Thursday, September 29, 2011

VHS Memories II: Old School Charles Band

For the second edition of VHS Memories, I thought I'd take a look at some old Charles Band films.  Band is a staple of b-movies with several companies (most notably Empire Pictures in the eighties and Full Moon in the nineties) and is one of the most prolific producers working today.  I'll be looking at some of his Empire output as well as some earlier stuff.  Let's begin.


Let's begin with one his first movies, the 1978 cheese fest Laserblast.  A very good cover for as very bad movie.  The best thing I can say about this film is that MST3K did a fine job making it somewhat tolerable.

Here's a funky little number with Richard Moll as an evil being who forces a kid to go through several; challenges in order to save the love of his life.  Probably best known for the line "I reject your reality and substitue my own!" which anyone who is a fan of Mythbusters knows quite well.

Terrorvision is another fun movie from Empire.  It's a dark comedy about a family who beams a horrible creature into their house through a sattellite dish.  It's good harmless fun.

Here's an early appearance from Demi Moore in Band's shot at the 3-D craze in the early 80's.

A better effort is  Tourist Trap, from 1979.  It's a truly bizarre little slasher movie with a nice, eerie tone that is way better than it has any right to be.

Here's a trio of films Band produced for director Tim Kincaid.  They have a few things in common.  All three are some of the first films ever made strictly for home video,  all are low budget schlock fests, and all three absolutely suck.

Bad

Even badder

 
MST3K fodder

We'll end things for now with End of the World,  an early effort from Band made a year before Laserblast.  Christopher Lee headlines as an alien visitor disguised as a priest who has come to take his fellow aliens (mostly disguised as nuns) home before  the world blows up.  It's an agreeably low budget drive-in flick with cheesy effects and a real seventies feel to it, as one would expect from a film made in the late seventies.   It's not what anyone would call a good movie but it's perfectly acceptable MST3K fodder.

Just a note, I found this film on one those great 50 movie packs that generally represent the film buff's answer to the question "Do you have a gambling problem?"

Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria #29

Fangoria #29 September, 1983:  Fulci of Gore!

We skip ahead a few issues to issue 29. A rather big change greets us in the editorial as it would seem Bob Martin stepped away from the magazine as editor, leaving David Everitt in charge of the ship.  Actually, I think it was probably just a well deserved break as he would be back later as a co-editor until around issue #50.

I believe he ended up leaving due to simply being tired of how homogenized the genre was starting to become.

To the issue itself, the cover alone makes things worthwhile as we are greeted by the promise of gore from Gates of Hell, a look at Jaws 3-D, the f/x of Krull (really more sci-fi but that's neither here nor there) and yet another Herschell Gordon Lewis article.  The Scream Greats poster this issue is from An American Werewolf in London.

Notable Notes
  • We kick things off with a bang (or should that be splat?) in our first article, a nice interview with Lucio Fulci about Gates of Hell, also known as City of the Living Dead.  It's one of three really good zombie movies Fulci did during this period, the other two being Zombie and The Beyond.  The interview itself is a relatively brief affair but there's some good stuff in it.
  • We next get part 2 of a set visit to The Dead Zone.  The article is from Bob Martin and as usual, it's very well written with an eye for detail.
  • The semi-obligatory at this point Herschell Gordon Lewis article is up next with an excerpt from a book about the legendary gore master.  I appreciate the enthusiasm for a new discovery but seriously, are we gonna get the man's grocery list next?
  • Griffin Dunne is up next to chat about An American Werewolf in London.  One of the things that always amuses me about fanzines of this period is how long coverage of a movie can be drawn out at times./  For instance, Starlog was still putting out new Return of the Jedi articles in early 1984.
  • Dr. Cyclops is up next with seven new videos.
  1.  The Cat and the Canary (1927): An old adaptation of a stage play concerning an old dark house, old family secrets, your standard hokey old fashioned horror flick.
  2. The Ghoul (1975): Peter Cushing film from the mid-seventies that I've heard is not too bad.
  3. The Brain from Planet Arous (1958): B-classic about a giant alien brain that menaces John Agar and others.  A bad movie classic.
  4. Horror of Party Beach (1964): Another bad movie classic mixing undersea creatures with a beach party.  Basically it's Frankie and Annette meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
  5. Deadly Blessing (1981): Early Wes Craven flick that is supposed to be pretty good.
  6. Squirm (1976): Great b-movies about an invasion of worms in a small southern town.  MST3K did a good job lampooning this one but it's actually pretty fun on its own.
  7. Pit and the Pendulum (1961): A great Roger Corman/Vincent Price collaboration, the second in their Poe cycle for AIP.  Good stuff.
  •  Alex Gordon is up next with part 3 of his look at AIP horror movies.  This issue, he talks about The She-Creature, one of many, many movies put out by the studio that were distinguished only by the great monster costume design by Paul Blaisdell.  Gordon also gets into the Corman classic It Conquered the World, the only movie I know of that had a Venusian carrot invading earth.
  • We get more retro material with looks at the British classic Dead of Night, an interview with schlock producer Sam Sherman and a brief photo piece on Ray Dennis Steckler, another bad movie staple.
  • It's back to current affairs as Jaws 3-D gets some face time as does t he sadly underwhelming Twilight Zone movie.  It's a shame because a show as great as The Twilight Zone really deserves better than what it got.
  • After a nice interview with Fango fave Dick Miller, we get a large book column as it moves from the Monster Invasion section to a spotlight by itself.  Just one book is reviewed but what the hey?
  • We finish things up with a nice interview with f/x artist Nick Maley and the Monster Invasion section.
 Issue 29 is pretty good.  It gets off to a fine start but gets bogged down a bit by a little too much content.  It's all good but after a while it gets to be a bit much.

