Sunday, December 23, 2007


Last year I suffered through the miserable remake of this film. On Christmas Day no doubt! The original stands out over time as a truly great little chiller. Bob Clark was taken from us far too soon.

For a great alternative holiday evening view this film after director Clark's other seasonal classic A CHRISTMAS STORY. Fun fun!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Ape-Mas

For the PLANET OF THE APES fans out there.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

KILL BILL animated

Does any one other than me remember that Tarentino was planning some animated KILL BILL offshoots? I was really excited about that.

Of course, now I'd just be happy to get the uncut version of VOL. 1 on Region 1 DVD.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Because I'm trying to get into the Christmas spirit but still want to watch horror films I decided to spin this one again. Here's my review of the film.

Harry Standling (Brandon Maggart) is an introverted middle aged man whose hobby is all things Christmas. Perfectly in sync with his obsessive regard for the season he has worked in a toy factory for most of his adult life. Harry’s years of experience have finally landed him a management job in the company and he seems to have thought that his new position would allow him to make better toys for kids. But as the Christmas season approaches he finds the hostile anti-holiday attitudes of his co-workers and the disappointment of no longer working directly with the toys getting to him. But what starts off looking like a bout of Holiday depression begins to turn nasty. Clearly sad and disappointed by the adults around him he begins to focus on the joys Christmas brings to kids. For years Harry has kept detailed written accounts of the actions of the children that live in his neighborhood and bound books listing ‘bad ‘ and ‘good’ kids line his shelves. As he starts spending more time going through them adding black & white marks he becomes more unstable. In his home workshop he fashions a Santa costume, paints an elaborate mural of Santa’s sleigh on the sides of his van and begins to make plans. Learning from a snide PR man of his company’s half-hearted stab at charity by donating toys to the local children’s hospital Harry is livid. Dressing as Santa he sneaks into the factory at night stealing a van load of toys and on Christmas Eve delivers them to the surprised and happy hospital staff. Elated by this near perfect moment of Holiday cheer he tracks the company PR man to a church where he’s attending a Christmas service. After waiting outside a silent Santa Harry is taunted by some of the church-goers and stabs two of them to death with a toy solider! Driving away he next goes to the house of a co-worker who has insulted and belittled him repeatedly. After a failed attempt to go down the chimney he finds an open basement window, creeps in and kills the man right in front of his wife. Disturbingly, the dead man’s awakened kids wave happily to the departing Santa just as their mother’s screams ring out.

On Christmas Day the cops are running around hunting a killer Santa even going so far as to put a bunch of them in a line up for witnesses from the church. But an APB out on St. Nick on December the 25th isn’t the best move and does not net them their guy. Harry has spent the night in his van outside the toy factory and awakens to the realization of his plight. Afraid to go home he breaks into the place and as if in a fantasy about really being Santa Claus turns on all the toy making equipment. As news reports stoke the fears of the public Harry’s younger brother Philip (Jeffery DeMunn) begins to think his brother is involved. He becomes convinced that his unbalanced sibling is the killer after a rambling phone call from him that afternoon. When night falls on Christmas Harry ventures out again but ends up being chased through the streets by an actual torch bearing mob until he escapes to his brother’s home. But an enraged Philip demands answers resulting in a family fight that brings the tragic tale to a close.

I was completely gob-smacked by this one folks. From the title and description I was expecting a smarmy slasher film that used the Holiday season for a cheap backdrop and even cheaper jokes. What I got instead was a very well made character study reminiscent of Polanski’s REPULSION. Although not as good as that classic it stands proudly beside it as a fascinating picture of a slow descent into madness and murder. If anything Harry Standling is a more sympathetic main character as we are shown in a brief prologue the genesis of both his fixation on Christmas and the reason for his awkwardness with people. At an impressionable age the young Harry crept downstairs on Christmas Eve to see Santa sexually gratifying his mother. That this Santa was actually his father didn’t register and the traumatized boy never really got over the sight of Jolly Old Saint Nick pleasuring Mom.

In a film with many things to praise the first should be the performance of Bandon Maggart. He does a truly brilliant job of getting inside Harry’s head and showing us the broken way his mind functions. The moment I knew he was simply not going to make a wrong step was in a sequence midway through his Christmas Eve rounds. He has stopped outside a community house and is watching a neighborhood party through a window. Spotted in his Santa outfit he is pulled inside and asked to join in the celebration with children and adults alike. It’s a beautiful scene that shows what his life could have been like as he happily dances with everyone and enjoys a few drinks. Maggart is note perfect here and even elicits a chill as he says goodbye to the kids with a stern warning about being good.

Another thing to single out is the exceptionally fine cinematography of the film. For a movie made on such a small budget CHRISTMAS EVIL looks incredible. From the commentary track on the DVD I learned that director Lewis Jackson spent a lot to get Ricardo Aronovich as his DP and his skill certainly makes the film a joy to look at. There are more than a dozen shots here that rival the best Christmas images I ever seen captured in the movies with some of them being heartbreakingly well composed. Jackson points out in brief liner notes that his prime visual inspiration was the Christmas paintings of Thomas Nast and it really shows. That a film of this type can be so beautiful puts to shame the sad Christmas movies pumped out every year by Hollywood.

As much as I liked the movie I have to admit it’s not perfect. The last third of the film is not as sure footed as the beginning as if the focus has been lost as Harry parades around the toy factory and comes dangerously close to derailing as he’s being pursued by the mob of angry parents. But by the time the brothers have fought and credits roll over the haunting final image I found it easy to forgive these small hiccups. Of course, a movie about a murderous Santa Claus isn’t going to be an easy sell for 90% of the public but I think plenty of folks would love this if it were given a chance.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Beautiful Mystery Poster Art

I have brazenly stolen this image from David Zuzelo's excellent blog and I'm in love with this art work. I have no idea what film it was painted for and my search of the IMDB has yielded only questions. I can't even hazard a good guess so I'm turning to the three to four people that actually read this sad little blog- What movie is this poster supposed to advertise? Help a guy out if you can! And if you can only guess, that would be fine too.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Robbie the shoe salesman?

I think I need to rewatch FORBIDDEN PLANET some time soon. I don't remember this scene at all!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007)

30 DAYS OF NIGHT is a good horror film but not a great one. That’s a shame. I was really hoping for a great one. Don’t get me wrong. It is good. It’s got a great premise, solid acting, is well directed (for the most part), has a number of very scary moments and actually has the wisdom to have a fairly bleak ending. It has the strength of an R rating in these days of the PG-13 in that it doesn’t shy away from the violence and keeps the tension level pretty high. Its best described as part NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and part Carpenter’s THE THING- and that’s a good combination in my book! Snowy cold creepy stuff always hits my sweet spot. Hint to all horror filmmakers- the quickest way to appeal to me is set your scary tale in winter.

My one real complaint with the movie is an odd one to have to deal with. Strangely, the film feels as if a big part of the narrative is missing. I don’t mean that the story got chopped down reducing the source comic book to a manageable length for film. I mean that there are three or four moments in the movie when the story leaps forward in a sloppy way that just screams SCENES MISSING. I seriously think that there is at least 10 to 15 minutes of footage that was cut out- probably to adhere to some specific desired running time. Indeed, I’m willing to bet that a longer version of the film will be released on DVD eventually if not right off the bat.

I find this kind of disappointing. I liked the film and to a degree my perception of these missing parts didn’t keep me from giving it a thumbs up. But more and more we’re not getting the whole film anymore in the theaters. Even the version of DEAD SILENCE I raved about a week ago was a minute longer than what was shown theatrically. I guess times have changed. Maybe its better to wait to see these things at home when the full movie can be chosen instead of a shortened cut.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Rarely am I surprised by a comedy. Comedies should surprise me because most comedy (i.e. causing laughter) is predicated on an unexpected (hence surprising) something that strikes me as amusing. But most comedies made these past 20 or so years just fall flat for me. Maybe too many Three Stooges shorts as a kid ruined me for the brilliant subtleties of Adam Sandler. One of the hardest things to manage in the horror genre is the combination of comedy with horror. You run the risk of either not being funny or not being scary and if you manage one but not the other the film seems way off. Or stupid. For a good example of a shitty attempt at this check out either of Stephen Sommers’ MUMMY films. Or don’t Yeah- don’t. Ever.

