Tuesday, April 30, 2019


It's hard to explain exactly why I am so fascinated by the Poverty Row horror film BLACK DRAGONS (1942). I first encountered it in an article I read in FilmFax magazine years before I was able to finally see it. FilmFax issue #30 featured an image of Bela Lugosi in a fedora on the cover mugging like he was in pain.

Inside was a feature article on this insane film that captured my imagination. Reading and rereading this piece made me so hungry to see the movie that it became a mildly unhealthy obsession. The article was very clear about the film's failings and even poked fun at some of the more embarrassing bits of dialogue. It pointed out that the plotting was clunky and made it clear just how inept it was. In fact, it made sure to detail the bizarre ways in which nearly everything in the damn thing makes no sense.

At barely an hour long it has such a confused story that it's almost impossible to accurately recount what happens. I suspect that there could be a fun parlor game of only allowing new viewers to see the first 20-minute segment (or actually any random 20 minutes section) and then ask them what they think the film will ultimately be about. I seriously doubt that anyone would be able to guess where things end up and I think we might have more party game fun just imagining the crazy films that people would imagine. They would probably be more entertaining then BLACK DRAGONS ends up being. Not that it's not an entertaining little mess!

Let me be clear -  I find this film completely fascinating in the same way that I find almost all of Bela Lugosi's poverty row horror films fascinating. It's illogical; it's silly as can be and because it's so short and features Lugosi it's kind of absorbing in the same way as a slow motion car crash can be attention-grabbing. I know almost no one other than me is mesmerized by this film but if you've never seen it and you want to see something completely nuts - something that I guarantee will confuse and amuse - check out BLACK DRAGONS.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Trailers From Hell - TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (1972)

Edgar Wright talks about his love for this amazing film and it's many titles. I've always preferred BAY OF BLOOD. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019


In BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS John Agar plays Steve March, a geologist working with his partner Dan (Robert Fuller) in the desert southwest. They’ve been getting odd fluctuating gamma radiation readings (!?) centered miles out in the desert and Steve insists they check it out. Once there they track the readings to a newly formed cave and are attacked by Gor-the titular brain from another world.

This evil alien kills Dan and possesses the body of Steve with the intention of using his incredible destructive mind powers to take over Earth, launch an invasion of his home planet and molest Steve’s fiancé Sally (Joyce Meadows)- not necessarily in that order. Steve constantly tries to fight off Gor’s control to little effect but Sally and her father become very concerned about the spasms of pain that accompany his attempts. They ridiculously decide to travel to the desert cave and there discover Vol, another brain from Arous sent to recapture the fugitive Gor. Vol explains how to kill the mad brain and just before he’s able to take over the world Sally gets this information to Agar who takes an ax to the criminal cerebellum.

Almost too fun to be believed this is a classic so-bad-its-good movie. The story is incredible with characters doing hysterically illogical things simply to advance the plot. I’m still trying to figure out why a geologist would be given clearance to attend a major nuclear test or how (or why) geologists were monitoring ‘gamma radiation readings‘. But honestly the rest of the movie could be totally boring and would still be worth seeing for the insane final scene. The sight of John Agar ax-whacking an oversized brain dangling from clearly visible wires is one of the most hilarious things this side of PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. The film had to be fun for Agar as well since he gets to play two roles- good guy and bad brain. He does a good job as both but it’s the evil moments that really shine. Rarely is he more entertaining than in the sequences in which he convinces assembled world representatives of his power and issues his mad orders complete with diabolical laughter. Brilliant! Highly recommended for these who like their popcorn movies spiced with cheese.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

ALIEN (1979) Poster Art

This month marks the 40th Anniversary of the release of the original film. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter!

Hunt for eggs and eat a chocolate bunny! 

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Bloody Pit #84 - William Castle Westerns Part 2

Monster Kid Derek Koch returns to The Bloody Pit to continue our series on the early western films of director William Castle. This time out we tackle two efforts Castle made for producer Sam Katzman in 1954 that focus on historical characters of the Old West. First up is JESSE JAMES VS THE DALTONS which, depending on your point of view, might be called criminally misnamed. The film tells the fictional tale of a man that believes two odd things - that he might be the son of Jesse James and that the famed outlaw is still alive years after his murder. It makes more sense than you might think but it still doesn't justify skipping the opportunity to claim the title THE SON OF JESSE JAMES. That certainly seems like a much more exploitable phrase to splash across a movie poster!  

