Friday, December 09, 2016

125. Crypt of the Living Dead and 126. 984: Prisoner of the Future

Jump to 984: Prisoner of the Future (1982)

125. Crypt of the Living Dead aka Hannah, Queen of the Vampires aka La tumba de la isla maldita (1973)
Directors: Julio Salvador, Ray Danton
Writers: Julio Salvador from a story by Ricardo Ferrer. US version: Lou Shaw from a story by Lois Gibson
From: Chilling
Watch: archive.org

A man traveling to a remote island town to bury his father is tricked into unsealing the tomb of a vampire.

Open on a mad monk giving a soliloquy to, what we learn, is the vampire that’ll start massacring the town later, and a constipated-looking Brit walking through an abandoned church at night with his gun drawn. Why he has a gun or what he fears, I could not tell you, but he’s quickly spooked by a hermit, falls through a hole into a crypt, and is killed by the monk. The monk and hermit then position the body under the sarcophagus in the tomb and knock the legs out so it crushes the man.

The man’s son, Chris, comes to the island to bury his father and is picked up by Peter, the very man who murdered his father. Turns out Chris’ father was an archeologist investigating old cults on the island and Peter was helping him by making connections with the superstitious townspeople. When Peter shows Chris the tomb and the body, Chris decides to have the sarcophagus opened to see what his dad was looking for.

Yada yada, Chris meets Peter’s sister, Mary, who’s the town’s English teacher and they fall in love because it’s 1973 and you have to work nudity in somehow. They open the sarcophagus, Hannah, the vampire queen (not to be confused with Marceline) is revealed, and each night wanders the village killing people. Chris is initially skeptical, but, for some reason changes his mind and seeks to reseal the crypt. Peter has beaten him to it, though, by sabotaging the equipment and preventing Hannah from getting locked in again.

The inevitable showdown arrives: Peter ties Mary up in the crypt as a sacrifice to Hannah promising that they’ll both live forever as Hannah’s servants. Chris arrives, they fight, Peter gets stabbed in the leg and while Chris and Mary are escaping, Hannah eats Chris and then he’s staked by the townspeople. Hannah and Chris end up fighting on a clifftop where she gets set on fire, falls over the cliff, and, still not dead, gets staked. This part was legitimately funny.

In the end, Chris buries his father, leaves the island with Mary, and two little kids, seen earlier in the film being told not to play in the graveyard, go off to a corner to be creepy and it’s implied that Hannah lives on in the little girl.

This is a Spanish/American co-production and when you have two directors and four writers working on two different versions of a film, you’re guaranteed a bit of a mish-mash. This is a film that really wants to be gothic and serious, but comes off as a low-grade Paul Naschy wannabe. It’s just so slow. Peter being a betrayer setting up the whole thing is an interesting element—I won’t say “twist” because the movie doesn’t try to keep it a secret—but it’s never used to much effect. He never seems to be scheming and, when he’s dressed in his robes as a servant of Hannah, he seems like a different character. I wondered if I was confusing two similar-looking characters. That may be a translation issue. Maybe in the Spanish version he’s explicitly possessed and so is actually two personalities.

On top of that, Hannah’s not a villain. She’s the big bad, but gets no lines, has no real presence, and doesn’t come across as the threat. It’s like the movie forgot to have a bad guy—Peter’s too small and achieves his goals to early. Releasing Hannah should be a big third act moment, but it happens relatively early so Hannah has to be the threat. Only she doesn’t talk or engage with anyone. So what’s the point?

Clearly, I was disappointed. Ultimately, nothing about the movie grabbed me even though there are opportunities for riffing. I’m not sure if it’s PD. It looks like it has a valid copyright notice, but may not have been renewed or I may be misreading it. Because I can’t say, I’m not adding an MPEG to archive.org. There are, though, three versions there at present if you want to see it. I’ve linked to the “uncut color” version. Mine, and the other two, are black and white, although they appear to be three minutes longer than the “uncut” version. Mysteries abound, just not in this film.



126. 984: Prisoner of the Future aka The Tomorrow Man(1982)
Director: Tibor Tak√°cs
Writers: Peter Chapman and Stephen Zoller
From: Sci-Fi Invasion

In a dystopian future, a former corporate leader is subjected to psychological torture to force him to admit to crimes against the state.

We open with Tom Weston (not Winston), the titular Prisoner 984 (not 1984), being browbeaten in voiceover and told to confess to his criminal affiliations. Then his robot guards throw him into his cell where he pulls out the secret journal he’s been keeping just outside the view of the guards and

19-984, but not 1984, nope, new thing.
It’s 1984. I mean, they don’t want you to think this is 1984 cause that’d be cheap, awful, and hacky, but it’s 1984. Certainly they’re trying to invoke visions of the dystopian classic by naming the prisoner Weston (not Winston) and “984,” but in their defense, the movie was initially titled The Tomorrow Man. In fact, that’s how it’s listed in the end credits.

And the movie never rises above its heavily-cribbed-from source material. Rather than any broader view of the dystopian society that 1984 offered, this is exclusively Room 101 and the tortures and manipulations that went on there. So 984 is tortured—physically and psychologically—and then taken to speak to the Warden who wants him to confess to some unspecified crime.

We do get occasional flashbacks to the run-up to 984’s confinement and they’re pretty hilarious. At its core, this is a weird little piece of 80’s yuppie propaganda that presents the horrible threat of a liberal being elected and making corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

Yes, this is Wal-Mart’s nightmare vision of a Sanders’ presidency.

The flashbacks reveal Weston’s life before the election: he does vague business on a computer which makes him lots of money, he has an affair with a random woman that climbs into his car, he sneers at the ignorance of the “blue” shirts that support the liberal candidate, and he stays silent as his friend invites him into a conspiracy of other business owners who have obtained suitcase nukes to use in terrorist attacks to disrupt the president.

Remember, the liberals are the Nazi villains here, not the smug businessmen plotting nuclear terrorist attacks if they have to pay taxes.

That’s our hero: a co-conspirator in a nuclear attack on his own country. Suffice it say he doesn’t come across as sympathetic by the end as the producers intend.

So he resists the will of the Warden because Weston is a strong businessman right out of an Ayn Rand novel and can’t be broken by weak liberalism. This goes on for a decade. The one surviving guard finally lets Weston go, but Weston finds he can’t escape the facility. Instead he learns the entire place was built for him and houses a massive computer system that both monitors everything he does and created the voices of the other prisoners he was talking to. It’s like a reverse Truman Show. He returns to his cell, manages to climb to the one window, and finally sees the outside world:

A lifeless post-nuclear landscape created by his friends’ plot. The good guys, remember. The good guys nuked the world the avoid EPA regulations.

He dies while looking out the window at the world he made, laughing in madness and despair. Our hero.

This one is real stupid, and a little fun for that very fact. The conservatism of the film is pretty clear and you can feel that sense of indoctrination at work. The producers really wanted to vilify those who opposed the Reagan/Thatcher regimes and those regimes attendant authoritarianism. Typical politics—accuse your opponent of exactly what you do. While it’s a little dry in terms of content, it’s not completely unwatchable. The director also did The Gate, which I haven’t seen, but have heard good things (RedLetterMedia’s Re:View), so there is some competence at work. And the movie’s so campy, so riffable, because it’s so serious. The liberal gets elected and there’s an immediate fascist crackdown on yuppies which forces them to all become nuclear terrorists. That’s Reefer Madness-level stupid.

The movie’s not PD, but it’s not hard to find either. I can’t give it a full recommend, but there are ways to enjoy it. So get some friends and some beers and see what Paul Ryan’s nightmares look like.

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