Sunday, June 27, 2010

Additions to the Index, Part 2

They just keep on a-coming (180 for this particular update) and there are no doubt more where these came from. The majority are foreign-language films, many of them have never been released in America and a good deal were never dubbed or released with English subtitles, so I may have a difficult time either finding or understanding the films listed here but I'll try my best with what I have to work with. There are a couple of obscure American and British films listed as well, but the majority are from non-English speaking countries, such as Brazil, China (namely Hong Kong), France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. In addition to making this list, I've been working on the year overviews and they've been a lot of fun (and interesting) to research. 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 are now done and up.

- Accident, The (Blood of the Black Dog; Car Spirit; Che wan) (1983; Biu Lun Liu)
- Akelarre (1984; Pedro Olea)
- All the Horrors of Satan (Satanás de todos los horrores) (1974; Julián Soler)
- Bad Seed, The (Kötü Tohum) (1963; Nevzat Pesen)
- Bedeviled, The (Sam moh; Xin mo) (1975; Wei Lo)
- Bewitched (Gu) (1981; Chih-Hung Kuei)
- Beyond (Oltretomba) (1987; Fabio Salerno)
- Birth in the Tomb (Beranak dalam kubur) (1972; Awaludin and Ali Shahab)
- Black Temple, The (Kaala mandir) (1987; Hemant Kamal)
- Blood Ritual (Xie luo ji) (1988; Yuen Ching Lee)
- Bloody Ghost (Funny Ghost; Meng gui zhuang gui) (1989; Jeffrey Lau)
- Bloody Ravine, The (La barranca sangrienta) (1962; Federico Curiel)
- Blue Snake Bath (Ao hebi buro) (1959; Mitsuo Hirotsu)
- Brainblast (1987)
- Brutal Storm (Vahset kasirgasi) (1985; Kadir Akgün)
- But You Were Dead (La lunga notte di Veronique) (1966; Gianni Vernuccio)
- Calon Arang the Powerful Queen (Ratu Sakti Calon Arang) (1985; Sisworo Gautama Putra)
- Canterville Ghost, The (Duch z Canterville) (1967; Ewa Petelska)
- Caruncula (1990; Mariano Baino)
- Cask of Amontillado, The (Beczka Amontillado) (1971; Leon Jeannot)
- Chanoc and the Son of Santo vs. the Vampire Killers (Chanoc y el hijo del Santo contra los vampiros asesinos) (1981; Rafael Pérez Grovas)
- Child's Play (1980; Amy Rose Bloch)
- Claws of Iron (Tetsu no tsume) (1951; Shinsei Adachi)
- Closed Door, The (Bandh Darwaza) (1990; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Corpse Master (Magic City) (1987)
- Crazy Monk, The (El monje loco) (1984; Julio Aldama)
- Criminals, The (Xianggang qi an) (1976)
- Criminals 2 - Homicides, The (Xiang Gang qi an zhi er: Xiong sha) (1976)
- Criminals 3 - Arson, The (Xiang Gang qi an zhi san lao ye che zong huo mou sha an) (1977)
- Criminals 4 - Assault, The (Xiang Gang qi an zhi si Miao Jie huang hou) (1977)
- Criminals 5 - Teenager's Nightmare, The (Xiang Gang qi an wu zhi: Jian mo) (1977)
- Crocodile Evil (198?; unknown)
- Crocodile Fury (1988; Ted Kingsbrook)
- Dance of Death, The (Le Saint mène la danse) (1960; Jacques Nahum)
- Dead Silence (1989; Hugh Gallagher)
- Dead-Time Stories - Vol. 1 (1986; Phillip Noyce and Carl Schenkel)
- Dead-Time Stories - Vol. 2 (1986; Ivan Nagy and Richard Rothstein)
- Dead-Time Stories - Vol. 3 (Dead Even) (1986; David Wickes and Paul Verhoeven)
- Devil's Child (Akuma-kun) (1966; Akira Kajima, Tsuneo Kobayashi, Hajime Sato, Koichi Takemoto and Minoru Yamada)
- Devil's Due, The (Giving the Devil His Due) (1973; Ernest Danna)
- Devil's Horse, The (El caballo del diablo; The Horse of the Devil) (1975; Federico Curiel)
- Diabolic Game (Juego diabólico) (1961; Fernando Fernández)
- Dismembered Ghost, The (Kaidan barabara yurei) (1968; Kinya Ogawa)
- Diva In The Netherworld (Utahime makai o yuku) (1980; Takafumi Nagamine)
- Door, The (Darwaza) (1978; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Dungeon, The (Tahkhana) (1986; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Enigma for Devils (Enigma para Demônios) (1975; Carlos Hugo Christensen)
- Erotic Witchcraft (La goulve) (1972; Mario Mercier and Bepi Fontana)
- Escapees, The (Les paumées du petit matin; The Runaways) (1981; Jean Rollin)
- Flower with Petals of Steel, The (Il fiore dai petali d'acciaio) (1973; Gianfranco Piccioli)
- Fogbrook Thing, The (The Berko Brothers) (1985; Mark Osborn)
- Fragments of Terror (1985; Craig Lahiff and others)
- Ghost-Cat of Gojusan-Tsugi (Kaibyo Gojusan-tsugi) (1956; Bin Kado)
- Ghost Fever (Gui gou ren) (1989; Sze Yu Lau and Jing Wong)
- Ghost Hospital (Ghost's Hospital; Mong gwai yee yuen) (1988)
- Ghost of Gojusan-Tsugi (Ghost of Gojusan-Tsugi; Yurei 53 Tsugi) (1960; Kokichi Uchide)
- Ghost Nursing (Yang gui) (1982; Wilson Tong)
- Ghost Story: Crying in the Night Lantern (Kaidan yonaki-doro) (1962; Katsuhiko Tasaka)
- Giant Gila Monster, The (1959; Ray Kellogg)
- Guest House (1980; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Guzoo (Girl Trap; Guzoo: Kami ni misuterareshi mono; Life After Death) (1986; Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu)
- Hard Times for Dracula (Tiempos duros para Drácula) (1976; Jorge Darnell)
- Haunted Cop Shop, The (Meng gui cha guan) (1987; Jeffrey Lau)
- Haunted Cop Shop II, The (Meng gui xue tang) (1988; Jeffrey Lau)
- Haunted House Elf (1990; unknown)
- Hellish Spiders (Arañas infernales; Aranhas Infernais) (1968; Federico Curiel)
- Hong Kong Butcher (1985; Jeffrey Lau)
- Hooded Men from Hell, The (Los encapuchados del infierno) (1962; Federico Curiel)
- Horror Effects (Horror F/X) (1989; John A. Russo)
- Hotel (1981; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- House of Terror (The Ghost of the Hunchback; Kaidan semushi otoko; Il pozzo di Satana) (1965)
- Inappropriate Behaviour (1986; ?)
- Infernal Coffin, The (El ataúd infernal) (1962; Fernando Fernández)
- Invasion of the Girl Snatchers (The Hidan of Maukbeiangjow) (1973; Lee Jones)
- I, the Body (Morianerna; Morianna) (1965; Arne Mattson)
- Kaibyo omagatsuji (1954; unknown)
- Kamillions (The Wingates) (1989; Mike B. Anderson)
- Khamosh (1985; Vidhu Vinod Chopra)
- Kiss, The (Il bacio; The Kiss of Death) (1974; Mario Lanfranchi)
- Laboratory of Anguish, The (Le laboratoire de l'angoisse) (197; Patrice Leconte)
- Labyrinth of Death (Chess Boxing Matrix; Jiang shi zhuo yao) (1988; Ricky Lau)
- Ladies Hostel (1990; unknown)
- Lady of Poison, The (La dama dei veleni) (1978; Silverio Blasi)
- Last Theft, The (Posledni lup) (1987; Jirí Barta)
- Legend of the White Snake (Baek sajeon) (1978)
- Litan (Litan ou les messagers de l'au-delà) (1982; Jean-Pierre Mocky)
- Little Vampire (Bübchen; Buebchen) (1986; Roland Klick)
- Lost Souls (Da she) (1980)
- Love Foolery Case for a Severed Head (Namakubi jochi jiken) (1967; Kinya Ogawa)
