Sunday, December 9, 2012

Die Hinrichtung (1976)

... aka: Born for Hell
... aka: ...E la notte si tinse di sangue
... aka: Naked Massacre
... aka: Né pour l'enfer

Directed by:
Denis Héroux

Cain Adamson (Mathieu Carrière) is one of many mentally scarred young Vietnam veterans. He's ended up in Belfast for the time being while waiting for a transfer back to the U.S. but it's certainly no relaxing vacation. Belfast happens to be going through their own violent religious war. Through the clouds of smoke that often fill the streets, Cain wanders around aimlessly and alone. He has no friends, he's running low on cash and he's forced to sleep in a crowded homeless shelter and beg for food. As if suffering the horrors of Vietnam wasn't bad enough, now he has to be careful not to get shot down just walking the streets and barely survives a church bombing. In addition to the war and being laid up in a dangerous place, Cain also has problems on the home front. His wife has cheated on him with one of his best friends; an army buddy. She's also gotten pregnant from the affair. Already rattled from his experiences in Vietnam (where he was discharged for trying to commit suicide) and bad news about his personal life (he has no one to even return home to), he continues to be rattled in his new surroundings. It becomes too much to bear.

When Cain accompanies an over-the-hill hooker back to her home, he forces her to dance while he plays "Oh, Susannah" on the harmonica and then kicks her in the head when she asks is he's gay. It will be a sign of things to come. As he goes to and fro, he frequently passes a nice home where eight young nurses live. One day, while the girls are giving a birthday party for Eileen (Andrée Pelletier), he wanders into the kitchen and meets Amy (SWEET MOVIE star Carole Laure), who he thinks looks like his wayward wife. Amy's sort-of the matriarch of the clan; the one the rest of the girls go to when they need advice. Noticing he's behaving strangely, she offers him food, which he accepts, and even some money, which he refuses because he says he's not a beggar, in hopes he'll leave. It works... for the time being.

Later that same night, Cain sneaks back into the house through a window, where Christine (Christine Boisson) is about to confess her attraction to fellow nurse Jenny (Leonora Fani). He pulls a switchblade on them, has them round up the other six and then takes them all into a bedroom. There, he ties them up, tells them to be quiet and no one will be hurt and insists that all he really wants is enough money to get back to America. The girls willingly offer up their purses, but soon come to the realization that's not all he wants. Before he drags Amy out of the room, she tells the girls to do whatever he asks of them. She won't be back, and neither will any of the other girls who Cain takes out of the room.

Luridly re-titled Naked Massacre for the U.S. release, this was originally called Born for Hell (a tattoo the killer has on his arm). Under whatever title it tries to have it both ways by being exploitative and violent, then shoving an obvious message about "The spirit of uncontrolled violence at loose in the world today" at the end. I certainly don't mind the fact this tries to have a message, especially since that message is illustrated throughout; not only in the nurse slayings (clearly inspired by the 1966 Richard Speck nurse killings [which are directly referenced here]), but also constant images of death, destruction and war on both the Belfast streets and on TV screens. That said, most people aren't going to watch this for any deeper meaning. They're going to watch for the naked massacre. Good news for them that there's both plenty of naked and plenty of massacre.

Cain strangles, stabs and forces the women into various uncomfortable sexual situations. During the film's nastiest sequence, he brings the lesbian and the girl she has a crush on downstairs and tries to force the two to get it on while he watches. When one girl refuses to go down on the other, he shoves her head in her crotch, pulls down her pants and slaps her ass with a belt over and over again before putting the switchblade in her hand and making her stab her friend. Another girl is raped and choked with a belt before being killed and, after watching her friend die, another of the girls goes crazy and kills herself instead of letting Cain do it. These scenes are pretty taut and disturbing.

German-born actor Carrière's performance suffers because of the bland voice actor doing his English-language dubbing. Italian actress Ely Galleani (BABA YAGA) and Debra Berger (the daughter of actor William Berger) play two of the other nurses. It was an international production with Canadian, French, Italian and West German backing (actors from all four of those countries participate) and is currently an easy-to-find public domain title available on many bargain sets.

