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 16, 2009

Understudy: Graveyard Shift II, The (1988)

...aka: Graveyard Shift II

Directed by:
Gerard Ciccoritti

Silvio Oliviero (who goes by the name Michael A. Miranda these days) returns as the same vampire from the first film in this confused and unfocused sequel. Using an alias, he gets the lead role in a low-budget vampire movie ("Blood Lover"), but the cast and crew have no idea that he is, in reality, a vampire. Numerous characters feel his toothy wrath and join the ranks of bloodthirsty night stalkers including lovely leading lady Camilla (Wendy Gazelle). It's a clever idea (actually predating Oscar-nominated SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE - which also involves a "real" vampire cast as such in a movie set unbeknownst to the filmmakers - by over ten years) and the direction is stylish at times, but the end result is somewhat hollow. It's hard to follow and lacks the emotional core the much-better original film had.
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Also in the cast are Mark Soper (the star of the 1982 slasher BLOOD RAGE), Tim Kelleher, Lesley Kelly (also in the first film) as the director, Paul Amato, Agi Gallus (also in the director's PSYCHO GIRLS, along with Ciccoritti) and Dean McDermott, who'd go on to become a reality TV star and tabloid fixture after having an affair with untalented, still-married Tori Spelling (he was also married at the time).

Score: 4 out of 10

Ultimate Degenerate, The (1969)

...aka: Degenerate, The

Directed by:
Michael Findlay

Wow! I'm glad I finally decided to take the plunge and start checking out the twisted underground sex films of husband-and-wife team Michael and Roberta Findlay. I have not seen anything quite like this before and it was a great change of pace. It opens with clips of a junkyard with the fast-talking. priceless voice-over... "You buy yourself a chrome plated beauty with a vinyl top and pretty soon it's lying on top of hundreds of others; smashed, broken, wrecked. It doesn't take long. A couple of years of fast driving, taking the curves too hard and not knowing when to apply the breaks. People are a lot like cars except when they've had it they don't put them in a junkyard, they put them in a crazy house." The voice belongs to Maria Curtis (played by New York nudie regular Uta Erickson under the name "Artimida Grillet") and this is her story. An Insatiable blonde nympho, Maria is also a shameless exhibitionist who likes to prance around in front of an open window buck naked; letting her voyeuristic neighbor sample the goods. Her huge-breasted lesbian lover Tammy (Donna Stone) is too prudish and old-fashioned for her tastes, so Maria decides she needs a change of pace. Luckily while skimming through the "New York Review of Sex" paper, she comes across an ad too good to pass up; a free trip to Vermont and 500 bucks a week to live it up in a house of sex and sin.

The owner of the house is a wealthy, controlling, wheelchair-bound pervert named Spencer (played by the director under the name "Robert West") who has a whole harem of young women at his disposal. He makes the women put on stage sex shows in the dungeon; including one where three women dance nude while covered in whip cream as a light swings back and forth (cool effect), another where a girl entertains her (very) butch girlfriend and a third which involves a plate full of corn cobs (no need to get into gory details here, just use your imagination). Spencer is an all around sick puppy. He injects the girls with a powerful "harmless" aphrodisiac, tortures others (including pinching breasts with clothes pins and sending electric charges to the female nether regions) and likes to have feet ground into his chest.

Meanwhile, Spencer's younger assistant Bruno ("Leo Heinz"/Earl Hindman, who'd go on to play the barely-seen neighbor Wilson on the hit TV show Home Improvement!) gets jealous, frustrated ("Damn! All I see around here is broad's chewin' on each other!") and plots against him, finally devising a twisted plan to drive one of the women crazy by tampering with her daily injection of love serum. Meanwhile, the women pair off for one lesbian encounter after another. The bases are pretty much covered with a blonde, a brunette, a redhead, a black woman, a Hispanic woman and an Asian woman. Many of them are a little on the "healthy" (thick) side and spend most of their time completely naked. One of the girls (Alice Noland) is a photographer who takes porn pictures for Spencer and demands "Kiss her... and I don't mean on the lips!" during a photo session.

