Ratings Key



★★★★
= 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

Terror in the Aisles (1984)

...aka: That's Shock
...aka: Time for Terror

Directed by:
Andrew J. Kuehn

BLOODY PIT OF HORROR regulars Donald Pleasence and Nancy Allen sit around in a simulated movie house and introduce clips from 75 horror, sci-fi or suspense movies (mostly from the 1970s and 80s) as a fake audience "ooohs" and "aaahs" at the proceedings. Many of the clips used are either famous or highly regarded, but basically lose their impact when taken out of context of the film. There's really no rhyme or reason here, and no particular insight into horror movies or what goes into making a classic horror movie; just a bunch of clips. Pleasence (who is also seen in clips from the first two HALLOWEEN movies), Allen (who is seen in clips from DRESSED TO KILL) and the audience begin to grate on the nerves after awhile, too, which I chalk up more to the cheesy commentary they're forced to say than the actors' actual hosting abilities. This was actually something of a novelty back in 1984 and played theatrically, which wouldn't happen in this day and age since there are hundreds of similar documentaries and compilation tapes available. If you are simply looking for a sampler of clips from vintage horror flicks, then this might do the trick. Just don't expect much.

For the sake of completeness, here are the films:
.
ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)
ALIEN (1979)
ALLIGATOR (1980)
ALONE IN THE DARK (1982)
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
THE BIRDS (1963)
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)
THE BROOD (1979)
BUG (1975)
THE CAR (1977)
CARRIE (1976)
CAT PEOPLE (1982)
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
THE DEADLY MANTIS (1957)
DRACULA (1979)
DRESSED TO KILL (1980)
THE EXORCIST (1973)
EYES OF LAURA MARS (1978)
FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966)
FIRESTARTER (1984)
THE FLY (1958)
THE FOG (1980)
THE FOOD OF THE GODS (1976)
FRENZY (1972)
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981)
FROGS (1972)
THE FUNHOUSE (1981)
THE FURY (1978)
THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940)
GRIZZLY (1976)
HALLOWEEN (1978)
HALLOWEEN II (1981)
HOLD THAT GHOST (1941)
THE HOWLING (1981)
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957)
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS remake (1978)
JAWS (1975)
JAWS II (1978)
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962)
KLUTE (1971)
KONGA (1961)
THE LEGACY (1978)
MARATHON MAN (1976)
MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (1978)
MS. 45 (1981)
NIGHTHAWKS (1981)
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
NIGHTWING (1979)
THE OMEN (1976)
PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974)
PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)
POLTERGEIST (1982)
PSYCHO (1960)
ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)
SATURDAY THE 14TH (1981)
SCANNERS (1980)
SCARED STIFF (1953)
THE SEDUCTION (1982)
THE SHINING (1980)
THE SILENT PARTNER (1978)
SISTERS (1973)
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)
SUSPIRIA (1977)
TARANTULA (1955)
TAXI DRIVER (1976)
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
THE THING remake (1982)
THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972)
THIS ISLAND EARTH (1954)
TO CATCH A THIEF (1955)
VICE SQUAD (1982)
VIDEODROME (1982)
WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967)
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE (1962)
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979)
THE WOLF MAN (1941)

★★

Street Trash (1987)

Directed by:
Jim Muro

Well, the title sure don't lie. Most of STREET TRASH takes place in the street and there's certainly a lot of trash lying around. Trash in this case being of the paper, glass and, uh, human variety. Shot in only the most scenic of gutters, junkyards, street corners and back alleys of New York City, the filmmakers claim to have taken their cue from Akira Kurosawa's DODES'KA-DEN, but basically it's just a heaping helping of assorted depravity. You can take that as a recommendation if you like. It's a pretty tough film to assign any kind of score to. Even though it's sick, stupid, irritating, profane, tasteless and gratuitously gory much of the time, in its own twisted way it's also inventive, well made, clever and features some arresting camerawork. There are also plentiful (and colorful) gore effects and some genuinely amusing bits. You be the judge whether its attributes outweigh it's flaws. I'm kind of torn on the matter, but multiple viewings have proven rewarding. Fans of Troma movies, which in many ways this resembles both in look and tone, will probably get a kick out of it.

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).

