Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Tales From the Crypt Comic Book Covers

Autumn is here and thoughts turn to things creepy that crawl from the crypt! 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Review - CYCLONE (1978)

The 1970s in America spawned many troubling things. Stagflation, platform shoes, pet rocks and disco music were all terrible poxes upon the land but Hollywood boasted the most worrisome of all ’70s plagues — the Disaster Movie! And of course, in the wake of the huge Hollywood success of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno came a host of imitators all trying to find a different catastrophe to work into a screenplay. Earthquakes, tidal waves, tornadoes, avalanches and giant rabbits all made their way to big screens to threaten civilization and B-list actors. It was only a matter of time before a cyclone was deployed to entertain the masses. Enter Mexican exploitation filmmaker René Cardona Jr. with a script ripped from the headlines. No, wait — that was another of his films, Guyana: Cult of the Damned. This movie is simply another low-budget 'epic' for fans of cinema misery. Somehow, I fit that description.

Three groups of people are in the Caribbean at the wrong time. Group A is taking a short sightseeing tour around the islands aboard a glass-bottomed boat. Group B is a crew of professional native fishermen currently down on their monetary luck trying hard to make a big haul. Group C is a mixed bag of travelers and tourists flying to the islands on a chartered plane. When a sudden cyclone sweeps in from the Atlantic all three groups are caught far from land and suffer the consequences (of being in a disaster film). The fishermen have to abandon their sinking vessel for a small dinghy; the glass-bottomed boat runs through all of its fuel just to keep from being swept out to sea, while the plane crashes, killing most of the passengers and crew. The rescue searches begin immediately, with relatives and friends pushing for swift help to locate the missing. Over the course of a few days the three groups of survivors find each other and cluster together on the tour boat. A few fish are pulled from the ocean for food but the limited amount of fresh water soon becomes their main concern. Even with strict rationing it quickly becomes clear that rescue is going to be too late for most to live if something isn't done. When the idea of cannibalism is finally broached it's clear that it may be the only chance they have to survive long enough to be found. So, with the sun beating down on them, sharks circling the boat, a baby about to be born and no help on the horizon, what will they do?

Cyclone isn't a terrible film, although it is fairly dull for the first hour or so. The time spent introducing the players and setting up the situation is routine and slow with only some nice underwater photography to enliven things. Like most disaster films the characters are nothing more than stereotypes sketched in just enough to provide contrast with each other. There's the greedy businessman, the priest, the pregnant woman, the young boy, the stern boat captain, the over-privileged rich bitch, etc. A few of the characters are given a little bit of depth but not too much, as their primary purpose here is to suffer. It's hard to care about any of these folks even if several of the standard movie heart-tugging moments do manage to hit their marks. (I'll give up my water for the pregnant woman!) The priest (Arthur Kennedy) is the voice of moral guidance and has more than enough to say in the eventual debate over eating the dead members of the group. The pregnant couple is blandly endearing and the owner/captain of the boat is slightly interesting but mostly the group remains ciphers. It's only in the last 45 minutes that the movie really comes to life with arguments and anger finally boiling over. These scenes between people pushed to the edge by nature make the desperate quality of events start to feel real. Enough time is spent on the nastier points of how these people survive to make the grittiness seem a straightforward look at circumstances instead of just exploitation — at least most of the time. No matter how realistic or necessary the death of the rich woman's dog might be, it's never going to feel like anything more than a scene contrived to shock the audience.

This being a low budget affair there are some times when the script's reach exceeds its grasp. The storm sequence is only sporadically effective. The reality of the cyclone is pretty shakily displayed and smartly moved past as fast as possible to get to the focus of the tale. It can be hard to film effective displays of raging nature without huge amounts of money but there's no reason to complain here. They seem to have known their limitations and covered them fairly well (even if they lean on the stock footage a little too often). Only the shots of the crashed and sunken airplane really sell the sense of danger the actors are conveying. Of course, the later shark attacks are also pretty unconvincing, as it looks like the beasts are ripping into bags of paint rather than human flesh. Still, this is far from the worst the disaster genre has to offer and though it certainly isn't the best, it's worth seeing for its effective moments.