The acting is gut-busting bad, the silly dialogue is dubbed and much of this film is almost as childish as it is bizarre, which means you are completely caught off guard when it comes to the last ten minutes or so. Holy cow! It's a dip into murder, madness and complete hysteria as one of the characters is finally driven over the edge and starts killing everyone in sight. It's an amazing, nightmarish collage of twisted sights shot through a hazy, Vaseline-smeared lens and featuring a man in a gas mask hacking up, strangling and killing all of the women, skulls, candles, warped sounds, organ music, echoing screams and some amazing cinematography courtesy of "Anna Riva" (Roberta Findlay). There's one long, unbroken shot moving around the house, going out to the porch, back inside and through various rooms that was done over ten years before Raimi did something very similar in THE EVIL DEAD. There's also a totally great garage rock song "Is It On? Is It Off?" by a group called The Bit A Sweet that I can't seem to get out of my head. They also also performed the same song in the 1968 film BLONDE ON A BUM TRIP (posted below).

★★1/2

Ursula (1961)

Directed by:
Lloyd Michael Williams

Director Lloyd Michael Williams spent his youth working at Cinema 16 in New York City, where he was influenced by the 16mm experimental films frequently shown there, and began shooting his own short 16mm short films as early as age 13. After high school, he enrolled in New York University to study Film, Television & Radio, and continued making films. One of his film; 1959's Lewis Carroll-inspired Jabberwock ended up winning the Silver Medallion at the Cannes Film Festival. Two years later he made the nightmarish Ursula, which would take home a Bronze Medallion at Cannes and also won a major award at the Boston International Film Festival. Despite these accomplishments (as well as making many other award winning short films), Williams himself isn't very well known and information on most of his films is hard to come by on the internet.

Ursula (based on the story "Miss Gentilbelle" by Charles Beaumont) involves the mental decay of a small child at the hands of her domineering and cruel mother. The fact the child is presented to us as a young girl but is actually played by a little boy (Calvin Waters) really opens this up to multiple interpretations, whether that was intended or not. Taking the casting at face value, it could be a case of a young mind becoming unglued because of mental abuse and forced transvestism. If you ignore the casting (no real issue is made of the child's gender and the boy playing the part could easily pass for a girl), then this could be seen as trauma caused by a child being forced into a gender role. The mother (Dorothea Griffin) chastises her child for ripping her dress and doesn't think she should be playing outside or getting dirty, and goes as far as killing her daughter / son's pet bird. The child eventually either murders her mother or just fantasizes about doing so. Throughout, experimental techniques are used to illustrate the child's inner turmoil; overlapping shots of trees, the house, the moon and water, as well as distorted or echoing voices. The stabbing scene instantly brought to mind the cellar stabbing scene of Mrs. Cooper in Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead (1968) because of the murderous child and distorted screams.

Other Cinema offers this short and five others on the compilation Experiments in Terror, which was released on DVD in 2003. Beaumont's story would later be re-filmed in 1970 (as an episode of the "Journey to the Unknown" TV series) and again in 2000 by director Tara Miele.

Spaceship (1981)

...aka: Creature Wasn't Nice, The
...aka: Naked Space

Directed by:
Bruce Kimmel

There were way too many stupid horror parodies made in the early 80s and here's another one to stick on the list-to-avoid along with SATURDAY THE 14TH (1981), WACKO (1981), PANDEMONIUM (1982), NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CLASS REUNION (1982), STUDENT BODIES (1982) and HYSTERICAL (1983). Intended as a parody of ALIEN-style movies in the AIRPLANE mold; this features deadpan genius Leslie Nielsen (spectacularly unfunny here... too bad) as the brain damaged captain of a toy spaceship that picks up a malicious alien visitor. Crazed scientist Dr. Stark (Patrick Macnee) tries to protect a creature that is so cruel it subjects us to a song entitled, "I Want To Eat Your Face," which is incidentally the only dumb laugh I got out of this lifeless parody. In fact, the five-minute-long diner scene from SPACEBALLS has more laughs than this entire feature, which I don't recall ever being out of on DVD (though it has popped up on the tube from time to time). Bruce Kimmel is the one to blame, since he directed, wrote, co-stars and provides the singing voice of the monster.
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Also in the cast are Gerrit Graham (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE), Paul Brinegar (1958's HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER), Peter DuPre (EYES OF A STRANGER), Jed Mills, Robert Dryer and Cindy Williams (of Laverne and Shirley TV fame) in the Sigourney Weaver role. It was shot in 1981 but not released until 1983.

