the storyline is so confusing (especially in the finale) that you'll be scratching your head wondering what the hell it's all about. Another problem is the tendency to introduce new characters throughout the film just to have them killed off a few minutes later. Director Ruggero Deodato shows a sure hand in filming the action sequences but fumbles when it comes to the scenes that are strictly dialogue. The Italian screenwriters have a way of writing dialogue that murders the English language, especially when it comes to writing "hip" dialogue for black characters. Watch Lamberto Bava's DEMONS (1985) and other Italian genre films from the 80's to get a feel of what I mean. The black characters sound as if they stepped off a spaceship from some distant galaxy after they studied transmissions from some of the Amos 'n Andy radio and television broadcasts of the 40's & 50's. Uttering  such lines as "We best be finding a way to get outta here" and "Get your watermelon-smellin' puss outta my face" sets back the African-American progress nearly one hundred years. Yes, it is funny. But you have to remember that it was written to be spoken seriously and believably. This has always bothered me, even if I am not black. Oh, well. THE RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS plays like a modern-day version of the countless Italian MAD MAX rip offs. If you like those, you'll probably like this one. A Prism Entertainment VHS Release. Also available in a heavily-edited version on bootleg DVD in the compilation called GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE VOLUME 2. Also available on Mill Creek Entertainment's SCI-FI INVASION 50 MOVIE DVD Compilation in the same heavily-edited fullscreen print. Not Rated.

RAPE (1976) - Badly dubbed Spanish supernatural tale. Frenchman Frank (Gil Vidal) and Spanish Roger (Rick Joss) decide to investigate the mysterious death of their friend Gene. They travel to a small Spanish town where they learn that Gene was seeing a girl named Maria (the single-monikered Nadiuska), whom the townspeople chased out of town for being a witch. Frank and Roger (who are amateur parapsychologists) go to Maria's deserted house and discover ancient Aztec symbols on the walls (they cannot be seen with the naked eye and can only be viewed when photographed) and record voices on tape that weren't heard originally. They finally locate Maria living in a mountain cabin with her father (director M.I. Bonns, using his first two names Miquel Iglesias). There they learn that Maria has strange supernatural powers. When her drunken father tries to rape her, windows mysteriously break and objects fly around. Maria cures a young boy's gangriene-infected leg. She has visions of Spanish Conquistadors. While under hypnosis, we learn that Maria is possessed by the Princess of Moctezuma, an ancient Aztec ruler whose people were slaughtered by the Conquistadors. The Princess was taken captive and fell in love with one of her captors. Maria's father goes crazy and burns down the cabin with himself and Maria in it. Frank and Roger find Maria's dead, but unburnt, body among the cinders. On their flight back to France, Frank and Roger discover that all their evidence has been erased. The photos and tapes have gone blank. Suddenly, they are approached by a stewardess who bears a striking resemblance to Maria. The End. Huh? Apparently something was lost in the translation. The only point of seeing this film, originally titled DESNUDA INQUIETUD ("Naked Restlessness"), is the disrobing of star Nadiuska. The rest of the film is a confusing mix of supernatural mumbo-jumbo, love story and flashbacks. Director M.I. Bonns also made the Paul Naschy werewolf film NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST (1975 - a.k.a. THE WEREWOLF AND THE YETI and HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING), KILMA, QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS (1975) and others. Any one of these will give you more pleasure than RAPE. You'll feel raped if you expect a satisfying conclusion to this film. A Mogul Video Release. Not Rated.

SCREAMERS (1980) - in 1980, Roger Corman took director Sergio Martino's tame and innocuous 1979 Italian film titled L'ISOLA DEGLI UOMINI PESCE  ("Island Of The Fishmen"). gutted it of 20 minutes of footage and then hired Miller Drake to direct 15 minutes of new gore footage; 12 minutes of that new footage (featuring Cameron Mitchell and Mel Ferrer) being the new opening of the film. The posters promised: "Be warned: You will actually see a man turned inside out". Well, I went to a theater when this was released in 1981 by Corman's New World Pictures (who originally released this film as SOMETHING WAITS IN THE DARK and it bombed, but Corman was known for not admitting defeat) and saw no such scene. Apparently that scene was filmed only for the trailer (by future director Jim Wynorski; CHOPPING MALL - 1986) and when drive-in customers in Atlanta, Georgia caused a small riot because they were mislead, Corman quickly had that footage added on all 26 prints of the film (after I saw it!!!), making the film a qualified hit. That footage never made it to home video in any format and is considered lost.
     The film begins with the new footage, that pretty much has nothing to do with the original film. The Caribbean Sea 1891: Captain Decker (Cameron Mitchell; SATAN'S SUPPER - 1980) and his small crew are on an island (actually Bronson Canyon, where many low-budget genre films were lensed, most notedly IT CONQUERED THE WORLD [1956], an early film which Corman directed). Decker has promised to take Radcliffe (Mel Ferrer; EATEN ALIVE! - 1980) and his young wife Samantha (Eunice Bolt) to the "Cave Of The Dead", where they hope to find treasure (To revitalize the Radcliffe family fortune, which was gambled away). Decker and his crew stop at the mouth of the cave, Decker telling the couple that they can go inside and find the treasure on their own becasuse he was only paid to point them to the cave. They should have gone in because a sharp-clawed sea creature is decimating Decker and his crew. Crew member Patterson (Tom J. Delaney) has his head gorily ripped-off his body and Decker has his throat torn out. It's not so pleasant inside the cave, either, as Radcliffe also has his throat torn out and when one of the corpses guarding the treasure rises and attacks Samantha, she runs out of the cave and into the arms of the creature (which looks like a rejiggered version of one of the HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP [1980], but it is actually a new creation by special effects master Chris Walas).
     Then the film proper begins. Five survivors of a prison ship shipwreck, doctor Lt. Claude De Ross (Claudio Cassinelli; MURDER-ROCK: DANCING DEATH - 1984) and prisoners Jose (Franco Iavarone), Peter (Roberto Posse), François (Francesco Mazzieri) & Skip (Giuseppe Castellano; THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE - 1970) wash-up on the shore of an uncharted volcanic island. Almost immediately, they are attacked by fishmen (they hide in the mud of shallow water), killing François and Skip. The trio continue traveling inland, where they find a deserted village. Jose thinks this island stinks of voodoo because he sees empty graves and symbols that signify such. They meet a beautiful woman on horseback named Amanda Marvin (Barbara Bach; BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA - 1971), who tells them to get off the island because it belongs to Edmond Rackham (Richard Johnson; THE NIGHT CHILD - 1975). Instead of heeding her warning, they follow her back to where she lives, unaware that they are being followed by Rackham. They meet Rackham and he invites Claude to have dinner with him and Amanda (Jose and Peter were not invited). At dinner, Radcliffe makes it clear to Claude that he is master of the island. That night, Peter follows Amanda as she jumps on a horse and heads out to shore. She is greeted by a bunch of fishmen, who don't attack her. She gives them some sort of liquid to drink as they gather around her and then they head out back to the ocean. Peter tries to rape Amanda when she tries to return home, but she is saved by one of the fishmen, who grabs Peter and drags him under water to his death. The next morning, after hearing Rackham saying to Claude that Peter is of "no importance" because he was a criminal, Jose steals a horse and discovers a ship named the "Enterprise" hidden from view in a cave. He boards the ship and is knocked-out by Rackham. Claude tries to follow Jose and is attacked by the fishmen, but Amanda saves his life by calling the creatures off. Why does Amanda have powers that sway these creatures?
     Faster than you can say "Dr. Moreau", we are then introduced to Amanda's father, Professor Ernest Marvin (Joseph Cotten; BARON BLOOD - 1972), a world-reknown biologist that was long-thought dead. The Professor suffers from spells that could lead to his death and the only reason that Rackham keeps Claude alive is because he is a doctor. He wants Claude to treat the Professor so he doesn't die, but why? (We already know that Rackham has the hots for Amanda, but she finds his romantic advances disgusting). Rackham makes it clear to Claude that if he wants to live, he better keep the Professor alive. When the Professor awakens, he tells Claude that he can't leave the island for proper medical treatment  because "My work isn't finished!" Before Claude can get a proper answer to what kind of work he is referring to, Rackham takes Claude to a secret underground cave, where they travel underwater in an ancient diving bell. Rackham shows Claude the underwater city of Atlantis, which is protected by a swarm of fishmen. Rackham wants the treasures that Atlantis holds and tells Claude that the Professor has created a potion that keeps the fishmen in check (the same potion that Peter saw Amanda giving to the fishmen). He wants Claude to keep "the old man going" and is willing to share the treasure with him if he keeps the Professor alive. Rackham plans on using the Enterprise to escape the island once the treasure is in his possession and offers Claude a chance to come with him. Claude agrees, but it is obvious that he wants nothing to do with Rackham. Claude finds a way to get into the Professor's secret laboratory, where he and Amanda discover that Jose is being transformed into one of the fishmen (he looks like the spitting image of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON [1954]). Amanda had no idea that her father was capable of such dastardly deeds (The Professor tells Amanda that he has transformed many of the island's native residents into fishmen). After this discovery, Rackham enters the laboratory and shoots the Professor dead (he no longer has any more use of him). Claude realizes that Rackham wants the fishmen to retrieve the treasure for him since Atlantis is 2,000 feet underwater, much too far a distance for normal humans (at the time) to travel.
     Rackham knocks-out Claude with the butt of his pistol and puts him in an iron cage that is slowly filling up with water. He takes Amanda prisoner, pointing his pistol at her head, telling the fishmen he will kill her unless they bring the treasure to him. Instead, the fishmen free Claude just as the island's volcano begins to erupt. Claude saves Amanda after getting into a fight with Rackham and they try to escape in the Enterprise, but not before Rackham tries to stop them. He falls into the water and the fishmen drag him underwater. The fishmen then grab Amanda, also dragging her underwater, with Claude jumping in to save her, just as the lava destroys the the island (and the Enterprise). Claude and Amanda wake up, floating on a piece of the Enterprise as a ship approaches. The fishmen saved their lives and Claude wonders if any of them are still alive. What do you think?
     Besides the new inserts, this film is fairly bloodless, with no nudity or foul language. That doesn't mean this is a badly made film, because it isn't. This was director Sergio Martino's (TORSO - 1973; HANDS OF STEEL - 1986) second film in his "Adventure Trilogy", which included MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD (1978) and THE GREAT ALLIGATOR (1979; made back-to-back with this film and featuring many of the same actors). The screenplay, by Martino, Sergio Donati (THE WEEKEND MURDERS - 1970) & Cesare Frugoni (CUT AND RUN - 1985) is supposedly based on the H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", but there is really no similarity. Martino returned in  1995 for a sequel, THE FISHMEN AND THEIR QUEEN, featuring none of the actors here, but it does answer Claude's question at the end of this film.
     Originally released on fullscreen VHS from Embassy Home Entertainment in the mid-'80s, with a widescreen DVD from Mya Communication in 2009 (I question that disc's legitimacy). Scorpion Releasing released this on Blu-Ray (my review is based on this disc) and it looks beautiful. There are plentiful extras on the disc which cements the controversy that surrounded it back in the day. One extra is an interview with Jim Wynorski, who was New World's advertising director when this film was picked up and released. He talks about shooting the trailer (using sets from GALAXY OF TERROR - 1981) and how Roger Corman called him the day after riots broke out in an Atlanta drive-in. It is funny as well as informative. Also on the disc is an interview with Miller Drake, who tells how he became to direct the new footage (Joe Dante recommended him to Corman). He thought the creature that Chris Walas created in the new footage was better looking than the ones in the actual film (he's right). There are also interviews with Corman (who says that he needed the new footage to make the film feature-length (that's simply not true because the original version ran 94 minutes, where this new version runs 89 minutes. He probably added the new gory footage to make the film more exploitable.), one with Joe Dante (who edited this new version) and Clark Henderson (director of SAIGON COMMANDOS [1987) and the awful WARLORDS FROM HELL [1985], who was head of post-production at New World. His is the most error-filled interview of the lot. (He says that Mel Ferrer was one of the stars of the original version. He wasn't). Also on this disc is the trailer that Wynorski created as well as a longer one where it was originally known under the SOMETHING WAITS title. All-in-all a nice little package for a film I never thought would get the deluxe treatment. The late Gary Graver was cinematographer of all the new footage, which is why it probably looks so good. Also starring Beryl Cunningham (EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 - 1983) as Shakira, the island's voodoo priestess who wants to sacrifice Amanda to her God, but gets a bullet from Rackham instead (and, no, she doesn't sing!). Rated R, but that only applies to the extra footage. If the original film was shown without without this footage, it would probably garner a PG Rating.

