Friday, April 29, 2016

059: The Creeper and 060. Anatomy of a Psycho

Jump to Anatomy of a Psycho (1961)

059. The Creeper aka Rituals (1977)
Director: Paul Carter
Writer: Ian Sutherland
From: Drive-In
Watch: archive.org

Five doctors venture into the Canadian wilderness for their annual retreat only to find themselves being systematically stalked and killed.

Normally this is the part where I expand on the plot blurb, but there's actually nothing to expand upon. That one sentence is the entirety of the movie, and it's a pretty good flick.

The five doctors are flown out to a part of the woods called the Cauldron of the Moon, a canyon that legend says was formed by the moon striking the Earth and bouncing off. The doctors are cut off from civilization, miles from where the plane dropped them off, and the plane itself isn't coming back for six days because what could possibly go wrong?

They end up bickering the first night over issues of medical ethics and what each one should be pursuing career-wise as well as mistakes they've made with patients. The next morning, they wake up to find all their boots have been stolen. Since only the man who organized the trip packed an extra pair of shoes, he strikes off alone to find a dam upriver and get help. That night, the other four doctors find a freshly killed deer wrapped in a snake outside their camp and decide to follow their friend to the dam. As they make their way upriver, they start encountering various threats and, one by one, get hurt or killed.

The film itself is pretty smart. The character motivations make sense with moments of selfishness, anger, regret, and there's a palpable tension throughout, both from their stalker and from nature itself. The characters take turns having their moments of lucidity and there's a sense that the movie is more a character study examining personal moralities rather than some half-baked slasher film with pretensions of a moral core (*cough* Saw *cough*).

The Mill Creek version is apparently a TV cut, so no gore or profanity, but I didn't feel the lack. I thought this was going to be something really stupid and it turned out to be one of the more compelling movies I've watched from these sets. There's a copy on archive.org, although I don't think the movie's PD. A commenter there even notes that this likely falls under GATT. Regardless, it's not difficult to find online with a quick Google of “The Creeper 1977” or it's alternate title, “Rituals 1977.” An unequivocal recommend, though.


060. Anatomy of a Psycho (1961)
Director: Boris Petroff
Writer: Jane Mann and Don Devlin from a story by Jane Mann
From: Pure Terror
Watch: archive.org

Chet Marco, after his brother Duke is executed for murder, becomes obsessed with getting revenge upon those who sent Duke to the chair.

A pretty uninspired crime drama with “Psycho” in the title only because Psycho had been such a success the year before. The execution that pushes our titular psycho over the edge doesn't happen until fifteen minutes into the seventy-five minute movie, and the courtroom drama of the conclusion takes just about as long. His reign of terror is limited to beating up the D.A.'s son, beating up the judge's son and then burning down his house, and finally framing the key witness's son for murder. For being obsessed with getting revenge against those who convicted his brother, Chet does spend a lot of time just being a bully instead.

The script allegedly had some input from Ed Wood, and there are elements that speak to his exploitation aesthetic—overt moralism, sassing kids getting their comeuppance, vague homoerotic subtext (although that may describe everything made from about 1939 until Stonewall). There is a central ideological flaw to the movie: Chet is insane for believing in his brother's innocence despite a court's ruling, but then uses that very court system to get the son of the key witness convicted of murder. So the movie's saying Chet is insane for believing the courts are fallible, and then shows those very courts being used to wrongly convict someone.

There's also the Lieutenant who reads as a crooked cop, but is actually an honest cop, but then breaks into Chet's house and threatens him with the need to be afraid when a cop starts breaking the law, and then sits back and watches an old man break in to that very house. That cop is the one who talks Chet down at the end and takes him away to get psychiatric help. So what the hell is he?

The movie offers some fun: Chet is perhaps the whiniest psycho ever placed on screen, the cop isn't so much crooked as laughably incompetent, and, of course, all these “teenagers” started drawing Social Security as soon as filming wrapped. It's neither unwatchable nor remarkable except for how very little they do with their central concept. Had it pushed things further, it'd have been more fun and maybe even a forgotten camp classic. As it is, it's cheap b-movie product, decidedly extant but hardly exploitative.

This film's in the public domain and I've added an MPEG2 copy to archive.org.

