Sunday, November 6, 2016

El extraño hijo del Sheriff (1982)

... aka: El hijo del Sheriff (The Sheriff's Son)
... aka: Ritual diabólico (Diabolical Ritual)
... aka: Sheriff's Strange Son, The
... aka: Strange Son of the Sheriff, The

Directed by:
Fernando Durán Rojas

In 1890, a plague is ravaging the small town of Santa Rosa and surrounding areas... a bad time for the very pregnant Mary (Alicia Encinas) to go into labor. Her husband, Sheriff Frederick Jackson (Eric del Castillo) and his deputy, Jeremias Santos (Alfredo Gutiérrez), race to town to retrieve Dr. Jack Miller (Mario Almada) only to find he's far too busy dealing with dozens of plague victims in his hospital to tend to a mere child birth. He recommends they find a midwife and then sends them on their way. Mary ends up dying after giving birth to twin boys just as a lunar eclipse occurs. According to legend, the combination of the plague and the eclipse signals the birth of the Antichrist. Seven years pass and the Sheriff has had to raise the boys; Fred and Erick (both played by Luis Mario Quiroz), on his own. Because they're conjoined at the back and he's afraid of people making fun of them (and him), he's kept them locked up in their home away from everyone in town. He also blames the doctor for his predicament and wife's death, but he's able to put his grudge aside because he needs his help...

Sheriff Jackson lures Dr. Miller to a remote cabin to show him his sons and asks him to perform the operation to separate them. When Miller refuses because it conflicts with God, his ethics and his medical knowledge, the Sheriff holds him at gunpoint and forces him to try. Mid-surgery, Dr. Miller notices that the two boys are connected at the spine and it will be impossible to separate them without the weaker of the two, Erick, dying. The Sheriff forces him to continue. Suddenly, wind starts blowing, the cabin starts shaking and both men are knocked unconscious. When they come to, Erick is dead and Fred is alive but the boys are finally separated. They bury Erick in the hills by a tall tree in an unmarked grave and hope to just go about business as usual afterward.

Once Fred recovers, dad and Jeremias set about teaching the boy how to ride a horse and shoot a gun and do all of the other things you have to do in an Old West town. But things aren't right. Fred can't shut up about his brother and even goes around town telling people he's actually Erick himself and that he was killed by his father. Or is it really the ghost of the dead brother? Fred somehow gets his hands on a horse toy that was buried with his brother and other strange things happen. The mystery is solved rather early when Erick's ghost pays Dr. Miller a threatening visit. Since the Sheriff oversaw the hanging execution of his teenage son (who supposedly robbed and killed an elderly woman), Sam (Alfredo Wally Barrón) has a bone to pick and starts paying extra close attention to the son's strange behavior. Soon enough, Fred leads Sam to his brother's grave and the body is exhumed. Sheriff Frederick is promptly hauled off to jail and then taken before a court.

After hearing the case, the judge (special guest star Roberto Cañedo) rules that Dr. Miller lose his license to practice medicine for ten years, little Fred is to be immediately placed in an orphanage and the Sheriff must be put to death by hanging. After Fred is dropped off at an orphanage run by kindly Miss Julia (Rosa Gloria Chagoyán), the Sheriff makes his way to the gallows. There's an earthquake and then Erick's ghost shows up to make sure his father dies at his hands, not theirs. But if you think the bratty, jealous child ghost is pacified by the death of his father, think again. He now wants his surviving twin dead so that he can take his place and get all of the attention. It's up to Dr. Miller, Julia and Jeremias to protect the still-living boy and hypnosis is used in an attempt to finally banish the evil spirit.

I wish I could say this was a memorable killer kid movie but it's all rather bland, by-the-numbers, melodramatic and hokey. Like most older westerns, it shoves its “morals” right in our face with no subtlety whatsoever by blatantly insisting one should turn to God over medicine and science. (I'd love to know when the last time a seriously sick or injured Christian sat at home and wanted God to take care of their medical problems instead of, ya know, going to a hospital.) Discounting that, this doesn't really offer up much else of note. The actors are all sincere and try their best, the filming locations and outdoor scenery are both nicely captured at times and there are some minor special effects like eyes glowing red and a yellow spirit floating around a room but that's about it. Star del Castillo also wrote the original story and script with actress Bárbara Gil.

Strangely enough, this was released the same year as BASKET CASE (1982), which also featured a plot about separated-against-their-will Siamese twins, with the one left for dead coming back for revenge. The separated twins in this film also share a telepathic link just like in Henenlotter's film. This also had a lot in common with the made-for-TV movie Don't Go to Sleep, another 1982 release involving the spirit of dead child coming back to kill off members of her own family. But there's a reason the above mentioned movies are still talked about today and this one isn't. It's just not very good.

The director was another of those extremely prolific Mexi filmmakers, like the Cardona's, who had his hands on well over a hundred different films. Some of his other genre credits include Hot Snake (1978), Night Killer (1987), Angels of Death (1993) and Revenge of the Wheelchair (1993); none of which has ever been released in the U.S.

Some sources incorrectly give this a 1986 release date. I found at least three Spanish-language VHS tapes, one under the new title Ritual diabólico and another from an American company called Eagle Video. 


