Thursday, September 30, 2021

Crocodile Fury (1988)

... aka: Sorceress of the Deep

Directed by:
"Ted Kingsbrook" (Godfrey Ho? Tomas Tang?)
Neramit (uncredited)
Sompote Saengduenchai (uncredited)

Only one of the four crocodile movies Sompote Sands worked on in the 80s received much in the way of international distribution and, sadly, that was CROCODILE (1980), easily the blandest and worst of the lot. His three other ventures into croc territory: KRAI THONG (1980), CROCODILE THERAKWAD (1982) and KRAI THONG 2 (1985), are all a lot more fun despite not being as well known. While none were released here in America, both Krai Thong movies received English releases in other countries. The first was given VHS and VCD releases in Hong Kong with subs, while the second received the cut-n-paste, or as I like to call it, the rape-n-pillage, treatment from Tomas Tang and his Filmark International. As per his usual, he extracted the more entertaining parts from the source movie, tacked his own newly-shot footage to it and basically created a brand new story via the dubbing. The bad part is that a lot was cut from the original KT2 to make room for the new stuff while the original version that hasn't been tampered with is only available in Thai.

What's strange about this particular title is that even though it was dubbed into several different languages, it was never released in any English-speaking country. As far as I know, there were just two versions: a widescreen release that's dubbed into French and a full-screen Greek release that's dubbed into English but has burnt-in Greek subtitles. The latter is also the source print used for all the bootleg DVD versions currently on the market.

We first meet a blonde witch named Monica (listed in the credits as either "Trudy Calder" or "Nina Ferrer") and get a tour of her home, which is filled with candles and various little trinkets, including a skull with red-blinking eyes that shoots smoke out of its nostrils and the Onibaba mask. Monica, decked out in what appears to be the top half of a red clown costume but with garters and stockings instead of pants, waves her hands around a crystal ball. We then cut to two guys with machine guns chasing after a group of other men in the woods. That's followed by a sort-of "best of" montage of crocodile attacks taken from Krai Thong 2; most of which had themselves already been used before in Crocodile Therakwad. Since I've recently viewed both of those, and now this, I've seen many of these attack scenes used no less than three times in three different movies over the past few months!

We then cut to a man named Rudolf ("Lucas Byrne" / Ernst Mausser) wandering around an old temple. He stumbles upon a corpse hanging from a tree, is bitten on the leg by a reanimated skull, finds a worm-faced corpse and then starts throwing up yellow slime filled with maggots. Afterward, he wipes his chin, says "Better!" and then casually walks away (!?) He encounters a pair of jianshi (hopping vampires) but Monica swoops in long enough to save him with the old spell paper to the forehead trick.

According to this new plot, both Monica and Rudolf used to work for some guy who ran something called "the vampire business." Though their former boss is now dead, they're still carrying on doing whatever it was he was doing, which is left so vague (like most of these Filmark releases) it hardly even matters. They make mention of a special agent named Bruce Thompson ("Nick Reece" / Kent Wills), who's trailing them. Monica is encouraged to "keep casting your evil spells to create chaos and divert the agent's attention." One of these involves her making circle motions with her arms and chanting "hubba hubba hubba hubba hubba," which causes one of her pet jianshi to puke black fish into a bowl, which then hop into the mouth of her second jianshi and, uh... does something, I guess? I'm just not entirely sure what.

All of these new scenes are spliced between the KT2 footage, which thanks to the new English dub offers up a similar though somewhat different story with different motivations for the characters. At a village party, a crocodile snatches a guy and starts to drag him off when Jack (Sorapong Chatree) jumps in the water and pries the crocodile's jaws off of him. The crocodile then transforms into Maria (Aranya Namwong), who was Jack's lover in her human existence but is now changed / reincarnated / cursed into being a crocodile-woman. Seems every time Maria is ordered to kill, Jack stops her by reminding her that if she keeps from murdering anyone that the two can be reunited as lovers once again after he passes on.

