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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Boys from Brazil, The (1978)

Directed by:
Franklin J. Schaffner

Watch what happens when schlock goes mainstream! Investigative reporter Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) has located a slew of Nazi war criminals in Paraguay and soon realizes they aren’t just there to hide out. Leader Dr. Josef Mengele (Golden Globe nominated Gregory Peck) is the evil master-mind behind a plot to kill a bunch of innocent civil servants (“94 men must die!”) from across the globe and resurrect the Third Reich by cloning Hitler’s genes. Kohler makes one last attempt to warn the authorities before he is murdered and gets through to Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), who investigates the claims and finds all kinds of sinister things going on in South America as he pieces together the clues and follows a trail of dead bodies. Director Franklin J. Schaffner and writer Heywood Gould (adapting the Ira Levin novel of the same name) delivered this to us with a surprisingly upscale cast, a plot similar to that of many a Grade-Z masterpiece and a finale featuring acclaimed leads Peck and Olivier in a bloody, ear-biting, face-clawing, rolling-around-on-the-floor fight also involving guns and vicious Doberman Pinchers, this one was unique to say the least.

The film received three Academy Award nominations, including ones for Best Editing (Robert Swink), Best Score (Jerry Goldsmith) and a 12th and final nod to Olivier for Best Actor, who patterned his performance after author and real-life Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and is quite brilliant in his role here. While he lost the award (to Jon Voight in COMING HOME), he ended up getting an honorary award for his entire body of work that same evening. James Mason co-stars as Peck's assistant, and there are nice supporting turns from the likes of Uta Hagen (THE OTHER) and Denholm Elliott. British horror buffs will also be glad to (briefly) see guest victims Michael Gough as an asshole landlord and Linda Hayden (BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW) as his free-spirited tenant. The impressive all-star cast also includes Lilli Palmer, Bruno Ganz, Wolfgang Preiss, John Dehner, Walter Gotell and Rosemary Harris.

★★1/2

Teen Witch (1989)

Directed by:
Dorian Walker


On her 16th birthday, "Plain Jane" Robyn Lively (who wears glasses and has straight hair instead of frizzy 80s hair to show what a nerd she is) learns from a neighborhood witch (Zelda Rubinstein aka the psychic lady from the POLTERGEIST flicks) that she herself is blessed with with special powers. She uses them to make herself cool and pretty (i.e. she takes off her glasses and breaks out the Aqua Net and spandex), turn her annoying younger brother (Joshua Miller, son of Jason Miller and co-star of the 80s classic NEAR DARK) into a dog and attract the attention of a popular football hunk (Dan Gauthier). In a bit of semi-inspired casting, Dick Sargent (Bewitched) plays Teen Witch's dad. This cheesy, tacky, badly dated supernatural comedy will be hard-going for most non-nostalgic adults and is aimed squarely at the type of pre-teen girls who frequently tune into the Disney Channel. It’s full of product placements to brainwash their little minds and has some hilariously awful dance/musical numbers. I mean the musical numbers are soooo lame. You should really take a look. Really, you should...


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And if you're wondering what could possibly "Top That" (mahahah!) then here's your answer...
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Gah!
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Score: 4 out of 10

Fright Night (1985)

Directed by:
Tom Holland

FRIGHT NIGHT will always hold a little place in my heart because it was one of the very first horror films I ever saw as a kid. I grew up on a little farm in the country and while we did have a small television set, we only had the "free" channels until I was well into my teen years. No cable. No VCR. This is a good ten+ years before the internet became commonplace and people were still making three trips to the video store per week. And my family didn't even do that because we didn't have a VCR until the early '90s! My siblings and I were even very limited in what we could watch on the four basic channels we did have. Yes, I had those kind of parents. You know, the kind who want their children to read books and play outside instead of plopping them down in front of the TV, handing them a remote and then leaving the room. One of the first horrific things I recall seeing was on the sci-fi show V. I should have known right then and there I'd become a horror nut when I (unbeknownst to my parents) stayed up past my bedtime, snuck into the hallway and peaked around the corner because I just had to see the evil alien lady eat a live taranula.
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A couple of years after that I stayed the night at a friend's house and they had a channel called HBO. This is back when, in between movies, they showed the HBO logo flying through space and played that regal-sounding music. That's when I got a glimpse of my very first horror film - FRIGHT NIGHT - which had gory, mind-blowing special effects and a level of sensuality my little mind could barely comprehend at the time. For the next few years I tried to spend the night as much as possible. Later on, I became friends with a kid who owned his own VCR and had parents who didn't care if we stayed up all night watching horror films. The video store clerks didn't seem to care either when a couple of ten year olds brought movies like FACES OF DEATH, SNUFF and MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY up to the counter. Oh yeah, where was I again? Oh yeah... FRIGHT NIGHT...
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Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), your typical American teenager, cries vampire after witnessing, REAR WINDOW-style, his handsome and mysterious new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) sinking his fangs into a sexy prostitute. Naturally no one believes him, so he enlists the aid of a few friends (would-be girlfriend Amanda Bearse and weird-o pal Stephen Geoffreys), as well as TV horror host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), who'd played a courageous vampire slayer in a series of films but is reluctant to do so in real life, to help him out. The movie has a sense of humor, plenty of creepy/scary moments, a good soundtrack, wonderful special effects from Robert Erdlund and top notch technical credits across the board. But what really makes this film stand out from the pack are a trio of wonderful performances; a seductive, menacing turn by Sarandon as the vampire, a marvelously funny and touching performance from McDowall as the has-been and a bizarre showing by Geoffreys as Charley's offbeat best pal "Evil Ed." Like the second entry in the Elm Street franchise, much has been made of the gay subtext in this one, from Charley's infatuation with Dandridge, to the fact the vampire lives with a male companion.
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Winner of three Saturn awards, for Best Supporting Actor (McDowall), Best Screenplay (Holland) and Best Horror Film and followed by a 1988 sequel. Holland would return with another big horror hit - CHILD'S PLAY - in a few years and then spend the 90s making subpar films suchs as the silly psycho-secretary movie THE TEMP (1993) and the awful made-for-TV Stephen King adaptation THE LANGOLIERS (1995).

★★★

Fly, The (1986)

...aka: Mouche, La

Directed by:
David Cronenberg

Cronenberg's thoughtful reworking of the 1958 film (co-written with Charles Edward Pogue) is one of the few remakes that surpass the original in almost every single way. The make-up effects won an Oscar for Stephan Dupuis and Chris Walas. Review coming soon.

Frenzy (1972)

Directed by:
Alfred Hitchcock

Review coming soon.