THE SECRET OF THE INCAS' EMPIRE (1987) - In this Italian/Philippines co-production, bad guy Angel Lasky (Vassilli Karis; LEATHERNECKS - 1988) kills a professor to get his hands on a piece of a treasure map that will lead him to the location of a pre-Incan civilization. Unfortunately, the professor already gave his map piece to his female assistant Linda (Kelly London), with instructions to turn it over to Professor Rivera (Frank Vitale). Angel and his bad men try to obtain the map piece by kidnapping Linda, but Rivera's associate, Professor Clifton Bradbury III (Conrad Nichols; RUSH - 1983), saves her and they head out by helicopter to meet Rivera, who is located 300 miles inside a dense Colombian jungle (She says to Bradbury, "You're a good fighter, you know!" to which he replies, "I know. Arnold Schwarzenegger taught me."). When their helicopter is shot down by Angel, Bradbury and Linda must make the long, arduous trek to Rivera's camp any way they can. Luckily, Bradbury is very familiar with the area, but they still must contend with an assortment of dangerous people and situations, including a group of murderous thieves and would-be rapists, some revolutionaries, a couple of Incan natives (who both believe that Bradbury is the answer to some as-yet unknown predestined prophecy) and, of course, Angel and his men. Along the way, Linda learns from Bradbury that the map may prove that the Inca Empire and the civilization preceding it were visited by aliens in spaceships who were "fair-skinned and red-haired". Bradbury and Linda finally make it to Rivera's camp, only to discover Rivera dead (along with a bunch of birds), the victim of a fatal poison gas attack. They are then captured by Angel, who is actually working for the dastardly Professor Xristopoulos (director Gianfranco Parolini, using the name "J. Francis Scott"), but they manage to get away with help of some angry natives. The world's unluckiest couple then get caught in the middle of a piranha infested river, surrounded by a group of rapidly approaching crocodiles, but they are saved by trader Noah (Willy Morales; THE SISTERHOOD - 1987) and his obese wife Rose (Florence Carvajal; PAY OR DIE - 1979). Bradbury and Linda finally make it to the trap-filled underground city and discover that Rivera is still alive, but quite mad. After defeating his insane colleague, Bradbury finds proof that aliens did actually visit there and Linda is rewarded with a fortune in jewels, but the clever finale leaves both their fates up in the air (Literally. The last time we see them, they are hanging on a rapidly-breaking tree branch while suspended over a crocodile pit!).  This action adventure, directed/produced/co-written by Gianfranco Parolini (YETI: GIANT OF THE 20TH CENTURY [1977] and countless Peplum and Spaghetti Westerns of the 60's & 70's), using his frequent "Frank Kramer" pseudonym, is dumb fun if you try not to think too hard. The dubbed English dialogue is about as juvenile as it gets (especially when Bradbury has to suck poison out of Linda's ass), but the goofy situations and violence (which escalates as the film progresses) should keep most viewers reasonably entertained. At first, the film plays like some family-friendly adventure tale, but about the midway point it becomes quite violent, as people are riddled with bullets, blown up, impaled through the neck and heart with arrows, eaten by crocodiles, decapitated (one virgin girl has her head cut off in an ancient ritual and her decapitated head is attached to a rope and pulled to the top of a temple) or sliced open with swords. Other weird sights on view include Max Laurel (ZUMA - 1985; COP GAME - 1988) as the machete-toting leader of the pre-Inca civilization and Bradbury and Linda's final booby trapped excursion into the buried underground city, where they are attacked by snakes, bats and crocodiles that shoot laser beams from their mouths (!) and then meet the sole protector of the lost city, who wears a huge metal condor mask, shoots laser beams out of his eyes and plays an organ like he's the Phantom of the Opera! Of course, none of it makes an ounce of sense, but it's entertaining nonsense nonetheless. Also known as THE SECRET OF THE BURIED KINGDOM. Also starring Ann Karin, Steve Alcarado, Lyka Ugarte and John Peebes. Never legitimately available on U.S. home video (although it did get a Canadian VHS release from Astral Video); the version I viewed was sourced from a good-looking widescreen Japanese-subtitled VHS tape. Not Rated.

SHE (1983) - In this comical post-nuke adventure (set in the Year 23, After the Cancellation), merchants Tom (David Goss of HOLLYWOOD COP) and Dick (Harrison Muller) go on many adventures searching for Tom's sister Hari (Elena Wiedermann) after she is kidnapped by the evil Hector (Gordon Mitchell) and his band of mutants, known as the Norks. The only person who can help Tom and Dick locate the Nork village is man-hater She (Sandahl Bergman), the leader of an all-female tribe. She thinks men are only good for two things: Sex and fighting to the death. Men who meet her in either method always end up dead. She has sex with men and immediately kills them once she has had her way with them. She also goes through a yearly ritual where she fights a series of men (even a Frankenstein monster whose head explodes when she bites off one of his neck bolts!) and then takes a nude bath in a regeneration pool to heal her wounds. Prophecy says she will give up her man-hating ways when she falls in love with a man that will change her life. Tom and Dick kidnap She to help them locate Tom's sister, but immediately run into trouble when they are captured by chainsaw-wielding mutant mummies led by Kram (Cyrus Elias). They are tossed into a giant trash compactor, but are saved by She's all-female army. Surprisingly, She let's Tom and Dick go on their way but secretly follows close behind. She ends up saving Tom and Dick's ass when they run into a tribe of mutant vampires dressed as Romans during the time of Caesar (they wear cheap dimestore fangs and listen to 50's Doo-Wop music!). Next, She, her second in command Shandra (Quin Kessler), Tom and Dick feel the wrath of Godan (Gregory Snegoff), the telekenetic leader of a group of axe-carrying monks, who whip She and Shandra before Tom and Dick save them from certain deaths (including a painful body-stretching for Shandra [Dick says to her, "You look taller!"] and a psychic rape for She). Our fearless foursome next trek through a forest that emits a toxic fog and She, Shandra and Dick are taken prisoner by mad scientist Rabel (Donald Hodson) and his pink tu-tu wearing brute henchman Rudolph (Mario Pedone). They all manage to escape, make it to the Nork village and rescue Tom's sister, but another problem arises: If they don't take a stand now, the Norks will attack and wipe out She's people. They wait for the Norks on a bridge and hope to hold-off the Norks long enough until Shandra returns with reinforcements.  This goofy, off-the-wall fantasy adventure was directed and scripted by Israeli director Avi Nesher (TIMEBOMB - 1991; DOPPELGANGER - 1992) with his tongue firmly planted in cheek. Half the fun of watching this film is spotting the frequent sight gags on view. I especially enjoyed Tom's run-in with movie-quoting Xenon (David Traylor) on a bridge that leads to the Nork village. Xenon is so annoying, Tom chops him into pieces, but each piece turns into a separate Xenon and soon Tom is fighting a dozen Xenons (who, at one point, form a chorus line and high-step like the Rockettes!). There are many more visual treats on view in SHE (check out what's written on the boxes and crates during She's fighting ritual and pay close attention to the costumes the Norks wear) as well as imaginative (and funny) set pieces, including Godan's psychokinetic fighting ability, Hector's "Anyone wish to withdraw" speech and the Nork gladiator match in the finale. There's surprisingly very little nudity (just Sandahl Bergman's topless dip in the regeneration pool) and not much blood, although there is plenty of violence, including impalements, dry dismemberments (one arm-yanking scene is played strictly for laughs) and explosions. Rather than having a pat, "Happily ever after" ending, director Nesher chose to end it on a bittersweet note, which is truly refreshing. This is a fun, campy time for those looking for something a little off the beaten path. It's like THE WIZARD OF OZ on crack and has nothing to do with H. Rider Haggard's novel of the same name (even though it gets an "Inspired By" credit), which has been made into several films over the years. Rick Wakeman (THE BURNING - 1980) composed the inventive music score and Avi Nesher also co-wrote most of the original songs. Eduard Sarlui and Helen Sarlui-Tucker (MONSTER DOG - 1985) were the Executive Producers. Also starring David Brandon, Andrew McLeay, Mary D'Antin and Laurie Sherman. A Lightning Video Release. Not Rated.