Score: 2 out of 10

Soultaker (1990)

...aka: Kiss of Death, The

Directed by:
Michael Rissi

Review coming soon.

Score: 5 out of 10

Unnamable, The (1987)

...aka: H.P. Lovecraft's The Unnamable

Directed by:
Jean-Paul Ouellette

Director/writer/producer Ouellette was obviously trying to cash in on the H.P. Lovecraft craze started by Gordon's breakthrough hit RE-ANIMATOR, and while this doesn't come close to measuring up, it's still a mildly entertaining attempt in it's own rite. In a small New England town, budding horror author Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson) decides to investigate a local legend; a supposed "haunted" house, whose curse was sealed up centuries ago by a priest. He, along with a few other students; Howard (Charles "King"/Clausmeyer), Tanya (Alexandra Durrell), Wendy (Laura Albert) and a couple of others, from Miskatonic University, become trapped inside and must face off against nasty she-demon Aylda Winthrop (Katrin Alexandre), who is intent on killing off the intruders. The first half is a little too talky for my tastes (which wouldn't be a problem if the dialogue was any good, but it's not) and the acting's highly uneven, but it improves a bit as it goes along, has some gore (heart ripped out, arms ripped off, head twisted around, etc.) and the impressively-designed female monster is effectively saved for the very end. It was first released in R or unrated versions.
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A direct-to-video sequel (THE UNNAMABLE II: THE STATEMENT OF RANDOLPH CARTER) arrived in 1992. It (also made by Ouellette) was actually an improvement, with a better script, some attempts to flesh out the Alyda character and better performances. Cast members Stephenson and Clausmeyer reprised their roles, Maria Ford played Alyda in human form while fellow Scream Queen Julie Strain played her in monster form and guest roles were played by John Rhys-Davies and David Warner.

★★

Regazza del vagone letto, La (1979)

...aka: Terror Express

Directed by:
Ferdinando Baldi

Semi-entertaining smut from Italy, falling into the sub-category of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT-inspired flicks that were very popular in the mid to late 70s. This isn't even the first one that's set on train (that would be the humdrum 1974 effort NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS), but it's full of nudity and all the sex, sexual perversion and sexual violence you'd expect from one of these films. In fact, there's so much sex going on in various combinations that the film often forgets to be suspenseful or thrilling, let alone scary, even though it is usually categorized as a horror film. The action starts at a train station. We're briefly introduced to some of the characters before everyone boards for a trip to Germany. There are around a dozen passengers. Among them are a trio of loud, obnoxious, sadistic thugs who seem to get off on acting like jackasses and irritating people. They; German "poet" David (Werner Pochath), Ernie (Carlo De Mejo) and Phil (Fausto Lombardi), start off by harassing a young woman until she gets off a pay phone. At dinner they book a table for four (the extra setting for their "pet corpse"), yell, hit on some of the women, play their music loudly, trip a waiter and then berate him, poor beer on the floor, threaten people with a switchblade and cause even more problems for the passengers, porter and staff.

Top-billed Silvio Dionisio is Juliet; a jaded, high-priced prostitute who seems a little bitter dealing with her perverted customers. One of those customers is a married perv named Jeff who lusts after his boy-crazed 16-year-old daughter Evelyn (Fiammetta Flamini) and wants Juliet to wear his daughter's nightgown while he has sex with her. Yikes. Venantino Venantini is Mike, a frustrated man trying to reconcile his marriage to bitchy wife Anna (Zora Kerova). Anna sneaks off for a tryst with one of the punks that turns into a rape sandwich when another of the goons walks in on them and decides to join in. Gianluigi Chirizzi is Peter, a prisoner being escorted by a policeman who may or may not be innocent. Other characters include a wealthy, middle-aged businessman who makes his assistant Willis buy him porn magazines at a concession stand and a terminally ill elderly woman name Mary (Rita Livesi), who's headed to Switzerland with her husband Harold to have some kind of operation.