Maria spends most of her time in a golden underwater cave called "Sea World" along with another croc-woman (Duangcheewan Komolsen), Shamu (just kidding about that one) and the evil Master Cooper (Sor Asanajinda), who plots "world domination" and is in cahoots with Monica. Cooper resurrects a "crocodile spirit" of "an evil sort of man" named Don Moore (!) in his human existence. Don (Lak Apichat) immediately gets to work slaughtering animals (he rips a water buffalo's head clean off) and more villagers in his crocodile form, plus tries to rape all of the croc-women in his human form.

Supansa Nuengpirom and Ampha Phusit, who played Krai Thong's spoiled wives in KT2, have been turned into a couple of bitchy, hilariously-British-accented (!) gossips named May and Peggy here. Thankfully, what hasn't changed is that the entire crocodile massacre at their home (probably the best scene in KT2) has been kept fully intact here. Maria convinces Don to kidnap Peggy and bring her to the cave, where she can be tortured and raped. Maria's motivation? Well, she thinks that Peggy "seduced" Jack away from her. When Maria teams up with Don and the two threaten to overthrow Cooper, he transforms another reptile into a diamond-fanged "crocodile spirit" named Steven (Sombat Methanee). While Don and Steven fight for supremacy of the underwater kingdom, Jack uses magic powers he's just learned from an elder to do battle with both of them.

Annnnd, as that's going on, special agent Bruce starts closing in on Monica. Rudolf attempts to shoot him, but he accidentally kills a villager (Sun Chien) instead. After that failed assassination attempt, Monica sends a bunch of green-blooded, kung fu fighting zombies after him. And when that doesn't work, she unleashes both her hopping vampires AND the zombies on him. Monica, who suddenly sprouts Freddy-like clawed hands at the very end (?!), and Rudolf then attempt to kill him themselves, which somehow results in her stomach swelling and a skull-baby bursting out of it. Yeeee!

As far as Filmark mash-ups are concerned, this is one of the better ones I've seen. "Better" being a relative term, of course. Not that it's really any good or makes a whole lot of sense but it benefits a lot from using an entertaining original film as its backbone while basically just throwing a bunch of entertaining supernatural mumbo jumbo into the mix. This results in fast-paced, seldom-boring good dumb fun, which is the most one can ask from something like this. Thai funnyman Lor Tok and Tanit Pongmanoon appear briefly in the recycled footage.

The pseudonymous director is probably producer Tomas Tang. Some online sources (including some of the posters) claim that Godfrey Ho directed, wrote and / or edited the film, though neither his name nor any of his regular aliases appear in the credits, which are almost entirely fake, anyway. Hard to tell!


Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pesadilla fatal (1990)

... aka: El intruso (The Intruder)
... aka: Fatal Nightmare

Directed by:
René Cardona III

With the passing of René Cardona III earlier this year came the end of the nearly-century-long Cardona family film dynasty, which started all the way back in 1929 in New York City with his grandfather and namesake, René Cardona. Born in Havana, Cuba, Cardona the First and his family emigrated to the U.S. in 1926. Starting out as a film extra, the elder Cardona quickly moved his way up the ranks to become the very first director to make a Spanish-language film (1929's Sombras habaneras / "Havana Shadows") in Hollywood. After learning the ropes of the filmmaking business in America, he returned to Mexico in 1932 and became one of the most prolific of all Mexican filmmakers, churning out one title after another until the early 80s. Son René Jr. followed in dad's footsteps with over 100 directorial credits and Rene III (who started out acting in his father's films as a kid, often using the name "Al Coster") would begin his own filmmaking career in 1988, amassing over 80 directorial credits himself.

All three of the Cardona's also frequently produced, wrote and edited their own movies and made quite a few horror films between them. However, Rene III's output did not receive the same kind of international distribution that his grandfather and father often enjoyed. In fact, the only Rene III-directed genre film I'm aware of that received an English-language release was his 1989 haunted house film VACACIONES DE TERROR... and that didn't even occur until the film was nearly 20 years old!