In recent years SHAUN OF THE DEAD hit the ball out of the park but I have to go back to RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD to think of another good horror/comedy. They just aren’t common so I wasn’t expecting much from ELIVRA’S HAUNTED HILLS. And, to tell the truth, I didn’t get a lot. It’s not the funniest film, it’s not very scary and it’s not all that great over all really. But it has its grinning heart in the right place and that goes a long way with me. Color me surprised.

I went in with no information about the movie and was amused when the credits played out over a background of swirling multicolored paint. I chuckled and said out loud (even though I was alone in the room- no jokes), “Looks like the Corman Poe credit sequences.” Fifteen minutes later it slowly dawned on me that the entire film was an homage to those wonderful films from the 1960s. This became hard to miss as the story combines parts of HOUSE OF USHER, PIT & THE PENDULEM, TOMB OF LIGEIA and a touch of PREMATURE BURIAL. Adding to the fun is the inclusion of a hunky male character that Elvira lusts after who is hysterically dubbed. This knowing but affectionate nod to the great European made gothics of the period is quite nice and made me smile. My favorite line in the film has to do with Elvira wondering how this guy manages to speak so well when his lips don’t ever match his words. Good times!

Of course, the film isn’t fantastic. Except for a few great lines aimed at fans of the Corman movies the humor is pretty broad centering on the usual Elvira breast and sex gags. And only a few times does the movie evoke a neat chill. But the spirit of fun and the obvious love for what they are parodying shines through the whole time. It’s not a great movie but it is kind of fun and would make a good second feature after one of the Poe tales that inspired it.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Each October I watch a lot of horror movies. I tend to mix classics I want to revisit with new stuff I hope will be good. Of course, I’m always on the hunt for new horror films that don’t stink up the room and make me wish I’d just watched television that night, but in October this search intensifies. Usually I start casting about for movies that I might have written off earlier, digging a little deeper than average hoping for a surprise. I call it panning for gold but someone else might call it sifting through shit. Whatever you want to call it, I occasionally find a nugget of the pure stuff. That happened with this film.

Back in early 2007 I saw a trailer for DEAD SILENCE and dismissed it out of hand. I saw a ventriloquist dummy, thought “MAGIC for the 21st century” and never thought of it again. But over the last few months I’ve started listening to a great horror film related Podcast called Now despite being named after a pretty crappy 80’s film the two Kentucky guys that hold court on this show are funny, informed and honest in their opinions. I certainly can’t say I agree with them all the time (MONKEY SHINES is a damned good movie) but we share a hatred of Eli Roth so I’m on their side in most instances. One of the great things about any sustained conversation on a favorite topic is that it tends to focus the mind and listening to these fellow fans has had that effect. They’ve made me think a bit harder about what I like and what I don’t. I should probably thank them for that one day. So when one of them commented that he had liked DEAD SILENCE and thought it tried to do something fresh in the genre I took note. A quick trip to the NetFlix cue and I settled down to view it with mild expectations.

In a word- WOW! This is one damned good little ghost tale! Not a ventriloquist story really but a horror story about decades long revenge and murder that has a number of nice surprises and at least 5 or 6 stand out scare moments that are simply masterful. When a film is good enough to evoke chills from the sight of a pale white hand inching its way around a wooden post you know you’re in the hands of people who understand horror. And this is the rare film that gets better as you think more about it afterwards. I almost want to watch it again just for the joy of being played so well.

The film tells the story of a young man and his wife who have moved away from the small town in which they grew up. One night they receive an unmarked package containing an old but well kept ventriloquist dummy. Both of them remember an odd story and rhyme they heard as kids about someone with dummies like this one. That same night, while the husband is out of the apartment, his wife is murdered and her tongue ripped out leaving her looking a lot like the wooden doll. Under suspicion for the death he travels back to the couple’s hometown to find out who sent the dummy to them and discover the reason for his beloved’s murder.

That’s all I’m going to tell you other than this is a wonderfully creepy, atmospheric, beautifully photographed and pleasingly well paced horror movie. It is easily one of the best in the genre I’ve seen in many moons and I regret not seeing it on the big screen. I don’t want to over praise it and possibly build up too much anticipation but I really do recommend this one. This is exactly the kind of good, scary movie we need more of these days. It’s a shame it tanked at the box office but maybe we can make it a hit on DVD.

Rod says- CHECK IT OUT!

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm happy to report that it turns out that I was wrong about how Universal was going to lay out the five films in their new Classic Movie Archive currently available only through Best Buy. The movies are laid out on two DVDs with THE BLACK CAT (1941 version), MAN MADE MONSTER and HORROR ISLAND on the first. NIGHT MONSTER and CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN share disc space on the second. Considering the short length of these films this is a good choice making it easy to go on a binge of 1940s horror without leaving your chair!

I'm also happy that now I've been able to finally see NIGHT MONSTER (1942). It's one of the very few movies staring Bela Lugosi that I've never caught up with (and I'll get to MURDER BY TELEVISION one day). It turns out Bela is a minor part of the story but the movie is pretty darned good any way. As a matter of fact, I'd say its the second best of the five. Of course, the real gem of the set is the great little Lon Chaney, Jr. film MAN MADE MONSTER. I think Chaney gives one of his best and least hammy performances here. I actually prefer his work as an actor in this one to his turn in THE WOLF MAN.

I love this poster art from the 1953 re-release. Somehow the title change just doesn't thrill me, although I'm sure it fooled plenty of folks looking for the latest atomic mutant film.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection Vol. 2

Like many fans of classic science fiction movies I’ve been anticipating the release yesterday of the second Universal Sci-Fi Collection of films. The first came out two years ago and presented five great and not so great movies from the 1950s. Even though there were no extras at all the price was right and it was a treat to be able to see things like TARANTULA looking razor sharp on video. But the choices of how to lay the movies out on disc seem to have been made completely at random. The most worthy and flat out brilliant of the set, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, was paired on a disc with another movie while easily the weakest, MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS was given pride of place on its own DVD. Setting aside the fact that SHRINKING MAN deserves some respectful extras- at the very least an interview with writer Richard Matheson- the fact that the worst movie was placed in the best digital position smacked of sloppiness.

But now that the second one is in my hands I can see that sloppiness was not the problem- because it has happened again! Of the five movies here the least interesting and fun is given its own single DVD while the superior remainder share disc space with each other. Not to come off like a pissy little fan boy but what the heck were the video folks at Universal thinking? Did someone really consider THE LEECH WOMAN to be the film to place on it’s own? DR. CYCLOPS, THE DEADLY MANTIS and even CULT OF THE COBRA are much better movies. I might have thought last time that they weren’t thinking at all but now I suspect differently. Twice is a pattern the wise man said. Universal is obviously choosing to give the weakest film the most beneficial disc location. Why? I can only guess. But this is the kind of thing that fans can point to as a demonstration of how little regard the genre is given.

Now I’m willing to go on record with a bet- When the Horror set pictured above is released in October I’m sure that the 1941 version of THE BLACK CAT will be on a single DVD. Anyone want to take me up on this one?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lee Van Cleef- The Midas Man?

Made in the early 1980s this is part of a series of Canadian commercials featuring Lee Van Cleef and others playing off their spaghetti western persona. This is my favorite of the lot as it reunites the two stars of the great DEATH RIDES A HORSE. Now there's a film in need of a good DVD release.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

HUNDRA (1983)

Since my teenage years I’ve had a soft spot in my heart (or head) for the 1980s wave of sword & sorcery movies that thundered through cinemas in the wake of the success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN. I don’t think many of them are very good but I find them fun entertainments much as I do the similar wave of HERCULES inspired movies of the 1960s. They aren’t brilliant but they are something I can really enjoy. Unpretentious, energetic, colorful and often outrageous the sword & scandal epics can always be counted on as good, mostly clean Saturday afternoon romps. The 80s brand of loin cloth warriors were not as plentiful as their earlier brethren but what they lacked in number they made up for in blood, breasts and carnage. Who says the second wave can’t as good as the first?