Friday, April 22, 2016

057. The Fury of the Wolfman and 058. The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman

Jump to The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971)

057. The Fury of the Wolfman aka La furia del Hombre Lobo (1972)
Director: José María Zabalza
Writer: Paul Naschy
From: Cult Cinema
Watch: archive.org

After being attacked by a yeti while traveling in Tibet, Waldemar Daninsky returns home with a lycanthropic curse. He turns to his colleague, Dr. Ilona Alman, and her work regarding the chemical impulses in people's brains for help, but she may have a more sinister agenda.

When I wrote about Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf two weeks ago, I didn't know I'd be returning to Paul Naschy's werewolf stories so soon. This is the fourth of the twelve Hombre Lobo films, The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman is fifth, and Dr. Jekyll sixth. Even though Naschy plays Daninsky in each film, they're not exactly sequels: the werewolf is dead at the end of each and both Daninsky's situation as well as the origin of his curse are different.

This film, though, is very confusing. Part of that is due to the dubbing and editing which is so abrupt at points that it's not clear if the voice actors were working from a translated script or just adding words that seemed to fit the moment. Part of it, though, is due to the overabundance of plot. This feels like a telenovela condensed into a movie.

Waldemar returns home, the only survivor of a trip to Tibet where his team was attacked by some strange monster, and, on his first night, he starts having a seizure where he almost attacks his wife. The next day, he asks his colleague Dr. Alman if he can meet with her that night to deal with his problem. She's experimenting in brain chemistry in the hopes of controlling people's base impulses. She and Daninsky used to be in love, but he chose his wife Erika over her. Dr. Alman's assistant Karen meets Daninsky in the parking lot to express her concerns over Dr. Alman's work, but Daninsky alleviates her concerns. As he gets into his car, he reads a letter he's just been given revealing that his wife is having an affair with one of his students. He drives off in a rage to confront his wife, but his brakes have been cut and he crashes into a tree. Meanwhile, his wife's lover who sent the letter calls Erika and makes plans to meet with her while Daninsky dies.

We're not even ten minutes in.

So. Daninsky becomes a werewolf, kills his wife and her lover, and falls under the power of Dr. Alman. Dr. Alman secrets him to her ancestral castle where she's doing more elaborate experiments in mind-control and takes Karen with her to both be her assistant and eventual thrall. Back home, Karen's journalist boyfriend is growing increasingly suspicious of everything and is working with local police to unravel the mystery.

This is the bulk of the movie. Despite being called The Fury of the Wolfman, the titular wolfman isn't particularly furious or active in the movie. He's more the inciting incident that everyone else is organized around. There are things to recommend the movie, not least of which being the 70's style of horror cinema that's both Gothic and lurid at the same time. My version has no nudity, but it's also seven minutes shorter than the run time listed on IMDB and there's an obvious post-coital shot that suggests precisely what's missing. The film has lesbian overtones with Dr. Alman—Karen's her “roommate” initially, clearly devoted to her, and all of Dr. Alman's assistants are young women—as well as moments of sadomasochism here and there.

In the end, though, I found the movie kind of boring, which I think is a result of the poor dubbing and editing. Were this an uncut subtitled version, it'd probably be better—the voices couldn't be nearly as bad and the pan-and-scan, ugh, forget it! There's fun if you're looking to riff on the picture—twice Naschy as the werewolf is raging only to have the scene cut to him just standing around basically waiting for something to do—but overall, I found it a little too slow for general entertainment.


058. The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman aka La noche de Walpurgis(1971)
Director: León Klimovsky
Writer: Paul Naschy, Hans Munkel
From: Drive-In

While searching for the tomb of the vampire Countess Wandesa, Elvira and her friend Genevieve meet the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky who agrees to help them in their search. Upon finding the tomb, the trio accidentally awaken the Countess. Now Daninsky must find a way to defeat the Countess before Walpurgis Night when she'll summon Satan and threaten the world.

So much more fun than the other two films! Daninsky is a character throughout the movie, not just a plot point the other characters act around, and it doesn't have the layers of complication and love triangles that the other two have. Plus this just feels more like a midnight movie. There's Gothic atmosphere, interesting shots, and pretty solid cinematography evident even in my washed-out print.