Score: 9 out of 10

Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette (1974)

... aka: Dr. Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks
... aka: Frankenstein's Castle
... aka: Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks
... aka: House of Freaks, The
... aka: Monsters of Frankenstein, The
... aka: Terror Castle

Directed by:
"Robert H. Oliver" (Dick Randall)

Some people may like this cheap / silly / trashy exploitation monster mash more than I did. Sure it's mildly amusing at times and has a cast full of familiar faces, but I found it mostly dreary and dull. It was the directorial debut of Dick Randall (using the alias "Robert H. Oliver"), a man best known for producing a large number of sleazy horror and exploitation movies spanning three decades (early 60s until the early 90s). Count Frankenstein (Rossano Brazzi, star of the screen version of South Pacific) is busy at work at the lab in his castle home, sending out his greasy gravediggers to get corpses for his experiments, and tinkering around with a tied-up, unibrow-sporting cave man named Goliath (Loren Ewing). The doc's beautiful, straight-laced young daughter Maria (played by "Simone Blondell"... any relation to Joan?) shows up with her fiance Eric (Eric Mann) and her best friend Krista (Christiane "Royce" / Rucker, from that great West German Gothic horror film THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM). Dr. Frankenstein takes a liking to Krista, but will his wicked ways spoil their blossoming romance? One of the count's assistants is the dwarf Genz (3'4" Michael Dunn, who had received an Oscar nod for Ship of Fools in 1965), a real sick-o type who fondles dead bodies, spies on the women bathing and having sex, and is eventually kicked out on the castle for being a little pervert.

Genz teams up with Ook ("Boris Lugosi" aka Salvatore Baccaro aka the hairy missing link rapist in THE BEAST IN HEAT), yet another cave-dwelling Neanderthal man outcast, and the two plot to get back at the doctor. In one scene the duo kidnap a girl from town, tie her up and rape and kill her (which takes place off-screen). Genz tells Ook, "I'm going to teach you the pleasures of life!" Goliath escapes and starts killing everyone he can get his paws on and townspeople with torches show up for the finale. Frankenstein's army of "freaks" also includes muscular henchman Igor (Gordon Mitchell, the star of many Italian peplum flicks apparently looking for work now that his genre dried up), hunchback Kreegin (Xiro Papas - who played the titular creature in a similar Euro-sleaze effort called Frankenstein '80) and butler Hans ("Alan Collins" / Luciano Pigozzi). Edmund Purdom also shows up as the local prefect (police chief).

The absolute funniest thing about this dreary, seedy sleazefest is that it was rated PG! Yessir, I have the old Magnun VHS (nudity and sick content intact) which clearly has the rating printed on the cover. Was Helen Keller chairman of the rating's board that year or something? The best quality DVD prints are the ones released from Raro and Something Weird. Other budget labels seems to be video transfers, while Raro and SW's use the 35mm and 16mm prints, respectively.

1/2

Frogs (1972)

Directed by:
George McGowan

Millionaire patriarch Jason Crockett (Ray Milland) and his extended family gather together at his private island mansion to celebrate the 4th of July and have much more to worry about than photographer and ecologist Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) snooping around getting material for a magazine layout on pollution. You see, Pickett isn’t the only one who’s fed up with Milland’s environmental poisoning as a horde of frogs wisen up and lead their swampland buddies (alligators, snakes, lizards, turtles, birds, leeches, spiders and more) in a violent revolt. Thanks to the piercing sounds of Les Baxter’s score and the sheer variety of creepy crawlers on display, you are likely to cringe somewhere along the line in this enjoyably implausible, very silly and often awkwardly directed, but nonetheless entertaining, effort. How can you not love a movie where woman gets stuck in the mud and starts screaming her head off as a... turtle... slowly... approaches. Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke and Judy Pace co-star.

★★1/2

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

... aka: Friday the 13th, Part 4

Directed by:
Joseph Zito

Part 3 was a huge financial success for Paramount (making even more than the first two films thanks in part to the added attraction of 3-D), but the studio still tried to pull the plug on this franchise well before its expiration date. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, though the documentary His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th theorizes it was either out of sheer embarrassment that this critically-panned series was actually making money, or out of "moral responsibility," since critics and parent's groups both frowned upon violent slasher films during this time. Either way, this fourth film went on to make a boatload at the box-office, so the studio (regardless of embarrassment or moral issues - the bottom line is always money) decided to re-think their decision about burying Jason for good. The "Final" Chapter opens as Jason's "dead" body is taken to a morgue. He (surprise!) returns to life, decapitates the coroner with a hacksaw and guts the nurse with a scalpel. Then he stabs an androgynous hitchhiker through the neck while he / she eats a banana. A station wagon full of mostly obnoxious teenagers, and a pair of bicycling British twins, show up to Crystal Lake, where Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman, from Corman's Tower of London) and her two kids; teen daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and make-up artist son Tommy (Corey Feldman) are already living. The mysterious Rob (E. Erich Anderson), brother of the Sandra character from Part 2, is also camping out in the woods wanting revenge on his sister's killer. The family gives each other a big group hug for cheap sympathy value before the shit hits the fan...

Unfortunately, the friendly and relatively nice characters from the first three films get replaced by a pack of obnoxious, hateful, unbearable "teens" who insult each other, crack stupid jokes and wander off into the woods by themselves one by one. Skinny-dipping, shower sex and stag film footage provide the necessary nudity and hammer, corkscrew, spear, butcher knife, axe and harpoon (to a guy's crotch) provide the necessary gore. The Tom Savini make-ups are typically excellent and this entry features one of Jason's most memorable demises, which helps make up for the characters. Ted White, who had his name removed from the credits, is Jason this time out, and the supporting cast includes Crispin Glover (showing off his impressive dance moves), Barbara Howard, Peter Barton, Lawrence Monoson, Judie Aronson, Bruce Mahler as a mortician, Wayne Grace as a cop and Camilla and Carey More as the twins. Kevin Yagher was on the make-up crew. The director had previously made the popular slasher flick THE PROWLER (1981), which featured more Savini gore.

So while "The Final Chapter" (followed up just one year later by "A New Beginning") is certainly nothing special, and pretty forgettable overall, it still does what is expected of it and, as a result, is a fan favorite.

★★

Friday the 13th, Part 3 (1982)

... aka: Friday the 13th 3-D

Directed by:
Steve Miner

Some well staged / directed shock scenes, intentional humor and (slightly) more-fleshed-out characters help to make this a bit better than most of the other sequels. And yeah, more people die real good. This one starts with clips from Part 2 (featuring Amy Steel) to let viewers know that Jason (Richard Brooker) is still alive and on the loose. Eight young people (not camp counselors this time, just regular young folks taking a vacation) travel via van to Camp Crystal Lake, encounter a bum who warns them to go home and end up having to chow down on a bag of weed when the cops pull up behind them. When they get to their cabin, some biker punks harass them and Jason finally pops in to kill everybody off. And that's basically about all she wrote, though at least heroine Chris (Dana Kimmell) - who had a traumatic run-in with Jason years earlier - seems to have a little more common sense than usual and fights our masked killer with a knife, axe, log and shovel. Speaking of masks, this is the entry where Jason trades in his potato sack for his legendary hockey mask, which may be the most noteworthy thing about this one. The casting is pretty mediocre, but the characters themselves are tolerable for the most part.