But even with my interest in these movies I had never heard of HUNDRA until a few months ago. It was mentioned by a friend in the Euro Trash Palace Yahoo group but little was said and in the crush of daily events I quickly forgot about it. Then just this week I ventured into a local used DVD place and stumbled across the amazing DVD release from Subversive Cinema. Not only does it contain the film but a number of extras and a bonus CD of the (good but not great) Ennio Morricone soundtrack! SOLD!

Of course, the best news about finding this odd little film is that it turns out to be pretty good. Obviously patterned VERY closely on CONAN it follows that movie’s plot so well that once it finally diverges about midway it’s a bit of a shock. Laurene Landon plays Hundra, the sole survivor of a tribe of females who had separated themselves from mankind to avoid the horrors of men’s cruelty. Associating with males only to become pregnant they were happy living apart. Hundra at first sets out to avenge her tribe but is told by a wise woman that she must instead bear children so their kind can continue. Unhappy but respectful she sets off into the world to find a man worthy of her.

This set-up sounds like it could be the start of a pretty stupid sex film but that’s not the track the filmmakers travel. Each encounter Hundra has is symbolic of how women have to deal with men in various situations. This adds a level of intelligence to things which keeps it fascinating even as the pace of the story flags in the second half. Also keeping the movie popping is the satiric approach director Cimber takes. The actions scenes are exciting but also funny with some good slapstick mixing well with the pretty harsh swordplay. If someone had told me HUNDRA would try to be funny I would have doubted if the movie was even worth watching. But they actually pull it off here making it look easy most of the time. There are a few points where the tone shifts too fast for the story’s own good but overall they find the right distance between thrilling and silly.

The sword fights between Landon and her many adversaries are a blast and not only because she is clearly doing all her own stunts. Cimber uses very good editing and smart slow motion effects to maximize a small budget making the battles look truly fierce. I should also single out the excellent animal performance by a dog that acts as Hundra’s only constant companion. Very well trained this canine rides on horseback, cowers in fear to warn his master, leaps at the throat of a bad guy menacing a baby and even leads Hundra’s horse by the reins. There are lots of surprising things about this little movie but I guess the most surprising thing is that it turned out to be pretty good. I think I’m going to settle in and listen to the commentary track now.

Monday, August 13, 2007


A movie I read about for years before finally getting to see it via Synapse's excellent DVD. Not only an entertaining and influential revenge picture it introduced me to one of the most beautiful, sexy women of all time- Christina Lindberg. I really must show this to more folks.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Suck Summer 2007 continues

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD- There hasn’t been a good DIE HARD film since the first one and this sucker continues the tradition. More accurately a TERMINATOR sequel in which Willis plays The McClaine-bot 3000 taking enough punishment to snap Arnold’s spine and liquefy his brain. Brucie-boy is shot, drives through walls, dangles over an elevator shaft, blows up helicopters and battles mano-a-mano with a fighter jet. Which is a shame as the story they’ve concocted is interesting and kind of smart. It’s just constantly undermined by the action scenes which are so incredibly over the top that they are completely unbelievable. Indeed, it seems at times as if the actions scenes (of which there are at least two too many) are from another film altogether. I wanted to like the movie because of the fine cast and interesting ideas but then another impossibly dumb thing would happen throwing it all down the crapper. Not that the plot is perfect as it kind of trips over itself a few times. (I love how Willis is able to drive across country so quickly when the entire country has been shut down and the roads are gridlocked.) But lots of folks love this one. Oh well. Coming soon DIE HARD 5- SAVE THE MOON!

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER- There are few movies dumber than the first FF movie. I think that pound for pound, minute for minute the first film may actually be the dumbest super hero movie yet made. It was insulting, juvenile (in the worst sense of the word), poorly scripted and it also managed to jettison everything good about the Fantastic Four’s entire 45 year history. Yeah- I hated it.

Now we come to the sequel- because everyone but me LOVED the damned movie! It is probably damning this movie with faint praise to say it is better than the first one but sadly, saying that might lead unsuspecting viewers to think it might be good. It is not. If the first one was akin to a kick in the groin this one is less painful. Maybe like a kick in the stomach instead. Not a debilitating injury I guess, but one you’ll remember for a while. It’s not as insulting as the first but it still has Reed Richards acting like a complete idiot 90% of the time. It’s not as stupid but it still portrays Johnny Storm as a moronic prick in need of a few bullets. It’s not as clueless about the characters but it still shows they have nothing for Ben Grimm to really do except be the butt of bad jokes. It’s not as puerile as the first but it still somehow finds a way to get the Invisible Woman naked in public. Lowest common denominator every time, huh?

The only thing that comes off well is the Silver Surfer but only because he’s kept mostly a mystery with only a hint of his terrible history. I guess that’s something. But of course they did manage to screw up Galactus really well so Doctor Doom doesn’t have to be the only FF antagonist to be completely destroyed by the filmmakers. Did I mention Doom is in this one as well? If you thought the character was great in the first film (shudder) you’ll love his intensely forgettable presence here.

So- better than the first film BUT- still awful. If they stay on this incremental quality trajectory we might get a good Fantastic Four film by roughly 2022. Just in time for the comic book’s 60th anniversary. I hope that perhaps then we’ll get a movie about these characters that seems aimed at more than short attention span teenagers.


I really must one day write a long piece about this incredible movie. One of the best guilty pleasures every made YOR is fun & funny from start to finish. That it was made by one of my Italian cinematic heroes Antonio Margheriti makes it all the more enjoyable. I'm amazed by how many fan sites there are on the web for YOR. Everything from a MySpace page to dozens of fan tributes.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


This was one of the first modern 'R' rated monster films I ever saw. It popped up late at night on HBO in the early 80s repeatedly and became a legend among those lucky enough to see it. Grotesque, violent and surprisingly well done it also has some disturbing monster rape scenes that are much nastier than anything Hollywood would try today. Definitely a 'Hard R'! There's a pretty good Roger Corman release of this here but I hear that the Japanese DVD sports a longer cut with even more nastiness. Hmmmmm.........

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My 10 Favorite movies

1. Captain Blood (1935)- It’s no secret that this is my favorite film of all time. I’m a huge Errol Flynn fan but that’s not the only reason I love this movie. Captain Blood has everything- action, adventure, romance, humor, sword-fights, Basil Rathbone and some of the best dialog you’ll ever find in a pirate movie. It tells a sweeping story very well and I love re-watching it and introducing others to it. One of the best films ever made.

2. Citizen Kane (1941)- Touch of Evil is a fantastic film, but this one is slightly better. What can I say that hasn’t already been said- Brilliant from start to finish. As close to perfect as a movie can get. But who heard him say Rosebud?

3. Fight Club (1999)- Maybe the best film David Fincher will ever make and the fact that something this good can be made these days is a testament to the survival of the creative spirit in Hollywood. A perfect cast, razor sharp direction, an incredible script and one of the best whipsaw endings ever put on celluloid. It only gets better with subsequent viewings. Funny, sad, hopeful and nihilistic- it’s all this and more.

4. King Kong (1933)- Beauty and the Beast writ large- with a monkey! A beautiful fantasy that still makes me cry every time I see it. Plus, I like watching an ape kick dinosaur ass!

5. The Thing (1982)- One of the most influential horror movies of the last 30 years (second only to Alien) is also one of the best. Paranoia elevated to a high cinematic art and backed up with some of the goriest FX they could think of. Kurt Russell leads a great cast asking “Who Goes There?”.

6. Danger: Diabolik (1968)- With all the amazing horror films Mario Bava made I end up choosing his pop art comic book thriller. Am I nuts, or what? Still, this is one great movie that moves like a shot. Watching a master criminal out smart the cops has never been this much fun before or since. And Morricone’s score is unforgettable!