The second film is MASTERSON OF KANSAS which includes not just legendary lawman 'Bat' Masterson but also Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Hewing closer to reality than our first feature this one still concocts a fiery conflict between Holliday and Masterson that drives the two men from dislike to anger with the threat of violence always in the air. Only their respect for the wishes of mutual friend Earp keeps them from a classic Dodge City gunfight as the story begins but they seem destined to clash. Once both men become enmeshed in a complicated plot to frame an innocent man for murder they are forced to side with each other even if their private motivations are very different. Can these two enemies restrain their hostility long enough to stop a war between the army and a local Indian tribe?

We have a great time discussing these two colorful westerns with only a few digressions down unrelated paths. I apologize for my lengthy Six Million Dollar Man babble but there were just too many actors in these movies that guested on that show for me to ignore it! Derek can be heard every week over on Monster Kid Radio where you can find more information about his various creative projects. Check it out! And any comments about this episode can be sent to thebloodypit@gmail.com and Derek and I will be happy to address your questions next time we record. Thank you for downloading and listening to the show!  

Apple Podcasts LINK 

MP3 Download LINK 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

What I Watched in March

Captain Marvel is another step along the decade-long trail Marvel has been laying for their Cinematic Universe. And it's another good one! The story and characters are the best parts of it which isn't always  true of films built to present action an spectacle. As a longtime fan of the Carol Danvers / Ms Marvel / Captain Marvel character I was very excited to finally see her brought to the big screen and the fact that she's clearly going to play a huge part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward is totally exciting. Carol Danvers is a character that was not always handled well on the comic book page with a couple of embarrassing stops along the way before finally getting to the Captain Marvel persona that seems to be the best fit for the character. In her original comic series writer Chris Claremont felt that he never got a good handle on her as a person and the less said about the sad events of Avengers issue 200 the better!

As a part of the Cinematic version of Marvel she is very well used and it'll be exciting to see how well she is integrated as she continues in future movies. The producers of these films very smartly backed up almost 15 years before the first Iron Man film to start her story. This shows her being introduced to a young Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD as she also learns a good deal about her own hidden past. This, in turn allows both Carol Danvers and Fury to advance along their character's paths in a way that explains why Fury would know and trust her. It also explains why he wouldn't necessarily want or be able to call her for most threats that come along. This is a very fun way to organically include someone who's only now being introduced to the Cinematic version of things. And of course the fact that she is a space traveling character gives us a very easy out for the timeline when you think about how little the character seems to have aged between say 1995 and 2019. Smartly done and quite clever at times it overcomes some clunky exposition scenes by employing the amazing screen charisma of Sam Jackson, Brie Larson and the always welcome Jude Law.

I don't think this is a perfect film. I feel that while some of the action sequences are really dynamic and well done with the elevated train fight being my personal favorite, some of the action beats later in the movie are much less interesting. One in particular is a little predictable and not as well shot / directed as I wish it had been. In fact one of the action scenes felt so pointless that I just wanted them to get past it so we could get to the rest of the actually interesting story.

So, a good if not great new Marvel film that gives us a new superhero going forward. Cool!

I find I must be the voice of dissent on Jordan Peele's new horror film US (2019). Most reviews are praising this follow up to the writer/director's excellent GET OUT but I did not enjoy this effort. I didn't find it very interesting beyond just being curious to see if he was ever going to engage me with his story. It never really did and that's a shame. He is clearly trying very hard to bring some interesting ideas to the screen but I never gave a damn about anything happening.

