Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Child's Play 2 (1990)

...aka: Child's Play 2: Chucky's Back

Directed by:
John Lafia

You can't keep a Good Guy down, especially when he's still raking in the dough, so Chucky's back and he's still after the same poor kid from the first film. With his mom a little too traumatized by the events of the original, young Andy (Alex Vincent) has been forced to move in with well-meaning foster parents (played by Gerrit Graham and Jenny Agutter). Also living in the same home is a troublemaking, chain-smoking teen played by Christine Elise, who was then known for playing Brandon's girlfriend on the awful Beverly Hills 90210. As expected, Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) runs around commiting more gory murders while throwing out the occasional Freddy-esque wisecrack. He hops on a the back of the schoolbus and follows Andy to school, stabs his bitchy teacher (Beth Grant) with an air pump and then beats her to death with a yard stick. Other characters are killed by sewing and xerox machines, and someone breaks their neck after being tripped down the stairs. As expected, poor Andy is blamed for the killings and no one believes him about Chucky. Kevin Yagher's doll effects are excellent throughout. The ending (clearly the best part of the entire film) takes place inside a doll factory mass-producing the Chucky dolls and has a memorable murder via conveyer belt and plastic doll eyes.
Director Lafia (who had co-written the original film) does what he can and tries to spice things up with interesting camera angles/placements and even throws in some nice visual flourishes here and there. Yet while Part 2 is certainly adequate, it's little more than a less-effective retread of the first with more comedy added. The cast includes Grace Zabriskie as a social worker, Peter Haskell (who'd play a different role in CHILD'S PLAY 3) and Matt Roe (who appeared in another killer doll movie - PUPPET MASTER - a year earlier) as a policeman.

Score: 5 out of 10

Carnage (1984)

... aka: House of Terror

Directed by:
Andy Milligan

An absolutely horrid exercise in haunted house cliches and continuity errors from famous Z movie director Milligan (hoping to capitalize on Poltergeist, no doubt). Review coming soon.

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1972)

...aka: Kronos
...aka: Vampire Castle

Directed by:
Brian Clemens

I have yet to venture all the way through the Hammer Studios horror film catalogue (I'm actually not even close!), but this exciting, humorous, unique and very entertaining spin of traditional vampire lore one is easily one of the best I've seen from them. With their Dracula series on its last legs and Cushing and Lee gravitating toward other projects, Hammer wanted to ignite a brand new series of vampire films and placed their bets on Kronos to be the film that would shepherd in a bankable new series of films. Unfortunately, they waited two whole years to actually release it (finished in 1972; not released until 1974) and in the meantime THE EXORCIST swept in and completely changed the face of the genre. KRONOS was also poorly distributed on a double-bill with FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, one of Hammer's lesser films in that series. As a result of all these factors, it was a theatrical flop and is regarded as one of the films that caused Hammer to go under. Oh well. There's no accounting for taste, right?

German actor Horst Janson plays the title role; a suave, atypical, swashbuckling spin on Van Helsing who smokes dope, meditates and doesn't hide his love for the ladies. Imagine any number of Western movie characters played by Eastwood, mix in a dash of the debonair (think James Bond) and a lighthearted touch of Errol Flynn, and put this guy in a 19th Century period setting and you've pretty much got Kronos. Thanks to the activities of an aristocratic vampire family who are turning beautiful young ladies into wrinkled shadows of their former selves, Kronos teams up with a hunchback scholar Hieronymous Grost (wonderful John Cater), a sexy gypsy named Carla (Caroline Munro) and his old pal from his army days, Dr. Marcus (John Carson) to thwart this menace creating a wave of panic across the countryside.

CKVH benefits (at least in my opinion) from eschewing traditional vampire mythology in favor of original ideas. The vampires here aren't after blood. They're after the essence of eternal youth to retain their vitality and beauty. Here, a vampire's pass causes flowers to wilt and changes to occur to buried frogs. Sunlight also has no effect on them as they're free to go where they want, when they want. Another nice change from the typically set-bound period vampire film (which seem to spend more time in dark, musty old castles and dungeons than anywhere else) is that much of the film takes place outdoors during the day. Wonderful use is made of the British countryside and of various scenic locales. Those, as well as some striking visual and artistic set-ups, are brought to life through Ian Wilson's imaginative cinematography. Laurie Johnson contributed an appropriately rousing score.

Sadly, this was the first (and so far only) time Brian Clemens (who also scripted and co-produced the film) stepped behind the camera to direct. Best known for his work on the TV show The Avengers, Clemens proves here to have both a nice eye for visual detail and a way of bringing out the more endearing qualities of his lead actors. He's also created a film with an unusually broad audience appeal that most people will likely enjoy. Also in the cast are Shane Briant and Lois Dane as the spoiled elitist vampire children of a withered matriarch (Wanda Ventham) and Ian Hendry in a scene-stealing cameo appearance as a tavern lech.


Carnage of Dracula (1964)

Directed by:
William Black

Not a whole lot to say about this amateur student film, shot by the director while he was a student at Florida State University. It's a home movie quality silent short that runs only 17 minutes and would run even less if not for a slow opening title sequence going back and forth over a model graveyard set and some stock footage, both spliced in from what are presumably public domain films. Since there's no sound we get the usual silly non-stop narration added to provide the film with a plot, character history, etc. as vampire Baron Lorbock (Michael Lynn) chases a woman, feeds on her and then returns to his castle home. Vampire hunter Robert Brandon (Gene Densmore), a direct descendant of Van Helsing (says the narrator), drives a stake into the vampire's heart as he rests in a coffin, but the vampire's female companion (Marti Quigg) helps resurrect Lorbock again and the two of them kill Brandon. Meanwhile, some doctor who knows a cure for vampirism and Brandon's nurse girlfriend Betty (Ann Merritt) come to the castle looking for him and encounter the vampires, which leads to a staking, a cat fight and fire burning the castle to the ground (insert more stock footage here). The photography is pretty awful, as is the sound, and a few colorfully lit shots and some sub-H.G. Lewis amateur gore effects fail to provide much interest.

