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.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Las Vegas Blood Bath (1989)

Directed by:
David Schwartz

It doesn't get much worse than this. Businessman Sam Butler (Ari Levin) is in Sacramento on business and decides to go back to his Vegas home early to surprise his wife Ruth (Elizabeth Anderson). Instead, he's the one surprised when he finds out she's screwing a policeman. Sam picks up a gun, shoots them both (offscreen), decapitates his wife (also offscreen) and then mumbles "All women are alike. They just don't deserve to live!" before hitting the Las Vegas Strip in search of "whores" to murder. He picks up a hooker, takes her behind a dumpster, rips off her top, stabs her through the chin and then rips her leg off with his car. He takes his wife's head into a bar, where he shoots the bartender. He then shoots off a guy's middle finger while he flips him off and smashes another guy's head in with a shovel. And for an encore he stalks a bunch of big-haired female oil wrestlers in bikinis giving a baby shower for their pregnant friend, who, according to her friends, actually is a whore. The women are all members of "B.L.O.W." (!), the "Beautiful Ladies of Wrestling" and they even have their own TV show.

Sam barges in, makes one of the girls tie the other ones up with rope and duct tape and then kills them off one by one. The pregnant one is taken upstairs first, has her breasts pulled out and then has her stomach sliced open. Sam then pulls her baby out and throws it against the wall. Another of the girls is dragged upstairs and drilled through the forehead. Others are shot, killed with a hammer and have their arm yanked off. A Jehovah's Witness stops by to get decapitated when the killer karate kicks a door, and finally a policeman pops in for the big surprise ending.

It's stupid, nearly plotless, was shot with a consumer grade camcorder (from all indications no attention was paid to picture, lighting or sound), has some of the worst amateur acting you'll ever see, awful one-liners and is full of cheap gore effects, a few of which admittedly aren't bad for a homemade production such as this. Most of the cast members act like they're not the least bit interested in being in the film and don't even bother trying to show emotion even as they're being attacked and killed. I've seen a few claim this is (or should be) a cult classic, but some people will say that about anything that's cheap and moronic. The biggest laugh I actually got out of the whole thing was during a Vegas street scene when an old woman walking by smiles and waves at the camera.

To my knowledge, this was initially distributed solely in the Vegas area, but then it received an official VHS release from a small company called Burning Moon in 1997. Now it's a DVD fixture on budget packs released by Mill Creek/Pendulum Pictures. The run time is only 67 minutes.

NO STARS!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The (1953)

... aka: Dinosaur in New York
... aka: Monster from Beneath the Sea
... aka: Panic in New York

Directed by:
Eugène Lourié

A hydrogen bomb blast in the arctic has unleashed a giant, aquatic "prehistoric beast" (aka Rhedosaurus) and it's about to do some major damage! Swiss Scientist Tom Nesbitt (Paul Christian) is the only living human to actually encounter the monster while working on "Operation Experiment" in the arctic and ends up with a broken leg after it knocks him into a ravine. He's rushed back to a New York City hospital where doctors there label his recollections of the beast as "traumatic hallucinations." After reading about a sea monster sinking a ship in St. Pierre, Nova Scotia, Tom sneaks out of the hospital and seeks help from paleontologist Thurgood Elson (Cecil Kellaway), who initially doubts Tom's theory about the monster being able to survive for 100 millions in a block of ice before becoming unfrozen. Elson's assistant - scientist Lee Hunter (Paula Raymond) - decides to kick things into motion when she has Tom and one of the survivors of a boat attack both pick out pictures of the beast they saw. That, along with various other sightings and attacks, all leading down the East Coast headed toward the United States, is enough proof to get Elson to enlist other scientists and military men, the latter lead by army colonel Jack Evans (Kenneth Tobey) on a sea expedition to locate the dino. Their attempts prove futile and they're unable to stop the beast before it emerges in New York harbor and then goes on a rampage.

The dino tears apart a lighthouse, breaks up a shark vs. octopus fight (by eating both of them) and consumes a diving bell with one of the principal characters on board. But the really great stuff comes when he crashes into the Big Apple, starts stomping on everything, eats a policeman, picks up a car in its mouth and then drops it, buries people under a pile of rubble after crashing through a brick building and destroys a roller coaster, not to mention causing screaming people to stampede over a blind man! It's also revealed that the monster has toxic blood that can kill humans on contact. After the monster's first sweep, a newspaper headline says "180 known dead; 1500 injured. Damage estimated at 300,000,000." And then the stupid military, like they always do, have to come in and spoil all our fun by shooting a bazooka at it, trying to electrocute it and finally having marksman Lee Van Cleef shoot a radioactive isotope missile into its wound.

This is clearly one of the very best '50s monster flicks and obviously a big inspiration for the obscenely popular Japanese Godzilla series that started just one year later, as well as numerous other films made across the globe during the later part of the decade. The movie's chief drawing card, of course, are the spectacular Ray Harryhausen special effects, which are outstanding for their time and still hold up surprisingly well today. Hell, give me Ray's charming stop-motion monsters any day of the week over the cartoonish CGI of today. At least his fx have some personality to them.

On a meager budget of just 200,000 dollars, this went on to gross over 5 million, making it one of the biggest box office successes of its year. Director Lourié (who also co-scripted from a Ray Bradbury story) was a "jack of all trades" in the entertainment industry, serving as a production designer / art director on numerous features, and also dabbling in other production areas. He'd direct several other films; The Colossus of New York (1958), The Giant Behemoth (1959) and Gorgo (1961), all of which were about giant monsters or beings. Lead actor Christian (real name Paul Hubschmid) apparently became "the first Swiss film star" back in the late 1930s and had a very successful career in Germany, though he's virtually unknown here in America except for this film.