The Montreal-based director went on to produce THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976), Claude Chabrol's BLOOD RELATIONS (1977), the Oscar-nominated ATLANTIC CITY (1980) and others, and directed the anthology THE UNCANNY (1977).


Killers from Space (1954)

Directed by:
W. Lee Wilder

Despite having a reputation as one of the worst of its day, I really didn't think this was that bad. Operation A Bomb Test is underway in Soledad Flats, Nevada. While an Air Force pilot and atomic scientist Dr. Douglas Paul Martin (Peter Graves) fly above the mushroom cloud in their plane Tarbaby 2 (!!), they spot a fireball-like object beneath them. The light has magnetic properties that draws the ship straight down, where they crash. A helicopter rescue unit is sent out to the wreckage and the pilot is found dead, but Dr. Martin's body is nowhere to be found. He eventually wanders back to base with no recollection of what happened after the crash. He's miraculously unharmed aside from a strange surgical scar on his chest. Thorough testing is done on him, which uncovers nothing peculiar about his health, so he's eventually released into the care of his wife Ellen (Barbara Bestar). At home he has a hard time sleeping and has visions of floating eyeballs coming at him from the window. Paranoid they're continuing on with the atomic tests, which he's been a key part of, back at the base without him, Douglas returns against the orders of his superiors.

Because of the mysterious circumstances behind his resurfacing and the fact he hasn't been acting himself as of late, Dr. Martin is taken off the project by Colonel Banks (James Seay). Before he leaves, he sneaks into his colleague Dr. Kurt Kruger's (Frank Gerstle) vault and gets his hands on some top secret information before disappearing again. A Code 4 emergency is put out for his capture. Detective Briggs (Steve Pendleton) eventually finds him in the desert - right where the plane had crashed earlier - trying to place a piece of paper under a rock. Dr. Martin punches him out, ends up in a car accident after seeing the floating eyeballs again and awakens in the hospital in a daze yelling "They're here! They're here! They're going to destroy us!" There he's given truth serum and remembers what happened immediately after the plane crash. He'd actually had an alien encounter.

Actually killed when his plane went down, Dr. Martin was taken from the accident site to an underground cavern (Bronoson caves) where the aliens have been hiding out and revived with a heart transplant. The beings are from the planet Astron Delta in a different solar system with a dying sun who now need a new home and solar system to call their own. They're intelligent and have sophisticated technology but lack of sunlight for a prolonged period of time has caused their eyeballs to grow and bug out. The current members of their race on Earth are scouts who've been sent here to prepare things so 1 billion more of their kind can take over the planet. To accomplish this, they've tapped into our electricity to run their machines and have been harnessing the energy from nuclear explosions for other reasons. Those 'other reasons' include creating an army of giant carnivorous animals and bugs to eventually unleash on the surface and wipe out all existing life as we know it. Amongst their collection are giant lizards, horny toads, tarantulas, hissing cockroaches and the all-important grasshoppers.

Because Dr. Martin was unwilling to cooperate willingly with their schemes, they went about giving him amnesia and then hypnotizing him to provide them with further information. But the truth serum has helped Martin remember an idea he had while discussing things with alien leader Deneb-Tala ("John Merrick" / John Frederick). Recalling how dependent the aliens are on our electricity, Martin makes a mad dash for the local power plant to cut the freeloaders off...

Standard issue low-budget 50s sci-fi, this is from the director of PHANTOM FROM SPACE (1953), THE MAN WITHOUT A BODY (1957) and numerous other horror and sci-fi pictures. Wilder was the brother of acclaimed director Billy Wilder and his other brother Myles Wilder wrote the story from which this is based. Fx are hokey (and those silly bug-eyed / bushy eyebrowed aliens in their hooded black jumpsuit designs are somewhat famous in bad-movie-lover circles) but there's an OK story and OK acting. Graves makes for a likable hero and gives a better performance here than he did in Corman's IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956). Not great, but it adequately passes the time.

This was deemed bad enough to include in the 2004 documentary THE 50 WORST MOVIES EVER MADE, but since that list also included movies like THE KILLER SHREWS (1959), SPIDER BABY (1964) and GREETINGS (1968), few actually take it seriously.

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