Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Brivido giallo" - Per sempre (1987)

... aka: Changeling 2: The Return, The
... aka: Changeling 2: The Revenge
... aka: Fino alla morte
... aka: Per sempre (Forever)
... aka: Until Death

Directed by:
Lamberto Bava

Brivido Giallo was a 1986 cable TV series featuring four movies; all running about 90 minutes, all directed by Lamberto Bava, all co-written by the prolific Dardano Sacchetti and all boasting a score by Simon Boswell. Per sempre / "Forever" was the second of these aired; following right behind the so-so Una notte al cimitero / "A Night in the Cemetery" (U.S. title = GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE). The third and fourth entries were La casa dell'orco / "The House of the Ogre" (U.S. title = The Ogre) and "A cena col vampio" / Dinner with a Vampire. Of these four, The Ogre was the only one to receive decent distribution here in America after it was misleadingly re-titled Demons III to be sold as the third entry in Bava's extremely popular Demons series. Per sempre itself was also the subject of a bogus re-titling and was released on VHS in some countries (though not America) as either The Changeling 2: The Return or Changeling 2: The Revenge as a fake follow-up to the very good 1980 Canadian ghost story starring George C. Scott.

Lovers Carlo (David Brandon) and Linda (Gioia Scola) murder her husband Luca (Roberto Pedicini) and bury his body in a shallow grave in the woods. Six years pass and the duo now run a restaurant in the small fishing village of Carabinieri where the customers seem more interested in checking out the sexy Linda than eating the food. Linda's lonely, neglected young son Alex (Marco Vivio), whom she conceived with her deceased former husband, is scared of the dark and plagued by nightmares of his dead father emerging from his grave. Carlo has since turned bitter and angry over the years and not only detests the little boy but is also abusive in numerous ways toward Linda. Late one night during a thunderstorm, a mysterious, hunky drifter named Marco (Demons star Urbano Barberini) appears at the doorstep looking for food, clothing, lodging and a job. Since Marco is kind to Alex and Linda needs a hand around the restaurant anyway, they hire him on and soon come to realize that he may be more than he seems.

Marco is amiable, charming, friendly and good-looking, but he also seems to know a lot of things he shouldn't know, like secret ingredients that go into Linda's food and where clothing that belonged to Luca is stored. Once he starts cooking in the restaurant, business picks up and customers begin commenting about the food tasting as good as it did before Luca vanished. Carlo quickly becomes jealous and paranoid of the new man in town. He wonders why Marco disappears for hours each day, whether or not Linda is sleeping with him and how he seems to know his way around the establishment so well. He then begins to fear that he's actually an undercover policeman investigating the dead husband's disappearance after he catches him having a discussion with the town's marshal (Stefano De Sando). Soon, things buried in the husband's grave - including a wedding ring with "Per sempre" inscribed inside - begin turning up inside the home. The son continues to have nightmares, dead pigeons fill the attic, fresh meat spoils and maggots show up all over the place. Just who or what is Marco and what does he want to accomplish?

Though unoriginal and somewhat predictable, this is a passable and fairly well-made thriller with some colorful visual style; particularly striking during various red-filtered shots of the lake and handsomely shot blue-tinted night scenes. However, it also clearly owes a huge debt of gratitude to Tay Garnett's torrid 1946 crime melodrama The Postman Always Rings Twice (an adaptation of James M. Cain's novel, which was remade in 1981 starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange), and lifts its basic plot and three main characters from that film. Given the overheated story line and sexy leads, this actually would have benefited from being steamier and more (sexually) graphic than it actually is and seems a little too chaste in a PG-13 kind of way. Adding a horror twist to the premise are the possibility of Marco being either a ghost or possessed by the wrong husband's spirit and the child's frequent nightmares about his dead, zombie-like father being fished out of the lake, reaching his hand out of the ground and grabbing his leg and busting through the plaster walls of his bedroom.

As an interesting footnote, Lucio Fulci claimed in interviews to have actually written the original story this was based upon and also said he was originally supposed to direct it, but it was taken from him and copyrighted behind his back by credited writer Sacchetti. Sacchetti, on the other hand, claimed in interviews to have actually written the story (for the record, his wife - Elisa Briganti - is credited as co-writer) and says Fulci was lying about all that; sour grapes over the project going to Lamberto Bava instead. Either way, the film effectively ended future collaborations between the two men.

In 2009, MYA Communications released this and the other two previously-unseen-in-America Brivido Giallo titles. (The Ogre had already been issued in 2003 by Shriek Show.)


Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)

... aka: Godmonster, The
... aka: Secret of Silverdale, The

Directed by:
Fredric Hobbs

Well now here's something a little different. Naive small town sheep rancher Eduardo "Eddie" Etchavaria (Richard Marion) arrives in "The biggest little city in the world;" Reno, Nevada, wins a few hundred bucks on a slot machine and decides to accompany a few people (including Erica "Vixen" Gavin) to the small town of Virginia City for a party. He gets in a minor scuffle at a bar after a hooker steals his money and ends up broke and in a jeep with Dr. Cyrus Clemens (E. Kerrigan Prescott), head of a local university's anthropology department, who drops Eddie off on a farm so he can spend the night in a pen full of sheep. The following day when Dr. Clemens and his research assistant Mariposa DeQuill (Karen Ingenthron) show up to check in on him they find Eddie in a state of shock and a bizarre, bloody half-formed sheep's embryo lying next to him. Clemens grabs his tape recorder and notes, "I think we all stumbled onto an amazing event, almost incredible from a scientific standpoint" and adds their findings are "possibly the result of chromosomic breakdown and cross fertilization." They transfer both the embryo and Eddie to their private test laboratory at Indian Flats for observation.

Meanwhile, Virginia City Mayor Charles Silverdale (Stuart Lancaster), who helped revive the historic Comstock area and restored it to resemble an 1800s Wild West town, runs the local "601" secret society. Christopher Barnstable (Christopher Brooks), working for a billionaire in the tool and mining industry trades, shows up wanting to buy up all the mine leases in the country, and the locals bound together to stop him. The Mayor's right hand man, Phillip Maldove (Steven Kent Browne), whorehouse madam and fake medium Madame Alta (Peggy Browne) and the local authorities, led by the slovenly Sheriff Gordon (Robert Hirschfeld), all get to work on trying to drive the corporate invader out of their town. They set him up to make him think he shot the sheriff's dog and then hold a mock church funeral (!) for it ("He was only a dog, but he filled us with joy and gayety until a bullet struck him down.") When that doesn't work, Phillip invites him over to his home, cracks a bottle over his head and shoots himself so that Christopher's thrown in the slammer and charged with attempted murder.

Back at the lab, Dr. Clemens, Mariposa and Eddie all tend to the embryo, which has rapidly grown into a large-sized monster that they keep docile with steady injections of tranquilizer. Yes folks, it's a giant, mutant, bipedal sheep monster. While most viewers will look upon it as a laughable creation, it's definitely different (it walks on its hind legs) and even somewhat abstract (one arm is a lot longer than the other). Two things it is decidedly not are scary or threatening. Opting for martial law to cover their tracks, Mayor Silverdale and his cronies drag Christopher out into the desert to hang him, but he's rescued by Madame Alta, who's recently taken a liking to him. They end up at the lab, a shoot-out ensues and the creature kills a guy and escapes into the desert. When Dr. Clemens (who wants the monster kept alive) theorizes about the creature's smarts, the Mayor, who wants the creature captured and put in their museum, tells him, "This is ridiculous. I can't accept this concept of intelligence. I say it's a damaged mongoloid beast!" The pitiful, slow, awkward creature doesn't get to do much aside from scaring children having a picnic and blowing up a gas station, before a bunch of cowboys lasso it. Things ends with a small scale revolutionary ending and some out-of-left-field profundity.

This one's gone down as a minor footnote in film history books as an obscure, insignificant, inept monster movie, and in many ways it is, though there are clearly ecological and sociopolitical objectives at play in here. I'm not saying these aspects are necessarily well-executed (for the most part they're not), but they still make this somewhat more interesting than other cheapie monster / schlock flicks of the day. It's quirky, sometimes amusing and the western town setting gives it a fun and unique backdrop. Prior to making this, Hobbs (a military vet, graduate of Cornell and renowned artist, teacher and writer) was on the fast track to art film success with the well-received surrealist comedy Troika (1969). Godmonster, which was filmed on a budget of 135,000 dollars and only booked a couple of showings upon completion before being shelved for decades, completely derailed his further film plans after a promising start.

It went unseen for years until Something Weird unearthed it for a DVD release. Extras on the set include the nudie horror PASSION IN THE SUN (1964; aka The Girl and the Geek) and a truncated 'soft' edit of the awful Bigfoot porno the THE GEEK (1971). Hobbs' other genre offering - Alabama's Ghost (also 1973) - had already long been available on VHS on the ThrillerVideo label in the 1980s (with Elvira commentary) but now it's the more difficult of the two to track down.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Caperucita y Pulgarcito contra los monstruos (1962)

... aka: Little Red Riding Hood and the Monsters
... aka: Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb
... aka: Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb vs. the Monsters
... aka: Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood

Directed by:
Roberto Rodríguez

Capercita y Pulgarcito contra los monstruous, translated to "Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb vs. the Monsters" but first released here as Tom Thumb and Little Red Riding Hood, was entry #3 in an atrocious Mexican children's series. It was a follow-up to La capercita roja (1960; American title; "Little Red Riding Hood")  and La capercita y sus tres amigos (1961; American title: "Little Red Riding Hood and Her Three Friends"). K. Gordon Murray cheaply acquired the rights to all three (as well as many other films shot South-of-the-border in the late 50s and early 60s) and had them horribly English dubbed at his studio in Coral Gables, Florida. They then went on to entertain many American kiddies of the day on television and as matinee features and made Murray a nice profit in the process (though not enough to keep the Internal Revenue Service at bay). The combination of the original films being quite awful and cheaply produced to begin with, combined with the laughably bad new dubs, turned many of these into favorites for fans of bad movies. While René Cardona's Santa Claus (1959) is probably the most famous of these releases, this one's every bit as bizarre and surreal.

