Saturday, April 25, 2015

Brief Thoughts - THE 'HUMAN' FACTOR (1975)

I caught up with this obscure thriller last night and was quite impressed with it. It is a well scripted, well acted, well paced revenge tale set in Italy with legendary character actor George Kennedy proving that he could anchor a film if given the right role. He plays American computer engineer John Kinsdale living with his family in Rome as he works on a NATO project involving nuclear war strategies. One evening he comes home to learn that his wife and children have been brutally murdered and the police have no idea who did it or why. After briefly contemplating suicide Kinsdale decides to use the networked NATO computer system to research what little is known about the crime scene to see if he can track down the killers.

I had no idea this movie would feature a very early version of online database research and I found it interesting that this infant form of the internet was portrayed the way it was. The scenes in which Kennedy and his co-worker played by John Mills painstakingly link up to offsite computers by phone to search records plays out like Google searches today as they gather raw information and try to make sense of it. It's a testament to the skills of the cast and crew that these potentially dry sequences are actually interesting as I watch them today. Of course, director Edward Dymtryk was an old Hollywood pro famous for films as varied as THE CAINE MUTINY (1954), MURDER MY SWEET (1944), CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943) and THE YOUNG LIONS (1958) so he knew a thing or two about constructing a story for maximum success.

Sadly, this was Dymtryk's last film but I'm glad to say he went out making a film that showed him still a very capable craftsman and in control of his abilities. In a way THE 'HUMAN' FACTOR could be seen as the natural end to a career that included a jungle girl film, a Boston Blackie programmer, a Falcon mystery and an early Boris Karloff chiller. The guy nearly did it all! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Incredible Hulk comic book covers

These are the Hulk comics I bought off the spinner racks when I finally started reading the adventures of Bruce Banner's alter ego. I am getting the urge to revisit these issues to see if they are as fun as my memory insists that they were.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

NaschyCast #51 - WAX (2014)

After a couple of non - Paul Naschy months we come back with a posthumous Naschy film released just last year. Although this may be the Naschy movie with the least amount of Naschy in it, we are thrilled that the legacy of his career is still inspiring young Spanish filmmakers. WAX is a variation on the old 'wax museum' classics of old with a heaping helping of modern sensibilities thrown in for good measure as a young television journalist is locked in a supposedly haunted building for the night. He films his experiences and we also witness the night's events through the museum's security cameras. The biggest draw for fans of Euro-Cult films of the Golden Era of the 1960's and 70's is the star turn by Jack Taylor. Taylor is an amazing actor who has worked with nearly all the big names of that period from Franco, Naschy, de Ossorio, Larraz and even Simon in the incredible PIECES (1982). There are lots of knowing nods to Spanish Horror of the past and Naschy's career gets singled out as well. Much creepy fun is here to be enjoyed and we try to talk about as much of the film as possible without spoiling it, even as we are interrupted by Katie the Cat!

We answer several emails at the end of the show and we thank everyone that writes in to give us pointers and suggestions. The email address remains and we look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for downloading and listening to the show.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

ZARDOZ (1974) poster art


The recent Blu-Ray release of this truly bizarre John Boorman film has me smiling the smile of the cult movie fanatic. I love this thing with every fiber of my being. I have the novelization sitting on the bookshelf - I need to finally read that. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brief Thoughts -BEAR ISLAND (1979)

A while back I watched the Alistair MacLean adaptation WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL (1971) and loved it. This prompted me to seek out more films crafted from MacLean novels so I watched PUPPET ON A CHAIN (1971) which was very good and BEAR ISLAND (1979) which was solid as well.

Of the two POAC is better, but I was more intrigued by BEAR ISLAND. The film has an amazing cast - Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave, Lloyd Bridges, Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee - and is set in a snowbound locale that appeals directly to my love of isolated settings. I clicked 'play' with the memory of this film being a regular offering on HBO in the early 80's but I couldn't be sure if I had ever seen it. Well, ten minutes in I was not only sure I had watched this movie before but I remembered a LOT of the plot. I remembered so much, in fact, that I recalled the solution to the mystery as well as the identity of the surprise villain! Oh well. I still enjoyed catching this one again because its a fine story with some good performances and a fun series of action scenes in the snow. The stuff done with motorized snow sleds is incredible! And I love that Sutherland is such a taciturn bastard for most the film and that we only become sympathetic to him because he is the one unraveling the reason people are turning up dead.

