Friday, July 22, 2016

083. The Crater Lake Monster and 084. Fangs of the Living Dead

Jump to Fangs of the Living Dead (1969)

083. The Crater Lake Monster (1977)
Director: William R. Stromberg
Writers: William R. Stromberg and Richard Cardella
From: Cult Cinema; Sci-Fi Invasion
Watch: Riffrax

A meteor lands in Crater Lake awakening a long-dormant monster that starts feeding on the local populace.

A scientist and his wife bring Doc into a cave to show him thousand-year-old cave paintings depicting early humans fighting a plesiosaur—a large, water-based dinosaur with flippers—proving that humans somehow co-existed with dinosaurs. A meteor crashes in the nearby lake, though, setting off tremors that collapse the cave after the scientists and Doc only just escape.

Get used to seeing a lot of Doc because the movie returns to him constantly for no reason whatsoever. Also, he looks like the dad in every mid-50's TV sitcom. It's kind of awesome.

The next day, Steve the Sheriff, played by the co-writer Richard Cardella, joins Doc and the scientists to go out on the lake and investigate the meteor. The meteor is still too hot for them to remove, so the scientists leave until the end of the movie.

In the meantime, the titular monster wakes up, eats a John Oates-looking guy, is spotted by a birdwatcher, then eats a bull. Only the report of the bull's disappearance arouses Sheriff Steve's attention, presumably because he's worried about having enough bullcrap for this movie.

On the lake, Mitch and Arnie are running a boat rental/bait shop business. They're the comic relief, which, in these films, means they're not funny. Also, they become the main characters for the next 45 minutes to an hour. They rent a boat to a tourist, he gets eaten by the monster, they bring Doc in to examine the blood-filled boat, and he doesn't have anything to say.

Mitch and Arnie bicker with each other over how they're going to keep the business running, who really does the work, who's going to get a date with the waitress at the local diner, and stumble across the head of the guy who disappeared on the boat. Sheriff Steve yells at them to stay out of the water and not do any more rentals, but they've already rented to a couple who are currently out on the lake.

The couple, in full daylight, keep talking about how beautiful a night it is (how can you not love this?), and then the monster shows up. They flee, ground the boat, and set it on fire, for some reason, which manages to scare the monster off. Mitch and Arnie find the couple, bring them back to town, and get yelled at by Sheriff Steve.

Then we cut to the apartment of a mustachioed man who puts a gun in his belt, goes to a liquor store and murders both the clerk and a customer. 100% “Meanwhile, in another movie.”

Back at the lake, Mitch and Arnie bicker, nothing moves forward, then the mustachioed man from the other movie shows up, has a shoot-out with Sheriff Steve, drives his car off a cliff, runs, and gets eaten by the monster. This is when Sheriff Steve starts to suspect something is up. So he talks to Doc.

Finally, Sheriff Steve is attacked by the monster, escapes, and brings Doc to examine the tracks it left. They both go to the scientists, who are part of the movie again, who decide to capture the monster instead of killing it. Sheriff Steve objects, but he has no idea how to kill the monster. At a town meeting the next day, Mitch and Arnie agree with the scientists that the monster should be taken alive because it'll mean lots of tourism dollars for the town. Unfortunately, the monster is already moving about.

They drive to where it is, Arnie gets bit, dies, and Sheriff Steve, somehow, kills the monster with a snow plow. Doc arrives to examine the carnage as Mitch collapses to the ground in grief over his partner Arnie.

Oh man, is this movie deliciously stupid. It's perfunctory on the one hand, but has at least the hint of a budget and evidence of competence behind the camera. What torpedoes it is a mix of the idea that they're doing something amazing and the ham-fisted attempt to turn Sheriff Steve, the co-writer, remember, into an action star. That dog don't hunt.

Don't flush!
The Wikipedia page for this movie is kind of interesting for noting Cardella's complaints about Crown's financing of the film. His issue with the soundtrack is legit—this sounds like an episode of Gilligan's Island. It's also worth mentioning the monster, which looks all right. It's Ray Harryhausen-esque stop-motion, and generally works, except for a few scenes of the monster's neck rising from the water which looks like a turd with a face. The movie doesn't skimp on the beast, either. It shows up at 14:30 and then consistently throughout the rest of the picture. So often, in fact, that you have to wonder how Sheriff Steve missed it for so long.

Definitely a recommend. It's a silly movie, but actually looks pretty good and moves along quickly enough. As I noted above, Riffrax did a take on it, and it's certainly highly-riffable. Gather your popcorn, pizza, and pals and I guarantee you a grand time.

084. Fangs of the Living Dead aka Malenka (1969)
Director: Amando de Ossorio
Writer: Amando de Ossorio
From: Pure Terror
Watch: Riffrax

Sylvia, two weeks before her wedding, learns that she's inherited a castle and title, so goes to see the estate. Once there, though, she learns of her family's vampiric past and of her own cursed existence.

Sylvia, one of Italy's best models, has learned from her uncle that, with the death of her mother, Sylvia has inherited not only her mother's castle, but the title of Countess as well. She goes to the little village to look things over, but finds the townspeople horrified once they learn of her heritage. At the castle, her uncle tells her of her family's great history, particularly of her grandmother Malenka, a brilliant biochemist who started dabbling in the dark arts and learned how to raise the dead. Malenka was burned as a witch, but not before bringing Sylvia's “uncle” back from the dead as a vampire. He tells her she can never leave the village or get married because of the family's curse.

Sylvia breaks off her engagement, but her fiancé comes to the castle with his friend to find out the truth. In town, the fiancé treats a woman with anemia, but she dies that night after a visit from the uncle. The local doctor suggests burying her in the old way with a stake through the heart, but the fiancé refuses.

Meanwhile, in the castle, Sylvia is refusing to drink her uncle's blood and become a vampire. The woman from town returns, now a vampire. Sylvia escapes to the Inn, her fiancé, friend, and the doctor go to kill the new vampire, and Sylvia is kidnapped and taken back to the castle. The trio end up there as well where the uncle ties up the fiancé and reveals the plan all along has been to drive Sylvia insane, make her think she's a vampire, and then steal her inheritance from her.

Sylvia comes to kill her fiancé, but is actually aware of the plan, unties him, and he stabs the uncle with a torch which makes him age, crumble, and die, apparently having been a vampire all along.

The movie doesn't make much sense at the end.

This starts out promisingly enough. You have doctors smoking while doing research, seriously bad dubbing, and some legitimately fantastic aesthetics. The sets look great, the colors and costumes really pop, and the whole thing looks like what Elvira was parodying in Elvira's Haunted Hills. The movie just loses its way after the first act, though. The fiancé shows up and is just kind of boorish, Slyvia's trapped in the castle, not exploring or trying to escape, and there really aren't any vampire antics going on. The film just kind of stops.

There is a Riffrax version of this, which would certainly make the experience better, and there's plenty to make fun of here, it's just that it's never quite campy enough to be really funny or enjoyable. It's one that I'm going to have to pass on recommending.

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