Thursday, May 24, 2018

Takers, The (1971)

Directed by:
"Carlos Monsoya" (Carl Monson)

After beating a guy to death with a chain wrapped around his fist, middle aged E.J. (Fred Bush) and his bearded buddy Willie Boy (Coe Bart, who wouldn't look out of place hanging out at Spahn Ranch with Charles Manson and company) decide to spread some more 70s biker movie joy elsewhere. While out riding around, they spot a couple of hippie girls, including sleaze movie workhorse Kathy Hilton, standing on the sidewalk in the rain. They pull up to them and offer them a ride. "You got any grass?" one responds. They sure do, along with some other stuff. Next thing we know they're back at someone's place smoking weed, dropping acid and having near hardcore sex in multiple positions in multiple places, like in the shower and on some puke green shag carpet. A cheap kaleidoscopic effect is added to show how much they're trippin. After the bikers have their fill, they head off for another adventure. We can assume they left the girls unsatisfied. While there's no scene of them actually leaving, we do hear a voice-over of one girls shrieking "You bastards! You bastards!"

E.J. and Willie now "need some bread" so they pull into a gas station, tell the attendant they want plugs for their bikes and then shoot him dead, pick his pockets and rob a cash box... all in broad daylight and with a bunch of other cars and people around them. They then venture over to a bus stop where aspiring lingerie model Barbie ("Susan Apple" / Anna Travers) is waiting for a ride. When her well-to-do married friend Laura ("Kim Kiya" / Vicki Carbe) picks her up, the bikers menace them for a little bit then let them drive off. But they haven't exactly let them go and instead tail behind them to their neighborhood so they can then locate their car at their own leisure. Getting burnt out on burnt out hippie chicks has made E.J. want more "classy cunts." You know, "some educated social type broads."

Soon after the bikers break in, they discover they're in luck: Laura's husband Jack is away on business and won't be back for an entire week. So why not just "take" what they want and take their sweet time getting it? Barbie and Laura are pushed, knocked down, slapped in the face, screamed at and stripped naked. They're called "bitches" and "sluts," are forced to drink booze, threatened with a gun and have their bare asses slapped. And, naturally, they also have to become sex slaves for the men, something that takes up most of the time here.

All things considered, Barbie is a good sport about what's going on and keeps her wits about her and her sarcastic sense of humor. She's even kind enough to remove her undies for one of the bikers before telling him to get on with it. Laura, on the other hand, is traumatized at first but Barbie encourages her to just play along until they leave and "keep taking your no baby pill" so she's doesn't get knocked up. Eventually, Barbie develops Stockholm Syndrome and actually starts liking sex with one of the goons. At night, both ladies have to cram their asses onto a small bed with their two attackers and have their ankles chained to the footboard.

Distributed theatrically by Harry Novak and his Boxoffice International Pictures, The Takers was likely filmed over the course of just a few days. It's scuzzy and cheap, the plot is bare bones, the camerawork is shoddy with lots of out of focus shots and the suspense and tension generated by the home invasion / hostage premise is pretty much nil. Instead, this focuses its energies on the nudity and sex. I suppose on those terms this does what it sets out do as everyone is naked nearly the entire time. A few of the one liners and the joke at the very end (featuring the director in a cameo) are actually pretty funny.

Co-star Vicki Carbe, who also acted as "Victoria Wales," was a September 1963 Playboy Playmate of the Month under the name Victoria Valentino. In 2014, she was in the news as one of many women to come forward accusing Bill Cosby of raping her. Her claims stretched back to a 1969 incident when she and then-roommate, actress Meg Foster, went to Cosby's home and had their drinks drugged. Watching her here playing a woman force fed alcohol to loosen her up by a sex predator shortly after the alleged incident with Cosby occurred adds an extra layer of discomfort to the proceedings.

The 2003 Special Edition DVD from Something Weird pairs this up with the same director's Booby Trap (1970); another Novak / Boxoffice International release.


Alone in the Dark (1982)

... aka: Armoton yö (Unhappy Night)
... aka: Ausbruch der wilden Wölfe (Outbreak of Wild Wolves)
... aka: Dément (Insane)
... aka: Zwei Stunden vor Mitternacht (Two Hours Before Midnight)

Directed by:
Jack Sholder

You pretty much know right away, in an opening sequence featuring a chef-clad Donald Pleasence hacking Martin Landau in half crotch-first, that this isn't gonna be your normal everyday slasher flick. Then again, you could probably also tell that from examining the cast list. Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Potter (Dwight Schulz), who prefers working with the seriously deranged instead of having a cushy job listening to wealthy neurotics, has just landed a new position working at The Haven, a nuthouse run by kooky doctor Leo Bain (Pleasence). It's just your standard issue funny farm where people wander around, sit in the lobby eating paper and play croquet out on the front lawn. Dr. Bain prefers to allow most of his "voyagers" (what he prefers to call his patients) roam freely, but there are a few exceptions to the general rule...