SHE WOLVES OF THE WASTELAND (1987) - Well, it's post-apocalypse time again and this time bacteriological wars have killed off all the men and only a handful of women survived. The hideously-mutated Reverend Mother (Sheila Howard, who has a ton of plastic tubing attached to her head) has plans of creating the perfect female race, so she sends her second-in-command, Cobalt (Persis Khambatta; NIGHTHAWKS - 1981; WARRIOR OF THE LOST WORLD - 1983), to find female specimens in the outlands to operate on and to kill those that don't meet the Reverend Mother's exacting criteria. When Keela (Peggy Sands; a.k.a. "Peggy Sanders" of LADY AVENGER [1988] infamy) steals the Reverend Mother's DNA formula (she's pregnant with a male child) and escapes into the desert, the Reverend Mother puts a bounty on her head and orders Cobalt to find her a living male subject so she can drain him of his energy and become powerful again. Keela finds a protector in "Santrapper" Phoenix (Kathleen Kinmont; THE ART OF DYING - 1991), a buxom female warrior (the film was originally titled PHOENIX THE WARRIOR) who is handy with firearms as well as swords. When Keela gives birth to the baby boy, which she names Skylar, The Reverend Mother instantly has a psychic link to it, but she is once again thwarted by Phoenix (They both share a past together). Five years pass and Skylar is now a young boy who is trained by Phoenix to be a great hunter. The trio search for safety in the legendary "Island In The Sea", but first they must walk through the Badlands, a desolate area inhabited by the Rezule, a tribe of TV-quoting mutants. When Skylar accidentally drops his toy car on their journey and it is brought back to the Reverend Mother, she is able to reconnect her psychic link to Skylar, so she sends Cobalt and her crew in dune buggies to capture him. The trio is helped by Guy (James H. Emery), the last living adult male (who escaped from the Reverend Mother's "seed pool"), but when Phoenix is captured by Cobalt and imprisoned (in a pen an armless person could break out of), Keela, Skylar and a reluctant Guy set out to rescue her. They save Phoenix from an arena fight presided over by Cobalt and head out into the Badlands, only to be captured by the Rezule, who turn Skylar and Guy over to the Reverend Mother. Can Phoenix and Keela escape and rescue the only two males left on Earth before the Reverend Mother drains them both of their energy? You, too, will feel drained after watching this. Drained of your will to live.  Oh, my. Where to begin? For starters, this early in-house production from Executive Producer David Winters and Producer Peter Yuval's Action International Pictures looks so impoverished, I doubt it could fill the shrunken belly of a starving Somalian child. Everything about this film is so cheap, from the stripper outfits the female extras wear; sets that look like they were constructed out of rotting lumber, tin roofing, sticks and backdrops made out of plastic drop cloths; fight scenes that look like they were choreographed by Stevie Wonder; women who have no idea how to hold a gun (some of the extras look utterly scared shitless when they fire their weapons); to the horrific acting of everyone involved (even old pros, like the late Khambatta and the beautiful Kinmont, don't even try here). Director/co-scripter Robert Hayes (SPY HIGH - 2001) must have skipped the Continuity 101 class in film school because the movie is a disjointed mess. Scenes begin and end for no discernable reason at all and some scenes, like the birth of Skylar, come out of nowhere, as the last time we saw Keela before the birth, she didn't even have a baby bump! Believe it or not, Hayes is now a well-respected cinematographer of low-budget genre films, including the god-awful WEREWOLF (1995) and SATANIC (2005). For a film about a world populated by busty, skimpily dressed females, there is precious little nudity, just a few topless shots here and there (but none by Kinmont, damn it!) to hold your interest. The screenplay, by Hayes and Dan Rotblatt, is generic post-nuke stuff (Cirio H. Santiago's THE SISTERHOOD [1987] covered the same territory much better), but I have to admit that when the tribe of mutant Rezule starts chanting the names of old TV shows during a sacrificial ritual ("Leave It To Beaver! Trapper John M.D.! Little House On The Prairie!"), it did bring a smile to my face. I can hardly recommend this film based on that one scene alone, so I won't. Also starring Nina Jaffe, Courtney Cauldwell, Laurie de Nuccio, Linda Santo and Skylar Corbett. Originally available on VHS (as PHOENIX THE WARRIOR) from Sony Video Software, Inc. and available on budget DVD (under the new title) from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. Not Rated.

THE SNAKE QUEEN (1982) - Those crazy Indonesians are at it again. A beautiful queen wishes to have a baby because she is lonely, so she pleads to the gods for guidance. Rather than sending her a good looking man to produce a baby the old fashioned way, the gods tell her to create a storm in the South Sea, raise a dragon's egg from the bottom of the ocean and place the egg in the Cave of Secrets. The egg will then hatch into a beautiful Snake Queen (Imagine if all babies were made that way!), which the gods tell the lonely queen to name Queen Para. Well, the lonely queen does as she's instructed, but when the egg hatches in the Cave of Secrets (I was laughing so hard, I nearly coughed-up a kidney!), a fully grown woman (Suzzanna; QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC - 1979) emerges and she has the ability to control snakes (among other powers). Queen Para begins ruling over the humans, offering them wealth beyond their wildest dreams in exchange for human sacrifices. When Queen Para asks for the life of wealthy businessman Kokoro's (Ratno Timoer; director of THE DEVIL'S SWORD [1984] and THE BLIND WARRIOR [1985]) lovely daughter Sasti (Nenna Rosier), Kokoro pleads with Queen Para to let him offer someone else's life instead, since she's his last living blood relative. The Snake Queen agrees, as long as it's someone related to him, so Kokoro cooks up a plan, where he asks local boy Andika (Barry Prima; THE WARRIOR - 1981) to marry Sasti, for the sole purpose of offering Andika's life to the Snake Queen once the marriage ceremony is completed. Meanwhile, handsome, but penniless, Johan (George Rudy) is looking for the Snake Queen to offer his undying devotion in exchange for riches. An old hag named Miss Eno gives him directions to the Cave of Secrets, where he finds a group of seductive handmaidens (one who sucks her thumb like she is giving it head!). The young lasses jump into a pond and Queen Para rises from the water. She makes Johan eat a plate of human baby body parts to prove his devotion (he does grudgingly) and then tells him to go home to his wife (!) and prepare a secret chamber in his house, where she will arrive the following Wednesday for a night of sex. When Wednesday arrives, Johan discovers that his young daughter is dead (those body parts her ate may have been his daughter's!) and the Snake Queen arrives at the secret chamber (in her flying horse-drawn chariot!) to fuck Johan's brains out. When Johan's wife interrupts their lovemaking, Queen Para turns into a snake and kills them both. When the village turns out for Johan's burial, his body suddenly becomes too big to fit in his grave (!), which is the catalyst in a series of events that involves the greedy Kokoro, his new wife Dewi (also portrayed by Suzzanna), daughter Sasti and groom-to-be Andika. Things get out of hand when Andika falls madly in love with Dewi, which throws a monkey wrench in Kokoro's deal with the Snake Queen. It turns out that Dewi is actually the Snake Queen in disguise (not a very good one if you ask me) and she also finds herself falling in love with Andika, but the gods will not let her spend her life with a mere mortal. Needless to say, Kokoro tries to back-end his deal with the Snake Queen and enlists hag Miss Eno to do battle with her. It doesn't end well for Eno or Kokoro, as they both end up falling off cliffs to their deaths, only in entirely different ways. Don't worry though, folks, because the Snake Queen will return in future installments.  In case you didn't get the hint, this is the first in a series of Snake Queen films, all starring Suzzanna and directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra (PRIMITIVES - 1978; SRIGALA - 1981; SATAN'S SLAVE - 1982; and the previously-mentioned THE WARRIOR - 1981), which includes PERKAWINAN NYI BLORONG ("Snake Woman's Wedding" - 1983) and HUNGRY SNAKE WOMAN (1987). I'm sure that there are more films in the series, but the problem is that for every Indonesian film that makes it out of their country, there are at least fifty others that we will never see. THE SNAKE QUEEN contains all the weirdness and bizarre imagery we've come to expect from Indonesian fantasy films, including barely-dressed (but never nude) women dancing in some unexplained ritual; a scene where a man with a burning head splits his body in half at the waist (the bottom half runs around the top half for a few moments!), which results in the flaming head to become detached and roll on the ground; a strange vision of Hell, where Sasti sees her dead mother walk across a burning bridge made up of human bodies; a WIZARD OF OZ reference ("And you were there!"); a car crashing through a liquor store; an EXORCIST take-off, where a possessed, blue-faced Sasti makes her bed levitate and then does gymnastics on the walls and ceiling; lots of snakes; and, of course, hilarious English dubbing ("The babies we have will be alive!"). What can I say? I'm a sucker for these ridiculously insane flicks (this one was written by Darto Joned, who also scripted THE WARRIOR and REVENGE OF NINJA [1984], so you know you're in for a treat) and THE SNAKE QUEEN is a prime example of this demented genre. Produced by Gope T. Samtani for Indonesia's premiere purveyors of sleaze, Rapi Films. Also starring Dorman Borisman, Ade Irawan, I.M. Damsyik, Ruth Pellupessy and Doddy Sukma. As with most Indonesian films, this never had a legitimate U.S. home video release, so I had to rely on a copy sourced from a Greek-subtitled VHS tape. Those Greeks are lucky bastards. Not Rated.

THE SPIRIT OF '76 (1990) - Adam 11 (David Cassidy), Chanel 6 (Olivia d'Abo) and Heinz 57 (Geoff Hoyle) leave magnetic storm-ravaged Earth in the year 2176 in a time machine to travel back to 1776 in hope of finding the Constitution of the United States in order to restore heritage in their future society. A glitch in the time machine transports them instead to 1976 and the fun begins. Our trio is adopted by two teenage hippies (Jeffrey and Steve MacDonald of the music group Red Kross) and they are introduced to bell-bottom pants, Grand Funk Railroad, 8 track players, drug culture (with an assist from Tommy Chong), mood rings, an EST seminar (leader Rob Reiner calls everyone "assholes"), disco dancing, Pop Rocks and the fuzz. This low-budget inventive comedy looks back affectionately at the worst the 1970's had to offer. Parents gleam as they show their son the new AMC Pacer they just purchased. A Ford Pinto is tapped on the back bumper by a police car and explodes. . The line at the gas station stretches on for blocks. You get the picture. If all this sounds familiar, it's because deep within your subconscious you remember living it (if you're old enough). Being a teenager myself in the 70's, this film evokes many latent memories I'd rather forget, but since this is such a good-hearted film, I'll forgive them. Needless to say, the future will never be the same once the trio get back. Director Lucar Reiner (Rob Reiner's brother and Carl Reiner's son) works with an extremely low budget and does a good job of maintaining interest. Sprinkled throughout with the lamest music of the 70's ("Kung Fu Fighting", "Afternoon Delight", etc) and some good in-jokes (Cassidy discovers a Partridge Family lunchbox). A good, and different, addition to the time travel genre. Stay tuned after the end credits for a blooper reel. Cameo appearances by Devo, Carl Reiner, Julie Brown (as a politically correct stripper), Moon Zappa and Don Novello. A Columbia Pictures Home Video Release. Rated PG-13.

STAR KNIGHT (1986) - Odd Spanish fantasy/comedy. During the 14th Century, an alien, called IX (Miguel Bose), lands his spaceship and kidnaps a princess (Maria Lamor). Everyone thinks the spaceship is a dragon, except the alchemist (a badly dubbed Klaus Kinski), who is searching for the formula of "liquid gold", a potion that brings immortality. IX and the princess fall in love but the only problem is they can never touch because he needs to wear his high tech spacesuit at all times to stay alive. He cannot breathe in our atmosphere. IX gives Kinski a magical crystal ball which helps him in discovering the immortality formula (it comes in handy later). Kinski (in a rare good guy role) is opposed by the cardinal of the castle (Fernando Rey), who sees everything that Kinski does as the Devil's work. He destroys Kinski's lab (including the ball) just after Kinski saves a small amount of the potion. IX is opposed by a fumbling would-be knight (Harvey Keitel, whose presence seems out of place spouting ancient dialogue with his Brooklyn accent) who wants IX's spacesuit (he sees it as the ultimate armour) and seeks the princess' hand in marriage. It all leads to a final confrontation (a jousting match) where almost everyone lives happily ever after. There is much to dislike here (Kinski's dubbing, Keitel's performance, the stilted dialogue) but the overall good humored way the story is told finally won me over. Rey does a good comic turn with his role, blaming all the ills of the world on the Devil. Kinski turns in a rare restrained performance as the alchemist with a heart of gold. The cinematography is lush and the music score is above par. STAR KNIGHT is nothing excellent, but it does prove to be a fairly effective time waster. Directed and co-produced by Fernando Colomo. A Vidmark Entertainment Release. Also available on Mill Creek Entertainment's SCI-FI INVASION 50 MOVIE DVD Compilation. Rated PG-13.