The cast also includes many familiar faces from 50s sci-fi/horror, including Donald Woods (13 Ghosts), Steve Brodie (Donovan's Brain), Ross Elliott (Tarantula), King Donovan (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as a psychiatrist and an uncredited James Best, who'd go on to star in THE KILLER SHREWS (1959) and play "Rosco P. Coltrane" on The Dukes of Hazard. Merv Griffin provides the voice of a radio announcer and Vera Miles appears in the trailer but not in the actual film itself.

★★★1/2

House by the River (1950)

...aka: Floodtide
...aka: Ghost of Rio, The
.
Directed by:
Fritz Lang

Frustrated, married writer Stephen Byrne (Louis Hayward) is feeling a little down in the dumps because his manuscripts have all been sent back by publishers. Looking for a little drunken pick-me-up while his wife is away, Stephen decides to come on to Emily (Dorothy Patrick), the attractive young maid they've recently hired. When he grabs Emily and kisses her, she screams and puts up a struggle. Stephen tries to silence her and ends up strangling her to death in the process. Immediately afterward, Stephen's crippled bookkeeper brother John (Lee Bowman) shows up and decides to go to the police. He's sick of covering for him, but is talked out of reporting it when Stephen claims his wife is pregnant. The two put the body in a sack and sink it in a nearby river (which has a well-earned reputation of recycling trash because of tidal water), and then try to go about their normal lives. While John is guilt-stricken over the events and finds his life falling apart because of it, brother Stephen is reveling in the attention he's getting in gossip circles and the local newspaper. In fact, he's getting enough free publicity to get his first novel published!

Several weeks later, the body turns up and John ends up being the brother taken to court and charged with murder since his name is stenciled on the sack that was used to hide Emily's body in. He's absolved of all wrongdoing, but the suspicion has ruined his reputation, friendships and career. Stephen however, who is sometimes haunted by visions of leaping fish he'd seen the night they sunk the body, is thriving and decides to relay the real-life events into a new novel he's writing titled "The River." Jane Wyatt co-stars as Stephen's long-suffering wife Marjorie, who eventually comes to the conclusion she's married a remorseless killer.

With such films as DESTINY (1921), DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER (1922), METROPOLIS (1927), M (1931) and THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE (1933) already long behind him, Lang had been having some trouble finding "respectable" big-budget studio work at this stage in his career. A studio he'd co-founded a few years earlier had went under and he, much to his displeasure, found himself at second rate Republic Pictures directing this. By Lang standards, this is just a minor footnote in a landmark career. However, by normal standards it's an above average and very entertaining film that blends melodrama, Gothic horror, courtroom drama and thriller together quite well. There's plenty of suspense, good performances and interesting and well thought out characterizations and character interactions. Though much takes place on sets, there are some nicely-done scenes that defy the anemic budget, such as Stephen frantically rowing around the edge of the river searching for the floating body.

Hayward (who would go on to play Jekyll and Hyde a year later in THE SON OF DRACULA) is great in his extremely unlikable role, and Wyatt and Bowman both also do nice jobs. There are a couple of nice supporting turns as well; one from Ann Shoemaker as a nosy but good-hearted neighbor who believes the Byrne brothers can do no wrong, and Jody Gilbert as John's hefty, talkative maid, who's getting fed up with her bosses irritable attitude. The cast also includes Peter Brocco as a coroner, Kathleen Freeman as a party guest and Carl Switzer (aka Alfalfa) as an office boy.
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Filmed in 1949 (right after Lang's SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR...). It's been issued to DVD at least three times, including once from Kino and a two-disc edition from Wild Side Video.

★★★

La perversa caricia de Satán (1976)

... aka: Baiser du diable, Le
... aka: Devil's Kiss
... aka: Wicked Caresses of Satan

Directed by:
Georges Gigó

A seance! An ancient castle! A mad scientist! A zombie! A rapist dwarf! An "avante-garde fashion show" featuring models who dance so horribly and are wearing such hideously ugly one-piece bell bottom outfits while dancing so horribly that I laughed until I cried and then rewound the movie five times to watch it all over again. Take all those elements, add some chintzy gore, grave-robbing, Satanism and a little nudity, stir together, and you have this economy-budget Eurotrash effort that's sure to please fans of senseless cheese. At a large Gothic castle, Duke Victor De Haussmont (José Nieto) is throwing a party. Since his festivities have been getting a bit stale lately, he's brought in evocative Claire Grandier (Silvia Solar) to liven things up a bit. Claire is bitter because she used to be a wealthy countess with a promising future as a medical student and now she's working as a medium. Years earlier, her husband killed himself and the Duke and his family cashed in on his death while doing nothing to help Claire when she needed it. Now she wants revenge. Accompanying Claire to the party is Professor Ramar Gruber ("Oliver Matthau"/Olivier Mathot), an expert on telepathy who has been experimenting with the regeneration of animal cells (?) on the side. Together, the duo make up "the inseparable union of life... the spirit and the magic." Confused yet? Just wait. It gets worse.

