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.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde (1967)

... aka: Castle of Bloody Lust
... aka: Castle of Lust
... aka: Castle of the Creeping Flesh
... aka: Das Schloß der Gehenkten
... aka: In the Castle of Bloody Lust

Directed by:
"Percy G. Parker" (Adrian Hoven)

A poor example of Euro Gothic horror; even fans of the subgenre might want to skip this tedious West German production. At a party, handsome and wealthy Baron Brack (Michel Lemoine) invites some of the others to take a horseback ride and continue the festivities back at his beautiful country home. Coming along are lascivious redhead Vera Lagrange (Janine Reynaud) and her raven-haired sister Elena (Elvira Berndorff), along with Elena's fiancé Roger (Pier A. Caminnecci, one of the producers), the Baron's virginal fiancée Marion (Claudia Butenuth) and Marion's brother George (Jan Hendriks). The Baron and Elena decide to ride ahead of the others, which turns out to be a big mistake on her part when the insatiable Baron decides to rape her ("You're disgusting, you dirty swine!").





When the others show up, Elena doesn't mention the rape at all and Marion tells them a story about the mysterious Earl of Saxon, who lives in a remote castle with his beautiful daughter, Katharina. Several days earlier, Katharina was attacked and raped, prompting the Earl to release his pet bear into the wild. Distraught over what happened to her and annoyed by a comment made by Roger (who claims the Earl's daughter possibly enjoyed getting raped), Elena decides to take off on a horse. Brack, Roger and Vera head out after her. As night falls, they arrive at the Saxon castle... just as the Earl's daughter has passed away from injuries inflicted upon her by her attacker. They're brought inside by manservant Alecos (Vladimir Medar, from the wonderful TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM) and come inside to meet the Earl (THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF's Howard Vernon), a physician who offers them a place to stay. Elena's there already - having a rest in one of the bedrooms.





Graf Saxon tells everyone a tale about his cursed family lineage. Many years ago, marauders invaded the castle and raped and killed the daughter of his forefather as his wicked mistress (a "nasty, mischievous little bawdy bitch!" according to her lover) watched and did nothing to help. The King then slaughtered his daughter's attackers, stabbed his mistress and tried to revive his daughter with her blood. When the authorities caught on, they beheaded him. George and Marion (injured after hitting her head on a low-hanging tree branch) eventually show up at the castle looking for their friends. And wouldn't ya know it, Vera is a dead ringer for the devious mistress (and seems to be just as lacking in the moral department) and Marion is a dead ringer for both the King and Earl's ill-fated daughters. While giving a tour, Alecos even shows the visitors a room where the original crimes are reenacted by mannequins! Downstairs in the secret laboratory, the Earl and his assistant cut open Katharina's body. It looks like they used a pig carcass for the scalpel cutting flesh effect, but then swiped some actual surgery footage for the operation (which we see about 50 flashes of throughout the film).





While the other two ladies sleep, Vera decides to take this opportunity to try to seduce both Marion's fiancé and her own sister's fiancé, finally having some luck with the latter. She also has a lengthy nightmare (lasting almost fifteen minutes!) recounting the earlier crime, which is completely unnecessary since we're already had it described to use in detail twice earlier. Alecos scoops up a sleeping Marion and takes her downstairs to the lab, where the Earl and his assistant plot to do a brain switcheroo to revive his daughter. Meanwhile, Brack gets scared and leaves the castle to go get the car, but gets lost and is mauled by a man in a bear suit. He stumbles back just in time for the insufficient finale.





It's cheap-looking, bland, unoriginal, slow-moving, has continuity issues and none of the poorly-developed characters (including Vernon's rather restrained mad doctor) manage to spark even the slightest bit of interest. The violence is mild (aside from a brief decapitation), but there's a generous helping of female flesh - most provided by Reynaud - and that seems to be the real point of this entire piece. According to the opening credits, the screenplay is based on an idea by Eric Martin Schnitzler and "Percy G. Parker" (the director). However, many sources claim the was actually written by Jesus Franco; not difficult to believe since Hoven, Reynaud and Lemoine had all starred in Franco's "Red Lips" female detective films made around the same time and all three of them, plus Vernon and Caminnecci, were in Franco's well-regarded SUCCUBUS, also from 1967.

Never officially released to DVD, this was however issued on VHS by both Magnum and Sinister Cinema.

