★★★★ = Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
★1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
★ = Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.
Monday, November 3, 2008
The plot centers around a pack of grotesque bums who drink "Viper" booze (sold for a buck) and end up melting into pools of acidic goo. Other than the bums; cops, mobsters, innocent bystanders and workers at a junkyard also become involved in the mix. Almost every single character in the movie is obnoxious, hateful or insane, aside from a compassionate social worker (Jane Arakawa) and a sensitive young street person (Mark Sferraza). Gore FX include a game of keep-away with a severed penis, lots of melting skin, decapitations, a human explosion, a ripped off arm, impalements, and much, more. Jennifer Aspinall (THE TOXIC AVENGER) really outdid herself on this one. A wealthy, drunk woman is gang raped and killed by "street trash" and a guy (played by Troma movie regular Pat Ryan) who has sex with her dead body catches syphilis! Another memorable sequence has a cop beating a mob henchman unconscious and then vomiting all over his face. FRANKENHOOKER star James Lorinz has a hilarious cameo. Needless to say... View this one at your own risk.
Writer/producer Roy Frumkes was also responsible for the outstanding Romero documentary DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD (1988) and has a cameo getting his face melted off by yellow goo. Director Muro now works as a cameraman (on big-budget movies like TERMINATOR 2).
... aka: Next!
Julie begins to think the culprit is someone she knows after receiving threatening phone calls from someone disguising their voice and bouquets of roses with strange notes attached ("...your vice is a room locked from the inside and only I have the key.") Someone is also blackmailing her; 20 thousand schillings or they're going to tell her husband about the affair. Unwisely, Carroll decides to step in and help. She agrees to meet the blackmailer (all alone!) in a huge, almost vacant park / aviary and is slashed to death. Then Julie is attacked and almost killed in a parking garage (a good suspense scene), so she takes up George's offer to flee Vienna for a small coastal town in Spain before she becomes the next victim... but the killer follows the two there. Making things even more complicated, the two find Jean's dead body in a bathtub full of blood and learn that the serial killer stalking Vienna was simply an anonymous, unknown sick-o... So needless to say, there are several plot surprises coming during the last ten minutes or so. Manuel Gil, Carlo Alighiero as the obligatory police commissioner and Bruno Corazzari round out the cast.
Overall, a fairly well-made giallo that's worth watching, with a decent script, decent acting and pretty stylish presentation from director Martino, who'd go on to make around a half-dozen other similar films, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it drags at times. There's actually more female nudity than gore in the film (including a - point being? - scene where two girls in "paper dresses" rip each other's clothes off during a cat fight) and the majority of the main characters are nasty, unlikable and / or screwed up, so it's tough to find someone decent to gravitate to. That aspect is at least partially offset by the occasionally astonishing location work (briefly used coastal locations in Spain and, especially, the Schonbrunn Park / Aviary), some good set-pieces and a few jolts or suspenseful moments... Plus some of the ugliest 1970s wallpaper known to man.
Originally released in the U.S. as Blade of the Ripper, it was badly received by both critics and horror fans once this hacked-up, dark and badly transferred version was issued on home video. Another title using the censored, flat-looking print was The Next Victim. So avoid any of those versions and head straight for the 2005 DVD release from No Shame. It looks great and has some very good extras, including the interesting 30-minute documentary Dark Fears Behind the Door, which features interviews with director Martino, producer Luciano Martino, scriptwriter Ernesto Gastaldi and stars Hilton and Fenech, the latter looking amazingly identical to the young actress who starred in this film nearly 35 years earlier. Apparently there's something in the water over in Europe because many of these starlets who were popular in the 1970s don't look like they've aged a day. Other extras include the theatrical trailer, a poster / stills gallery and a 3-minute speech from the director when his movie played here just recently at the Venice Film Festival. You can also chose between a tolerable English dubbed version or an Italian language one with English subtitles.
This film might set some kind of record for nude female victims, including porn star Susanna Britton/Barbara Peckinpaugh in a seemingly endless scene where she showers and runs around naked trying to elude the killer. Also featured are skinny dipping (provided by Terry Congie, who co-starred with Costner in his very first film, SIZZLE BEACH USA; Troma picked that one up for release, as well), a bloody stabbing, a head mashed in a car hood, a magician, a fat lesbian, a cello player and a visible boom mike. It didn't get released on video until 1986 (it was actually produced in 1981). Guess who the publicity centered around?