Director William Black is probably best known as a comic book artist and commercial filmmaker and has somewhat recently created his own business; AC Comics/Smarty Pants Entertainment to distribute comic books, films etc. This one is available directly on his site on a 2 disc set called "V Is for Vampire" along with RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1958) and Bava's BLACK SUNDAY (1960). It's probably worth getting if you're curious (there really aren't too many regional 1960s horror home movies on DVD anyway) since the two features on the set are both very good.

Cannibal ferox (1981)

...aka: Make Them Die Slowly
...aka: Woman from Deep River

Directed by:
Umberto Lenzi

College anthropology student Gloria (Lorraine De Selle) wants to prove that cannibalism is only a silly myth perpretated by white man, so what does she do? She hops in a plane, travels to South America, heads straight down the Amazon way, jumps in the jungle and then starts poking her nose around hoping that she's correct. Her brother Rudy ("Bryan Redford"/Danilo Mattei) and blonde free-spirited (i.e. slutty) gal pal Pat (Zora Kerova) also come along. Sure, they remembered to pack their bug repellent and toothbrushes, but strangely enough they forgot all about hiring a guide who knows the area, so when their jeep gets stuck in mud, they're forced to walk around on foot. The three come across a pair of highly questionable drug dealers; laughing, leering coke-snorting spastic Mike ("John Morghen"/Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and his milder ('cause he's injured) buddy Joe ("Walter Lloyd"/Walter Lucchini) and they seem to be on the run from something. Turns out that earlier in the day, they tortured, harassed and killed members of a stone age tribe to get their hands on some jewels. Now the primitives are pissed off and in hot pursuit. So yes Virignia, cannibals do indeed exist. Not that it really matters now, cause you're screwed. Our "heroes" try to escape, but a couple are killed and the rest are dragged off to cannibal central to die horrible, slow, torturous deaths.

So you came for the gore and not the story? Well fine then... We have a piranha attack, a guy cut open and getting his guts pulled out, a castration, a partial decapitation and metal hooks driven into breasts. Cannibals feast on bugs, intestines, brains and a severed wang. The special effects (especially the one involving the hooks) are pretty good. On top of all that, we get plenty of the expected unfaked animal slaughter. A turtle, wild boar and alligator are killed (and gutted), a tiger eats a monkey and a snake eats a rodent. There's plenty of male and female nudity, as well. In between all the carnage, boring and completely worthless scenes follow some New York City policemen (including cannibal movie regular Robert Kerman) as they try to locate Mike. The dubbed dialogue is terrible, the characters do moronic things throughout and the music score (while decent) is recycled from Lenzi's EATEN ALIVE.

The movie received an X rating here in America but was released to theaters unrated instead (in 1983), with a false publicity campaign claiming it was "banned in 31 countries" when in reality it was banned in just a few (the UK and Norway namely). It's probably the second most popular of all the cannibal films, right behind the superior CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979), and while it's a mildly enjoyable and adequately exploitative jungle adventure, there are at least a half dozen better examples of the subgenre. Filmed on location in Colombia. The New York scenes feature Venantino Venantini as a police sergeant, Perry Pirkanen as a mobster, porn actor Jake Teague as a college professor and Meg Fleming (Fiamma Maglione).


Cameron's Closet (1987)

Directed by:
Armand Mastroianni

Obsessed scientist Tab Hunter puts his young son (Scott Curtis) through psychological hell trying to prove his belief in ESP abilities. After pops is decapitated, the son goes back to live with his mother (Mel Harris) and his fears manifest themselves as a pretty cheesy looking monster (designed by Carlo Rambaldi) that hides in his closet. Written by Gary Brandner, the author of THE HOWLING, and directed by the cousin of actor Marcello.

Score: 3 out of 10

Camp Fear (1990)

...aka: Millennium Countdown, The

Directed by:
Thomas A. Keith

Regardless of the outcome, it was interesting to finally see this one. For a long time it was listed in reference books and on online sites as the long-lost sequel to the popular slasher flick CHEERLEADER CAMP (1987). In actuality, however, the two films are entirely separate entities and have nothing in common aside from shared cast members Betsy Russell and George "Buck" Flower. In fact, ten years before the DVD even came out, this was already released on VHS by a company called Paramax, who must have only issued a hundred or so copies because this faded into complete obscurity about five minutes after it was released. Things start out on the right note at a sorority house with several minutes of gratuitous T&A; with the always-amusing Michelle Bauer and ill-fated porno queen Savannah (Shannon Wilsey) taking turns with the shower, women walking around in lingerie and several other anonymous ladies flashing their silicone-enhanced cans for the camera. I hope you enjoyed that because, strangely, there will be no more nudity at any other point in this film. A few of the other (clothed) sorority sisters talk to Bauer for a minute or two before heading out the door. Before doing so they make passing remarks about how they'll be spending their Spring Break camping out in the woods with a professor. Why? I actually can't remember, but I doubt it's important. The important thing is that they're not bringing Michelle along on their trip. Boo! Strike 1.
The ladies attend an archeology class (where Juliette Cummins make an uncredited appearance jamming to her walkman) and then decide to spend the night at a dance club where Wendy (Erika Nann), clad in a lycra cow print ensemble, treats us to a hysterically funny song-and-dance routine. OK, the song is absolutely horrible, but the dancing is pretty funny. The next day the group is organized and ready to go, with Professor Mark Hamilton (Vincent Van Patten, who was married to Russell at the time) at the reigns and students Jamie (Russell), Wendy, Tiffany (Peggy Sands aka Playboy Playmate Peggy McIntaggart) and Melissa (Mindy Myer) ready to learn all about ancient Indian relics and such. Before they can even pitch their tents, they run into a drunken vagrant (Flower) and are harassed by some obnoxious bikers at a general store. Fair enough. The film's just throwing in a bunch of needless characters we'll see getting slaughtered later on, right? Wrong. Unfortunately this movie seems to forget all about satiating the target audience's thirst for blood. Strike 2.
The girls eventually make it to their destination only to encounter myriad horrors in the form of a scaly lake monster (which is only in one scene and then never mentioned again!) and a giant cave-dwelling druid (played by 7-foot tall former professional basketball player "Tiny Ron"/Ron Taylor). The girls are abducted one at a time, dressed in animals rags and then chained up in the cave. The druid wants to sacrifice them. It has something to do with the millennium or the moon or Stonehenge-like rock formations. The bikers show up again to needlessly complicate matters, as does a wise Indian (Jim Elk). What should be a simple backwoods exploitation excursion with gore and nudity soon turns into an irritating episode of Scooby Doo with a dozen people basically running back and forth in the woods. Not nearly enough of them die. Most importantly, not nearly enough of them die in an extremely gory way. Strike 3. You're out!
IMDb says this is from 1991, the production date at the end of the credits says 1994 and several reference books I have list this with a 1990 copyright, so I decided to include it on here for the sake of completion. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say this was made in 1990 and first released in 1994. The cast includes David Homb (SHOCK 'EM DEAD), Nels Van Patten (Vincent's brother), Suzanne Ager (EVIL TOONS) and Dori Courtney (SORORITY BABES AND THE CREATURE FROM HELL).