This is a direct sequel to The Fury of the Wolfman even though I think this was released before that. We start with Waldemar dead and being dissected by two morticians. One of them is skeptical of the claim that Waldemar was a werewolf and so removes the silver bullets. If he is a werewolf, the mortician says, removing the bullets will cause him to come back to life.

Oops! So they're dead and wolfie's back.

Cut to Paris where Elvira (soft “i”) is talking to Marcel, her globe-trotting international cop boyfriend/guy she only just met in the bar that night (love comes quickly in the Hombre Lobo films). She's writing an article about the Countess Wandesa, an alleged Satanist from the 15th Century who survived by drinking virgins' blood. Elvira thinks she knows where the Countess' tomb is and heads out to find it with her friend Genevieve. They arrive near the place, but run out of gas. Fortunately Waldemar is there to offer them shelter.

And things progress from there. Waldemar is searching for the Countess because the silver crucifix that killed her can finally kill him permanently and free his soul. They find her, she comes back, turns Genevieve into a vampire, and now Waldemar has to try to save Elvira from the vampires because she's the only one who can safely kill him.

Like I said, I enjoyed this one a bit more. It moves a little faster, the dubbing isn't as hokey, and it has a straightforward plot. Each character wants something that brings them into contact and/or conflict with the others. My only disappointment was that Countess Wandesa never becomes a character. She has very few lines of dialogue and is largely just a figure that menaces from the shadows. I'd have liked to see her try to seduce Waldemar to Satan or at least be involved in some grander scheme.

I'm saying much less about the plot—the woman posing as Waldemar's sister, his creepy caretaker Pierre—because I think it's worth watching without the surprises being ruined. Of course it has the same clichés as the other two—it's somehow always a full moon no matter when the story's happening, there are overt lesbian overtones, and, of course, poorly-timed edits that become their own source of humor—but this manages to keep things simple and fun. As I said above, this feels like quintessential midnight movie fare and it's a real shame it's no longer public domain (pulled back under copyright by GATT). A quick Google will find you full-length copies and it's not the worst way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

My cut is, I think, the television one so, if you're worried about nudity or gore, look for the 82 minute version. It's clean and child-safe, although the atmosphere may creep them out. I did see a 92 minute version that I imagine has the elements excised from this version. Watch it with friends, though. The movie's enjoyable in its own right, but would be elevated by an enthusiastic audience.

Friday, April 15, 2016

055. The Day the Sky Exploded and 056. The Eerie Midnight Horror Show

Jump to The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (1974)

055. The Day the Sky Exploded aka La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio (1958)
Director: Paolo Heusch
Writers: Sandro Continenza and Marcello Coscia from a story by Vigilio Sabel
From: Cult Cinema
Watch: archive.org

An atomic rocket sent to the moon goes astray. Shortly thereafter, strange phenomena are seen in the sky.

An Italian-French co-production (hello dubbing!) that's mostly notable for featuring cinematography by Mario Bava who would go on to pioneer the giallo genre. This is an odd duck because it's one of those Mill Creek features that's not particularly anything, neither good nor bad. I'll admit to falling asleep while watching it, having to rewind to catch what I missed, only to fall asleep again. That this happened during the climax doesn't say much for the film.

The film itself is a sci-fi disaster movie that's much more a melodrama than a sci-fi flick (shades of Deep Impact anyone?). An astronaut is sent to the moon on an atomic-powered rocket that's been designed by an international group of scientists, including a Russian. Geopolitics and Cold War paranoia are completely absent from the film. Something goes wrong, the astronaut ejects, and the rocket careens off into space somewhere.

Once he returns to Earth, the astronaut is facing domestic strife because his wife thinks he's spending too much time at the job (of traveling in space) and not enough with his son. As they're about to reconcile and fly back home, strange things start to appear in the sky. It turns out the rocket exploded in an asteroid field which made the asteroids form a mass that's rushing to Earth, sucking up all the planet's magnetism (magnets, how do they work?)

On top of compasses no longer working, the asteroid mass is going to impact the Earth killing everything. In response to this, the astronaut decides he needs to stay back and work with the other scientists which just exacerbates his marital problems: once again, he's putting his job before his family.

There are times you get to work that plotline into your movie, and times where working it in is just shrilly repeating the trope of women being unreasonable. When, in the context of global destruction, the character's concern is their scientist husband not playing catch with Billy as often as he could, your film's politics are showing.

