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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Caperucita y Pulgarcito contra los monstruos (1962)

... aka: Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters
... aka: Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb
... aka: Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb vs. the Monsters
... aka: Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood

Directed by:
Roberto Rodríguez


Capercita y Pulgarcito contra los monstruous, translated to "Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb vs. the Monsters" but first released here as Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood, was entry #3 in an atrocious Mexican children's series. It was a follow-up to La capercita roja (1960; American title; "Little Red Riding Hood")  and La capercita y sus tres amigos (1961; American title: "Little Red Riding Hood and Her Three Friends"). K. Gordon Murray cheaply acquired the rights to all three (as well as many other films shot South-of-the-border in the late 50s and early 60s) and had them horribly English dubbed at his studio in Coral Gables, Florida. They then went on to entertain many American kiddies of the day on television and as matinee features and made Murray a nice profit in the process (though not enough to keep the Internal Revenue Service at bay). The combination of the original films being quite awful and cheaply produced to begin with, combined with the laughably bad new dubs, turned many of these into favorites for fans of bad movies. While René Cardona's Santa Claus (1959) is probably the most famous of these releases, this one's every bit as bizarre and surreal.








In a castle in "The Devil's Dominion" live all of the evil beings and monsters from our childhood nightmares. There are the expected types: a cackling old witch with a broom, a caped vampire (Quintín Bulnes) and a Frankenstein monster, as well as some ridiculous new additions to monster lore. There's "Carrot Head;" whose physical description doesn't require further comment, "Two-in-One;" a Siamese pairing featuring a bald guy and a caveman (!) named "Dog Face" (!!), "The Father of Hurricanes," a fat man who can blow people over just by breathing on them and others. They're all ruled over the by the wicked "Queen of Badness" (Ofelia Guilmáin), who is also Snow White's evil stepmother and is designed closely after the witch in the classic Disney cartoon. The monsters are currently holding a trial because two of them; an ogre (José Elías Moreno) and a wolf (Manuel 'Loco' Valdés) were sent above ground to cause trouble and ended up getting distracted. Instead of eating Little Red Riding Hood (Maria Gracía), the wolf was kind to her, and instead of eating Tom Thumb (Cesáreo Quezadas), the ogre ate spinach and cereal. Because of this, The Queen takes it upon herself to cause various problems for the humans.







The Queen makes a visit to the village, poisons the water supply and then causes a massive heat wave. Everyone who drinks the contaminated water promptly turn into either monkeys or mice. Little Red Riding Hood must then go on a quest to the Devil's Domain to save the day. She's joined by her white dog Duke (Doncel), as well as Tom Thumb and a spastic, fast-talking skunk named - what else? - Stinky (Enano Santanón). They go to visit "The Fairy of Dawn," who transforms Tom into a normal-sized boy for the adventure and then touches everyone with her magic sparkler wand so that they won't suffer from hunger, thirst or the cold. Once they enter the domain of the monsters, the Queen sends out a bulletin to all monster to "kill them without hesitation!" A bunch of strange creatures, including a giant crab and a robot, show up and try to kill them. There's also a kidnapper with a net who says "I kidnap children who are disobedient because they are tender and make good broth!"





In between scenes of the kids and their quest, the film cuts back to annoying and painfully unfunny comic scenes of The Ogre and Wolf (who've been sentenced to death) in their prison cell. They get into a sub-Three Stooges style fight while arguing about a piece of chicken and do other stupid things. Eventually, the prisoners are taken to a private torture chamber where they have their feet tickled with features, are force fed water until their stomachs swell and it's squirting out of their mouths and are then tired to a table with an electric saw that threatens to cut them in half long-ways. And hey, I didn't even mention the amazing fire-breathing dragon yet! Or that the cast break out into song every once in awhile. The songs are absolutely terrible, and for some reason the singing voice for Little Red Riding Hood is that of a deep-voiced adult woman, which needless to say is pretty hilarious coming out of the mouth of an 8-year-old.





Many scenes in this one are highly questionable for the target audience. Not only is much of it downright weird and creepy, with horrific set designs and a gaggle of nightmarish creatures, but it's also shockingly violent at times. Characters are constantly being hit over the head and tortured and the adult characters keep threatening to mutilate, kill, and in one case eat, very young children. During the finale, the evil witch even threatens to rip Little Red Riding Hood's eyeballs out with her fingers! The kids themselves aren't immune to this over-the-top violent behavior either. At one point, they get revenge on a guy by stringing him up by his legs from a tree and then beating him with sticks like a piñata. Other moments are strangely, almost uncomfortably perverse ("Let me go you dirty old man!"), such as when one of the monsters is held down and the kids rip out his chest hair and then stuff it into his mouth (!!) It's no wonder this either horrified the kids who saw in back in the 50s... or just made them feel really funny.