After Anna gets raped, the goons manage to knock out a few of the guys, tie them up and get their hands on a gun. Now they have control of the situation. Since David has the hots for Juliet, but she won't give him the time of day, he threatens to rape the 16-year-old "virgin" if she doesn't comply with his wishes. She ends up getting raped by him and Ernie. The punks also try to force some of the passengers to rape Juliet. Nice guys, huh? Frustrated hubby Mike finally gets fed up with Anna and rapes her. Before too long, the "rape" starts to look a little more consensual as Juliet and Peter pair up and Ernie gets to nail the "virgin." The film has four attractive blonde women in it and they all have nude scenes. The men in this one also aren't shy about showing skin, and the soft porn sex/rape scenes are strong enough to merit this an NC-17.
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However, if you want violence and gory thrills, you won't get much of that here. It relegates most of the action and murder scenes to the last ten minutes or so, and even that isn't much. I don't even recall a single drop of blood in this one. The story and screenplay are from Luigi Montefiori (George Eastman) and there's a catchy synthesizer score from Marcello Giombini. All in all, if you're in the mood for a little rough, bad taste sexploitation you'll probably enjoy this one.
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Distributor Camera Obscura (out of Australia) have recently announced they'll be releasing this one on DVD soon. It's yet to receive an official American release.

★★1/2

Terror on the Menu (1972)

...aka: Club Dead
...aka: Folks at Red Wolf Inn, The
...aka: Terror at Red Wolf Inn
...aka: Terror House

Directed by:
Bud Townsend

Fans of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE take note. I'm a big fan of Hooper's influential 1974 horror classic. In fact, I list it as one of my five favorite horror films of all time. But I'm still almost convinced that the director saw this little-known film, then took the basic plot and blew the idea out of proportion. Both movies feature warped cannibal families, quirky black humor and isolated locations; plus here the celebrated Marilyn Burns freak-out scene from Chainsaw (you know where the camera gets extremely close-ups on her eyes and such) is predated to even similar-sounding music and quick-cut editing! See it for yourself if you don't believe me. Though this one doesn't come anywhere close to reaching the same level of intense, claustrophobic horror that TCM does, it's still stands up pretty well as campy 70s horror-comedy laced with black humor and is worth seeing.
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College co-ed Regina (the delightful Linda Gillen), along with two other women (a pre-COLOR PURPLE Margaret Avery and glamorous model Janet Wood), "win" a trip to the secluded island home of an extremely sweet elderly couple (great film vets Arthur Space and Mary Jackson) and their uber-weird grandson (John Nielson, who really looks a lot like Brad Pitt in some shots). The women are all treated to extravagant, high-calorie feasts several times a day, but Regina starts becoming suspicious when other guests disappear promptly after a party is thrown and becomes even more suspicious when her hosts claim their phone is out of order and try to prevent her from leaving. She eventually discovers the entire family are murderous cannibals who cut-up their victims and store the body parts in a large walk-in freezer. This sometimes tries a little too hard to be funny (and thus loses focus on the horror), but it has its moments, the cast is very good, some of the dialogue is amusing and there's a standout shock scene featuring the grandson suddenly freaking out and killing a shark!
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Produced by Michael Macready (the son of actor George Macready), who also produced the COUNT YORGA films and appears here as a deputy. It was originally released to theaters with an R-rating under the title THE FOLKS AT RED WOLF INN, the film has unfortunately gone public domain since then, with predictable results. The most widely circulated print is a shorter PG-rated cut that was edited down for network television and is missing several scenes, including one where the cannibal lady makes human soup and feeds ladyfingers to her husband. It seems the most complete cut currently available (which still seems to be missing footage) is under either the Folks or TERROR AT RED WOLF INN title, while the prints missing the most footage are under the TERROR HOUSE title. The version titled TERROR ON THE MENU apparently goes either way, depending on whether it's the American or Canadian VHS release. I've seen run-times listed as being anywhere from 72 to 98 minutes, so it's really difficult to tell.

★★1/2

Terror on Alcatraz (1986)

...aka: Nightmare on Alcatraz

Directed by:
Philip Marcus

Frank Morris (Aldo Ray), the only man ever to escape from Alcatraz Island (in 1962), is also something of a sadist as demonstrated by a charming opening sequence of him burning his mistress' breast with a lit cigarette and slashing up a former prison guard with a straight razor. Eventually, he follows a tour group to Alcatraz in an attempt to retrieve a key to a safety deposit box full of cash and jewels. Know-it-all Alcatraz buff Greg (Scott Ryder) instantly recognizes him and, along with five other young adults, sneaks back onto the island for a "cell block party" and to find out what Frank might be up to. Frank, of course, is not too happy with the interfering, grabs a butcher knife and starts hacking away. After our heroine Terry (Lisa Ramirez) tricks Frank into falling off a cliff and he's believed to be dead, he turns up again in San Francisco to claim his fortune. 20 minutes later (!!) Frank gets his in a ludicrous, out of left field surprise ending.

