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, July 31, 2015

Shocking Dark (1989)

... aka: Alienators
... aka: Aliens 2
... aka: Contaminator
... aka: Shocking dark - Spectres à Venise (Shocking Dark – Specters of Venice)
... aka: Terminator II
... aka: Terminator 2
... aka: Terminator 2: Shocking Dark

Directed by:
"Vincent Dawn" (Bruno Mattei)

What's to be said about Bruno Mattei that hasn't already been said? The man was simply one of the biggest rip-off artists exploitation cinema has ever known but he did know how to sell a picture, even if that meant he had to plagiarize, confuse or deceive to do so. Mattei first entered the film industry through his father's editing studio, which kept him busy for a number of years. By the early 70s, he'd moved up to directing and proceeded to hop on every single hot exploitation trend that was going on at the time. He made Nazi camp movies, nunsploitation movies, women-in-prison movies, soft-core porn movies, hardcore porno movies, mondo movies, gore movies, zombie movies, monster movies, sword-and-sorcery movies, post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies, westerns... You name it and he probably did it, and he probably did it after someone else had done it first and had success with it. Among the more notable films that “inspired” his work over the years were The Magnificent Seven (1960), Jaws (1975), DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), Caligula (1979), Mad Max (1979), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Conan the Barbarian (1982), First Blood (1982) and the 1985 Rambo sequel, PREDATOR (1987) and RoboCop (1987). Not content to just borrow ideas from these films, Mattei often tried to emulate exact scenes, even going so far as to try to shoot and edit them exactly the same way.



I'm listing this Mattei film under the title Shocking Dark simply because that's the title I saw it under. This was actually first released as Terminator II in 1989, despite the fact it has nothing at all to do with James Cameron's 1984 hit. While Cameron was waiting for computer technology to catch up to his ideas before filming Terminator 2: Judgment Day (which would become the #1 box office draw of 1991), Mattei took it upon himself to make a sequel for him. That was then ushered out on video in a box ripping off the poster for The Terminator, right down to the half-robot face and the sunglasses. What makes this even more confusing is that the film itself is actually more of a rip-off of another of Cameron's big hits: ALIENS (1986). Because the filmmakers knew they'd get their pants sued off if they even attempted to try to pass this off as a Terminator sequel here in America, it was released pretty much everywhere else but here. Instead, it found its way onto the bootleg circuit under the name Aliens 2. In Japan it was titled Alienators, which then pretty much forced Fred Olen Ray's Alienator (1989) to become a bogus sequel (Alienators 2) itself.



Because of the high tide and “seaweed killing the oxygen in the waters,” the foundations of the city of Venice corrode and a toxic cloud settles overhead that kills off most forms of life there. (Huh?) By the year 2000, the last survivors are evacuated and Venice is marked a disaster area. A group of patrol guards and scientists stationed in a research facility and tunnels underneath the city end up getting slaughtered but a professor gets out a warning message to others first before all of the cameras go haywire. Colonel Pearson (Bruce McFarland) then has Captain Dalton Bond (Mark Steinborn) put together a mission called “Operation Delta Venice” to investigate matters. Tapped for the mission are scientist Dr. Sara Drumbull (Haven Tyler) and steel-jawed marine Samuel Fuller (Christopher Ahrens), who's now working as a representative for the Tubular Corporation; who built the tunnels in the first place in an effort to try to help purify the waters. Or so they say...







And what would a movie like this be without a bunch of brainless gung ho grunts to help up the corpse count? Here we get five noisy soldiers with big guns who make up something called the “Mega Force.” That consists of a foul-mouthed tough chick named Koster (Geretta Giancarlo from Demons), hot-blooded Latino Franzini (Italian actor “Tony” / Fausto Lombardi), dim bulb blonde surfer dude Caine (Cortland Reilly), “dumb fuck” Price (Richard Ross) and some guy named Kowalsky (Paul Norman Allen) because every movie like this needs someone named Kowalsky in it. We don't learn much about any of these people except they're all loud and Koster (“Sit on this grease ball!”) doesn't like the Latino (“Sit on this, black beauty!”). They're all given dumb lines like “Alright ya bunch of pussies, I'm back and I'm kicking ass!” and “Let's get out the KY so we can shaft 'em real good!” that manage to make them even more annoying than they already are. These characters are pretty much the equivalent of the “Space Marines” from Aliens, which is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the blatant plagiarism is concerned.