Coming Soon:  Fangoria #30, Into the Twilight

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria #26

    Fangoria #26 March, 1983: Hunger for Gore

    Issue 26 has a few minor cosmetic changes.  First and foremost is the addition of a pull-out poster in the front cover, an idea Starlog did for a while as well.  In the case of Fangoria, the posters fall under the heading "Scream Greats" and ran from this issue until issue 120, unless I'm mistaken.  First poster is from...The Incredible Melting Man.  Well, it's certainly something to scream about but calling that movie great is a bit of a leap.  Evel Knievel might balk at trying to jump that distance!

    The cover promises good stuff, let's check it out.

    Notable Notes
    •  First off, gotta love the cover though The Hunger is definitely a case of style over substance.  Purple is also an interesting choice for the film strip, the first time outside of issue #3 that it wasn't black.  On a side note, I'm pretty sure that if you were to tally things up from the beginning to about mid-2006, you would find yellow and red to be the dominant color choices for the strip apart from black.  Red I can totally get but yellow?  Oh well, guess it blends well.
    • We kick things off with a Tanya Roberts interview, mainly focusing on her role in The Beastmaster and also touching on her role in the Charles Band production Tourist Trap.  Ir's not the deepest interview you will ever read, but than again we do get some nice shots of Tanya so it balances out.
    • Next up is a look at the f/x of The Hunger, courtesy of an interview with Dick Smith.  It's pretty neat stuff, pity the rest of the film doesn't match the effects work.
    • Continuing along the f/x route (I know, with this magazine it's a shock), we come to the second part of the Bill Munns interview from last issue.  Here, he chats about a rather obscure movie he was working on at the time called Savage Harvest.  I'd love to see it if the lion related f/x are anything to go by.  He also talks a little about Beastmaster, the underrated monster movie The Boogens (if you can track it down, I highly recommend it) and one or two other things.
    • Rounding out the f/x side of things is a piece on low budget f/x maestro Ed French.  It's a nice piece with some pretty gory photos.
    • A rare foray into horror from Cannon is up next as we take a look at the wonderfully cast but sadly underwhelming House of the Long Shadows.  Pairing up Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine, this should have been a fantastic throwback movie.  It is, to an extent, but like many of those old movies it's also creaky as hell and is better in concept than execution.
    • To the retro side of things, we begin with an interview with z-grade auteur Ted V. Mikels.  Ted has done several movies but what he's generally known for apart from the movies is being very eccentric.  This makes for a good interview as the man is full of great stories.
    • More retro follows in the form of a brief note about what would have been Bela Lugosi's 100th birthday, and a short Alex Gordon column that reads more like an editorial on current horror.
    • Next up is the first part of an article on horror in rock and roll and it really pisses me off to no end that I don't have the follow up issue.  On the other hand, the issue is one of the rarest and with the economy these days, blowing a ton of money on one measly back issue isn't the smartest life choice I could make.
    • To the article, it's a nice one from Johnny Legend that starts in 1959 with novelty songs and takes us right up to Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash".
    • Next is Dr. Cyclops with an expanded column.  Now covering the customary two pages, it covers a whopping seven movies.  I'll be covering each movie in the column from now on and will drop in little notes if I've seen the film in question.
    1. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959):  The Hammer version of the Sherlock Holmes adventure, this has Peter Cushing as the titular detective and Christopher Lee as a noble involved in the case.
    2. The Body Snatcher (1945):  A very good Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi team-up with Karloff as...Well, look at the damn title!
    3. I Eat Your Skin (1964):  A film more famous for its title than anything that actually occurs.  I have this on a 50 movie pack I grabbed a few months ago, might check it out at some point.
    4. Dr. Jekyll's Dungeon of Death (1978):  Not sure what this thing is but I'm fairly certain it involves, Dr. Jekyll, a dungeon and some death.  Let's take a look at the review...Ah, dimly lit sets and kung-fu zombies.  Wasn't expecting that one.
    5. I Walked with a Zombie (1943):  Classic Val Lewton production that's a classic of the genre.
    6. Bride of the Monster (1955):  A classic of a different sort, this is one of the all-time great bad movies courtesy of Ed wood.  Sporting a surprisingly good late-era Bela Lugosi performance and Tor Johnson, this is Ed Wood's best movie.
    7. Two Thousand Maniacs (1964):  Gore classic from Herschell Gordon Lewis, this tells the tale of a city of rednecks who really haven't gotten over that whole Civil War thing.  Haven't seen this version but I did see the remake.
    • Back to current stuff, we get an interview with makeup artist John Caglione.  John talks about his background, focusing on the stuff he did for Amityville
    • We finish things off with another Herschell Gordon Lewis piece and one last f/x piece as Doug Beswick does an interview for the magazine.  Beswick covers his career from the highs of Gumby and Videodrome to lows such as Octaman.
    • The Monster Invasion and Books section takes us home and wraps up a thoroughly enjoyable issue.
    Fangoria #26 is another winner