There are a couple of pitchforkings, a couple of stabbings, a neck slashing, a fire poker impalement, an electrocution, a knitting needle to the back of the head, a head squeezed until the eyeball pops out, an arm hacked off and other gore scenes. The two best bits are when a girl gets shot in the eye with an arrow and a when guy walking on his hands is split down the middle with an axe. Some of these effects were made all the more effective because the film was originally shown in 3D, a gimmick that helped this gross more during its original theatrical run than all seven of the other 80s Friday entries. Part 3D has also been recently reissued on DVD with 3D glasses included, so now you can spice up an otherwise one-dimensional Jason experience with three-dimensional effects in the comfort of your own home.

The cast includes Catherine Parks (a former Miss Florida and first runner-up in the 1977 Miss America Pageant who is probably also the best actor in the cast) and Tracie Savage (who'd go on to become a three-time Emmy winning newscaster out of Los Angeles and provides the sole flash of flesh here). The director also has a cameo.

★★1/2

Night of the Big Heat (1967)

... aka: Demon di fuoco
... aka: Island of the Burning Damned
... aka: Island of the Burning Doomed

Directed by:
Terence Fisher

It's winter, and on the British mainland the temperatures are an accurate reflection of the season. However, right off the English coast on the small island of Fara, the temperatures are steadily on the rise, reaching triple digits by nightfall with no decrease in sight. Because of the stifling heat, glass explodes, cars overheat, TV and radio signals are drowned out by fuzz and people start behaving a little on the animalistic side. Even more peculiarly, fields of sheep are found fried, strange lights are seen in the sky, certain energy sources are being sucked dry, trails of a black coal-like substance seem to be everywhere and people are mysteriously turning up dead, with only charred corpses left to tell their fates. Understandably concerned writer Jeffrey Callum (Patrick Allen) and his wife Frankie (Sarah Lawson), who run a local inn / tavern called "The Swan," and others in the town try to get to the bottom of things before its too late. They also try to figure out what mysterious, antisocial boarder Godfrey Hanson (Christopher Lee), who has converted his room into a lab and seems to enter and exit at the strangest times with a camera and various equipment, is up to. Also stopping by the inn (where much of the film takes place) is town doctor Vernon Stone (Peter Cushing) and Jeffrey's sexy new "secretary" Angela Roberts (Jane Merrow), amongst others.

Based on a novel of the same name by John Newton Chance (written under the alias John Lymington), this originally aired on American TV as Island of the Burning Doomed and played a theatrical double bill with Godzilla's Revenge (1969) as Island of the Burning Damned. It's a passable sci-fi / horror programmer from the short-lived Planet Film Productions, who also made the genre pictures Devils of Darkness (1965) and the somewhat similar ISLAND OF TERROR (1966; also with Cushing) before calling it quits in the late 60s. This one's fairly well-made, entertaining and has decent production values and acting, with Lee in a major part, Cushing in a minor one and the rest of the actors and actresses doing good jobs with their roles.


Some may not like that it's talky and slow-moving for the first hour but, strangely enough, it was this first hour of mystery, character drama (including an adultery subplot) and rising tension among the citizens of the town that I felt was the stronger portion of the film, as opposed to the later action-oriented scenes. When finally visualized, the beings causing the heat wave, hysteria and deaths resemble giant hairy eggs. But hey, it was 1967, so that's pretty much to be expected anyway, right? Oh well, at least now I know where M. Night Shyamalan got his silly ending for Signs from.

★★1/2

My Mom's a Werewolf (1989)

Directed by:
Michael Fischa

A bored, lonely, vegetarian housewife and mother (Susan Blakely) meets a charming, handsome, meat-loving pet shop owner (John Saxon) and they hit it off, until a bite to the toe (?!) turns her into a wolf creature. It's up to her teen daughter (Katrina Caspary - Teen Witch) and her monster movie loving pal (Diana Barrows - Friday the 13th Part VII) to break the curse and return mom back into her old self again. This very silly PG-rated horror comedy basically fits right in with all the other stupid mid/late 80s teen-oriented horror comedies that suddenly seemed to flood the market. It's full of groan-worthy puns and one-liners (the mom wonders if she should go live in a "were-house" at one point... har har har), guest appearances and lousy special effects (the werewolf makeup here is pretty minimal) and yet it will still probably adequately entertain young children and teens. The cast seems to be having a pretty good time, especially Blakely and Saxon. There are a couple of amusing moments (Saxon eating a rat, whipping out plastic silverware in a restaurant, etc.) and there's a pretty fun Halloween party scene at the very end. The cast includes John Schuck as Blakely's neglectful, workaholic husband, Ruth Buzzi as a gypsy fortune teller, singer Marilyn McCoo, Marcia Wallace and an uncredited cameo by Forrest J. Ackerman.

★★

Rosso sangue (1981)

... aka: Absurd
... aka: Antropophagus 2
... aka: Grim Reaper 2, The
... aka: Horrible
... aka: Monster Hunter
... aka: Zombie 6: Monster Hunter

Directed by:
Joe D'Amato

6'6" George Eastman (real name Luigi Montefiore) is pretty imposing and intense as human monster Mikos Stenopolis, fresh from his fetus-feasting, gut-eating exploits in 1980's financially successful Neapolitan gore-fest THE GRIM REAPER (also from director D'Amato). Here, in the opening sequence, Mikos is disemboweled on a steel gate and immediately taken to a hospital for gory surgery. He recovers quickly (in a matter of hours), sticks a drill through a female doctor's head and goes after other victims so he can regenerate his always dying cells with their blood. A determined, obsessive priest who has been tracking him (Edmund Purdom, the Monster Hunter of the American title and obviously patterned after Dr. Loomis in Halloween) and a police sergeant (Charles Borromel) set out to stop him. The killer eventually ends up in a remote house to terrorize a short-haired nurse (Annie Belle, one of the party guests from House on the Edge of the Park), a bedridden teen girl (Katya Berger), her (real-life) kid brother (Kasimir Berger) who keeps talking about the Boogeyman, and a blonde babysitter (Cindy Leadbetter), who is promptly axed in the head the second she exits the front door. There are lots of grisly death scenes, such as table saw splitting a machine shop worker's head right down the middle, scissors stuck in a neck, gouged out eyeballs, a face slow-roasted in an oven and a gory decapitation. Eventually it's just the crippled girl vs. the near-unstoppable killer zombie in some well fairly well done suspense sequences. The ending is pretty memorable, too.

The print I saw from T-Z video under the moniker Zombie 6: Monster Hunter was washed-out and in awful condition. I'm actually not aware of a remastered print that is currently available in the U.S., though another shoddy print was released by Wizard Video (titled Monster Hunter) sometime in the 80s. The film is slow in spots and borrows a ton of ideas from other, more popular slashers (like the aforementioned Halloween), but is a surprisingly entertaining exploitation-horror film nonetheless and delivers what fans of these types of films want to see (aside from the curious absence of nudity). Eastman (sans make-up this time) has more screen time than he did in the original and gives an effective, creepy performance. He also wrote the story and scripted as "John Cart." Future director Michele Soavi (STAGE FRIGHT, Cemetery Man) has an uncredited cameo as a motorcyclist/victim, as do several other D'Amato regulars. The UK release title was Absurd.

