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.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Little Shop of Horrors, The (1960)

...aka: Passionate People Eater, The

Directed by:
Roger Corman

With all the attention paid to the Broadway musical and the popular remake, this has been pretty much forgotten. Unfortunate, since this is superior to both of them. It's a hilarious horror/black comedy shot in "two and a half days" by legendary cult icon and king of stretching the mighty dollar, Roger Corman. Seymour Krelboin (Jonathan Haze), a nerdy flower shop owner, discovers a bloodthirsty plant that he nicknames Audrey II after the object of his affection (played with airy charm by Jackie Joseph). The plant helps Seymour secure a job and impress the girl, but it also requires human blood to grow and survive. There are two main differences between this and the later derivations that followed. 1.) No musical numbers. Even though I like some of the songs from the musical, they certainly wouldn't really fit the poverty row, slapdash feel of this one... and... 2.) Most of the victims are killed in absurd accidents instead of being murdered and/or tricked into sticking their head in the plant's mouth. For instance, at one point Seymour is frustrated, throws a rock in the air and it happens to hit someone on the head. Some other scenes seem to be parodying what would be commonly seen on TV at the time; namely police dramas ("This is Sgt. Joe Fink...") and family shows (hence, Seymour's hilariously overbearing mother).

Mel Welles plays the cranky owner of the shop, Jack Nicholson has his first standout role as the notorious masochist Wilbur Force, who gets turned on by extreme dental pain and Dick Miller shows up as a strange flower shop groupie who likes to eat flowers. Scriptwriter Charles B. Griffith (who has several different cameos and also provides the voice of Audrey II) later sued to makers of the 1986 musical version for not even crediting him with the original idea. Not surprisingly, he won.

★★★

Tarantula (1955)

...aka: Giant Tarantula, The

Directed by:
Jack Arnold

Review coming soon.

★★★

Child's Play (1988)

Directed by:
Tom Holland

Review coming soon.

Score: 6 out of 10

American Werewolf in London, An (1981)

...aka: American Werewolf, The

Directed by:
John Landis

Review coming soon.

★★★

Innocents, The (1961)

Directed by:
Jack Clayton

Review coming soon.

Score: 10 out of 10

Thing, The (1982)

... aka: John Carpenter's The Thing

Directed by:
John Carpenter

Initially, most critics were not too kind to Carpenter's remake of the 1951 classic. I've pretty much drawn the conclusion the chilly reception had more to do with the big slasher flick movement going on in the early 80s than the film itself. So busy bashing "body count movies" on a weekly basis for their "senseless graphic violence," critics didn't seem comfortable with the increasing levels of blood and gore in mainstream films and felt even more uneasy that some of these films were becoming hits. They couldn't quite wrap their heads around the idea of violence for violence's sake, or violence for entertainment's sake. And they went on to arrogantly question the morals and values of anyone who actually enjoyed watching these kind of films. In the midst of the stalk-and-slash boom comes a remake of a beloved favorite that is even gorier and more violent than the slasher flicks critics had already spent several years berating. Acknowledging it as being the well-made movie it undoubtedly is would make them look like a bunch of hypocrites, right? Of course it would. Being brushed off as "just another gore flick" by the press combined with a poorly chosen release date (it opened just a few weeks after the monster hit E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL and on the same day as BLADE RUNNER) led to it severely underperforming at the box office, but this particular tale has a happy ending. In the thirty years since The Thing debuted, it has gone on to become one of the most popular and beloved horror films of all time. Some even consider it one of the greatest horror films ever made. I'm not quite that in love with it, but I do like it a lot.





A husky arrives at the United States National Science Institute 4 with a frantic Norwegian in a helicopter hot on its heels. After unsuccessfully trying to shoot the dog from above, the Norwegian accidentally blows up his helicopter with a grenade after he lands, then chases after and tries to shoot the animal. Instead, he accidentally guns down one of the Americans and is immediately shot dead before they're able to acquire any information from him. Why was he going to such lengths to hunt down and kill a harmless dog, and what drove him to the brink of madness to begin with? That's what Dr. Copper (Richard A. Dysart) wants to find out. He has scruffy, hard-drinking pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) fly him over to the Norwegian outpost. There, they discover the base camp in complete disarray and all of its inhabitants dead. Inside, there's a block of ice where something large had been removed but whatever it was is nowhere to be found. Outside in a fire pit there's a large, unidentifiable lump of various human matter (hands, heads, bones) all twisted and burned almost beyond recognition. Copper and MacReady take whatever it is - as well as some papers, photographs and videos from the camp - back to their station and have Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley, in a role originally intended for Donald Pleasence) begin an autopsy.