- Man and the Snake, The (1972; Sture Rydman)
- Mansion, The (Haveli) (1985; Keshu Ramsay)
- Mansion of Evil (Purani Haveli) (1989; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Man to Destroy, The (Covjek koga treba ubiti; The Man to Kill) (1979; Veljko Bulajic)
- Medium (1985; Jacek Koprowicz)
- Money Trip, The (1979; Chui Dai-Chuen)
- Monster in a Jar (Halimaw; Halimaw sa banga) (1986; Christopher De Leon and Mario O'Hara)
- Mortuary Blues (Shi jia zhong di; Si ga jung dei) (1990; Jeffrey Lau)
- Music of Erich Zann, The (1980; John Strysik)
- My Cousin, the Ghost (Biao ge dao) (1987; Ma Wu)
- Mystical World of Elias Paniki, The (Ang mahiwagang daigdig ni Elias paniki) (1989; Carlo J. Caparas)
- Night Evil Soul (1988; George Leung)
- Nightmare Man, The (1981; Douglas Camfield) (TV)
- Night of Terror, The (Gabi ng lagim) (1960; Tommy C. David, Larry Santiago, Pablo Santiago and Felix Villar)
- Night of the Living Bread (1990; Kevin S. O'Brien)
- Night Shadow (1989; Randolph Cohlan)
- Open Window, The (1972; Richard Patterson)
- Painted Skin, The (Hua pi) (1966; Fong Pao)
- Pattern of Roses, A (1983; Lawrence Gordon Clark) (TV)
- Phantom Lute, The (1975; Larry Tu Chong-Hsun)
- Professor, The (1958; Tom McCain)
- Professor Problemat Czelawy (Problemat profesora Czelawy) (1986; Zygmunt Lech)
- Przerazliwe loze (1968; Witold Lesiewicz)
- Rest House, The (Dak bangla) (1987; Keshu Ramsay)
- Return, The (1973; Sture Rydman)
- Return to the Beyond (Regreso del más allá) (1982; Juan José Porto)
- Return of the Evil Fox (Meng gui hu li jing) (1989; George Leung)
- Return of the Wolf (Powrót wilczycy) (1990; Marek Piestrak)
- Revenge of the Corpse (The Bloodthirsty Dead; Fei shi; Flying Corpse) (1981; Chung Sun)
- Revenge of the Revived One, The (La venganza del resucitado) (1962; Federico Curiel)
- Rock-A-Die Baby (1989; Bob Cook)
- Santo and Blue Demon vs. Doctor Frankenstein (Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein) (1974; Miguel M. Delgado)
- Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man (Santo y Blue Demon vs Drácula y el Hombre Lobo) (1973; Miguel M. Delgado)
- Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters (Santo el enmascarado de plata y Blue Demon contra los monstruos) (1970; Gilberto Martínez Solares)
- Santo Faces Death (Santo frente a la muerte) (1969; Fernando Orozco)
- Santo in 'The Border of Terror' (Santo en la frontera del terror) (1969; Rafael Pérez Grovas)
- Santo in 'The Hotel of Death' (Santo en el hotel de la muerte) (1961; Federico Curiel)
- Santo in 'The Treasure of Dracula' (Santo en El tesoro de Drácula) (1969; René Cardona)
- Santo in 'The Vengeance of the Mummy' (Santo en la venganza de la momia) (1971; René Cardona)
- Santo in 'The Witches Attack' (Atacan las brujas) (1968; José Díaz Morales)
- Santo in the Wax Museum (Santo en el museo de cera) (1963; Alfonso Corona Blake and Manuel San Fernando)
- Santo vs. Baron Brakola (El barón Brakola) (1967; José Díaz Morales)
- Santo vs. Black Magic Woman (Santo contra la magia negra) (1973; Alfredo B. Crevenna)
- Santo vs. the Diabolical Hatchet (El hacha diabólica) (1965; José Díaz Morales)
- Santo vs. the Evil Brain (Brain of Evil; Santo contra cerebro del mal) (1961; Joselito Rodríguez)
- Santo vs. the Ghost of the Strangler (Espectro del estrangulador) (1966; René Cardona)
- Santo vs. the Headhunters (Santo contra los cazadores de cabezas) (1971; René Cardona)
- Santo vs. the Infernal Brain (Santo contra hombres infernales) (1962; Joselito Rodríguez)
- Santo vs. the Martian Invasion (Santo el Enmascarado de Plata vs 'La invasión de los marcianos') (1966; Alfredo B. Crevenna)
- Santo vs. the Murderer of TV (Santo contra el asesino de televisión) (1981; Rafael Pérez Grovas)
- Santo vs. the Riders of Terror (Santo contra los jinetes del terror) (1970; René Cardona)
- Santo vs. the She-Wolves (Santo vs. las lobas) (1976; Rubén Galindo and Jaime Jiménez Pons)
- Santo vs. the Strangler (Santo vs el estrangulador) (1965; René Cardona)
- Santo vs. the Vampire Women (Santo vs. las mujeres vampiro) (1962; Alfonso Corona Blake)
- Satan (3D Saamri) (1985; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Savage Hunt of King Stakh, The (Dikaya okhota korolya Stakha) (1979; Valeri Rubinchik)
- Shadows (Ombre) (1980; Mario Caiano and Giorgio Cavedon)
- Shake, Rattle & Roll (1984; Ishmael Bernal, Emmanuel H. Borlaza and Peque Gallaga)
- Shake, Rattle and Rock 2 (1990; Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes)
- Shriek of Terror (Alarido del terror) (1990; René Cardona III)
- Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, The (Hebi musume to hakuhatsuma) (1968; Noriaki Yuasa)
- Strange Regression (Extraña Regresión) (1985; Jairo Pinilla)
- Talisman, The (al-Tawiza; Altawiza) (1987; Mohammed Shebl)
- Terrible Snow Giant, The (El terrible gigante de las nieves) (1963; Jaime Salvador)
- Terrifying Tales (1989; Paul Bunnell, Armand Garabidian and Ephraim Schwartz)
- Terror (Dahshat) (1981; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Thirsty Devil (Pyasa Shaitan) (1984; Joginder Shelly)
- Thirteenth Day of Christmas, The (Time for Murder: The Thirteenth Day of Christmas) (1985)
- Tiyanak (1988; Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes)
- Tomb of Dracula, The (Yami no Teiô Kyûketsuki Dorakyura) (1980; Akinori Nagaoka and Minoru Okazaki)
- Toyol (1980; Malik Selamat)
- Trapped by Fear (Atrapados en el miedo) (1983; Carlos Aured)
- Turkish Jaws (Çöl; The Desert) (1983; Çetin Inanç)
- Turkish Young Frankenstein (Frankenstein; Sevimli Frankestayn) (1975; Nejat Saydam)
- Turn of the Screw (Otra vuelta de tuerca) (1985; Eloy de la Iglesia)
- 27 Hours with Death (27 horas con la muerte) (1981; Jairo Pinilla)
- Uncle Was a Vampire (My Uncle, the Vampire; Tempi duri per i vampiri) (1959; Steno)
- Vampire Girls, The (Las vampiras; The Vampires) (1969; Federico Curiel)
- Vampire vs. Vampire (Yi mei dao ren) (1989; Ching-Ying Lam)
- Vengeance of the Crying Woman (La venganza de la llorona) (1974; Miguel M. Delgado)
- Vengeance of the Vampire (Veerana; The Wilderness) (1988; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Vindictive Snake (Shuunen no hebi) (1958; Kenji Misumi)
- Weasels Rip My Flesh (1979; Nathan Schiff)
- White Snake Girl (Hakuja komachi) (1958; Mitsuo Hirotsu)
- Wicked Wife (Curse of the Wicked Wife) (1981; King-Fang Wong)
- Woman of Desire, The (A Mulher do Desejo; House of Shades) (1975; Carlos Hugo Christensen)
- Woman with Knife (1980; Cheung Chi-Chiu)
- Working Stiffs (1989; Michael Legge)
- Yellow Wallpaper, The (1989; John Clive) (TV)
- Zombies Invade Pittsburg (1988; Jess Turner)
- Zuma (1985; Jun Raquiza)