7. The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers (1973-74)- I am not cheating by naming two films as one! It IS one big movie. Just ask the actors. The best version of the Dumas novel and one of the best swashbuckling films ever. With a great cast (and many career-best performances) and the best swordplay humor of all time. I laughed, I cried- it became a part of me!

8. Vertigo (1958)- Hitchcock at his most effective. Beautiful and melancholy- it speaks to that part of us that wants the truth, but knows that the truth can be an awful thing.

9. Dawn of the Dead (1977)- Horror films don’t come any gorier, tenser, creepier or better written than Romero’s zombie masterwork. The fact that most of the scary stuff happens in broad daylight only adds to the feeling of a world gone mad. I prefer the 140-minute cut but the shorter one will do.

10. Planet of the Apes (1968)- I could watch this movie every six months and still enjoy every minute. Constantly labeled a ‘near-classic’ (what the hell is that?) this is one of the great science fiction films. Calling it anything less than a classic is an insult. I even like the sequels!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

GORILLA AT LARGE is coming soon!

Why, with all the amazing classic horror movies coming out on DVD this Fall, am I most excited about this one double feature? Because I am a sick, sick, curious man, my friends.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Somebody really loves STARCRASH

I related the tale my STARCRASH hunt over at Eccentric Cinema two years ago. I still think its one of the great unsung BAD movies in need of restoration and special edition DVD release. I long for a commentary track with director Luigi Cozzi, Caroline Munroe and anyone else crazy enough to moderate. I would pay a large sum of money for this.

But it would seem that others love the movie even more than I do........

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Summer Sucks (for the most part)

The summer of ’07 is shaping up to be pretty damned bad. So far there have been several disappointments and only one real standout. I know its only July but so far the offerings at the Cineplex have sucked out loud.

SPIDERMAN 3- Everyone else has already beat this one to death so I’ll just jump in to say that if they hadn’t wedged Venom into the story it could have been great. That would have eliminated the worst sequences in the story and shaved the running time back to a manageable length. More Sandman- Less Venom. One of the neatest things about Raimi’s Spidey films so far have been the playfulness of the way the characters are treated but here he and his co-writers completely blew it. The asinine ‘Saturday Night Fever’ sequence and the ridiculous dance scene are embarrassing. So bad that I pray somehow they get left out of any DVD release to spare others from having to see them. Rarely have I felt so dumbfounded by a filmmaker’s choices. Stupid barely begins to cover it. And why introduce Gwen Stacey now? And after saving Gwen from falling what about the wildly swinging crane, Spidey? And why hire such a good actor to play Gwen’s father if you’re going to give him nothing to do? And the Venom meteor crashes about 100 feet from Parker? And Brock is in the church as Spidey rips off the black suit? And where was that Osborn butler in the first two movies? And why didn’t he set Harry straight before now? And why can’t Spider Man keep his damned mask on? And tying Sandman to Uncle Ben’s death was brain dead. A mess. There are good things in the film but the crap overwhelms them.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBEAN: AT WORLD’S END- Wow! Another mess. I loved the first two of this series but they seriously lost focus several times here. I still enjoyed it but there were too many times when they obviously lost control of the story and were just flailing about. The film would have been a good deal better without the Singapore section and the entire Goddess subplot. A simpler straight line plot that got us to the final sea battle would have been a much sharper way to go. But even with the sloppiness there’s a lot here to like. Depp is fun, the action scenes are entertaining and the double and triple crosses are just as fun as before. I even liked the neat little THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY moment which recalled the brilliant but understated three way standoff from the first movie. For the first time with these movies I feel the way others have with the earlier ones- Shorter would have been better. Fun overall and the sequence with Depp and the crabs was amazing but it’s a shame to have ended the series with a thud.

MR. BROOKS- Words cannot express how shocked I was at how much I enjoyed this film. Smart, funny, tense, well acted by a great cast and with more than a few surprises this is one damned good movie. I have no idea why it was decided to release it in the summer but it is so far the only bright spot in a pitch black field of terrible sequels. Every few years Kevin Costner makes a truly great movie with the last one being the also criminally under seen OPEN RANGE. This is a movie that people will be discovering on video for years to come and wondering why they never heard of it. As the story unfolded I at first thought they were trying to cram in too much plot but by the last 20 minutes they wrapped everything into a nice neat ball that left a satisfied smile on my face. Smart scripting and a willingness to be nasty help this jump into my top movies of 2007 so far. I can’t recommend this one strongly enough. Of course, I’m sure it bombed at the box office.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Why in the Hell does this film not click? All the elements are in place for a superb giallo- beautiful, often nude ladies (Barbara Bach, Claudia Auger, Barbara Bouchet); mysterious killer with odd modus operandi (needle through the back of the neck); interesting, almost futuristic looking locations (love those forward thinking 60’s architects) ; and a lead actor who is good onscreen and can actually act (Giancarlo Giannini). It’s very attractively packaged but it just never comes together. I think it might be the rather pedestrian story that is never very engaging. It’s the standard giallo murder mystery with no real twists and instead of feeling pretty but shallow (like some GOOD gialli can) it just feels dull and hollow. The story crawls along with far too many boring scenes between Giannini and his wife. I never once felt anything about any of the simple, blank characters and sadly this lack of concern cripples any suspense or interest in the goings on. I was mildly curious about the identity of the killer but once revealed it was only an eyebrow-raiser instead of a shocking discovery.

The most interesting thing about the story was Giannini’s police inspector realizing as the case drags on that he’s not cut out for this kind of work. And smartly the film shows us that he’s right! He’s actually a pretty terrible detective missing clues and accepting things he should be questioning. Indeed the only reason he manages to catch the killer at all is because the sick scumbag takes a liking to the cop’s own wife. Without that screw-up and the finding of a clue so obvious he’d have had to be blind to miss it he might never have found the criminal. It was interesting to see the main investigator be so out of his depth and aware of it but it was really the only point of interest.

On an odd note- the Blue Underground DVD cover has a quote from some thing called HORRORVIEW stating that THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA is ‘the best giallo ever made’. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest the writer of said quote has either never seen many movies in the genre or was stoned out of his gourd while watching this film. Hell! Maybe a bribe was involved?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I don't own a copy of ROBOT MONSTER !? WTF

For a few years now I've written reviews for Brian Lindsey's great web-site Eccentric Cinema. Often Brian will email me to ask if I want to review a certain movie and if I have it I usually say yes. Well, both he and I were under the impression I owned the Image DVD of that 1953 classic of bad cinema ROBOT MONSTER but after a quick search in the video dungeon I realized I don't! For me this was like going to the kitchen and finding I have no bread. It's crazy! So it was off to Deep Discount DVD for a nice cheap purchase. $6.69 is not too steep a price for so much cheesy joy!


Bear with me here.

I love the old Scooby Doo cartoon shows from the late 60s and early 70s. I find them entertaining and they kick a certain ‘Saturday morning/breakfast cereal/no school today’ nostalgia button that few other things can. Over the years I’ve found I’m not alone in this regard and have met a number of folks of a similar age that also love Scooby and the gang. And one of the things all fans of the show can agree on is that everything when to shit when they introduced Scrappy Doo. The addition of that pain in the ass pup was enough to make even the most die hard Scooby fan gag on their Cocoa Pebbles. Annoying, loud, stupid and full of that most dreaded of things- spunk! As soon as a character in a cartoon can be called ‘spunky’ you know the sucker was thought up by committee. I imagine the scene from THE SIMPSONS in which it was decided to add a dog character to the Itchy & Scratchy cartoons was pretty much exactly how it went. All that was missing was the comment to ‘Rastify him by 10%’.