★★1/2

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Directed by:
John Waters

I love the grainy, inky, black and white look of this movie, the bad cuts and scratches and even all the jumps in sound. It all just looks and feels incredibly cool and probably couldn't be effectively duplicated today. Just a strange feeling is captured here, probably amplified because it's populated with so many hedonistic weirdos, perverts and people you'd cross an busy intersection to avoid coming into contact with. Of course, these slight perks only exist because Waters and his crew were completely inept in the technical ways of cinema, but who really cares? Content wise, this has at least a flash or two of brilliance, which is impressive for a film that cost around "5000" bucks. The opening at the 'Cavalcade of Perversions' is pretty amusing if not downright hilarious, as we are subjected to myriad 'degenerate' horrors such as unshaven, booze-swilling hippies, a heroine addict freaking out for a fix, a nude human pyramid, a girl with hairy armpits, two bearded men making out and a 'puke eater.' This freak show is fronted by 300 lb. master criminal Lady Divine (Divine) and her unfaithful boyfriend Mr. David (David Lochary), who she swears up and down is responsible for the Manson massacre!

After successfully pillaging a dozen or so uptight suburbanites, a combination of events causes Divine to become even more insane than he / she already is. For starters, she's pulled into an alley and gang-raped. Secondly, she's sexually assaulted by "religious whore" Mink Stole in a church and receives a 'rosary job' (don't ask). And finally, Mr. David and his "auto-erotica copraphrasiac" and "gerontophiliac" (!) mistress Bonnie (Mary Vivian Pearce) plot to kill her and accidentally end up shooting her slutty pot-smoking daughter Cookie (Cookie Mueller) in the face instead. After Divine is raped by "Lobstora," a giant crustacean, she's finally "there" (i.e. nuts), goes on a rampage and can only be stopped by the National Guard! 'Tis a true shame Mr. Waters hasn't visited our genre more often, that's all I got to say.

Certainly not for everyone, instantly dated by too many then-topical cultural / political references, and containing an exceptionally tedious and overlong delusion with Divine narrating her version of Christ. Even more time is padded with endless scenes of characters sitting, walking, riding in cars and/or lying in bed talking (and often forgetting their lines), plus some topless jitterbugging from Mueller. Despite all that, there are tons of laughs (intentional and otherwise) and the closing sequences (starting with Lobstora) are just priceless. The film is still completely unique 30+ years later after it premiered, so it certainly deserves some credit for that alone. The cast includes the incomparable Edith Massey (used to better effect in Female Trouble) as a barmaid, Susan Lowe (Desperate Living), Pat Moran, John's brother Steve and a bunch of other Waters movie regulars.

This one hasn't yet received a DVD release, but was issued on VHS twice in the U.S.; the first time in the 80s by Cinema Group and the second time in the mid 90s by Raven Video.

Offspring, The (1987)

... aka: From a Whisper to a Scream

Directed by:
Jeff Burr

After witnessing the execution of a mad woman (Martine Beswick), a reporter (Susan Tyrrell) visits an Oldfield, Tennessee museum curator (Vincent Price, who was quite vocal about his distaste for the finished product) to explore the murder-laden history of the apparently cursed town. Price then whips up four tales of the macabre. In the first, Clu Gulager gives a memorable performance a nerdy sick-o indulging in incest, murder and necrophilia who gets his just desserts in the form of a mutant killer baby (the result of a late-night funeral home tryst). Tale two (the weakest of the bunch) features a wounded gangster (Terry Kiser) rescued by a swamp-dweller (Harry Caesar) who knows the secret to eternal life. Story three is set at a traveling carnival and involves a snake woman (Rosalind Cash) using witchcraft to enslave sideshow freaks and force them to do her bidding. When a young woman falls in love with one of the freaks (a glass eater) the horror begins. The last (and best) of the stories seems to have been partially inspired by Lord of the Flies and stars Cameron Mitchell (in one of his better later-day roles) as a sadistic Confederate general taken prisoner by a group of psycho kiddies who subject him to a variety of tortures. The linking footage also has its own twist ending.

The excellent cast of genre vets in this acceptable horror anthology (which is a little more violent and mean-spirited than most others in the genre) is really what punches it up. Also in the cast are Angelo Rossitto as a circus dwarf and Lawrence Tierney as a prison warden (in the opening scene). The original shooting title (and subsequent DVD release title) was From a Whisper to a Scream and it features plenty of gore effects courtesy of Thomas Burman. Filming began in Georgia in 1985 (it wouldn't be released until two years later).

★★1/2

Miss Muerte (1966)

... aka: Dans les griffes du maniaque
... aka: Diabolical Dr. Z, The
... aka: Diabolique docteur Z, Le
... aka: In the Grip of the Maniac
... aka: Miss Death
... aka: Miss Death and Dr. Z in the Grip of the Maniac

Directed by:
Jesus Franco

Easily the best thing I've seen thus far from Franco and even more surprisingly (taking into account his spotty track record) one of the absolute best films to emerge from the 60s European Gothic horror renaissance. Mabel Karr stars as Irma Zimmer, a wheelchair-bound mad scientist's equally mad daughter, who promises to carry on in her late father's experiments and also plots to get revenge on three doctors (including Franco regular Howard Vernon) who publicly mocked him. Using a strange technique involving robotic arms and steel rods driven through the flesh, she's able to control the actions of several people - including a convicted sex killer who has just escaped from prison (Guy Mairesse) - and force them do her bidding. Another of her targets is Nadja (aka "Miss Muerte" aka "Miss Death"), a sexy blonde nightclub performer whose sensual act incorporates everything from mannequins to a giant spider web. Now under Irma's control, and dressed to kill in mesh outfits and razor-sharp, curare(arrow poison)-dipped fingernails, Miss Muerte is sent out at night to locate, seduce and then murder the doctors. Nadja's on-again/off-again detective boyfriend Phillippe (Fernando Montes) and some police inspectors (including director/producer Franco and composer Daniel White) try to figure out what's going on.
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The settings and b/w photography are atmospheric and exquisite, there's more flesh and violence than most other films from the era, the camerawork is anything but static, the plotline is enjoyably far-fetched and extremely entertaining, the score is typically (for a Franco film) jazzy and Estella Blain is striking as the deadly femme fatale. The cast also includes Antonio Jiménez Escribano as Dr. Z, Ana Castor as Dr. Z's female assistant, Marcelo Arroita-Jáuregui (who had played Jekyll in Franco's 1964 film DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER) and Alberto Dalbés. Fans of Gothic / atmosphere-heavy black-and-white films (particularly EYES WITHOUT A FACE, which this obviously was heavily influenced by) should move this onto their must-see lists. It was once considered a "lost" film but thankfully an excellent print was eventually discovered and has been released to DVD through Mondo Macabro.