Cheerleader Camp (1987)

...aka: Bloody Pom Poms
...aka: Bloody Scream

Directed by:
John Quinn

Betsy Russell is a cheerleader on medication for mental problems who has recurring nightmares ("Daddy! I need love!”). When she and her seven member cheerleading squad travel to a secluded camp for a competition (surprise!) someone starts to kill everyone off. A bimbo blonde cheerleader (her topless scene is repeated no less than three times) turns up dead with slit wrists and the camp owner (Vickie Benson) hides the body in the freezer so she won't have to close the camp down! Playboy Playmate Teri Weigel (doing hardcore porn these days) sunbathes topless, then has hedge clippers rammed through her head. Fellow Playmate Rebecca Ferratti (with really high hair) is mowed over by a van and a guy is disemboweled with an axe to the stomach. Stupid as this is, there's plenty of T&A and blood. I'll give it that much. George "Buck" Flower is funny as a voyeur groundskeeper who gets shot, former teen heartthrob and singer Leif Garrett is Betsy's jealous boyfriend, Lucinda Dickey (from the BREAKIN' films and the underrated NINJA III: THE DOMINATION) is the team mascot, and Travis McKenna is a fat, comic relief male cheerleader whose ass gets stuck in a van window when he tries to moon somebody. The film (overall sort of a combination of FRIDAY THE 13TH campground gore and PORKY'S 80s-style low-brow humor) received a DVD release in 2004, including a commentary track from the director and producer/co-star Jeff Prettyman. It had previously been released as BLOODY POM-POMS.
A little clarity involving the supposed 'sequel' (which was listed both in John Stanley's Creature Features book and on the Internet Movie Database)... Apparently, Mrs. Russell starred in a somewhat similar slasher film about sorority girls spending Spring Break in the sticks and being hunted down by a mutant cave dweller, which somewhere along the way was promoted as a Cheerleader Camp sequel (although it doesn't have anything to do with cheerleaders). The film (shot in 1990) was barely released on video under the title THE MILLENNIUM COUNTDOWN and then was finally mass distributed on DVD through Retromedia under its original title CAMP FEAR.

Score: 3.5 out of 10

Caligula (1979)

...aka: Caligola
...aka: Caligula, My Son
...aka: Caligvla
...aka: Gore Vidal's Caligola
...aka: Io, Caligola

Directed by:
Tinto Brass

Review coming soon.


Chiesa, La (1989)

...aka: Cathedral of Demons
...aka: Church, The
...aka: Demon Cathedral
...aka: Demons 3
...aka: In the Land of the Demons

Directed by:
Michele Soavi

What could have been an 80s genre classic unfortunately degenerates into silliness after all hell literally breaks loose. In an excellent prologue, Teutonic knights slaughter an entire village of people, throw the dead bodies in a crypt, seal it and place a giant cross on top. Years later, a beautiful Italian cathedral stands on top of the same cursed plot of land, and when a renovation crew destroys the floor, the church seals the doors, trapping various characters (clergymen, a photography crew, a bunch of - ugh- little kids on a field trip, etc.) inside. The new librarian (Tomas Arana) becomes possessed, others follow and if you've seen the first two DEMONS movies (this was also released overseas as DEMONS 3) you pretty much know what to expect next. The cinematography, special effects, art direction and music score (with bits contributed by Keith Emerson, Goblin and Philip Glass) are all excellent and Soavi, a Dario Argento disciple, has obviously learned the ropes from his teacher when it comes to overall style and presentation. Unfortunately, after a very good opening hour, this makes the mistake of trying to pile on too much mumbo jumbo (including a silly direct lift from ROSEMARY'S BABY), which undermines an otherwise first rate, atmospheric and stylish horror film. Attempts at comedy (more prevalent in the second half) also seem out of place.
Argento wrote and produced and that's his daughter Asia Argento in her second horror role as Lotte, the abusive reverend's kid, who knows how to sneak in and out of the church using underground catacombs. The cast also includes Barbara Cupisti as an art restorer, Hugh Quarshie as a priest, Feodor Chaliapin, Jr. as the elderly bishop, Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka John Morghen) as the reverend, Antonella Vitale (from OPERA) as a fashion model, John Richardson (BLACK SUNDAY) as an architect and John Karlsen as an old man whose decapitated head is used to ring a bell. Soavi also has a cameo as a police officer. The best gore effect is when a woman's head gets smashed by a subway train. R and unrated versions were released in the United States in 1990. The uncut version runs 102 minutes, and the cut version has 4 minutes removed.


Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1989)

...aka: Chrome Hearts
...aka: Cycle Sluts

Directed by:
Dan Hoskins

Review coming soon.


Clownhouse (1989)

Directed by:
Victor Salva

Three young brothers, whose parents are conveniently out of town, are terrorized by three escaped madmen masquerading as circus clowns. Director Salva shows some genuine attention to characterization and suspense and makes good use of cramped locations, without tacking on graphic gore.

Score: 6 out of 10

Company of Wolves, The (1984)

Directed by:
Neil Jordan

Review coming soon.