Needless to say no one liked Scrappy and no one ever will. He’s a soulless corporate creation that might as well have a trademark tattooed on his hindquarters. Of course the tip-off that he was created for the wrong reasons was that he was not a dog- he was a puppy. Whenever someone is trying really hard to push your buttons and they know what they have might be a hard sell they pull out either kittens or puppies. Puppies and kittens are adorable and cute and just the sight of them playing or even just walking around can melt the heart of all but the most curmudgeonly people. So it is that as soon as I see a puppy in any advertisement I immediately suspect that the thing being sold is of dubious merit. Anyone else remember Nixon and Checkers?

That brings us to ZOLTAN, HOUND OF DRACULA. I know, I know. How could I have thought this was going to be a good movie? Well- I didn’t! I thought it would be stupid/funny and maybe entertain me. And I was right. It’s never believable for a minute with Russian soldiers in Romania unearthing the Dracula family crypt and accidentally releasing the vampiric clan’s blood drinking pet dog. It’s a silly film that’s played very straight and might have pulled off some modest chills in spite of its ridiculousness until it makes its most amusing blunder- Vampire Puppy!

That’s right! About halfway through the film a cute little pup that has been bitten by Zoltan and died of his wounds becomes a vamp himself. The problem is that there is no way on Earth to make a puppy look anything other than adorable. So when the little German Shepard pup pushes his way out of his shallow grave and wags his tail toward the camera there can be only one sane response- wild laughter. He’s just so cuddly you want to reach into the screen and play with the evil little ball of undead fur! Needless to say, the concept of the Vampire Puppy was one that should have been thrown out early in the writing stage on this project unless they had decided to go for comedy. Sadly there’s no proof of that in the finished film. Unless you count the sight of Michael Pataki in full Bela Lugosi evening wear as he briefly plays Dracula in a flashback. Now that was funny!

So as this silly little slice of 70’s cheese wound to a close I was amused by a moderately well animated sequence that played over and over again in my mind’s eye. Picture a wild eyed Shaggy holding down Scrappy Doo as Scooby drives a stake through his chest. After which Velma chops off the pups evil smiling head while Daphne dances naked in the spray of canine blood and Fred video tapes the entire scene.

Or would that have been too over the top?

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Diving back into the bootleg pile I come up with a Naschy film again. INQUISITION is pretty typical of the Naschy scripted period horrors of the 70s and this one was also directed by Mr. Molina. They don’t call him Triple Threat for nothing! (Actually I’m the only one that calls him that but….)

Taking a page (or two) from WITCHFINDER GENERAL Naschy plays Inquisitor Bernard de Fossey in 16th century France rooting out witches and devil worshippers. He sets up shop in a small village and takes up residence in the local Lords castle. Working off hearsay and the standard religious self-righteousness he and his men start torturing confessions out of suspects and then publicly burning them. Nashcy’s host is a very progressive middle aged man who doesn’t believe that any of the poor folks imprisoned and killed are really in league with Satan, but he wisely keeps his opinion to himself as the carnage continues. The fellow has two lovely daughters and soon enough Nashcy has his eye on the younger one named Catherine (Daniela Giordano). And after her fiancée is killed on the road Naschy begins to press her father to become both sisters guardian. But Catherine is troubled by dreams that seem to indicate that someone paid bandits to kill her lover. She becomes obsessed with discovering who ordered his death and is even willing to sale her soul to find out.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It has the usual lazy/sloppy scripting I expect from Naschy where we are ham handedly told things we’d be much better off seeing. So often in his stories plot developments are introduced so clumsily that it often seems as if scenes were removed and stilted dialog was substituted to cover up. But this is part of the charm of these movies for me along with the sometimes terrible dubbing, sex and violence!

On the violence front there are some real shockers. Some real MARK OF THE DEVIL style sadism is on display but I was very surprised by the nipple removal scene! I must say that was one realistic looking nipple and having it pulled off the breast in close up was impressive. And sickening. Stack this one up there with the BURIAL GROUND breast munch scene for shocks.

Which leads us to the nudity and boy is there plenty of it! Lots of shots of very attractive ladies in various states of undress with my favorite being a completely pointless skinny dipping sequence. Of course all the women who are tortured are lookers (no ugly witches?) but I was disappointed that the lovely Julia Saly never showed any skin. Playing Catherine’s sister she shines as the more attractive of the two and she is one beautiful lady. I’d have given up seeing any other five girls here for a few seconds of her. I know she was in a few more Naschy films but I’ve not seen them yet. Time to break them out!

So overall I give this one a 6/10 and recommend it to fans for the star. Those looking for a variation on MARK OF THE DEVIL might enjoy it as well even with the standard Naschy romance subplot. Plus you get to see him play Satan himself in a couple of Catherine’s nightmares! The 1970’s were a good time to be Paul Naschy.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Wow! Sometimes everything you've heard about a movie is correct. For years I've heard nothing but bad things about this sucker and they were right on the money. A middling idea filmed in a slapdash manner spiked with two aging actors copping a paid vacation in Greece makes for 90 minutes of sheer boredom. The plot is so simple it might have been scrawled on a bar napkin- tourists are disappearing near some ruins on a Greek island. Priest Donald Pleasance is concerned and warns off some nice young friends drawn to the place by rumors of an priceless artifact. This is all to no avail of course as local wealthy landowner Peter Cushing is the leader of a weird-ass cult of minotaur worshipers that grab and sacrifice any idiot unlucky enough to trespass on the groups hidden underground temple. I guess the sight of a 10 foot tall stone minotaur the shoots flames out of its nostrils is so funny that killing any potential 'art critics' would be the only way to salvage any respect the cult has for itself. Hysterically the thing is on a platform that raises it into view in such a way as to make me think of a game show.

"And now let's have a big round of applause for our host! The beast of the hour! That raging Grecian with a unique sinus problem! THE MINOTAUR!!"

Adding to this odd TV show impression is that the sacrificial altars look like the set of a 70's talk show. And, in one of the stranger moments later in the movie, this underground kill spot is suddenly outside in a stand of trees. Bizarre.

At any rate, the film is deadly dull requiring some talking to the screen to get all the way through. An interest in Cushing and Pleasance helps but there is just not much here to hold anyone's attention for long. I like the poster art though.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ARK OF THE SUN GOD (1983) trailer

I have avoided the various RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK rip-offs for more than 25 years now but I feel it may be time to finally indulge. That this one was made by Antonio Margheriti places it high atop my 'Want List'. It looks like so much fun!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Years ago when I first started exploring European Trash Cinema I caught several of director Jess Franco’s movies. Across the board they were crap. And not just boring pieces of wasted celluloid. I’m talking about huge piles of rancid refuse with a stink that could have knocked a buzzard off a gut wagon. Bad bad bad!

But, since I’m a cinema masochist and I continued to read glowing praise from cult film aficionados I kept coming back for more. And after about 5 or 6 movies I finally struck pay dirt. THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF was one of Franco’s first movies and it is a black & white beauty. Dark and twisted, weird to the point of perversion and strangly for old Uncle Jess- it had a freaking narrative! You might be shocked that this is one of the standout traits of this film but let me assure you that if you can locate a narrative in SUCCUBUS, FEMALE VAMPIRE, VAMPIRES LESBOS or a host of his other films from the 70s then you are either smarter than I or you have better prescription drugs. Indeed the first thing most folks notice about a lot of Franco’s movies other than their often astonishing lack of skill is their astonishing lack of story. On many a wasted night I have wondered if he had a tale in mind when he turned the camera on or was just hoping something interesting happened before the film stock ran out.

Well, those days are behind me and the turning point was ORLOFF. After that I found more “Good Franco’s” including THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS, THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z, 99 WOMEN, TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS, FACELESS, KISS ME MONSTER, THE BLOODY JUDGE and his flawed but fascinating COUNT DRACULA. To find these I had to wade through a dozen others with the most loved by Franco fanatics usually being the ones I think of as sleep aids. Seriously- if anyone tries to defend VENUS IN FURS just ask them how many times we really need to see someone walk down a flight of steps before we know they went down the damned steps! My guess would be one but the slower viewers out there might need two. Not 6 or 7 freakin’ times! Maybe the extras were for those that had trouble staying awake.

