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.