TEMPLE OF THE THOUSAND LIGHTS (1965) - Here's an early fantasy/adventure film from gaillo and horror film maestro Umberto Lenzi that shows hints of his future involvement in the jungle/cannibal genre. When gambler and adventurer Alan Foster (Richard Harrison) loses $250,000 to Rajah Sindar (Daniele Vargas) in a poker game, he flees the palace and roams India (actually filmed in Malaysia) looking for a way to repay the debt (or skip out on paying it). In his travels, he befriends a fakir named Sitama (Wilbert Bradley), who can make a rope travel up to the sky and perform other magic tricks. After Sitama darkens-up Alan's skin (to make him blend in), they devise a plan to steal the "Mountain Of Light", a 200 carat diamond embedded in the head of a giant statue in the heavily guarded Temple Of The Thousand Lights. Together, with Alan's ingenuity and Sitama's magical powers, they proceed to steal the diamond. Along the way, they have to deal with a pack of hungry rats, a pool of ravenous alligators and a couple of other close calls. Once they get their hands on the diamond, Alan and Sitama must avoid the deadly grip of the devious Rajah Sindar and his palace guards. They must contend with deadly tigers, jungle booby traps, poisonous snakes and a double-cross before the film ends. In the finale, Alan discovers he was set-up from the beginning and must face one more death-defying trap before he can put everything right (he breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience in the humorous finale).  This is a fairly innocent mid-60's Italian fantasy adventure in the vein of KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950). While very low on blood and gore, there are plenty of fist fights, gun battles and funny dialogue ("Your stench keeps me from concentrating"; "By Sheba, he's escaped us!"; "Do you want to denounce me? I won't hold it against you.") to keep you fairly entertained. Most of the "Indians" are portrayed by Italian actors with dark makeup on their faces (but not on the rest of their body!) and the Malaysian locales are very colorful.  Richard Harrison, who would much later make a career out of appearing in Indonesian and Hong Kong action flicks (RESCUE TEAM - 1981, etc.), looks ridiculously young and fit here and seems to be enjoying himself. This hard-to-find film (which used to play on U.S. TV under the title JUNGLE ADVENTURER) is a good bet for Lenzi enthusiasts and those interested in seeing where RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK may have gotten some inspiration. As with many foreign films of the 60's, Richard McNamara is listed as the director of the English Language Version. Let's just say that the dubbing is dubious at best. Also starring Luciana Gilli, Nerio Bernardi, Andrea Scotti and Nazzareno Zamperla. Not legally available on DVD or VHS in the U.S. (as of this writing), the version I saw was ripped from an English-language Venezuelan VHS tape with Spanish subtitles. Not Rated.

THOR THE CONQUEROR (1983) - Thanks to the success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982), Italy churned out a bunch of Sword & Sorcery films, such as ATOR THE FIGHTING EAGLE (1982; and its three sequels), THE INVINCIBLE BARBARIAN (1982 a.k.a. GUNAN, KING OF THE BARBARIANS), Lucio Fulci's CONQUEST (1983) and this one, the least-known of the bunch. While it's not the worse one, it comes damn close, but its weirdness and misogynistic attitude will have your head shaking in disbelief.
     "It is written in the stars and in the dust of the dead and from the seed of man, The Annihilator, will come the greatest of all the kingdom, Thor the Conqueror, the favorite of the gods..." So begins this film, as we watch a pregnant woman walking with a sword-bearing barbarian and a priest ("Christopher Holm" a.k.a. Luigi Mezzanotte; MAN ON FIRE - 1987). They make it to a cemetery, where the woman hides behind some brush, grabs a tree branch with both hands and pushes, dropping a baby. That baby is Thor and the barbarian is his father, who has the unfortunate name of Kunt (Angelo Ragusa; HITCH-HIKE - 1978). He holds the baby Thor up in the air and praises the gods, when an arrow, fired from the dastardly Gnut's (Raf Baldassarre; EYEBALL - 1975) bow, hits the baby in the neck. Kunt hands the baby to the priest, who disappears in a flash of light. Kunt then battles some of Gnut's tribesmen and the evil Gnut dispatches Kunt with an arrow through his neck (it seems to be his favorite way of killing), finishing off the slaughter by killing Thor's mother (offscreen). Gnut is surprised to see Kunt's sword turn into a snake (he wanted the sword for himself), slithering away behind a tombstone and disappearing. "Many moons times ten have passed. The Earth has changed and the giants of the Long Nose no longer prowl the jungle. Often, often the evil beckons the land and the Earth becomes the cosmos." I have no idea what that means (I had to stop the film and replay it many times to get what was being said), but the priest, who morphs into Etna, the Owl (Remember the mechanical owl in the original CLASH OF THE TITANS [1981]? Well, they couldn't afford to build a robot and animate it, so they used a real owl instead), narrates those two passages and has taken care of Thor, who survived the neck piercing. Thor, who is now an adult (Conrad Nichols; THE SECRET OF THE INCAS' EMPIRE - 1987), and Etna watch as a tribe of cannibal barbarians are walking by with slaves. Thor sees his first female, Sheeba (Maria Romano; EMANUELLE IN PRISON - 1983), and becomes curious (and horny, I'll bet). Etna tells Thor that the slaves will be killed and their flesh eaten and, sure enough, they cut off the arm of a male slave and eat it! Thor defeats the cannibal tribe with his trusty club, as Etna perches above to watch the action. One cannibal rakes Thor's eyes, so he grabs the cannibal's sword and kills him (This is the first time he has used a sword and he likes it). Rather than freeing Sheeba, Thor brings her back to his cave, where Etna tells him, "No, Thor, she's not something to eat! Make her lie down and play with her! What else is she good for? The female is stupid! Have your way with her! Take her, she's yours!" Etna watches and laughs as Thor screws Sheeba, even giving him pointers! Etna wants Thor to find his father's sword, when all of a sudden two cannibals enter the cave and kill Sheeba.
     Thor and Etna then roam the land, looking for the sword (and more women, I'll bet). They come upon a destroyed village where Thor is attacked by the Cannibal Chief (Giovanni Cianfriglia), who can appear and disappear in a flash of light (Etna is not the only one with that power). He runs the Chief through with his new sword and picks up the Chief's axe (This film's "hook" is that every battle Thor wins, he gets a more advanced weapon). Thor, who is now in Virgin Territory (or so Etna says), looks for more women to screw and is attacked by three virgin warriors. Being a man, Thor hides and attacks the women when they least expect it, killing two of the virgins. The third virgin, Ino (Malisa Longo; SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN - 1974), Thor rapes and then takes her as his slave, keeping her hands tied with rope so she doesn't escape. Thor then takes Ino to a lush, green valley and declares himself king of this land  and that Ino will bear his children.
     Thor is captured by another barbarian tribe, where a beer-bellied barbarian (!) cuts his throat and drinks his blood. Ino saves Thor (Why???), frees him from his shackles and Thor steals some of the tribe's seeds (WTF?!?) before they escape. Thor and Ino become lovers and screw away in their new cave, while Etna (who is watching...again) pronounces them man and wife. The hungry newlyweds come in contact with another tribe, where the Barbarian Chief (Artemio Antonini) reneges on a trade for food (Thor gives him Ino's necklace and the Chief gives them a basket of animal bones). Thor kills the Chief by bashing his head in with a rock and then eats all the tribe's food, not sharing it with Ino (He is truly a barbarian!). Thor and Ino then enter the "Land Of The Unknown", where his father's sword is said to be. Thor sees the ocean for the first time and gets into a playful water fight with Ino. They set up a new home on the beach and Etna tells us Ino is pregnant. They don't realize that Gnut is watching them and hopes to make Kunt's sword his own. The couple become buddies with a friendly tribe, who offer to help Thor find the sword. Will he find it? Will Gnut steal the sword and kill Thor? Will their baby be shot in the neck with an arrow? How will Thor see his baby when Gnut burns his eyes out with a flaming branch? Will a snake give him back his sight? Why does their baby look like Gnut (Just kidding!). For all these answers and much more, watch the film!
     This ridiculous piece of peplum fantasy is entertaining in a mind-numbing sort of way. The Italians, who invented the peplum genre back in the late-1950s with the Steve Reeves-starrer HERCULES (1958), churned-out hundreds of these films until the mid-'60s, when audiences grew tired of them. The rebooted genre added a lot more nudity and graphic violence than their original counterparts, something audiences demanded during the '80s, but we also grew tired of them. Director "Anthony Richmond", better known as Tonino Ricci (CROSS CURRENT - 1971; PANIC - 1982; RAIDERS OF THE MAGIC IVORY - 1988), tosses in some extreme violence and nudity, but the screenplay, by Tito Carpi (HUNTERS OF THE GOLDEN COBRA - 1972; BRONX WARRIORS 2 - 1983), is so barren on ideas, that all it has to offer us are badly-staged (but bloody) fights and some extreme scenes of misogyny. Ricci used Conrad Nichols (real name: Bruno Minniti) in two of his best films, the post-apocalyptic epics RUSH (1983) and RAGE (1984), but all Nichols does here is screw, fight and yell at the gods when things don't go his way. Thor has so many "firsts" in this film (women, weapons, oceans, riding a horse, etc) that you'll be wondering if Etna raised him in a vacuum. I was never a fan of this genre, but this film is good for a few unintentional laughs, especially the dialogue. Thor speaks like a caveman in some scenes ("Me no leave. Me stay!"), but in other scenes he talks like a college professor!
     Filmed under the title THOR IL CONQUISTATORE (a literal translation of the review title), this had a very limited release in theaters in the United States from Cannon Films, but I could find no legit VHS release in the U.S. My review is based on the DVD from Full Moon, as part of their "Full Moon's Grindhouse Collection". Surprisingly, the print is in widescreen and looked good on my HDTV, better than it has any right to. Since I wouldn't look forward to this being released on Blu-Ray, fans of these type of films only have this DVD as a choice to view this film. Proceed at your own risk. Also starring Rosalba Ciofalo, Elena Wiedermann (SHE - 1983), Osiride Pevarello and Rinaldo Zamperla. Rated R.