Score: 9 out of 10

Corpse Grinders, The (1971)

...aka: Flesh Grinders, The

Directed by:
Ted V. Mikels

A favorite amongst fans of bad movies, this nutty mess is fairly entertaining and a lot funnier than just about any intentional comedy being produced today. The setting is a cat food company and the budget was around 47,000 dollars, so prepare yourself for a laugh-fest of huge proportions. Sean David Kenney (CYCLE PSYCHO) is our hero, Dr. Howard Glass, who teams up with a blonde nurse (Monika Kelly) to find out why plain old domestic SoCal cats are attacking, killing and eating their owners. Well, duh! It's because the Lotus Cat Food Company (headed by non-actor Sanford Mitchell and J. Byron Foster) is using human flesh in the product! Two psychotic gravediggers (a corrupt cemetery caretaker and a British woman obsessed with dolls) are on the payroll to supply corpses (they charge 20 cents a pound but want more), which are pushed through a grinding machine. The "machine" is obviously a painted cardboard box with a few plastic knobs glued on. Living people (including a girl in a bikini) are also pushed through and hamburger meat is pushed out the other end and collected in a bucket. The meat is then canned and sold, turning America's cute kitties turn into blood-hungry beasties. By the way, the attack scenes are hilarious! The sets (especially that two-room cat food manufacturing factory), acting, production values and dialogue (in part thanks to a script co-written by Arch Hall, Sr. of EEGAH! fame) are wonderfully awful. The cast includes Ray Dannis (who played the title role in THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS; which often played on double bills with Corpse), ex-prize fighter Vincent Barbi and Chicago area playwright Ann Noble.

In person, director Mikels is so charming and so proud of his grade-Z masterpieces (see also THE ASTRO ZOMBIES and BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS), that it's hard not to at least appreciate his enthusiasm and tenacity. Nearly 20 years later he even directed a sequel to this featuring Liz (DESPERATE LIVING) Renay and Dolores (GLEN OR GLENDA) Fuller that I must see! Ted is still directing to this day and just recently completed his 20th feature - DEMON HAUNT (2008) - and is currently working on a second Astro Zombies sequel... in 3-D!

Score: 2 out of 10

Curse of the Screaming Dead, The (1982)

...aka: Curse of the Cannibal Confederates
...aka: Curse of the Confederate Cannibals

Directed by:
Tony Malanowski

Distributor Troma did their usual routine with this horrid excuse for a movie by giving it an appealingly campy re-release title (CURSE OF THE CANNIBAL CONFEDERATES), so that people will want to watch it. Don't be fooled. Apparently the Troma Team also re-edited this film (which was originally titled THE CURSE OF THE SCREAMING DEAD) in hopes of adding some more action to the slower passages. Well, it didn't work. This one falls into the sub-category of 'zombie soldier' flicks which also includes a mostly lousy series of 'Nazi zombie' flicks such as OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES and ZOMBIE LAKE. While Oasis and Lake are indeed horrible, they at least had some 'Z Movie' entertainment value (cheesy gore, nudity, occasional laughs) to them. This one has no entertainment value whatsoever. It's thoroughly inept, as you'd expect a good-bad movie to be, but at the same time it's so tedious, slow, obnoxious and boring, the unintentional comedy becomes overshadowed by the sheer monotony of it all.

Some zombies rise from their graves in a church cemetery. The next day a group of thoroughly annoying people show up in the same area in their RV. The men, there for a hunting trip, are unshaven, long-haired hippies whose hobbies include sucking down cheap beer, shooting forest critters with exploding bullets and ragging on klepto Mel (Christopher Gummer, who doubled as the stunt coordinator) for stealing a ring and a motorcycle. The girls; shrill, unbearably annoying and whiny "feminist" Sarah (Rebecca Bach, rockin' a Farrah Fawcett haircut) and two Asian women who are sisters (one of whom is blind), bitch about how lame hunting and beer are. They change into bikinis, step out of the RV and then immediately put their hiking clothes back on for some strange reason. I guess that was a pitiful excuse to show a little skin. Everyone grabs their backpacks and rifles and start trekking through the woods. With all the whining, arguing and talking going on, half the forest animals have probably high tailed it out of the county before they get five feet into the woods. After hearing church bells off in the distance, Mel decides to go ahead and scout the area by himself. He ends up making it to the cemetery and to an old, crumbling church. There he finds a suitcase with a confederate flag and diary inside. He takes the diary and rejoins his friends. Even though everyone hears strange noises (bells, firing rifles, etc.) coming from seemingly nowhere, they decide to drag their cooler of beer and tents close to the cemetery to camp out for the night.

After nearly 40-minutes of unbridled boredom and horribly, awkwardly acted, written and edited dialogue scenes, the group see some strange flashing lights off in the distance by the church. That night, zombies dressed in Confederate uniforms rise from their graves and attack. The guys fight them off with their rifles and some fireworks. They also learn you can only kill them by shooting them in the head (original, huh?), which leads to lots of cheap dummy heads catching fire and exploding. Everyone manages to escape, but at daylight find themselves lost in the woods, unable to find their vehicle. When the local police chief shows up, he theorizes that a grave digger had dug up the graves, removed the corpses, tied strings to them and then hung them from trees and made them dance like puppets. I kid you not. That's exactly what he says. Night falls again, zombies attack and kill the deputy, the chief and Bill (Jim Ball). So here it is an hour into the film and we finally get some actual blood and guts, as the zombies yank out the insides of their victims and chow down. And like the rest of the movie, it's dull, gratuitous and the takes are way too long, plus there are these horrid groaning and slurping sounds that sound more like sound bites from a porn movie than a horror flick.

The survivors of that attack; Wyatt (Steve Sandkuhler), Sarah, Mel, Lin (Judy Dixon) and "Blind Kiyomi" (Mimi Ishikawa) then run off into the darkness, fight off more zombies and make it to an abandoned farmhouse. More zombies show up there and try to get inside. It is at this time I noticed they must have run out of Confederate uniforms for the flesh-eaters because some of them are dressed like farmers in flannel shirts and jeans, others are wearing trench coats and one is wearing what appears to me a "Member's Only" jacket. Will our heroes finally pull their heads out of their asses and realize they need to hand the diary back over to the undead soldiers to save themselves? I doubt you'll care by that point. I sure as hell didn't.

Every single aspect of this unrelenting bore-fest is terrible, from the sloth-paced plot to the sound recording. The acting is atrocious, the dialogue is horrendous, the editing cuts are incompetent, it's full of continuity errors and the makeup effects are mostly "Halloween make-up kit" variety. Most of the zombies simply have white faces with some black undereye shading. A few of them have skull-like masks, which look slightly better but still suck. Undoubtedly the worst aspect of this particular film is the lighting. Most of the action takes place at night and since the movie is so impenetrably dark it's hard to tell what the hell is going on half the time.


Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)

Directed by:
Roger Corman

Though I'm still partial to NOT OF THIS EARTH, (which played on a double bill with Crab) and IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, this is still lots of fun and competently made on a very low-budget (just 70,000 dollars) by B-movie master Roger Corman. The running time is a breezy 62 minutes. After H Bombs have been dropped on a small island, a varied team of researchers and military men show up to both research the effects of radiation fallout on animals, soil and native vegetation, as well as search for people from a previous scientific expedition that have turned up missing. After a member of their party is mysteriously decapitated, the airplane they arrived in explodes and they find themselves stranded, our heroes discover they're not alone on the island, as a slew of gigantic super-intelligent killer crabs with peculiar abilities come crawling out of the caves looking for food. To make matters even worse, because the crabs put off so much heat and are digging elaborated tunnel systems underground, frequent landslides and sink holes are quickly starting to shrink the island.

Not content giving us another standard monster-movie opus, screenwriter Charles B. Griffith (also the associate producer) has added a few clever variations on the formula to make this a little more interesting than usual. One of the most novel ideas is that the crabs are able to absorb the minds and memories of their victims by eating their brains, and then can use the voice of their victims to lure new people into their clutches. Having the island rapidly shrinking throughout the film was also an ingenious way of increasing tension without increasing the budget. The crab monster design actually isn't too bad either, and completely charming, besides. And the cast is full of familiar faces from other Corman flicks, with Richard Garland and Pamela Duncan (both from the undervalued THE UNDEAD) starring as engaged biologists, and Leslie Bradley and Mel Welles both giving fun performances as veteran scientists. Also on board are Russell Johnson (who'd be stranded on a desert isle again a few years later as "The Professor" on Gilligan's Island), Ed Nelson, Beach Dickerson and Griffith himself is a small cameo.


Andy Warhol's Bad (1977)

...aka: Bad

Directed by:
Jed Johnson

Review coming soon.


Angustia (1987)

... aka: Anguish
... aka: Eyes

Directed by:
Bigas Luna

Review coming soon.


Arousers, The (1972) [filmed in 1970]

... aka: Kiss from Eddie, A
... aka: Sweet Kill

Directed by:
Curtis Hanson

Former 1950s teen heartthrob Tab Hunter, still looking very handsome here in his early 40s, stars as Eddie, an outwardly respectable high school phys ed teacher who is tormented by both his impotence and some childhood trauma involving his mother (which is left obscured by the filmmakers). Because of his good looks and friendly demeanor, Eddie seems to attract all sorts of neighborhood women; many of whom are young and beautiful. Unable to make love to them or become intimate enough with them on a non-sexual basis to open up to them about his past, he simply murders them. Triggering this behavior though is the accidental killing of a young woman who gets a little too aggressive and dies after Eddie pushes her off and she hits her head on a table. He hides the body in some hatch on the roof and afterward something snaps inside of him and he moves beyond the stage of repression and voyeurism to full blown murder, as well as necrophilia (which is handled with some subtlety here); apparently the only way he can 'get off.' Might explain why he's been paying a local hooker (played by 70s drive-in favorite Roberta Collins) to dress up like his long gone momma and "play dead" while he undresses and gropes her. Seems like pretty seedy stuff, and this is pretty seedy stuff; but it's done with more thought and care than many others in this genre and I liked it.

Despite what some reviews state, I actually preferred the way the filmmakers decided to handle all this. Instead of a bunch of heavy-handed dialogue blatantly spelling everything out, giving a direct explanation to Eddie's behavior or visualizing of all Eddie's dirty deeds, we get more suggestion than anything else. The opening scene is a childhood flashback of a woman stripping naked, taking off her earrings and lying down in bed while a pair of kids tennis shoes are visible behind a barely opened curtain. That's the only real glimpse we get of Eddie's childhood, but it's enough to raise a few questions. Is his mother a whore/prostitute? Has Eddie always been voyeuristic and/or not right in the head? Was there incest involved? Nothing is explained in a cut-and-dry way, but we know that Eddie refuses to talk about any of it, even when directly confronted about it by the one woman in this film who does care about him. That person is Barbara (Nadyne Turney), who lives in the same apartment house as Eddie. She's not quite the looker the other women in this movie are, but is patient and wants to help Eddie. He's gone on quite a few dates with her but nothing even remotely sexual has happened between them. Barbara questions why and wonders whether he's not attracted to her or if something else is going on.

Originally titled Sweet Kill and actually filmed in 1970, the title was later changed to the more exploitative-sounding The Arousers (with a new poster to match) a few years later. There are several instances of nudity that seem needlessly tacked on, and I see here in the trivia section that executive producer Roger Corman had the director go back and film these scenes so the film could be sold on the drive-in circuit as a sex film. Though unnecessary, I didn't feel these newly-added scenes (which are brief) were too detrimental to the overall film and they tried to tie them into the 'voyeuristic' aspect the best they could.

It's obvious what would attract former teen idol Hunter to this kind of role - The Arousers was an opportunity to branch out, possibly open up new opportunities for himself as an older actor, and also a chance to prove he could handle heavier drama. In any case, he does an effective job in his part and is well-supported by Turney (who's very good here) and the rest of the cast. Popping up here in smaller roles are veteran actress Isabel Jewell (in her final role) as his landlady, as well as future horror star Angus "Tall Man" Scrimm (billed as "Rory Guy") as her husband. Neither have much to do other than complain about some awful smell coming from upstairs... The lesser-known cast members also did a fairly good job in my opinion.


Schiave bianche: violenza in Amazzonia (1985)

... aka: Amazonia: The Catherine Miles Story
... aka: Cannibal Holocaust 2
... aka: Captive Women VII: White Slave
... aka: Forest Slave
... aka: L'esclave blonde
... aka: White Slave

Directed by:
Mario Gariazzo

Catherine Miles (Elvire Audray) witness the brutal decapitation murders of both of her parents while they are vacationing near the Amazon River basin. She’s abducted by a tribe and taken deep into the jungle where she’s stripped, tortured, humiliated and forced to participate in various primitive rituals before being assimilated into the tribe and finding out it has its perks to be away from civilized man! A late entry in the popular Italian cannibal exploitation stomach-churner sub-genre, this one has milder violence than usual, no animal killings and concentrates mostly on the romance between Catherine and a hunky native (Will Gonzales)! A bit cheesy, but I still liked it.