Anyway, the scientists are hoping the moon will destroy the incoming asteroid and, when it doesn't, they come up with a last-minute backup plan to fire all the Earth's nukes at it. Why that wasn't one of the first things they thought of, I cannot tell you.

Of course the moon plan fails, disaster is visited upon the planet in an orgy of stock footage, and, for no apparent reason except the movie needs to run a little longer, one of the scientists goes mad, insists we've been playing God, and deserve our fate. He knocks out the air conditioner to the room holding the “calculator,” aka. the computer that's doing all the nuclear launch calculations, causing it to overheat and shut down. We don't actually see this on screen because Spaceman Baddad has had a last-minute change of heart, abandons the project, and finds his family seeking cover in the collapsing city. He returns to the lab to find that the more interesting plot moved on without him.

Anyway, bad scientist gets killed, computer goes online, rockets go boom and the world is saved from galactic holocaust by nuclear holocaust.

One of the curious things about the film is the editing. There are just random cuts throughout, sometimes mid-conversation. I don't know if my version is taken from a damaged print that was stitched together or if it was actually that poorly cut. Those edits do make for some unintentionally hilarious moments, but otherwise it's a real snoozer.

The movie is in the public domain, but my copy has a Mill Creek bug burned in so I can't upload the MPEG. There is, however, a copy available on archive.org if, for some reason, you're particularly eager to watch it or want to add material to your stock footage collection.


056. The Eerie Midnight Horror Show aka Enter the Devil aka The Sexorcist aka L'Ossessa(1974)
Director: Mario Gariazzo
Writers: Ambrogio Molteni from a story by Mario Gariazzo with additional dialogue by Ted Rusoff
From: Pure Terror

An art student is harried by the spirit possessing a sculpture from a deconsecrated church. Her only hope lies with a reclusive priest who’s been battling the devil all his life.

From the description and list of alternate titles, you’d be justified in thinking that this is an Exorcist rip off, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But where The Exorcist focused on the horror of a child losing control and a priest losing his faith, this focuses more on compulsive masturbation and the sexual potential of possession.

Yeah, it’s that kind of film.

Danila is an art student asked to confirm the artistic value of a sculpture of a crucified man that’s on display in a deconsecrated church. The church was shut down due to its membership using the grounds for orgies. Danila points out the beauty of the work and starts falling under its spell.

Later, at a party thrown by her parents, Danila sees her mother having an affair with a family friend—specifically getting whipped by the family friend. Danila’s unnerved by the experience and returns to her studio to work on cleaning a painting. While there, the sculpture awakens and rapes her. Only it’s just a dream . . . or is it?

She starts having violent episodes of compulsive masturbation, begs her father to have sex with her at one point, and generally has repeated visions of Satanic rituals led by the crucified figure.

Damned dirty lies
The movie initially is trying to walk the line between her being haunted and having a psychological episode in response to her mother’s affair—she begs her boyfriend to get her out of her apartment, tries to get away from her family, and seems to have the episodes in response to the family’s presence—but that pretense falls away pretty quickly.

The family makes several attempts to cure her before letting scientists examine her. They decide, as scientists always do, that this is a spiritual matter and she should be referred to a priest. She’s delivered to a nunnery in a secluded village and tries to escape immediately resulting in one of the most unintentionally funny sequences in the film. She’s running, bloody and screaming through the town, without eliciting much of a reaction, and it just looks strange. It looks like an old Saturday Night Live bit featuring Laraine Newman. I was waiting for Father Guido Sarducci to pop out and give his blessing. It would have elevated the tone.

Finally, late in the film, the priest emerges, confronts the devil in the girl, the devil tries to make the girl seduce and corrupt the priest, the priest flagellates himself with a whip (echoing the mother getting whipped earlier), and then dies in a final confrontation with the possessed girl. She whips him to death, but he expels the demon.

The movie never really finds its story. From the conclusion, which runs about as quickly as I’ve related it here, you’d think it’s about this conflict between the devil and the priest, but the priest isn’t part of the story until the end. The girl isn’t really a character so her presence is mostly for the exploitation effect of seeing her suffer, thrown fits, and take her clothes off. That leaves us with the parents and the story sort of becomes about how the ordeal of trying to save their daughter reinvigorates their marriage. The husband stops ignoring his wife and his wife spurns her sadomasochistic lover. The lover actually threatens to reveal their affair to everyone, but that’s his final appearance in the film.