THE VAMPIRE RAIDERS (1988) - When Godfrey Ho wasn't churning out cut-and-paste martial arts actioners for producer Joseph Lai and his IFD Films & Arts Ltd. Production outfit, he was doing the same for producer Tomas Tang and his Filmark International production company, as he does here (Ho directed using the name "Bruce Lambert" and wrote the screenplay under the pseudonym "Antonin Gasner"). If you've seen any of Ho's pastiche films, you know what to expect: About ten minutes of newly-shot footage of Caucasian actors duking it out amongst themselves, intercut sporadically (about every twenty minutes or so) with some unreleased Hong Kong, Thai or Filipino genre film. The old footage here is some unknown Hong Kong horror comedy about hopping vampires that is intercut with new scenes of a female undercover agent posing as a model who transforms into a red-clad ninja that fights the dreaded Vampire Ninja Clan (I know, I know). The film proper is about a young female telephone operator named Elsie who overhears a phone conversation she shouldn't have and pretty soon she begins seeing vampires at the most inopportune times. She takes to reading the Bible for protection (She reads a passage out that goes, "And God says unto Moses, 'I've got some commandments for you. Go get a pen and write them down.'" What? A pen?), but it doesn't seem to do much good because her vampire visions come more frequently (I would have went directly for the crucifix and skipped the Bible completely, but that's just me). Meanwhile, our female ninja has various attempts made on her life, such as when someone tries to kill her by tossing a live pig (one of those big honking ones!) off a roof and onto her head (it ends up crushing an innocent bystander instead) or when she is sunbathing on a beach in her skimpy bikini (gratuitous crotch shots!) and a vampire pops out from under the sand and grabs her breasts (it turns into one of the silliest martial arts fights in Ho's canon). Elsie and her two female operator co-workers try to figure out how to stop the vampire menace, so they listen-in to telephone calls made by Mr. Ho, who Elsie believes controls the vampires, and with the help of their dimwitted male friend Fattie, try to save the life of Mr. Wong, who Elsie believes is next on Mr. Ho's hit list. They warn Mr. Wong, but he doesn't take them seriously and brushes them off by saying, "Cut it! Piss on it! Shit on it!" (Yeah, he's a class act). When Elsie and her friends actually end up saving Mr. Wong's ass anyway, he rewards them by sending them on a weeklong vacation on his yacht and, wouldn't you know it, they find themselves trapped in the middle of the ocean on a yacht overrun with zombies. Will the urine from a virgin save their lives (Where do they come up with this stuff?) or will they all die in a watery grave? And what about our red female ninja? Will she defeat the Vampire Ninja Clan? Do I really need to tell you?  Say what you want about Godfrey Ho. His films lack cohesion and contain some hilariously bad English dubbing (I sometimes think the Australian dubbing crew purposely inserts the bad dialogue in there, especially the Moses and the pen line, just to see if anyone on the production end is paying attention. Apparently, they're not.), but they are never boring. Watching his films are akin to suffering from a fever dream, where nothing makes any sense at all, but, damn, if you just go with it, you are guaranteed on having a good time. THE VAMPIRE RAIDERS (VHS box title: VAMPIRE RAIDERS NINJA QUEEN) is no different, as it contains many "What The Fuck?!?" moments, including the pig-tossing, the beach battle scene (Ho is content on having our female ninja parade around in the skimpiest bikini imaginable, oblivious to the fact that she has a huge ugly birthmark on the back of her upper left thigh. She is a looker, though.), a pleasure boat being piloted by a crew of zombies, and other insanity. Ho's rejiggering of the plot makes absolutely no sense other than to justify his insertion of the newly-shot footage (which is badly integrated into the older footage), but that's one of the reasons why Ho's films play so well if you're in the right frame of mind (If you're not, Ho's films can seem mighty insufferable). The final battle between the female red ninja and the Vampire Ninja Clan (which includes two comical hopping vampires) is one of Ho's more accomplished insert footage sequences. It has actual martial arts choreography, wire work, a flying dismembered head and other weirdness. It looks as if Ho put some thought and time into filming it and was not his usual rush job. As usual, the music soundtrack is full of lifted (and illegally obtained) music cues from other sources, including TV's THE ADDAMS FAMILY! Starring Martin Dukes, Walter Jackson, Chris Peterson, Agnes Chan, Ruby Cohn, Deborah Tao, Robert Willet and Edwin Morris. Originally released on VHS by Trans World Entertainment and not available on DVD. Not Rated.

THE WARRIOR (1981) - I don't pretend to know squat about Indonesian history, but I sincerely doubt that this highly entertaining fantasy flick could be viewed as a docudrama. During the latter part of the 19th Century, the tyrannical Dutch rulers capture Indonesian rebel (and hero) Jaka Sembung (Barry Prima) and put him in a labor camp. He escapes after a revolt (where the prison guards slaughter half of the inmates) and the Dutch government puts a bounty on his head. The first bounty hunter to show up is Kobar, a bald-headed bear of a man whose skin is impervious to bullets and knives (he can also breathe fire!). After proving his worth to Dutch officer Mr. Van Shram (by twisting the neck of an ox, killing it!), Kobar tracks down Jaka and they fight. Jaka quickly kills Kobar by shoving a bamboo pole through his mouth until it protrudes out the back of his head (fire shoots out of the pole!). Mr. Van Shram is pissed and the next person to offer to kill Jaka is "an expert in voodoo" (a ridiculously-thin man with teeth so big, he can't close his mouth), who levitates a soldier to prove his power. He resurrects Ki Item (W.D. Mochtar) from the dead after rejoining Ki Item's body with his missing head (a sequence not to be missed). As the Dutch soldiers begin killing innocent villagers in their search for Jaka (including putting a gun to a little boy's head), Jaka comes to their rescue and battles powerful sorcerer Ki Item. Jaka loses the battle and is captured by the soldiers, who parade his bloody, beaten body through the town. Jaka is crucified in a dungeon (spikes are driven through his hands) in front of the other prisoners. Jaka's girlfriend, Serti (Eva Arnaz), leads a revolt as Van Shram's daughter Maria (Dana Christina) tries to free Jaka in the dungeon, but her father catches her. He slaps her around and pokes out both of Jaka's eyes with a spike (quite graphically). Serti is also captured and put in the dungeon, where the eyeless Jaka prays to Allah and then pulls the spikes out of his hands with his teeth. The now-seemingly superhuman Jaka knocks down the dungeon walls and bars with his bare hands (Ah, the power of prayer!), but Ki Item turns him into a pig (!) and Serti is shot in the back. To give away any more would be depriving you of a truly twisted tale of faith and devotion. Let's just say it involves eye transplants, flying heads and a fierce battle between two sorcerers. "Don't let him touch the ground!"  This film, directed by Indonesian stalwart Sisworo Gautama Putra (PRIMITIVES - 1978), is non-stop madness from beginning to end and was so popular in it's native country, it spawned several sequels, all starring Barry Prima as Jaka Sembung. Highly critical of the Dutch government (which is funny, because I watched this on a dub taken from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape) and gory as hell, THE WARRIOR is must-viewing for all weird film lovers. Mixing true-life historical events with way-out fantasy elements, this film never slows down and is never boring, even if it does hit you over the head repeatedly with the "Allah is great!" religious message. While the Dutch and Dutch sympathizers are portrayed as evil incarnate (One Dutch sympathizer describes Jaka by saying, "He's lower than scum!") and the villagers as the poor, downtrodden victims, there's enough crazy dialogue ("What's it like being pig for a day?") and bloody carnage (eye gougings, impalements, floating heads, bloody stumps, leaves used as weapons and Jaka's unbelievable final battle with Ki Item) to get your mind off the ridiculousness of it all. There's really no martial arts involved until the finale, where the villagers take matters into their own hands and attack the Dutch stronghold (lots of stabbings and spurting blood) and Jaka goes one-on-one with Van Shram. As with most Indonesian flicks, there's also out-of-place comedy relief (Here, it's a retarded villager who, at one point says, "Hey, look at me! I'm a monkey!", but even he dies in the finale). Put this on your must-own list. American history was never this entertaining. Gope T. Samtani, who directed the war action film HELL RAIDERS (1985, starring many of the same actors as here), produced this. Also starring Dicky Zulkarnaen, Rukman Herman, Dorman Borisman, I.M. Damsyik Parya, Syamsuddin Sjafei, S. Suryabrata and "A Cast Of Thousands". The next film in the series was THE WARRIOR 2 (1983), also known as THE WARRIOR AGAINST THE BLIND SWORDSMAN. Available on DVD in a beautiful widescreen print from Mondo Macabro. Unfortunately, sales were not that good, which scuttled Mondo Macabro's plans on releasing the sequels. Sometimes I wonder why people flock to mindless blockbusters like the TRANSFORMERS franchise, but refuse to even give films like this a cursory look. Not Rated.

THE WARRIOR 2 (1983) - This sequel to the amazing THE WARRIOR (1981) is not as good as the original (what is?), but is still a rip-roaring good time. The film opens (ca. the late 19th Century) with a Dutch garrison bombarding an Indonesian village with cannon fire. As the soldiers move in to slaughter the villagers, hometown rebel (and hero) Jaka Sembung (Barry Prima) and his men show up and kill all the soldiers except for one, who they riddle with arrows and send back to Dutch headquarters as a warning. Listening to all this on a hilltop ia blind swordsman Si Buta (Advent Bangun), who comments (in voiceover) that death is a sound he's heard often. When the seriously-injured soldier makes his way to headquarters, it pisses-off his Dutch superiors, who hold a grand tournament to find the best fighter to defeat Jaka. At the tournament, where a series of strongmen fight each other (one has a tree stump broken over his head; another bites the ear off his opponent), Si Buta shows up and defeats the winner to become Jaka's hunter. Si Buta agrees to lead a group of Dutch soldiers in their quest to kill Jaka in return for a chest of gold. Si Buta is helped by witch Maki (who likes to hang out in trees), who tells him every so often that "Jaka is near". When Si Buta and Jaka meet a short time later, they get into a fight and Si Buta cut's off Jaka's head and takes it as proof of his death. Si Buta brings Jaka's head back to Dutch headquarters, where evil Captain Rakoni orders the head to be displayed on a pole in the town square. The Captain also orders his men to follow and kill Si Buta and bring back the gold. Si Buta manages to kill all the soldiers following him, but is mortally wounded by a gunshot (he removes the bullet with his combination cane/sword). Maki heals him, but when she makes love to him and offers to have his baby (as well as immortality), he rebuffs her, which really pisses her off. Maki begins shooting fireballs out of her palms and jumps up and down on Si Buta's chest, but he is saved by Jaka. It turns out that Si Buta never killed Jaka at all, as he was only fighting an "illusion" and the head hanging in the town square turns out to be that of a jackass! To show his appreciation to Jaka for saving his life, Si Buka gives all his gold to the village people. All is not well, though, as Maki has now aligned herself with the Dutch. She offers to help Captain Rakoni kill Jaka and Si Buta using her powers of sorcery (including invisibility) in exchange for the safety of her village of all-female warriors. When Maki kidnaps a child with magical powers from Jaka's village, Jaka and Si Buta join forces to save the child. Just when everything seems hunky-dory, the damn Dutch show up with their cannons again. Oh boy!  While basically nothing more than a remake of THE WARRIOR (with more fantasy elements and a lot less religious subtext than the original), THE WARRIOR 2, also known as THE WARRIOR AGAINST THE BLIND SWORDSMAN, contains a lot of gory scenes (heads flying through the air, too many impalements to count and many other bloody moments) and even some sex and nudity this time around. As with most Indonesian films, the Dutch are portrayed as back-stabbing evil bastards who can't be trusted to keep their word (I never did trust the Dutch, with their vowel-heavy language and words that contain way too many "J"'s and "V"'s!) and the Indonesian people, no matter how evil they are, can find redemption (as both Si Buta and Maki do here). There are many fantasy scenes to be found here and the highlight is Maki's healing at the hands of "The Dark Master" in his underground lair, who may very well be the Devil himself (he has a long furry tail that he uses to strangle people!). The film has precious little to do with the title character (Barry Prima has very little screen time until the finale) and more to do with Si Buta (who would soon get a film series of his own) and Maki. The script (by Darto Joned, who also wrote the script for the first film as well as dozens of others) seems to head in a different direction every 30 minutes, The first part deals with Si Buta's pursuit of Jaka, the middle about Maki's and Si Buta's relationship and the final 30 minutes brings all three characters together with the child kidnapping. Director Dasri Jacob (listed here as "Dasri Yacob") has directed many Indonesian films, but I believe this is his only one that was dubbed into English. This film is all nonsense, mind you, but it is entertaining nonsense. The next film in the series was THE WARRIOR AND NINJA (1985). Also starring W.D. Mochtar, Rukman Herman, Sri Gudhy Sintara, Yos Santos, Hera Helmy and the incredibly-monikered Moosdyk. The print I viewed was a dub taken from a Dutch-subtitled VHS tape on the VUH Video Holland label. Not Rated. Watch out for the exploding bodies!