I know what my problem with it is and it's a problem I've had before. Back when SNOWPIERCER (2013) was all the rage I was surprised by how little I liked it. I didn't think it was bad but it didn't thrill me the way it seemed to so many others. After a lot of thought I finally realized that I just could never buy into the world the film built. It never felt like something that was based enough in reality to exist or to fool me for it's running time. I just kept seeing how this entire world didn't make any sense. US has the same problem for me. Peele has crafted his film to be arch enough to wedge his science fictional idea into what should look and feel like the real world. But it never feels real to me. It always seemed as if there was some distance between the story and me which didn't allow me to buy in to anything. And by the time that things onscreen escalate to violence and it became obvious that the entire tale is nothing more than an extended metaphor I knew why I didn't care. Peele was doing what the makers of SNOWPIERCER had done years before by creating an entire story that is simply a metaphor with no solid grounding in reality. The social commentary overwhelms the story making the ideas being examined the only thing to hang onto. So, I didn't give a damn what happened. It is well made with some good performances and the basic idea IS interesting....... but not at feature length and not with enough time spent with the story to see how ultimately silly it's underpinnings are. Might this have been better served as an episode of the new Twilight Zone? I'll be curious to rewatch this in a few years to see if my attitude changes but right now I consider this an unfortunate stumble. 

The List 

A BELL FROM HELL (1973) - 9 (rewatch)
DEAD MEN TELL (1941) - 6 (solid Charlie Chan mystery)
THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (1978) - 4 (dull TV fantasy film)
ESCAPE ME NEVER (1947) - 7 (drama with Ida Lupino and Errol Flynn)
NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON (1972) - 7 (harsh crime thriller)
EVIL IN THE NIGHT (1985) - 3 (soft-core horror effort)
THE HIDDEN HAND (1942)- 5 (OK mystery/comedy)
THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973) - 7 (rewatch)  
SHAZAM! (2019) - 8
WE'RE IN THE MONEY (1935) - 6
US (2019) - 4 (well made but too silly)
TERROR OF ROME AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (a.k.a. Maciste, gladiatore di Sparta) - 6 (solid if overlong Maciste adventure)
FULL HOUSE FOR THE DEVIL (1968) - 5 (OK spaghetti western)
VIRGINS FROM HELL (1987) - 3 (gloriously bad Indonesian action film)
ACT OF VIOLENCE (1949) - 9

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019

SHAZAM! Comic Book Covers!

Friday, April 12, 2019

SHAZAM! (2019)

Although in a perfect world this film would actually be called Captain Marvel I have to admit that that is my only serious complaint with SHAZAM! (2019). Although my opinion may not be taken as seriously as those who have consistently derided the DC universe series of live-action films I'm sure that this movie, along with last year's AQUAMAN, continues a trajectory of producing films that will please most viewers. I think that not only the bitchy fans of superhero movies will be pleased but also fans of the original comics and that is no easy task. Since the major complaint from whining fans was that the previous DC films were not 'fun' this one changes that in a big way. This film is packed with a sense of fun and some very funny dialog but, luckily for me, manages to maintain enough of the darker elements for things to not become so light and fluffy that the dramatic elements become pointless.

The version of the character being depicted here is the most recent version of the Captain Marvel / Shazam character that the DC Universe has been portraying in their comics and it's an excellent way to meet the character for newcomers. It introduces all of the mythical, magical elements of the character's origin story without shortchanging any of the sense of wonder and fun that are inherent in the way the Shazam universe was built so many decades ago. All of the classic elements are kept in place, given a modern twist and then sent out along their merry way to interact with probably the nastiest of Shazam's original villain characters.

In a film in which there are many things to praise I want to single out the excellent performances from pretty much the entire cast. First of all there is the usual excellent performance from Mark Strong as the tale's villain Dr. Sivana. He's somehow able to exude an stoic evilness coupled with a sense of wonder at what he's finding. Strong is allowed by the script to paint with shades of gray to create his character and brings a relatable quality to the bad guy searching for an answer to a childhood trauma. He is a formidable and terrible monster once he is empowered but there is still a sense of a damaged man trying to prove himself right at any cost.

Zachery Levi as Captain Marvel - I mean, Shazam - is very good as well and gets to play things big in a lot of scenes but is also good at the story's many small moments. He's always believable in the role which has to be more difficult that this talented man is letting on. Watching this big lug slowly learn some responsibility and his place in the world was inspiring in ways I was not expecting. But the standout performance for me is from Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman. I saw this actor in last year's IT adaptation and he was good there but in this film he shines much more brightly. One reason for this is that he is our onscreen surrogate, discovering how his friend's new persona matches up with his super powered heroes. Grazer is able to brilliantly convey so many often conflicting emotions in a single scene that it's like watching someone really react to the incredible things he sees. I swear there are times in which the young actor somehow gets across multiple separate ideas in a single line of dialog simply with his confused facial expressions and body language. Amazing!