After the fashion show, all the models decide to go check out the seance except for one named Betty (Mara Vador), who stays behind to take a shower. The creepy voyeuristic butler Charles (José Ruiz Lifante) peeps in on her showering, watches her change clothes, then tries to rape her and finally slaps her in the face for trying to steal a little gold box. After adequately proving their abilities, the duke offers up his hospitality to Claire and Gruber, promising to give them room, board, a place in the cellar to set up a lab and funding for their experiments in exchange for them teaching him occult sciences. They agree, and the duo move in. The Professor starts work on his experiments, while Claire plots to use Satanism to get her revenge. Meanwhile, Loreta (Evelyne Scott) the maid is having sex with the stable boy Jean (Juan M. Solano). Well... I guess that has absolutely nothing to do with the plot but they wanted to throw that in there, anyway.

While out horse riding, Claire comes across a mentally-retarded dwarf serial rapist (!), brings him home, gives him food and has sex with him so he'll help them out. They all dig up a mangled corpse and bring it back to the lab. The doctor reconstructs the head and gives it a shot of his special "catalyptic serum," then Claire does a ceremony that involves reading from a Satanic text and killing a chicken. The dead guy (basically some bald skinny guy with a protruding rib cage, a couple of scratches and a stitched up eye) then comes to life as a zombie. Professor Gruber can control it with his telepathic abilities. That evening they send it upstairs to strangle the Duke, who happens to have a cigarette in one hand and a candelabra in the other (!) so when he burns up in bed after being strangled to death the authorities think nothing of it.

The Duke's playboy photographer nephew Richard (Daniel Martin) then inherits the castle, moves in and decides to let Claire and the Professor stay to continue their experiments, but the duo start losing control of their monster because the Professor's bad heart can't handle it any longer. Right in the middle of having an erotic dream about some woman horseriding naked and running around in a field in a sheer outfit (!), the rapist dwarf (Ronnie Harp) gets strangled to death by the monster, who then sneaks upstairs and gets Loreta too before escaping the castle to going on a little rampage around town. Claire puts "the power of Astra" into Loreta so she turns into a killer zombie, too, then stabs her lover to death with a pair of scissors. The Duke's model girlfriend Susan (María Silva) shows up for a visit and ends up getting chased around the grounds by the bald zombie. Will she become the next victim?

If you bothered reading all this, you can probably tell this movie tries to cram way too much nonsense into its 93 minute run-time for any sane viewer to handle. It seldom makes sense, some of the character motivations are muddled and the film completely lacks any kind of protagonist. Most of the time it's centered around Claire and the Professor, then treats their demises as almost an afterthought while attempting to switch attention around to Richard and Susan during the last 25-30 minutes. It's too bad neither Richard nor Susan are the least bit interesting, we know nothing about them and we could care less about what happens to either of them. To make matters worse, the filmmakers also try to squeeze a police investigation in at the very end, as well as a scientific study into a zombie, which are two other half-assed subplots we could care less about by that point.

The sets are pretty good, as is the photography, but most of the acting and dialogue are bad, the pacing is awful and the generic organ score isn't very good either. The best thing about the film is actress Silvia Solar. She cuts a striking figure with her exotic looks, jet black hair, long black eyelashes and mostly black wardrobe, and hits just the right note of bitchy villainy to keep this mess at least someone watchable. I always remember Lifante in these things, too, but that's probably just because he's so odd and creepy looking.

The cast also includes Víctor Israel (who's only in the first scene), Carlos Otero as one of the castle's three (!) butlers, Moisés Augusto Rocha ("Jack Rocha" here) as the zombie and the director (who is also billed as Jordi Gigo) as "The Annunciator."

★1/2

Centerfold Girls, The (1974)

...aka: Girl Hunter

Directed by:
John Peyser

Episodic drive-in trash is divided into three separate stories. All feature repressed psycho Clement Dunne (Andrew Prine), who wants to “help” centerfold models. And by "help," I mean kill them because they exhibited their bodies for the world to see. He’s already cut Miss January’s throat and buried her on the beach, and now he’s moving his way down Bachelor Magazine’s Centerfold Calendar of young lovelies.

Nurse Jackie Carroll (Jaime Lyn Bauer), Miss March, is on her way to a new job when she pulls into a gas station and stumbles across Linda Williams (Janet Wood), who’s upset that she’s been stood up by her boyfriend. Jackie agrees to give her a lift as far as she’s going and the two end up at Jackie’s parents secluded vacation home. As it turns out, Linda was lying about being stranded and has set Jackie up. Linda’s three obnoxious, loud drifter friends; Tim (Dennis Olivieri), Rita (Teda Bracci) and Donna (Talie Cochrane) all barge in, wreck the place, steal stuff, slap Jackie around, drug her, paint her face with makeup, grope her while she’s sleeping and threaten her with rape. She manages to get away and make it down to a hotel run by Ed Walker (Aldo Ray). The police are called, but her hippie attackers are all long gone by the time they show up. If that’s not bad enough, Ed’s wife Millie (Paula Shaw) kicks her out because she assumes she’s a tramp. When Ed drops her off back off at her place, he also tries to rape her, but decides not to because she doesn’t struggle enough (“Even the worst main street sluts put up a fight… When it comes that easy baby, it’s not worth it.”) And to cap off Jackie’s wonderful experience, Clement mosies in and cuts her throat! Lead actress Bauer (who posed for Penthouse Magazine the same year under the name "Jessica Len") went on to play Laura Spencer on One Life to Live, so I guess her role here prepared her for everything she'd be dealing with in soap opera land.