THE WARRIOR AND NINJA (1985) - The further adventures of Indonesian folk hero Jaka Sembung (Barry Prima) and his fight against the Dutch Imperialists and fellow countrymen-turned-traitors that want to enslave the nation. An erupting volcano rains down boulders and lava on Jaka's village, forcing them to relocate. The eruption also awakens Balung Wesi, The Man Of Iron (Syamsuri Kaempuan), a nemesis of Jaka's Master, who has been sleeping in a cave (a stalactite strikes him on the head, waking him up!), after dueling with Jaka's Master many years before, waiting for the day to get his revenge. Balung begins a path of destruction (his touch causes human flesh to burn), as he looks for his old nemesis. A female Robin Hood-like thief called the Black Squirrel (Zurmainy Terry) makes the Dutch Imperialists lives miserable by stealing their gold and passing it on to the poor peasants to buy food and finance the revolution. Jaka and the Black Squirrel (her real name is Roweta) team up to fight the Dutch and Balung, The Man Of Iron (named that because his skin is like iron, impenetrable to bullets and swords), who roams from village to village, killing everyone in his path in his search for Jaka's Master. Things take a turn for the worse for Jaka and his people when Balung joins forces with Dutch loyalist Ki Demang (El Manik; HELL RAIDERS - 1985) and paraplegic sorcerer Maruta, who gives Roweta the "evil eye", almost killing her. Jaka carries her to a witch's house located in a tree for a cure and wonders if he can ever convince his people to rise against their oppressors. Jaka then battles Balung and nearly loses his life, but he remembers his Master's teachings and defeats Balung by dunking him in water (iron and water don't mix very well) and delivering a few deadly blows that makes Balung's body break into several bloody pieces (Jaka has Balung's severed head delivered to Ki Demang with a note that reads: "He would have defeated me, but he was a little rusty!"). This, of course, infuriates Ki Demang to no end, so he begins killing innocent villagers until Jaka turns himself in. Jaka relents and is tortured with a swinging pendulum, but Rowena arrives in the nick of time to save him from being separated at the waist. It all ends with a martial arts extravaganza, as Jaka and Rowena battle the bad guys and gals (Maruta's death by mirror and his female assistant's death by facial peeling are highlights) until only Jaka and Rowena are left standing, bloodied but unbowed.  This is a lot less wild than THE WARRIOR (1981) and THE WARRIOR 2 (1983), both starring Barry Prima, but it's not without it's demented charms. Director H. Tjut Djalil (MYSTICS IN BALI - 1981; LADY TERMINATOR - 1988; DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS - 1992) seems more interested in showing us several lengthy martial arts fights (where slow-motion and reverse photography are judiciously employed), but there are still enough weird visuals on hand to keep you entertained, such as when Balung bites a sword in half and spits the blade into an opponent's neck; Maruta's disfigurement of Rowena's face ("The power is in his eyes! Don't look into his eyes!"); Rowena's rescue of Jaka in the trap-filled torture chamber; Balung's death by a few well-placed punches and kicks by Jaka; and the wild and wooly fight-filled finale, where several over-the-top deaths are on view. Surprisingly, Imam Tantowi's (SATAN'S SLAVE - 1982) screenplay is relatively light on the religious subtext, unlike the first film (which was fueled by faith) and the first sequel (which was also light on the Allah stuff, but not as light as this film). While definitely the weakest of the first three Warrior films (apparently more were made, but have yet to make it beyond Indonesia's borders), THE WARRIOR AND NINJA (also known [incorrectly] as THE WARRIOR AND THE NINJA) is still better than 99% of the crap that passes for fantasy on our shores. Also starring Tizar Purbaya, Rita Zahara, H. Syamsuddin Syafei, H. Kosim Betawi, Donny Sabella, Fatima Maria, Hassan Dollar and Moosdijk (a name I would never want to be born with!). Produced by Gope T. Samtani (who really deserves a career retrospective) for Rapi Films. As usual, this film never had a legitimate U.S. home video release. I'm not sure where this widescreen, hilariously English-dubbed print originated from, but it's free from Dutch or Greek subtitles, which is very unusual. Not Rated.

THE WICKSBORO INCIDENT (2001) - There are many imitations of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and, while most of them suck, this one is a horse of a different color: a shot-on-video science fiction pseudo-documentary that actually works. The back story concerns a top secret experiment gone horribly wrong in Wicksboro, Texas in 1953, causing the entire population of the town to disappear (actually disintegrate). Lloyd (Bobby Harwell, also Executive Producer), a scientist working on the project, survives the accident thanks to his laboratory being an underground bomb shelter. He hightails it out of Wicksboro and gets himself lost in Los Angeles. 45 years later, he hires two documentary filmmakers (Dan Brinkle and Kyle Nudd) to help him uncover the mystery and to help him avenge the death of his sister and every person remotely connected to anyone who lived in Wicksboro. Lloyd is convinced that aliens are populating the Earth and has created a device that can detect aliens from humans. A green light means the person is human. A red light means the person is an alien. Lloyd brings the device out to the streets where we learn (in a humorous fashion) that half of the people walking the streets are alien. The filmmakers are somewhat dubious of Lloyd and his device since they know that he is an alcoholic and prone to exaggeration. They also cannot find Wicksboro on any map of Texas, so they must trust Lloyd to help them find some evidence that Wicksboro actually existed. This leads the trio on a road trip to Texas to find the town. Everything looks hopeless as it seems Wicksboro has been wiped off the face of the Earth. They are about to head back to Los Angeles when Lloyd begs for one last chance to look for his underground bomb shelter using a metal coat hanger as a divining rod! To everyone's surprise, it works, as they find the bomb shelter and all the evidence that proves Lloyd's entire story is true. Trouble begins when they realize that they are being followed by a helicopter, an unmarked car and some of the mysterious faceless Men In Black (who are alien according to Lloyd's device). It's a race back to Los Angeles to turn in the video evidence to the TV News before they are killed by the mysterious invaders (whom we are never given a clear vision of). It is not a happy ending. Director/Producer/Screenwriter Richard Lowry (HAWK JONES - 1986; JESSICA: A GHOST STORY - 1992; DESTINATION MARS - 2002 [not released until 2006]) proves that you don't need a lot of money to make a damned-good film as long as you have a good story and decent actors. There are at least a half dozen really good scares and goosebump-inducing scenes that actually make you jump and Lloyd's fate is a real shock to the system. There are also plenty of humorous moments, such as when Lloyd walks out of a liquor store with an armfull of cheap wine that he's proud to announce that he has paid a buck a bottle for and his off-the-wall riff on why THE X-FILES was created to provide disinformation to the viewing public! Many first-time viewers may view this film as a real documentary (as long as they don't read the DVD packaging). That's a real compliment to Richard Lowry's craft. I can't wait to see his next films: THE LOOKING GLASS (A real interesting-looking film produced by and starring Michael Pataki) and SINISTER (both 2003). For more on Richard Lowry, click HERE. A Vanguard Cinema DVD Release. Not Rated.

