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, July 3, 2012

Long Weekend (1978)

Directed by:
Colin Eggleston

Long Weekend opens with the shot of a crab slowly creeping along a cliffside. Once it stops and we start absorbing what else is in the frame, we notice that the crab blends in so well with its surroundings that we wouldn't have even notice it being there had we not already seen it move. There's a lot we probably don't notice in everyday life: so busy in our own pursuits and wrapped up in our own thoughts, feelings, pleasures and problems that we pass by all kinds of animals and bugs and probably don't pay them much mind; granted we even notice them at all. While tending to her plants, Marcia (Briony Behets) takes a brief glance at her television set while a news story about birds behaving strangely and destroying property plays out. Marcia quickly flips that off. She has more important thing to do, like get her house in order. Once her husband Peter (John Hargreaves) gets home from work, the two plan on heading out for a few days to the beach. Not just a regular trip for the miserably unhappy, bickering couple, but a last ditch effort to see if the relationship is even worth salvaging. Perhaps getting back to nature - to a beautiful remote location - is just what they need. Either way, it's going to be a long weekend for both of them.




On the way toward their destination, Peter throws a cigarette outside the jeep window and starts a fire, then accidentally runs over a kangaroo, which doesn't seem to bother him or his wife. The rest of the drive isn't the least bit pleasant either, with the couple repeatedly snapping at each other and Peter's bitterness over an affair Marcia had still weighing on him. To make matters even more complicated, Marcia became pregnant with the other man's child and ended up having an abortion because of her husband's demands. After an hour drive into the brush, Peter can smell the ocean and figures they're close enough to pull over and get some sleep. The next morning, they set up camp, realize they're in a great spot near the ocean and try their best to have a relaxing time while suppressing their animosity toward one another. Marcia makes it quite clear she doesn't even really want to be there, but Peter encourages her to tough it out and give it a shot. It's not really the best time for their surroundings to start turning against them but, going by the laws of nature, the revolt is a much deserved one.




One aspect of this film that's frequently discussed are the two central characters and why the writer chose to make both of them so nasty they border on unbearable. The answer is likely because they embody the self-absorption and arrogance of man and his presumed superiority on this planet. The couple constantly and casually use and abuse their surroundings, with no regard for the animals and plants living there, and no appreciation for the pristine natural beauty of the location they've luckily stumbled across. Immediately out of the jeep, Peter starts chopping away at a tree with an axe. When asked why he's doing so, he can't provide an answer. What is it within us that makes us almost instinctually want to snap off tree limbs or pluck flowers, only to toss them onto the ground when we're done? Or squash bugs when they aren't even really bothering us? Why doesn't it affect us more when we strike down an animal with our car? This film seems to be making a point that a lot of the things we do to muck up the natural world make absolutely no sense, but we do them all the same. I've even seen some people use a biblical quote about how God gave us this Earth and its resources to do as we please with them to justify their behavior.





Peter and Marcia do what many other people do when they're out enjoying the great outdoors. When ants decide to stop by their dinner table, they spray insecticide everywhere. Marcia takes an eagle's egg from the nest just because she thinks it's pretty and later throws it against a tree because she's angry. Peter decides to get drunk, flings his beer bottles into the weeds and starts firing off his rifle at nothing in particular, killing a mother duck in the process. And simply because an unknown black mass in the ocean is making them feel uneasy, Peter shoots whatever it is dead. What floats onto the beach later is a bunyip, a mythical creature of Aboriginal folklore. Though it sometimes is depicted as being a monstrous being, here it is depicted as being a docile, gentle, sea cow / manatee-like animal which they say has been driven to the brink of extinction because of oil drilling. Just like Peter brushed off killing the kangaroo earlier in the film with a "So What?" type of attitude, he likewise doesn't seem to care too much that he's just killed an animal thought to have been extinct. Regardless of being dead, the bunyip keeps moving, slowly creeping its way toward Peter and Marcia's camp; representative of every animal species we've wiped out of existence by our ignorance or carelessness.





The couple receive ample warning to start being respectful of their surroundings, but they don't heed them and pay the price when the natural world around them starts striking back. An eagle and some other furry critter (a possum?) show up to attack Peter, and eventually bugs, spiders, snakes and other forest animals make their presence known. And it's not just animals that are creating problems, but also the vegetation. Mold seems to be quickly spreading over their food and eventually the tree Peter decided to start hacking away at, starts dropping limbs on him. Arrow markings on other trees to lead people to the spot also seem to be changing all on their own to confuse people into driving in circles. Remnants of past human visitors - a van on the beach, an abandoned campsite - are around to act as tombstones for others who clearly weren't very respectful of the area either.