    Coming Soon, Fangoria #29: Fulci of Gore!

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      VHS Memories

      A little change of pace today as I'd like to highlight some great VHS ads I came across online.  I love old advertising from the 70's and 80's, especially old VHS cases.  Here's a little look back at the days of clamshell cases, dusty shelves and the amazingly high MSRP.



      Here's an old ad for a mail-in offer from Media Home Video.   Media distributed a bunch of great films and was one of the earliest VHS producers.  Just a few of the titles released were the first five Nightmare on Elm Street films, some Cannon Pictures releases, Day of the Dead and tons more.

      Vestron also put out an impressive amount of product with some very amusing art coming from Charles Band's Empire Pictures. Here's the jokey ad for Ghoulies, one of the cheesier entries from Band (quite a statement considering his filmography), but an altogether enjoyable b-movie.  As tends to be the case, the angle of a ghoulie in the toilet is only a brief part of the movie.

      Up next is an ad from Embassy, maybe my favorite VHS company.  They put out a ton of great stuff:  Most of Avco/Embassy's library, some wonderfully cheesy action and sci-fi films and many, many more.  I think we'll finish there for now.  Here's a little bit to send you off.


      Sunday, September 11, 2011

      Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria #25

      Fangoria #25 February, 1983: Gore up your television!

      We jump ahead seven issues to early 1983 for our latest issue.  The cover is something of an oddity as the film strip is on the bottom of the cover as opposed to the side.  This shows up on a few other issues from the period and as of issue 293 from last year, it's back.

      To the issue itself, the cover alone promises some good stuff with a Tom Savini interview and info on the new David Cronenberg movie.  Let's take a closer look.