It was released in color or b/w versions and is also available in a shortened soft-core cut or the hardcore X cut. The latter only runs 55 minutes. Something Weird video paired it up with SATANIC SEXUAL AWARENESS for the DVD release.
Though watchable for the most part, it's by no means a great film and the annoying non-ending will leave a bad taste in your mouth. It was based on the novel 'Fear is a Handful of Dust' by Brian Garfield. Also with Robert Alan Browne. The husband and wife team of Beth Gage (she co-wrote) and George Gage (he also produced) went on to make the documentary FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN (1996), which involved Tenth Mountain Division soldiers and was narrated by Kanaly. It was nominated for the prestigious Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
...aka: Macabre serenada
...aka: Serenata macabra
A frail-looking Boris Karloff is Matthias Morteval, a dying, lonely old nut who lives in Morhenge Mansion with some servants and tells his doctor friend, "Don't try to doctor me, doctor! I'm disgustingly healthy!" He invites his nieces and nephews to his home and warns them they may have inherited a genetic disease that causes madness by "shrinking the brain" (?) Morteval/Karloff ends up dying, and murderous "toys" (designed by his dead brother) start killing off the relatives. A mini cannon fires real bullets into a guys face, a life-sized knight in armor attacks with an axe and a dancing Sheik stabs people with a knife. One guy getting strangled makes some hilarious faces. At the end, Julissa and her boyfriend find Karloff is still alive and hiding out in the dungeon where steel gates seal off the room. He plays the recurring organ theme music (sort of a death rattle used for the killings), the brother's spirit starts talking ("The whole house will go with me!") and the mansion goes up in flames. This senseless mess (which was originally called MACABRE SERENADE and was also released in the U.S. as HOUSE OF EVIL) is too dark, boring and the stupid dialogue never matches the lips. With Andrés García, José Ángel Espinoza, Beatriz Baz, Quintín Bulnes, Manuel Alvarado and Arturo Fernández.
Compared to most recent H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, this isn't half bad and it all looks very cool and colorful. Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson were the executive producers. Director Haller also made DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (based on Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space"), which was made in 1965.
After he slaps her across the face in a crowded restaurant, Cathy moves on with her life and wants to put the whole experience behind her. She meets and eventually marries Jack Byrnes (Paul Burke), a successful and wealthy lawyer who's well on his way to becoming a powerful (conservative) politician. Cathy becomes pregnant with Jack's child. Just when things are looking up for her, Ken comes back into the picture, a little unhinged and looking for revenge... He stalks her, blackmails her and weasels his way into her new home, kills the doctor who performed the abortion and otherwise makes her life a living hell. After she gives birth, he demands she kill her new baby to make up for the fact she "murdered" his. When this doesn't happen, he kidnaps the baby and tries to manipulate Cathy into killing it using various clever and sadistic methods may startle even modern viewers.Some people seem to think this film is pushing a certain agenda, and maybe it is to a degree. Oddly, some see it taking a Pro Life stance, while others see a Pro Choice stance, which is a testament to how well made the film actually is. Both sides of the abortion debate are touched on and they're covered in a realistic and matter-of-fact way thanks to the intriguing and non-preachy screenplay from horror master Larry Cohen (IT'S ALIVE) and Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (PRETTY POISON). When Cathy goes to get her abortion it's done secretly, but not in some grimy back alley like you usually see, but a brightly lit clinic by a respectable doctor. Cathy seems somewhat haunted by her decision and hesitant to tell the truth about it for fear of the social stigma surrounding her decision. She's also afraid of being thrown out by her politico husband, but her husband turns out to be completely supportive and non-judgmental about it when she's forced to reveal the truth. The only one coming down on her and labeling her a "murderer" is Ken himself, and he's out of his mind. Make what you want of that.