As the group venture on through the tunnels, they stumble upon deranged scientist Paul Drake (Clive Riche) who shoots at them and then lets out an ear-piercing scream (?) that disables the soldiers long enough to allow him to snatch Price and run away with him. Everyone splits up to find him and he's finally located wrapped in a cocoon-like substance (a la Aliens) before something bursts out of his chest (a la any Alien film). One of the men barely survives an attack by a big mutant creature and everyone continues on until their radar picks up something else moving. That turns out to be a dirty little girl dressed in rags named Newt. Uh, I mean Samantha (Dominica Coulson). Samantha bites a guy when he tries to reach for her (a la Aliens) and then runs off, but they manage to catch her and then take her with them. Making a pit stop at a lab, the hysterical girl is given a sedative so she can sleep. All of this manages to awaken the protective maternal instincts inside of Ripley. Uh, I mean Sara.






Snooping around the lab they discover the scientists were working on genetic mutation experiments and applying cybernetics to molecular biology, thus creating an enzyme similar to DNA in the process . The Tubular Corporation were also responsible for destroying Venice and then launching a profitable “reclaim” project... and they did it over a decade before Halliburton! Many scenes to follow are direct copies of how things went down in Aliens, with Sara having to save the shrieking little girl ("Saaaaaaaara!") numerous times, including during a scene where they become locked in a room with several of the creatures. The other two primary characters in Aliens; Bishop and Burke, have been combined here into one character, who's both a scumbag representative of the corporation and a “replicant” / robot, though this time the latter is pretty much exactly like Kane in the original ALIEN (1979). Scenes toward the end of the “immortal” robot pursuing Sara and Samantha are about all this really has in common with The Terminator.






Knowing Mattei is at the helm and he's working with a script from “Clayde Anderson” / Claudio (Troll 2) Fragasso, it should come as no surprise that this is bad. Really bad. Aside from ripping off other, much-better films at every turn (including stealing entire passages of dialogue), this suffers mostly from horrendous acting. It was common for Italian productions from this time to be shot in English and tap American actors to play the lead roles to broaden their distribution reach, but where on Earth did they find all of these untalented, inexperienced nobodies at? Was there some kind of third rate talent or modeling agency that hooked foreign producers up with these people at a bargain rate or something? Of course, if you're a struggling actor, who wouldn't want a part in this film? If it were me, I'd be running to every casting agent in Hollywood afterward saying “Hey, I just starred in Terminator 2... now hook me up!”

I'm sure having an Italian director and a mostly English-speaking cast is at least partially to blame but when nearly every single line of dialogue is awkward and stilted and lines are being flubbed you're left with the impression that no one really cared. The aforementioned Troll 2 became legendary for that same exact reason, only this isn't nearly as funny.







To be fair, this isn't the absolute worst thing you'll ever see. If you're able to find a decent quality print, the lighting (heavy on the blue-greens and reds) and photography are both decent enough. Though this appears to have been shot at some large power plant, the settings are reasonably efficient given the plot. There's no real gore and it's surprisingly tame violence-wise, though they were smart enough to keep the undoubtedly cheesy-looking man-in-a-suit creatures shrouded in enough darkness to where you could see them but not really make out many details. This also throws in a twist at the very end involving time travel, which is ridiculous and random but at least it's unexpected... unlike nearly every other aspect of the film.

