Sunday, November 27, 2011
This never really seems like a proper documentary but is in actuality just a bunch of interviews edited together with the actors who played the cannibalistic, psychopathic family in the original TCM. It's a really low-budget looking thing with the guys just sitting around and bullshitting for about an hour. It was probably way more interesting to people back when it came out then it is now since most hardcore horror fanatics have probably seen at least a few of these people at one of the ten-thousand horror conventions that take place every year. There's only so many times you can hear someone tell the same stories before it becomes tedious. That being said though this does give anyone who might not know everything about this film a good look behind the curtain at what it was like to shoot in a house full of rotting meat in the peak of a Texas summer. Doesn't look like much fun really but what they created will live on forever(or until we all blow ourselves up anyway) so I guess it was worth it for that. This is probably kind of obsolete now since there are better-made actual documentaries on a few of the releases this movie has received on DVD but back in the VHS days I thought it was kinda cool.
Samantha Fox (not to be confused with the 80's pop singer of the same name) stars here as a rich lady who tells her filthy, sex-filled life story and we get to experience it all in flashback sequences. These include her playing under-aged in the first bit with pigtails and a lollipop so we know she's just a little girl, a live sex show where we get Ron Jeremy's classic sucking-his-own-dick gag and a lady that ties her pussy-lips in a knot(classy stuff here), a silly s & m scene and then some more standard 70's style, pimply-assed hump and moan scenes. Gloria Leonard shows up with a huge Afro which is weird and R. Bollla from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST plays a rich man who Fox snags for a husband and then cheats on right on their honeymoon. While this isn't the best example of a great 70's porn it's a decent enough time-waster and director Chuck Vincent, as usual, puts out an entertaining flick.
Original trailer: http://1oldporn.com/Tramp.htm
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Produced by Roger Corman and made by AIP studios this is a tale of ancient monsters in a small town. The movie isn't a complete waste of time but it is really slow in getting to anything good. The good bits are the weird 60's style psychedelic scenes and the really silly tentacled monster, at least those parts are entertainingly bad. There's also some brief, fleeting nudity when our monster rips the clothes off one of it's female victims before killing them. I think that's very nice of him and as a viewer I thank him. The rest of the movie is filled with lots of talking about the Necronomicon and other HP Lovecraft-inspired stuff. As with most Lovecraft adaptions this one is apparently not very true to his original story. Star Sandra Dee is a weird choice for this film since before this she was known for starring in GIDGET and other all-American wholesome roles like that. I really only knew her from being mentioned in that song in GREASE. Here she seems kind of stupid but I think she's supposed to be a sort of naive tool of evil or something along those lines. The video box I have of this talks about her having a nude scene but I musta missed it because all I saw were some scantily clad scenes. It's also a little weird how the VHS box makes it seem like it's some kind of Devil-worshiping movie cuz it isn't at all. There's been a few other DUNWICH remakes over the years but I've never seen any of them and would imagine if they're similar to this, but without the groovy 60's vibe, I can skip them.
Besides all the well known, super successful, mainstream movies director Martin Scorcese has made over the years he's also made a bunch of interesting oddball short films and little documentaries on various subjects. This one is about the guy who played the speeded-up gun/drug-dealer in TAXI DRIVER. If you're as obsessed with that film as I am this is an interesting look at the actor behind that role. This guy has led some life from being a road manager for Neil Diamond to being a junkie to just getting into all kinds of general strange hi-jinks. He seems like the kind of guy you would want to hang out with and have a few beers. In the movie's most insane bit he tells a story about blowing a guy away with a 44 Magnum that's really unforgettable. It's also interesting to note that Quentin Tarantino stole the scene of Uma Thurman being shot up with adrenaline to the heart from this guy's real life. Has that guy ever had an original thought?
In 2009 there was a sequel to this by another filmmaker with something titled AMERICAN PRINCE but I've never seen that one.
This movie was considered lost for many years but apparently a bootleg was floating around because it's out there now:
Thursday, November 24, 2011
There was a magical day I recall from when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old when, thanks to my dad, I first saw a Professional Wrestling match on TV. Already being a huge fan of comic book superheroes and monster movies this seemed like the most amazing sport in the world to my young mind. Some of these wrestlers seemed like true monsters to me back then. Guys like George "The Animal" Steele, "King Kong" Mosca, Andre The Giant and Killer Khan sure didn't look like any actual human beings I ever encountered in real life. Growing up in the New York City area in the 70's and 80's I was really only able to see the WWF programs and didn't get to watch stuff from other areas until we got cable later on. I did know about Memphis and the other promotions from all the magazines that were around back then but never got to see much of them. It was a different world before the internet made almost every obscure little thing accessible. As the 80's went on wrestling became more of a cartoon and it lost whatever credibility it had for me from those early days but sometimes it's fun to look back and remember how awesome it all seemed at the time. It's funny how the 80's were also the decade that horror films became excessively cartoonish. I guess it was something in the air.