Friday, June 25, 2010

I, Monster (1970)

...aka: Monster, The
...aka: Monster of London, The
...aka: True Story of Doctor Jekyll, The

Directed by:
Stephen Weeks

Most of the names have been changed, but the story remains the same in yet another version of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic 1886 horror tale Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The novella had previously been filmed in 1908, 1910, 1912, 1913 (twice), 1915, 1920 (three times; including one with John Barrymore and one with Conrad Veidt), 1931 (which is often considered the definitive version and boasts an Oscar-winning performance by Fredric March), 1932, 1941 (a lavish MGM production starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner), 1950 (made for BBC TV), 1951 (an Argentinian production re-titled THE MAN AND THE BEAST), 1953 (the horror-comedy ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, starring Boris Karloff), 1959 (the well-regarded French version THE TESTAMENT OF DOCTOR CORDELIER), 1960 (the Hammer production THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL, with Paul Massie in the title role), 1964 (an Italian TV movie), 1968 (a Canadian TV movie starring Jack Palance) and likely others.
In addition to the film versions listed above, the story made its way into several cartoon shorts (featuring Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry and others), was a featured episode on a handful of television shows (Suspense, Climax!, Matinee Theatre, etc.), spawned a two-part ITV series starring Dennis Price and was a long-running and very popular stage production (which began production shortly after the original story was published). It was so frequently filmed that I, MONSTER wasn't even the only Jekyll/Hyde release of its year. Hammer did a second spin-off themselves (DR. JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE starring Ralph Bates and the sulty Martine Beswick as his evil - and murderous - alter ego) and there was the more obscure American soft porn THE JEKYLL AND HYDE PORTFOLIO. So how does this version (an Amicus production) stand up amongst the other versions? Not too well, I fear.
In turn of the century London (1906 to be precise), scientist and Freudian psychologist Dr. Charles Marlowe (Christopher Lee, who had already played a supporting role in Hammer's 1960 version) concocts a serum he believes will help "break down the barriers of the subconscious." He first tests it on a common housecat, which instantly goes berserk and must be killed. After a few alterations and concocting a back-up antidote in case things get out of control, Marlowe decides to test it on a few of his patients... without their knowledge, naturally. Prim, proper and repressed Diane (Susan Jameson) ends up stripping off her clothes and tries to seduce the doctor, while a loud brute named Mr. Deane (Kenneth J. Warren) turns into a wimpering child. Since Marlowe's antidote seems to work on both, he decides to start testing the serum on himself. It isn't long until his evil (and murderous) alternate personality, Edward Blake, is hanging out in the pubs, alleyways and cobblestone streets late into the night.
One major problem is that Lee looks exactly the same before and after his big "transformation." It's asking far too much of the viewer to accept that several of Marlowe's close friends see 'Edward Blake' and automatically think it's a completely different person. Lee does what he can with his face and body language but is given an impossible task here. As Blake he gets to wear a tophat and cape, has messy hair with the hat off, possibly a whiter complexion and is asked to try to maintain a ridiculous-looking and forced toothy grin. He's supposed to get progressively uglier with each injection, though the make-up is so minimal that he's never quite the monstrous being he should be. Lee is also given nothing interesting to do as either Charles or Edward. Aside from getting in a razor/scalpel fight with a punk in an alleyway and beating a tart (Marjie Lawrence) who embarrasses him to death with a cane, there's no action, no surprises and no real sense of terror. The film also lacks tension and there's no dramatic push to move the scenes along. The film almost seems D.O.A. right out of the gate.
Second-billed Peter Cushing has a minor co-starring role as Frederick Utterson, a colleague of Marlowe's, who questions both his friend's ethics and his association with Blake. Cushing doesn't have much screen time here and mostly hangs out at a gentleman's club talking with a couple of other very dull doctors, played by Mike Raven and Richard Hurndall. In a faint echo of the finale of HORROR OF DRACULA, Cushing does get a hand in the demise of Marlowe/Blake/Lee, but it's about as exciting to watch as the rest of the film. Meaning, not at all. Production values, sets and costumes are all OK, and if scenes of Lee thrusting a bunson burner or carrying a mouse directly toward the camera seem odd, it's because this was originally planned as a 3D release; a plan that was abandoned midway through production. Michael Des Barres and Ian McCulloch (from Lucio Fulci's cult hit ZOMBIE) have small roles. Milton Subotsky (who also scripted) and Max Rosenberg were the producers. Director Weeks also made MADHOUSE MANSION (1974) with Marianne Faithful.
First distributed by Sinister Cinema on VHS, the R1 DVD (which isn't in the best of condition. so beware) is from Retromedia. Supposedly the British DVD release (from Optimum) is of much better quality.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Man Without a Body, The (1957)

Directed by:
Charles Saunders
W. Lee Wilder

Arrogant, high strung, obscenely wealthy New York business tycoon Karl Brussard (George Coulouris) has been suffering from double vision, hallucinations and bouts of dementia, and learns that he not only has an inoperable brain tumor but that his days are numbered. Still, he insists that money can buy anything... or anyone. As a last resort, his physician recommends he take a trip to London to consult with Dr. Phil Merritt (Robert Hutton), a brilliant young scientist known for his brain transplant experiments. Accompanying Karl overseas is a money-grubbing, pampered, much-younger Serbian woman named Odette (Nadja Regin), who he tells others is his adopted daughter but is actually his mistress. During his visit with Merritt, Karl is impressed enough with a fully functioning eyeball and a living monkey head (!) kept alive with an artificial heart and lungs that he decides that he'd like a new brain himself. As he is with his business dealings, Karl is with his transplants. He only wants the best!
During a trip to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum (where we get to see about 20 exhibits), Karl learns a little about the intellect and accomplishments of Nostradamus and decides that's the guy for him. He enlists the aid of a desperate, discredited doctor (now a drunk) to accompany him to France to help. The two somehow manage to raid Nostradamus' tomb, remove his head (which is surprisingly well preserved considering he's been dead for almost 400 years!), sneak it through customs and then take it to Dr. Merrit's lab. Merritt puts up a little resistance at first ("Grave robbing is a crime!") but then agrees to try to bring the head back to life and possibly graft it onto Karl. Assisting him are a colleague, Dr. Lew Waldenhouse (Sheldon Lawrence), and a female assistant / nurse, Jean Cramer (Julia Arnall).

The head of Nostradamus (played by Michael Golden) is submerged in a water tank and next thing we know it's alive and having conversations with everyone. Unfortunately, Nos has no desire to go on living because he feels it is against nature. In several hilarious scenes, Karl tries to convince Nos (who announces himself as Michel de Notre Dame) that he's actually him... and then tries to get some financial advice before heading back to New York to do business! The advice backfires and Karl returns to London infuriated and broke. Further pissing him off is Odette. After her advances are rejected by their chauffeur (Maurice Kaufmann), she moves on to romancing Lou. When Karl catches the two of them together, he strangles her and then shoots him. Lou stumbles back into the lab and keels over, so now there's a fresh body and a Nostradamus head in need of a body. Guess what happens next?
This premise is so absurd (yet coupled with some genuinely intriguing ideas) and it's all played so straight that I couldn't help but find the whole thing an unexpected delight. It's almost like the British answer to THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE (1959). Excellent character actor Coulouris (CITIZEN KANE) may have been slumming here, but I loved his performance (a rare lead for him) and egomaniacal character. During an early scene when he's informed his mistress might commit suicide, he looks over at his maid and says "Let her!" He also gets to go on several over-the-top, delirious rants ("My brain! It's alive!") as well as deliver a ton of hilarious dialogue ("Restored a dead monkey's head after six years?") and does it all with a straight face. Bravo! Hutton is a bit dull and the rest of the cast is just OK, but Coulouris carries it just fine by himself. Post-surgery, Nostradamus gets to briefly lurk around with his head enclosed in a huge plaster box. And to top it all off, there's a tragic ending that's surprisingly effective.
Since there are two credited directors, and scenes taking place (but no necessarily shot) in three different countries, I'm not sure exactly who did what or if it was a collaborative effort. Saunders also made the 1958 film WOMANEATER, while Wilder (the brother of Billy) has many credits in the horror genre: PHANTOM FROM SPACE (1953), KILLERS FROM SPACE (1954), THE SNOW CREATURE (1954), FRIGHT (1956), BLUEBEARD'S TEN HONEYMOONS (1960; which also featured Coulouris, as well as Lawrence) and THE OMEGANS (1968).
As of this writing, there has been no official VHS or DVD release of the film.