The cast includes James B. Sikking, Walter Brooke, Edith Atwater, Andrea King and Suzanne Somers as an extra. It was made four years before the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (in 1973), so the subject matter was probably quite risqué for the time. Some of the psychological torment Ken puts Cathy through is also pretty strong stuff for 1969, especially to people who hate seeing defenseless infants put in harm's way. Be forewarned that it's slow to get started, but when it finally picks up about half-an-hour in it's shocking, very suspenseful, somewhat horrific and even thought-provoking. In my opinion, it's good enough to deserve a decent DVD release from a respectable company and good enough to deserve a reevaluation from critics, mystery/thriller fans and horror film buffs. It's always interesting to trace back genre conventions to see just what movies have influenced other, more popular films. Many of DGAH's themes actually pre-date the highly influential PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971), which went on to influence dozens of popular psycho-thrillers to come.
Now sometimes criticized for relying too heavily on Dick Smith's exceptional, state-of-the-art make-up effects, this still remains one of the most popular, influential, notorious (many viewers actually passed out at theater screenings) and shocking horror movies ever made, and also one of the most critically acclaimed. It won Golden Globes for Best Director, Film, Supporting Actress (Blair) and Screenplay. Oscars went to Best Adapted Screenplay (William Peter Blatty, based on his best selling novel) and Sound, but it was nominated for a total of 10, the most ever for a horror movie. That record wasn't even challenged until 1991's THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Blair supposedly lost out on the supporting actress Oscar because parts of her performance were played by a mechanical double and/or using the husky vocal talents of Mercedes McCambridge (who demanded to be credited for doing the demon voices). Linda's been stuck in the wonderful world of B-movies ever since, but that's cool because we love her. Burstyn lost out on her Oscar, too, but took one home a year later for ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE. Also in the cast are Kitty Winn as Burstyn's personal assistant, Jack MacGowran as a drunk, Rudolf Schundler and Barton Heyman and Peter Masterson as doctors.
The Jack Nietzche score and Owen Roizman cinematography are both top-notch. It was followed by lots of rip-offs (like the Italian BEYOND THE DOOR and the Spanish EXORCISM) and four official sequels thus far. Blair, von Sydow and Winn returned in the critically blasted EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC (1977), George C. Scott took over as Kinderman from the late Cobb for EXORCIST III (1990; easily the best of the sequels) and the fourth chapter was an extremely troubled production (that began life in 2002) that would have to be shot several different times. The first, by director Paul Schrader (eventually released as DOMINION: PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST in 2005) was deemed unreleasable and not marketable by the production studio, Morgan Creek. He was replaced by Renny Harlin, who used just some of the footage from Schrader's film for the 2004 release EXORCIST IV: THE BEGINNING. A 1998 EXORCIST reissue features never before seen footage (scenes that were left on the cutting room floor; including a cool bit where Blair does the "spider walk" down the stairs) and interviews with the cast and crew. Also released was the documentary FEAR OF GOD: THE MAKING OF THE EXORCIST.
One of the most surprising things about this is the arty and unusual direction by Kikoine (who previously had done porn, movies for Playboy TV and the pretty awful Poe adaptation BURIED ALIVE for the same producer one year earlier). The camera tilts, spins and pivots, some set pieces are almost black and white and neon pink lighting is all over the place. Perkins gives another one-of-a-kind performance. Some will probably claim he's overacting here, but it's appropriate for this material and no one plays a neurotic, fidgety, laughing maniac quite the same way he does. Actress Maria Rohm (Towers' wife) was the associate producer.
Stoned out of her mind (as to show no emotion throughout) he proceeds to slowly dismember her entire body. He stabs her in the gut. He cuts off both her hands. He cuts off her arm; using a hammer and chisel to break the bones. He cuts off her legs using a saw. He uses a scalpel and his own hands to rip open her chest and pull out her guts. He decapitates her (in slow motion) with an axe. He scoops her eyeballs out with a spoon and sucks on them. Then he show us his "collection" of maggot and worm infested body parts. And that's about it, other than the samurai guy changing the light settings and passionately talking about "blossoms' and "blooms" and "precious jewels" and other such nonsense. As I said, this stuff isn't my cup of tea (I actually found it alternately disgusting and boring), but it's still fairly well done for fans of this kind of stuff. It's definitely sick and gruesome, is guaranteed to make most viewers feel grimy/dirty/queasy and the make-up fx are pretty excellent and effective throughout.