On the third floor of the hospital where Dan is set to work are the real psychos; the potentially very dangerous ones. They're so bad that Dr. Bain had to have a special security system installed with electrically-operated doors and windows just to be able to legally keep them there. On Dan's first day at work he's introduced to the four patients he'll be tending to. There's former war vet Frank Hawkes, nicknamed "Colonel" (Jack Palance), former minister Byron Sutcliffe, nicknamed "Preacher" (Landau), big guy Ronald Elster, nicknamed "Fatty" (Erland Van Lidth) and John Skaggs, nicknamed "The Bleeder," who always keeps his face hidden. Each of Dan's deranged patients is given their own distinct mental problem. The Colonel is a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks his stint in The Haven is just a "vacation," Preacher is a pyromaniac bible-quoter who enjoys setting fire to churches, Fatty is a child molester and The Bleeder is a serial strangler whose nose bleeds every time he's about to commit a murder.

Since Dr. Potter has just moved to town, he, his wife Nell (Deborah Hedwall) and their young daughter Lyla (Elizabeth Ward) are just getting settled into their new country home. Toni (Lee Taylor-Allen), Dan's punk sister who's just recently suffered from a nervous breakdown after being attacked, also comes to stay with them for a week. Her first night there she decides to drag her reserved bro and sister-in-law to watch the punk band The Sic Fucks perform "Chop Up Your Mother." Mid-concert, there's a citywide blackout due to problems at a nearby nuclear facility. Rioting and looting commences, and the four nuts at The Haven take advantage of the opportunity to escape. Fatty breaks an orderly's back over his knee then kills a doctor so they can steal a car.

Immediately heading into town to gather some supplies, the four psychos break into a hardware store; stealing knives, a crossbow, a hockey mask and a few other handy tools. The Bleeder claws out a guy's throat with a three-pronged garden claw before disappearing, so the other three steal a van and run over a mailman just so Preacher can get his hat. The Colonel has it in his disturbed mind that Dr. Dan has killed their previous psychiatrist, so he wants revenge and talks his buddies into helping him out. After sneaking in to kill a babysitter (Carol Levy) and her boyfriend, the escapees then lay siege on the Potter household, trapping the family, a police detective (Gordon Watkins) and Tom (Phillip Clark), a guy Nell and Toni met after getting thrown in jail for picketing the local nuclear power plant, inside. There's death by arrow, cleaver, strangulation and stabbing, a delusion featuring a zombie-like ghost (which was designed by Tom Savini) and Pleasance pops back in briefly to get his ear whacked off.

New Line Cinema would later become jokingly known as "The House That Freddy Built" because of the huge commercial success of their Nightmare on Elm Street series. But if Freddy built the house, then Alone in the Dark purchased the lumber and nails. This was New Line and producer Robert Shaye's very first horror release. Miramax had an almost identical genesis at around the same time with their first release THE BURNING (1981), a profitable slasher that helped to establish a company that would later flourish. Though it sometimes uneasily wavers between camp and wanting to be taken seriously, is a bit slow to get started and is pretty skimpy on gore, Alone is still better than most other slasher flicks from its time. Having Palance and, especially, Landau (who's at his creepy, grinning, crazy-eyed best) as two of the nuts is definitely a huge plus and Pleasence also has a fun role as an aloof, New Age-y pot-smoking (!) doctor who doesn't seem far off from being committed to his own hospital. It's generally well made and most of the performances are fine, there are a few good laughs and some scenes, especially one where the portly pedo tries to coax the little girl into her bedroom, are surprisingly tasteless.

The cast includes Brent Jennings (The Serpent and the Rainbow), Frederick Coffin (Mother's Day) and the producer's sister, future horror icon Lin Shaye, in a small role as one of the patients. According to Sholder (who'd go on to make the second Elm Street film and The Hidden), Matthew Broderick auditioned for the part of the babysitter's boyfriend but was turned down. This made it into Fangoria's 101 Best Horror Films You've Never Seen book and was also one of the picks for the 2014 doc The 50 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen.

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