One of the videos - fashioned in tribute the original film - reveals that the Norwegians had uncovered a space ship buried under the ice that's been lying dormant there possibly for hundreds of thousands of years. The alien specimen they removed from the site is the same thing that managed to completely descimate their camp. The husky dog that escaped to the U.S. installation from the Norwegian one is put with the other dogs and ends up mutating into a tentacled monster. Gunshots do no good in taking it down, but it doesn't take long to discover its weakness is fire. Dr. Blair's research into the blood of the organism reveals that it's equipped with special cells that intrude and assimilate into the cells of other living beings. In other words, the alien can digest and absorb whatever living being it chooses, and then imitate them perfectly in both look and demeanor. Since the dog has already been in their camp for a day, the problem arises about who - if anyone - has already been infected. And if the being can somehow make it out of Antarctica and into the civilized world, it is projected to completely take over in just 27,000 hours time.






Things quickly get out of hand for MacReady and company as people start dying, mutating and / or infecting the others. To make matters even worse, Dr. Blair goes crazy and smashes all of the helicopters and radios, so there's no escaping and no calling for help. Everyone will be stuck there in the frigid, remote camp whether they like it or not until Spring. And no one knows who - if anyone - they can trust. A blood test is eventually devised to weed out who's already infected but by that point, with several people already missing, it might be too late.

Not concerned much with character development or any kind of "message," and tossing subtlety to the wind, Carpenter's take on John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?" is a back-to-basics thrill ride concentrating primarily on action and Rob Bottin's elaborate and highly inventive special effects, which have withstood the test of time brilliantly; continuing to impress to this day. There are lots of memorably gory moments to be found in this one. Dogs and humans split open and mutate, a head stretches, rips off, sprouts legs and antenae and turns into a little spider-like monster and a stomach suddenly opens to reveal razor teeth which bite the hands off a doctor trying to use a defibulator. And there's a lot more where that comes from. Aside from all of the great fx work, the are also notable contributions from cinematographer Dean Cundey, composer Ennio Morricone and production designer John J. Lloyd. The Alaska and British Columbia filming locations work just fine for the exteriors of Antarctica (interiors were filmed on an air conditioned set in Los Angeles). The actors are all adequate playing one-dimensional characters. Much like JAWS, this is essentially a popcorn flick, but it's very well done for what it is.





Christian Nyby, credited director of the original Thing, publicly denounced the film in interviews. Carpenter however has stated that his first major studio work - which received a healthy 10 million dollar budget - is the favorite of all his work. Because Bottin was overextended and suffering from exhaustion working on the project, Stan Winston was brought it to create the dog fx. The all-male cast includes Keith David (who'd go on to appear in Carpenter's THEY LIVE), Donald Moffat, T.K. Carter, Charles Hallahan, Thomas G. Waites, Norbert Weisser and associate producer Larry J. Franco. Adrienne Barbeau (who was married to Carpenter at the time) contributes an unbilled voice cameo as a computer.

Well-serviced over the years by Universal, this has seen multiple VHS and DVD releases, was made available on bluray in 2008 and still enjoys frequent runs on television.

★★★

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

...aka: Evil Dead II

Directed by:
Sam Raimi

Review coming soon.

★★★

Evil Dead, The (1981)

...aka: Book of the Dead
...aka: Into the Woods
...aka: Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead

Directed by:
Sam Raimi

Review coming soon.

★★★1/2

Nightmare on Elm Street, A (1984)

Directed by:
Wes Craven

Review coming soon.

★★★

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Directed by:
Philip Kaufman

Review coming soon.

★★★

Psycho (1960)

Directed by:
Alfred Hitchcock

Review coming soon.

★★★★

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974)

Directed by:
Tobe Hooper

Review coming soon.

★★★★

Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Directed by:
Freddie Francis

I've seen very few horror anthologies where all of the segments are consistently good, and this quintet of terror tales from Amicus is no exception. Of the five stories presented, three are fairly successful, while the other two seem somewhat poor by comparison. They're all based on the old EC comics Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, which would later be the basis for both Romero's CREEPSHOW and a long-running HBO television series of the same name, which ran from continues to play in syndication to this day. Attending what they believe to be a tour of some underground catacombs, five people find themselves separated from the group and tour guide (Geoffrey Bayldon) and then trapped in a room where a cloaked mystery man (Sir Ralph Richardson, in monk attire, as The Crypt Keeper) has them reflect on the last thing they remember before arriving there...