This documentary is a really well done look at a local promotion that was more popular in that area than anything else at the time and I think even if someone doesn't know much about wrestling they would enjoy it for some of the insane stories that are told. Going from the 40's up until modern times it hits on such disparate things as the carnival days, race relations back in the old days, insane wrestling fans, greedy promoters, midget-wrestling, Andy Kaufman and tons of other wacky stuff all told by the people who went through it. If you are, or ever were, a wrestling fan this is something you will want to check out.
You can buy it here: http://www.memphisheatthemovie.com/
Sunday, November 20, 2011
While there had been women in prison movies made before this one, since the 50's and probably before that, prolific sleaze director Jess Franco has to be given credit here for making one of the first truly grimy women-in-prison flicks that set the standard for what was to come in the 70's. While it never reaches the sleazy heights of the Roger Corman produced stuff that came later like CHAINED HEAT or even Franco's own ultra slimy BARBED WIRE DOLLS it kind of sets the template for those flicks and a hundred others. You get chicks in long shirts with no pants practicing their lesbianism, a limping Herbert Lom from MARK OF THE DEVIL as the rapey warden, a large snake getting fucked up by a pocket knife and then some gang rape happens when our prisoners escape and run into some male prisoners from a neighboring prison who just so happen to be escaping at the same exact moment. The only thing missing is the obligatory shower scene. These gals seem to be way too dirty for that. Check it out for historical value or just skip ahead to BARBED WIRE DOLLS if you're a real hardcore sleaze-hound. There is a French release of this film with hardcore sex scenes inserted and a few different cuts with more or less explicitness depending on what country it's from.
AKA ISLE OF LOST WOMEN, PROSTITUTES IN PRISON, ISLAND OF DESPAIR, WOMEN'S PENITENTIARY XII and THE HOT DEATH
"Whisper to your friends that you saw it":
After Clint Eastwood made all those epic westerns in Italy with Sergio Leone he came back to Hollywood and pretty much played the same character here for a few years before going on to Dirty Harry and all that stuff. Some of his American westerns were really good but this one is only so-so. It doesn't have the down and dirty grittiness of Leone's pictures or anywhere near the stylish direction. Director Don Siegel, who's most famous for the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, does pull off some beautiful shots using the Mexican landscape unfortunately plot-wise the movie drags quite a bit during the mid-section of the film. It seems like endless scenes of our two heroes just riding around and talking take place. If you make it to the end there is an all-out battle scene with limbs getting chopped-off, swords getting stuck in faces and other assorted bloody fights but it's a long sit to get there. Co-star Shirley Maclaine went on to make mainstream garbage that probably won a bunch of awards and also became some kind of a koo-koo nutso proponent of psychic-powers who claims to be able to talk to ghosts and that sort of thing.
"Mr. Action himself!":
I was never really a huge fan of the movie GREMLINS but obviously a lot of people were because it was such a huge mainstream hit in 1984 that it spawned countless awful rip-off films. Everything from GHOULIES to HOBGOBLINS to TROLL to MUNCHIES to this piece of crap were spewed out in hopes of keeping peoples interest in little stupid and/or cute monsters alive. The main problem I have with most all of these movies is they're all just bottom of the barrel comedies thinly disguised as horror or sci-fi flicks. This is also the problem with a large percentage of horror/sci-fi films in general cranked out in that horrible childish embarrassment of a decade known as the 1980's. While a few of these stupid GREMLINS clones might be worth a watch for a cheap laugh or two( TROLL for it's Sonny Bono appearance and GHOULIES for being a total shameless copy of the Joe Dante flick minus the feel-good family bullshit parts) this one can be skipped without worry of missing anything worthwhile. How this movie went on to spawn 3 sequels is astounding. I guess it just goes to show where peoples minds were at 30 years ago.