Kyôfu joshikôkô: bôkô rinchi kyôshitsu (1973)

...aka: Terrifying Girls' High School: Lynch Law Classroom

Directed by:
Norifumi Suzuki

At the School of Hope for Girls, an utterly ridiculous boarding school that prides itself on turning the delinquent teenage criminals of today into the obedient housewives and child bearers of tomorrow, three new transfer students; girl gang leader Noriko (Miki Sugimoto), "Razor Blade" Remi and slutty bisexual Kyoko have just been brought in by the cops to be whipped into shape. Soon enough they find themselves facing off against the "disciplinary committee," a gang of sadistic bullies who are paid off by the school's corrupt vice president to torture the students who get out of line or challenge authority. Sounds fair enough for a sleazy little exploitation film and this movie opens on high note as a tied-up girl is slapped around, belittled, gets her breast cut with a scalpel, has her blood slowly drained and is then knocked off the school roof. Noriko discovers the murdered girl is actually a friend of hers and vows to get revenge. There's also a wealthy tabloid reporter involved who also wants to see the school crumble for his own reasons. Unfortunately for this viewer, the opening scene is the sole shocking moment in the film and one of the only memorable things about it. TERRIFYING GIRLS... is classified as "pinky violence;" something I'm not too familiar with. Apparently it's a subcategory of Japanese films of various genres that try to cram in as much T&A as possible because they could not legally show pubic hair. I guess for fans of this kind of film, it delivers the goods, with many scenes of gorgeous Japanese women sans clothing and in various sexual situations, some a little kinky and others a little comic. But to me, something was really missing that kept the film from being as good as it otherwise could have been. It's adequately sleazy, but there is also an element of fun that's missing.

Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible or anything. I was just surprised at how pedestrian much of this seemed and how bland even many of the more outrageous scenes came across. I think it has something to do with the overall uncertainty of tone and the fact the characters (even the supposed heroines we should be cheering on) are all so nasty, one-note and/or unlikable. Kind of takes away from the pleasure of seeing girls kick ass when you don't even really care who wins in the end. The premise, and the depiction of the school, is impossible to take seriously for one second. That wouldn't be a problem at all, except for the fact that the film wants us to start taking it - and its characters - seriously toward the end. I actually really didn't care much by then, despite a few entertaining and amusing moments here and there. I'm sure the making-girl-do- push-ups-after -a-red-hot-light -bulb-inserted-her-vagina gag will go over real well with some people. There's also nipples getting shocked with electric wires, the girls bringing in a rubber band so they can gang bang an elderly teacher and other things that sound outrageous on paper but aren't quite so outrageous how they're set up and visualized here.

It is the second entry in a four-part series the began with WOMEN'S VIOLENT CLASSROOM (1972). I probably won't be making these a priority.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dinosaurus! (1960)

Directed by:
Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.

On a Caribbean island, a construction crew using dynamite accidentally disrupt a frozen (?!) area right underneath the water. Located inside the rubble are two perfectly-preserved dinosaurs (a tyrannosaurus rex and a brontosaurus), as well as a Neanderthal man (Gregg Martell). The crew put their heavy equipment to good use dragging them up to the beach to thaw out. but during a thunderstorm later that same evening, all three of the prehistoric beasts are resurrected via lightning. The brontosaurus wanders around eating bananas and foliage, the caveman clumsily tries to relate to our modern world and the t-rex goes on a destructive rampage. Construction supervisor Bart Thompson (Ward Ramsey), his assistant Chuck (Paul Lukather), their lady friend Betty (Kristina Hanson), a dino-loving little boy named Julio (Alan Roberts) and a fat dump truck driver named - you guessed it - Dumpy (Wayne Treadway), are amongst those setting out to stop the dinos, as well as greedy bad guy Hacker (Fred Engelberg) and his two thugs. Meanwhile, the native islanders stand around not looking too impressed with anything.
This one's from the same team (director Yeaworth and producer Jack H. Harris) who brought us THE BLOB (1958) and 4D MAN (1959). It's corny and badly acted, the characters are thinly drawn, boring and annoying, the dialogue is terrible and the work in front of screens (were they even called green screens back then?) is pretty awful. Still, this has a few things working in its favor. For starters, it's very nicely photographed by Stanley Cortez and the 2002 DVD release from Image Entertainment does his vivid work justice. Secondly, the special effects are pretty delightful. Sure, they haven't dated well at all and Harryhausen's work around the same time is far superior to anything you'll see here, but there's just something charming about the combo of cheap plastic model work and crude stop motion animation used here. Some of the "highlights" are the t-rex versus bronto fight, the t-rex crushing a tour bus and, of course, the finale where our hero fights the t-rex with a steam shovel on a cliff. I'm sure 1960's monster-movie-loving kids loved it.

Q: What do Jesus and little Julio have in common?

Some of the scenes with the caveman (who is actually very well played by Martell, in the film's sole standout performance) are also mildly amusing. He gets scared by a woman wearing a mud mask and the sound of a flushing toilet, chops up a radio with an axe, tries to eat a piece of wax fruit and even puts on a pink dress at one point. A cross-dressing cavemen? That's gotta be a first. And the scene where the caveman and little Julio ride the benign bronto is about as funny as the stegosaurus with a saddle on its back at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. Also worth noting are the surprising number of similarities between this and JURASSIC PARK (1993). The score is from Ronald Stein and the director's wife, Jean Yeaworth, co-scripted based on an original idea by Harris.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blood Beast Terror, The (1968)

...aka: Blood Beast from Hell
...aka: Deathshead Vampire, The
...aka: Vampire-Beast Craves Blood, The

Directed by:
Vernon Sewell

Somewhere in Merry Old England, pale corpses (all men for a change) are turning up drained of their blood. A vampire, you say? You would be wrong. Just as I was wrong in hoping this would somehow perk up my dreary movie viewing week. I should have known better. Apparently, star Peter Cushing had singled this particular film out in interviews as being the very worst of his entire career. While I haven't seen every film he's been in (far from it), as of now I'm apt to agree with him. The only other Cushing film I've seen in the same league of bad was LAND OF THE MINOTAUR (1975), but even that benefitted from picturesque Greek locations and Cushing himself was fine in a small supporting role. Here he's the lead and, for the first time ever, I got the impression he was working on autopilot. He not only looks utterly bored, but his line delivery lacks the usual conviction. Part of me is tempted to lay the blame on Sewell. I mean, he did get together a genre dream team (Karloff, Lee, Steele and Gough) for THE CRIMSON CULT (1968) the following year, and somehow managed to foul it all up, too. Supposedly, Robert Flemyng (who replaced Basil Rathbone in the 'mad scientist' role shortly before filming began), also had a miserable time working on this movie, so something clearly unpleasant was going on behind-the-scenes.
After a vague, poorly-filmed opening sequence supposedly set in Africa, a coach driver discovers a body and spots a strange, flying beast so spooky it drives him batshit crazy. We learn that the body is actually the sixth victim of a mysterious killer, but since the witness is unintelligible he's of no use to Inspector Quennell (Cushing). Other clues eventually lead Quennell to the home of professor and entomologist Dr. Karl Mallinger (Flemyng) and his seductress daughter Claire (Wanda Ventham). To make a long story short, Claire is the killer and every once in awhile she transforms into a giant bloodsucking deathshead moth (!) Yep, you heard that right. Giant bloodsucking deathshead moth.
The seldom-seen moth-monster costume consists of a mask with large, buggy red eyes, wings and a black bodysuit. To be fair, the mask itself isn't really that bad compared to many other 'B' horror pictures of the time. As silly as the concept is, I could live with it if they'd even bothered explaining its origins. If this is a man-made beast, how did the doctor make it? And why did he decide to do something like this to his own daughter? Is she even his daughter or another woman pretending to be his daughter? Why does she seem so unconcerned if she started out as a normal girl but has been transformed into a murderous beast? None of these questions are really answered. The fact Dr. Mallinger is busy at work trying to create a second moth creature as a mate for Claire leads one to believe that he somehow also turned her into what she is, but a little clarification, or motivation, would have been nice.
The amount of technical ineptitude on display, especially in comparison to other British horror titles from the era, is somewhat startling. The photography is murky, flat and even grainy at times, with night shots clearly filmed during the day using improper filtering. It's poorly paced and just as badly edited and directed. During one scene, the inspector's daughter Meg (played by Vanessa Howard) is talking to Claire and in the next scene she's hypnotized and strapped to a table getting her blood pumped out. So now the moth lady now has the ability to hypnotize her prey? Though the costumes and sets are decent in capturing the Victorian era, any potential for fun is squashed by how mannered, sedate and languidly paced the whole thing is. Sloppy attempts at time-lapsing transformations and poor acting, particularly from Flemyng (the male lead from the well-regarded 1962 Italian horror THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK) and Howard (impressive in the macabre black comedy GIRLY but certainly not here), don't help matters. Neither does a truly terrible 'moth to the flame' finale where a very brief, fuzzy close-up of a fiery flapping wing supposedly signals the demise of the creature. Some demise.
One thing that does actually fascinate me is wondering whether or not this film's writer (Peter Bryan) was influenced by the American Mothman legend. After all, the first reported sightings of Mothman in Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia (which - as per eyewitness descriptions - is nearly identical in appearance to the Mothwoman featured here) came in 1966, just a year before this film was made. Make you wonder, doesn't it?
Tigon, a short-lived rival to Hammer and Amicus, was the production company and it was originally released in America under the title The Vampire-Beast Craves Blood, where it was double billed with Curse of the Blood Ghouls aka SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES (1961).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Additions to the Index

Every time I think I'm making some progress with my title index, a new title I'd never even heard of before (or one I'd forgotten to include) comes to my attention. I usually jot them down so I can add them on here later and it didn't take long for one to become two to become three to become 124 before I had a chance to play catch up. Below are the new movies I just added. Should be fun to try to hunt some of these down...

- Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951; Charles Lamont)
- Ash Tree, The (Ghost Story for Christmas: The Ash Tree) (1975; Lawrence Gordon Clark)
- Beautiful Girl Hunter (Dabide no hoshi: Bishôjo-gari) (1979; Norifumi Suzuki)
- Beauty and the Devil (1950; Rene Clair)
- Black Rain (Kuroi ame) (1989; Shohei Imamura)
- Blind Beast (Môjû) (1969; Yasuzo Masumura)
- Blood Stains in a New Car (Manchas de sangre en un coche nuevo) (1975; Antonio Mercero)
- Bride from Hades, The (Botan-dôrô) (1968; Satsuo Yamamoto)
- Bridge to Nowhere (1986; Ian Mune)
- Casting the Runes (1979; Lawrence Gordon Clark)
- Chaos (Kaos) (1984; Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani)
- Cold Night's Death, A (The Chill Factor) (1973; Jerrold Freedman)
- Colossus of New York, The (1958; Eugène Lourié)
- Cosmic Monsters (The Strange World of Planet X) (1958; Gilbert Gunn)
- Cross Current (Un omicidio perfetto a termine di legge) (1971; Tonino Ricci)
- Day of Wrath (Den gneva) (1985; Sulambek Mamilov)
- Dead Father, The (1986; Guy Maddin)
- Deadly Corpse (Khooni Murdaa) (1989; Mohan Bhakri)
- Depth (Gehrayee) (1980; Vikas Desai and Aruna Raje)
- Devil in Miss Jones, The (1973; Gerard Damiano)
- Devilish Murder (Salinma) (1965; Yongmin Lee)
- Drifter in the Rain (Vagabundo en la lluvia) (1968; Carlos Enrique Taboada)
- Eden and After (L'éden et après) (1970; Alain Robbe-Grillet)
- Emperor and the Golem, The (Císaruv pekar - Pekaruv císar) (1952; Martin Fric)
- Ferat Vampire (Upír z Feratu) (1981; Juraj Herz)
- Fist In the Pocket (I pugni in tasca) (1965; Marco Bellocchio)
- Ghost-Cat Cursed Wall, The (Kaibyô noroi no kabe) (1958; Kenji Misumi)
- Ghost Stories of Wanderer at Honjo (Kaidan Honsho nanafushigi) (1957; Gorô Kadono)
- Ghost Story of Deathfire Pond (Kaidan onibi no numa) (1963; Bin Kado)
- Ghost Story of Kakui Street (Kaidan Kakuidori) (1961; Kazuo Mori)
- Ghost Story of Oiwa's Spirit (Kaidan Oiwa no borei) (1961; Tai Kato)
- Gog (1954; Herbert L. Strock)
- Gorilla at Large (1954; Harmon Jones)
- Habit (1982; Larry Fessenden)
- Haunted Castle, The (Hiroku kaibyoden) (1969; Tokuzo Tanaka)
- Haunted Strangler, The (Grip of the Strangler) (1958; Robert Day)
- Headless Rider, The (El jinete sin cabeza) (1957; Chano Urueta)
- He Lives By Night (Ye jing hun) (1982; Po-Chih Leong)
- H-Man, The (Beauty and the Liquidman; Bijo to Ekitainingen) (1958; Ishirô Honda)
- Hostile Takeover (Office Party) (1988; George Mihalka)
- Human Vapor, The (Gasu ningen dai ichigo) (1960; Ishirô Honda)
- I'll See You in Hell (Ti aspetterò all'inferno) (1960; Piero Regnoli)
- Illusion of Blood (Yotsuya Ghost Story; Yotsuya kaidan) (1965; Shirô Toyoda)
- In the Old Manor House (W starym dworku czyli niepodleglosc trójkatów) (1985; Andrzej Kotkowski)
- Kill Barbara with Panic (Patayin mo sa sindak si Barbara) (1974; Celso Ad. Castillo)
- Killer is Still Among Us, The (L'assassino è ancora tra noi) (1986; Camillo Teti)
- Kiss from Beyond the Grave, The (El beso de ultratumba) (1963; Carlos Toussaint)
- Kronos (1957; Kurt Neumann)
- Last Savage, The (Addio ultimo uomo) (1978; Alfredo Castiglioni and Angelo Castiglioni)
- Living Coffin, The (El grito de la muerte; Scream of Death) (1959; Fernando Méndez)
- Living Skeleton, The (Kyuketsu dokuro sen) (1968; Hiroshi Matsuno)
- Lokis (The Bear) (1970; Janusz Majewski)
- Lolita: Vibrator Torture (Lolita vib-zeme) (1987; Hisayasu Sato)
- Man and the Monster, The (El hombre y el monstruo) (1959; Rafael Baledón)
- Mangalsutra (1981; Vijay B.)
- Månguden (1988; Jonas Cornell)
- Man with No Face, The (El hombre sin rostro) (1950; Juan Bustillo Oro)
- Mister Designer (Gospodin oformitel) (1988;Oleg Teptsov)
- Monster from Green Hell (1958; Kenneth G. Crane)
- Monsters Crash the Pajama Party (1965; David L. Hewitt)
- Monster with Twenty Faces (Kaijin nijumenso) (1954; Susumu Yumizuri)
- Morbo (Morbidness) (1972; Gonzalo Suárez)
- Mother Tree, The (Ghost of Chibusa Enoki; Kaidan chibusa enoki) (1958; Gorô Kadono)
- Museum of Horror (Museo del horror) (1965; Rafael Baledón)
- Naked Jungle, The (1954; Byron Haskin)
- Nest of the Cuckoo Birds, The (1965; Bert Williams)
- Night of 1,000 Sexes (Mil sexos tiene la noche) (1984; Jesus Franco)
- Night of the Ghouls (Revenge of the Dead) (1959; Edward D. Wood, Jr.)
- Nine Guests for a Crime (Nove ospiti per un delitto) (1977; Ferdinando Baldi)
- Oiwa Phanton, The (Yotsuya kaidan - Oiwa no borei) (1969; Kazuo Mori)
- Old Temple, The (Purana Mandir) (1984; Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay)
- Olga's House of Shame (36 Hours of Terror) (1964; Joseph P. Mawra)
- Panic on the Mountain (Pánico en la montaña) (1989; Pedro Galindo III)
- Passport for a Corpse (Lasciapassare per il morto) (1962; Mario Gariazzo)
- Phantom of the Red House, The (El fantasma de la casa roja) (1956; Miguel M. Delgado)
- Pig-Chicken Suicide (Tonkei shinjû) (1981; Yoshihiko Matsui)
- Playbird Murders, The (The Playbirds) (1978; Willy Roe)
- Plot of Fear (...e tanta paura) (1976; Paolo Cavara)
- Porno Zombies, The (La fille à la fourrure) (1977; Claude Pierson)
- Portrait of Hell (Jigokuhen) (1969; Shirô Toyoda)
- Revived Monster, The (El monstruo resucitado) (1953; Chano Urueta)
- Room to Let (1950; Godfrey Grayson)
- Rowing with the Wind (Remando al viento) (1988; Gonzalo Suárez)
- Rusted Body: Guts of a Virgin III (Gômon kifujin) (1987; Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu)
- Samurai Resurrection (Makai tenshô) (1981; Kinji Fukasaku)
- Saragossa Manuscript, The (Rekopis znaleziony w Saragossie) (1965; Wojciech Has)
- Satan's Bed (1983; H. Tjut Djalil)
- School for Dead Girls (1972; unknown)
- School of the Holy Beast (Seijû gakuen) (1974; Norifumi Suzuki)
- Scream, The (Cheekh) (1985; Mohan Bhakri)
- Secret of Death (Enigma de muerte) (1969; Federico Curiel)
- Secrets (Rahsia) (1987; Othman Hafsham)
- Serial Rape Murderer, The (Renzoku bôkan) (1983; Yôjirô Takita)
- Serpent Island (1954; Tom Gries)
- Seventh Grave, The (La settima tomba) (1965; Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo)
- Sexual Apocalypse (Apocalipsis sexual) (1982; Carlos Aured and Sergio Bergonzelli)
- Stalls of Barchester, The (Ghost Story for Christmas: The Stalls of Barchester) (1971; Lawrence Gordon Clark)
- Sucedió en el internado (1985; Emilio Vieyra)
- Survivors, The (Los sobrevivientes) (1979; Tomás Gutiérrez Alea)
- Swamp of the Lost Souls (El pantano de las ánimas) (1957; Rafael Baledón)
- Sweet Body of Deborah, The (Il dolce corpo di Deborah) (1968; Romolo Guerrieri)
- Take Me Naked (Take Me) (1967; Michael Findlay and Roberta Findlay)
- Taming of Rebecca, The (1982; Phil Prince)
- Target Earth (1954; Sherman A. Rose)
- Television Set, The (El televisor) (1974; Narciso Ibáñez Serrador)
- Tenamonya: Ghost Journey (Tenamonya yurei dochu) (1967; Shûe Matsubayashi)
- Terror in the Midnight Sun (Rymdinvasion i Lappland) (1959; Virgil W. Vogel)
- Tortured Females (1965; Arch Hudson)
- Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974; Lawrence Gordon Clark)
- Twelve Months of the Summer, The (Sommarens tolv månader) (1988; Richard Hobert)
- Unknown, The (Gumnaam) (1965; Raja Nawathe)
- Vengeance Is Mine (Fukushû suru wa ware ni ari) (1979; Shohei Imamura)
- Violated Angels (Okasareta hakui) (1967; Kôji Wakamatsu)
- Voodoo Woman (1957; Edward L. Cahn)
- Weak-kneed from Fear of Ghost-Cat (Kaibyo koshinuke daisodo) (1954; Torajiro Saito)
- Witch, The (La bruja) (1954; Chano Urueta)
- Witches' Hammer, The (Kladivo na carodejnice) (1970; Otakar Vávra)
- Witches' Sabbath, The (La visione del Sabba) (1988; Marco Bellocchio)
- Witch with Flying Head, The (Fei taugh mo neuih) (1977; Lian Sing Woo)
- Without Warning! (1952; Arnold Laven)
- Woman Called Sada Abe, A (Jitsuroku Abe Sada) (1975; Noboru Tanaka)
- Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952; Fred C. Brannon)
- Zoom In: Rape Apartments (Zoom In: boko danchii) (1980; Naosuke Kurosawa)
- Zoom Up: Rape Site (Zûmu appu: bôkô genba) (1979; Koyu Ohara)