★★

Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh (1971)

... aka: Blade of the Ripper
... aka: La perversa señora Ward (The Perverse Mrs. Wardh)
... aka: Next!
... aka: Next Victim, The
... aka: Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The

Directed by:
Sergio Martino

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is a twisting horror-thriller that works pretty well at subverting viewer expectations. It opens with a hooker getting slashed up in a car, followed by a Poe quote about "... generations of assassins for whom the love of murder was in the blood, as it perhaps is ours too." French beauty Edwige Fenech stars as Julie Wardh, a young married woman living in Vienna with her older, continually busy stockbroker husband Neil (Alberto de Mendoza) and hiding secrets from her past. The main issue haunting her is her former lover Jean (Ivan Rassimov), a sadist seen in super-stylish flashbacks beating Julie up outside in the middle of a rainstorm and cutting her up with a broken bottle before making love to her with broken glass in between them. Well, Jean has resurfaced in town and is starting to make his presence known. Julie's best friend Carroll Baxter (Cristina Airoldi) hosts a party, and there Julie meets Carroll's handsome, cocky cousin George Corot (George Hilton) and learns that both he and Carroll are sole heirs to a fortune left behind by their deceased uncle. Finding herself drawn to the dangerous Jean once again, Julie (bored and feeling neglected in her marriage) instead opts for an affair with George. Meanwhile, there's the razor-wielding, black-gloved sex killer running around the city. While the psycho's choice in victim has no bearing on class distinction, the victims do share one thing in common: they're usually female and usually not wearing clothes when attacked.

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.

★★1/2

Spider Baby (1964)

...aka: Attack of the Liver Eaters
...aka: Cannibal Orgy
...aka: Liver Eaters, The
...aka: Maddest Story Ever Told, The

Directed by:
Jack Hill

Review coming soon.

★★★1/2

Shadows Run Black (1981)

Directed by:
Howard Heard

Troma-tic turkey (produced by Eric Louzil, who went on to direct those awful NUKE 'EM HIGH sequels) and substandard slasherama with one difference by default... Kevin Costner! In a sixth-billed supporting role, Costner has two scenes as campus party animal Jimmy Scott, main suspect in a rash of killings at Dorothy College. I'm not a big Costner fan by any means, but he is obviously the best actor in this entire cast even with his limited screen time. Anyway, back to the film... Short fused, foul-mouthed detective Rydell King (William J. Kulzer) investigates the murder spree of "The Black Angel" (aka "The Co-ed Killer" or "The Moral Vigilante"), a mystery maniac who enjoys cutting up a group of co-eds, who used to be hookers and like to shower a lot. A key subplot involves a young bimbo named Judy (Elizabeth Trosper) who receives heavy breathing phone calls ("I'm coming to get you!") and whose racist brother objects to her new black boyfriend. Everyone talks about how hot she is, a point that seems to require her to be in full make-up at all times, including in the shower and waking up in the morning.

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?

Sacrilege (1971)

Directed by:
Ray Dennis Steckler

Ray Dennis Steckler started out his career with such future cult classics as THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES... (1963) and THE THRILL KILLERS (1964), but less than a decade later would jump on the porn train and start cranking out cheap adult features right and left, usually employing aliases ("Michel J. Rogers" here). Regardless of the switch in direction, Ray often kept to his roots and centered the sex around minimal horror plotlines (about vampires, Satanism, etc.). SACRILEGE is one of his first in this category and if it's any indication of what the other five are like, I'm definitely not looking forward to them. Things begin with a three-minute sequence of a nude stripper thrusting her stuff into the camera while the four-person cast is proudly introduced. Jay (Gerard Broulard) is sitting on a hillside reading a book on witchcraft when he's approached by a blonde woman in glasses named Cassandra (Jane Tsentas), who seems to also have an interest in the occult. She says "Witchcraft is a major part of our history! It's only because of Christianity that it isn't included in our major curriculum!" then goes on to say most advances in medicine, science and biology come from witchcraft. Jay's so impressed with Cassandra's vast knowledge that he decides to accompany her back to her home. Before long strange things begin happening. For starters, Cassandra isn't the meek woman she pretends to be. She's actually an evil sorceress whose witch look includes a long black wig, cape, gloves, boots and heavy make-up. She also has a Siamese cat familiar named Lucifer that turns into a greasy, bearded man (Charles Smith, with some kind of faint green face paint).

About fifteen minutes into this one comes a ten-minute long sex scene covering most of the bases. Afterward, Jay calls his female friend Maria (Ruthana Lott, looking a bit like Rose McGowan) who's annoyed she has to stop masturbating in the bathtub and come pick him up. When she arrives, Jay is in some kind of trance. Maria bitches about how "God damn smug" men are. Cassandra (who hisses, shrieks and does this annoying echoed cackle while having sex) drugs Maria's tea and then there's a 20-minute scene with all four of the actors doing it. The witch screams "My sacrilege is complete!" and then Jay and Maria wake up the next morning and leave. The end. It's pretty boring and has the usual awful acting and silly, sometimes flubbed lines you'd expect with a quickie porn.

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.