One minute you'll be in awe as the weird events unfold before your eyes, the next you'll either be laughing your ass off at the filmmaker / cast's expense (or simply annoyed). It's truly sensory overload, but in the best of ways. There's wild variance between the quality of each individual set, performance and monster costume. While some are laughably awful, others are nearly passable. The songs are all ear-splittingly awful and corny "messages" are clumsily shoehorned in throughout with even less subtlety than an episode of Full House. Still, this manages to transcend all that because it's just so bloody weird that it must be seen to be believed. It also possesses a very odd charm to it that only a small handful of 'so bad it's good' movies actually have. There's always something genuinely surprising going on and for that alone I'd recommend giving this a look.


Something Weird distributed this on VHS years ago but it's pretty much out of circulation by this point. If a DVD release ever happens, this is almost guaranteed a healthy cult following.

★★1/2

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)

... aka: Prehistoric Planet
... aka: Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet

Directed by:
"John Sebastian" (Curtis Harrington)
Pavel Klushantsev (uncredited)


Russian director Pavel Klushantsev's ambitious sci-fi adventure Planeta Bur (or, "Planet of Storms") was never released in America in its original, uncut form. Oh, it was released here, all right. Twice, in fact; just not as it was originally intended to be seen. Uncredited executive producer Roger Corman had acquired the rights to the film, had it English-dubbed, re-edited and re-scored (by Ronald Stein) and then got his money's worth by incorporating it into numerous later releases. He first allowed director / writer "John Sebastian" (Curtis Harrington) to film brand new footage starring Basil Rathbone (who took half a day off from filming Harrington's Planet of Blood [which also featured effects shots from Planeta Bur] to appear) and Faith Domergue to add to it. The resulting film was Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet; released directly to television in 1965. The price tag for both of Harrington's efforts was just 33,000 dollars. A few years later, Corman allowed another director, a young Peter Bogdanovich (billed as "Derek Thomas" and probably also the credited writer, "Henry Ney") to tinker around with the same Russian film to create a second all-"new" feature, which had silly new footage of space babes led by Mamie Van Doren grafted on and was issued as VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN in 1968.









It's the year 2020. Since the moon has already been explored and colonized, astronauts plan on achieving their next goal: the first successful landing on Venus, "where so many physical conditions are like our own." (such as its mean surface temperature of 863 degrees Fahrenheit?). Three ships; the Sirius, the Vega and the Capella, have traveled 200 million miles to their destination. The Capella is hit by a meteorite and blows up, killing all on board. Because of the loss, Professor Hartman (Rathbone) at their home base, Lunar Station 7, alters their initial plans and instructs them to wait in orbit until a replacement spaceship can meet them there. Commander Brendan Lockhart (Vladimir Yemelyanov), Hans Walters (Georgi Zhzhyonov) and Andre Ferneau (Gennadi Vernov) aboard the Sirius, and Dr. Alfred Kern (Georgiy Teykh), Allen Sherman (Yuriy Sarantsev) and Dr. Marsha Evans (Domergue) quickly come up with another game plan. Dr. Kern, Allen and their "automaton" Robot John will take a small ship down to the planet while Marsha keeps their main one in orbit, and the men aboard the Sirius will stand by in case things get out of hand. They call in and get the approval of Hartman and Plan B commences.









Dr. Kern, Allen and Robot John crash land on the planet and lose contact with the other two ships. Feeling they have no other choice, the men aboard the Sirius break orbit and venture down themselves despite Hartman's advising them not to take any unnecessary risks. On Venus, a rocky, smoky, prehistoric land, the men encounter a tentacled plant monster, a swamp full of leaping lizard-men, a brontosaurus, a pterodactyl, a funny-looking bearded octopus and strange signs that there was a civilization there long before they arrived. They keep hearing siren calls, which sounds like a human female, and have to endure the treacherous elements; perpetual rain, a volcano eruption, an avalanche, etc. Every once in awhile, the film cuts back to the new footage of Domergue, whose character can't decide whether she should risk it and land or stay in orbit and wait.







Though the Russian footage that comprises the bulk of this film is fun, I evaluate hodgepodges like this exclusively on how the newly-added footage complements the original film. The Harrington-added scenes sadly don't really add much. Rathbone and Domergue both just sit around on cheap-looking sets talking over the radio and that's about it, though the scenes at least work in cohesion with the original story. Aside from those scenes, new credits utilizing the paintings of John Cline as backdrop have been added. The Russian actors either went unbilled or have been given fake Anglicized names ("Robert Chantal," "Kurt Boden" etc.) Stephanie Rothman, who later directed The Velvet Vampire (1971) and others for Corman, was the associate producer.

★★
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