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.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

To nisi tis amartias (1973)

... aka: Hostages of Lust
... aka: Island of 1000 Rapes
... aka: Island of Sin
... aka: Violent Rape

Directed by:
Kostas Doukas

A movie with such alternate titles as "Violent Rape," "Hostages of Lust" and "Island of 1000 Rapes" sure has its work cut out for it, doesn't it? While this gormless piece of strutting macho pap from sun-soaked Greece does have rape, hostages, lust and an island, it fails at being thrilling, compelling or the least bit believable, which softens all of its sleazy content considerably. A pair of criminals - impotent, troubled blonde Stamatis (Giorgos Stratigakis) and Charles Manson look-a-like Stefano (Petros Zarkadis) - escape from prison and hide out in some rocky cliffs near the ocean until the police are forced to temporarily call off their search. They watch from some overgrown weeds as a woman strips off and goes for a nude swim and then watch some stud named Dimitri (Yannis Petrakis) have awkward sex with a blonde in the water and then have even-more-awkward sex with the girl's bitchy nympho sister Aliki (Lia Flessa) on his boat, which ends with the two getting into an argument and him throwing her off into the water! The thugs follow the guy and girls back to their rich family's vacation home and decide that would be the ideal place to both hide out for a bit and get their hands on some much- needed money.






This falls into that sub-category of "terror films" made in response to the success of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), all of which feature criminals kidnapping, terrorizing and usually raping and murdering members of well-to-do families, only this time the violence is almost completely de-emphasized in favor of the sex. Once the escapees get their hands on a gun and a knife and start holding the family hostage they don't even really actually terrorize them. One of the girls gets slapped and a few of the guys are tied up and that's pretty much it until the very last scene. 






The Stamatis character has frequent orange-tinted flashbacks about his cruel, slutty, large-breasted ex-lover / sister Katia (Mary Moshoviti), who runs around all over the place naked, makes him scrub her ass with a sponge while laughing at him and flaunts her trysts in his face because he can't get it up until he finally loses it and shoots her dead. This all leads up to a jaw- dropping climax (probably the film's only truly interesting moment) where Stamatis finally gets his mojo back by making an unwelcome rear entry on one of the ladies, followed by him beating his chest like Tarzan and leaping and clicking his heels together in celebration (!?)






Because of the "1000 Rapes" alt. title I thought I'd have to get out my calculator to keep tabs on the depravity I was about to see. And while I figured this new title would be a huge exaggeration (I mean, 1000 rapes in 80 minutes is kind of impossible, right?), I didn't figure the movie would have just one rape scene which is debatable as rape to begin with and over in a matter of about 10 seconds. All of the rest of the sex is non-violent and consensual and that's what takes up the vast majority of the run-time. The sex itself is depicted in a rather strange and frenzied fashion with several instances of armpit licking, which must have been all the rage in Greece in the 70s. Most of the guys are butt ugly, though several of the female cast members are hot and show graphic full frontal nudity throughout. That may explain why this was seldom released outside of Greece and doesn't appear to have ever been dubbed for release in any other country. The good thing is the movie isn't hard to follow at all even if you don't understand the dialogue.






Years for this title's release date conflict depending on where you look. IMDb states it was released theatrically in Greece in 1973 but I've seen other sources claim 1974 or as late as 1976. The film is listed on the Canadian Régie du cinéma website out of Québec where it was filed under the title Hostages of Lust in 1976 and received an 18+ rating. That site claims the release date in Greece was actually 1974. There's now a DVD on the bootleg circuit that says 1976. The only legit home video issuing I'm aware of was a Greece VHS release on the Video City International (VCI) label in 1985.