Fleshburn (1983)

...aka: Fear in a Handful of Dust

Directed by:
George Gage

In 1975, Navajo Indian Calvin Duggai (Sonny Landham) deliberately abandoned five men to die in the desert because of an argument involving tribal rivalry and the powers of Indian witchcraft. Four psychiatrists testified that Duggai was not capable of distinguishing right from wrong and recommended he be institutionalized. Years later at the "State Hospital For the Mentally Insane," Calvin suffers from 'Nam flashbacks, escapes through the air shafts and kills a friendly hunter who picks him up hitchhiking. He then decides to get back at the four shrinks who helped put him away. One by one, he kidnaps them, ties them up, throws them into the back of a truck and drives miles out into the middle of the desert and drops them off. There they must face the extreme heat, dehydration, starvation, snakes, scorpions, birds, etc… and Calvin, who is off in the shadows with a high-powered scope rifle watching their every move AND using his powers of witchcraft to strike out at them. Thankfully, one of the victims (Steve Kanaly, from the TV show "Dallas") gave up head-shrinking years ago for a job as a park ranger and helps everyone survive by digging holes to sleep in, hunting rabbits and using cacti for food and water. He also has to make peace with the jealous husband (Robert Chimento) of his former lover (Karen Carlson). Macon McCalman (who had a small role in DEAD & BURIED) is the fourth doctor, an overweight, bald, homosexual with a broken leg who reacts to the stress by becoming a born-again Christian! Not quite as funny as the "I'm a lesbian but I guess I'll stop it" line from EVIL COME, EVIL GO, but still...

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.

★★

Dance of Death (1968)

...aka: House of Evil
...aka: Macabre serenada
...aka: Serenata macabra

Directed by:
Jack Hill
Juan Ibáñez

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.

It was one of four Mexican/American films co-directed by Ibáñez (who did the bulk of the movies in Mexico) and Hill (who shot the U.S. scenes, including all the Karloff footage) in 1968. All feature Karloff and none of them are good, but now stand as curio items for fans of the actor. The other three films are ALIEN TERROR (aka THE INCREDIBLE INVASION), THE FEAR CHAMBER (aka TORTURE ZONE) and LA MUERTE VIVIENTE (aka THE SNAKE PEOPLE).

NO STARS!

Dunwich Horror, The (1969)

Directed by:
Daniel Haller

Sandra Dee (the original teen queen GIDGET to all you beach bunny fans) is Nancy Baxter, a virginal blonde student at Miskatonic University who meets Wilbur (Dean Stockwell), the well-to-do grandson of a warlock who was lynched years earlier. Wilbur shows interest in the Necronomicon and in Nancy, because he needs both the book and the virgin to open a gateway for demons called "The Old Ones" to enter our world. He invites Nancy back to his secluded home in Dunwich, where he keeps her drugged, plots to sacrifice her on a seaside altar and fights with his senile, ranting grandfather (Sam Jaffe). A strange-looking, barely-seen, multi-headed flying monster who sees in negative (and looks kind of like GHIDRAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER), is kept locked in the attic, but escapes for the silly finale. Dee fans might be startled to see her in an "adult" role; saying sex is "great" and simulating orgasm while being groped on an altar, but she delivers a fine performance as well. Ditto Ed Begley in his last role as a heroic professor. Stockwell is so soft-spoken and weird it's hard to gouge just how good (or bad) his really is. There are supporting roles played by Lloyd Bochner (a doctor) and Talie Shire (a nurse), as well Joanna Moore Jordan as Lavinia, as well as former Roger Corman (the producer of this movie) movie regulars Barboura Morris and Beach Dickerson, playing a married couple here.

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.

★★1/2

Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969)

Directed by:
Mark Robson

Director Robson is held in pretty high regard by most horror fans and film historians for his contributions to the highly influential Val Lewton produced horror cycle of the 1940s. Over twenty years after such acclaimed genre picks as THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1943) and BEDLAM (1946), he made this little-known psycho-thriller that deserves a second chance at life, not to mention a fan following (to my knowledge there's not DVD release as of this writing). Young Brit Cathy Palmer (Carol White) has just arrived stateside and is looking to make a fresh start in San Francisco. Almost immediately upon arriving, she runs across handsome Kenneth Daly (Scott Hylands), a charmer whose idea of making a good first impression involves nailing her in the back of the head with a snowball. Ken shows her around, takes her to dinner and uses his connections to help her land a good job at an ad agency. Eventually, the two are living together, but various red flags are making Cathy question their relationship. Ken is immature, aimless, can't seem to hold onto a job (and can't decide whether he wants to be an actor or a photographer) and is cruel to her pet cat. Aside from that, she senses there's something else not quite right about him. Fed up, Cathy decides to end the relationship. One problem; she's pregnant. Her co-worker Meg (Mala Powers) helps her arrange an abortion through gynecologist Dr. Parkington (Dennis Patrick). Things go off without a hitch, except Cathy decided to go through with the procedure without informing Ken.

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.