Next up, college student Charly (Jennifer Ashley), Miss May, has landed a job doing a nude photo shoot on a remote and uninhabited island with just one rental cottage on it. In charge of the gig are a pair of bickering former lovers; aging former model Melissa (Francine York) and casting couch sleazebag Perry (director Danton). Also going along are photographer Sam (John Denos) and two other models – Glory (Ruthy Ross) and Sandi (Kitty Carl). They’re all dropped off on the island by caretaker Mike Mazurki. who plans on coming back to get them in a few days. Clement manages to steal a boat and sneak on the island, and then prowls around killing everyone off one-by-one. One girl is pushed off a cliff, another is stabbed in the shower and more necks are slashed. This segment starts well, but becomes silly and sloppy by the end. But I did realize something while watching it. The 1990 flick BIKINI ISLAND (which is moronic but I still like it) is nearly identical and completely ripped this one off.

Finally, Clement goes after Vera Porter (Tiffany Bolling), who was Miss July and works as a stewardess. He sends her yellow roses, threatens her on the phone and kills her friend Patsy (Connie Strickland) thinking it was her. Vera flees to another town to hide out in a motel, but her moronic friend Pam (Anneka Di Lorenzo) tells the killer where she’s hiding and he shows up there looking for her. When Vera receives more flowers at the hotel and receives another phone call from the killer (who she hasn’t seen yet), she gets in her car, drives off, gets a flat tire and hitches a ride with two horny sailors. The sailors drug her beer and then rape her. Clement shows up to give her a ride home, but Vera turns out to be one tough cookie. At least they saved the best segment for last.

While nothing spectacular (or even good), it’s a fairly entertaining exploitation flick loaded with familiar faces and T&A that gets the job done when it comes to mixing sex and violence for the drive-in movie crowd for which it was intended. Definitely something that could easily be labeled “sexist” or “misogynistic” (something I won’t disagree with) for its mean-spirited, sexual violence and humiliation scenes directed toward (often nude) women.
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Prine – decked out in thick glasses and a business suit with pants too short so his white socks are always showing - is great in his role as the square psycho, who is so pure of heart he goes back to his all-white apartment to sip wine and listen to records – in between killings. Prine plays it completely straight in a way that’s effective if taken at face value, yet highly amusing when in the context of this sleazy film. Of the supporting cast, Bolling brings the most verve to her role. Also here in smaller roles are Jeremy Slate as a detective, John Hart as a sheriff, Dan Seymour as a propreitor and Janus Blythe (as “Janis Lynn”) as Charlie’s roommate.

★★

Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre (1975)

...aka: Evil Force
...aka: Meatcleaver Massacre
...aka: Revenge of the Dead

Directed by:
Evan Lee

Top-billed Christopher Lee actually just appears here as an on-screen host, whose four minutes worth of pre-credit intro footage and three-minutes of prologue have absolutely nothing to do with the movie we’re about to watch. He discusses the occult, souls freeing themselves from sleeping bodies, the legend of King Guntrun the Rich, evil manifestations with demonic powers, “dog-headed hags with bat’s wings, bloodshot eyes and snakes for hair,” Arestes, Oedipus and the Furies. According to Lee himself, he filmed his footage for something else and the producer of the original project ended up selling it to these cats without his consent, who then advertised their awful film as "starring Christopher Lee." He was planning a lawsuit, but then said fuck it because of the time and cost that would have to go into it.

After Lee’s intro we’re in a classroom at “Valley College” where Professor Cantrell (James Habif) shows a slideshow about “Morac, destroyer of the destroyers,” a giant, green, three-eyed demon that supposedly can be called forth by saying a Galic chant while under “dire circumstances.” His problem student – Mason (Larry Justin), sexually-frustrated Dirk (Doug Senior), long-haired hippie Sean (Robert Clark) and sex club patron Phillip (Bob Mead) are bored one night and decide to get high, get drunk and cruise around Hollywood Boulevard. Mason also thinks it would be swell to run on over to Professor Cantrell’s house to terrorize him and his family. The guys slip pantyhose over their heads, hop a fence, stab the family dog “PooPoos” to death and then creep into the home.They club the professor over the head with a candlestick, strangle his wife, kick the son in the balls and strangle him with an electric cord and then stab the daughter in the face several times. The police are stumped, but Prof. Cantrell manages to survive the attack and stays conscious long enough to see the only clue left behind (a patch from Mason’s jacket that got ripped off) before slipping into a coma. Though in and out of his coma, Cantrell is somehow able to recite the Morac chant, except he doesn’t do it in Galic. And that begs the question - Why even make unnecessary rules if you’re not going to follow them?

Supernatural forces then kill off the four guys one-by-one. One is slashed to death while hiking in the desert by what appears to be a fern. Another has a car hood slammed down on him repeatedly. The third has his face burned off when a fuse box at the movie theater he works at explodes in his face. And the dreaded demon (which is very hard to see and looks absolutely nothing like the monster in the picture) shows up for the final murder. Voice-overs are used for more than four characters. Did they screw up the sound or something? During one scene, a suicidal character compemplates slitting his wrists and thinks, “Oh Jesus, this is gonna make an awful mess. I sure hope the landlord isn’t going to be super upset about it.” Groan.