Production values are somewhat low and the acting is pretty bad, but the premise is interesting, the gore effects are pretty good and the Alcatraz stalk-n-slash scenes are above average thanks to the historic locations, plus we get a long and informative history lesson on Alcatraz from a tour guide played by Mohammed Ali's wife, Veronica Porsche Ali! Also in the cast are Sandy Brooke (SLEDGE HAMMER) as the mistress and Robert Axelrod as a hotel manager. Clint Eastwood played the same Morris character (albeit a bit different) in 1979's ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ. Some sources claim Marvin G. Lipschultz (who has a small role as a policeman) was the co-director on this feature, though he's not credited.

★★

Ten Little Indians (1965)

...aka: Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Indians'
...aka: And Then There Were None

Directed by:
George Pollock

The second big screen version of Agatha Christie's famous tale follows the popular 1943 stage play, René Clair's classic 1945 film version (AND THEN THERE WERE NONE), as well as several TV adaptations. While not as good as Clair's version, and almost completely missing that film's wit and subtlety, this one is still miles better than most of the later films based on the same novel. Producer/writer Harry Alan Towers would back no less than three of these, including versions in 1974 (which takes place at a Middle Eastern hotel) and 1989 (which takes place during an African safari). This one also has a location change, a few character alterations and a different ending, but at least two of these changes work fairly well, and the cast is full of talented and familiar veteran character actors who keep the film highly watchable despite the flaws. Ten people are invited to a dinner party by Mr. U.N. Owen, who lives atop a mountain in a huge mansion accessible only by cable car. Once they arrive and start settling in, they discover that none of them has actually met their mysterious unseen host before. However, an audio tape (voiced by an unbilled Christopher Lee) is played during dinner accusing each and every one of the ten guests of being a murderer, rightfully so in most cases, and from then on out the guest start dropping like flies in a variety of different ways.

Everyone's a suspect. Hugh Lombard (Hugh O'Brien) is an engineer who caused the death of a pregnant former lover. Ann Clyde (Shirley Eaton), lured under the auspices of a secretarial position, killed her sister's fiancé. Obnoxious young singer Michael Raven (Fabian) killed someone during a drunk driving accident. Glamorous actress Ilona Bergen's (Daliah Lavi) heartless behavior led a former husband's suicide. Gen. John Mandrake (Leo Genn) took an undeserved promotion after accidentally getting five men killed. Det. William Henry Blore's (Stanley Holloway) testimony sent an innocent man to prison, where he was later murdered. Judge Arthur Cannon (Wilfrid Hyde-White) sentenced an innocent man to death. Dr. Edward Armstrong (Dennis Price) killed a patient while operating on her drunk. Hell, even the hired help; Joseph (Mario Adorf) and Elsa Grohmann (Marianne Hoppe) had previously killed a wealthy, elderly employer. Any of these people might be the killer and the only way to really check any of them off your list is when they turn up dead. And even that's a maybe.

Speaking of turning up dead, this version (unlike the Clair version) actually visualizes most of the murders. The real standouts are two excellent set pieces that both take place outdoors. The first involves a cable car falling and crashing over a cliff. The second involves one of the characters attempting to climb down the mountain, having their rope cut and then tumbling down a rocky embankment. Other murders are committed with a knife, a gun, a syringe and poison. How each of the victims find themselves alone long enough to be murdered (as well as how the killer manages to frequently sneak off to actually murder them) relies on a high amount of sheer luck and it's this ridiculous level of coincidence that hampers the film the most. I also didn't care much for the music score, which seemed too lightweight and elevator-esquire for this material.

Cast-wise, the old pros on the roster (Genn, Price, Hyde-White and Holloway) clearly provide the best moments in this film, while the younger cast are around solely to inject some sex/youth appeal into the proceedings, as clearly evidenced by Eaton's frequent clothes changing scenes. Since he does both in this film, Fabian proves he was just as awful as singer in one fell swoop, but he's really not around long enough to cause any major damage. The rest of the actors was adequate, if not good, in their roles. So for the cast, the setting and some good set-pieces (plus an effective surprise ending), this is worth a look. It's nicely shot in black-and-white, too.