Score: 8 out of 10

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Directed by:
James Signorelli

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Exorcist, The (1973)

Directed by:
William Friedkin

The always-fantastic Ellen Burstyn is Chris McNeil, a busy actress, single mother (and atheist) living in Georgetown with her young daughter Regan (Linda Blair). After being bothered by some strange noises coming from the attic, Regan becomes possessed by a demonic spirit that claims to be Satan, spits up green gunk, does head spins, curses like a truck driver, punches her mom, stabs herself between the legs with a crucifix and throws a select few victims out her second story window with their heads on backwards. Several failed attempts at getting help from various doctors and psychiatrists follow, until Chris is forced to reach out to the church. Stern and experienced Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) and troubled and guilt-stricken Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller), who feels responsible for the death of his own mother, show up and attempt to drive the evil out of the young girl. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) is investigating strange goings-on around the house.



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.

★★★1/2

Eating Raoul (1982)

Directed by:
Paul Bartel

Review coming soon.

★★★1/2

Edge of Sanity (1989)

...aka: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
...aka: Dr. Jekyll et Mr. Hyde
...aka: Split - Edge of Sanity

Directed by:
Gérard Kikoine

Most Harry Alan Towers productions from the late 80s/early 90s are awful, but this is an exception. One big reason is having Anthony Perkins in the lead role. He gives an excellent, completely unhinged performance in this entertaining, interesting, pretty kinky fusing of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde and the Jack the Ripper legend. Tony is obsessive scientist Henry Jekyll, who becomes crazed killer Jack Hyde when he smokes an experimental drug. Flashbacks to his disturbed childhood show that young Henry witnessed a murder. Older Henry visits a whore-house frequently and slits the necks of various attractive prostitutes. I must admit that It's pretty startling to see Mr. Perkins ripping the panties off of hookers, rubbing their asses and sexually satisfying them with his cane before brutally killing them, but that's exploitation for ya. A man (Ben Cole) and a woman (Sarah Maur Thorp) at the whorehouse smoke up with him, have sex in front of him (with his help and encouragement) and later become his crazed followers. The guy hangs upside down in one scene while Henry and the woman slice him up and laugh maniacally. Glynis Barber co-stars as Henry's devoted, compassionate and charitable wife (who volunteers helping prostitutes and the homeless) in scenes that oddly parallel Henry/Jack's sex-violence spree. Also in the cast are David Lodge, Jill Melford and Claudia Udy.

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.

★★1/2

Za ginipiggu 2: Chiniku no hana (1985)

...aka: Flowers of Flesh and Blood
...aka: Guinea Pig 2
...aka: Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood
...aka: Slow Death: The Dismemberment

Directed by:
Hideshi Hino

Obviously there's an audience for this type of stuff, but a plotless 40 minute imitation snuff video isn't really my idea of entertainment. This is the first GUINEA PIG flick I've watched and I can't say I'm really looking forward to watching the other ones in the series to be perfectly honest. It starts with a warning about how no one under 18 should view it and then claims the story is a reenactment of actual events that took place in April 1985. In the pre-credits scroll, they say a cartoonist received 54 still photos, a 19 page letter and an 8mm film from a serial killer who filmed the dismemberment murder of a young woman and this movie is a reenactment using the available evidence as its basis. Whatever. An anonymous young Japanese woman is stalked, chloroformed and kidnapped. When she wakes up she's tied down to a bed in a mostly-empty room with blood-spattered walls. A maniac wearing lipstick and white face paint, and dressed in a samurai outfit, is waiting for her and ready to use his tray of torture toys on her. He cuts a chicken's head off and drizzles blood over her squirming body and tells her the same thing is going to happen to her. He then injects her with some sort of drug that supposedly will make her pain pleasurable.

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.
.
Also notable as the only Guinea Pig film to get a VHS release in the U.S. during the 1980s. A small company called Vidimax put it out under the title SLOW DEATH: THE DISMEMBERMENT. The 2002 DVD release under the Unearthed Films label pairs this one up with the behind-the-scenes documentary "The Making of Guinea Pig."

★★

Growing Pains (1980) (TV)

...aka: Hammer House of Horror: Growing Pains

Directed by:
Francis Megahy

*I've decided to include all thirteen episodes from the short-lived TV series "Hammer House of Horror" on this website. There are two reasons for this: 1.) Each episode runs 50 minutes and is in essence a feature (short films technically clock in at less than 45 minutes). 2.) More importantly, in the mid-1980s each episode was released separately on video by the ThrillerVideo label and was further padded with commentary from horror hostess Elvira. Since these were very well distributed titles, and in keeping with the video-store feel of the website, I felt it important to keep these titles in the database and review them all individually.*