In a castle in "The Devil's Dominion" live all of the evil beings and monsters from our childhood nightmares. There are the expected types: a cackling old witch with a broom, a caped vampire (Quintín Bulnes) and a Frankenstein monster, as well as some ridiculous new additions to monster lore. There's "Carrot Head;" whose physical description doesn't require further comment, "Two-in-One;" a Siamese pairing featuring a bald guy and a caveman (!) named "Dog Face" (!!), "The Father of Hurricanes," a fat man who can blow people over just by breathing on them and others. They're all ruled over the by the wicked "Queen of Badness" (Ofelia Guilmáin), who is also Snow White's evil stepmother and is designed closely after the witch in the classic Disney cartoon. The monsters are currently holding a trial because two of them; an ogre (José Elías Moreno) and a wolf (Manuel 'Loco' Valdés) were sent above ground to cause trouble and ended up getting distracted. Instead of eating Little Red Riding Hood (Maria Gracía), the wolf was kind to her, and instead of eating Tom Thumb (Cesáreo Quezadas), the ogre ate spinach and cereal. Because of this, The Queen takes it upon herself to cause various problems for the humans.

The Queen makes a visit to the village, poisons the water supply and then causes a massive heat wave. Everyone who drinks the contaminated water promptly turn into either monkeys or mice. Little Red Riding Hood must then go on a quest to the Devil's Domain to save the day. She's joined by her white dog Duke (Doncel), as well as Tom Thumb and a spastic, fast-talking skunk named - what else? - Stinky (Enano Santanón). They go to visit "The Fairy of Dawn," who transforms Tom into a normal-sized boy for the adventure and then touches everyone with her magic sparkler wand so that they won't suffer from hunger, thirst or the cold. Once they enter the domain of the monsters, the Queen sends out a bulletin to all monster to "kill them without hesitation!" A bunch of strange creatures, including a giant crab and a robot, show up and try to kill them. There's also a kidnapper with a net who says "I kidnap children who are disobedient because they are tender and make good broth!"

In between scenes of the kids and their quest, the film cuts back to annoying and painfully unfunny comic scenes of The Ogre and Wolf (who've been sentenced to death) in their prison cell. They get into a sub-Three Stooges style fight while arguing about a piece of chicken and do other stupid things. Eventually, the prisoners are taken to a private torture chamber where they have their feet tickled with features, are force fed water until their stomachs swell and it's squirting out of their mouths and are then tired to a table with an electric saw that threatens to cut them in half long-ways. And hey, I didn't even mention the amazing fire-breathing dragon yet! Or that the cast break out into song every once in awhile. The songs are absolutely terrible, and for some reason the singing voice for Little Red Riding Hood is that of a deep-voiced adult woman, which needless to say is pretty hilarious coming out of the mouth of an 8-year-old.

Many scenes in this one are highly questionable for the target audience. Not only is much of it downright weird and creepy, with horrific set designs and a gaggle of nightmarish creatures, but it's also shockingly violent at times. Characters are constantly being hit over the head and tortured and the adult characters keep threatening to mutilate, kill, and in one case eat, very young children. During the finale, the evil witch even threatens to rip Little Red Riding Hood's eyeballs out with her fingers! The kids themselves aren't immune to this over-the-top violent behavior either. At one point, they get revenge on a guy by stringing him up by his legs from a tree and then beating him with sticks like a piñata. Other moments are strangely, almost uncomfortably perverse ("Let me go you dirty old man!"), such as when one of the monsters is held down and the kids rip out his chest hair and then stuff it into his mouth (!!) It's no wonder this either horrified the kids who saw in back in the 50s... or just made them feel really funny.

One minute you'll be in awe as the weird events unfold before your eyes, the next you'll either be laughing your ass off at the filmmaker / cast's expense (or simply annoyed). It's truly sensory overload, but in the best of ways. There's wild variance between the quality of each individual set, performance and monster costume. While some are laughably awful, others are nearly passable. The songs are all ear-splittingly awful and corny "messages" are clumsily shoehorned in throughout with even less subtlety than an episode of Full House. Still, this manages to transcend all that because it's just so bloody weird that it must be seen to be believed. It also possesses a very odd charm to it that only a small handful of 'so bad it's good' movies actually have. There's always something genuinely surprising going on and for that alone I'd recommend giving this a look.

Something Weird distributed this on VHS years ago but it's pretty much out of circulation by this point. If a DVD release ever happens, this is almost guaranteed a healthy cult following.

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