It's Christmas Eve in "All Through the House," as icy wife Joanne Clayton (Joan Collins) knocks off her wealthy husband so she can collect on his insurance. While cleaning up the blood and hurridly trying to arrange the body to make the murder look like an accident, she's paid a visit by an unexpected visitor - a mental home escapee dressed like Santa Claus! This segment is a little too short in length, but it's tense and suspenseful, with several good jolts provided. It's also the first film I can recall that has a killer dressed like Kris Kringle, which would later be copied by such films as TO ALL A GOODNIGHT and the first three SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT films. Overall, well done.

Tale #2 ("Reflection of Death"), one of the duds, features unfaithful family man Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) plotting to abandon his family for his young mistress Susan (Angela Grant). Before Maitland and Susan can get too far, they're involved in a car crash. Carl decides to walk back home to the comfort of his wife and children. Unfortunately, any person he encounters on his trip back home recoils in fear, and Carl doesn't know why until he catches a reflection of himself. This story feels rushed and predictable and it's not particularly effective. They'd have been better off scrapping it altogether and applying the time instead to the first and fourth tales, which could have used a little fleshing out.

Smack dab in the middle is "Poetic Justice," the story of upper class jerk James Elliott (Robin Phillips), who uses some rather cruel tactics to drive kind, but eccentric, Arthur Grimsdyke (Peter Cushing) out of his neighborhood, because he feels his presence is decreasing the property value. Arthur lives for his beloved dogs and for fixing up old toys to give to the local kiddies, who all seem to fancy him. James lies and manipulates to ensure Arthur loses both his dogs and the companionship of the neighborhood children, then sends out some mean-spirited Valentine's Day cards that are so hurtful they push the already depressed Arthur to suicide. Naturally, heartless James eventually gets what he has coming to him. Though the resolution is predictable, the dramatic component is solid thanks to Cushing's moving and sympathetic performance, which helps to ensure that we actually care about what's going on. It also proves that Cushing's talent could have, and should have, been better utilized during his career.

Next up is the Monkey's Paw-derived "Wish You Were Here," which is another of the weaker moments in the film. Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) and his wife Enid (Barbara Murray) discuss an Oriental statue, which he claims can grant up to three wishes. She jokingly wishes for wealth. He dies in a car crash and thus she inherits money. Guilt-stricken, Enid wishes that her husband would return to her. He does, but unfortunately has already been embalmed! She's still got one more wish left. What should she do? The only shocker in this flat segment is a surprisingly gory moment. Otherwise it's forgettable. I've already seen this same story before, done much better elsewhere. With Roy Dotrice.

And finally, "Poetic Justice," which in my opinion is the best of the stories. Sadistic former army major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick) is put in charge of a home for blind men and starts running it like boot camp, denying the frail tenants adequate heating, blankets and decent food. He seems more interested in using his alloted money indulging himself and his pet dog than he does tending to the needs of those put into his care. This results in one of the blind men getting sick and dying, which leads George Carter (Patrick Magee) to rally his brothers together to get revenge. All-around, very well done. It's well written and well acted, and doesn't feel rushed and half-assed like some of the other stories. Memorable finale, as well.

The film ends with a predictable fiery resolution for the five trapped tourists.

★★1/2

Shocker (1989)

...aka: No More Mr. Nice Guy

Directed by:
Wes Craven

Obviously writer / director Craven was trying to make another Nightmare on Elm Street-type series with this lame supernatural slasher, but this concept just didn't cut it with audiences. Serial killer Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi, who's good considering) is executed in the electric chair. His spirit carries on into electric currents where he can move from TVs and power outlets into people so he can kill again. Peter Berg (alternating smug facial expressions with ones of complete indifference) stars as the thoroughly unlikable / unsympathetic teen football jock hero who is plagued by nightmares starring Mr. Pinker and is out for revenge when both his girlfriend (Cami Cooper) and his mother become victims. Helping Berg, is his policeman stepfather (top-billed Michael Murphy). Also helping Berg, in scenes too idiotic for words, is Cooper's character, who returns as a transparent white ghost and can hurt the seemingly indestructible killer by shooting a white light out of her stomach (!?!) When Pinker enters TV sets we also get some parodies of television shows, including an Entertainment Tonight gag featuring John Tesh and a televangelist show with Dr. Timothy Leary. The top-notch-for-the-time special effects and outstanding make-up provide the sole point of entertainment and a few bits boast creativity, but for the most part this is loud, idiotic and obnoxious.