Terence Morton (Gary Bond) is an ambitious scientist who spends all his time in the lab experimenting with growth hormones. His wife Laurie (Barbara Kellerman) is a busy diplomat who is away from home much of the time. Even though both possess jobs that ostensibly help ease the suffering of the common man, they have managed to sadly neglect their own son William (Christopher Reilly) in the process. When poor William dies after consuming poison from dad's lab, the couple adopt another boy named James (Matthew Blakstad). Instead of filling any kind of emotional void, James begins acting up almost right from the beginning. Obviously influenced by the characters played by great child actor Martin Stephens in VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED ad THE INNOCENTS, he's overly mannered, wise beyond his years and very manipulative for a boy his age... He also seems to know what happened to their previous son. Either James is somehow in contact with the boy's spirit of he's been possessed. It's kind of difficult to tell but one thing's for sure... he's out to make the parent's life a living hell and wants them to either learn their lesson or join James in the grave. One of the most peculiar episodes in the entire series, this one's a bit too obtuse and hard to follow at times, but there's effectively sustained tension and uneasiness in the household, plus some shocking scenes involving the pet dog and slaughtered white bunny rabbits. The ending is a little disappointing, though.

Score: 5 out of 10

Geek, The (1971)

Directed by:
Anonymous (understandably)

This trailblazing 1971 "adult" feature was the first (and only?) Bigfoot porno movie. It's so good that the director, the producer, the writer (?) and none of the actors wanted to take credit for participating in it. Think you've been bored out of your mind before with needless padding? Just wait until you watch the first fifteen minutes of this one. Trees. Glorious, beautiful trees. I hope you like trees because you'll be seeing about ten long, wobbly shots of them right off the bat set to the most generic elevator score imaginable. And fields. Hope you like those, too! I hope you like fields where ugly hippies in the most hideous fashions of the day walk in single file lines. Now let's insert a blurry title card and then one informing audiences it was filmed in two different states (Oregon and Washington) and two different countries (the U.S. and Canada). After watching the entire production, I honestly never picked up on any kind of location change, unless you count the tacked on shot of a bear cub running through a field. There's also a forward with enough spelling and grammatical errors to keep English majors busy for a few days. "In the wild untamed regions of the Northwest part of our Continents strange stories have been unfolding for two hundred years. There is a legend of a mammoth being. Part animal, part human. It's grotesque form has on occasion been seen by some. Others scoff at it's existance. Yet, all respect it - They call it the 'Sasquatch' We call it - 'The Geek'






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.

NO STARS!

Ghastly Ones, The (1968)

... aka: Blood Orgy
... aka: Blood Rites
... aka: Espectros

Directed by:
Andy Milligan

I won't delve into the plot too deeply (not that there's much to even delve into here...), but this notorious little stinker involves a trio of bitchy sisters who bring their husbands to a secluded island to get an inheritance. In his will, their miserable father specifies they must spend three days in "sexual harmony" (?) with their amusingly effete, sensitive and proper hubbies while they're there. And they don't hesitate to spend what seems like an hour rubbing on each other, having sex and smooching in oddly discomforting pornographic close-ups. But greed gets the best of someone as the couples begin to bicker over the property and it isn't long until someone starts hacking off mannequin body parts right and left. To throw you off, they've also included two bitter old spinsters (Veronica Radburn and Maggie Rogers, two of the film's better performers) and a retarded guy (Haal Borske) with big fake plastic teeth who laughs maniacally as licks the blood off a white bunny rabbit he's just killed.

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 cast includes Carol Vogel, Richard "Romanos" / Romanus in an early role, Eileen "Haves" / Hayes, Hal Sherwood (who also co-scripted with the director) and GURU THE MAD MONK star Neil Flanagan as the lawyer / will reader.

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."

SBIG

Chikyû kogeki meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan (1972)

...aka: Earth Assault: Godzilla vs. Gigan
...aka: Earth Destruction Directive, The
...aka: Extermination 2025
...aka: Godzilla on Monster Island
...aka: Godzilla vs. Gigan
...aka: War of the Monsters, The

Directed by:
Jun Fukuda

A comic book artist and his friends stumble upon the plans of a group of evil alien cockroaches (?) masquerading as amusement park developers. They're sick of us slowly destroying the Earth with pollution, so they call in some monsters to do it faster. Ghidrah, the spastic three-headed dragon and Gigan, the metallic bird with buzz-saw belly fly in from outer space and start destroying Tokyo, so it's up to our hero Godzila to save the day. He enlists the aid of Angillus, the giant horned porcupine, for a climactic tag team battle royale. There's plenty of expected mini-model mashing, explosions, fires, pro-wrestling style fight moves and terrible dubbing for fans of this series, plus Godzilla talks for the very first time (it's only a few words). And who can forget the cameo from the smashing Baby Godzilla, who blows a smoke ring and then immediately disappears from the rest of the film? This cute/silly/harmless Saturday matinee kiddie flick was originally released in to American theaters as GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND, although only one brief scene takes place there. (Apparently that little bit of 'Monster Island' footage has been recycled from one of the earlier entries). The title I saw this under and listed here (GODZILLA VS. GIGAN) obviously ignores the presence of the other monsters in the cast. Technically, they should have called it Godzilla and Angillus vs. Ghidrah and Gigan.