      Notable Notes
      • Before we get into the meat of the issue, I'd like to point out that at this point, Bob Martin was sharing the editorial duties with David Everitt.  Not sure when this started but it obviously happened between issue #18 and this one.  This would mark what I feel is a real maturation process of the magazine as it has now done away with some of the cheesier aspects (Count Fangor), added one or two new wrinkles and firmly established itself as not just a horror magazine but rather the horror magazine.
      • Letters section aside, we jump right into things with a fantastic Tom Savini interview in which he dishes out info on his recent work on Creepshow (top notch stuff that shows he's not just a guy who does great gore effects), his book on makeup effects, a job on a Hong Kong horror/comedy called Scared to Death (no relation to the American one) that I'd love to see and some other projects such as Alone in the Dark which we will get to in a little bit.
      • Next is an interview with schlockmeister Fred Olen Ray.  Ray has directed a ton of b-movies, most of them quite bad.  Frankly the only difference between him and Jim Wynorski is that Wynorski has Roger Corman in his corner.  Ray is here to chat about Scalps, his supernatural slasher that came out in '83.  It's a pretty good piece.
      • Up next is the conclusion to an article series on the f/x work in Poltergeist which is nicely informative as is the interview with author Whitley Streiber that follows.  Streiber talks about the latest film adaptation of his work, The Hunger as well as the previous one, Wolfen.  Having seen both movies, I can say that Wolfen is worth a glance.  The Hunger?  Only if you're a Tony Scott completist.  It has nothing on Beverly Hills Cop II, though whether that's a compliment or an insult is entirely up to you.
      • Alex Gordon's column is up next, a loving tribute to his friend Ed Wood.  Yep, that Ed Wood.  It's a longer piece than usual, running four pages.  Like most articles concerning Wood, it's quite entertaining and amusing.
      • Up next is an editorial from Forrest Ackerman about his leaving Famous Monsters of Filmland.  It is prefaced by an explanation of just that the hell happened to cause him to leave the magazine.  It would have been his farewell editorial if not for executive meddling and it's nice that it got printed in Fangoria.
      •  We now come to Alone in the Dark as writer/director Jack Sholder gives a good interview, detailing Savini's involvement and some other little notes.
      • Next is a nice piece on the Chicago based horror host Son of Svengoolie.  Rich Koz, the man behind the mask gives a nice interview and it really makes me long for the good old days of horror hosts.  Fortunately, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is back on in my area.  Now if we can just get Monstervision with Joe Bog Briggs back!
      • Following a nice piece on Twilight Zone writer Jerome Bixby, we get the cover story, a look at Videodrome courtesy of its director, David Cronenberg.  Dave is his usual self, informative and entertaining and as for the movie, I can say that it's definitely not for all tastes.  In other words, a freakin' David Cronenberg movie!
      • Following this, we get interviews with Darren McGavin of Kolchak: The Night Stalker fame and the first part of an interview with f/x artist Bill Munns.  The Monster Invasion section follows and we end things with the new video review column, The Video Eye of Dr. Cyclops.
      • The Dr. Cyclops section is a favorite of mine, partially because I love seeing the eclectic mix of movies the poor S.O.B. would write about each month and also because I just love old VHS covers.
      • It's a shlocktastic quartet as we get reviews of Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy, Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Wizard of Gore, The Slime People and the Mexican classic The Brainiac.  I'm not sure which issue this column started in but it's one hell of a great way to debut on this blog.
      Fangoria 25 is a typically great mid-eighties issue with top notch writing and photos.

      Coming Soon:  Fangoria #26, Hunger for Gore!

      Thursday, September 8, 2011

      Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria #18

      Fangoria 18 April, 1982: Fango on the Prowl

       We come to issue 18, late spring of 1982 and just before maybe the best summer movie season of the 80's.  On the downside there will be a pretty large gap between this issue and the next one I have but still!

      This month's cover creature is Malcolm McDowell in Cat People, one of the better remakes of a classic horror film.  I think it helps that the filmmakers aimed to make the story their own rather than simply copying what was done previously.

      Notable Notes
      •  After the editorial and letters, we get a strange return of Count Fangor.  Instead of a comic, we get "behind the scenes" photos of an upcoming epic called "Count Fangor meets Hitler".  The shots are basically action stills of a wrestling match between a guy in a Count Fangor mask and cape (I'm guessing an intern) and some poor SOB in a bad Hitler disguise (probably another intern who hopefully was paid very well for this).  I don't know what the deal with this was but I'd guess it was near the end for the Count Fangor concept.  I'd love to know the full story though, anything pushed this damn hard has to have one hell of a story behind it.
      • Moving on, we begin with a return interview with Tom Burman as he discusses his work for Cat People.  It's definitely warranted since the f/x are the main thing the film has to offer in addition to the usual wonderfully bug-eyed mad performance from Malcolm McDowell and the lovely Nastassia Kinski.He also chats a little about The Beast Within, another '82 release he worked on.  It's...Well, it's not as good as Cat People.  Let's leave it at that.
      • I want to call a little attention to the neat ad for upcoming Universal releases for 1982 following the first two pages of the Burman interview..  It's a very nice two page spread with one half listing some great films of the past (the Universal monsters, Jaws, This Island Earth) and the second page given to upcoming releases like E.T., The Thing and The Dark Crystal.  It's a really cool piece of advertising.
      • Actually, I've always loved how Universal sells itself.  From the aforementioned ad to some of the early Universal Studios Florida ads (the music used is simply epic and has stuck in my mind since the first time I heard it) to the little montage found on their early DVDs.  They generally have been very good about putting across a solid package for their product.
      • We next find part one of a Creepshow set visit.  This is one of my favorite George Romero films (second to Dawn of the Dead) and as always, he's a very good interview.  Equally good, if not better is Stephen King who can always be counted on for an interesting interview.  We get a nice little overview of the backstory of the film as well as a few sidebars pieces with actors Viveca Lindfors and Ted Danson.  Good stuff all around.
      • Following that is an interview with producer Paul Pepperman concerning the upcoming Don Coscarelli epic The Beastmaster.  A good piece as usual, I just want to say that this is one of the all-time great sword and sorcery flicks.  It's just fantastic.  A little longer than it really needs to be, but one can say the same about the first Conan film and that's even better!
      • David Everitt is up next with a piece on horror on home video.  This was during the big VHS boom of the 80's and of course, labels were popping up faster than video stores could place orders.  Wizard Video is the main subject and it's a nice, concise piece.
      • We go back a few decades for some retro action with Alex Gordon's column on voodoo in classic horror and an interview with b-movie actress Allison (Attack of the 50 foot Woman) Hayes.  We also get an interview with producer Herman Cohen of I Was a Teenage Werewolf fame.  All three articles are pretty solid pieces though nothing earth shattering.
      • Back to the present, we get a brief piece with makeup artist Kevin Haney, a good interview with comic artist/production designer Mike Ploog, and pieces on John Carpenter's The Thing* and the little known but pretty decent Rest in Peace (released as One Dark Night).
      • We finish up with the Monster Invasion section and so ends a operetta fantastic issue of Fangoria.
      *I'll talk about The Thing in October as we get closer to Halloween.

