Tuesday, September 29, 2015

PHANTASM (1979) Poster Art

I'm gearing up for a revisit to the land of the Tall Man

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Bloody Pit #29 - GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (2004)

A rock 'n' roll Godzilla movie? Yeah, that seems to be what we have with GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (2004). Director Ryûhei Kitamura was tasked with bringing his kinetic style to the Millennium series which may (or may not) have been a mistake. His love of the crazier Big G films of the 1970's certainly shines through in this entry giving the proceedings a strange throwback quality that previous movies in the series had steered clear of. The fan reaction to GFW was very split and as this was to be the last Godzilla movie - possibly ever- and also the film released in celebration of Gojira's 50th anniversary it is easy to understand how nearly nothing could have pleased everyone. Sadly, the Matrix/X-Men elements have not aged nearly as well as the bad-ass monster battles - of which there are many. I think any film that causes me to utter the phrase 'unnecessary plot clutter' clearly has its problems.

As you might expect on a film this divisive there is some disagreement between Troy and I on the qualities Kitamura brought to the table. If the standard split of opinion on this one is 'fan boy vs. fan' then our discussion will mirror that divide pretty closely. Of course, before we get to GFW we talk a bit about my inevitable viewing of another Eli Roth disaster and Troy's recent trip into the Lon Chaney scented Inner Sanctum. Don't ever say we aren't diverse in the horror movie topics that get randomly discussed when we start babbling! So get off your ass and come down here. Rock 'n' Roll ain't no riddle, man. To me it makes good, good sense.

As a cool bonus have a very full mailbag at the end of the show this time out. Several listeners sent their thoughts and corrections to us about both our kiaju episodes and the epic CONTAMINATION show as well. It's nice to know there are folks out there that are enjoying what we do and, rest assured, we intend to keep it up. We have some great shows on the way in the next few months. If you have any comments about the show - or corrections - you can write us at thebloodypit@gmail.com where we'll be thrilled to hear what you have to say. Remember that you can send MP3's or WAV files of your comments as well and we'll blend them into the feedback section next time out. Thank you for downloading and listening! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Fantastic Films of Vincent Price #44 - THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)

Dr.  Gangrene's excellent chronological series of videos on the films of the great Mr. Price finally reaches my favorite of his horror work - the Roger Corman Edgar Allen Poe adaptations! First up is one of the best -

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

THE MUMMY'S SHROUD (1967) poster art and lobby cards

I revisited this Hammer favorite the other night and was pleased to find it a bit better than I remembered. My memory served up flashes of an obsequious Michael Ripper, some bad fake Egyptian location scenes and a mummy head crushing all of which were present. Bit the story is much more interesting than average and the suspense set pieces were solidly directed by John Gilling. Well done! 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Brief Thoughts - FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 (1988)

The other night I rewatched FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 (1988) for the first time since I caught it in its brief theatrical release. I remembered it being pretty good and this viewing cemented that recollection. Indeed, it is a very good sequel and has many qualities unique to it that make it much more than a retread of the material. Advancing the story the three years between movies the script plays smartly with the fallout of the previous film's events with Charlie Brewster using psychotherapy to deal with the past while Peter Vincent continues as a TV horror host with the added confidence of a real vampire killer. All is well until Jerry Dandridge's undead sister comes to town looking for the men that offered her sibling. Whoops!

Having Roddy McDowall and William Ragsdale back in their roles makes this thing work brilliantly with their character's relationship being a seamless continuation of the first movie's story. They are great together and it's always a treat to see McDowall given so much time onscreen with such a juicy role. Director Tommy Lee Wallace confirms his place as the 1980's best crafter of series sequels with this and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982) to his credit. Oh, and Brad Fiedel returns to update his excellent score from the first film as well. This is really well done! Now it just needs a good video release, huh? I just learned that the film was only released on 148 screen in North America in 1988 which just goes to show that this film has never gotten the respect I think it deserves. Glad I saw it back then and I'm glad I got to see it again.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

DEAD & BURIED (1981)

Something strange is happening in the foggy northeastern coastal town of Potters Bluff. A vacationing photographer (Christopher Allport) is snapping shots on the local beach when he's interrupted by a beautiful barefoot girl (Lisa Blount). She flirts shamelessly with him, captivating him completely until a group of people attacks him from behind. The disparate group beat him mercilessly, ties him to a post on the beach and burns him with a can of gasoline. That night the photographer's body turns up in his wrecked microbus on a nearby road. He appears dead until the local mortician/coroner William Dobbs (Jack Albertson) touches him and the hideously charred body screams in pain. Sheriff Dan Gillis' (James Farentino) investigation finds that the victim was checked into a local hotel and that the sheriff's own wife had visited the man the day before. Gillis' wife Janet (Melody Anderson) explains that she was buying photo equipment for her grade school class from the man; when her story doesn't gibe with the school's principal the lawman begins to doubt her. The poor photographer barely has time to come out of his coma before his beach seductress slips into his hospital room and finishes him off for good. 