I actually thought the lover was Satan in all the visions the girl was having, which would have heightened the sense that the daughter is disturbed by witnessing her mother’s affair. When I realized that wasn’t the case, the film lost whatever sense of cleverness I was assigning it.

While not as much of a snooze as The Day the Sky Exploded, I didn’t find it very compelling either. It’s interesting as an artifact—how films tried to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist and then, from the title, The Rocky Horror Picture Show—but rather than be a stunning mish-mash of original elements and plot points from the source, this reads more as a softcore reinterpretation. The movie just wasn’t much fun, and with exploitation fare like this, that’s important.

This may be public domain, I’m in the process of finding out. If it is, I’ll upload a copy to archive.org. Until then, or if not, streaming copies are easy enough to find with a Google search.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Story Slam: Missed Connections

I finally return to the Story Slam stage, not fully sure how to do it anymore. A story about my worst roommate situation ever. Not included: them stealing from me, selling my things, and dealing drugs out of the house. They were left out because they were not the worst things that happened!

Friday, April 08, 2016

053. Brain Twisters and 054. Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf

Jump to Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf (1972)

053. Brain Twisters (1991)
Director: Jerry Sangiuliano
Writer: Jerry Sangiuliano
From: Cult Cinema and Sci-Fi Invasion

Subjects in a study on sensory stimulation begin experiencing psychotic fugue states.

A college professor is doing experiments on students and himself on behalf of a corporation. The experiments involve putting the subject into a sensory-deprivation chamber and projecting bad 80's computer graphics on their faces all in the name of VAGUE SCIENCE!

As with all vague science, the corporation funding the project is threatening to cut the funding. The professor objects. They're collecting “data,” there's much “expense,” the scientist will have proof “in time,” but the big wigs are pulling the plug due to lack of “results.” Always a risk when you practice vague science.

Is this what you humans call "charm?"
The professor continues pursuing his research because apparently the funding thing isn't actually a concern (?) and offers one of his students a work-study appointment in the lab. It's an amazing scene. You really get the sense that the direction in the movie was, “Tone down the charisma. No, no, less affect, you almost came off as creepy. There, absolutely nothing. Perfect.” This may be the first mumblecore movie.

Things insist on moving forward, or seeming like they are. The pacing of these Crown Int. films is relentlessly “Get it? Get it yet? Cause we can wait. Get it? Okay. Next shot. . . soon.” There's a student who offers to sleep with the prof in exchange for a passing grade—something she says she'd done with another professor—and he instead asks her to be a subject in the experiment after which she disappears until the end of the movie.

Meanwhile, one of the prof's other subjects is walking his girlfriend home. She has to meet a friend for an aerobics class so she can't screw around right then, and he leaves in a huff. Moments later, someone comes in through the front door and kills her. When the police are investigating the scene, one cop notes that she left the door unlocked and says, “Not very bright.” Interesting way of saying she was asking for it. Apparently you're not responsible for murder if the victim didn't lock their door. And, yes, if you're thinking, “These sound like more-than-vaguely misogynistic tropes,” you are right.

FRESH!
Anyway, the boyfriend is the immediate suspect and when he's informed about the death, he enters a fugue state and jumps out the window. The lead officer on the case is trying to get the prof's new assistant on his side because she has privileged access and knew all the victims. Also, he wants to bang her.

No, seriously, that's the love interest in the film. The 40-something cop hitting on the 20-something girl whose friends are dying. He actually goes to her place, makes her dinner (spaghetti. Yeah, no) and offers the grossest, most ham-fisted pick-up line I've ever heard in a movie. While he's unpacking a grocery bag with the ingredients for the sauce, he asks, “Which one are you: fresh clams or the virgin olive?”

I'm trying to remember if I found this movie enjoyably bad or just hated every stupid moment of it. That line reminds me that I am repressing this movie even as I write it up. One of my notes for this is literally, “How is this a movie?” and yet I keep forgetting that I hated this.

Anyway, the corporation sends a signal to her TV to try to make her kill the cop, but, sadly, she overcomes. The prof starts entering his own fugue states and finds out about all his test subjects becoming violent. He realizes the corporation has been covering it up and even keeping it from him.