There were many "animal attack" movies made in the 1970s and Long Weekend sits at the upper end of this subgenre. It's well-made, very nicely-photographed, utilizes beautiful outdoor locations and provides plenty of food for thought. Having to endure the risible - or perhaps uncomfortably believable (things can definitely get this nasty in love and relationships) - central characters for an hour-and-a-half proves to be something of a challenge, but you're rewarded for doing so. Pretty much ignored in its home country upon release, the film would do better elsewhere, bringing home awards from Avoriaz Fantastic, Paris and Sitges-Catalonian International film festivals.




Director Eggleston would be involved in many other Aussie genre films, but wouldn't top this one. He'd also write, produce and edit the terrible slasher flick STAGE FRIGHT aka Nightmares (1980), which also featured Behets (who was married to Eggleston at the time) and direct INNOCENT PREY (1983), the mediocre slasher-mystery CASSANDRA (1986), again with Behets, and the terrible vampire comedy THE WICKED (1987).

★★★

Los violadores (1981)

... aka: Bikers and the Disco Kid, The
... aka: Desperado's op wielen
... aka: Mad Foxes
... aka: Stingray 2
... aka: Violators, The

Directed by:
"Paul Gray" (Paul Grau)

Few Euro-sleaze movies manage to cram in as much crap as Los violadores. It has pretty much everything a fan of this type of film could possibly hope for; terrible acting, laughable English-language dubbing, cringe-worth dialogue, a thoroughly ridiculous plot, loads of gore, loads of sex, a biker gang, shoot-outs, explosions, disco dancing, car chases, Nazis, full nudity, karate, fully nude karate, castration, a random flock of sheep, legless drunks, wardrobe that changes from shot to shot for no apparent reason, the rape of a virgin, clothing-optional beaches, several awful 80s hair rock songs (by "Krokus") and, of course, the all important whip-wielding dominatrix. It's missing cannibals and lesbian nuns, but nothing is perfect.




Middle-aged Hal ("Robert O'Neal" / José Gras), our questionable-at-best "hero," is out cruisin' round in his prized Stingray with his just-turned-18-year-old girlfriend Babsy ("Sally Sullivan" / Andrea Albani). Stopped at a traffic light, they're harassed by a group of bikers who spit in Hal's face, which leads to a street race, which leads to one of the bikers hitting a car, which leads to his motorcycle inexplicably blowing up. Hal and Babsy go to a nightclub, where he plies her with champagne and whiskey in hopes that he'll get the chance to break her in. Suddenly, we cut to three couples dressed in 1950s garb doing a choreographed dance to swing music that's clearly set in some place OTHER than the bar Hal and Babsy are at. Afterward, the drunk couple leave only to end up face to face with the biker gang. Hal is beaten unconscious and then the leader, an effeminate guy dressed in Nazi garb (!), sticks his hand between Babsy's legs and discovers she's a virgin. After rubbing his menstrual blood covered finger on her face, Babsy gets raped by one of the bikers, which disturbs her so much that she promptly disappears from the rest of the movie.





Wanting revenge for the incident, Hal phones up his friend Linus (played by the director), who runs a karate school. Linus brings along his entire class to an amphitheater where the bikers are having a memorial service for their fallen friend. After beating all of them up, Linus pulls out a knife, cuts off the leader's dick and then shoves it in his mouth! I guess that means war. In retaliation, the bikers head on over to the karate school heavily armed and proceed to kill all of the students off with grenades and machine guns. One of the bikers gets Linus to rat out where Hal lives before stabbing him. The gang then goes to Hal's apartment to kill him and shoot a security guard, but Hal manages to lose them during a street chase. Deciding he needs to split town for awhile and let things blow over, Hal heads out to the country to visit his elderly parents. On the way there he picks up female hitchhiker Lily (Laura Premica), who has just spent the day frolicking on a nude beach with some guy she just met. Hal manages to coerce her into accompanying him to his parent's home by telling her, "You'll love my mother... even though she's an invalid."






Hal and Lily arrive at the parent's mansion and quickly excuse themselves to the bedroom after a brief introduction. He says "You don't know how long I've waited for this moment" (I'd say about 2 hours max) before the two have a romp in what appears to be a urine-filled bathtub. Hawt! After some hunting, some chess and a quickie against a tree, the happy couple decide to go horseback riding. While they're out, the biker gang show up. How they managed to find the place (or even knew where Hal was) is a mystery, but they proceed to clean house by shoving the gardener's sheers down his throat, gunning down the older maid and the father with a machine gun, holding the younger maid down and gutting her and shooting ma between the eyes, causing her wheelchair to fly backward and flip over. When Hal returns to the house full of carnage, he vows to get revenge... and makes everyone watching at home laugh their ass off watching his sorry attempt at an emotional meltdown. He then kills off the bikers one-by-one (including blowing one with a grenade while he's sitting on the toilet), throwing out such lines as "Don't squeal like an old bitch!" and "I'd like to slice your prick!" along the way.