Double Heat (1986)

Directed by:
David Michel

This obscure 80-minute adult video is divided into two parts and is rather atypical as far as these things go; featuring more story than sex and casting two lead actresses who don't participate in any of the scant hardcore action. I'm including it here because of its first story, which involves an Invisible Man. Up first is Double Heat, which takes up roughly half of the running time. At High Tech Industries, dull and uptight scientist Linda (Alexandra Day) is “on the verge of making an important discovery in the world of physics.” However, she's so involved in her work that she's become antisocial, frigid and an uptight bitch in the process. The fact she won't settle for anything less than someone she deems her intellectual equal doesn't help matters either. Linda's roommate / colleague Julie (Tamara Longley) doesn't have that same problem and keeps herself busy with another coworker named Tony (Robert Bullock) and tries to encourage Linda to put down the science books, loosen up and find herself a lover.

Unbeknownst to her, Linda does have a secret admirer in Ray Stavinski (Richard “Steele” / Karle). Unfortunately, he's about the polar opposite of what she thinks she wants. He's fat, balding, works as a janitor in her building and passes the days sitting in a room flipping through Polaroids of her saying things like “Oh, I love you. I love your hair. I love your eyes. I love your nose. I love your lips. I love your hands. I love your feet...” Ray agrees to work late one night for a coworker and ends up walking into a restricted area of the lab. He enters a glass pod, the doors close, the machines start up and he ends up making himself invisible. He then uses his invisibility to break into Linda's apartment, where he spies on her and causes other problems, especially since he can't keep his hands off the object of his obsession.

After Julie sets Linda up on a blind date with a sleaze ball named Allen (Lee Anthony), Ray cock blocks him by removing a photo of Allen's wife and kids from his wallet and sticking it to his forehead. Since she's already been kissed and touched by someone not even there, Linda eventually just goes along with it and Ray becomes her invisible lover. She goes to see psychotherapist Dr. Kinerd (H. Chris Cristano) to tell him about what's been going on and he recommends she pick the least likely candidate from work to date so she ends up with Ray, anyway. The end. There are some cheap special effects of the invisible man flipping through pictures, pouring himself a drink, etc. plus a scene of Day lying in bed nude writhing around while making love with the air. Strangely, there is just one hardcore scene between Longley and Bullock in front of a fireplace, which is stretched out over two scenes.

Under the name Lindsay Freeman or just "Bibi," the British Day began her career with a January 1976 spread in Penthouse magazine titled “Free as a Breese.” The fact she looked so young in her centerfold and wore a jersey with the number 12 on it caused something of a controversy at the time after Bob Guccione encouraged readers to write in and try to guess her age. Turns out she was actually 19 years old when she took the photos. Still, she used her jail bait notoriety as “Baby Breese” to land other modeling jobs (including the cover of For Men Only with the headline “I can't help it people insist I'm 12!”) and small parts in films like Young Lady Chatterley and Fairy Tales. In the 80s, she dyed her hair blonde, began professionally using the name Alexandra Day and became an even more in-demand men's magazine model plus landed a handful of other roles, including the lead in the original SOV horror BOARDING HOUSE (1982) and a bit in Brian De Palma's Body Double (1984).

Double Heat Part II, which also runs 40 minutes, is next. This segment has no credits but most horror fans will instantly recognize its female star as being none other than Scream Queen Michelle Bauer. Professional gambler Dice Whitaker (Dick Howard) goes to a stable to visit his favorite horse Lucky Star and ends up literally bumping into female jockey Susan O'Maly (Bauer). Though he's a smooth talker and popular with the ladies, Susan's the daughter of the stable owners and is spoiled, snobby and already has a rich older lover who takes good care of her. Not one to give up so easily, he later approaches her having dinner with her parents, makes a 100,000 bet with her father and gives Susan a 1 dollar lottery ticket before heading off. He goes to play poker with some friends, where he loses out on a bet with Jerry Butler to bed cocktail waitress Rita (Lois Ayres), then hits the Vegas casinos with Kimberly Carson to “blow some steam off.” These are the only two hardcore moments in this segment and both are brief and last only about 3 minutes apiece.

Lucky Star turns out to not be so lucky after all and Dice finds himself 78,000 short of being able to pay Mr. O'Maly. He also discovers via a newspaper that the lottery ticket he gave Susan is the winning ticket. Desperate to get it back before she realizes she's won, he breaks into her apartment and starts rummaging through her things. She returns home and he hides under the bed as Mrs. Bauer (who looks just stunning in this one) treats us to some gratuitous nudity as she strips off her clothes, jumps into the shower and then applies makeup in front of a mirror. An intruder breaks in and wrestles Susan onto the bed. Dice assumes they are having sex so he falls asleep. When he wakes up he finds Susan's been bludgeoned to death. This leads to a predictable twist.

Double Heat plays out more like a cheap B movie than a porn. They actually used a script, shot in many different locations and even attempted to do special effects and stylish lighting. If you removed all the explicit shots you'd still end up with a 70 minute movie so maybe at one time it was intended to be released in two different forms. By mainstream standards this isn't very good but by hardcore standards it's fairly ambitious. There are two men who appear mostly in the background in both stories and I assume they are probably the director and producer Dax Anthony, who also made a few other films around this same time with many of the same actors. I'd love to know a bit more about the background of this weird production. There was one VHS release, from L.A. Video in 1986, but that's it to my knowledge.

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