Because the plot isn’t good enough, this movie does whatever it takes to fill time. There’s a nightclub scene of a stand-up comedian making fun of gays and does a Peter Falk impersonation. Then there’s a boring five-minute long b/w nightmare scene basically featuring a guy walking around by the beach. Another long and drawn-out scene in a seedy area of Hollywood, which we know is seedy because it keeps showing signs for “Club 69: Delicious Girls” (!), the “Sexual Catharsis Center” (!!) and the “Institute of Oral Love” (!!!), is simply an excuse to include the film’s sole topless scene (courtesy of Natasha, who was smart enough not to provide her last name). And let’s not forget the useless scenes of a detective (J. Arthur Craig) investigating the murders who seldom crosses into the same frame with any of the main actors.

After the movie ends (thank you Jesus!), Lee tells a story about shamans changing the weather. "Gordon"/Guerdon Trueblood (the director of THE CANDY SNATCHERS and also the cinematographer of this one) shows up at the very end, and his son is also in it for a second. And so is an actor named Ed Wood. Nah, couldn’t be!

Les démons (1973)

... aka: Demonios, Os
... aka: Demons, The
... aka: Die Nonnen von Clichy
... aka: Las poseidas del demonio
... aka: Les démons du sexe
... aka: Nuns of Clichy, The
... aka: Os Demonios
... aka: Sex Demons, The
... aka: She-Demons

Directed by:
Jesus Franco

A suspected witch is stuck with a pin, has boiling water poured on her chest, screams, laughs, yells something in French that I didn't understand and is then burned alive at the stake. Before dying, she curses all those responsible; including inquisitor Lord Justice Jeffreys (“John Foster”/ Cihangir Gaffari), powerful noblewoman Lady de Winter (Karin Field) and soldier Thomas Renfield (Alberto Dalbés), and promises they’ll all face a death far worse than hers at the hand of her two daughters. Meanwhile, at a local convent, repressed Mother Rosalinda (Doris Thomas) rules with an iron fist and lashes a young woman’s hands for simply daydreaming. Two orphaned sisters; the pure, humble and innocent blonde Margaret (gorgeous Britt Nichols) and the pleasant but wayward brunette Kathleen (Anne Libert), who dreams of “running naked through the wheat fields with the wind caressing me all over,” are staying there and have their pension paid by a mysterious man. Hey, this is an upscale nunnery! At confession Rosalinda shows concern for both Kathleen’s frequent masturbation sessions and herself, for enjoying watching them; “…seeing her body trembling in spasms of voluptuous pleasure affected me deeply!” Who the hell writes this stuff? Priceless. It isn't long before Rosalinda is stripping off her clothes and rubbing her body while wacka-wacka guitar and bongo drums play and she begins to suspect that Kathleen is possessed by a demon. You know, because she's interested in sex.

Lady De Winter and Thomas, who are secretly lovers and desperate to save their own asses after being cursed, shows up at the convent looking for the daughters of the executed witch. Rosalinda points them in the direction of Kathleen and Margaret, who are promptly bent over a table and felt up to see if their virginity is intact. Kathleen fails the test and is dragged off for a “witchcraft investigation,” which involves being tortured until she’s forced to confess. She’s stretched on a rack, has her leg clamped, has pins stuck in her breasts and fails the water test, so she’s branded a witch and sentenced to die. Lady De Winter’s astrologist husband, Malcolm (Howard Vernon) feels pity on Kathleen and believes she’s innocent, so he pays off some guards to help her escape. Back at the convent, Margaret is paid a visit by the ghost of her mother, who tells her she must avenge her death. Suddenly, a ghostly man in red tights appears, bends her over and rapes her so she’ll be “the bride of Satan.” She seduces Rosalinda, who reacts to that by jumping to her death from a balcony, then flees the convent and ends up finding another witch, who teaches her about her powers.

Meanwhile, Kathleen gets bounced around from painter Brian De Quincy (“Victor Feldman / Andrés Monales), who lets her shack up with him for a few weeks, Thomas, who is ordered to bring her back to the torture chamber or else lose his head, and Jeffreys, who has his way with her once she’s re-captured. Kathleen, as well as Thomas (now a traitor for trying to help her escape) are sentenced to both die a slow and painful deaths after Lady De Winter’s feast. Margaret, who shows up with a new identity, has other plans in store for all of everyone.

It’s not all terrible, but it’s a meandering tale; often slow and dull, despite gratuitous full female nudity that Franco sometimes uses his trademark zooms to focus in on. Some of the Portuguese / Spanish shooting locations are nice and the acting isn't bad, but there’s also no real sense of time or place because of the variance of the costumes and architecture. Toward the end, they throw in a sloppy sword fight (notice how it changes from day to night back to day again during the same scene), and a mildly amusing twist at the end.

The cast also includes Luis Barboo as Jeffreys’ right hand man Truro. It’s based on the novel “Las monjas de Clichy” by David Khunne (a Franco alias) and features a score by Daniel J. White and Franco and decent cinematography by Raúl Artigot. On-screen title of the version I watched (the DVD is from Salvation Films) was Las poseidas del demonio ("The Demon Possessed"), which is said to be uncut. It was first released with much nudity removed for the Premiere Entertainment and Unicorn video releases; shortened from 103 minutes down to just 79.