Alien Dead, The (1980)

...aka: Alien Dead
...aka: It Fell from the Sky
...aka: Swamp of the Blood Leeches

Directed by:
Fred Olen Ray

The starting point of Wellston, Ohio's pride and joy, Fred Olen Ray, is pretty much what you'd expect out of him. Well, it's pretty much what you'd expect out of him with an even smaller budget (12 thousand dollars) than usual. A meteor crashes in a Florida swamp and kills a pontoon boat full of pot-smoking teenagers. They all return as zombies and proceed to attack the denizens of a small town. Lots of silly murders ensue. The first death has a zombie pushing a girl down, then she's suddenly dead. Then a mean, old, frying pan-wielding madwoman and her henpecked husband get pitch-forked and eaten. A scene that reminded me a lot of Zombie Lake has a voyeur cop watching a topless blonde skinny dipper for what seems like an hour before she gets killed. Another guy is ripped apart and eaten. And so and so on, until the uninspired end.

This is Ray's earliest feature available on video (he also made The Brain Leeches back in 1977, but that's apparently little more than a home movie and available only on tenth-generation bootlegs) and it pretty much sets the tone for the bulk of his later work, containing some amateur gore, some silly comedy, some T&A and a name-value guest star from the past (in this case former Flesh Gordon star and serial hero Buster Crabbe as a sheriff) to help sell it to a distributor. Unknown actors Raymond Roberts and Linda Lewis are tolerable as the leads, but this is strictly Grade Z trash with very grainy 16mm photography and laughable zombie designs. A bit of cheapie charm here and there to keep it somewhat digestible. Ray also wrote, produced, did the special make-up fx and shot it (around the Rock Springs/Orlando Florida area). It was originally released as It Fell from the Sky and is also known as Swamp of the Blood Leeches. I wonder if it was originally intended as a sequel to his first film?


Asphyx, The (1973)

...aka: Experiments
...aka: Horror of Death, The
...aka: Spirit of the Dead

Directed by:
Peter Newbrook

Review coming soon.


Tutti i colori del buio (1972)

... aka: All the Colors of the Dark
... aka: Day of the Maniac
... aka: Demons of the Dead
... aka: Invisible Alliance
... aka: They're Coming to Get You

Directed by:
Sergio Martino

Opening with a knockout dream sequence (featuring a blue-eyed killer stabbing to death a grotesque old lady with rotten teeth, a pregnant woman on a doctor's table and a nude woman on a bed), this giallo seems to be taking a unusual path by twisting around the conventions set down by the genre. It actually works pretty well even though there's about one too many convoluted plot elements squeezed in at the very end. Edwige Fenech (previously seen in Martino's THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH) fits comfortably in her usual mentally-screwed-up-beautiful-lady-in-distress spot as Jane Harrison, a nightmare-plagued young women living in London whose mother was murdered when she was a child. Her live-in fiancé Richard (George Hilton) seem kind, patient and understanding, but he's also away most of the time at work. Jane's sister Barbara ("Susan Scott"/Nieves Navarro) also appears to be sympathetic and protective of her sister and takes her to see a psychiatrist (George Rigaud) who attempts to unlock the secrets of her past. After her session, Jane is pursued in a subway by the same sinister man from her dreams with the cracked blue eyes (a wonderfully creepy Ivan Rassimov in some interesting contacts). He follows her home and starts keeping watch outside of her apartment house. Jane is befriended by a new tenant named Mary (Marina Malfatti), who claims she has the answer to all of Jane's problems and then things start to get even weirder.

So before long, Jane finds herself up to her neck in a black magic cult working out of a secluded castle and headed by a guy (Julián Ugarte) who wears Freddy-like claws on his hands. During her initiation, they make her drink fresh dog's blood and pass her around during a sex orgy, where she's fondled by zombie-like pasty-faced cult members. After she's pursued by the killer once again and apparently unperturbed by her first traumatic encounter with the Satanists, Jane becomes desperate enough to return to the cult, where they convince her she'll be "free" from the killer if she does just as they say. The cult leader has sex with her again and give her a knife. Mary kills herself by falling over on it and then Jane is informed she's obligated to take her place. And guess who else is involved in the Satanic sect? Why the mysterious blue-eyed killer, of course! When Jane tries to escape them, he sends Doberman's after her to chew up her arms and then chloroforms her. She wakes up back in her apartment. Are these events actually taking place or are they simply delusions in her pretty little disturbed head? After a rapid-fire succession of murders, plot twists and maybe even a prophetic dream insert, a police inspector finally reveals our answer.
I did have some quibbles with parts of the script, but technically speaking, this movie is quite good. Martino's direction is smoother, more stylish and much more assured than what I'm accustomed to seeing from him. Miguel Fernández Mila and Giancarlo Ferrando's vivid, surreal and sometimes psychedelic cinematography and Bruno Nicolai's score are both superb and add immensely to this film. And while there's the requisite amount of Fenech flesh on display and some blood, the film is more concerned with style and story than it is providing cheap thrills. All around, the cast (which also includes "Alan Collins"/Luciano Pigozzi, Dominique Boschero and Tom Felleghy) is very good.

Tutti i colori del buio originally made it to U.S. theaters in 1975 under the title They're Coming to Get You. It was then released to VHS several times as either Day of the Maniac or Demons of the Dead. The Shriek Show DVD contains a lot of goodies, like separate interviews with the director (who claims ROSEMARY'S BABY was a chief influence) and star George Hilton, a photo gallery, alternate US title sequence, the original Italian trailer and radio spots, plus four other unrelated trailers.