Much like the MacLean film adaptation BREAKHEART PASS (1975) this film feels chopped down from a longer length. There are several scenes that we seem to join when they are already in progress and edit away from before they are done. This doesn't disrupt the plot but it does make the film often feel like we should have more context for character motivations. I can recommend this to folks in the mood for a good adventure story with some nice twists. Now if it were only available on DVD!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I'm deep into making notes for our podcast covering WAX (2014) and thinking about various wax museum movies, of course. This is probably my favorite and if you haven't seen this Pre-Code gem here is your chance. The entire film in all its two-strip Technicolor glory! I love YouTube! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Six Million Dollar Man magazine covers

I wish these could be reprinted because I'd love to get my hands on them. I really enjoyed the recent Season Six series but these have a nostalgic charm. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

What I Watched in March

March was a very busy month. With me working almost every day there was little time for movies so I only got to watch a relative handful and didn't make it out to the theater at all! Disappointing, to say the least.

The most recent film I caught was last year's LEGEND OF HERCULES which I had been lead to believe was awful but I found it to be a wonderful throwback to classic 1960's style peplum. It recalls the older form of these movies down to even having a really terrible lion that attacks Hercules only to be bested by the demigod! Of course, this being the 21st century, the lion is bad CGI instead of a bad lion throw-rug but the unintentional amusement is the roughly the same. Even with this dodgy scene the film is pure sword & sandal fun with a solid storyline, competent acting and great fights - I really enjoyed it. In fact, it may be the first film directed by Renny Harlin I have every fully embraced. Well- I liked DEEP BLUE SEA and I found his version of the EXORCIST prequel interesting but with crapfests like CUTTHROAT ISLAND, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT and MINDHUNTERS on his resume he has little to be proud of. Do people still defend DIE HARD 2 and CLIFFHANGER? 

I need to check out the other Hercules movie from last year- from what I hear it was considered the better of the two.

GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER (1971)- 5 (rewatch)
IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944)- 7 (fun comedy/fantasy)
THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES (1961)- 9 (Sergio Leone's sword & sandal epic)
BERKLEY SQUARE (1933)- 7 (odd time travel romance)
WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS (1965)- 4 (rewatch)
THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014)- 7 (solid peplum -that CGI lion was bad, but...) 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

WEB OF THE SPIDER (1971) on YouTube!

I am always stunned by the number of obscure cult films that are so easily available for free. This is one of the Antonio Margheriti film's we'll be covering next month in the Bloody Pit podcast. It's the director's remake of his own earlier film CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964) making it one of the very few times such a thing has happened. We plan to compare and contrast the two movies so if you want to play along here is your chance to get started.

Monday, April 06, 2015

THE BROOD (1979)

David Cronenberg's films are probably an acquired taste. I know this because so many people speak about his movies with puzzled looks on their faces, often saying things like "That's disgusting" or "That's weird". The one Cronenberg film that a general audience will surely know is his brilliant 1986 remake of The Fly and 'disgusting' and 'weird' are words that certainly fit. But few remember the subtle, restrained film he'd made right before, called The Dead Zone. While the Stephen King-penned story of a man able to see the future might still be labeled weird, it's definitely not disgusting or grotesque, and is listed as one of the best horror films of the 1980s by most genre experts. Personally, I feel Cronenberg is one of the best adapters of prose to the big screen working today, able to keep from forcing his own quirks into a film by virtue of always choosing stories that are well aligned to his sensibilities in the first place. That being said, I still prefer Cronenberg's original screenplays to his adaptations. The movies that spring from his twisted mind always have a sense of existing on an altered or parallel world very close to our own but with enough differences to make it seem odd, alien and unnerving. (Maybe Canada?) His ability to find the beauty in horror and the horror in beauty is unique in English language genre movies, with only Frenchman Jean Rollin evoking a similar sense of unreal 'otherness'.

While Cronenberg has become a better filmmaker over the years he had all the elements of his cinematic style in place from the beginning. A filmmaker's early works are often a testing ground for their later, more accomplished achievements but Cronenberg's first movies show a talent in full flower, making strides toward bigger things from the beginning. The Brood was his third full-length film; his recurring themes of 'body horror' and veiled alienation are central to the story. It's a disturbing movie that, once seen, stays with you for years. Few will deem Cronenberg's first few movies his best, but they're still good films that bear repeat viewing.