Partially because of actor Gras (who was also in Bruno Mattei's awful NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES aka Hell of the Living Dead), this movie may have the least appealing "hero" I've ever seen in one of these things. The guy is so smug, arrogant and self-satisfied you just want to punch him in the face after each of his lines... but that just makes the big surprise ending all the more hilarious! The credits are filled with fake Anglicized names, but I recognized at least three actors (several of the bikers - including Euro trash regular Erik Falk as "Stileto") from the Swiss women-in-prison movie ISLAND WOMEN (1980), which was produced by the director of this one.




Los violadores was never legitimately released on VHS in America. If it had been, the film would surely be a cult classic by now. The DVD I viewed was distributed through Euroland Movies, whose copy (under the title Mad Foxes) is English-dubbed.

SBIG

Guardian of the Abyss (1980) (TV)

... aka: Hammer House of Horror: Guardian of the Abyss

Directed by:
Don Sharp

[Please feel free to skip this opening paragraph if you've already read it, as I've copied and pasted this little explanation before every episode in the Hammer House of Horror series.] *Even though I usually don't cover TV shows here, I've decided to include all thirteen episodes from the short-lived British TV series "Hammer House of Horror" on this blog. There are two reasons for this: 1.) Each of the thirteen episodes runs 52 minutes and is in essence a feature (short films technically clock in at less than 45 minutes). 2.) More importantly, in the mid-1980s all but one of the episodes was released in the United States separately as a feature on VHS by the ThrillerVideo label, which were 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 blog, I felt it important to keep these in the database and review them all individually. The one and only episode that was not released by ThrillerVideo was "The Mark of Satan," which I'll review here eventually anyway just for completion's sake. The entire series is now available on DVD through A&E.* So moving right along...





Because her horoscope tells her to, antiques dealer Laura Stephens (Barbara Ewing) purchases a trunk of miscellaneous items. Inside is a silver mirror with all kinds of strange emblems carved into it. Well, strange if you don't recognize a Satanic star when you see one. Simon (Paul Darrow) attempts to buy the mirror off of Laura for a meager sum then increases his offer by ten times his original amount when she refuses it. Sensing the mirror might be more valuable than Simon is letting on, Laura instead gives it to her friend, antique exporter Michael (Ray Lonnen) to have it appraised. Meanwhile at a secluded mansion, Satanic ceremonies are taking place. One girl forced to look into a similar silver mirror sees a vision of a devil that disturbs her so much she beats her head against the wall. Cult leader Charles Randolph (John Carson), a master at magic and hypnosis, then selects another of his followers, Allison LaSarde (Rosalyn Landor), to be the next to gaze into the mirror. Allison freaks out and runs off into the woods. She makes it to the road and runs right out in front of a car being driven by Michael.





Seeing an attractive lady in peril, Michael offers his services to the young woman. When they arrive back at his place, she refuses to tell him what had happened, but makes mention of something called the Corinson (don't quote me on that spelling) Society and lets Michael know that his mirror is actually a spying glass (similar to a crystal ball) that belonged to a famous astrologer, alchemist and magician. Michael leaves the room for a second and in that time Allison runs off and has taken the spying glass with her. Laura wants him to call the police, but Michael refuses and senses that Allison needs his help so he sets out to find the secret society. Doing some research into them, he learns that Corinson is actually the "guardian of the abyss" or "the devil's doorkeeper." Several notables (including Aleistar Crowley) were rumored to have tried to summon the demon but with no success. That's what the Satanic sect, which hides under the guise of a historical society, is trying to accomplish.





Guardian is a middling and rather forgettable entry in the series; no big surprise considering director Sharp (who passed away last December) didn't quite light the world on fire with his genre output. His KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1962) and RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK (1965) for Hammer, as well as non-studio work such as 1964's WITCHCRAFT, was merely adequate, nothing more. Like usual, it's well acted and the production values are fine, but there are some problems with the writing. I have a hard time believing that Michael, knowing what the spying glass will do if it gets into the wrong hands, would just leave it at Laura's shop and forget to tell her not to sell the damn thing! And the big "twist" right before the (predictable) finale pretty much just rips off THE WICKER MAN.

★★
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...