A narrator then informs us that people have been disappearing in the American Northwest. He thinks an elusive creature covered in "coarse, black, matted hair" that's as dangerous as a grizzly bear may be responsible. Six hippie types (three guys, three gals) show up in a van to go on the Bigfoot hunt. They get out, grab some gear and walk... and walk some more... and walk up a muddy trail... and walk across a field... and then walk up an embankment... A girl gets a rock in her shoe and has to stop to take it out. They find some Bigfoot footprints on the ground. I'm sure this review is every bit as boring to read as this movie is to watch. There's eventually a little hardcore action (two scenes). None of the people are particularly good looking. While the women are average, the men are downright unattractive. The film has almost no dialogue, but what little there is was obviously dubbed in later.
Bigfoot finally appears on the scene and, low and behold, it's easily one of the worst costumes you'll ever see. Imagine a guy with his face painted brown who's wearing a curly brown wig, a brown ZZ Top length beard, shaggy brown rugs wrapped around his torso and arms (with exposed hands) and brown slacks. Well, the creature doesn't really get to do a whole lot until the end other than walk around and grunt. But during the stirring conclusion, one of the girls walks up to it with her arms outstretched, apparently expecting a handshake. Instead the monster sniffs her, throws her on the ground, rips off her pants and then "rapes" her doggy style. The "rape" itself doesn't look like it bothers the victim a whole lot. Bigfoot then beats up the three guys and exits stage left as one of the guys says "Some day I'm gonna get that filthy animal!" The end.
It only runs 50 minutes and apparently didn't see the light of day until 1981. A shortened version (running about 15 minutes) which is missing the human hardcore sex scenes and trims out part of the Yeti rape scene is available as an extra on the Something Weird release of GODMONSTER OF INDIAN FLATS.
... aka: Blood Rites
... aka: Espectros
If nothing else, this is one of the most technically inept ventures you'll see from this period. The photography is horrid, either over-lit or under-lit, dark and grainy, the sound is equally bad (there's a lot of static and interference on the microphone) and during the action the cameraman seemingly goes into an epileptic fit as the camera shakes so bad you can't tell what the hell is going on. Hey now, wait a minute... Does this mean Andy was ahead of his time in developing the dreaded "shakycam" technique that plagues many of today's horror films? Doubtful, but it's just as annoying here as it is in the more "polished" (expensive) productions of today. The special effects are nearly as bloody as H.G. Lewis', and just like the "Godfather of Gore"s magnum opuses they're done with obvious plastic / rubber / wooden parts, as well as no sound effects and often no screaming or reaction from the cast member getting hacked up. During sex scenes the camera slowly pans up and down bodies so closely you can't tell if it's the girl or guy you're looking at. The fact one of the women has hairy armpits doesn't help matters. Finally, the attempts at a period setting are pathetic and unconvincing. And I swear I even heard the director talking several times from behind the camera!
However, there are several other things that set this apart from other Grade Z flicks. Firstly, the overwrought acting and the dialogue... My God! The people in this movie just never shut up. During an early scene, a man and his wife go to visit the husband's brother to borrow some money. Once the wife walks out of the room, the older sibling makes a pass at his little bro and wants to reminisce about back in the day when they were lovers!! Say what? There's more twisted melodrama packed into this 72 minute film than an entire season of Days of Our Lives. Second, and most importantly, even though this is clearly a terrible film, it's an instantly distinguishable film; a separate entity entirely. It's not just another bad, forgettable cardboard creature feature or slasher flick, but a fascinatingly bad yet deeply personal one coming from someone with major skeletons in their closet. Milligan's resentment toward the family unit and relationships in general, almost always portrayed in his films in an uncomfortable, corrupt and alien light, is one aspect that affords Milligan and his films the cult following they have today. There are many directors who have worked inside the horror genre, but few whose movies are this obsessive and bitter. It's almost as if you're not so much watching a movie as you are watching a troubled soul subconsciously exorcising their demons before your very eyes.
The DVD from Something Weird also has the equally interesting, yet strangely more competent, black-and-white Milligan movie Seeds of Sin, as well as a trailer collection located inside "Milligan's Closet."