★★1/2

Toxic Avenger, The (1984)

...aka: Atomic Hero
...aka: Health Club Horror
...aka: Toxic

Directed by:
Michael Herz
Lloyd Kaufman

This campy melding of over-the-top violence, slapstick gore humor and horror movie references is pretty hilarious at times and is definitely one of the best to come from the Troma Team. Geeky, scrawny janitor Melvin A. Junko (Mark Torgl) is ridiculed and made fun of by all the snobs at the Tromaville Health Club until one fateful day when he accidentally comes into contact with radioactive toxic waste. The green gunk not only sets him ablaze on contact, it sets in motion a gooey morphing period where the 90-pound nerd will turn into a facially mutated, muscular and courageous crime fighter known as The Toxic Avenger (now played by Mitchell Cohen and voiced by Kenneth Kessler). Billed as "The first super hero from New Jersey," Toxie sets out to clean up the streets of Tromaville, wiping out drug pushers, pimps, hit and run drivers, punk thieves, corrupt politicians and other unsavory citizens giving his town a bad rap.
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Definitely not for all tastes, juvenile and sometimes highly annoying, but all in all it's an energetic, bright, tasteless and very funny spoof of horror films, super hero flicks and the emerging 80s health club fad. Jennifer Aspinall did the (top-notch) gore effects, including multiple dismemberments and decapitations, a head squashed by gym equipment and a hilarious taco joint massacre featuring a man getting his hands fried in hot oil and a guy's face being transformed into a sundae. This was a surprise hit in a limited theatrical run, so three sequels; THE TOXIC AVENGER, PART II, THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE (both filmed back-to-back in 1989) and CITIZEN TOXIC: THE TOXIC AVENGER 4 (2000), comic books, a cartoon series (Toxic Crusaders) and action figure toys followed.
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With Pat Ryan, Jr. as the obese, corrupt mayor of Tromaville, Jennifer Babtist, Robert Prichard and Gary Schneider as punks (all of them would return for Troma's CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH in 1986), Cindy Manion (who had appeared in De Palma's BLOW OUT), Dan Snow (TENEMENT), Patrick Kilpatrick, Michael Russo and Andree Maranda as Toxie's blind girlfriend Sara. An uncredited Marisa Tomei (frequently named dropped in the publicity these days) can be spotted briefly walking into a locker room, discovering a body and screaming.

★★★

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2, The (1986)

Directed by:
Tobe Hooper

I might be stretching it a bit giving this critically blasted sequel a mild thumbs up, but it deserves it for sheer audacity and entertainment value, not to mention some priceless performances, remarkable set design and amazingly gruesome Tom Savini make-up effects. The latter were even strong enough to deny this an R rating when first released. Dennis Hopper (who was in BLUE VELVET the same year!) turns camp king as Ex-Texas Ranger Lt. Lefty, brother of the Sally and Franklin characters from the original. He's out for revenge against the cannibal clan for what they did to his family, while feisty radio DJ Stretch (well played by the spunky and engaging Caroline Williams) simply tries to survive after she airs a radio broadcast that pisses them off and they come after her. Jim Siedow (great fun) is back as the father, who makes award-winning chili out of human flesh, Leatherface (played by Bill Johnson this time) is still swingin' the saw around in phallic ways and even the 100+ year old grandpa is hanging in there, though the hitchhiker character played by Ed Neal in the first film has been refashioned a bit for the sequel. Now he's Chop Top (amusingly played by Bill Moseley), who has a metal plate in his head, suffers from 'Nam flashbacks and does some disgusting things with a clothes hanger and a cigarette lighter.

The cannibal clan hideout, which is hidden underground beneath an amusement park this time, is a marvel of skeletal decor, hooks, cobwebs, tunnels and blood oozing walls. Everything about this movie is taken to insanely outrageous proportions, and it drops the straight horror and sly black humor of the original for more blatant shocks and in-your-face comedy, which explains the critical hatred. Regardless, it's fairly well made, the acting is spirited and it never fails to entertain. John Bloom (aka Joe Bob Briggs) had a small role in the film, but his part was deleted even though he remains in the credits. The next sequel, which was another step down in quality, was LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III (1989).