★★

House II: The Second Story (1987)

... aka: House 2

Directed by:
Ethan Wiley

We've all heard the saying "Never change a winning team." This follow-up to the financially successful first film more-or-less abides by that adage, keeping the same producer (Sean S. Cunningham), scriptwriter, cinematographer (Mac Ahlberg), fx artists and composer (Harry Manfredini). However, director Steve Miner has been replaced here by first-timer Ethan Wiley, who had previously scripted the original film and also wrote this one. Instead of going for the same horror / comedy (with serious undertones) formula of the first or even doing a traditional sequel, this has nothing at all to do with HOUSE and is more like a children's fantasy movie than a horror film. Hell, take away a few instances of mild profanity and a bit of cartoon-like violence and this pretty much is a kid's movie, which, I guess, shouldn't come as much of a surprise considering the director had previously worked on the cutesy special effects for such films as Return of the Jedi (1983) and Gremlins (1984). Wiley himself didn't seem all that pleased with the finished product and has noted in several interviews that he only had a few weeks to work on the script before the film was rushed into production.







A couple hand their baby off to safety before being gunned down in their own home. Twenty-some years later, Jesse McLaughlin (Arye Gross), the now-grown baby, shows up to take ownership of the house. Why it took so long is anyone's guess. He and his music scout girlfriend Kate (Lar Park Lincoln) move in, Jesse's goofy friend Charlie Coryell (Jonathan Stark) and his Madonna-wannabe singer girlfriend Lana (Amy Yasbeck) swing by for a few days to help them get settled in and then lots of strange things, hastened by Jesse trying to discover more about his family, begin happening. Reading some books he finds there about his lineage, Jesse decides to dig up the grave of his great-great grandpa (I guess that's what people did prior to Ancestry.com) in order to find a mythical crystal skull rumored to have magical powers. What he doesn't expect is to find his ornery, 170-year-old mummified "Gramps" (played by Royal Dano in corpse makeup) alive in his tomb.






After Gramps moves in and the skull is placed on the fireplace mantle, portals to other dimensions open, creatures turn up and all kinds of other silly events transpire. During a Halloween party, one room turns into a jungle and a musclebound caveman turns up to steal the skull, prompting our heroes to venture into the portal where they encounter stop-motion dinosaurs and other creatures (several of whom sneak their way back into the 'real world'). They then have to do battle with some Aztec warriors whose temple is located inside the fireplace, as well as zombie gunslinger Slim Reeser (Dean Cleverdon); Gramps' rivals and the guy who killed Jesse's parents. A scene with Jesse, Charlie, the zombie grandpa, a rescued Aztec virgin (played by Playboy model Devin Devazquez), a hyper puppet pterodactyl baby and a cute "caterpuppy" (caterpillar + puppy hybrid) all sitting around a dinner table preparing to eat pretty much sums up this films tone.






The fantasy elements and the powers of the crystal skull aren't well-established at all. Supposedly, having the skull in one's possession not only grants immortality but also gives one control over both space and time. None of that is really exploited here in an interesting way. It's all pretty much just a silly excuse to show off some special effects that, while admittedly fun, do not a good film make all by themselves. Aside from that, the best things about this one are Dano (who's wonderful here and even calls Ronald Reagan a "pansy" at one point!) and a small role for John Ratzenberger as an inept electrician who shows up out of nowhere to help battle the Aztecs before exiting stage left. The cast also includes a hilariously baby-faced Bill Maher as a slimy music executive for "Heretic Records," Plan 9 from Outer Space star Gregory Walcott as a sheriff, Mitzi Kapture (from the TV series Silk Stalkings) as a cowgirl and Kane Hodder (also the stunt coordinator) as a party guest dressed as a gorilla. Ronn Carroll and Dwier Brown from the first movie also have small roles.







As far as further "House" titles are concerned, they're all pretty much unrelated to one another. House III (about an executed psycho coming back for revenge) is actually The Horror Show (1989) re-titled for overseas distribution. House IV: Home Deadly Home (1992) has original star William Katt returning to the series playing a character with the same name as the guy he played in the first film, though otherwise the films are not related.

★★
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