★★★1/2

L'abîme des morts vivants (1982)

... aka: Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies
... aka: Grave of the Living Dead
... aka: Oase der Zombies
... aka: Oasis of the Living Dead
... aka: Oasis of the Zombies
... aka: Tomb of the Living Dead, The
... aka: Treasure of the Living Dead
... aka: Trésor des morts vivants, Le

Directed by:
"A.M. Frank" (Jesus Franco)

A group of college students (led by Manuel Gélin as an army captain's son and French adult film actress France "Jordan"/Lomay), a small film crew and some other treasure hunters venture into the Saharan desert; all searching for Rommel's missing cache of gold hidden somewhere in an oasis. And that's not all that's there waiting for them... Some Nazi soldiers killed there years back (shown in a long action flashback with lots of explosions) haunt the oasis and protect the treasure. They're zombies. Flesh-eating zombies. Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies if you want to go by one of the alternate titles. Well, the plot is minor but acceptable, I guess, but the end result is dire. What problems did I have with this movie? Many!

1.) The boring five-minute opening sequence serves no function other than showing two girls walking around in daisy dukes with their asses hanging out of the bottom.

2.) There is no continuity to this film. People jump from location to location with no reasoning. It's difficult to follow from time to time. Not that this would matter a whole lot if this film delivered in other areas, but it doesn't.

3.) The characters are just plain irritating. For instance, in one scene a woman is grabbed by a zombie coming out of the ground. Next time you see her she has a huge smile plastered on her face and doesn't seem to mind the fact she was almost just killed.

4.) In another scene, a woman comes out of her tent, sees some zombies in front of her and instead of like turning around and running in the opposite direction of the zombies, she runs right into the middle of like six of them. They of course quickly grab her, pull her to the ground and bite her breast off.

5.) Not surprisingly, the acting is pretty bad. The most entertaining performance in this movie comes from a rubber-necked camel that kept wiggling its head around.

6.) This goes without saying being a Spanish / French production, but the dialogue, dubbing and editing are all terrible. Even worse than usual. From my knowledge of this movie, different footage was shot for different countries. I'm not sure which version I saw, but only part of cast matches up to what is currently listed on IMDb.

7.) The finale is a complete and utter mess that is so poorly done that it will make you want to destroy the DVD. It's so impenetrably dark that you have no idea what's going on. This movie builds up to a climax you expect to be ripping with gore and violence as the five / six human survivors fend off the living dead soldiers. Instead of getting that, the screen goes almost completely black for several minutes with the occasional shot of fire or noise. Next thing you know it's morning and all of the zombies and everyone else in the cast aside from the two leads has somehow managed to disappear.

I could go on and on, but there's no use. The only good parts of this movie are the zombies. A few of the make-up designs were decent, especially a zombie with ping-pong ball eyes. The occasional shot of the zombies walking over sand dunes is striking as well, but they are not good enough to merit suffering through the rest of this mess. The copy I viewed was perhaps a bad transfer, but the story failed to pull me in at any point in the movie. In fact, I almost fell asleep several times. Avoid it.

Apparently there were two different versions of the film shot simultaneously for different language markets - A French one (titled either Le trésor des morts vivants / "The Treasure of the Living Dead" or L'abîme des morts vivants / "Abyss of the Living Dead") and a Spanish one (La tumba de los muertos vivientes / "Tomb of the Living Dead"). In America it's called either Oasis of the Zombies or Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies. There are cast changes depending on which version you watch, but the cut I saw seemed to have a mixture of the French and Spanish speaking casts. Franco regular Antonio Mayans plays a sheik in both versions and Eduardo Fajardo and Lina Romay (playing a colonel and his wife) are all in the Spanish version only.

Dying Room Only (1973) (TV)

Directed by:
Philip Leacock

A married couple from Los Angeles, Jean (Cloris Leachman) and Bob Mitchell (Dabney Coleman), are traveling across the desert. He's angry at her because she had him take a detour so she could get some pictures for their daughter and now they're way off schedule. They stop at a tiny roadside café to grab a drink and a bite to eat and find the place vacant except for an extremely unfriendly cook (Ross Martin) who doesn't seem to want them there, and a lone customer (Ned Beatty). Jean steps into the bathroom for a minute to wash her face. When she returns to the diner her husband is missing and the cook and customer claim they have no clue what happened to him. Jean knows good and well that he wouldn't just leave her there (plus their car is still in the parking lot) and sets out to find out what happened to him. A locked back room accessed only through the men's bathroom and a small motel next door with four rental units (which is run by a suspiciously uncooperative Louise Latham) may hold the clue. Throw in an escaped convict (Ron Feinberg) and a local sheriff (Dana Elcar) who confirms that a lot of other people have disappeared in the general vicinity and the mystery is set.

Richard Matheson's teleplay is really the basis for this film's success. The premise is entirely believable and he's able to create genuine suspense and intrigue through small detail, dialogue and character interaction. And that's crucial for a small scale, low-budget film like this one, which has just a handful of characters and very few actual location changes. The cast is good, too, particularly Leachman as the increasingly more hysterical wife desperate to find out where her husband is, and Martin as the irritable cook who seems to hiding something. The eventual explanation behind the disappearance seems a bit pat and conventional, but for a good hour plus, this keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. The film (released to tape by the company U.S.A. Home Video many years ago) is also notable as a precursor to the 1997 hit Breakdown starring Kurt Russell.

★★

Casa sperduta nel parco, La (1980)

...aka: House on the Edge of the Park

Directed by:
Ruggero Deodato

Review coming soon.

★★

House on Tombstone Hill, The (1989)

... aka: Dead Come Home, The
... aka: Dead Dudes in the House
... aka: Road, The

Directed by:
James Riffel

Nasty, ghostly, murderous granny Abigail (played by a man in drag) haunts a secluded seaside house, much to the dismay of Mark (Douglas Gibson), who has just purchased it. When he and six of his friends show up to renovate the place, they all become trapped inside and are killed off one by one, some returning as zombies to help finish off the rest of the cast. Finished in 1988 (and then titled The Dead Come Home), I originally saw this film under the title The House on Tombstone Hill, which was the AIP video release title in the early 90s (1991 I believe). However, the film's reputation was tarnished over the years when Troma got hold of it and put it out in a goofy looking video box with an even goofier title (Dead Dudes in the House) to falsely make it look like a silly horror comedy. However, what worked for crappy films like A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell and Fertilize the Blaspheming Bombshell was just sorely inappropriate for this more serious-minded effort, which skillfully manages to balance its derivative Evil Dead-like story line, tongue-in-cheek humor, genuinely creepy atmosphere and some good, gory shocks (provided by make-up wiz Ed French). The most memorable deaths are an impalement and a man split into two by a window.

First-time director James Riffel (who was attending NYU at the time this was made) shot this on 16mm in Cherry Valley, New York and did about a good a job as could be reasonably expected given the budget and amateur cast.