Any hoo- I continue to watch Franco films because sometimes his varied interests and mine overlap and when he can control his desire to go nuts he can make a fun movie. One of our shared interests seems to be Old Dark House stories and little did I know when I picked up NIGHT OF THE SKULL that I was in for a good one. Set in 1800’s England the story is an admitted riff on THE CAT AND THE CANARY with some nice curveballs thrown in to make it weirder. I love these kinds of movies and coming across this one unexpectedly was great. Both the period and setting are favorites of mine so all the film had to do was maintain a certain level of quality and I’d keep watching. Luckily it was much better than I expected. That the print on this Image DVD is only in Spanish adds to the cool factor as well. All those proper English characters speaking Spanish is amusing. For me at least.

A man in a black cloak and scary skull mask is skulking about the manor house of an English aristocrat. The owner of the house is a wealthy older fellow obsessed with a book of apocalyptic verse. After reading aloud a passage about people dying through earth, fire, water and air he is attacked by the mystery man and buried alive in the garden outside. The mans family is called together for the reading of his will and once a second version of it turns up along with another illegitimate offspring more corpses start appearing.

As with all stories of this type things get complicated and convoluted with the final revelation being a nice surprise. A nice cast of Euro Trash stalwarts are on hand with Lina Romey looking less attractive than usual with her hair pulled back, William Berger doing his best with a small role and several others I recognize but can’t place without internet help. Lina even shows some skin as you might expect from that cheeky exhibitionist! Franco turns up as well as a drunken lawyer but isn’t as distracting as his cameos usually are.

So chalk one more up in the WIN column for Jess Franco. If I find another 20 or so good‘uns the career scales might start to balance! Of course he’s made nearly 200 damn movies and there is no way I’ll ever see them all. Unless I lose my mind.

Forget I said that.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Italian Action Films are Coming!

I have only recently begun to get interested in the sprawling action films produced in Italy in the 70s & 80s. It's a natural outgrowth of my love of the horror genre simply because so many directors worked in both areas. This one was directed by Antonio Margheriti who made CASTLE OF BLOOD, WILD WILD PLANET, WEB OF THE SPIDER, THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH and a host of other great movies. On June 26th I'll be able to see THE LAST HUNTER. I love you Dark Sky!

Friday, May 04, 2007

COLT 38 SPECIAL SQUAD (1976) trailer

While going through a lot of Italian crime films last year this one stood out from the pack. Really well done with one incredible ending.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Two recent theatrical viewings have made me think about the art of film criticism. I will state upfront that I don’t consider myself a film critic so much as a guy who loves movies. I like to watch them and then talk about them afterwards. It ain’t science and it may not be art but I likes it! But my lack of pretension about critiquing movies does not keep me from reading real paid-for-their-opinion writers both online and in print. Often I find my own perceptions about films to be out of alignment with the general consensus and no more so than with the horror genre. Without going into detail I find that horror is still looked down upon by the majority of film writers. It often seems horror is seen as the deformed bastard stepchild the industry keeps around because it knows how to scare money out of the kids. So I went to see these two movies with the foreknowledge that one was frowned on and the other was given a congratulatory pat on the head.

Of course it was the horror movie that got the crappy reviews. And strangely both movies are essentially remakes of older, better films.

THE REAPING tells the story of a university professor and former priest (Hillary Swank) who spends her time traveling around the world debunking miracles. She gave up her faith years before after a terrible incident in Africa that robbed her of her family. She is contacted by a teacher from the small bayou town of Haven to disprove what locals think is a reoccurrence of the Biblical plague of blood. When Swank and her colleague arrive in the town they encounter hostility from the residents and more events that appear to replicate the rest of the 10 plagues of Egypt.

Structured exactly like the classic THE WICKER MAN the film follows that template carefully but manages to add some twists of its own. It’s not a great movie but its triumphs are better than its failures. I feared it would succumb to PG-13-itis and wuss out as the climax approached but I was happily surprised. The filmmakers actually had the balls to pull the trigger on some very rough stuff including child murder, ritual human sacrifice and other bloody deeds. And even though it ends up stroking the ego of Christians as a whole it paints a dark picture of religion with good and evil as a balancing act that must be maintained. I think the point when most mainstream critics (and unadventurous viewers) turn against THE REAPING is when the supernatural elements start kicking into gear. So just about the time the movie really starts to surprise me I would bet most folks sneer. It’s a shame because it’s at this point that the film takes a brilliant turn and becomes a real horror film. By the time the locusts arrive and begin killing folks in hideous bug fashion a line has been crossed and there is no longer a way to rationally explain events. That can be a great moment in a well done horror film and this one hits it. It’s far from perfect but it is a solid 2 & ½ star film and quite enjoyable for genre fans. For others, I would guess less so.

The second theatrical viewing of the week was DISTURBIA. This film is getting generally good reviews and I think they’re deserved. Immediately identifiable as REAR WINDOW lite it tells the story of teenager Kale (Shia Labeouf) being sentenced to three months of home incarceration for a violent outburst at school. Held in place by an electronic anklet he can’t venture further than his own suburban yard without drawing the wraith of the police for the entire summer. Initially defiant he begins to go a little stir crazy once his mother limits his entertainment possibilities and begins to watch his neighbors as a diversion. This is made more interesting when a new family moves in next door with a beautiful teenage daughter who is fond of the house’s swimming pool. But just as Kale begins to make contact with the young lady he notices that another neighbor might have a connection to a series of murders in the nearby city. Indeed, this older man’s actions seem very questionable even if our Peeping Tom can’t nail down anything verifiable. He eventually resorts to using his best friend and that pretty girl next door to investigate things and the situation gets trickier and more dangerous until Kale’s mother is pulled in as well.

Although a little light this is a well told story with not a single misstep. The movie is paced well with just enough information about our main character to get us on his side and be drawn into the mystery across the street. The young cast does a very good job the and the script is smart in its slow build always holding strictly to what can be seen from Kale’s vantage point. The suspense grows as more info trickles in and even the conflicts with the boy’s mother and an emotional clash between the burgeoning teenage couple serve to amp up the tension. If the film has a flaw it’s that it seems a little too derivative of its obvious source- almost a remake done for the kids. I think that Hitchcock would have found a way to give the story a little more heft by making the danger more visceral but this is still good. It just could have been better. Regardless, the movie is sure footed and the tense final 20 minutes are quite gripping. And I should mention that David Morse turns in a fine performance as the possible murderer hiding in pleasant suburbia. He’s able to say volumes with the almost mechanical twitch of his mouth into an insincere smile.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I’ve been reading about THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE DARK (a.k.a. THE LAST DESIRE) for years without ever setting eyes on a copy. If my recollections are right Sinister Cinema has been selling a copy for years but Video Watchdog has warned that it was the cut down American import version. I know of no DVD release of it anywhere in the world so again my lack of patience rears its ugly head and its bootleg time once more.

I’m not sure if the print I have is uncut but I kept a watchful eye and I couldn’t find any big plot jumps or story gaps in evidence. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things missing but I’m hoping it was complete. It certainly seemed whole and it definitely lives up to its good reputation.

Of course the reason I first became interested in this one was because of Paul Nacshy’s role as a rich jerk who likes his guns. Nacshy was a hired man on this film having no input on the script but I like to think he could spot a good thing when he saw it. That he had worked with director Leon Klimovsky before is a good indicator of why he might have had confidence in the film. This is a solid piece of apocalyptic science fiction in the vein of ON THE BEACH with a bit of THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and a few other better known end-of the-world thrillers. Its very well paced and smartly played with the story carefully whittling down the mostly unsympathetic characters until two of the least hateful …….but then I shouldn’t give too much away. It’s quite good and for fans of these kinds of doomsday tales it is highly recommended.