1/2

The 2015 Orloks - 1970 Results

Started many moons ago by Prof-Hieronymos-Grost, the Orloks were a yearly poll on the IMDb horror boards where users submitted Top 5 lists of their favorite horror movies for each year. All of the results were then tabulated to come up with a definitive list of the year's most-liked genre offerings. Alas, when the good Professor decided to depart the boards years ago, the awards went with him... that is until now. IMDb-er seth_yeah - taking on responsibilities as both host and calculator - has decided to bring back this long-standing tradition in 2015, and now the awards will have a permanent place right here on this blog. Scoring is rather simple and done on a weighted system where first choice receives 5 points, second choice 4 points, etc., with a +1 bonus then awarded to the #1 selection on each list. IMDb release years are being used, but it is left up to voters to determine what they may or may not consider horror (which may be in conflict with IMDb's genre labeling system). If you'd like to participate, head on over to the IMDb HORROR BOARDS to vote! So without any further ado, the results...

_________________________________________________________________________________

1970
Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. Il rosso segno della follia (Hatchet for the Honeymoon)
Italy, Spain / 34 points / Mario Bava
* * * * * * * * * *
2. (tie) And Soon the Darkness
UK / 22 points / Robin Hardy
* * * * * * * * * *
2. (tie) L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo
(The Bird with the Crystal Plumage)
Italy, West Germany / 22 points / Nicolas Roeg
* * * * * * * * * *
3. I Drink Your Blood
USA20 points / David E. Durston
* * * * * * * * * *
4. The Vampire Lovers
UK, USA15 points / Roy Ward Baker
* * * * * * * * * *
5. Valerie a týden divu (Valerie and Her Week of Wonders)
Czechoslovakia13 points / Jaromil Jires

_________________________________________________________________________________

Making the Top 10:

6. Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält (Mark of the Devil) / West Germany / 11 points / Michael Armstrong
7. Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (Girly) / UK / 9 points / Freddie Francis
8. (tie) Le boucher (The Butcher) / France, Italy / 8 points / Claude Chabrol
8. (tie) Scars of Dracula / UK / 8 points / Roy Ward Baker
9. Equinox / USA / 7 points / Mark Thomas McGee, Dennis Muren, Jack Woods
10. (tie) La vampire nue (The Nude Vampire) / France / 6 points / Jean Rollin
10. (tie) Le foto proibite di una signora per bene (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion) / Italy, Spain / 6 points / Luciano Ercoli
10. (tie) Ucho (The Ear) / Czechoslovakia / 6 points / Karel Kachyna

_________________________________________________________________________________

Others receiving votes:

- Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen (Even Dwarfs Started Small) / West Germany / Werner Herzog
- Carnival of Blood / USA / Leonard Kirtman
- Concerto per pistola solista (The Weekend Murders) / Italy / Michele Lupo
- Count Yorga, Vampire / USA / Bob Kelljan
- Crowhaven Farm / USA [TV] / Walter Grauman
- Dunwich Horror, The / USA / Daniel Haller
- El bosque del lobo (The Ancines Woods) / Spain / Pedro Olea
- Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion / Spain, West Germany / Jesus Franco
- Evening of Edgar Allan Poe, An / USA [TV] / Kenneth Johnson
- 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto (5 Dolls for an August Moon) / Italy / Mario Bava
- Guru, the Mad Monk / USA / Andy Milligan
- Horror of Frankenstein, The / UK / Jimmy Sangster
- Horror of the Blood Monsters / USA / Al Adamson
- House of Dark Shadows / USA / Dan Curtis
- Il castello dalle porte di fuoco (Scream of the Demon Lover) / Italy, Spain / José Luis Merino
- Il trono di fuoco (The Bloody Judge) / Italy, Liechtenstein, Spain, West Germany / Jesus Franco
- Jonathan / West Germany / Hans W. Geissendörfer
- Kladivo na carodejnice (Witches' Hammer) / Czechoslovakia / Otakar Vávra
- La rose écorchée (The Blood Rose) / France / Claude Mulot
- L'éden et après (Eden and After) / Czechoslovakia, France, Tunisia / Alain Robbe-Grillet
- Multiple Maniacs / USA / John Waters
- Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht (Count Dracula) / Italy, Liechtenstein, Spain, West Germany / Jesus Franco
- O Ritual dos Sádicos (Awakening of the Beast) / Brazil / José Mojica Marins
- Ovoce stromu rajských jíme (Fruit of Paradise) / Belgium, Czechoslovakia / Vera Chytilová
- Prípad pro zacínajícího kata (Case for a Rookie Hangman) / Czechoslovakia / Pavel Jurácek
- Psycho Lover, The / USA / Robert Vincent O'Neill
- Savage Intruder (Hollywood Horror House) / USA / Donald Wolfe
- Scream and Scream Again / UK / Gordon Hessler
- Taste the Blood of Dracula / UK / Peter Sasdy
- Wizard of Gore, The / USA / Herschell Gordon Lewis