Director Craven (who has done much, much better) has a cameo as a neighbor, as does original Elm Street heroine Heather Langenkamp, who can be seen on a stretcher. Also with Sam Scarber, Richard Brooks, Ted Raimi, Christopher Kriesa, Ernie Lively and Brent Spiner. Craven's next movie was The People Under the Stairs. Soundtrack features Megadeath's cover of "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and a video that was shown in regular rotation on MTV. Ghost in the Machine (1993) copied some of the ideas here.

1/2

Sisters of Death (1972)

...aka: Death Trap

Directed by:
Joseph A. Mazzuca

In Paso Robles, California, an innocent initiation rite turns to tragedy when a sorority pledge is slipped a real bullet during a bogus game of Russian roulette. Seven years later, the survivors (headed by the stunning Claudia Jennings - 1970 Playboy Playmate of the Year - as a successful fashion model) are all invited back to the town for a reunion get-together at a remote mansion surrounded by an electric fence. Turns out the father of the dead girl (Arthur Franz) has lured them there for revenge. He hides out in the attic playing the flute, makes his own bullets, sneaks around the house in secret passageways, spies on them through vents, tries to scare them with a tarantula, rattlesnake and dog and then proceeds to pick them all off one by one. There’s also a secret ally amongst the girls, who is helping him. Though tame (there’s little violence, no nudity and a PG-rating), this is still a pretty fun, fast-paced and well-made low-budget thriller, with OK acting and plenty of tacky 1970s stylistics. The ending, however, is pretty stupid. The cast includes Cheri Howell (BLOODY FRIDAY), Sherry Boucher, Paul Carr (THE BAT PEOPLE), Joe E. Tata (who went on to play the diner owner on the TV show Beverly Hills 90210) and Sherry Alberoni (BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD). It wasn't actually released until 1978.

Score: 5 out of 10

Swarm, The (1978)

Directed by:
Irwin Allen

African killer bees are headed for downtown Houston and entomologist Michael Caine, immunologist Henry Fonda, female doctor (read: eventual Caine love interest) Katharine Ross and many others must put a stop to the pesky little bugs. In big numbers, the bees can bring down helicopters, but are eventually stopped when Caine finds a way to emulate the sound of them mating (?) The ultra-cheesy special effects are achieved by painting black dots on the film. It was a box-office flop (huge-for-the-time 21 million budget/10 million theatrical gross), critics hated it with a passion and it has an exceptionally talented ensemble cast giving the worst performances of their careers. Then again, how can you blame them with such badly written characters and horrendous dialogue? I'm sure many filmmakers would love to know how ole Irwin "master of disaster" Allen was able to always get together a Grade-A all-star cast for his Grade-Z dreck. Maybe handing out hefty paychecks?

Two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland is a schoolteacher carrying on multiple affairs and is stung to death by bees for her amoral ways. Cameron Mitchell and Richard Widmark are both military men. Jose Ferrer is yet another doctor. Also here are Richard Chamberlain, Ben Johnson (involved in a misplaced romantic triangle subplot with de Havilland and former My Three Sons star Fred MacMurray... ick!) Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Slim Pickens, Bradford Dillman (who starred in the far cheaper, yet far more enjoyable PIRANHA the same year) and many others. It does offer quite a few huge unintentional laughs that make it worth a watch for camp addicts. And it actually managed to receive an Oscar nomination, for Costume Design of all things! There's also a plug for Allen's THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) and two versions available; a 116 minute "theatrical" version and a 156 minute "expanded director's cut" version.

The ridiculous killer bee scare of the late 1970s (yet another example of media and government manipulation to distract people from whatever real problems happen to be going on in the world) spawned many similar projects, including THE SAVAGE BEES (1976), THE BEES (1978) and TERROR OUT OF THE SKY (1978).