Fucking puppet monsters!:
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Not to be confused with STAR WARS, this movie starts out with a crazy psychedelic opening sequence which reminded me of the opening of the Japanese ULTRA-MAN show and then becomes a sort of pseudo-documentary about Satan or demons or something like that and then morphs into a really awful AMITYVILLE HORROR rip-off. It's really bad, there's no gore or nudity and the music is more grating than terrifying. The movie is one of those so bad that it could be hilarious if it didn't go on for so long. The movie itself isn't even very long, this segment lasts only about an hour, but it sure does feel like it creeps along. A cross keeps turning upside down, a chair comes alive and attacks a lady, a coffee pot shits itself all over the stove, a bunch of other stupid stuff happens and finally a guy shows up in a black robe walking around with a big knife. As terrible as this is I'd still rather watch it again than ever have to sit through one of those boring PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies. The weirdest thing about this is that after this main story is over there's a whole different sequence involving voodoo dancers for no reason at all unless this was at one time a movie reenacting strange things from around the world in various parts. I have no idea if there's a longer version out there but I don't care that much to find out. Sally Schermerhorn and Jimmy Drankovitch, the stars of this, never worked again and the director, Bart La Rue, never directed anything else so I guess that's a good thing.
The whole movie plus a longer intro than the VHS tape!:
Before he made HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN director Jason Eisner did this silly, but gory as hell, short about Christmas trees getting revenge for being chopped down, stuffed in people's stupid homes and decorated in a gaudy fashion. It's filled with really obnoxious people you can't wait to see knocked off and a liberal use of the theme from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. There's gratuitous eye-violence, tree on man rape, baby killing and all the things that would make Christmas movies more enjoyable to your average gore-hound. Of course it's all really dumb and absurd but because it was shot so well it works for me. Watch it at your next family gathering this holiday season, I'm sure they'll love it.
If you've ever watched the classic 1940's film CASABLANCA and thought to yourself "This movie is OK but I wish there was some Charles Bronson ass kicking scenes" then this might be the movie for you. In my ongoing quest to watch every movie with Bronson in it this one is a little odd. It's not really a straight forward action flick and it's not the typical revenge flick that we normally got from Bronson and director J. Lee Thompson throughout the 80's. It's more of an adventure/drama film with bits of action thrown in here and there where we get Mr. Bronson in more familiar sequences beating up Nazis and that sort of thing. The main thing that makes this interesting is getting to see Charlie actually act outside of the one-dimensional characters he normally got to portray. It's also the last time he would be given that opportunity since after this it was all about those Cannon films-produced DEATH WISH sequels and clones. The downside to this particular flick is that most of it is really talky and way more mainstream Hollywood-like than anything I would ever recommend anyone watch. It exists solely as an oddity for Bronson fans like myself although I think it's probably his one film that my grandma probably would have enjoyed more than the others.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Director Sam Peckinpah was responsible for what, in my opinion, was the greatest American western ever made, THE WILD BUNCH. With that film he helped usher in a new type of violent cinema that would help propel the 70's towards the ground-breaking decade it became. It pushed the envelope and it also commented on the value of honor and staying true to your word. It also blurred the line between hero and villain. There were really only subtle degrees of morals and/or circumstances separating both groups. But that was in 1969 when the envelope needed to be pushed forward, by the time this movie came around in '74 it probably all didn't seem quite as fresh. When released GARCIA was trashed by critics and was a box office flop. That's a shame because while there are a lot of similarities between this and THE WILD BUNCH I think it's a strong film on it's own. The Mexican/western setting, star Warren Oates and the slow-mo shoot-outs are a few of the obvious similarities. Here Oates portrays someone who, as the film goes on, slips deeper into madness as things unravel. There's also the Mexican General from BUNCH as a similar Mexican big-shot. He always makes such a great sleazy looking character and Peckinpah used him often for exactly that. There's also no real hero here just a portrayal of a man who ends up with nothing left to lose so he becomes a desperate creature. Kris Kristofferson also shows up as a rapist biker which is something you don't see every day and some of the scenes with Oates talking to the titular head in a bag are pretty humorous. While this never reaches the high points of its predecessor it still works for me as a classic piece of cinema made by a true master.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
This is a short spoof of not only Mondo movies but also wacky conspiracy theories in general. If, like most sane humans, you find people that are obsessed with conspiracy theories to be insane lunatics that should seek mental help immediately you will probably find a few laughs here. The film is made to look like it was created in the 60's and the narration is just some snippets of a "Learn To Speak Italian" album which I think makes it even crazier. You get aliens, Bigfoot, and even the Loch Ness Monster showing up to enjoy the JFK assassination plot goofiness. This originally played as part of the Tromadance short film festival and is part of that DVD. I've never seen any of the other shorts on there and buying Troma DVDs is a risky business that you should partake in at your own peril so be warned.