★1/2

La casa de las sombras (1976)

... aka: House of Shadows

Directed by:
"Richard Wulicher" (Ricardo Wullicher)

Slow going, plot-heavy, poorly edited, not particularly original and so badly lit that they should have called it "House of I Don't Know What in the Hell is Going On Cause I Can't See Shit," not many people are going to be able to endure this one. To make matters worse, it's also victim to one of the absolute worst English dubs you'll ever hear. The voice actors are awful, there are frequent and very awkward pauses... between every... other... word just... to... match the... lips, plus clutzy narration in one scene that's hard to attribute to a certain character since all of the female roles seem voiced by the same actress. Even the two top-billed, English-speaking stars, Yvonne ("Lily Munster") De Carlo and John (PSYCHO) Gavin, were dubbed. Things begin with our luckless teenage heroine Audrey Christiansen (Leonor Manso, about ten years too old for this role), who is fresh out of an orphanage and never actually met her parents. She's taken up a position as a companion and errand girl for wealthy, lonely, depressed spinster Mrs. Howard (De Carlo), who drinks a lot, lounges around in frilly pink nightgowns and seems to somewhat resent Audrey's youth and beauty. While Audrey's out walking Mrs. Howard's poodle one evening, the dog runs off and into an old house. Audrey walks inside and sees fresh flowers, a burning fire and furniture, but no one appears to be there. Upon investigating, she ends up witnessing a woman being shot and falling down the stairs, then flees.





The next day, Audrey, Mrs. Howard and the police go to the crime scene only to see no sign of a crime having taken place. There's also no evidence that anyone has actually lived there for a very long time. Well, aside from an upstairs bedroom that's still clean and furnished. Audrey spots a painting on the wall and instantly recognizes the woman in it as the lady she saw being murdered. She's then informed that the portrait is of a woman who was murdered there twenty-three years earlier. The killer was never found and crime went unsolved... and Audrey looks an awful lot like her. Finding herself drawn to the home for some odd reason, Audrey locates the diary of the victim - Catherine Webster (also played by Manso) - and begins learning more about her life, which we see in flashbacks. Catherine was a promiscuous busy body uphappy in her marriage to Gregory (Roberto Airaldi). She fell in love with not one, but two, different men; Richard Wilson (Walter Soubrie), a married man whose wife Nora (Iris Morenza) found out about the affair, and another guy named Roland Stewart (Gavin); a man Mrs. Howard was in love with who wouldn't give her the time of day. So who killed Catherine? That's what Audrey would like to find out.





The link between Catherine and our heroine is never fully established, and we never know whether Audrey is possessed or possibly a reincarnation of the murder victim. It's also never explained why she looks exactly like her. Audrey buddies up with Mrs. Randall (Mecha Ortiz), Catherine's former maid and close confidant, and talks about she's not of this world but of "the astral world," but that doesn't make much sense either. Either way, she can't seem to stay away from the house and knows things that only Catherine would know. Everyone seems to want Catherine's diary because it may hold the key to her murder. How everyone knows she even kept a diary in the first place, or why the police never got their hands on it when they investigated the murder, is never adequately explained either. Yes, there are a ton of plot holes and unanswered questions to be found here, and I wonder whether this is the fault of the dubbing, or it's just a poorly made film.





It also takes forever and a day for Catherine's murderer to start murdering again. And by forever and a day, I mean 70 minutes. To start the ball rolling, a wheelchair-bound man in pushed in front of a moving train. The effect is hilariously accomplished by reversing the film (notice how the smoke sucks back up into the train as it 'approaches' the victim). Next up, poor maid Cookie (Nora "Cuyen" / Cullen) receives a hatchet to the face. That's followed by a car going over a cliff after the brake wires are cut, a man getting crushed against a wall by a car and an off-screen slashed throat. The killer also appears to be stalking Audrey. He / she breaks into her room (presumably to find the diary) and then try to run her off the road. When revealed, the identity of the psycho is adequate, but not really much of a surprise. Ricardo Castro Ríos and Germán Kraus co-star as the police inspectors on the case.





Even though I was bored senseless by the first half of this movie, I eventually got more wrapped up in the storyline once I got used to the lighting and dubbing. Since the film has two decent Yank actors, and the rest of the roles are played by established (and in some cases, award-winning) Argentinian actors, I can imagine the performances in this before the dubbing came into play were fine. The poor dialogue translations and confusing clusterfuck of a plot could also very well be the fault of the dubbers. I can also imagine that the photography and lighting were done with more care than what is present on either the too-dark American VHS release (through Media in 1983), or the one I watched (which was taken from Spanish-based cable / satellite channel Calle 13). It's really hard to tell, so I'm cutting this a little slack on the rating.