This, typically, would be the point in the movie where the prof teams up with the cop to take down the corporation, but he doesn't. Instead, he remains the villain, keeps upping the intensity of the experiments on himself, and starts creeping on the assistant who's trying to sneak sensitive info to the cop who's been thrown off the case because the corporation has gotten the feds to come in and claim jurisdiction.

Nothing in this movie makes sense. 70 minutes in, it still feels like we're setting up the first act.

Prof tries to kill his assistant, but the spell is broken by some flashing lights. He goes back to the lab where the corporation's boss shows up, has the prof shot by the janitor that's been a corporate spy the whole time (yeah, I don't even know), and the prof dies. The spy goes to get a missing tape from the assistant, is run over by the cop, and has a hilariously Wicked-Witch-of-the-West-esque death scene. The head of the corporation is killed by the girl who tried to trade sex for a grade (welcome back to the movie!) and she's found catatonic at the lab by the cop and assistant.

Twist ending: all the technology is being developed for a video game called Brain Twisters that we see an angry child playing at the end of the movie. Why? There are questions we may never know the answer to.

From how much I've written here, it's obvious there's a lot to laugh at in the movie as it's just so incompetently done and full of clichés. It's so frustratingly paced, though. I had to keep myself from constantly shouting, “We get it, we get it, cut to the next scene, Jesus!” Plus the constant creeper moments and vibe of the film make it a difficult watch. This felt like Invisible Maniac minus that film's sub-porno pretense which at least imbued that with a sense of fun. I can only recommend this for watching with caustic friends who can make the worst things pleasant, but it's just a big no otherwise.


From Mondo Esoterica
054. Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf aka Doctor Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972)
Director: León Klimovsky
Writer: Paul Naschy
From: Pure Terror

Paul Naschy reprises his signature role as the werewolf Waldermar Daninsky, this time traveling to London to seek help from Dr. Jekyll who believes his grandfather's Hyde formula may be the cure for Daninsky's lycanthropy.

I don't know what I can say about this movie, mostly because it's been severely edited. My cut is 72 minutes long whereas IMDB lists this as being 96 minutes and the version currently available for streaming on Amazon is 89. So much has been cut from the version I have that there aren't even opening credits. I had to grab the title card from Mondo Esoterica's review of a different DVD version of the film, one that they seemed to enjoy much more than I did.

The movie starts almost mid-conversation in London where a newlywed couple tells their friends that they'll be honeymooning in Transylvania so the husband can visit his parents' graves. When one of the friends warns the couple that Transylvania is werewolf country (cause that's what we all think when we hear “Transylvania”), a window blows open and a bust shatters on the floor. They all laugh and leave and we are done with London for the next thirty minutes.

Very shortly the couple is warned not to visit the graveyard because it's haunted and the castle houses a great evil. They go anyway, robbers kill the husband, are about to assault the wife when Paul Naschy shows up and kills one of the thugs. He takes the now widow and her husband's corpse back to his castle. Meanwhile, in the village, the thugs are plotting to kill Naschy and rally the town behind them. Naschy and the widow escape the mob and return to London. In the interim, the woman who raised Naschy and is believed by the townspeople to be a witch is stalked and beheaded off-screen by one of the thugs.

In London, the widow, now in love with Naschy, visits her psychologist friend, Dr. Jekyll, to see if he can cure Naschy's lycanthropy. He agrees—forty minutes into a seventy-two minute movie. Jekyll plans to use his grandfather's Hyde serum to bring the evil out of Naschy so it may defeat the werewolf side of Naschy's personality and then Jekyll will apply the antidote leaving both Hyde and the werewolf dead.

Jekyll's assistant/mistress isn't having it, though. She's still in love with Jekyll and wants to pursue the Hyde experiment to its conclusion of power and domination. How it leads to that, I don't know. It's very Underpants Gnome economics. Also, she's jealous of Jekyll's unrequited love for the widow.