Evil in the Woods (1986)

Directed by:
William J. Oates

A little boy (Brian Abent) goes to the library and snatches a copy of an ancient-looking book titled "Evil in the Woods." He returns home, hops in bed and starts reading the "fractured fable" found inside, which is then visualized for us. It's narrated by someone with a cheesy and highly annoying country fried goofball accent and for some reason redundant title cards have been inserted every once in awhile, probably less to keep viewers informed of what's going on than to help with the consistently poor continuity. Somewhere near Mildew, Georgia in 1956 a man is attacked by something from the sky. The film then hops to present day Atlanta and we're on the set of "Bigfoot vs. the Space Monsters." The cast and production crew promptly travel to Mildew, where a big foot-like creature is roaming the woods and a tinfoil spaceship with a couple of alien midgets lands. All that turns out to be just a movie.

Meanwhile, a camping family from the big city lose their little son Billy (played by the same kid reading the book), who ends up getting dismembered (off screen) by an old backwoods witch named Ida Pierson (Stephanie Kaskel). Ida has about half-a dozen retarded fully-grown children (bi-products of incest, naturally) who roam around in the woods, kidnap the crew members, take them back to their home, torture and dismember them and then eat them. Ida makes herself young and beautiful with a magic potion and eventually turns her clan into mutant monsters with the help of voodoo dolls. The missing little boy's parents go to the sheriff for help, little knowing he's actually romantically involved with the witch. The cast and crew of the movie hang out, bicker, drink and do drugs before getting killed.

I've heard both good and bad things about this rare low-budgeter, but I'm mostly siding with the bad camp. The (over)acting, dialogue, editing and production values are all pretty dire, attempts at humor are labored and unfunny, the narration is extremely irritating and never seems to end and the whole mess is sloppy, juvenile, slapdash and lacks focus. On the plus side, some of the music is actually pretty good (except for a song that attempts to rhyme "tequila" with "squeeze-a"), there's some OK aerial photography and the last half hour is much better than what precedes it (which is pretty much unwatchable). Most of the cheap gore is also saved for the end. We get an exploding head, guts ripped out, brains removed, etc. Too little, too late. It ends with a shot of an Iron Maiden poster and a page of the book that says "Please watch for other fractured fables by Fantasy Factory." Guess that never happened.

The VHS distributor was Cinevest Interactive, who also released NIGHTMARE (1981), THE SLAYER (1981), NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR (1985), REVENGE OF THE LIVING ZOMBIES (1988), VAMPIRES (1988) and NIGHT TERROR (1989). Bootleg DVD-R's are also available.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hereafter, The (1983)

...aka: Qualen
Directed by:
Michael J. Murphy
Here's another film so rare that IMDb doesn't even bother listing it. As a matter of fact, of director Michael J. Murphy's 25 films (many of which are horror and have been released), only two (1982's INVITATION TO HELL and 1983's THE LAST NIGHT) are currently in their database. Murphy claims (in this interview) that the producer could only sell this particular title in Spain, where it was released under the title QUALEN (whatever that means) and dubbed into Spanish. I guess neither he nor his interviewer were aware of it at the time, but this movie was also released here in the U.S. in 1987 under the title THE HEREAFTER. The company who distributed it on VHS, Mogul Communications (who specialized mostly in obscure foreign films - see list below), even put it in a very nice, eye-catching box that has attracted attention from genre fans, particularly zombie movie fans. Well, don't get your hopes up too high, buckos. I couldn't imagine too many people (let alone those looking for some living dead action) being impressed with they'll see here.
Neville (Steven Longhurst) is saddled with a drunken old crank of a crippled father. Dad (who is rich) also doesn't seem to think much of his son's new girlfriend Vicky (Catherine Rowlands), who he refers to as "that hairdresser slut." During an argument, Neville leaves his dad sitting atop a rocky embankment. He forgets to put the emergency brake on the wheelchair, which promptly rolls down a hill and throws pops out into a lake, where he drowns. Soon after, Neville and Vicky get married and settle into the mansion. He relates a flashback to the home's troubled history. Many years earlier, Neville's great great uncle fell in love with a poor village girl with a bad reputation. The young man's father frowned upon the union to the point where he arranged for the girl to get gang raped and murdered. His son then killed himself by leaping from his bedroom window.
The film then settles into a tired 'let's drive the rich person crazy to get their money' storyline, with a slight touch of the supernatural. A skull-faced zombie (the thing pictured on the box) turns up long enough to knock Neville out of a window. He ends up surviving the fall, is stuck in a wheelchair and soon discovers his new wife has been plotting against him with her lover, hunky gardener Patrick (David Slater), to get their hand on a million pounds Neville inherited. Vicky and Patrick even go so far as to getting it on in the house while Neville tries to recooperate from his injuries. They also begin to get suspicious about the female writer named Dorothy (Wendy Young) who lives next door, so Vicky sinks a pick axe into her face while she's trying to ride away on her bicycle! Eventually ghosts (whose, I'm not so sure) turn up to help settle the score.
Is the fact an already unknown director decided to use a pseudonym ("Michael Melsack") a bad sign? In this case, yep. The acting, lighting, sound, editing and camerawork (note the shot where the camera pans down then has to abruptly jerk over to capture a woman on the phone) are all pretty amateurish. The zombie on the box is only featured briefly and it turns out to be a hoax. The "haunting" portion is limited to a rocking horse moving and lights flickering. There are a couple of laughably choreographed fight scenes, a tiny bit of blood (the aforementioned bicycle murder and an arm smashed in a bear trap) and a couple of timid sex scenes where the nudity is concealed (or has been cut). Mostly though, this is just talk, with very stiff actors reciting very bland dialogue in service of a slow-moving, cliche-ridden, predictable plot. Not really worth the search.
The other releases from the Mogul VHS catalogue include FEAST OF SATAN (1971), AUTOPSY (1973), HAVE A NICE WEEKEND (1975), SCHOOL OF DEATH (1975), RAPE (1976), WEREWOLF WOMAN (1976), THE BEAST IN HEAT (1977; as SS Experiment Camp 2), SATAN'S BLOOD (1978; as Don't Panic), FROZEN TERROR (1980; as Macabro), THE ICEBOX MURDERS (1981), THE CURSE OF THE SCREAMING DEAD (1982), DON'T LOOK IN THE ATTIC (1982), HORROR SAFARI (1982; as Invaders of the Lost Gold), SATAN'S BLADE (1984), DEMON QUEEN (1986) and GREEN INFERNO (1988). While some of those have been picked up for DVD distribution by other companies, others (including this one) have sunk into obscurity over the years.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tao chu shan hu hai (1986)