I’ll give a brief synopsis. A group of wealthy folks gather for their annual weekend of hedonistic De Sade inspired debauchery at a secluded castle. Owned by one of the decadent group it sports a large set of underground catacombs in which the participants drink, drug and fornicate themselves into a stupor. But this year’s festivities are just getting started when a large boom sounds outside the place rattling the buildings foundations. When they investigate they find that everyone above ground at the time of the far off nuclear blast is blind from the flash. Realizing that they can wait out the eventual fallout in the catacombs they quickly ride down to the nearest town for supplies to discover that the entire town’s population is blind. A stupid bit of arrogance from one of the sighted people causes a violent outburst and the wealthy have to retreat quickly. From there on it’s just a question of who will survive and how.

Suitably downbeat and very engrossing I found this film to be one of the best of its type. Indeed I’d go so far as to call it a near classic and after a re-watch soon I may think better of it. This is a little seen gem that really deserves to be discovered by genre fans.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


In celebration of the release of the Bava Box Set of five of his films here is the excellent trailer for THE MASK OF SATAN a.k.a. BLACK SUNDAY. Is this his greatest film?

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I finally got to see Paul Naschy’s HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE this weekend. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time and I have to say it did not disappoint. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Naschy’s films for years and have tracked down quite a number of the Spanish Lon Chaney’s output. Luckily several of his monster/horror films have become available on Region 1 DVD in the past couple of years making my goal of eventually seeing all of his work a bit easier. Word is that BCI is going to release this one possibly later this year but I obtained a bootleg of the Japanese VHS because patience is not one of my stronger attributes. Wanna see it NOW, thank you.

I’d heard HUNCHBACK was a fine slab of Euro-Trash cinema and boy howdy- is it! Deformed men, beautiful ladies, a mad scientist, rotting corpses, ancient torture devices, a shambling monster and a deadly acid pit are front and center. Throw in angry townspeople, an unbelievable love scene and burning rats and you have a damned fine piece of entertainment! MAN! I love this movie!

As usual Naschy co-wrote the script as well as starring as the titular hunchback, a poor, sad soul named Wolfgang Gotho. Simple minded and naturally gentle he endures the cruel ridicule of medical students and doctors making fun of him as he goes about his job in the hospital’s morgue. The only bright spots in his life are his daily visits to his childhood friend Elsa who is slowly dying of what appears to be tuberculosis. Gotho is finally pushed to violence when a group of interns insult Elsa and although their fight is stopped he later tracks them down in the night and kills them. Vengeance thy name is Gotho!
Complicating things considerably is that after Elsa dies Gotho believes that she can be revived. He steals her body from the morgue and hides it in some hidden catacombs originally used by the Inquisition to torture sinners. He then goes to Doctor Orla (a suitably crazed Alberto Dalbes) who has been working for years on the reanimation of dead tissue. Orla is thrilled with the hidden location as the hospital has cut off funding for his experiments and he must continue them in secret. The doc lies to Gotho about the possibility of bringing Elsa back to life to get his help and then embarks on his biggest project yet- the creation of a living creature from scratch.

As with most of Naschy’s scripts this is a sometimes uncomfortable mix of pathos, gore, madness, horror and gothic images. Everything in Naschy-land is driven by either epic emotions or creeping madness and sometimes both in conjunction. At his worst his stories are painfully simplistic but at his best he can strike universal (or Universal) chords that bring life to his monsters. Here he mostly manages the latter even though the film suffers from the standard flaw of atrocious, often stilted dialog. In general I’d like to credit the awful English dubbing to someone other than Naschy but I’m not sure. I’d love to have someone re-dub big chunks of this baby to smooth over awkward scenes that would play wonderfully with just a slight tweak in a few places. But maybe that would ruin the atmosphere of the piece. Perhaps it could destroy the elements I find so endearing leaving behind a technically better film but a less enjoyable one.

Hell! We’ll never know. I’m just glad we have it. Now bring on the deluxe special edition Region 1 DVD.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

This should have been the greatest film of all time

I mean really. Look at that monster. And its on Mars!

It's still kind of fun in a 1950s strange-ass science fiction way.

But man!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Re-viewing Bond- GOLDENEYE (1995)

It’s a rare thing for my opinion to change about a movie. Only in a handful of cases have I returned to a film I disliked on initial viewing and realized that I was completely wrong in my first reaction. Such is the case with GOLDENEYE which I saw last on its opening weekend in 1995 and have hated ever since. I can pinpoint the moment when the film pissed me off clearly and that particular moment still irritates. But I can see now that the rest of the movie is actually very good. The moment where the film lost me that first time was what by this time in the series had become the standard ‘stupid, impossible action bit’. You know! That one little thing in so many Bond films that makes you roll your eyes going “Give me a break’. A few of the Moore films have so many of these moments that they become jokes that can in no way be taken seriously. Even some of the better ones have these moments and as a fan you just have to grit your teeth and accept them to enjoy the ride. Or maybe not.

But in this case I simply could not accept that Bond could magically will himself to fall faster than a prop plane in flight. This happens at the very end of the otherwise well done pre-credits sequence in which 007 and 006 (Sean Bean) break into a Russian chemical warfare factory. As Bond makes his solo escape the plane in question is flying under power straight down and Bond clearly leaves the cliff face well after it dipped toward the ground below. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of physics can tell you that there is no way for an object to fall faster than another object especially if the first object is powering away from the second. This is simply impossible. What made it even more irritating was I could immediately see a way for them to have staged this action scene that wouldn’t have been so freakin’ stupid. Why not just have Bond reach the side of the plane just as it tips over the edge and begins its crash dive? He would then have to pull his way down the side of fuselage as it plummets toward the ground to get inside and wrestle the plane’s controls to save himself. That’s an exciting scene just on paper and it wouldn’t have made me go ‘Yeah, Right!’.

Of course, I have to accept that most Bond fans have loved this film from the day it opened. I guess I let the stupid opening scene taint the rest of the movie for me but GOLDENEYE is still not a perfect 007 film. The love scene still feels like it was airlifted in from another movie, the Joe Don Baker scenes are less than inspired, the moment when the statue rides along on top of the tank is asinine and the way Bond meets the female baddie played by Famke Janssen is silly. I still think that most fans were just so happy to have Bond back after a six year hiatus that they would have been happy with anything. Even a film as bad as DIE ANOTHER DAY!

Still- GOLDENEYE is actually a pretty damned good Bond film overall. So I now go from thinking Brosnan had only one decent 007 adventure to thinking he managed to eke out a 50% batting average. It’s a shame really as old Pierce was a damned good Bond.

I’m glad I revisited this one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Re-viewing Bond- MOONRAKER (1979)