★★

Grizzly (1976)

...aka: Claws
...aka: Killer Grizzly

Directed by:
William Girdler

A favorite of drive-in movie patrons of the 70s became a favorite of cable viewers in the 80s and 90s. I remember this one being on TBS all of the time in my childhood. I watched DAY OF THE ANIMALS, Squirm, Rattlers and tons of others on there as a kid, but somehow managed to avoid this one until here recently. Basically just a derivative, formulaic rip-off of Jaws with a big bear instead of a big shark (it was actually even advertised at one point as being "Jaws with claws") with almost identical characters, pacing and plot developments. The action takes place at a popular summer camp in Georgia, where a fifteen-foot-tall, blood-thirsty Grizzly is on the prowl; hunting down, mauling and eating human victims. Two young women having a cookout are first to go in some surprisingly bloody scenes (one even has her arm whacked off), followed by a female swimmer under a waterfall, a woman in a tent, a ranger in an observation tower and others. The body count is sufficiently high and the kill scenes are fairly well done. Local forest ranger Michael Kelly (Christopher George), naturalist Arthur Scott (Richard Jaeckel) and gruff, experienced helicopter pilot Don Stober (Andrew Prine) team up in an effort to hunt down and kill the beast. All three of the lead characters are obviously cloned from Jaws; developed and scripted in a way almost identical to the good-hearted small-town policeman played by Roy Scheider, the slightly arrogant young scientist played by Richard Dreyfuss and the salty, wise boat captain played by Robert Shaw. And the similarities don't stop there!

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.

★★

Antropophagus (1980)

...aka: Anthropophagous: The Beast
...aka: Grim Reaper, The
...aka: Man Beast
...aka: Savage Island, The
...aka: Zombie's Rage, The

Directed by:
Joe D'Amato

Like many of his contemporaries, Aristede Massaccesi/ Joe D'Amato was a highly uneven exploitation director. He made pretty good films in most popular genres (horror, action, sci-fi, XXX), as well as many bad ones. I feel this is one of his better ventures into the horror genre, along with the notorious BUIO OMEGA (BEYOND THE DARKNESS) and the surprisingly good 1981 sequel to this film - ROSSO SANGUE (aka MONSTER HUNTER). ZOMBI 2's Tisa Farrow (the less appealing and talented sister of Mia) stars here as Julie, a woman heading to a small Greek Island to help care for the blind teenager daughter of some friends. She meets a group of vacationers on a cable car (where the director appears in a very brief cameo) and they agree to take her to where she needs to go on their sailboat. Those on board include nice guy Andy (Saverio Vallone), tarot card obsessed Carol (CANNIBAL FEROX star Zora Kerova), her useless lover Daniel (Mark Bodin), pregnant Maggie (Serena Grandi, credited as "Vanessa Steiger") and Maggie's husband Arnold (Bob Larsen). When they arrive at the island to drop Julie off, a few decide to go look around while it's still daylight. By nightfall, several people have turned up missing and they discover not only that the town is empty but that they're stranded (the ship has drifted out to see). A few townspeople eventually surface; a mysterious woman who's lurking around (Rubina Rey) and the blind girl (Margaret Mazzantini, credited as "Margaret Donnelly"), who's found bloody and in a state of shock. Turns out there's a big, brutal, scary-looking, facially-deformed madman (George Eastman in convincing make-up) lurking around the island, killing and consuming victims.

One of the best things about this movie is the scenery and D'Amato makes good use of the desolate and picturesque locations. A huge, crumbling old mansion full of hidden rooms and a catacomb full of bones, skulls and decaying dead bodies being feasted on by red-eyed rats are just two of the great locations that add to the overall atmosphere. It's a pretty nice looking film, well photographed by Enrico Biribicchi, and the score from Marcello Giombini is excellent and creepy. There's also plenty of blood to satisfy the gore hounds, including a decapitation, a hatchet in the skull, a neck slashing, gut-munching and one notorious scene involving a fetus which may have single-handedly landed this on the coveted Video Nasty list. The DVD from Shriek Show/Media Blasters is the uncut version, which restores two previously cut scenes.

★★1/2

House on Sorority Row, The (1983)

...aka: House of Evil
...aka: Seven Sisters

Directed by:
Mark Rosman

A lot of people will say this is a professional, creepy and well made horror movie. I don't know what they were smoking, but after viewing this two times in a row to see what the big fuss was about, I am convinced it's actually below average when compared to dozens of other slashers to emerge in the late 70s/early 80s. It's a very silly little film with myriad production woes (convoluted script, idiotic character actions, laughable dialogue, uneven acting, continuity errors, choppy editing) and not even enough gore or nudity for it to coast alone on exploitation value alone. And yes, I'm well aware that one must put sense and logic on the backburner when viewing films of this sub-genre; slasher movies set in sorority houses aren't exactly supposed to be high art. This one just seemed pointless. It lacked the tension, scares and suspense of something like BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) and lacked the blood, gratuitous nudity, goofy camp sensibilities [and self-aware humor] of something as 'low-grade' as SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE 2 (1990). I'd recommend either of those films any day over this by-the-numbers effort. It's not completely terrible, but there's nothing memorable about it either.