★★

Masterblaster (1986)

... aka: Master Blaster
... aka: Masterblaster: The Exterminator
Directed by:
Glenn R. Wilder


Filmed near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, this low-budgeter attempts to blend survivalist action with backwoods slasher, and doesn't do a very good job at either. Motorcycle-riding Native American loner Jeremy Hawk (co-writer Jeff Moldovan) shows up at a small town bar and is immediately greeted by three pleasant rednecks who tell him they "just don't want no AIDS-carryin' dirtbag biker hanging around." Since Jeremy's also a Vietnam vet, they wonder if he's been "screwing those little chink whores" and might be spreading around "infectuous VD stuff." When they start getting physical, Jeremy kicks their asses and sends one flying out the window and another through the door. Police officer Samantha (Donna Rosae) shows up with a gun to help hold them off, and two hispanic guys, failed actor Monk (Richard St. George) and el loco Snake (George Gill) help tie him to a tree. The redneck leader, Leon (Antoni Corone) - screams that they'll get their revenge. So what are Jeremy, Samantha, Monk and Snake doing risking their lives out in redneck country? Well, they're all regional winners of paintball contests heading out to a secluded camp where they'll compete for 50 thousand dollars with other regional winners at The First Annual Master Blaster Grand National Championship.




Upon arriving at camp, contest organizer Mike (Robert Goodman) introduces the rest of the contestants. There's Lincoln Shakir (Raymond Forchion), winner of Chicago regionals, Tony De Angelo (Joe Hess), winner of Big Apple Games and personal body guard for a famous Italian businessman, rock star Lewis Carlisle (Peter Lundblad) who's brought along his snobby girlfriend Lisa (Tracy Hutchinson), Mr. Yamada aka The Shadow Warrior (Yoshimitsu Yamada), who's descended from samurai, psychiatrist Laura Dacosta (Earleen Carey) and journalist and novelist Brad Sterling (Bill Wohrman). Rounding out the roster are three racist rednecks (yes, more of these); Jimmy Roy (Jim Reynolds), Gary Lee (Julian Byrd) and Bobby Jo (Ron Burgs), who are distant relatives of Daniel Boone. There's also an attorney and ex-pro football quarterback, but he decides to drop out of the competition when he learns the woods will be booby-tapped: "You people are crazy! Somebody's gonna get hurt... real bad!" And yes, some people do get hurt real bad, when someone in group goes crazy and starts slaughtering everyone... but it takes almost an entire hour to even get to that point.




First, we must learn the rules of the game (avoid traps, retrieve money and return to camp without getting splattered), listen to a never-ending stream of racial and homophobic slurs, see some bad campfire dancing and watch as a romance starts to bloom between our monotone hero Jeremy and huge-eyeballed heroine Sam. He tells her about how he spent two years in a 'Nam concentration camp and had to slaughter an entire family, children included. She tells him that her partner had his head blown off with a shotgun because she was too slow to react and that the rock star guy had slept with her and then dumped a year earlier. Meanwhile, the "graduates of Hee Haw University" make watermelon jokes and talk about "speak-chuckers." The dialogue, original songs (including a rap theme) and the acting are all absolutely terrible, by the way.




45 minutes in, the game finally is under way. Unfortunately, even it fails to build up much excitement and is essentially just a series of scenes of people walking through the woods before being killed. Several characters are hung, there are numerous fist fights, someone gets stabbed, someone gets decapitated, one of the girls is killed after taking a shower and another is shot in the face with an acid capsule. Sadly, most of this occurs off-screen... but just wait until you see the identity of the mystery killer and learn their motivation for offing everyone. Absolutely hilarious!




It was backed by Bill Grefé (William Grefe), an independent director who'd been churning out films since the early 60s and had moderate success with such drive-in favorites as STANLEY (1972; which involved a man using snakes to strike back at his enemies), IMPULSE (1974; with William Shatner as a sleazy, bell bottom-clad psycho child molestor) and MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH (1976; a JAWS-inspired killer shark tale). Another Floridian who worked on this thing is Brad F. Grinter, the director of Veronica Lake's last hurrah, FLESH FEST (1970), as well as the notorious turkey-man-monster gorefest BLOOD FREAK (1971). Randy Grinter, perhaps Brad's brother, wrote the original story, co-scripted, produced and was the 2nd unit director. Kari Whitman (a Playboy centerfold and the star of PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC'S REVENGE) and Herb Goldstein (BLOOD STALKERS) have small roles.




The director is best known as a Hollywood stunt man and has worked steadily in that capacity since the early 60s (this is his only director credit). While performing a speedboat stunt for the dumb comedy GONE FISHIN' (1996), Wilder, his son Scott and his daughter-in-law Janet (all stuntpersons) were involved in an accident that cost Janet her life. Masterblaster was released on VHS by Prism in 1987. As of this writing, there's no official DVD.

★1/2
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