Asylum (1972)

...aka: House of Crazies
...aka: House on the Strand

Directed by:
Roy Ward Baker

The fourth of eight horror omnibus' from Amicus, and an above average one which benefits primarily from an excellent cast. The inmates of an insane asylum tell a visiting young psychiatrist (Robert Powell) three tales of horrifying madness and revenge, most of which deal with the supernatural. It's his job to then decide which of the inmates is actually a former doctor who has gone off the deep end to impress potential employer Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee). The first story - "Frozen Fear" concerns a man (Richard Todd) and his mistress (Barbara Parkins) who off his wife (Sylvia Syms), chop of the body and put the severed (but wrapped up) limbs in a freezer. Incredibly, the parts return to life to exact revenge. A severed head rolling around and breathing through the wrapping are creepy, memorable images. It's like the disembodied hand segment in Amicus' first anthology DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965), only amplified. The second story - "The Weird Tailor" finds financially strapped tailor Barry Morse assigned to construct a glowing suit made out of special fabric by elderly customer Peter Cushing, who is grief stricken over the recent death of his son. You can see just where this one's going, but excellent performances from the two lead actors make it worthwhile. Next up is "Lucy Comes to Stay;" which involves mentally unstable Barbara (Charlotte Rampling), who has just been released from an asylum, supposedly cursed of her schizophrenia. Her sneaky blonde "friend" (Britt Ekland), who was responsible for her getting put away to begin with, shows up and leads her back down a path or mayhem and murder.

The stories (all written by Robert Bloch) are fairly predictable but entertaining nonetheless and everything is neatly linked together by the framing segments, which themselves turn into a fourth story (titled "Mannikins of Horror") that features Herbert Lom as a doll maker dabbling in voodoo and soul transference. The cast includes James Villiers, Megs Jenkins (The Innocents) and Geoffrey Bayldon. House of Crazies is an alternate version to avoid with a running time of 86 minutes (6 minutes missing).


Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985) [filmed in 1983]

... aka: Beast Creatures... aka: Hell Island

Directed by:Michael Stanley
Despite what you may have read or heard, this utterly ridiculous low-budget shocker is an endearing, extremely entertaining low-budget effort regardless of whatever shortcomings it has. Is it "good" in a traditional sense? Nope. Is it fun? Absolutely! I especially love how the filmmakers take an absurd premise and are completely straight-faced about the whole thing. Unfortunately, this one's all but disappeared into video void and has not been reissued since its initial release to VHS from Western World Video in 1985. I can only hope that someone someday will buy the rights and put this little gem out on a widely-released DVD with loads of extras like it fully deserves! Filmed in 1983, Beast Creatures concerns the struggle for survival amongst a small group of shipwreck survivors (eight, to be precise) on a secluded island (really inland Fairfield, Connecticut, where this was filmed). It's set in the 1920s for some reason, and the costumes and hairstyles reflect that. It's so low-budget that they couldn't even afford to film a plastic toy boat to illustrate the sinking.

A seemingly innocent water stream is actually full of acid as one poor parched man soon finds out, and worse, the island is home a cult of small, killer creatures that are played by Trilogy of Terror / Zuni Fetish-style dolls. The dolls have red faces, long black hair, glow-in-the-dark eyes and sharp pointy teeth. Their jaws open so they can screech and their arms move up and down when they scurry through the woods, but other than that, they are hilariously immobile. I don't want to get too much into the story (not that there's much of a story to begin with), but some of the assault / ambush techniques devised by the little critters are very amusing and the low-level POV camerawork and eerie electronic music score service the entertaining story very well. So despite amateurish acting, flat cinematography and other problems usually associated with low-budget regional filmmaking, this does exactly what it sets out to do and gets a thumbs up from yours truly. It's a blast.

I also searched around for some information on the director and came up with this semi-recent update on what he's been up to: Summer 2002 he was appearing in the play The Country Wife at a small theatre in Danbury, Connecticut, who had Stanley described in their ad as follows, "Michael has been active on the stage and behind the scenes, in both theater and film for many years. Acting credits at the Little Theatre include The Comedy of Errors, The Rivals, The Revenge Tragedy and Twelfth Night, to name a few. His directorial debut was on a low-budget sci-fi film "Attack of the Beast Creatures". He has since directed several plays, among them Al Kulcsar's The Wurrld According to Dooley for both Square One Theatre and Westport Community Theatre."


Cosa avete fatto a Solange? (1972)

...aka: School That Couldn't Scream, The
...aka: Secret of the Green Pins, The
...aka: Terror in the Woods
...aka: What Have They Done to Solange?
...aka: Who Killed Solange?
...aka: Who's Next?

Directed by:
Massimo Dallamano

This interesting, but often snail-paced, giallo (with very little actual on-screen violence) "boasts" a rather grisly killing technique - Young female victims are stripped naked and then stabbed in the crotch. Teen students at a London Catholic girls academy are falling prey to this sex killer, who has all the trappings of your usual genre assailant; he/she dons black leather gloves, drives around in a black car and dresses in black (a priest's outfit to be precise). The list of suspects is about a mile long as we're introduced to a slew of seedy characters, starting with handsome school professor Enrico "Henry" Rossini (Fabio Testi), who seems to be a man-whore taking advantage of his position to sleep with his pupils. He's carrying on a secret affair with beautiful student Elizabeth Seccles (Cristina Galbó, from LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE), the niece of a colonel, and while the two are out on a rendezvous, she sees brief glimpses of the first murder. Fearing the affair will mean his termination at the school and exposure to his icy blonde wife Herta (Karin Baal), also a teacher, he suggests the two keep quiet for awhile and in the meantime rents a love nest where the two can secretly carry on the affair.

Pretty much the entire school staff are set up as possible suspects as we're introduced to shady types like stern school Headmaster Leach (Rainer Penkert), Professor Bascombe (Günther Stoll), paranoid voyeuristic pervert Mr. Newton (Antonio Casale), who who uses a peephole to spy on the girls in the shower room, school math/science professor and priest Father Webber (Marco Mariani) and others. Camille Keaton, seven years before finding her greatest fame as a vengeful rape victim in the notorious I Spit on Your Grave (1978), makes an effective eleventh hour appearance as Solange, a mentally ill girl who holds the key to the crimes. And the schoolgirls themselves are holding some secrets of their own, involving sneaking off to the local college, sex parties and abortion. A lot of time is spent on the investigation as Inspector Barth of Scotland Yard (played by Joachim Fuchsberger, who starred in dozens of German krimi films) interviews suspects and tries to piece together the investigation.