Apparently this has been released on DVD once before under its alternate U.S. title, Terror Storm. I've not seen that disc but I can't imagine it looks or sounds better than what Synapse offers here. The film is presented in 16x9 enhanced widescreen and is letterboxed at 1.78:1. The nicely effective soundtrack is the original mono processed in Dolby Digital. Showing the usual care expected from Synapse, the DVD is apparently a fully uncut version and is remastered from the original negative. The only disappointment is the lack of extras. The DVD insert has a great two-page essay by David Hayes about Cardona and Cyclone that touches on enough interesting things to make me wish for more information about the man and his trashy movies. And though there is no trailer for Cyclone they've included promos for two of Cardona's other low budget masterworks. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great cover artwork. I don't know if this effectively gruesome piece was used as a theatrical poster but it certainly sells the film well.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Thrilling Wonder Stories Pulp Covers

Whenever I'm feeling low or need a dose of inspiration I just check out old pulp magazine covers. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons

No - Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is not the name of a band you've never heard of before. It's the name of a Gerry Anderson produced TV series that you've (probably) never heard of before. I'm doing a slow watch of the entire original series from 1967-68 and loving every minute if it! If you are wondering what it's all about check out the two videos below. 
First up is the opening titles followed by a Primer on the series from the Anderson Entertainment people. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Bloody Pit #113 - PRIMAL RAGE (1988)

The late 1980’s were an odd time for Euro-trash exploitation filmmakers. The slasher genre was played out and no other type of horror film was considered a sure bet so, what to do? Why not find a way to somehow piece several sub-genres together to see if, combined, they will make a coherent film and rake in the profits! So they took a little from the animal attack sub-genre with a dash of mad scientist then added in some biting rage zombies and rape-happy frat scumbags to see what would happen. And then they sold it as if it were a slasher film! Madness, thy name is PRIMAL RAGE (1988).

Joining me to talk about this bizarre mixture is Bobby Hazzard who starts things off diving deep into the Claudio Simonetti produced collection of songs that pepper this film. This was released back when a major selling point for a movie was the multi-artist soundtrack album featuring hoped for hit tunes and at times film’s the dialog is often less noticeable than the music. We argue about which song is worse and I sprinkle samples from most of them into the show. You’re welcome/I apologize!

We discuss the film’s ‘rage virus’ and how it, at times, feels a little like a dry run for 28 DAYS LATER (2002). Bobby takes great pleasure in noting the motor vehicles that this film shares with that other Florida-shot Italian-made horror film NIGHTMARE BEACH (1989) made by the same team. We lament the lack of Umberto Lenzi’s directorial touch and wonder about the song this movie shares with a certain Dario Argento film. Of course, we comment on the clothing choices and the odd hairstyles because the 80’s were a dead space for taste and this film is a document of those sad times. My favorite moment in the show is when Bobby rattles off a detailed list of every mad costume he could spot in the chaotic Halloween Party climax. Luckily this entertainingly sleazy, bloody mess moves at a good pace, making talking about it fun.

Let us know what you think about this film or our overlong conversation about it at or over on the show’s FaceBook page. We’d love hear your opinion of this jumbled Italian horror mess.

iTunes LINK

Direct MP3 Download LINK

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Art of Mexican Wrestling Movie Posters

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

What I Watched in August

I've been catching the Lucha Libre films that the El Rey channel has been running for the past couple of months and really enjoying them. Most of these I had already seen with subtitles as they were never dubbed into English but it was fun to see these new versions. It seems that El Rey has sprung for a new soundtrack for each film which provides a 2020 English dub to make the movies easier for casual fans to absorb. I don't think these dubs are very good - in fact they are little more than serviceable - but if it opens more eyes to the joys of El Santo and the Blue Demon (plus the female wrestlers) then they have done their jobs well.

The List 

CANDYMAN : FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) – 6 (rewatch on Blu) (better than I remembered)
PANIC BEATS (1983) – 7 (rewatch)
THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR (1970) -7 (rewatch on Blu)
THE WESTWARD TRAIL (1948) – 5 (standard PRC B western with Eddie Dean singing)
THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963) – 8 (rewatch on Blu – Italian version)
SAN ANTONIO (1945) – 7 (Errol Flynn western)
SANTO AND BLUE DEMON VS DRACULA AND THE WOLFMAN (1973) – 6 (rewatch of the newly dubbed version)
THE DARKNESS (2016) – 6 (well done but unremarkable horror film)
GASLIGHT (1940) – 8
RIDERS TO THE STARS (1954) – 6 (low budget near-documentary SF about getting to Earth orbit)
THE LADY KILLS (1971) – 5 (French rape-revenge film)
SPACE AMOEBA (1970) – 6 (Toho SF monster film)
A BELL FROM HELL (1973) – 8 (rewatch)
SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961) – 7 (rewatch on Blu)
BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT (2018) – 8 (animated adaptation)
SHE-WOLVES OF THE RING (1965) – 5 (lucha drama)
BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (1958) – 8 (excellent Randolph Scott western)
NIGHTFALL (1988) – 6 (Interesting low budget attempt to tell this Asimov tale)
BLOODY SECT (a.k.a. Secta siniestra) (1983) – 6 (mad Spanish horror film)
SKINNER (1993) – 4 (serial killer film with an interesting cast)
SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT (1979) – 7 (rewatch of the long version on Blu)
DER ZINKER (a.k.a THE SQUEAKER) (1963) – 7 (krimi fun on Blu)
CENTRAL PARK (1932) – 7 (slight but good crime tale with Joan Blondell)