... aka: 
... aka: Escape from Coral Cove
... aka: Tiu chut saan woo hoi 

Directed by:
Terrance Cheung Ga-Jan 

Going by the plot synopsis I had read online, I expected to see a bunch of stranded teens getting killed by a zombie on an island. What I got instead was a feature length commercial for various boats and water sports equipment being pitched by a cast of grating idiots that finally remembers to be a horror movie during the last twenty minutes. In short, this movie is just too damn tame and too damn slow to really pique anyone's interest. Now I'm not saying I don't appreciate subtlety and restraint in the right context, but what's the point of holding back in the 'annoying teens get hacked up by something' subgenre? Right. There isn't a good reason. These movies usually don't bother with having an actual plot, so they're left with trying to come up with inventive and/or bloody death scenes. The more the merrier. Throw in enough sex and it can really satisfy the target audience. Throw in neither, and it fails to justify its existence. 

Admittedly, I did kind of enjoy the first twenty minutes. After a confusing prologue, the director (or someone else) decided to tack on a scene of a naked woman (Marilyn Bautista) discovering a decapitated head while snorkeling. Although it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie, this scene at least provides a cheap shock, a little gore and a little nudity. The underwater photography is also pretty nice. A hilarious version of "In My House" by the Mary Jane Girls (sung by Joann Tang Lai-Ying in Cantonese) plays over the credits. Then we're introduced to our characters. There's Alex (Alex "Fu" / Fong), a good-looking, cocky jerk who tries to have his way with every female in the cast. Well, except for his annoyed girlfriend Chen-chen ("Bee Lee Tan" / Yin-Ling Joh). Another of the girls, San-san (Elsie Chan), is a backstabbing slut (nicknamed "Big Tits" for obvious reasons) who tries to steal Chen-chen's man away and their other friend Irene ("Iwanbeo" / Yuen-Jing Leung) is nice, sweet and pretty. The four meet up with a nerdy aspiring scientist named Dak (Louis Kong) - nicknamed "Four Eyes" for obvious reasons - and his annoying kid brother Gus (Jun-Git Leung). 

Everyone goes on a sail boat ride. Then they go on a speed boat ride. Then they go on a ride on a rubber boat. They swim underwater and above the water. They swim to the beach and back from the beach. They go skiing. They roll around in the sand. They even get to joust with those giant Q-tip things like on American Gladiators. They also bitch and complain a lot. Most of the drama is centered around Alex trying to get in Irene's Donald Duck swimsuit while San-san tries to get into Alex's orange speedo. Chen-chen gets pissed, takes off in the boat and doesn't come back (cause she's dead). The rest go back to the resort and the zombie-killer (who now suddenly looks like a normal human and is played by Roy Cheung) shows up. Someone is put in a barrel and thrown over a rocky embankment. An exorcist shows up long enough to get a stake in his heart and a girl gets her head bashed in with a chunk of coral. Strangely (and annoyingly), the womanizing asshole we've spent the whole film hating just disappears from the movie and doesn't even die! There's also a drunken security guard (Huang Chin) who I think is supposed to be funny, a lame cat fight that is over before it can get any good, an exploding goldfish and a dancing montage set to my new favorite song. 

At the end, one of our survivors is below deck on a boat, throws an axe at the killer, misses and then picks up a fire extinguisher. Suddenly the film cuts to a close-up of an aerosol can and a lighter above deck as someone torches the killer. The major release of this rare film is from the HK-based Ocean Shores, who offered it on VHS and VCD. Based on what I've read, the company may be responsible for the bad editing cuts, as well as removing some gore from the film, but I can't really verify that claim. What I can verify is that their subtitles suck ass. It's filled with white buildings, white walls and white boats, and nearly every character wears white clothes, so they decided that the best color for the subs is also white. I guess because it blends in so well that half the time you can't even see them.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hook of Woodland Heights, The (1990)

Directed by:
Michael Savino

The guys behind the 15-minute short ATTACK OF THE KILLER REFRI(D)GERATOR (1984) are back with this 40-minute, shot-on-video slasher, which was first released in 1990 on VHS by Donna Michelle Productions (who put Refrigerator on the same tape for a double feature that's actually shorter than most standard features). Hook is a silly, over-the-top play on the 'hook-handed killer haunting lover's lane' urban legend, but it's better-made, better acted and better photographed than their first effort. We're first introduced to teenager Tommy (Michael Elyanow), who picks up his date Katie (Christine McNamara) and hopes to score with her out in the sticks. The film then cuts to a mental hospital where a bunch of cliched nutters roam the halls except for a maniacal, one-handed serial killer named Mason Crane (Robert W. Allen) who is kept locked away in solitary. Mason manages to kill two orderlies in charge of moving him (one is smashed in the door and the other is killed when a clipboard is thrown at his head!) and then escapes.

Mason immediately heads into the woods, kills a dog and then finds a two-pronged barbeque / grill fork lying on the ground and jams it into his arm stump. He then kills a young boy playing hide-and-seek in a graveyard, another guy and finally makes his way to Tommy and Katie, who are too busy making out to pay much attention to the radio news broadcasts warning of the psychos escape. There's some POV camerawork trailing through the woods, a couple of good songs (the theme is called "Hooked on You") and even a crotch stabbing. On the down side, the make-up job on the killer (overdone white face and black eye grease paint) is pretty awful. Most of the acting is mediocre or bad, but Allen is memorably over-the-top as the psycho. He laughs maniacally, breathes heavy, grunts and acts like a mix between a gorilla, a rabid dog and, well, a hyperactive, raving loony.

So nothing great, but mildly entertaining. The short run-time keeps it from wearing out its welcome with unneeded filler and it's a slight step up from their previous effort. Slasher fans will probably want to see it because it's one of the rarest titles in the subgenre, though if you have 25 extra bucks to throw away, you can order it from the director's website.


Attack of the Killer Refrigerator (1984)

...aka: Attack of the Killer Refridgerator

Directed by:
Michael Savino

It was made by media students at Worcester State College in Massachusetts. It was shot-on-video in 1984 with a budget of just 25 dollars. It miraculously managed to get a VHS release in 1990 from Donna Michelle Productions. One might refer to it as amateur hour... except it only runs 15 minutes. So what can you expect here? Nonexistent production values, bad acting, bad effects, bad picture quality, bad editing and a bad music score with a cute premise, a little no budget charm and an attention-getting title. Things begin with a bunch of people having a party. One guy goes into flashback mode and we learn how the poor refrigerator's freezer section got some unwanted ice beat off with a hammer. So now it's pissed off. Steaming mad, you could say. The party clears out, leaving just two guys and their girlfriends. One by one they're killed off. The first victim has her hand chopped off when the door slams on it. A guy gets bashed against a wall. Another is stabbed with a door handle and the final chick gets smashed with the door. It also eats a cat. A girl comes over and cries over a dead body. The end.
Strangely, the on-screen title calls our killer appliance a "refridgerator." I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. Even stranger, this isn't even the only killer fridge movie. Just one year after this made its way to videoland (where it was paired with the same filmmakers' THE HOOK OF WOODLAND HEIGHTS), the feature length film horror-comedy THE REFRIGERATOR (1991) was released. If interested, you can purchase Refrigerator, Woodland Heights and another short called DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS from the same folks (director/writer/producer Savino and writer/producer Mark Veau) from their website Media House Films.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kaidan Yuki Joro (1968)

...aka: Ghost Story of the Snow Witch
...aka: Ghost Story of the Snow Woman
...aka: Kaidan yukijoro
...aka: Snow Ghost
...aka: Snow Woman, The
...aka: Yukionna

Directed by:
Tokuzo Tanaka

Yuki-onna is a female spirit in Japanese folklore, often described as a tall, pale-skinned woman with long black hair who appears only during snow storms, dresses in a long white gown, has uncommon beauty and possesses the ability to freeze anyone who threatens to either harm her or expose her once she takes on human form. Not only a common presence in Japanese literature, anime and manga, Yuki-onna also had an entire opera based on her (that was around as early as 1911) and appeared in that famous Snow Woman segment in the Oscar-nominated ghost anthology KWAIDAN (1964). Here's another chance to see the same character in action in a more bloated form (well, just 75 minutes) and, quite frankly, I'd take the KWAIDAN version any day over this one. Not that this is a bad movie. It's actually a pretty good one when it comes to cinematography, art direction, performance and direction. Unfortunately, the middle portion has a tendency to drag, and where it drags to will be predictable to even those who know nothing of the Yuki-onna legend.