This one even has friction between Ranger Kelly, who wants to immediately close down the camp, and a greedy national park supervisor (Joe Dorsey), worried about getting a bad reputation and losing some money. Remind you any of the corrupt mayor played by Murray Hamilton? It also has a requisite (and utterly pointless) love interest for the lead character. Remember Lorraine Gary's useless role as Brody's wife in Jaws? This time it's Allison (Joan McCall), a "photographer" never once seen with a camera in her hand, and someone who serves no purpose in this film whatsoever. Once the action starts, she's asked to exit stage left and never again returns. What's funny is that Gary's husband was the producer of Jaws, while McCall's husband was the co-producer / writer of Grizzly. Makes you wonder if the producers insisted the writers expand on tiny, insignificant roles just so their unexceptional wives could take part. Instead of scenes of our heroes scouring the waters in a boat, we get scenes of our heroes scouring the woods in a helicopter. Instead of every day people doing some freelance shark hunting, we get every day camouflage-sporting yahoos with coon dogs and rifles heading out after the beast. A little boy on a raft is eaten by a shark. A little boy has his leg ripped off by a bear. I could actually keep on going here if I wanted (right down to the movie's final scenes), but you get the point. Interestingly, Susan Backlinie, who played the girl gobbled up by Jaws in that film's memorable opening sequence, also did some waterfall stunt work on Grizzly.
It's really not too awful; almost unintentionally bordering on camp at times. The cast (also including Girdler movie regular Charles Kissinger, Kermit Echols, Victoria Johnson and Sandra Dorsey) is OK, there are a few laughs and the outdoor locations are pleasing to the eye. The bear effects are also fairly well done. Only relying on some fake arms/claws, they use an actual Grizzly for the scenes and just shoot it from low angles, high angles and close-ups to give it the appearance of being larger than it actually is. It's a much better way to do these things than having a man in a bear suit running around. An over-reliance on heavy-breathing bear POV shots gets a little tiresome after awhile, though.
A sequel to this film actually went into production in 1983 and was mostly filmed (aside from special effects that were to be added in post), but the footage was seized for non-payment by the Hungarian government. Cannon Films later purchased the rights in 1987 with plans to complete it but that never happened due to the studio having financial problems. As a result, the film was never finished nor released. Only a workprint version currently exists. There was also another kill bear film that played on television under the title Grizzly 2 even though it was completely unrelated to this one.
The Liberty DVD (one to avoid) comes with no special features and is presented in cropped full screen with flat VHS-level picture quality. However, the film has also been released by Shriek Show in a wide-screen version with better picture / sound quality and tons of extras.
...aka: Seven Sisters
The lowest depths of stupidity are reached when sister Jeanie (Robin Meloy) is attacked but manages to make it back into the house bloody and scared. She locks the door and finds Katherine, who then promptly leaves Jeanie sitting there by herself for no good reason despite the fact she was attacked right outside the freaking door. A second later the killer busts in and Jeanie runs upstairs into the bathroom to hide in a stall. She throws up a little bit and then actually, get this, flushes the toilet (!!) Ugh, I can't go on.
British babes "Robyn"/Gail Harris and "Lindsay Taylor"/Karen Mayo-Chandler, 6-foot blonde babe Melissa Moore, exploitation veteran babe "Debra Dare"/Deborah Dutch and auteur babe Bridget Carney play five scantily-clad young women hired to work a temp inventory job at "Acme Lingerie" in a closed down for the night high-rise. They all get naked in a touching group shower scene that alludes to the powers of female bonding (HA!), try on the new Fall lineup of underwear, then accidentally open a "soul box" containing the spirit of Hockstetter, the notorious "sorority house killer" (last seen in Wynorski's similar and aforementioned exploitation-fest SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE 2). Someone in the group becomes possessed by the evil spirit and starts killing the others with a hook. Thankfully there's an armory shop in the same building, so the surviving girls get to defend themselves with high-powered machine guns! Oh yeah. Big guy Peter Spellos returns from SHM2 as hulking janitor Orville Ketchum, who is mistaken for the killer and outlives a dozen or so knees to the crotch, stabbings and gunshots, not to mention a fall off the roof!. The same cops from SHM2 (Jürgen Baum and "Karen Chorak"/Toni Naples) also pop in, as does Forrest J. Ackerman as an anthropology professor and Monique Gabrielle (as "Lucy Burnett") as a chinese food delivery girl. Scenes featuring Wynorski as a porn movie director and Kelli Maroney (billed as "D. Mason Keener") were cut from the American DVD and VHS release but are in the European cut of the film.