Faster than you can say 'murder-crazed mob' another visitor to the area is attacked and viciously killed by folks that appear to be normal members of the community. When this body turns up, Gillis knows he definitely has a murderer on his hands and is starting to think the two dead bodies must be related. To complicate matters, Gillis hits a pedestrian with his truck on a late night patrol. Horrified that he may have killed someone, the sheriff's even more stunned when the person's severed arm takes on a life of its own and the fellow pops up and runs off... pausing only to retrieve the missing limb! When particles of the arm test as dead flesh at least three months old, Gillis begins to question Dobbs about the possibility of reanimating corpses. Dobbs scoffs at the notion. Then a murdered hitchhiker's corpse disappears from the mortuary and the photographer's body goes missing from his coffin. A supernatural explanation seems to be more and more likely...

Almost completely missed in its original theatrical run, Dead & Buried is one of the lesser known cult horror films of the '80s. Its reputation grew slowly over the past few decades by virtue of repeated cable broadcasts, its single VHS release and finally Blue Underground's DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Like a lot of the film's fans I caught up with it on HBO in the early '80s and rented the videotape from my local video store repeatedly. I will never forget the shock of the last image of the film, one that turns a solid little horror movie into a near classic. The film is very well produced on nearly every level with good to great performances, creepy cinematography and a screenplay that knows just how much not to say! Director Gary Sherman proves himself to be quite adept at blending the small town New England feel and the undead creepiness to make a smooth and frighteningly different zombie story. His use of long, single takes and odd camera placement always enhances the terror and dark humor. His choice to keep red out of the film's color palette is very effective, as is the slightly retro look of much of the town. Potters Bluff feels like a contemporary town most of the time but every now and then a vintage detail will make the place seem adrift somewhere in the mid-1950s. 

Of course, knowing that this was Jack Albertson's last film always make me a little sad. Not because Dead & Buried isn't a worthy final bow, but because he's so much fun here that it would've been great to have him reprise the role. In one of the extras on the DVD set Robert Englund mentions that Dobbs the mortician could've been a franchise character much like Freddy Kruger. I agree. He certainly has a much more interesting motivation than some other sequelized boogeymen, but looking at the diminishing returns for the Tall Man character in the Phantasm movies maybe it's best that the film flopped. Strangely, the two roles I'll always remember Jack Albertson for are Uncle Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and this one — saint and sinner.

I've been such a fan of Dead & Buried for so long that it was a shock to hear director Sherman talk about his disappointment with the way it turned out. On his commentary track with BU's David Gregory, he explains that originally there was much more black comedy in the film. He points out how much of the humor was removed, more gore was added and several scenes rearranged to meet the requirements of the money people. It's a shame that even though Sherman put together his own cut of the film, the print was destroyed so that the distributors wouldn't have to spend money to keep both versions. It's enough to make a film nut cry! To think there was an even more unusual version of this dark little gem, one we'll never get to see, is a bit like getting poked through the eye with a long needle. Still, Dead & Buried is a great little movie. Shrouded in fog, cloaked in mystery and haunted by the sounds of Dobbs' beloved Big Band music, Potters Bluff is a place I love to visit... even if I wouldn't want to live there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015) Score

I cannot stop listening to the soundtrack CD for this film! You gotta check this music out - seriously!

And go see the film - it's really very good.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

ZOMBIE (1979)

When a derelict sailboat drifts into New York harbor, two Harbor Patrol officers are sent to check it out. Getting no answer to their calls they board the vessel only to be attacked by a hulking, deformed zombie that kills Cop A while Cop B blows the critter overboard with a hail of bullets. Assigned by his Gotham newspaper boss to investigate, Brit reporter Peter West (Zombie Holocaust's Ian McCulloch) is intrigued by the strange homicide. He links up with the daughter of the abandoned boat's owner, Ann Bowles (Tisa Farrow, acting both concerned and dazed). She hasn't heard from daddy in months and his last letter was from an island in the Antilles named Matoul. Faster than you can say 'cheesy steel drum music' the two are on a plane, in the tropics and negotiating with Brian (Al Cliver) and his girlfriend Susan (Auretta Gay) for a ride on their boat. Terms are agreed upon and the foursome sets out to find the mysterious Matoul.

Meanwhile, on the island in question, we meet Dr. Menard (a slumming Richard Johnson), who's dealing with an epidemic of a hideous wasting disease that's wiping out Matoul's population. A sense of doom hangs over the place and the natives are convinced it's because of a voodoo curse laid on the island by an evil witch doctor. Dr. Menard scoffs at this superstitious idea but knows that something terrible is happening. He's seen the newly dead come back to life and attack the living with his own eyes, but he's baffled by this reanimation in which the dead kill and eat the living. While Menard tries to find a scientific explanation, his beautiful wife Paula (Olga Karlatos) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She wants to leave Matoul but the doctor refuses so she's turned to pills and booze to cope. With Menard watching over his patients in the hospital Paula is left alone at home and, in a gruesome and stunning sequence, zombies attack her. This is the famous moment during which the woman's eye is punctured by a shaft of wood in extreme close-up. This is a revolting, horrific gore moment that has lost little power over the years and still makes me cringe every time I see it.