Based on the Edgar Wallace novel The Clue of the New Pin (which wasn't credited in the Italian language print), this West German/Italian co-production is a bit too plot-heavy and extremely talky, but there are also some rewards for more patient viewers. For starters, the story itself has enough twists and turns to maintain a certain degree of interest and will keep you guessing (though I'm still left guessing about a certain drowning murder that does not fit the modus operandi of the sex killer, but one of the other characters and is left unexplained). The acting isn't bad and the English dub is above average. Also, the Ennio Morricone score is typically excellent and the cinematography by Aristede Massaccesi (i.e. Joe D'Amato), while flat at times, has some surprisingly inspired moments (shots through branches as a boat floats down the Thames river; orange-tinted flashbacks; a hectic POV as the killer rushed down a long flight of stairs...) All in all, it's above average from what I've seen of the giallo genre.

The Shriek Show DVD is a good-looking print of the film, but judging by the trailer, at least two of the scenes have been trimmed here. It's also pretty dry when it comes to special features, with just scene access and a few trailers.


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Directed by:
Robert Aldrich

Review coming soon.


Ghost Story (1981)

Directed by:
John Irvin

Four elderly men (Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and John Houseman) are haunted by the ghost of a woman that they murdered fifty years earlier. There's some atmosphere, it's well-budgeted, has a great cast of vets (it was the last feature film role for three of the four leads) and a haunting performance from Alice Krige as a seductive, ghostly woman who comes into the life of one of the men's adult sons (played by Craig Wasson) and makes good use of the snowy New England locations, but at 110 minutes, it's way too long, is pretty slow-going and the dramatic elements are highly uneven. Lawrence D. Cohen adapted the best-selling (and more complicated, far scarier) novel by Peter Straub.

Creeping Terror, The (1964)

...aka: Crawling Monster, The

Directed by:
A.J. (Arthur) Nelson

Ed Wood move over. In fact, stand up, walk out of the building, hop on a plane and leave the country. This has to be the worst horror film ever made! So if you get a chance, make sure to watch it! Filmed in and around Lake Tahoe on a budget that might be able to fill up your gas tank comes the tale of a giant alien monster that eats humans. The sloth-paced creature looks like a mound of shag carpet and at any given time you can see the feet of the actors playing it underneath the costume! Victims (including drive-in theatre patrons and teeny boppers at a rockin' party) get to scream and struggle while obviously pushing themselves into the big hole that's supposed to be its mouth. Part of the soundtrack was "lost," so instead of the missing dialogue, narration is employed to try to make sense of it all. One of the stars is William Thourlby, the original "Marlboro Man" model in print ads, who also appeared in CASTLE OF EVIL (1966). The film is also available with commentary from the MST3K folks (but doesn't really require it). By the way, the director produced, edited and stars in the film; using the names "Art J. Nelson, Jr.," "Arthur Ross" and "Vic Savage." Actually, his whole stint as a filmmaker is shrouded in mystery (see below)...

There have been some interesting claims made recently about Mr. Nelson and his wife (leading lady Shannon O'Neil). Some people claim both were con artists who basically fleeced dozens of people out of their hard-earned money. The same claims state that "Art J. Nelson" is a fake name the director used so he pass himself off as Argyle Nelson (aka Art J. Nelson), a prolific editor, assistant director and production supervisor. The fake Nelson then used the guise of experienced filmmaker to get people to "invest" their money in this project. Thus a cheap, inept film was made, people never got their money back and both the fake Nelson and Mrs. O'Neil fled town with the leftover money. Don't know for sure the validity of these claims, but I've read them several different places. Anyway...


Dr. Alien (1989)

...aka: I Was a Teenage Sex Maniac
...aka: I Was a Teenage Sex Mutant

Directed by:
David DeCoteau

T&A heavy teen sex comedies were extremely popular during the 80s. I guess we have the PORKY'S series to thank for that. There were also a large number of films made during this time about high school aged boys having their sexual awakening at the hands of older and more experienced female seductresses. I guess that's the price we had to pay for PRIVATE LESSONS becoming a surprise hit. Toward the middle of the decade, Stuart Gordon's H.P. Lovecraft films, horror strongly based in science (and science fiction), were also wildly popular. I can just imagine the genesis for this little B-movie epic happening right now. Billy Jacoby (real name: Billy Jayne) stars as Wesley Littejohn, a geeky, unpopular, conservatively dressed college freshman who still lives at home with his parents (Arlene Golonka and Jim Hackett) and bratty kid brother (real-life brother Bobby Jacoby). Wes is frequently bullied and as a result is having a difficult time finding the platform to exert his masculinity and impress the snobby campus cuties. A blue, huge-eyed, big-headed alien disguises itself as a sexy science professor named Ms. Xenobia (Judy Landers) and starts using Wesley in her experiments; transforming him from a geek into a dreamboat (basically all he does is take off his glasses and joins a rock band). A snake-like pineal gland pops out of his fore head (just like in FROM BEYOND) and before he knows it women are suddenly ripping their clothes off at the mere sight of him. So where does this leave the sweet, squeaky-voiced girl (Olivia Barash) who liked Wesley the way he was before?
If DR. ALIEN is remembered for anything it'll be for the record number of exploitation movie actresses dropping by for cameos. Porn queen Ginger Lynn Allen (who'd just retired from the adult film business to try to make it as a 'serious" actress"), well-known Scream Queen Linnea Quigley and the lesser-known Laura Albert (who is primarily a stuntwoman but also put in her fair share of late 80s/early 90s cheese movie appearances) are members of a female rock band called "The Tangpoons." They show up to dance topless in one of Wesley's dreams and also perform a song at a club at the finale. When Wesley stumbles into a locker room, he's literally mobbed by an army of female fitness fanatics led by veteran sexpot Edy Williams. Also showing up in this scene are Michelle Bauer (another major Scream Queen during this time) and Karen Russell. Elizabeth Kaitan is the only one to keep her clothes on, appearing briefly as a waitress. In addition to them, Raymond O'Connor mugs his way through his role as the alien's assistant, Troy Donahue plays the biology teacher Ms. Xenobia replaces and Stuart Fratkin plays Wesley's equally unpopular best friend.
Jacoby lipsynching to "Killer Machine" by The Sex Mutants.
Silly as this all is, it's definitely one of DeCoteau's better films. There are some laughs, Jacoby is an appealing lead, the cameos are fun, the music is good, the alien design is hilarious and it's all fast-paced, performed with enthusiasm and gaudily colorful. In other words, a fine B film that doesn't pretend to be more than it is.

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