★★1/2

House That Bled to Death, The (1980) (TV)

... aka: Hammer House of Horror: "The House That Bled to Death"

Directed by:
Tom Clegg

*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.*

Nicely-turned episode features several memorable scenes and what might be the best and most enjoyable twist ending in the entire series. In the prologue, an elderly man poisons his wife's hot cocoa, then dismembers her body with a pair of rusty blades hanging in the kitchen, earning him the nickname "The Carve-Up Killer." Years later, a working-class married couple (played by Nicholas Ball and Rachel Davies) and their angelic looking blonde daughter (Emma Ridley) purchase the same home where the murder took place. Strange things begin happening immediately, dad becomes locked in a room, unable to help when his wife is almost gassed and the daughter sees a blood-gushing pipe. And that's just their first night in the place! Their next door neighbors (Brian Croucher and Patricia Maynard) befriend them right away and are extremely supportive, understanding, helpful and sympathetic... almost too supportive and sympathetic. After eye glasses and dentures appear out of nowhere, the family cat turns up impaled on a broken window, a severed hand pops up in the fridge and a bunch of little kids and their parents get the shock of their lives during a hilarious birthday party gone wrong, everyone in town is eventually convinced the place is haunted.

This episode also contains a brief topless scene which was cut from the original VHS release. A big plus is David Lloyd's script, which adds a very clever and highly amusing twist at the end that's a direct comment on the whole Amityville Horror phenomenon. Lead actress Rachel Davies even resembles Amityville star Margot Kidder.

Casa dalle finestre che ridono, La (1976)

...aka: House with Laughing Windows, The
...aka: House with Windows That Laugh, The

Directed by:
Pupi Avati

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

How Awful About Allan (1970) (TV)

Directed by:
Curtis Harrington

Allan (Anthony Perkins) is blamed for an accidental fire that killed his father (Kent Smith), disfigured his sister (Julie Harris, who wears a plastic device over part of her face) and landed him in an institution. Eight months later, partially blind and guilt-stricken, he's let out of an institution and rents a room from his estranged sibling in an effort to put his life back together, but someone is out for revenge and wants to drive him crazy. Is it his darling sis? Friendly neighbor / ex-girlfriend Olive (Joan Hackett)? The creepy new boarder whose face is always obscured? The father back from the grave? Or is it just in Allan's mind? Perkins can do the paranoid/fragile/slipping-sanity act in sleep and Harris and Hackett offer good support, but this tele-pic is dull, light on plot and fizzles out way before the finale. Blurry POV shots and murky photography make for a pretty oppressive viewing experience. Henry Farrell (who also wrote WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? and HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE) adapted his novel of the same name. Aaron Spelling was the executive producer.

Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1984)

...aka: Howling II: Bark at the Moon
...aka: Howling II: It's Not Over Yet
...aka: Howling II: She-Wolf
...aka: Stirba - Werewolf Bitch

Directed by:
Philippe Mora

After the assumed death of Karen White at the end of the first film, her bland, big hunk of a brother Ben (Reb Brown) shows up at the funeral looking for answers and meets up with "cult investigator" and werewolf expert Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee), who has his own business card and says, "There are great numbers of werewolves living among us!" The two team up with Jenny (Annie McEnroe), a TV news anchor, Pulitzer Prize hopeful and former co-worker of Karen's, and end up heading overseas to Transylvania to try to wipe out a cult of werewolves located there. International sex goddess Sybil Danning is sexy lycanthrope leader Stirba, who is approaching her 1000th birthday. Sybil (whose voice is often electronically altered) has one topless scene, is seen in a silly fur suit and fake fangs and likes to have threesome wolf sex with her dedicated male henchman Vlad (Judd Omen) and topless black "daughter" Mariana (Marsha A. Hunt). And then there's an unexpected revelation about Lee's character. I won't give it away, just to say Danish dish Danning and British legend Lee (who both deserve better material that this) do not make convincing siblings, but the casting director gets a gold (eh, titanium?) star for the idea.

To be fair, HOWLING II has an OK opening ten minutes or so, some great-looking sets, good location work (it was filmed on location in Czechoslovakia) and plenty of blood, gore and highly variable special effects (by the usually reliable Steve Johnson and cronies), but the writing is the worst and many of the performances are just plain terrible. While blonde muscle bound dullard Brown (who played Hercules in Italy and Captain America in some American made-for-TV movies) may be sufficient eye candy to some, McEnroe just fails to generate anything other than annoyance with her mushroom haircut and squeaky voice. Danning has one of those can't-miss-in-theory roles that somehow manages to completely miss the potential for campy entertainment value. Many consider this Lee's worst genre role, but he comes across fine as always. A highlight (for me, at least) was seeing Lee, dressed in sunglasses and a leather jacket, hanging out in a then-trendy club listening to the Euro punk band Babel (whose song is repeated at least four times). Speaking of repetitive...check out how many times Sybil's topless scene is repeated during the end credits. Ferdinand "Ferdy" Mayne (THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS) and Jimmy Nail both have smalls role as well.

Score: 3 out of 10

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

...aka: Monster
...aka: Monster from the Deep

Directed by:
Barbara Peeters

An extremely entertaining, frequently hilarious monster trash flick from the oh-so-busy Roger Corman factory. The explosion of a boat, a string of canine murders and the disappearances of several young beauties is causing alarm in the citizens of a small, seaside fishing village called Noyo. Couldn't have anything to do with a chemical company hoping to boost the growing rate of salmon with a tampered strain of DNA, could it? Nah! Said research has resulted in some hulking, scaly, clawed creatures that not only kill, but also have a hankering for abducting and raping human women! Happily married fisherman Jim Hill (Doug McClure) teams up with ostacized Indian Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya) and female scientist Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) to get to the bottom of things.
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Despite a somewhat slow first half (which is still puncutated with bursts of action, violence and sex that keep it from dragging too much), this really picks up the pace during a lively, busy final half hour when the monsters lay waste to a busy carnival and Mrs. Hill (Cindy Weintraub) tries to protect her baby from a humanoid attack on her house. It's well-shot, well-made and well-acted for the most part and the monster suits designed by Rob Bottin are great. The cast includes Vic Morrow as a dog-killing racist, Denise Galik and Lynn Theel as victims, ventriloquist David Strassman, Greg Travis as a radio DJ, Linda Shayne as beauty queen Miss Salmon, Don Maxwell and Hoke Howell (who's blown up during the first scene). Top Hollywood producer Gale Ann Hurd got her start here (as a production assistant), as did Oscar-winning composer James Horner and fx man Steve Johnson.
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Corman was unhappy with the first cut of the film and ordered more sex and violence. Director Peeters (who later disowned the film) refused to shoot it, was fired and director Jimmy T. Murakami (BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS) was brought in to do it. Scenes from Humanoids were later recycled in many Corman productions (such as the 1988 remake of NOT OF THIS EARTH) and the film itself was (badly) remade for cable TV in 1996.

★★★

Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

...aka: What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?