Mrs. Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt, whose performance was dubbed because the producers found her voice not menacing enough) is one mean sorority house mother. She's bitchy, bitter, doesn't allow parties, doesn't want boys coming over and wields a cane with a razor sharp blade on the end (!) Seven of her girls (Kate McNeil as Katherine, the token nice girl with a conscience, Eileen Davidson as Vicki, the token 'bad' girl who also provides the token brief nude scene, and five others who don't really have personalities), are on the verge of graduating and decide to go against house mama's wishes and throw a final bash at the home. Before the festivities begin, they also decide to play a cruel prank on Mrs. Slater to repay her for four years of nastiness. Even though the girls are smart enough to complete their degrees, they aren't smart enough to not use a real gun during the prank. Make that a real loaded gun... You can pretty much figure out what's gonna happen before they do as the gun accidentally goes off, Mrs. Slater is killed, the girls panic, wrap the body up and decide to sink it in a cruddy backyard pool (full of algae and green water so you can't see to the bottom). They decide to continue on with the party anyway, and someone shows up to kill them all off one by one. Mrs. Slater's body also turns up missing. Did she survive the gunshot and now wants revenge or could it have something to do with the opening blue-tinted flashback dealing with a woman going through a rather traumatic labor?

It all starts well enough. The opening sequence is stylish, the introduction of the girls is fairly well done and the production values and music score are both good, but as soon as the body count starts to rise, it becomes a nonsensical, muddled mess. Let me tell you right now, nothing stops these ladies from wandering off by themselves so they can get killed. They know Mrs. Slater may still be alive and several of their friends are already missing, but oh well! They need some quiet time alone in their rooms. They need to run away from everyone else. They need to go into the cellar alone to turn off the pool lights. They need to go by themselves to get the van/car/whatever... Many slasher movies function this way to ensure a high body count. However I can't think of many that do this at least a dozen occasions, for such idiotic reasons and for so little payoff (minimal gore; unoriginal murders), just to keep the ball rolling.

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.

1/2

Hands of the Ripper (1971)

Directed by:
Peter Sasdy

Orphaned teenager Anna (a well-cast and innocent-looking Angharad Rees) is placed under the care of the awful Mrs. Golding (Dora Bryan), a phony medium who uses her in moneymaking schemes and pimps her out to customers, which eventually leads to the old crone's deserved murder. Anna is adopted by compassionate Dr. John Pritchard (Eric Porter), an early follower of Freudian philosophy, who becomes captivated by the young beauty and wants to help. Pritchard soon discovers that Anna is the daughter of legendary slasher Jack the Ripper and may have somehow developed homicidal tendencies of her own after seeing dear old dad murder mum as a child (shown in an effective opening sequence). Charitable good intentions eventually lead to tragedy, as Pritchard finds himself obsessed with finding a cure for the troubled girl; even going as far as covering up a string of grisly murders he thinks Anna might be responsible for. The performances are first-rate (particularly Porter, who backed out of the lead role in DEMONS OF THE MIND so he could play this part instead), the turn-of-the-century London flavor is evocatively, effectively captured, the murders (heavily trimmed for the TV showings) are pretty bloody for the time and there's a great, subdued ending at the "Gallery of Whispers." Fine period horror from Hammer Studios, which was originally shown on a double bill with TWINS OF EVIL. Jane Merrow, Keith Bell, Derek Godfrey, Katya Wyeth and Norman Bird round out the supporting cast.

★★★

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

...aka: Sleep No More
...aka: They Came from Another World

Directed by:
Don Siegel

Review coming soon.

★★★★

Hard to Die (1990)

...aka: Tower of Terror

Directed by:
Jim Wynorski

I've really never understood the amount of hate this, and its companion piece SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE 2 (also from 1990), have received from critics and genre fans alike. These things are obviously just silly, goofy exploitation/horror movie spoofs, and they're actually pretty damn amusing if you ask me. In fact, they're a hell of a lot more fun to watch than most other slasher movies, which are equally stupid yet take themselves totally seriously. The video box for this even features a woman in a bra holding a machine gun, along with a 4-Star rating from none other than trailer park critic Joe Bob Briggs, so it always amazes me that some people continue to rent this stuff, apparently expecting Bergman or something, and then decide they have to write negative reviews denouncing the overall silliness, bad acting, cheap production values and amount of nudity and/or violence. To me, HARD TO DIE delivered exactly what it promised with the ad art... action, blood, babes, machine guns, Corman references (this is, after all, a New Horizons video) and loads of cheesy, lightweight fun. Would I call it a "great" film? No, by traditional terms of cinematic quality, I would not. If you don't like seeing ladies running around in lingerie with machine guns, then don't bother. Would I call it a "great" B-movie? Absolutely. 100% yes. It's extremely entertaining. It also has a good sense of humor, tongue in cheek sensibilities and energy to burn.