Things play out in a pretty low-key fashion. There are two good transformations: an elevator transformation and the transformation from Hyde to the werewolf in a night club. Naschy's Hyde is a little willfully campy, which works. The not-quite-winking levity is a nice touch to the film. Overall, though, this version just feels tired, like they were making another Naschy werewolf movie because they were contractually obliged to or it was guaranteed to keep the studio limping along for another fiscal year. However, since this is the fifth or sixth (my sources disagree on the number) of the dozen werewolf movies Naschy did, that seems unlikely. Also, Mondo Esoterica's review makes it sound like the uncut version of the film is actually rather richly composed.

Ultimately, the Mill Creek cut doesn't live up to the promise of its title or offer any further pleasures—intentional or otherwise. There are some laughable/riffable moments, but overall I'd suggest giving it a pass unless you can find an unedited version. This YouTube video seems to be the actual start of the film (my cut started at about the five-minute mark) and looks like it actually sets up the story and establishes a mood for the film. If you can find that version of the movie, you might enjoy it much more.

Friday, April 01, 2016

051. Bad Taste and 052. The Image of Bruce Lee

Jump to The Image of Bruce Lee (1978)

051. Bad Taste (1987)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Peter Jackson with additional material by Tony Hiles and Ken Hammon
From: Chilling

Aliens are invading Earth and the government has no recourse but to call in “The Boys.”

What better way to celebrate April Fools' Day than by watching Bad Taste? The first feature-length film from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, and that's probably the most notable thing about it. I'm not slagging the movie off by any means. It's a lot of fun, has respectable practical effects, and, at its core, has a clever idea: aliens harvesting humans as fast food ingredients. It's goofy, as is the entire movie, and that's great.

If it falls flat at all, it's in that there isn't really a story. Rather, this feels like a list of scenes that would be in a zombie/alien-invasion parody. It's all action sequcence-quip-action sequence-quip, squip, rinse, repeat. When I thought the movie was approaching its climax and conclusion, I saw that there was still a full half-hour left, and the movie's less than 90 minutes long.

That said, it's Peter Jackson's first movie and you can see the elements that would make him famous in Dead Alive present here in fairly mature form: the effects, the gore, and the wit are all pretty spot-on. Also, you can tell that the film is low-budget, but it never quite comes off as cheap. In fact, this could serve as a really effective text in working within limitations and maximizing strengths.

Of course it's a recommend, I don't think anyone would recommend against it. A nice, silly, New Zealand splatter-comedy. This has mistakenly been assumed public domain for a while so it's not too hard to find for free online.


052. The Image of Bruce Lee aka Meng Nan Da Zei Yan Zhi Hu (1978)
Director: Chuan Yang
Writer: Shao-Kuan Wen, Chuan Yang
From: Cult Cinema
Watch: archive.org

A band of counterfeiters is preparing a new batch of American currency, but the police are closing in and there's dissension in the ranks.

A colorful little piece of Bruceploitation. Bruce Lee, of course, is not in this film, although Bruce Li is and dressed in a bright yellow jumpsuit ala Game of Death. In that first sequence, a man is threatening to jump off a building because he sold a batch of diamonds for counterfeit money. Li tries to stop him from jumping, but grabs what turns out to be the man's fake arm and he falls to his death.

After that, Hong Kong police try to find the gang responsible for the counterfeiting and end up in fights with them every five-to-ten minutes. The fight choreography is pretty nice even if the police aren't really characters. The movie focuses much more on the counterfeiters and the betrayals they're planning for each other. The primary gang that prints the money wants the gangster who's buying and distributing it to stop attracting so much attention. He wants to steal the plates and start printing his own money with the help of the woman who has the special paper. She's trying to play both sides against each other.

As I mentioned, this movie's colorful. It revels in that late-70's Technicolor aesthetic and really takes advantage of it in the actors' costumes. Even though these Mill Creek prints are generally muddy and washed-out, the colors still look good here and it's always clear who each character is.

There's a fair amount of nudity which is a little whatever. It's all gratuitous, maybe never moreso than the scene where the femme fatale, completely alone, takes off all her clothes, goes swimming, and then the scene cuts to her walking down the street. I was initially thinking this movie would be hard to edit for television, but those shots could be cut without affecting the plot or flow at all and that's a good barometer for guessing why they're in the movie.

It is a fun flick, though, and one I'd recommend. This version appears to be in the public domain so I've uploaded an MPEG2 to archive.org here. Unfortunately, it is hard-coded letterbox, but is easily cropped or zoomed in on in most players. Give it a watch.