Directed by:
Robert Aldrich

Following hot on the heels of the smash hit WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962), this slow-paced slice of Southern Gothic terror reunites the aforementioned film's director/producer, writer (Henry Farrell) and two of its star for more of the same, only not quite as good. Originally conceived as WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO COUSIN CHARLOTTE?, it has developed cult status among film buffs and horror fans over the years, most likely for the impressive cast. Bette Davis stars as Charlotte Hollis, an aging Southern belle on the verge of sanity who may or may not have murdered her married lover (Bruce Dern in an early appearance) thirty years earlier. Upon the arrival of her genteel cousin Miriam Deering (Olivia de Havilland, who was in LADY IN A CAGE the same year), strange and horrifying things begin to happen. Has the ghost of Charlotte's dead lover returned from the grave to settle an old score or are characters conspiring against her? Cast to perfection with a first rate character actor in every single role, beautifully shot and densely atmospheric (but longish) tale has plenty of rewards to coast over the flaws. Standout shock scenes involving a hatchet chopping off a hand and a decapitated head rolling down the stairs couldn't compete with the backstage horrors of this notoriously troubled production.

Original co-star Joan Crawford (set to play de Havilland's role) ended up quitting weeks into filming (after feuding with Davis and making several trips to the hospital), it was almost abandoned at one point and went way over both budget and schedule. In fact, rumors of all the on-set feuding (Crawford/Davis, Aldrich/Davis, de Havilland/Davis, Pepsi/Coke) makes this seem more fascinating than it actually is. Surprisingly, the film garnered seven Oscar nominations, including nods for the photography, art direction and supporting actress Agnes Moorehead for her scene-stealing work as a white trash housekeeper. Frank De Vol's score and theme song both also received nominations. The cast also includes Joseph Cotten as the Hollis family doctor, Victor Buono as Big Sam Hollis (Charlotte's domineering father), Cecil Kellaway, Mary Astor, William Campbell (who'd star in several Corman productions after this), Wesley Addy and George Kennedy in an early role as a foreman. Crawford ended up starring in William Castle's lower-budgeted STRAIT-JACKET (1964) instead... and quite frankly, I found that to be a bit more enjoyable than this one.

Score: 6 out of 10

El rostro del asesino (1967)

... aka: Hand of the Assassin, The
... aka: Hand of the Killer

Directed by:
Pedro Lazaga

This long-forgotten Spanish horror-mystery (currently with just 10 votes on IMDb) has its ups and downs, but I enjoyed it. Romano (José María Caffarel), who runs an old hotel and is having financial problems, his much younger wife Margarita (Katia Loritz), a bitter former singer who despises her life and husband and has turned to the bottle for comfort, and their butler Pablo, send the rest of the staff home and decide to stick out a bad thunder storm there at the hotel. The storm dumps several feet of water, roads flood, the phone goes out and several travelers end up also seeking shelter there. One of the travelers, Oscar Aguilar, has a briefcase full of money, and if you've seen enough of these things you'll know that he doesn't last very long. After he turns up dead (right in the middle of one of Margarita's song-and-dance numbers), the briefcase turns up missing and suspicion basically falls on everyone. The guests, including Suarez (Fernando Sancho), Carlos (Germán Cobos), Lydia (Paloma Valdés), Lydia's irritating granny (Julia Delgado Caro), Oscar's heroine-addicted wife Elena (Perla Cristal), a colonel ("Jorge" / George Rigaud), a professor (Agustín González) and a few others, decide to just lock themselves in their rooms for the night and deal with it the next day.

Now we're at about the half-hour mark, and I've loved what I've seen so far. Sure, the same exact story has been done to death and the (dubbed) dialogue is pretty awful, but the movie is visually very interesting up to this point. The colors - mostly white interiors lit up with bold lighting choices, mainly orange and purple, but also red and blue - reminded me of Bava in their garishness, and some shots even contain three or four different colors that almost seem to leap out at you. Some of the camera-work, which is very sophisticated for the time, even reminded me of the cinematography in Argento movies. There are lots of flowing tracking shots following characters through hallways and corridors, some nicely done low and high angle shots, a few interesting and odd POV camera placements and even some well-done crane shots going up to the second floor or the side of the hotel. Immediately after the murder, the camera is placed on the ground and looks up at all the suspects as it spins in a circle. The direct of photography (Víctor Monreal) did an imaginative and innovation job shooting the film.

Unfortunately, as night turns to day and the principal characters wake and start investigating the murders, the film comes to a screeching halt. The colors seems to disappear and there's way too much flat and stilted dialogue. Sure we want to know who the killer is and where the money disappeared to, but this mid-section provides little of interest and lots of tedium. Thankfully, the film manages to rebound during the last twenty minutes as more people turn up dead and great use is made out of scenic outdoor settings. I have to respectfully disagree with some other reviews about the location used. Sure it doesn't look like your typical hotel, but it's a massive old crumbling castle with very high ceilings and huge archways that reminded me of sets used during the silent era. It was filmed at the picturesque Monasterio of Piedra ("Monastery of the Rock"), a former castle that was converted over to a place of worship in 1194. I did a little research and discovered that its construction passed through three separate architectural phases; Gothic, Renaissance Gothic and Classical-Baroque, which explains its unique look. Even better, outside of the monastery walls is a huge outdoor garden full of plants, mosses, walkways, rope bridges, rivulets and huge waterfalls. They wisely decided to shoot the final suspense scenes here, and cap it off with an unexpected twist or two, which makes for a fairly nice finish.

Now if it weren't for that bloody boring middle portion (or at least some better-written dialogue during those talky passages), I would have given this a higher rating. Fans of old-fashioned Gothic horror films will likely enjoy it, though be forewarned there's not a single drop of blood in the entire film and almost all of the violence takes place off-screen.

The title I saw this under was The Hands of the Assassin; apparently an American TV print. I've already mentioned the negligible dubbing, but I'm not sure whether this was censored or not. I don't remember too many bad editing cuts, so I doubt much is missing from it. The print quality isn't bad at all.

★★1/2

Horror House on Highway 5 (1985)

... aka: Horror House on Highway Five

Directed by:
Richard Casey

A guy in a Richard Nixon mask (played by "Ronald Reagan") is prowling around and killing people. He strangles a guy in a car then kills his girlfriend after a shower scene. Meanwhile, a comic relief Dr. Marbuse (Phil Therrien) sends out his retarded henchman Gary (Max Manthey) to lure women back to his house, so they can be drugged for some kind of ceremony. It never really explains what kind of ceremony. A teacher with a major lisp sends out three students; Sally (Irene F.), Louise (Gina Christiansen) and Mike aka "The Pothead" (Michael Castagnolia) to a secluded spot to make some kind of rocket. A guy named Joe (Richard Meltzer) runs over the Nixon killer and his girlfriend says, "What's wrong with you? You just ran that guy over! You must have a low I.Q.!" Then the students wander into the "Horror House" and get killed off. The Nixon guy lives in the red-lit basement and the doctor and Gary live upstairs and some kind of ghost or something flies through the air, makes a whip-cracking sound and scratches people. It never explains what connection these people have or what they are attempting to accomplish. I'm not even convinced the filmmakers themselves knew what was going on.