Frank Carveth (Art Hindle) is going through a tough time with his family. His wife Nola (Samantha Eggar) recently had a nervous breakdown and is in deep therapy at an experimental private clinic. Frank isn't allowed to see Nola during her therapy but their young daughter Cindy is encouraged to visit on weekends. The clinic she's staying in, the Somafree Institute, is run by brilliant but controversial psychotherapist Dr. Hal Ragland (Oliver Reed). The doctor's breakthrough therapy is a form of psychodrama in which Ragland acts out the parts of various people in the patient's life, so that they may be confronted and dealt with. Ragland calls his unorthodox therapy technique "Psychoplasmics"; it seems to make emotional problems manifest themselves physically on the patient's body. In a staged demonstration we see Ragland help a man through a horrible childhood memory that results in the subject's flesh breaking out in red welts. Frank has his doubts about Somafree's methods but goes along with Nora's wishes until he finds scratches and bruises on Cindy's back after one of her weekend visits. He's on the verge of taking legal action to keep Cindy from her mother when an odd dwarf-like creature appears in Nora's mother's house and kills her. An attack on Nora's father by the same type of creature then follows this horrible incident. Trying to discover if his wife is hurting their daughter, Frank starts talking to ex-patients of Ragland and the information he gleans makes him begin to fear that something has gone very wrong with his wife's therapy. After getting nowhere questioning the doctor, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

I'll never forget reading the misleading description of The Brood in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide years ago. That book gave the film its lowest rating, summing it up with a sentence that intimated that this was one of the most despicable movies ever made. I, of course, had to see it. The Brood remains a fascinating movie decades later. It demonstrates very well what I love about Cronenberg's work. He is very good at setting mood and allowing the viewers to slowly immerse themselves in the story. The otherworldliness in his films filters through everything, so that the more carefully you slide into the tone the better the third act feels when it kicks into high gear. It's this type of ramping up that so many filmmakers today have abandoned in the drive to grab audiences attention in the first 30 seconds so they won't move on to something else. Sadly, it's Cronenberg's very strengths as a storyteller that will keep him from being a huge success. His films require patience. Their very depth of emotion works against their wide acceptance because there is never a clearly defined way to feel about his characters. Most viewers of this film will expect Reed's Dr. Ragland to be the villain but by the end he is a sympathetic character trying as hard as possible to set things right. Also, with Frank there comes a moment of flirtation with his daughter's teacher that makes him a bit less sympathetic in view of his wife's situation. Cronenberg always carefully layers his characters to make them more than just plot devices, and that's becoming fairly rare these days. Or maybe it was always rare and I just never noticed.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Bloody Pit # 23 - WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS (1966)

Antonio Margheriti is the Italian genre director most often forgotten or overlooked by fans of Euro-Cult cinema. It's not that his films are ignored but more that he is rarely looked upon as a filmmaker with a body of work worthy of serious attention. Starting with this episode John Hudson and I will be conducting a tour of some of the more interesting of his over thirty year career in the director's chair. As I state (repeatedly) in the show, Margheriti made films in nearly every genre possible and often crafted some of the best examples of each type. Usually hidden behind his pseudonym Anthony M. Dawson, he was responsible for more than just YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE!

This film  has been known by many titles but we're going to use the one attached to the current Region 1 DVD - WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS. I do, from time to time, refer to it as PLANET ON THE PROWL because that is just such a cool name but considering the various very similar titles given this and Margheriti's other science fiction tales I hope I can be forgiven. If you've never heard of the Gamma One films before hopefully this episode will give you some understanding of the group of four movies and possible spur you to check them out. 

You can email us with your thoughts, corrections and comments at and we look forward to your input. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

APRIL FOOL'S DAY (1986) poster art

I haven't watched this film in years but I remember thinking it was pretty clever drawing on the cliches of the slasher film and turning the general expectations of the horror audience on their heads. I would like to revisit it but I realize I don't have a copy and it seems to not have been released on Blu-Ray yet. Wonder what the hold could be? Also, I've heard the remake is terrible so I have not wasted my time, but has anyone out there seen it and have an opinion?