Back on the boat our crew is having trouble finding Matoul. In my favorite sequence in the film they take a break so that the lovely Susan can do a little naked swimming and underwater photography. While scuba diving around in the sea Susan is first menaced by a shark and then attacked by a zombie who just seems to be out for a stroll on the ocean floor! She's able to fend off the zombie and is saved by the shark's natural hatred of the undead. Yes, these ancient enemies are known for their centuries-old battle for the title of Most Carnivorous Underwater Monster. We'll have to call this skirmish a tie since both beasties take a bite out of the other before the film cuts back to the boat, where we learn that the propeller has been damaged by the shark. (???) 

"Boy, I sure hope that nearby island has someone that can help us. And maybe it's Matoul!" Sure enough it is, so Dr. Menard and the shipwrecked foursome make contact at last. The doctor relates the tale of the island's zombie problem and tells Ann the details of her father's death by the same disease. The newcomers are skeptical at first, but after a visit to the doctor's house they accept reality pretty quickly — there they witness several zombies devouring Paula and are attacked themselves. This forces them to trek through the countryside on foot to reach the hospital. The survivors gather there for a Night of the Living Dead-style zombie siege with guns and Molotov cocktails being their only hope against a hoard of flesh eating monsters.

Among horror fans there seems to be two ways of thinking about Lucio Fulci's little gore classic. It's either looked down on or even hated as a rip-off of Romero's Dawn of the Dead, or it's worshipped as the first in a long line of bloody, intestine-draped shockers from Europe that revolutionized and reshaped the genre. Regardless, the film spawned a glut of Italian horror movies the like of which the world will never see again and for some folks that's reason enough to love it. Personally I've never seen the point of calling this film a rip-off of Romero's classic as they are different in so many ways. While it's true that only the huge European success of Dawn allowed Zombie to be made, it takes the reanimated-dead-hungry-for-human-flesh idea and shambles off in another direction completely.

Zombie is one of my favorite Italian horror movies and it's a effective template for the gore flicks that followed in its wake: short on logic, long on atmosphere and covered in blood 'n' guts. After this the European horror film would never be the same again. Of course this niche burned itself out in a few short years, but it's a joy to look back at these movies and revel in their madness. Also, at a time when any hit American film was slavishly copied in the hope of similar box-office returns it's nice to see the inventiveness on display here. The gore and violence of Zombie almost squirts off the screen at you as it did in Fulci's later gore films. These movies are grotesque and disgusting as they play out like nightmares that have their own twisted logic and rules. Fulci was a master at establishing an oppressive mood that seeps into every scene, and while The Beyond was better in this respect, the director's skills are on glorious display here as well. This is most certainly not a film for everyone, but for the those who love Zombie there's nothing better.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Marvel's Battlestar Galactica Comic Book Covers

I've started re-reading these for the first time in decades and I'm enjoying the experience quite a lot. The first three issues are the expanded adaptation of the pilot film and it does a much less cluttered job of telling the same (still convoluted) story. The dialog is much better here and the characters are given more depth than the show ever managed. I can't wait to get into the later issues where they were creating new stories because I think that is where the comics will really shine. As long as they don't produce a story as lame as the TV episode The Lost Warrior in which Apollo reenacts SHANE in the saddest way possible. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Re-visiting Battlestar Galactica (1978)

File this one under "Damn you, NetFlix!" If not for the push button ease of availability of this series I would not be doing this.

I'll start from the beginning.

For no good reason I have decided to re-read the entire run of Marvel BattleStar Galactica comic books from the late 1970's. As a child of that decade I have fond remembrances of the show, the novels that were created as off-shoots and the comics books too. In fact if memory serves they usually managed to tell better tales than the often dull and repetitive TV show on which they were based. So I have gathered most of the 23 issue run in front of me (gallery post to follow) and thought it would be neat - in a completist sort of way - to also push play on NetFlix and revisit the original show for the first time in years. Oh my.

My dim memories of the show as dull and labored turn out to be very accurate with the added slight of being much more silly than I recalled. Clearly this show was written to appeal mainly to children under twelve. It is insultingly simplistic in its plotting, cartoonishly broad in its characterizations and incredibly slipshod in its production. With all those detriments it still somehow manages to also wedge far too many complications into its story - a least in the three episode long pilot film. Motivations are often ill defined to the point that I twice backed the show up to make sure I hadn't missed some important point. After the pilot I proceeded to the first regular episode which is a two part tale that sets up the search for Earth that is to drive the series. I remembered the Egyptian sets but it was very amusing to see that they sent some second unit folks to the site of the Great Pyramids to shoot some long distance shots of extras that are supposed to be Loren Greene, Richard Hatch and Jane Seymour. The doubling is laughably bad with the bright white wig on Mr. Greene's stand-in being especially fun. And once again, this story is needlessly overcomplicated and drawn out as if they were hurting for running time. I hope the rest of the show is less padded or I'm going to have trouble getting through the whole run. 

At this point there is no way the comics can be anything other than an improvement! I'll report back.