The acting is terrible; people who find dead bodies lying around, get hurt or get chased by a psycho waving a chainsaw, show about the exact same emotions they do while walking down the street. The dialogue, lighting, editing and production values are equally bad. The tone is uncertain, it wavers from wanting to be serious horror to wanting to be a goofy, campy, intentionally stupid comedy and doesn't do well at either. Still, this is the exact kind of strange homemade horror film that's going to amuse certain people out there. It was filmed on the cheap around Hollywood. 1988's Hellbent (a spoof about a musician selling his soul to the devil) was next up for the director.

Witchcraft II: The Temptress (1989)

...aka: Witchcraft Part II: The Temptress

Directed by:
Mark Woods

William (Charles Solomon), the now-teenaged baby from the original WITCHCRAFT (1988), is living peacefully in the suburbs with a new family, about to go away to college and is completely oblivious to the fact that the couple who raised him aren't actually his birth parents. In fact, his father (Jay Richardson) and mother (Cheryl Janecky) swiped him while he was still an infact after his mother commited suicide. As William plans for the future and tries to get into his virginal girlfriend Michelle's (Mia Ruiz) pants, a force of evil materializes right next door in the shape of a big-breasted, bleach-blonde seductress. She - Dolores Jones (Delia Sheppard) - knows all about William's lineage, leaves him strange gifts and wants his "seed" while he's still pure so she can bear the child of Satan. And she'll go to great lengths to get it, including trying to seduce William by cleaning out her gutters in broad daylight while wearing only a mesh body suit and thong. She also has no issue with killing anyone who gets in her way and can take the shape of whoever she wants whenever she wants to accomplish her goal. Now that I think about it, if I were Dolores, I'd probably just 86 the girlfriend, take on her appearance and then do the deed with Will, but then I guess we wouldn't have a movie.
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While the original came off like a tame and poorly done rip-off of ROSEMARY'S BABY, this first sequel has a slightly more original storyline and is much more typical of late 80s/early 90s direct-to-video product. There's more exploitation, including topless scenes from the two lead actresses and a bit more blood, and posters for Guns N' Roses, The Bangles and Madonna can be seen on bedroom walls. The first half is cheesy but tolerable, but it isn't long before things start getting senseless and messy. Real messy. And the movie never seems to recover. In fact, the big finale (stylized like a tacky 80s music video) is a complete laugh riot. During one sequence, Michelle is molested by an invisible force and for some reason, both she and William suddenly have huge pentagrams carved into their chests.
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Though not utilized to her full potential here, the temptress of the title, Delia Sheppard, would emerge as one of the brightest talents on the B-movie scene in the early 90s with such films as HAUNTING FEAR (1989), MIRROR IMAGES (1992) and, one of my personal favorites, SINS OF DESIRE (1992). Aside from those, she's had a very interesting, and very full, show business career. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Sheppard was performing ballet professionally at age 9 (for the Royal Danish Ballet) and later worked as a fashion/runway model in Paris (including assignments for Dior and Gautier). After arriving in America, she became a 1988 Penthouse Pet, which led to a career in both big- (ROCKY V, THE DOORS) and low- (DEAD BOYZ CAN'T FLY, this) budget films. Afterward, she took a break from acting, went to Las Vegas to dance and perform in stage productions, which landed her "Showgirl of the Year" honors and other awards. Now she's back to film acting again and can be seen in films such as VAMPIRE IN VEGAS (2008) and VOLCANIC (2009).
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Richardson would also carve out a niche for himself, appearing in around 100 low-budget films, including many for directors Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski. Solomon would reprise his role as Will in the next two sequels: WITCHCRAFT III: THE KISS OF DEATH (1991) and WITCHCRAFT IV: VIRGIN HEART (1992). Mary Shelley gets to briefly reprise her role as the witch Elizabeth in the opening sequence. David L. Homb (Andy Milligan's MONSTROSITY, CAMP FEAR and others) and Kirsten Wagner (TERRORGRAM) play William's friends.
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1/2

Rossa dalla pelle che scotta, La (1971)

...aka: Red-Headed Corpse, The
...aka: Sensuous Doll, The
...aka: Sweet Spirits

Directed by:
Renzo Russo

Review coming soon.

★★1/2

Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver, The (1977) (TV)

Directed by:
Gordon Hessler

Review coming soon.

Score: 5.5 out of 10

Special Silencers (1979)

Directed by:
Aziral

Power-mad Gundar (Dicky Zulkarnaen) karate chops his monk grandfather and steals his "special silencers;" little orange pills which have different effects depending on who takes them. Somehow they help monks with their meditation, but they can also make the person who possesses them invincible to weapons and sharp objects. And if they're slipped into some unsuspecting person's food or drink, there's another complication - a rapidly-growing tree begins sprouting in their stomach, ripping them apart! Gundar conspires with his right-hand man Gumilar (W.D. Mochtar) and their large army of thugs to use the pills and other means to overthrow the mayor of the village. After successfully slipping the mayor some silencers, resulting in his death, the two baddies then realize they must also knock off his possible successors, relatives and anyone else who might get in their way of taking over the village, including the mayor's assistant, brother (a cop), nephew and daughter. Riding into town on his motorcycle right as things are getting nasty is Hendar (Barry Prima), who was a classmate of the mayor's nephew Dayan, and also takes a liking to his daughter, Julia (Eva Arnaz). He teams up with the two of them to put a stop to Gundar and his cronies, and the rest is basically wall-to-wall action. Our heroes barely have time to take a breath before they're jumping into their next fight scene.

Thankfully, the action scenes are well-done, elaborately staged and fun to watch, featuring lots of high kicks, punches, flips, various martial arts moves (Prima himself has a background in tae kwan do) and spears, logs, pipes, nets, swords and other props brought in for a little variety. One of my favorite scenes was Prima fighting off the bad guys while on top of and underneath a moving truck! Not only is there plenty of action and plenty of amusing moments, but there is also a welcome helping of the red stuff. The scenes featuring the pills at work, with tree branches popping out of stomach's and mouths, are really bloody, and the special effects themselves are surprisingly good. The good guys (and girl) are likable enough to get you in their corner, while the bad guys are adequately scummy, complete with their own torture chamber where they get to terrorize victims with rats and snakes! There's also a very catchy synthesizer score from Gatot Sudarto.

I think people into martial arts flicks and Asian horror of the period (this one's from Indonesia) will get a real kick out of it. Unfortunately it's a very difficult film to find. The version I saw was released by a company called Delta Video out of the Netherlands, who made sure that their company logo popped up on screen at least five times during the film. It was English-dubbed and with Dutch subtitles, but the nudity in a scene where a virgin is raped is fogged out. The dubbing isn't bad at all and was done by people who obviously knew what kind of film they were doing voice-overs for. There's no official DVD release, but hopefully that will change. It seems like something Mondo Macabro might be interested in releasing. In the meantime, if you can find it anywhere via a torrent site or what not, I definitely recommend giving it a try. It's fun!

★★1/2
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