      Coming Soon:  Fangoria #25, Gore up your TV!

        Friday, September 2, 2011

        Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria #17

        Fangoria 17 February, 1982:  Independent Grue

         
        We finally get a little continuity around here with issue 17, another solid issue that kicks off 1982 quite nicely for Fango.  The main cover is given to  advertising art for the slasher movie Pranks, also known as The Dorm that Dripped Blood.  This is both a nice sign that Fango isn't a slave to the studios and a hint that the early part of the year is generally rather sluggish for the genre.


        Notable Notes
        • After the editorial; and letters section (nothing much to talk about, pretty standard), we kick off with Alex Gordon's column.  This month it's b-movie gorillas.  Pretty much what I would expect from the man: Well written with a personal touch.
        • Onto newer fare, we begin with a chat with Alan Ormsby, writer of the Cat People remake.  Ormsby has an interesting b-movie pedigree with a few collaborations with Bob Clark.  The interview is decent but we'll get into Cat People a little more next issue.
        • The late Sam Fuller puts in an appearance next, talking about his new movie White DogWhite Dog is rather obscure movie that was met with controversy during its brief run.
        • Following that is a chat with Wes Craven just in time for Swamp Thing, one of my favorite movies as a kid.  It's still pretty entertaining today, though the camp factor is strong enough to knock you back a few feet if you're not ready for it.  It's really more of a career overview than anything else but it's still a good piece and Wes drops a little info on his next film, something about dreams and a killer that can infiltrate them.  I know, who the hell would buy that one, huh?
        • Up next is the cover story, previews of three independent horror flicks:  Pranks (Also known as The Dorm that Dripped Blood), The Deadly Spawn and Bloody Pulp.  I've heard of the first two but the third one has yet to show up on my radar.  It's an interesting article though since the films hadn't been released at the time (not sure Bloody Pulp ever made it), it seems a little sparse.
        • Herschell Gordon Lewis makes a return to the magazine as we get a full blown interview with the man.  It's a nicely expansive piece that's well worth the effort.
        • Up next is a rather odd article in the form of a rather long letter sent to the magazine by a member of the Animal Rights Coalition.  Evidently with the spate of werewolf movies out at the time, there were some who were under the impression that it was an accurate portrayal of wolf behavior.  I just...I don't know.  It's not a bad letter and it's certainly well thought out and intelligently written but it just comes across as odd.  Good, but odd nonetheless.
        • Following this interlude is a brief update on Basket Case and an interview with Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal.  We also get a good article on Dark Shadows, the only time soap operas have ever been remotely interesting to an age group not dominated by middle aged housewives.
        • We wrap up the article side of things with an interview with actress Fiona Lewis and the conclusion of the previous issue's Dick Smith Interview.
        • Monster Invasion is up next and notable films mentioned are Creepshow, another bit on Videodrome, blurbs on The Thing and Beastmaster.
         Overall this is a solid if somewhat unexceptional issue.

          About Me

          I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.