★★1/2

Aska susayanlar seks ve cinayet (1972)

...aka: Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder

Directed by:
Mehmet Aslan

Sergio Martino's THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1970) is a pretty good film, but who would have guessed it would be remade just one year after it was released... almost scene-for-scene... in Turkey! Well, I wouldn't have believed it until I found a review online. Then I knew I just had to see it for myself. Now that I have, I can say this film is indeed a complete and utter rip-off of Martino's film and they do absolutely nothing to disguise that fact! The plot, twists, characters, music score and scenes play out just as they do in MRS. WARDH, except here it's compacted down (none-too-well) to a 57-minute run time, has worse acting, much lower production values, an altered ending and a few sleazy little bits added here and there. It also tries to ape the giallo style and (surprise, surprise) actually does so fairly well at times, with interesting camera angles, some slick editing and certain shots blurring out, being stretched out and other simple but effective techniques "borrowed" from the source material. Is it worth watching? Sure. For fans of this stuff, it is. It's fairly entertaining, and there's enough violence and nudity, not to mention cheap laughs, to hold one's interest throughout. But at the end of the day it's nothing more than a lesser-quality rip-off of a better film that becomes a hilarious "WTF" nonsensical mess by the time the finale arrives.

Mine (Meral Zeren), a hot-to-trot young woman with huge fake eyelashes and a troubled past, is married to older, often-out-of-town business Metin (Nihat Ziyalan), but is led astray by her saucy friend Oya (Eva Bender). At a party where two women get in an irritating little scuttle and rip each others dresses off, Mine meets Yilmaz (Kadir Inanir) and the two hit it off. Meanwhile, a mustachioed "scarface" in a top-hat, black gloves, trench coat and sunglasses is slicing up ladies who incidentally happen to be nude or half-dressed at the time. He's first seen offering a lift to a hitchhiker and then proceeds to chase her out of the car and through the woods until he corners her. She then reveals she's a 17-year-old virgin who will be "ruined" if he rapes her so he decides to ruin her in another way by slashing her to death with a razor. Mine has frequent flashbacks to her sadistic former lover Tarik (Yildirim Gencer), which reveals she has both a submissive and masochistic side. It's also revealed her marriage is loveless and more of a convenient arrangement for the two parties involved. In fact, her husband had some kind of accident that took his, uh, manhood away. I guess that opens the door for a torrid affair with the handsome Yilmaz.

If you've seen MRS. WARDH, you know the rest of the story. Mine gets flowers with strange cards attached... Mine gets weird phone calls... Mine gets blackmailed by the killer, who wants her to meet him in a park and bring money, but her friend shows up in her place... Mine runs off with her new lover... Etc., etc. A few parts are altered here and there. The ending is the most noticeable change, as they try to pull off about five quick twists in the final three minutes and fail miserably at pulling it off! And just wait until you lay your eyes on one of the most ridiculous looking and badly choreographed fight scenes since the big beach brawl in HORROR OF PARTY BEACH. Instead of even attempting suspense, the killer here has a habit of suddenly just leaping from off-screen at victims, which is kind of amusing. The actors range from wooden to tolerable. Both the lead actress and lead actor look great, at least. There's also an obnoxious policeman who screams at people to try to startle information out of them (?!)

There are a few mildly bloody slashing scenes (with both a razor and a broken bottle) as well as a (sort-of) silly decapitated head. There's also a generous amount of female nudity, which also provides many of the laughs because of the silly lengths they go to get women naked. One of the funniest is when a random woman arrives home wearing a long coat and suddenly whips it off to reveal she's not wearing anything underneath before getting slashed in the shower. One of Oya's sexy little numbers consists of what looks like a curtain draped over her chest with her BA completely exposed at the back.

I'm sure a tiny little legal issue commonly called plagiarism has kept this film - as well as many other Turkish titles - from getting released anywhere outside its home country over the years, but this is now available on DVD with English subs through a Greek company called Onar Films. They have double-teamed this with another Turkish Terror called "Ölüler konusmaz ki" (1970; aka THE DEAD DON'T TALK), which involves a haunted house and was directed by Yavuz Yalinkiliç. I haven't seen that one yet, but it should be interesting enough.

★★
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