★★

Swamp Women (1955)

...aka: Cruel Swamp
...aka: Swamp Diamonds

Directed by:
Roger Corman

For starters, I'm not sold on this being even a partial horror film, despite a couple of scenes that could land it in the genre. The two reasons it's being included on this blog is... 1.) IMDb currently lists it as horror, as well as adventure, crime, romance and thriller. 2.) For some strange reason it's a staple of those multi-horror packs, so many horror fans are likely to see it anyway. In addition, it was also the target of MST3K ridicule, so that helped solidify my decision to go ahead and throw it on here. What bracket it mostly belongs to is "Girl Gang;" a subgenre of films about tough criminal tootsies who sass, fight, rob and kill without giving it a second thought. Others in this very fun category include Ed Wood's THE VIOLENT YEARS (1956), GUN GIRLS (1957), TEENAGE GANG DEBS (1966) and H.G. Lewis' SHE DEVILS ON WHEELS (1968). Corman's film, his directorial debut, actually preceeds all of those. According to an IMDb keyword search, it may actually be the first of such films.

What's left of the Nardo Gang (all the men were apparently killed); even-keeled, experienced Queen Bee Josie Nardo (Marie Windsor), violent-tempered redhead Vera (Beverly Garland) and hot-blooded blonde Billie (Jil Jarmyn), are wasting away in prison and withholding information about a buried box of diamonds hidden somewhere in the Louisana swamplands. Police woman Lee Hampton (Carole Mathews) goes undercover as their new cellmate and stages a bogus breakout to get the gang to lead her to the diamonds. The ladies get to their escape car, drive as far as they can go, ditch the car and then head in the bayou by foot. They run across ladies man Bob ("Touch"/Mike Connors) and his whiny, busty date Marie (Susan Cummings), shoot their guide dead, steal their canoe, force Bob and Marie go along as hostages and transform their jeans into cut-offs that Catherine Bach might think twice about wearing. The rest of the film plays out as a series of scenes with the ladies either rowing their canoe through swamp waters or camping out, where jealousy, geed, lust and backstabbing rear their heads long enough to undermine their plans of splitting the diamonds. For action, there's a rubber alligator attack, a rattlesnake attack, a spearing and loads of catfights.

So is SWAMP WOMEN as bad as most people say it is? Yes and no. The film is extremely low-budget, even by Corman standards. It was shot in Pathécolor; an early manual stencil-based film tinting process, meaning the colors are flat and muted. The film also suffers a bit from a couple of wooden supporting performances, sloppy editing (especially during the gator attack scene), badly incorporated stock footage and other issues associated with low-budget films of this era. Regardless of all that, I found this mildly enjoyable overall. There are some hilarious one-liners, the premise (while utterly ridiculous) is fun and Windsor, Garland and Jarmyn all bring something enjoyable to this film, and that's a good thing because there's more talk than action. Connors just looks amused and spends the majority of the film with his hands tied behind his back watching the ladies go at it (and fight for his affections). Jonathan Haze has a small role as a drunken pickpocket in the opening scene.

★★

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

About the Top Ten lists...

I decided to start a series of Top Ten lists for each year covered on this blog, along with a discard pile for the films that didn't quite make the cut; some of which are still very good, but maybe not (in my humble opinion) good enough for the Top 10. Anything in that section I have starred will be a film that I have rated at least "good" (2 1/2 stars); meaning it's still worth watching. Naturally, these lists are just one man's opinion and will be subject to change as I watch (or rewatch) more films and do more reviews here. I'm only providing links for films I've done reviews for, though others should still be listed and rated here, and reviews for those will come eventually. Any comments are very much appreciated, as well as any recommendations for great films I haven't yet seen from any of the years listed. I'll make it a priority to watch anything that anyone recommends to me.

Some Notes and rules...

- I will be using IMDb release years for these lists, which may differ from the years I have some films listed under on this blog. I usually (but not always) pinch the production year from the end credits, which isn't always the actual year the film was released.
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- Even though I may love certain films I've listed and reviewed here doesn't mean I'll necessarily have it on my list. Why? Because I may not feel it's actually horror. I used both reference books (Creature Features, Terror on Tape, etc.) as well as IMDb classifications to come up with the complete horror list you see here. Some (but not many) of the films I've included simply aren't horror by my own personal standards. We all have those, and I don't feel it's my place to tell others what is and is not a horror film, so I've decided to use a variety of different opinions on what should be classed in this genre. That doesn't necessarily mean I think it's appropriate for my personal Top 10 horror lists.
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- Documentaries are not eligible for the Top 10 lists.
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- Short films are eligible for the Top 10.
.
- Certain years, 1950 for example, are dry when it comes to horror. Sometimes I won't be able to actually do a Top 10 because there aren't ten horror films from that year. There are also a few times where I simply haven't seen ten yet or barely ten, so some less-than-great films may be on there for the time being until they get bumped off by something better.

Top Ten for 1986



Overview coming soon.
_______________________________________________________________________

1986
Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
USA / John McNaughton / 
* * * * * * * * * *
2. Aliens
UKUSA / James Cameron / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
3. Little Shop of Horrors
USA / Frank Oz / 1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
4. The Fly
Canada, UK, USA / David Cronenberg / 
* * * * * * * * * *
5. From Beyond
USA / Stuart Gordon / 

_______________________________________________________________________

Rounding Out the Top 10:

6. Witchboard / USA / Kevin S. Tenney / 
7. Hitcher, The / USA / Robert Harmon / 
8. Night of the Creeps / USA / Fred Dekker / 
9. Dark of the Night (Mr. Wrong) / New Zealand / Gaylene Preston / 
10. Spooky Spooky (Gui meng jiao) / Hong Kong / Sammo Hung and Wei Don Lo / 

_______________________________________________________________________

Also seen:

- Abomination, The / USA / Bret McCormick / 
April Fool's Day / USA / Fred Walton / 
- Bad Girls Dormitory / USA / Tim Kincaid / SBIG
- Blood Hook / USA / Jim Mallon / 
- Blue Velvet / USA / David Lynch / 
- Body Count (Camping del terrore) / Italy, USA / Ruggero Deodato / 1/2
- Body Count (Bodycount) / Canada [TV] / Lionel Shenken / 1/2
- Breeders / USA / Tim Kincaid / 1/2
- Cassandra / Australia / Colin Eggleston / 
- Chopping Mall (Killbots) / USA / Jim Wynorski / 1/2
- Class of Nuke 'em High / USA / Richard W. Haines, Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman / 1/2
- Crawlspace / Italy, USA / David Schmoeller / 
- Critters / USA / Stephen Herek / 1/2
- Deadly Friend / USA / Wes Craven / 
- Deadtime Stories (Freaky Fairy Tales) / USA / Jeffrey Delman / 1/2
- Deliberate Stranger, The / USA [TV] / Marvin J. Chomsky / 
- Demented Death Farm Massacre... The Movie / USA / Donn Davison and Fred Olen Ray / 
- Demon Queen / USA / Donald Farmer / 
- Demons 2 (Dèmoni 2... l'incubo ritorna) / Italy / Lamberto Bava / 1/2
- Double Heat / USA [X] / David Michel / 
- Dreamaniac / USA / David DeCoteau / 1/2
- Entrails of a Beautiful Woman (Bijo no harawata) / Japan / Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu / 
- Entrails of a Virgin (Shojo no harawata) / Japan / Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu / 1/2
- Escape from Coral Cove (Tiu chut san woo hoi) / Hong Kong / Terrance Cheung Ga-Jan / 
- Escape from the Insane Asylum (Night of Terror) / USA / Felix Girard / NO STARS!
- Escapes / USA / David Steensland / 1/2
- Evil in the Woods / USA / William J. Oates / 1/2
- Evil Laugh / USA / Dominick Brascia / 1/2
- Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives / USA / Tom McLoughlin / 
- Goremet: Zombie Chef from Hell / USA / Don Swan / 
- Gothic / UK / Ken Russell / 
- Guinea Pig: He Never Dies (Ginî piggu 3: Senritsu! Shinanai otoko) / Japan / Masayuki Kusumi /  
- Guzoo (Guzoo: Kami ni misuterareshi mono - Part I) / Japan / Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu / 
- Haunted Honeymoon / USA / Gene Wilder / 
- Horrible Horror / USA [doc] / David Bergman / 1/2
- House / USA / Steve Miner / 1/2
- Hunter's Blood / USA / Robert C. Hughes / 
- In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro / Kenya, UK / Raju Patel / 1/2
- Invaders from Mars / USA / Tobe Hooper / 
- Killer Party (The April Fool) / USA / William Fruet / 
- King Kong Lives / USA / John Guillerman / 
- Magic of the Universe (Salamamgkero) / Philippines / Tata Esteban / 
- Mania / Canada / Paul Lynch, David M. Robertson and John Sheppard / 1/2
- Mark of Cain (Identity Crisis) / CanadaBruce Pittman / 1/2
- Maximum Overdrive / USA / Stephen King / 
- Midnight Horror (Midnight Killer; Morirai a mezzanotte) / Italy / Lamberto Bava / 
- Mr. Vampire II (Jiang shi jia zu: Jiang shi xian sheng xu ji) / Hong Kong / Ricky Lau / 
- Mountaintop Motel Massacre (Mountain Top Motel) / USA / Jim McCullough Sr. / 
- Neon Maniacs / USA / Joseph Mangine / 1/2
- Nightmare Weekend / France, UK, USA / Henry Sala / SBIG
- Night Ripper! / USA / Jeff Hathcock / 1/2
- Nomads / USA / John McTiernan / 
- Ozone! Attack of the Red Redneck Mutants / USA / Matt Devlen / 1/2
- Poltergeist II: The Other Side / USA / Brian Gibson / 1/2
- Psycho III / USA / Anthony Perkins / 1/2
- Rawhead Rex / Ireland, UK, USA / George Pavlou / 1/2
- Roller Blade / USA / Donald G. Jackson / SBIG
- Scream Greats, Vol. 1 / USA [doc] / Damon Santostefano / 1/2
- Scream Greats, Vol. 2 / USA [doc] / Damon Santostefano / 
- Screamtime / UK, USA / Michael Armstrong and Stanley A. Long / 1/2
- Seven Vampires, The (As Sete Vampiras) / Brazil / Ivan Cardoso / 
- Sex with a Stranger / USA [X] / Chris Monte / 
- Shadows Run Black / USA / Howard Heard / 
- Slaughter High / UK / George Dugdale, Mark Ezra and Peter Litten / 1/2
- Sorority House Massacre / USA / Carol Frank / 1/2
- Spookies / USA / Thomas Doran, Brendan Faulkner and Eugenie Joseph / 1/2
- Supernaturals, The / USA / Armand Mastroianni / 1/2
- Terror on Alcatraz / USA / Philip Marcus / 
- TerrorVision / USA / Ted Nicolaou / 
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2, The / USA / Tobe Hooper / 1/2
- Tomb, The / USA / Fred Olen Ray / 1/2
- Troll / Italy, USA / John Carl Buechler / 1/2
- Truth or Dare?... A Critical Madness / USA / Tim Ritter / 1/2
- Vamp / USA / Richard Wenk / 
- Vicious Lips (Lunar Madness; Pleasure Planet) / USA / Albert Pyun / 
- Wraith, The (Interceptor; Phantom) / Canada, USA / Mike Marvin / 
- Zero Boys, The / USA / Nico Mastorakis / 
- Zombiethon / USA [partial compilation] / Ken Dixon / 1/2

_______________________________________________________________________

< Back to 1985                    Continue to 1987 >

Top Ten for 1984


Overview coming soon.