The top-billed star here is the pretty Tatiana, who was born Tatiana Palacios Chapa in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but returned to Monterrey, Mexico at a young age, where she would start her show business career as a teenager. After releasing numerous traditional pop albums, she found her real niche in the world of children's entertainment and, to date, has released over 20 top-selling kid's albums, which have netted her over 9 million album sales, numerous #1 hits and five Latin Grammy Award nominations. In addition to that, she has hosted several children's TV shows and taken on the occasional film or TV role. Tatiana starred in this, as well as VACATIONS OF TERROR 2 (1989), several years before delving into the more family friendly / kiddie stuff.

Once an Olympics gymnastics hopeful, Marisol (Tatiana) had an accident on an apparatus when she was eight years old and has been blind ever since. Now a teenager, Marisol's affliction is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to her problems. While attending a Valentine's Day party, her father Ramón ("Victorel" / Víctor Badillo) gets into a heated argument with a shady, possibly mafia-connected man named Sergio Alatorre (Guillermo Buigas), who's also his "business partner," though it never tells us just what business that is. Gossips at the party suspect that Ramón has been having an affair with Sergio's much-younger sexpot wife Vera (Patricia Álvarez), whom the gossips claim "sleeps with everything that crosses her path." After leaving the party, Ramón stays up late to work on their car and ends up getting slashed to death in the garage. And, just in case you were wondering about the title and how it brings to mind another famous film, the killer's weapon of choice is a Freddy-like clawed glove.

Marisol, who found her dad's body and heard the sound of the metal nails of the glove clinking together, hears that same sound at her father's funeral and freaks out. Heading up the investigation is Lieutenant Javier (Arsenio Campos), who gets to work right away questioning everyone who attended the party... though it probably would have been far more polite and professional of him to wait until AFTER the memorial service to start drilling everyone in sight! Javier goes to his friend, Dr. Edgar Santos (José Manuel Fernández), a psychiatrist and criminologist, for help. Edgar hatches a plan to hypnotize Marisol, which may unlock parts of her memory that were trauma-blocked the night her father was killed. Even though their session provides no additional information, it does provide Edgar with the info he really wants: Marisol's phone number! Some more of that strictly professional behavior for ya.

The psycho then starts terrorizing Marisol at home. They sneak in and move furniture around so she'll trip over it, clink the nails of the glove together and grab and scratch her. Even cops posted outside the home 24 / 7 aren't able to stop the person from gaining entry. Because no one actually has to contend with the intruder aside from our heroine, the shrink, cops and even her own family start to doubt her sanity. As not to worry her, she starts hiding things from her frequently-absent mother, Magdalena (Nuria Bages), and convinces their maid / nanny, Lupe (Alicia del Lago), not to inform her mom she's been having encounters with the psycho. Lupe is eventually sent out of town to care for her ailing mother, leaving Marisol alone a large chunk of the time.

Meanwhile, Vera strips down to a lace teddy and stockings to seduce her husband's bodyguard, Guillermo (Guillermo Henry). The killer sneaks in, knocks Guillermo out, ties Vera to the bed and shoots her to death. He then places the gun in Guillermo's hand to make it look like he did it. Guillermo is then falsely arrested and charged with the crimes, though the real killer is obviously still out there and continues stalking and terrorizing Marisol. Whoever that person is, they have a sepia-toned childhood flashback to witnessing their own mother shoot and kill their father and his mistress to "save them from sin" and then committing suicide.

So this is basically A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET if you reduce the production values greatly and then take out the nightmares, the special effects, the body count, the comedy and all of the gore and replace that with a bunch of people sitting around talking endlessly, boring police scenes, gratuitous shots of feet walking around and the glove (which is only used to kill ONE person at the very beginning) and a lame killer reveal that's insanely easy to predict. This isn't incompetently made or anything, just really dull and entirely forgettable.

Pedro Galindo III, who directed the slashers THE DEATH OF THE JACKAL (1984) and HELL'S TRAP (1989), was one of the producers. This has been released several times on home video. There's a VHS from B&M and a DVD release from Imperial Films, though neither come with English subtitles. Fan subs are available, though.

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