This is probably one of my favorite sci-fi movies. At least as far as non-serious, goofy, comic-book inspired sci-fi movies go. This here, along with DANGER: DIABOLIK(which also starred John Philip Law), is probably among the best representations of what a comic book would look like if you were to transfer it to a film screen. Everything is brightly light and oddly colored and since this was made in '68 everything seems very psychedelic and it's probably a good film to drop acid to before watching. The whole movie is just jam-packed with weird things that would only exist together in the comics. You get an angel, a pleasure machine, crazy-ass non-aerodynamic looking spaceships, killer birds, killer dolls with teeth, robot assassins, orgasm pills(exaltation transference pellets actually), wacky 60's pop tunes and Jane Fonda looking her absolute hottest ever! Way hotter than in those stupid aerobics videos my mom used to watch.
Fun facts: 80's band Duran Duran took their name from the power-mad villain in this. There was some talk of a remake starring Rose McGowan a while back but I think that's been cancelled. I'm sure it would be pointless and horrible. Director Roger Vadim had stated that he wanted to make a sequel at some point but now that he's dead that seems less likely. This film was originally released unrated with a "mature audiences" warning and then later on re-released with a PG-rating. I'm not sure what the differences are since every version I've seen of this, except for a few TV-showings, has Barbarella's boobs on display right there during the opening credits but not really any other nudity to speak of just lots of different hot outfits.
Friday, November 11, 2011
This is a movie I first saw when I was probably about 7 years old. They used to play it on TV quite a bit in the late 70's no doubt due to the fact that it stars "Rocky" Sylvester Stallone and "The Fonz" Henry Winkler. Of course they're not actually playing their more well known characters but when I was 7 I didn't really know any better. To me back then this was like watching an early adventure of two of my childhood heroes teamed-up together in the same gang. It was kind of like seeing Superman and Spider-Man together. That shit was just awesome to my younger self! I also recall being slightly traumatized when Fonzie gets hit by a car. For some reason I remember him dying in this movie. He doesn't, he just ends up with a broken leg but I probably turned the movie off in horror after his accident. Re-watching this movie now I think it's a little too talky and more about relationships than gang rumbles but Stallone does a pretty decent job in one of the lead roles and it's all really well shot. I also couldn't help but compare it to the way better similar movie THE WANDERERS which sort of deals with some of the same themes as this. The other negative thing is a lot of the music in this seems more like 70's versions of 50's songs than anything genuinely from that era. Still it's an interesting look at two big Hollywood stars given a chance to actually act before they became big names and stereotypes of themselves.
This song sums everything up really well!:
This isn't a very good documentary or even a very watchable film. It's a tough to get through rambling look at hippies in the late 60's in San Francisco without any narrative or much of a point of view. It's sort of like a shorter, crappier version of the movie WOODSTOCK except the hippies come off as way more annoying in this. They basically seem like air-headed homeless people begging for handouts like bums. Full of naive platitudes and they all just look like they smell bad. The "squares" interviewed also seem pretty stupid and are typically judgmental pricks, so I'm not sure who I'm supposed to side with here. The music is OK if you're into bands that jam on endlessly. There's way more interesting and informative docs out there about these times that you should watch before this one. I would also recommend dropping acid and staring at a wall for a more exciting trip.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
"armed with a meat-cleaver in one hand and his genitals in the other..."
As a general rule I don't like a majority of the silly 80's horror movies that they spewed out because they're mostly just really fucking stupid and seem to have been made for retards which would describe pretty accurately people who love that horrible decade. There are a handful of exceptions to this rule. This movie is one of them. Originally shot as a sequel to the legendary HG Lewis' BLOOD FEAST making this movie a serious piece of cinema would have been really dumb and unnecessary. This movie is also pretty similar to the early works of Troma studios in that things happen in a fairly chaotic manner. You get naked aerobics, pro wrestling nazis, zombies, a talking brain in a jar, lots of cool 50's tunes and tons of ridiculous over-the-top gore. You also get a lot of stupid joke scenes which would probably turn off many hardcore horror fans but I still dig it enough to have re-watched this movie a bunch of times over the years and always find myself entertained enough to go back again and again. It's also way better than the official sequel to BLOOD FEAST that Mr. Lewis came out with a few years back.