Score: 2 out of 10

Satan's Children (1973)

Directed by:
Joe Wiezycki

SATAN'S CHILDREN is another barrel scraping, low-budget regional production from Florida, home of the equally ill-conceived Christian papier-mâché turkey monster biker opus BLOOD FREAK (1971). Leave it to those southerners to mix good old fashioned family gore with trite moralizing! This one revolves around a miserable 16-year-old kid named Bobby (Stephen White), who can't even mow the yard to his stepfather's satisfaction. Putting up with stepdad (Eldon Mecham, gotta love that name), who's a complete and utter ass, is nothing compared to his sick and obnoxious stepsister Janis (Joyce Molloy). She continually taunts him with sexual come-ons and digs at his small manhood, then laughs in his face about how he'll never get laid. Listening to these three scream at each other for the first 20 minutes is quite grueling indeed! Thankfully, Bobby soon comes to his senses and runs away, ending up at a bar. But this is no ordinary bar, it's a (eek!) "queer bar!" An older guy sees fresh meat and immediately tries to cozy up to Bobby, forcing the inexperienced one to scold the bar troll with a hilariously delivered "Look, dude..." Another guy named Jake (Bob Barbour) comes to the rescue and saves him from the advances of the horny geezer. Next thing you know, Bobby's the bitch riding on the back of this guy's hog and ends up at his pad, where the guy forces him at knife point to strip down to his tighy-whities! Oh no... this one's "queer," too! Before long, Bobby is hog tied and bare-assed bent over this guys knee as his calls his buddies and tells them to come over and party. Each guy initiates Bobby into the world of homosexuality by taking turns raping him... in a moving car... in one of the most awkward and unconvincing rape scenes ever committed to film...

At this point, my "Well that's not a very nice thing to say/do"s turned into "What the hell am I watching and why was this movie even made?" And it doesn't get any better from here on out. When the rapists are done with Bobby, they dump his used and abused body in a field. He's rescued by a group of hippie teenagers who have nothing better to do all day than sit around in a field smoking pot and nothing better to do at night than huddle around a cross chanting "Satan, Master, Lucifer" over and over again in their monotone voices. Yes, these wastes of perfectly good oxygen are actually, you guessed it, "Satan's Children." The catch is that all these "kids" hate gays and lesbians. To them it's a sin punishable by death. Even those wacky Mormon electro-shock treatments have nothing on these kids' brand of gay "rehabilitation." Stoning, anyone? When they get their hands on Bobby, they think he might be gay, until slutty, high-ranking coven member Sherry (Kathleen Archer) proves otherwise. Another coven girl (Rosemary Orlando) is stupid enough to admit she has a crush on another girl and gets slapped across the face for it. Well, they actually also tie her up, threaten to kill her and make her bleed, too. And here I was under the impression that Satan actually loved lesbians. My bad! Naturally things get a little too weird-o for poor Bobby, who promptly flees the cult and ends up back home equipped with knowledge that may help him enact revenge on his family as well as the guys who popped his man cherry.

I still don't see the point of this movie, but one thing's for sure; for a movie that seems to have a bone to pick with homosexuals, this one sure does spend an awful lot of time making sure Bobby is running around in his underoos. And why do the male actors who aren't even playing gay characters act so fey? And why does that pit of quicksand looks suspiciously like a giant pit of Quaker oats? This movie is also victim to the worst hack editing job in memory. It cuts to one character just sitting there for five seconds in silence before saying their line, then cuts to someone else who sits there for five more seconds before saying their line. Very awkward. Maybe they were trying not to snicker having to say things like "Have you ever in your life as a follower of Satan entertained in your mind erotic desires homosexual in nature?" One plus is the theme music that plays over the opening and closing credits. It's actually quite good. It also is probably just "borrowed" from another film.

Director Wiezycki was the director of Florida television station WTVT at the time this was made. It was his second shot at directing a feature but apparently his first didn't go over so well, wasn't finished and/or never released. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for the rest of us weird movie lovers) this second one was. It was filmed on location in the Tampa Bay area in the summer of 1973 with a crew consisting of fellow TV station employees and a cast that included theater students from a local college who still needed a lot of work at that point.

The DVD release from Something Weird is a must for camp fanatics. Packed with Satanic goodness, it includes both this film and ASYLUM OF SATAN (1971). The latter comes with a commentary track. There's also a clever devil dance burlesque short, a 30-minute condensed version of THE SOUL SNATCHER (1965), loads of trailers and other goodies.

Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Directed by:
William Lustig

After token pre-credits flashback footage, ex-policeman Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar) returns from the grave to get revenge on some of New York's finest, starting with those who put an end to his killing spree in the first film (Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon). This time there's a cover-up subplot as Cordell's facially-scarred, ghostly avenger is after the corrupt cops who wrongfully sent him to prison where inmates slashed him up. His partner in crime (sort of) is a talkative, bearded serial killer (Leo Rossi) who is strangling strippers, while understandably perplexed officer Robert Davi, police psychiatrist Claudia Christian and others are hot on their trail. Larry Cohen's script gleefully stretches credibility to the limit, taking entertainingly wacky turns left and right, the cast (also including Michael Lerner, Clarence Williams III, Charles Napier, Claude Earl Jones, James Dixon, Sam Raimi and Danny Trejo) is good and director Lustig has a firm grip on the material, piling on the fast-paced action, violence, stunt work and pyro FX with engaging enthusiasm for his target audience. It also has one of the best car chase scenes I've ever seen. I haven't seen the original yet but I'm hoping it's at least half as fun as this one.

★★★

Maniac (1980)

Directed by:
William Lustig

A claustrophobic, exploitative, graphic, scary and virtually plotless look at a serial killer. The late, great Joe Spinell stars as Frank Zito, a heavy-breathing, overweight, crater-faced psycho who cries out for his mother at night and suffers from constant nightmares. After killing two people on a beach, he picks up a hooker (Rita Montone), strangles her and then scalps her in a very sick (but effective) murder sequence. He takes her scalp back to his cluttered apartment and staples it onto the head of a mannequin, then heads back out for more of the same. Other women are killed and scalped and Tom Savini (who also did the exceptionally gory make-up effects) has his head blown off with a shotgun in a memorable gore scene. The best sequence is a lengthy chase-through-the-subway scene. A demented dream sequence has Spinell being attacked and ripped apart by all of the victims. Critics panned this movie for its slight story line, anonymous victims (most of whom aren't even given a name) and unrelenting violence, but a film venturing into the mind of a demented psychopath ain't supposed to be Disney. I can defend Maniac solely because it is entirely successful in what it sets out to do: horrify audience through graphic mayhem and a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere. The seediest areas of New York City (hovels, alleyways, subways, hotels-by-the-hours, etc.) are used to good effect. Spinell is excellent in the lead and the lovely Caroline Munro manages to light up the screen despite being handed a poorly underwritten role, though I seriously doubt someone as classy as her would even consider dating a grotesque weirdo like Spinell.

Lustig (who cameos as a hotel manager) had previously made the popular porno film The Violation of Justine starring Sharon Mitchell, who also appears here as a nurse. Adult film actress Gail Lawrence (aka Abigail Clayton) also has a role as a model / victim. A sequel (Maniac II: Mr. Robbie) was started by director Buddy Giovinazzo and star Spinell but never finished. Some scenes from it are available as extras on some of the DVD and VHS versions. The Last Horror Film (1982 aka Fanatic) was released overseas as Maniac 2: Love to Kill, but it's not really a sequel despite the re-teaming of Joe and Caroline (who also appeared together in the cheesy Italian science fiction film Starcrash in 1979).

★★

Monster That Challenged the World, The (1957)

Directed by:
Arnold Laven

After an earthquake, people (including a diver, a diner owner's hot-blooded teen daughter, her biker boyfriend and others) start disappearing near the waters of a military research lab. Victims are completely drained of all liquids, have leathery skin and ping pong ball eyes and are usually surrounded by a strange white slime that, when analyzed, shows radioactive properties. Commander Tim Holt leads a search-and-destroy mission that utilizes members of the air national guard, navy and local police. The beasts responsible turns out to be "prehistoric sea snails" exposed to atomic waste that have grown to huge proportions (they look like giant caterpillars with shells), have scissor-like teeth and feed on both sea and land. Our heroes must keep them from getting into the All-American Canal, escaping into the ocean and multiplying; each monster having the potential to produce one-thousand offspring per lifetime. And everyone's partially thwarted by a bratty twerp named Sandy, who disobeys mommy's orders, messes around with a thermostat and unleashes even more creatures. After this showing, one hopes little Sandy ended up crossing paths with Rhoda from THE BAD SEED.

Anyway, this is a fun mixed-bag of a creature feature that mixes the monster mayhem with typical 50s melodrama (including a romantic subplot between Holt and widowed single mom and lab secretary Audrey Dalton). Don't listen to the reviews that knock the creature; the special effects are great. One highlight is when someone uses a pole to poke a monster's eyeball out. Hans Conried gives a nicely understated performance as a scientist. Also with Max Showalter (as "Casey Adams"), Jody McCrea and Milton Parsons. The print has a couple or rough spots, but is in pretty good shape.

Score: 6 out of 10

Bad Seed, The (1956)

Directed by:
Mervyn Leroy

Review coming soon.

Score: 7.5 out of 10
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