_________________________________________________________________________________

Links here will be connected when the time comes.

< Back to 1969                    Continue to 1971 >

The 2015 Orloks - 1954 Results

Started many moons ago by Prof-Hieronymos-Grost, the Orloks were a yearly poll on the IMDb horror boards where users submitted Top 5 lists of their favorite horror movies for each year. All of the results were then tabulated to come up with a definitive list of the year's most-liked genre offerings. Alas, when the good Professor decided to depart the boards years ago, the awards went with him... that is until now. IMDb-er seth_yeah - taking on responsibilities as both host and calculator - has decided to bring back this long-standing tradition in 2015, and now the awards will have a permanent place right here on this blog. Scoring is rather simple and done on a weighted system where first choice receives 5 points, second choice 4 points, etc., with a +1 bonus then awarded to the #1 selection on each list. IMDb release years are being used, but it is left up to voters to determine what they may or may not consider horror (which may be in conflict with IMDb's genre labeling system). If you'd like to participate, head on over to the IMDb HORROR BOARDS to vote! So without any further ado, the results...

_________________________________________________________________________________

1954
Top 5
* * * * * * * * * *
1. (tie) Creature from the Black Lagoon
USA / 48 points / Jack Arnold
* * * * * * * * * *
1. (tie) Gojira (Godzilla)
Japan / 48 points / Ishirô Honda
* * * * * * * * * *
2. Them!
USA / 44 points / Gordon Douglas
* * * * * * * * * *
3. The Mad Magician
USA18 points / John Brahm
* * * * * * * * * *
4. Rear Window
USA / 10 points / Alfred Hitchcock
* * * * * * * * * *
5. Devil Girl from Mars
UK8 points / David MacDonald

_________________________________________________________________________________

Making the Top 10:

6. Naked Jungle, The / USA / 7 points / Byron Haskin
7. La bruja (The Witch) / Mexico / 6 points / Chano Urueta
8. (tie) Phantom of the Rue Morgue / USA / 4 points / Roy Del Ruth
8. (tie) Target Earth / USA / 4 points / Sherman A. Rose
9. Killers from Space / USA / 3 points / W. Lee Wilder
10. Snow Creature, The / USA / 2 points / W. Lee Wilder

_________________________________________________________________________________

Others receiving votes:

- Dial M for Murder / USA / Alfred Hitchcock
- Huis-clos (No Exit) / France / Jacqueline Audry

_________________________________________________________________________________

Links here will be connected when the time comes.

< Back to 1953                    Continue to 1955 >

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Red & Rosy (1989)

... aka: Frank Grow's Red & Rosy
... aka: Red and Rosy

Directed by:
Frank Grow

In 1968, legendary drag racing champion Richard “Big Red” Friedman (Raymond Espinoza) has a career-ending crash. While undergoing 32-hours worth of life-saving surgery, doctors are forced to remove his adrenal glands and from then on out he's subjected to “adrenal therapy.” No longer able to race, Richard can now only get his kicks from an adrenal drug that simulates the rush of speed and soon becomes addicted to it. After Big Red is elevated to superstar status on the drag circuit, a bunch of Big Red impostors start showing up at races across the country impersonating their hero. They even take it one step farther by becoming adrenaline drug junkies themselves. Underground adrenaline laboratories begin cropping up all over the place but aren't quite able to meet the demand. As a result, some of the new junkies become violent and bloodthirsty and willing to kill to get their fix. One guy (Rico Martinez, also a co-writer and cameraman) slices up his friend's arm and collects his blood in a bucket and, at a tattoo parlor, one of the artists carves up a guy's arm while a few other workers kidnap two young boys carrying a box with a severed penis and testicles inside (!), kill them and sell jugs of their blood on the black market to the Big Red impostor in their area.