_______________________________________________________________________

1984
Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. The Company of Wolves
UK / Neil Jordan / ★★1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
USA / Joe Dante / ★★1/2
* * * * * * * * * *
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street
USA / Wes Craven / ★★
* * * * * * * * * *
4. Purana Mandir (The Old Temple)
India / Shyam Ramsay, Tulsi Ramsay / ★★
* * * * * * * * * *
USA / Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman / ★★

_______________________________________________________________________

Rounding Out the Top 10:

6. Ghostbusters / USA / Ivan Reitman / ★★
7. Deadline / Canada / Mario Azzopardi / ★★
8. Death Wish Club, The (Carnival of Fools; Gretta) / USA / John Carr / ★★
9. Enchanted, The / USA / Carter Lord / ★★
10. Possessed II (Yan gui fa kuang) / Hong Kong / David Lai / ★★1/2

_______________________________________________________________________

Also seen:

- Bloodbath at the House of Death / UK / Ray Cameron / ★★
- Body Double / USA / Brian De Palma / ★★1/2
- Carnage / USA / Andy Milligan / 
- Children of the Corn / USA / Fritz Kiersch / 1/2
- C.H.U.D. / USA / Douglas Cheek / 1/2
- Combat Shock (American Nightmare) / USA / Buddy Giovinazzo / ★★1/2
- Crazy Monk, The (El monje loco; The Mad Monk) / Mexico / Julio Aldama / ★★
- Day of the Reaper / USA / Tim Ritter / NO STARS!
- Death of the Jackal, The (La muerte del chacal) / Mexico / Pedro Galindo III / ★★
- Death Warmed Up (Death Warmed Over) / Australia, New Zealand / David Blyth / ★★
- Devilfish (Monster Shark; Shark: Rosso nell'oceano) / France, Italy / Lamberto Bava / ★★
- Devil's Gift, The / USA / Kenneth J. Berton / 
- Don't Open Till Christmas / UK / Derek Ford, Edmund Purdom and Ray Selfe / 1/2
- Driller / USA [X] / Joyce James / 
- Fatal Games (The Killing Touch, Olympic Nightmare) / USA / Michael Elliot / 1/2
- Firestarter / USA / Mark L. Lester / ★★
- Fleshburn (Fear in a Handful of Dust) / USA / George Gage / ★★
- Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie / Mexico, UK, USA / Myron J. Gold / NO STARS!
- Frankenweenie / USA [short] / Tim Burton / ★★
- Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter / USA / Joseph Zito / ★★1/2
- Game, The (The Cold) / USA / Bill Rebane / ★★
- Ghoulies / USA / Luca Bercovici / 1/2
- Hills Have Eyes, Part II, The / USA / Wes Craven / 
- Hocus Pocus (Hogus Pogus; Ren xia gui) / Hong Kong / Yuet Sang Chin / ★★
- Horror Heaven / West Germany / Jörg Buttgereit / 1/2
- Initiation, The / USA / Larry Stewart / ★★
- Invitation to Hell / USA [TV] / Wes Craven / ★★1/2
- Making of a Horror Film, The / UK / Director Unknown / ★★
- Movie House Massacre (Blood Theater) / USA / Rick Sloane / 
- Murderock (Murderock - Uccide a passo di danza) / Italy / Lucio Fulci / ★★
Night of the Comet / USA / Thom Eberhardt / ★★1/2
Ninja III: The Domination / USA / Sam Firstenberg / ★★
Pit, the Pendulum and Hope, The (Kyvadlo, jáma a nadeje) / Czechoslovakia [animated short] / Jan Svankmajer / ★★1/2
- Prey, The / USA / Edwin Scott Brown / 1/2
- Scream for Help / USA / Michael Winner / SBIG
- Sea Serpent, The (Serpiente de mar) / Spain / Amando de Ossorio / SBIG
- Shock: Evil Entertainment (Shock: Diversão Diabólica) / Brazil / Jair Correia / 1/2
- Silent Madness (Beautiful Screamers; The Nightkillers) / USA / Simon Nuchtern / 1/2
- Silent Night, Deadly Night / USA / Charles E. Sellier Jr. / ★★1/2
- Splatter University / USA / Richard W. Haines / 1/2
- Surrogate, The (Blind Rage; Schizophrenia) / Canada / Don Carmody / ★★1/2
- Terminator, The / UK, USA / James Cameron / 1/2
- Terror in the Aisles (Time for Terror) / USA [documentary] / Andrew J. Kuehn / ★★
Terror, Sex and Witchcraft (Terror, sexo y brujería) / Mexico / Rafael Portillo / SBIG
- They're Playing with Fire / USA / Howard Avedis / 1/2
- Wild Beasts (Wild beasts - Belve feroci) / Italy / Franco Prosperi / ★★
- Zombie Island Massacre / USA / John N. Carter / ★★

_______________________________________________________________________

< Back to 1983                       Continue to 1985 >


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