I can appreciate the first two films of Dario Argento but they've never really been my favorites from his body of work. I think DEEP RED is the movie where he really hit his stride full force and made some really good films from then on up until around THE STENDAHL SYNDROME after which he turned out some pretty hacky stuff. This one is Dario's second film and it's probably closer to a Hitchcock film and is way less graphic than most of his other bloodier giallos. There is a guy who gets smushed by a train so that's something to watch for. It features Karl Malden as a blind man who likes to do puzzles. Now I remember Mr. Malden as the American Express guy who made all those commercials telling me "don't leave home without it" so maybe that's why I find it so hard to buy him as a blind guy who hangs out with a little girl and solves crimes in his spare time. The soundtrack is by the great composer Ennio Morricone but it doesn't really stand out much and seems sorta bland. Another major problem with this film is it's generally pretty boring and you kind of have to pay attention if you want to follow the plot so it all seems like quite a chore for little pay-off. Still it's better than the crap Mr. Dario is making currently and it is available on a dollar DVD so maybe it's worth watching if you're on a low-budget and aren't too picky.
Monday, November 7, 2011
As far as slasher flicks go this has always been one I've really dug. Directed by the great Jeff Lieberman who also did the equally great killer worm flick SQUIRM and the LSD-crazies epic BLUE SUNSHINE, I first encountered JUST BEFORE DAWN playing at a horror convention in a little conference room. The two people I was with got up after about 30 minutes of stalk and slash goodness and left in bored disgust. That made me like this movie even more because clearly those people were not as cultured as I and could not appreciate the simplistic elegance of this ode to backwoods breeding mishaps. Seeing this more recently on a big screen as part of an all-night horror marathon just reinforced my positive vibes towards this film.
What you basically get here is a FRIDAY THE 13TH rip-off predictably set in the woods with a group of campers/victims. The one main drawback is there are only about 10 people in the whole movie so your body count is obviously not very high but it makes up for that by having a family of inbred weirdos running around and one final kill scene that's totally over-the top ridiculous. You get some boobs, some nasty crotch violence, a totally out of place disco-dancing scene, that guy who ran the camp in SLEEPAWAY CAMP as a Crazy Ralph character and a goofy killer who laughs like Muttley from those old Laff-A-Lympics cartoons. You also get George Kennedy as the standard ineffectual sheriff character who talks to his plants and horse and only decides to do something helpful after people start showing up dead. There's also a sort-of twist ending that you can pretty easily figure out before it happens. You can do much worse than checking this one out.
At this point there's not a whole lot anyone can say about this milestone horror epic that hasn't been said before a million and one times. This movie has been picked apart by scholars and idiots alike. People have ascribed it a social significance that seems to have been mostly unintentional by the filmmakers and every serious horror fan would have to admit that this film was the starting point of a new era in horror. An era that would be marked with increasingly graphic and horrific elements in film that mirrored our own societal ills quite a bit more relevantly than something like THE BLOB or THE WOLFMAN ever set out to. 70's horror for all practical purposes starts right here and movies that came before, for the large part, instantly seemed quaint and hokey in comparison. I've probably viewed this movie as much as possible without my eyes falling out of my head and it always entertains on some level. From an old cheap-ass VHS tape I had, to MTV's midnight Halloween showings, to this being on almost every cheap-ass horror movie DVD set, this film is inescapable. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It is due in part to it's public domain status that this film has gained it's legendary reputation.. It changed scary movies form being about giant bugs and martians to being about gore and human monsters. We are the monsters. If there's any more truthful statement than that in horror movies I don't know what it could be. Or as John Carpenter likes to say it's the horror "out there" vs. the horror within all of us. This, along with THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, are the two films I've seen the most in my life.
The one thing I have noticed, the more times I watch this film, is how my sympathies in this movie have shifted from the Ben character to that of Mr. Cooper. Sure it's easy to like Ben, he's the hero, he seems to do almost everything right and keeps his cool. Cooper on the other hand is almost the stereotypical uptight family man and although it's never explicitly stated we're led to assume that he's probably some kind of a racist as well. The problem is after viewing the movie so many times you realize that Cooper is right about the basement being the safest place and about all the barricades set up not really being strong enough of a defense against all those zombies. The way I figure it, if they just listened to him in the first place everyone would have been way better off. Maybe if he wasn't such a nervous, sweaty balding man he would have gotten the respect he deserved. Of course this would not have made quite as entertaining a movie and I suppose we have Ben to thank for this film going on to influence every zombie film made after it. Of course I'm also looking at the film from 2013 and not 1968 which I think would skew my view quite a bit taken out of the social/racial-context that it was created in.
This spawned 2 different series of films including Romero's Dead trilogy and writer John Russo's way goofier RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD series. This was officially remade in 1990 by Tom Savini but also served as the blueprint for just about every zombie movie made after it.
Update 10/25/13: I saw this as part of a Rifftrax show recently and while they could riff on some of the goofy old-timey elements and dubious acting of some of the cast here and there, even these goofballs couldn't do much to elevate the depressing ending and note of doom that this classic wraps up on.