THE WITCH (1966) - In Rome, Sergio Logan (Richard Johnson; SCREAMERS - 1980) considers himself a ladies man. He's also a love 'em and leave 'em type of guy, who will drop his latest conquest at the drop of a hat if they mention marriage or a serious relationship. He does that to his latest girlfriend, who mentions marriage as he drops her off at work, so he packs his bags and leaves without telling her. Sergio also notices that an older woman is following him and he's beginning to get peeved (He's not interested in older women, just ones that are younger than him). We next see Sergio talking to a beautiful young painter named Lorna (Margherita Guzzinati; MACHINE GUN MCCAIN - 1969) on the sidewalk, trying to smooth-talk her into putting him up for a couple of weeks since he is homeless. He notices the older woman talking to a young boy in the distance and follows her to a newspaper stand. When she leaves in her chauffeur-driven limousine, Sergio asks the vendor what the old lady wanted. The vendor calls the lady "a pain in the behind" and shows Sergio a want ad in the back of a newspaper she was interested in seeing. Sergio reads the ad (we don't see it) and drives to the address in the ad; a giant castle-like structure (a "palazzo", or palace) in the middle of the city. He is buzzed into the building by Consuelo Lorente (Sarah Ferrati), who happens to be the old woman who was following him. Sergio  discovers that Consuelo knows nearly everything about him, yet they have never met. The ad in the newspaper was written specifically for him. She wants him to catalogue and transcribe private manuscripts in her huge private library. Sergio is not too keen on the idea of working in a dusty and dark library that is full of rats (Consuelo says, "I consider sunlight the worst enemy to old things."), that is, until she mentions a hefty salary and free room and board in the palace. His interest in the job becomes deeper when Consuelo reads a passage from one of her late husband's hand-written manuscripts, Consuelo telling Sergio, "The only precious things I have left. They are memoirs of our life together." Sergio discovers that Consuelo hired another man to take care of the library, only he's lazy and acts like the master of the palazzo. Consuelo hopes that Sergio's presence will make the man respect the job, telling Sergio that if he doesn't, he can fire him. When Consuelo reads out loud one of her husband's manuscript passages, it is very colorful, frank and sensual, which really interests Sergio. "My husband and I were never afraid of what was prohibited", says Consuelo, telling Sergio that he will be transcribing many other passages such as that one should he accept the offer. "I face the sunset with serenity", says Consuelo, as she drinks a potion from a tea cup and collapses into Sergio's arms. Sergio sits a nearly unconscious Consuelo on an armchair and phones a doctor friend of his to come over quick, he thinks the old woman has swallowed poison on purpose.
     Sergio hears a classical guitar playing in ther library and discovers a beautiful young girl named Aura (Rosanna Schiaffino; THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS - 1974) playing it. She introduces herself to Sergio, telling him she is Consuelo's daughter. She also tells him that for some time she suspected her mother was taking drugs and this is not the first time she has passed out. Aura says, "It must be difficult to grow old when you've been a famous beauty", and asks Sergio to help her bring her mother to her bedroom. Aura then drops the tea cup to the floor, breaking it. Is she trying to hide what drug her mother ingested or is there another reason why she did this?
     After carrying Consuelo to her bedroom, Sergio beghins seducing Aura, or is it the other way around? She gives him a tour of the palace while they wait for Sergio's doctor friend to arrive. Aura tells Sergio that her family is not very rich and creditors have stripped half the palace to pay off debts. Consuelo spent a fortune going to clinics all over Europe, especially Switzerland, trying to combat old age. "My mother won't surrender to time", says Aura, but when Sergio tells her that her mother told him the exact opposite, Aura blurts out, "She was lying! She was lying like all people that age!" Sergio notices that both Aura and Consuelo have a habit of tilting their heads on their right shoulder and Aura angrily says, "We have nothing in common! Nothing!" Sergio thinks the daughter does protest a little too much, as he changes the subject, asking to see Aura's room. "Perhaps later", says Aura, asking Sergio why he thought her mother was hitting on him. Sergio doesn't answer, other than to ask how she knew that. Aura  then shows Sergio the palace's garden greenhouse, where her mother grows a special plant from seeds she purchased in Mexico, which she uses in the tea she drinks. Sergio grabs Aura and kisses her, asking her, "Do you mind?" after doing so (!), but Aura is perturbed by cats in the greenhouse, telling Sergio to get rid of them (Whenever cats are around Aura, they meow loudly and hiss. There must be a reason why, right?). Sergio throws rocks at the cats (You know what they say about people living in glass houses; that they shouldn't throw stones?), chasing them out of the greenhouse. Sergio asks Aura why she hates cats and she tells him her mother likes the filthy beasts. When Aura leaves the greenhouse, Sergio finds a dead cat on the floor, a noose around its neck (Aura must really hate cats!). Sergio loses sight of Aura and when he goes looking for her, he discovers Consuelo in one of the hallways, leaning against the wall. Sergio tells her he found a dead cat in the greenhouse and it looks like someone tortured it before killing it. Consuelo blames "hooligans" for killing the cat, saying they invade the property on a regular basis, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Consuelo tells Sergio that she is looking for the right man for Aura and that she's waiting for him in the library, but when he goes to the library, she's not there (He phones Lorna, telling her to keep everything warm for him, including herself [!], as he will be coming there shortly. Wanna bet?).
     Sergio notices a dead man encased in a glass coffin in the library, Aura suddenly appearing and telling him it is her father, Consuelo's husband. Aura also tells Sergio that her mother comes here often and stares at her husband for hours, never saying a word. Aura says most wives would do the same thing if they could afford it, saying to Sergio it is not as strange as he thinks. She would, too, if she had a man she loved as much as her mother. Aura asks Sergio if he's staying for lunch, if he does, she'll prepare something "erotic", something from an old recipe. Sergio starts fondling Aura erotically, Aura putting on some music and saying she will make love to him, but no touching (!) and he has to listen to her every word. Not using his hands, but rather his teeth (!), Sergio unbuttons her blouse and unzips her dress from the back until she is completely naked (Since this is a mid-'60s production, we only see her naked back, but it is still quite sexy and erotic). They then begin to make love, Aura saying, "I've been waiting so long!", when they are interrupted by Fabrizio (Gian Maria Volontè; FACE TO FACE - 1967), the librarian Consuelo hired before finding Sergio. Fabrizio looks at Aura and says, "Aura, you're back again! I'm so happy!", and hugs her naked body, which is now covered in a sheet. He asks Sergio what day it is and when he says it is Monday, Fabrizio says to Aura, "All this time I haven't seen you; I've been here with your mother. Happy to see me?" Aura nervously says, "Yes, of course" and when Fabrizio asks her what's the story between her and Sergio, she says, "That man attacked me! That's the story!". Fabrizio doesn't believe her, checking her and Sergio's bodies for nail scratches and bite marks, but finding neither. Sergio tells Fabrizio he's the head librarian now and tries to fire him, but he refuses to believe he is being replaced. It's obvious that Fabrizio is madly in love with Aura and she does this to every man who comes to the library, but why? You may think you know the answer, but let me give you a few more important plot points before you reach any concrete conclusions.
     Sergio has had enough and goes to leave the palace, only to find Consuelo performing a strange ritual with a metal crucifix. She tells Sergio that his doctor friend jus left, so Sergio meets Marco (Vittorio Venturoli) outside the palace. Marco tells Sergio that Consuelo refused to be examined, but she gave him an envelope containing fifty thousand lire and sent him on his way, telling Sergio that she looked fine. Marco's opinion is that she's on drugs and Sergio tells him her daughter thinks the same thing.
     Sergio talks to an old woman (Ester Carloni; THE KNOCK OUT COP - 1973) who owns an antique store adjoining the palace and discovers that Consuelo sold off most of the palace's belongings to the old woman for millions of lire over the years. Sergio finds that herd to believe, saying Consuelo has very little money, but the old woman says that's because Consuelo blew all her money trying to stay young, telling Sergio that Consuelo is at least twenty years older than she is. Sergio also finds that hard to believe, telling the old woman she can't be that old, because she has a fairly young daughter. The old woman says that is impossible, Consuelo never had any children.
     When Sergio returns to the palace, Fabrizio begs him to absolve him of all his sins, saying he knows who Sergio really is. Fabrizio tells Sergio that if he doesn't want to be involved in a serious crime (i.e. murder), he better leave the palace as soon as possible, as the "old lady" and Aura like to play men off of each other; he's tired of it and is about to do something drastic. Fabrizio is quite mad and when Sergio tells Consuelo he wants the job, she accepts, but only if he throws Fabrizio out of the palace. Fabrizio goes bonkers, breaking the glass coffing and stabbing Consuelo's dead husband in the heart with a sword (Fabrizio is an expert swordsman). Sergio and Fabrizio get into a fight and Fabrizio dies suddenly and mysteriously. Consuelo wants to get rid of Fabrizio's body, but Sergio wants to report it to the police. Both Consuelo and Aura say if he does, they will say that he murdered Fabrizio.
     Is Sergio about to become the new Fabrizio? Do these two women share the same man until they grow tired of him and find a new one? You know, the same thing Sergio does with women when they get too serious with him? And who is Aura? If she's not Consuelo's daughter, then who is she? If you want these answers, as well as discovering how Sergio gets rid of Fabrizio's body (a train is involved), I suggest you watch the film. Needless to say, it's all a vicious circle, full of death, sex and a twisted take on love, a love that Sergio is unable to handle. Months pass and Sergio discovers Aura's real identity when it is too late for him to leave. Then, a new librarian enters the palace, holding a want ad from the newspaper written expressly for him...How did they kill witches back in the old days?
     This black & white fantasy, with Gothic horror trappings, was directed by Damiano Damiani, the auteur who gave us such extraordinary films as CONFESSIONS OF A POLICE CAPTAIN (1971), THE CASE IS CLOSED, FORGET IT (1972) and HOW TO KILL A JUDGE (1974), as well as the under-appreciated Spaghetti Western A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (1967), the unfairly maligned AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982) and the above-average THE PIZZA CONNECTION (1984). I have watched every one of these films, yet this is only the second one I am reviewing (along with CASE). I really don't know why. It could be because I'm afraid my words won't do the films the justice they deserve, but I promise you this: All the films mentioned above will be reviewed by me in the near future, only because they need to be seen by all serious lovers of cinema. The screenplay to this film, co-written by Damiani and Ugo Liberatore, the director/writer of DAMNED IN VENICE (1978), as well as co-writing such genre films as MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (1960), THE TROJAN HORSE (1961) and NO WAY OUT (1973), and based on the novel "Aura" by author Carlos Fuentes (which was considered "unfilmable" until Damiani took a stab at it), is very adult in its approach to love and sex, one having no relationship to the other, as Sergio is incapable of showing real love to any female until he meets Aura. As soon as his relationship with any mortal female gets serious, he's gone and looking for another conquest to shack-up with., not even bothering to leave a note explaining why. Sergio is a cad of the first degree, but this was not unusual in films made during the latter half of the "Swinging '60s", where "free love" ran rampant and not a single thought was paid to the fairer sex (and vive versa). This film will have you wondering if Aura is actually a ghost (she never touches her mother, which is a major clue) or if she is a reincarnation of Consuelo's younger self. This film is slow moving, but never boring, thanks to Damiani's fluid direction, Richard Johnson's believable acting and the haunting music score by Luis E. Bacalov (THE DESIGNATED VICTIM - 1971), which puts the viewer in the middle of the haunting goings-on. Richard Johnson was no stranger to the supernatural, earlier starring in the classic THE HAUNTING (1963), as well as later appearing in the exploitation classic BEYOND THE DOOR (1974). All in all, this is a nice little film, a supernatural love story that will stay in your memory long after the film ends. Shouldn't all films do that?
     Shot as LA STREGA IN AMORE ("The Witch In Love") and also known as AURA and STRANGE OBSESSION, this film received a theatrical release in the United States from Avco Embassy Pictures, but, strangely, no legitimate VHS or disc releases in the States, leaving it to gray market sites like Something Weird Video and Sinister Cinema to offer it on VHS and DVD-R. You can catch it streaming on YouTube from channels "Horrorwitz" and "Ridgeview Trivia", both offering anamorphic widescreen prints dubbed in English. Also featuring Giovanni Ivan Scratuglia (COMMANDOS - 1968), Elisabetta Wilding and Ivan Rassimov (EATEN ALIVE! - 1980) as the librarian who arrives at the palace to replace Sergio during the finale of the film. Not Rated.