I loved this film and look forward to future adventures with this family of characters. And given the setup for one of my favorite Captain Marvel villains near the end of things I suspect I'll get my wish.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A Bit of Fry & Laurie - Episode one!

Even a few of my fellow fans of absurdist English humor are unaware of this classic series. I suspect that many others will simply be stunned to see Dr. House with his real accent and looking so young. 

Sunday, April 07, 2019

KING KONG (1933) Poster Art

On this day in 1933 KING KONG went into wide release. It is still one of the best films ever made. 

Friday, April 05, 2019

Racial Slurs in 1930's Pulp Fiction

I'm currently reading a wonderfully fun 'G-8 and His Battle Aces' pulp novel from the mid 1930's. G-8 stories are slightly different from other pulp hero titles of the times because they take place during World War One with main character G-8 as an American spy and fighter pilot stationed in France. Another element that sets this series apart is that supposedly all 110 of the stories in the run were written by one (probably exhausted) guy - Robert J. Hogan. Hogan came by his aerial knowledge legitimately as a flight instructor after first learning his skills in the US Air Service. He was well known as a great storyteller and I suspect he dreamed up the mad adventures of G-8 in much the same way that a person making up a tall tale might try to keep his drinking buddies entertained in a bar. They have the crazed forward momentum of something barely held in control as it gains speed and detail in the telling.

This is the third pulp novel from the 1930's that I've read in the past couple of months and it's this one that has made it impossible for me to slide by something that crops up in many of them. Something in these books that I find fascinating is the unvarnished window they provide into our nation's past. One of the main reasons that I read these books is not just for their action and adventure but because they offer a strange, nostalgic view of a time and place that I find fascinating. As a fan of this type of fiction I have to admit that on occasion they present some things that I have to either choose to ignore or simply look at as part of the times in which piece of fiction was created. The fact that I love an older style of writing and its characters' more archaic ways of speaking means that occasionally I'm going to have to struggle to understand a reference or idea that is nearly a century out of date. This is true, of course, of films made in previous decades as well which can add some unexpected spice to a night in front of TCM.

In general, even if the creators of these works were not hideous people, their work does reflect the general attitudes of the times. And to say that the times in which these stories were written were - shall we say - less racially diverse or, to be blunt, racist as hell is understating the matter. I usually find it easy enough to move past the more odious aspects of these stories to enjoy them for what they were intended to be but I have to say that this particular G-8 story has surprised me a bit. G-8's tales usually involve supernatural or mad science based creatures (sometimes both at the same time) and in this one the monsters are murderous Leopard Men. The heroic characters' constant references to them as 'savages' first struck me as a way of describing their violent actions within the story but then things became clearer. The leopard men in question are understood to be from an African nation and their origins are discovered when they are unable to fight in hand-to-hand combat 'as a white man would'. Oh my!

I guess I shouldn't be too weirded out by this especially because there are certainly enough nationalistic slurs being slung around in the story with Germans being described as Heinnies, Frenchman called frogs and even the Brits get labeled a few unpleasant things from time to time. But this attitude toward the darker skinned natives of Africa has knocked me back a little. In general I'm used to this kind of thing in literature from an earlier time with the subtle and not so subtle racial attitudes being part of the experience of these works. It's often especially difficult to miss the racial overtones of a lot of the pulp writers that I love when they insult native Americans or Jews or Picts or whatever villain is the subject of the tale of the moment. But for some reason this story's slightly slicker 'savages' got past me until a second detail made it's racial overtones evident. I can't decide if I'm not as savvy as I thought I was or if this writer was more clever than average. Or maybe I just don't react to this particular word as the insult it was meant to be because I'm overly used to it being used in pulp fiction? Cluelessness through repetition? I suspect I have friends of a darker skin tone that would have figured this out much quicker than I.