An elder sculptor and his young apprentice Yosaku (Akira Ishihama) locate a sacred tree in the snowy forest with plans on cutting it down, returning it to their village and making a statue of the Goddess Cannon out of it. Stranded by a blizzard, they decide to take refuge in an abandoned shack and wait out the storm. While sleeping, a ghostly, floating woman (Shiho Fujimura) arrives in a flurry of snow. She puts out their fire, freezes the sculptor to death and then promises to spare Yosaku under the condition that he never utter a single word about the night to anyone as long as he lives. He agrees and she goes on her way. Yosaku returns to his village and the home he shares with the sculptor's frail wife and is given permission to create the statue himself. A mysterious woman named Yuki (Fujimura again), who claims to be the daughter of doctors, shows up during a rainstorm, Almost as quickly as they meet, and because of a deathbed wish from the sculptor's wife, Yuki and Yosaku marry. Five years later (which is also how long the wood takes to petrify so the statue can be made) the couple even have their own son.

As is typical of films from this era and from this country, there's high-level corruption in the village as a brutish and sadistic bailiff (who has no issue beating elderly women and children) lusts for the beautiful Yuki and will stop at nothing - including exploiting his social standing - to get her. There's blackmail, attempted rape and eventually revenge enacted by Yuki as her - ahem - icy side comes forward. There's some spooky stuff at the very beginning and a little spooky stuff at the very end, but the entire middle portion plays out as romantic tragedy and the complications faced by our ill-fated love birds aren't really all that interesting.

Some of the shots are lovely to look at, the effects are very well-done for the time and the two leads are excellent. So while it's admittedly a 'well-made film' it's also a 'well-made film that has already been done better elsewhere with less filler.' Which begs the question: What exactly is the point?


Cannibal Mercenary (1983)

... aka: Jaguar Project, The
... aka: Jungle Killers
... aka: Jungle Killers: Cannibal Mercenary
... aka: Jungle Killers: The Jaguar Project
... aka: Mercenary, The
... aka: Mercenary Cannibals

Directed by:
Hong Lu Wong

Young war vet Sgt. Wilson (Lek Songphon) is haunted by flashbacks of Vietnam and of his polio-stricken daughter. He needs to come up with 100,000 dollars to get the proper medical treatment for his daughter and, as luck would have it, a Colonel offers him five times that to lead a top secret commando mission. There, he's to meet up with a woman named Jumper or Junpa or something and learn the rest of his assignment. Next thing we know, Wilson and his platoon (about half a dozen men) are heading through the 'Nam jungle toward their destination. The first group of vietcong they come across are quickly dispatched in a variety of gory ways... and they barely even use their guns! One guy is decapitated, a head is smashed in with a rock, a throat is cut and someone is chopped up with an axe. They also run across a distressed female villager who claims to be pregnant and in need of help. She turns out to be a spy who seduces and then castrates one of the men before being gunned down.

One of the other soldiers has frequent flashbacks to shooting his wife in the back as she has sex with another man. Another guy wrestles with a snake. There are loads of gunfights, explosions, karate fights and booby traps along the way, which take out several of the soliders. They also manage to get pissed on not once, but twice. One guy says "You know, it really smelled like champagne" (?!) afterward. Eventually, they find their female contact, who tells them to "Take a load off your feet" and that they've been brought there to snuff out a drug exporter and his vicious gang. As they near them, they're attacked, kidnapped and taken back to the bad guy's camp to be tortured. One guy is led over a line of firecrackers that explode at crotch-level and is then buried up to his head in the dirt and has a spike hammered into his head. The bad guy gang then eat his brains. Another has his eyeballs poked out, his arm cut off and is then eaten. Things lead up to more fighting and a surprisingly effective ending.

This film (which has a small cult following) takes a decidedly anti-war stance, looks at its hero, his fellow soldiers and innocent villagers caught in the crossfire sympathetically and is loaded with gore and action from start to finish. In fact, there's so much shooting, punching, kicking and hacking, and it's all so consistently loud, that it becomes a numbing viewing experience in no short time. Still, there's certainly enough going on here to make this highly appealing to action, horror, exploitation and war movie fans. The editing is amateurish and jumpy, but some of the flash cutting work wells, particularly at the end. Though the English dub is terrible, the actors aren't too bad, and neither are the blood effects, fight choreography or pyro work. Some of the score sound familiar? Well it should. Half of it was swiped directly from DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)!

There are at least three different cuts of the film on the market. Surprisingly enough, the original U.S. VHS release from PVC Video (titled just The Mercenary) is uncut and runs the full 103 minutes. A bootleg DVD distributed by ZZD Visual Media (and sourced from the American tape) is also uncut. Unfortunately, this cut version has the laughably awful dubbing and is in full screen with middling picture quality. Still, it is the most complete version currently available. Other versions, including ones released in Germany and the UK, have nearly 20 minutes missing. Tomas Tang's Filmark International also acquired the movie, cut out most of the gore, added brand new (and completely irrelevant) scenes featuring three Caucasian actors searching for a valuable statue and released it under several different titles (The Jaguar Project and Jungle Killers are this Filmark version).


Night of the Hunter, The (1955)

Directed by:
Charles Laughton

Review coming soon.


Shock Cinema Volume Two (1990)

...aka: Shock Cinema, Vol. 2

Directed by:
Robert Hayes

Volume 2 (unfortunately) follows the same format of the first, so if you must watch be prepared to see nothing but a bunch of people (referred to as "renegade independents") sitting in front of posters, props, potted plants or in pitch black rooms talking about things only the most die-hard of horror fan is going to care about. Again, there are no film clips to alleviate the monotony of a full hour of yapping, but this one actually is slightly better put-together and has a more colorful array of interview subjects who I'd never seen interviewed elsewhere. Hostess and producer Brinke Stevens - whose name and image have always been plastered all over the publicity material for the series - has a little more face time this time out. She not only opens and closes the film (in a video store and on Hollywood Blvd., respectively), but also gets to conduct an interview with Famous Monsters of Filmland's Forrest J. Ackerman about his screen career and how his magazine influenced countless future genre luminaries, such as Joe Dante, John Landis, Stephen King, Wes Craven, Steven Spielberg and others.

A grumpy-looking and sarcastic Robert Quarry, arms crossed half the time, is pretty amusing to listen to as he talks about his start as an extra, how COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1971) started as a soft porn but (thanks to his suggestion) turned into a straight horror film and how most modern horror films are "garbage." 50+ year old actress Deanna Lund (of Land of the Lost fame) talks about how she felt the need to do her own nude scenes after being criticized for using a body double on the hilariously awful ELVES (1989). Gary Graver (possibly the most important cinematographer of the video boom era) discusses his terrorized-babysitter flick TRICK OR TREATS (1982) and how he didn't make a penny off it. Scream Queen Melissa Moore (who made her film debut in the shot-on-video SCREAM DREAM), director/writer Ted Newsom (who made the 1988 documentary MONSTERS & MANIACS, which was also hosted by Stevens), writer/actor Frederick Bailey (DEMON OF PARADISE), director/editor Joel Bender (THE IMMORTALIZER) and fx artists Steve Neill, Michael Burnett and John Goodwin are the others interviewed. Interestingly, many of the interview subjects seem to look down upon explicit gore and unnecessary nudity in modern horror films, though all of them actually work on films with explicit gore and unnecessary nudity.
Initially distributed on VHS by Cinema Home Video and now (priced rather cheaply) on DVD from Tempe. It was followed by SHOCK CINEMA VOLUME THREE (1991), which was just a rip off and nothing other than recycled clips from seven films with some bloopers from DR. ALIEN (1988) and NIGHTMARE SISTERS (1987) thrown in for good measure. SHOCK CINEMA VOLUME 4 (1991) dealt with the special effects from the movies covered in Volume 3.

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