WOLF DEVIL WOMAN (1982) - Another crazy Hong Kong martial arts fantasy. A mother, father and their young baby girl witness a sorcerer called "Devil" (who wears a silver-sequins KKK-like hood with a red Skull & Crossbones emblazoned on the front) kill a man, who is crucified on a huge wooden cross, by using witchcraft on a wax effigy of the man. Devil sticks a needle in the wax doll's chest and the man starts bleeding profusely from a wound that suddenly appears on his chest. When the wax doll is dipped into a boiling substance head-first, the man starts spitting-out chunks of flesh and dies. The mother and father take their baby girl and flee from Devil and his vampire followers, ending up in the snowy mountains with the bad guys not far behind. When Devil and his minions have them cornered, the mother and father cut their arteries with swords, bathing their baby girl in their blood (to keep her warm) and then bang their heads repeatedly against the side of the mountain, causing an avalanche and burying the baby alive (I told you this was crazy!). Devil and his minions are able to dig-up the mother and father's dead bodies, but when they try to find the baby girl, a pack of wolves appear and chase them away. The wolves chow down on Mom & Dad's corpses (in graphic detail), but when they locate and dig-up the baby girl, the leader of the pack, a white female wolf, takes her back to their ice cave (a beautiful example of set direction) and raises the baby as her own. Over the years we watch the girl grow up (She seems to be wearing the skins of wolves. Wouldn't that be considered the same as a human wearing the skin of another human? Just asking.) and learning the way of the wolf (Once, when she was a little girl, she almost died, but the alpha female while wolf feeds her the magical "thousand year ginseng" and she miraculously recovers). Now that she is a fully grown woman, the Wolf Devil Woman (director/screenwriter Chang Ling, also known as "Pearl Cheung") is a master hunter, capable of jumping long distances or digging holes quickly under the snow to catch rabbits, which she rips apart with her bare hands (in graphic detail). Meanwhile, Devil is cutting a swath of death and destruction throughout the land, killing those who refuse to join his cult. An expert martial artist and bowman, called "Young Master", and his always complaining sidekick Rudy are walking through the mountains (looking for that elusive thousand year ginseng) when they are attacked by Wolf Devil Woman and the alpha female wolf. Rudy puts an arrow into the Wolf Devil Woman and Young Master kills the alpha female wolf, but when the wolf dies, Young Master passes out and becomes possessed by the wolf's spirit. He and Rudy nurse the Wolf Devil Woman back to health and it is obvious that she (who only speaks in grunts and growls) and Young Master will be lovers, especially when he cures her of her curved spine (Did I fail to mention that before?) and she is able to walk on two legs rather than on all fours. Young Master teaches her how to speak and soon he, Rudy and Wolf Devil Woman are talking about the thousand year ginseng and how it's the only thing that can defeat Devil. When Young Master (whose name is actually Rudolph! What are the odds of having two guys named Rudolph and Rudy hanging out together? It's astronomical!) learns that Wolf Devil Woman ate the only piece of ginseng for the next thousand years, he wants her to come to his village, but when she learns the truth of how her white wolf mother died and Young Master shows her the body, her hair turns pure white (just like her wolf mother) and she refuses to go with him. Young Master and Rudy return to their village, where Young Master is captured by Devil and tortured on a wooden crucifix until he agrees to join Devil's cult (Devil's main trick is to quick-freeze his victim's blood). Wolf Devil Woman (whose hair color has reverted back to normal) senses the danger Young Master is in and sets out to rescue him, but Devil is expecting her arrival. Will she be able to defeat Devil and rescue her new love before he completely submits to the dark side?  There's not that many Hong Kong fantasy films directed by women in the 70's & 80's (I guess you could say the same thing about the United States, too), which makes WOLF DEVIL WOMAN such a treat for fans of Far East weirdness. Director/screenwriter Chang Ling proves that she could get just as bloody and crazy as any male director, such as when Wolf Devil Woman tears apart rabbits and chickens with her bare hands (it all looked real to my eyes, which made it all-the-more disturbing) or when she "hulks out" every time she gets angry, her hair turning white and gaining miraculous strength. The English dubbing (by obvious Australian voice talent) is particularly hilarious, such as when a crowd chants "Kill the beast!" like it is some sing-songy nursery rhyme when they capture the Wolf Devil Woman or when Devil explains and shows-off his museum of oddities to Young Master (you have to hear him for full comical effect). The martial arts sequences aren't particularly inspired (there's a lot of slow-motion photography and wire work), but there is enough weirdness and craziness on view for a dozen fantasy films, including the amazingly gory fight on a sand dune where Wolf Devil Woman decapitates, disembowels, rips-off a man's arm and legs and uses her wolf-claw weapons to do bloody damage to an army of Devil's followers. The finale, a frenetically edited sequence of flying arrows, hopping vampires, zombie ninjas, spraying blood and cheap optical effects, is a pure delight for the eyes and ears. Listen closely and you can hear stolen music cues from ROCKY (1976) and DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)! Chang Ling returned as the Wolf Devil Woman in a series of films, two she directed herself: WOLF DEVIL WOMAN 2 (1983) and PHOENIX THE NINJA (1984). Also starring Ho Hing Nan, Sek Fung, Wong Hap, Wan Siu Man, Sek Ying and Yuen Fung. Released on VHS in the U.S. (in an edited version as WOLFEN NINJA) by Trans World Entertainment (TWE). It is also available in unedited form on VHS & VCD from Ocean Shores Video or on a double feature DVD (with its first sequel) from Pan Media. WOLF DEVIL WOMAN is now available streaming on Amazon Prime. Not Rated.

ZOMBIE VS. NINJA (1988) - Another ridiculous cut-and-paste martial arts flick from director/screenwriter Godfrey Ho (who uses the pseudonyms "Charles Lee" and "Benny Ho" respectively here) and producers Joseph Lai and Betty Chan for Lai's IFD Films And Arts Ltd. production company. You know what to expect: About ten minutes of newly-shot footage featuring Caucasian actors dressed in brightly colored ninja outfits (with their fashionable headbands with the word "NINJA" emblazoned on the front) beating the crap out of each other, inserted intermittently into some unreleased Hong Kong actioner, forming an incomprehensible mess of a hybrid film. The old footage here is a period martial arts/fantasy about a young lad named Ethan Chang searching for the killer of his father, who knew the location to a fortune in gold. Ethan takes a job as an assistant to an undertaker (an actor who sports a huge set of crooked buck teeth), who is also a zombie master (the zombies are a lot like hopping vampires, but without the fangs). Ethan travels the countryside with a coffin strapped to his back (!), getting into a series of comical kung-fu fights where he uses the coffin as part of his arsenal. In the newly-shot footage, good ninja Duncan (Pierre Kirby; AMERICAN FORCE 2: THE UNTOUCHABLE GLORY - 1988) battles evil ninja Mason (Edowan Bersmea) and his never-ending supply of bad ninjas over an old fighting style called the "Dragon's Fire", which will only get stronger once the missing gold is found (Don't strain your brain trying to figure this out. Just go with it.). Meanwhile, the the snaggly-toothed undertaker also turns out to be a kung-fu Master, so in true 80's montage fashion, he slowly teaches Ethan the finer points of the martial arts by first increasing Ethan's stamina by making him walk around with a coffin filled with rocks strapped to his back. Ethan doesn't take anything seriously, as he uses the coffin as a sled to slide down a snow-filled mountain and then shaves off his Master's beard and moustache while he sleeps! Eventually, even with all his buffoonery, Ethan becomes an expert martial artist, especially when his Master makes him fight one of his kung-fu zombies to hone his skills. In the finale, Ethan must defeat a multitude of bad guys before doing battle with Titus, the person responsible for the death of his father. Duncan and Mason also face-off in a fight to the death, using their swords, smoke grenades and the uncanny ability to disappear and reappear at will until only one is left standing.  It's really hard to explain the allure of these Ho/Lai pastiche flicks, but they have an absurd charm to them that makes for an entertaining night's viewing if you are in the right frame of mind. My best explanation is either you "get it" or you don't and, believe me, I totally understand if you don't get it. While all these films follow the same exact formula, the enjoyment level varies from film to film, depending on the craziness factor of the newly shot scenes, the old footage used and the hilarious English dubbing. Some of Ho's films work solely because of the old footage and the bad dubbing (such as his THUNDER OF GIGANTIC SERPENT -1988; also starring Kirby and Bersmea), some entertain solely on the new footage (such as MAJESTIC THUNDERBOLT [1984] and NINJA TERMINATOR [1986]) and some work for all three reasons (SCORPION THUNDERBOLT - 1986). ZOMBIE VS. NINJA falls into the first category, as the newly shot footage is basically unexceptional, but the old footage and dubbing are priceless. The film proper is a comical fantasy that contains a lot of martial arts and borrows themes from THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), including the coffin sled ride. It also contains some weird dream sequences where Ethan has non-comical nightmares of him killing his Master or finding him decapitated. The dubbing contains such double-take lines as: "I've never seen anybody shit like that before. Then again, I've never watched anybody shit!" and "You said he killed Bobby...and you don't look so good yourself!" So, just sit back, toke on a big fattie, drink a sixpack and enjoy the majesty that is Godfrey Ho. Also known as ZOMBIE RIVAL: THE SUPER NINJA MASTER and ZODIAC POWER: THE SUPER MASTER. Also starring Dewey Bosworth, Thomas Hartham, Patrick Frbezar, Renato Sala, Mason Chang, David Kim, James Kim, Yin Kim (I sense a pattern here), Mark Wang and Paul Lee. Originally released on VHS by Imperial Entertainment Corporation. Not available on DVD. Not Rated, but remember: "The Dragon's Fire burns hot!"

ZONE TROOPERS (1985) - Interesting hybrid from executive producer Charles Band's Empire Pictures (which would make RE-ANIMATOR the same year) that mixes World War II action with sci-fi elements, with enjoyable results. It's 1944 and a squad of American soldiers stationed in the middle of nowhere in the Italian forest are ambushed by a platoon of Nazis. After the fighting is through, all that remains on the American side are Sgt. Stone (Tim Thomerson), Mittens (Art La Fleur), PFC Joey Verona (Timothy Van Patten) and Charlie Dolan (Biff Manard), a civilian newspaper reporter. As they are being chased further behind enemy lines by the Krauts, it becomes obvious that they are not alone in the woods. With their compass acting screwy and unexpectedly being saved by a mysterious beam of light that obliterates a tree that nearly falls on them, the Americans discover a secret German SS camp in the middle of the forest. Just what are the SS doing there? Apparently, the SS is there investigating the crash of an alien spaceship. Sgt Stone and Joey find the crashed ship and go inside, while Mittens and Charlie are captured by the Germans. While in the ship, Stone and Joey find the body of a dead alien and escape from the ship just before the Germans surround it. Stone and Joey destroy the ship (by throwing a grenade in it's tailpipe!) and move on to save Mittens and Charlie, who are being tortured by the Krauts. The SS have also captured the surviving alien (makeup effects by John Carl Buechler), who eventually joins forces with the Americans when Hitler arrives to view his new prize (Mittens even gets a cheap shot in, giving Der Fuhrer a bloody nose!). The four Americans steal the truck containing the caged alien (who saves their hides by putting a force field around the truck) and the five of them hide out in a mausoleum for the night where Joey (who's a big sci-fi freak) and the alien bond (it likes to eat cigarettes!). The alien gives Joey a device where whatever he thinks becomes real, so he thinks of a beautiful woman. She materializes, but Mittens breaks the device and she disappears. The next morning, a rescue ship appears and whisks the alien (who we find out is female) away, but not before Joey is killed by a German tank shell. As the Germans close in on Stone, Mittens and Charlie, the aliens save the day and kill the remaining Germans with their ray guns. Since their story would never be believed by the public, Charlie ends up writing it for Joey's favorite sci-fi pulp magazine. A fitting tribute.  ZONE TROOPERS is good-natured tale that is basically a low-budget take-off on E.T.: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (1982), but it's off-beat charms and unusual setting more than make up for it's deficits (including some bad optical effects in the finale). Director Danny Bilson (THE WRONG GUYS - 1988, using nearly all the stars in this film), who also co-wrote the script with producer Paul De Meo, tosses in enough verbal and visual charm, especially in the dialogue between the four Americans, the make the entire film a treat for fans of the unusual. The only violence in this film is the constant gunplay (lots of squibs with little blood) and Mittens' beating at the hands of a German interrogator. The rest of the film is pure fantasy, especially the subplot about Sgt. Stone, who earned the nickname "The Iron Sarge" for his uncanny ability to survive when most would die. After witnessing him being shot point-blank and surviving a direct grenade hit and coming out of both of them without a scratch, you'll be wondering if he, too, is also an alien. The entire cast of excellent character actors do a nice job here, even Timothy Van Patten, who would eventually put acting on the back burner and become an Emmy Award-winning director of episodic television, as can be seen in his great work on THE SOPRANOS. This is a one-of-a-kind film that should please fantasy fans. Also starring Peter Boom, Max Turilli and William Paulson as the alien. A Lightning Video Release. Also available on DVD-R as part of MGM's "Limited Edition Collection" line. Rated PG.