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.

If you decide to take these zany proceedings seriously, that is your choice, but approached in the right state of mind, it's often hilarious. There's B-movie ingenuity at work here in this silly time-waster. It is action, nudity and in-joke packed and the ladies are all all pretty fun and energetic, so it's fine viewing for the audience intended. If you do not like these films, simply do yourself a favor and stop watching them.

★★★

Hollywood Boulevard (1976)

Directed by:
Allan Arkush
Joe Dante

It's a satire. It's an action picture. It's a romantic comedy. It's a T&A movie. It's a murder mystery. It's a horror film. It's a female vigilante exploiter. In other words, it's not an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink epic, it's an everything-and-the- kitchen-sink epic. Allan Arkush (ROCK N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) and Joe Dante (GREMLINS) obviously set out to parody the low-budget drive-in efforts as perfected by Roger Corman's New World Pictures and they have come up with a doozy here; probably the ultimate in cinematic in-jokes and one of the best of such comedies dealing with the Grade Z film industry. Corman (the uncredited executive producer) and cronies obviously have a great sense of humor to poke fun at the business that is their livelihood. While HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD suffers from sheer overkill, it has enough outrageous, insightful and inspired comic moments to merit it a must for Corman and exploitation movie fans and a probably for general film buffs.

Perky, innocent blue-eyed blonde Candy Hope (Candice Rialson) arrives in Hollywood with stars in her eyes; determined to make it in Tinseltown no matter what the cost. She seeks help from sketchy talent agent Walter Paisley (Dick Miller, wonderful here), and after a few botched acting attempts (one of which implicates her in an armed car robbery and police chase), ends up getting stunt work at Miracle Pictures, a low-budget studio so bargain-basement they churn out a picture a week and whose motto is "If it's a good picture, it's a miracle!" There she meets a slew of colorful characters, including inept director Eric Von Leppe (Paul Bartel), sleazy producer P.G. (Richard Doran), bitchy B-movie veteran Mary McQueen (Mary Woronov, who is perfect in this role), cheerful screen writer/eventual love interest Patrick Hobby (Jeffrey Kramer), weird-o production manager Scotty (Jonathan Kaplan), oft-nude starlet Jill (Tara Strohmeier) and others. A roller-derby star and wanna-be actress named Bobbi (Rita George) has her secret for success down pat; after getting an agent "Then it's just a matter of balling my way to the top!"

After completing a successful car-wreck stunt, Candy Hope is elevated to star status under the new name Candy Wednesday and receives her first major film role in 'Machete Maidens of Mora Tau.' The entire troupe go to The Philippines (where it is cheaper to shoot) and the four leading ladies are immediately asked to "massacre 300 Asiatic soldiers!" The director tries to convince a timid starlet into degrading herself by performing in a gang rape scene; calling it "an actresses dream!" Then it's back to America to start production on the sci-fi film "Atomic War Brides," complete with left-over props and sets from DEATH RACE 2000 (1975). And, oh yeah, someone on the set has turned psycho, is sabotaging the equipment and killing off the cast and crew one by one. A parachute jumper plunges to her death, real bullets are put in a prop gun, car brakes are cut, a king cobra is unleashed, etc.

As you can imagine, there is a hell of lot going on here... We get loads of explosions, machine gun fights, catfights, motorcycle crashes, car chases, car wrecks, topless scenes, film references, alien monsters (Don Post provided the masks), gorillas, special appearances from Godzilla ("played" by future Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme!), Robbie the Robot, Charles B. Griffith and Forrest J. Ackerman, scenes of Dick Miller and Boris Karloff in THE TERROR playing at a drive-in and even an in-joke nod to ROBOT MONSTER! A gory stabbing death sequence (said to be a nod to Bava) was later lifted and used in such efforts as THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982; which was directed by Amy Jones, who was also an editor for this film), the NOT OF THIS EARTH remake (1988) and SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE 2 (1990).

The DVD has a special feature called "The Cutting Room Floor," which features trailers for such Roger Corman-produced efforts as BIG BAD MAMA, THE BIG BIRD CAGE, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, CAGED HEAT, DEATH RACE 2000, NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN and WOMEN IN CAGES. If any of the footage from those looks familiar, it's because HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD borrowed footage from all of them! Also on the disc is an excellent commentary track, cast bios and additional trailers for BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980), PIRANHA (1978) and SUBURBIA (1983).

★★★
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