While all of the above madness is going on, the real Big Red has quietly relocated to a small town and married trophy queen, actress and scrap metal baroness Samantha “Rose” Canyon. With his wife away in Hollywood, Big Red operates her “Scrap & Steel” business and hires a pair of big-haired female assistants who sit around listening to “Harper Valley P.T.A.” in between helping him create an adrenaline-powered drag racing simulator. They lure victims there with an employment ad in the paper, knock them out, hang them upside down and then drain their blood, which is then pumped directly into Big Red's bloodstream as the simulator gives him the closest drag race simulation possible under the circumstances. When Rose returns, she too  becomes addicted to the adrenaline drug, which leads to some rather interesting complications...






By 1971, the couple continue to kill for blood and are now targeting Big Red's former drag race (and romantic) rivals, like some schmuck named Larry (Larry Schultz) who still has the hots for Rose. However, something has changed... Big Red has turned into a giant, grinning piece of machinery and Rose is missing her head, arms and legs, but is still very pregnant with a pair of flamethrower-eyed, beer-drinking scrap metal babies! The amazing special effects in these scenes are from Mike Weix and others at the Survival Research Laboratories; a “machine performance art group” who promise “Dangerous and Disturbing Mechanical Presentations Since 1979” on their website.






According to the director, he shot more than enough footage to turn all of this into a feature but he instead opted to trim it all down to just 18 minutes so this wouldn't (no pun intended) drag. That turned out to be a wise choice because this lightning-fast flurry of flatly-narrated stock footage, new footage, still photos, surreal artwork and animation perfectly fit the director's obvious affection for drag racing plus the entire theme of adrenaline rush. A movie like this simply cannot move slowly. It also cannot be quiet. Lots of revving engines and squealing tires are heard and there's a mostly-rock soundtrack, including a few familiar songs (like Black Sabbath's “Sweet Leaf”) as well as new music by The Blood Pumper Racing Club. It was shot in black-and-white on 16mm and is dedicated to the director's father, who apparently was a drag racer himself. Grow followed this up with the feature-length horror-comedy Love God (1997), which received excellent reviews on the festival circuit but has strangely never been issued on DVD or VHS.






Despite not having an IMDb entry, Red & Rosy actually was officially released on home video (in a rather plain case) by the now-defunct Film Threat Video, who were best known for distributing Jörg Buttgereit's gory shockers Nekromantik (1987), Der Todesking (1990) and NEKROMANTIK 2 (1991), as well as Corpse Fucking Art (1992), a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of those three films. Their other output included a combination of low-budget underground films – the Dark Romances anthologies (1990), Lisa Houle's Puss Bucket (1991), Leif Jonker's Darkness (1992) and Jim Van Bebber's My Sweet Satan (1992), Doper (1994) and Roadkill: The Last Days of John Martin (1994) – and shockumentaries like Hated: GG Allin & the Murder Junkies (1993), Lydia Lunch: Malicious Intent (1994), the NAMBLA-centered Chicken Hawk (1994) and the S&M kink-fest Euro Fetish (1995). The Film Threat line of video releases stopped in the early 2000s and most of the films they once released haven't been picked up by other distributors since.







In addition to the video release, Red & Rosy has also been screened theatrically a number of times over the years. In the UK in 1991 it was shown during a (very fitting) double feature with Tetsuo, the Iron Man (1989) as part of an “Aesthetics of the Future” series which dealt with “...exploring the radical impact of new technologies.” The main monster used in the film turned up on the cover of Steel Pole Bath Tub's 1990 album Lurch.

★★★
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