I’m a fan of the James Bond films as, I think, most guys are. We grow up watching these movies and loving the action, the women, the cars, the gadgets and the exotic locales. Last years re-boot of the series with new Bond Daniel Craig was just the shot in the arm that the series needed. By going for a more hard edged realism the producers once again move away from the jokey asinine light tone that the films seem to fall into every now and then. The first of these sad declines resulted in the first completely awful Bond film MOONRAKER. Not that there hadn’t been a few clunkers in the run before (YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN are not good) but MOONRAKER was the worst. (Until VIEW TO A KILL! The stench is still coming off the original negative of that sucker!)
Looking back at the film now it’s easy to see what the problems were without even searching very hard. The script only gives Roger Moore about 3 scenes in which to even attempt to act. For 90% of the run time he serves only as our guide trough an ever larger set of strange/stupid action sequences that seem to try to top each previous one in some way. Don’t believe a man can survive a fall from a plane into a circus tent? How about a man biting through a 3 inch thick steel cable in one chomp? Or a gondola outfitted with missiles and the ability to convert to a car? And those just scratch the surface of dumb moments.
Originally I thought the problem was that the producers were trying to top themselves by trying to surprise their increasingly jaded audience but I now see something else. I think that they were too concerned with trying to appeal to everyone. There are so many pop culture references in MOONRAKER that I lost count. By the time the tone code to access a super secret locked lab is revealed to be the same as the one used to communicate with the aliens in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND you know they’ve lost sight of one critical thing- believability. And once you lose that in an action film IT IS OVER! Not that the film hadn’t rocketed off the rails a long time before this point but as with any Bond film you just keep hoping they’ll pull it out somehow. But, as anyone who has seen this sucker can attest, they never do. And the final 20 minutes are some of the worst cinema to ever be foisted off on the public.
As the insane finale kept rolling along I found myself stunned that a series of films that at that point had lasted 17 years felt it had to treat its fans to a sub-par STAR WARS rip off. It was unintentional parody and made some of the jokes in the AUSTIN POWERS movies the second time an audience has laughed at this situation. Words cannot do this crap justice. The icing on this shit cake has to be the sudden inane turning of the deadly (and invulnerable) assassin Jaws (Richard Kiel) into a good guy. I think when I first saw this years ago my eyes rolled so far back in my head I could see my sinus passages. And the pathetic bit wherein Bond assures his shuttle co-pilot (and us n’est pas) that the reformed mad killer and his blond pig-tailed sweetie will be fine as the orbiting space station comes apart and falls to earth is wonderfully bizarre. Really, Mr. Bond? That big chunk of satellite won’t blow up or fry completely on reentry? The hell you say! This space travel stuff isn’t really all the dangerous after all. Should I pack extra undies in case I soil myself laughing? And they can’t leave it alone! Then there is a scene in which the MI-6 higher ups mention that the loving couple has been rescued! WTF! The Jaws character (another stupid pop culture reference I might add) was barely tolerable in the previous film THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. To have brought him back to be the Wile E. Coyote to Bond’s Bugs Bunny was ludicrous and beyond all comprehension. What the hell were they thinking? Were they thinking?
I’ve got to stop thinking about this movie. I’m getting a headache. And I haven’t even mentioned the pathetic product placement throughout. Marlboro, 7 Up, and some damned brand of watch all get prominent display. I hate this crap!
Needless to say MOONRAKER is a terrible movie. But one day I know I’m going to watch it again!
I swear I must be a freakin' masochist!

Saturday, March 03, 2007


I finally sat down last night with a friend and watched ROLLING THUNDER. Dan Taylor (a.k.a The Hungover Gourmet) was nice enough to send me a tape of the recent letterboxed cable broadcast and I cannot thank him enough.

If ever a film lived up to its fan hype this is it. Expertly scripted (Paul Shrader), played and directed (John Flynn) it moves carefully and confidently from its deliberate, thoughtful opening third to its violent pivot point and straight on into vengeance. Devane is one of those character actors I never had much use for in my younger years (he looked strange) that I find I respect much more as I get older. He's damned good every time and has a world weary gravitas that a lot of actors would pay money to own. Here he's perfect as the conflicted and confused man returning home after being a POW for 7 years in
Vietnam. Seemingly lost in his old life with his marriage soured because of infidelity he begins trying to reconnect with his son. When his wife explains that she wants a divorce he accepts it with little comment. He remains removed from emotion and distant to all but his son as he struggles to just be able to sleep at night and forget the tortures of his imprisonment. He only really comes to life when given a mission and an outlet for his rage and frustration.

Tommy Lee Jones (looking YOUNG) plays Devane’s fellow POW and gives a fantastic performance in the same vein. Obviously very uncomfortable with his family, unable to relate to them anymore he springs at the chance to do something physical. Both men seem to relish the opportunity to have a clear, defined enemy they can get their hands on – something they were denied as long term prisoners. His simple calm response to Devane's request for help in tracking down the bad guys is a classic moment in movies.

I was impressed with the real feel of the family problems and the relationships between the wife's lover and Devane's character. These are not overblown movie types spouting BS to push easy buttons in the viewer but realistic people dealing with a complex situation. It says a lot that I don't see this kind of strong writing about emotions in most thrillers these days. This is well done, intelligent stuff whereas things these days are usually dialed up to 'cartoon'. This film is an action story but still shows a subtle understanding of people and their realities. Believable, sharp and effective- a great film right down to it’s violent, bloody ending.

Movies like ROLLING THUNDER make me long for a return to the filmmaking style of the 70s. Are those skills lost? Or have they been bred out of the system?
Once again- Thank you Dan. I owe you big.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Some how when I start posting poster art for this Bava master work I neglected the American AIP art. It's very nice, don't you think?

Monday, February 19, 2007


Without planning of any sort I ended up watching a pair of snake related movies this weekend. I’ve had a cheap two DVD set from Brentwood called KILLER SNAKES laying around for some time. OK. A long time. All right damn it! I picked this up a few years ago simple to see a hard to find European trash movie named BLACK COBRA. That film sports lodes of nudity from Laura Gemser and some mild scenery chewing from Jack Palance as well as a cringe inducing finale involving snakes going places they should just never ever be. You can understand my willingness to part with 7 or 8 bucks for this filmic experience alone but the other movies in the set have taunted me for some time. Unwatched movies in my possession often taunt me and the pills don’t stop me from hearing it any more.

So first I popped in FER DE LANCE. A TV movie from 1974 with a good reputation that turned out to be well deserved. Starring 70s TV stalwart David Janssen and a host of familiar faces from that era it is a pretty suspenseful, well played 100 minutes. A crewman of a US Navy submarine brings 8 baby Fer de Lance snakes aboard because the ship’s named Fer de Lance. (He’s not a very bright guy.) But what started as an idiotic joke goes wrong when the snakes get loose, kill a few people and the sub ends up trapped in a rockfall over a thousand feet deep. Essentially SNAKES ON A SUBMARINE it moves along well with good performances and a well structured story that amps up the tension nicely. There’s even an attempt to keep things fairly realistic up to a point even if the folks that eventually go outside the sub would have been frozen corpses pretty quick given the temperatures they keep quoting. It’s an entertaining little movie and I recommend it to interested parties. Mark this one down as deserving of a quality DVD release if anyone every starts putting out classic TV scare movies with any regularity.

The second in my mini-marathon of reptile madness was SNAKE WOMAN. A hard to find black & white British film from 1961 it has been called to my attention recently as an undiscovered classic of horror. I was surprised to find I had it on this set of discs but I have to say the print was terrible. It looks like a 3rd generation dupe from a video tape source and while watchable it’s far from good. Maybe one day a better DVD will emerge but I don’t know if I’ll be picking it up.

The movie’s tale starts in 1890 in a small village where the aptly named herpetologist Adderson has been injecting his pregnant, terminally ill wife with snake venom. His crackpot treatment has been keeping her alive but he’s been unable to find a cure. The poor woman dies in childbirth and the baby turns out to have reptilian like cold blood and lidless eyes.

The local midwife freaks out demanding it be killed but the doctor spirits the child away before torch carrying villagers charge in to burn the house down. Putting the baby girl in the hands of an older fellow who expects to hand her over to her father the next day the doc leaves for a 20 year job in Africa. The girl runs away from her keeper and grows up in the ruins of her father’s house. Cut to 1910 as the doctor returns from his long, convenient trip. People are being killed in the night by King Cobra snake bites and a young man from Scotland Yard is sent to investigate.

What to say? I started thinking of this one as SNAKES ON THE HEATH and that was the funniest thing I could come up with that the film didn’t already have. The film is a mess and it’s certainly not the near-classic I’ve heard it described as. It’s got dozens of hysterically bad lines of dialog, a ridiculous central idea that it only half-heartedly tries to flesh out, a muddled romance sub-plot that is completely silly and a lot of pointless talking around the subject in rooms when simply taking action would have answered the various questions. Did no one think to check out the ruined house? How about a carefully planned hunt of the area for this mysterious killer girl everyone fears? Where are the angry gun toting mobs this place was so able to produce just 20 years before?!

But strangely, I can’t hate SNAKE WOMAN. It’s short, it made me laugh and it was interesting enough for a single viewing. Its story is no sillier than a dozen other films from the period but it bears the mark of filmmakers just going through the motions. It’s as if they were working from some ‘Rural English Horror Movie’ template and just plugging in elements to create a linear narrative. For black & white horror fans its worth seeking out but go in with lowered expectations. There’s fun to be had- just not as much or the same kind as I’d been led to believe.