Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lucio Fulci Triple Feature!

One of the best Italian horror directors (and to a small extent one of the worst) was Lucio Fulci.  Among the many., many movies he directed, three stand out as absolute classics.  Zombie, Gates of Hell (City of the Living Dead) and The Beyond.

We start off with Zombie, billed in Italy as Zombi 2 in order to make it look like a sequel to Dawn of the Dead (called Zombi in Italy). Ian McCulloch plays Peter, a reporter who tries to help a woman played by Tisa Farrow find her father, a scientist played by Richard Johnson.  Johnson has set himself up on a small island in the Caribbean and for some reason, the dead are beginning to rise.

The setup is simplicity itself with Al Cliver and Auretta Gay as an American couple that helps our heroes.  Fulci creates a wonderful sense of dread mixed with some spectacularly gory set pieces.  T%he two scenes that really stand out are a scene where a zombie slowly pulls a screaming woman into a broken piece of wood eye first, and the infamous zombie vs. shark scene.

The film is a wonderfully silly, gory romp.  Plus, get a load of that tagline!

The second of Fulci's zombie epics takes on more of a serious, apocalyptic tone as the suicide of a priest somehow opens up one of the gates oh hell.  Christopher George and Katherine MacColl are among those trapped in the little New England village of Dunwich, as is Italian b-movie mainstay John Morghen.  Morghen generally plays rather disagreeable characters and while that is a rather mundane commonality to have on one's resume, the rather spectacular demises he tends to meet are something else.  Here, he plays the village sleaze who ends up having his head drilled through.

Of the three, it's probably my third favorite as the pace is a little too lax for its own good.  In spite of this, there are some impressive barf bag moments as brains are pulled out (these zombies love to do that), guts are barfed up and there's a nice fiery climax that ends things least until a rather confusing freeze frame that takes us to the credits.  Happily, Fulci will hit the jackpot next.

The above cover is the cut version of The Beyond.  Fulci's best film, it is a wild vision of apocalyptic horror as only the Italians can do.  The gates of hell are opened once more (these things are way too easy to open, I tell you!), this time it all revolves around the rather gruesome demise of a painter in the early 20's.

Katherine MacColl is back, this time as the new owner of the New Orleans hotel said painter was killed in and gradually, she and a doctor played by David Warbeck are drawn into an increasingly hallucinatory nightmare.  It's a wild, wild ride that's actually rather hard to describe.  It's liker watching a living nightmare unfold.  We get creepy (yet fake) spiders, multiple eye gougings, heads being blasted open, zombies, it's great if you're willing to sacrifice coherency.

Fulci never made anything as good as these three films.  His career before and after these three was hit and miss with more misses than hits.  Still, these three are seminal works in the genre.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria #42

Fangoria #42: The Company of Wolves

We leap again to issue 42, the first of 1985.  '85 was another good year for the genre with some real winners such as Day of the Dead and Fright Night, and some losers like Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.  The issue itself is a jam packed edition.  Let's see how things stack up.
  • We hit the ground running with an interview with Stephen King and Peter Straub concerning their novel The Talisman.  As one would expect, it's a good piece and the only gripe I have is that I don't have issue 43 which contains the conclusion to the interview.
  • Speaking of conclusions, up next is the second part of an interview with Christopher Lee.  As one would expect, Lee is full of great stories and has no problem whatsoever spilling his to speak.
  • The collection gap problem strikes again as we get the first part of a retrospective on Italian horror master Mario Bava.  I'm rather ashamed to say, as a horror fan, that I've only recently started to get into his work.  The article is good, as one would expect from Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog fame.
  • Dr. Cyclops is up next with another six features.
  1.  Sisters (1973): Pretty decent Brian DePalma shocker starring Margot Kidder as twins, one of whom is slightly less mentally stable than one would generally prefer.
  2. Devil Doll (1964): British psychological thriller that has the old killer ventriloquist dummy routine.  Roasted to perfection by MST3K during season 8.
  3. Spider Baby (1965): Classic dark horror comedy from Corman vet Jack Hill that stars Lon Chaney Jr. and Sid Haig in a tale of a demented family.
  4. The Philadelphia Experiment (1984): Decent sci-fi thriller about WWII and time travel.
  5. East Side Kids/The Lost City: Double feature of two b-movies, neither of which sound all that god.
  6. Before I Hang (1940): Another 40's Boris Karloff movie that, like so many of his films, is worth seeing only for Karloff.
  • Chris Tucker is back (don't worry, it;'s the f/x guy) to talk about his really great work on The Company of Wolves, Neil Jordan's arty werewolf movie.   It's worth seeing for the f/x alone.
  • Brian DePalma is up next, talking his new movie Body Double as well as his past work.  It's a good piece that allows the often controversial director to explain himself.
  • Low budget f/x are back as we get another interview with John Carl Buechler.  This time, he talks the upcoming Empire productions Troll and Ghoulies as well as his directing aspirations.  He's always a good interview ans this time is no disappointment.
  • Alex Gordon is up next with a piece on the rather cheesy remake of She that came out around this time and it's followed by a piece on the Larry Cohen oddity The Stuff.  I've written about the movie elsewhere on the blog and this article does a good job of previewing it.
  • We next get a look at the works of Grade Z auteur Ray Dennis Steckler.  I've only seen one of his movies (The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies) and I can safely say watching it was akin to seeing someone have a total mental breakdown while tripping on acid.  It's a nice overview of a very strange filmmaker.
  • A look at the business side of things is up next with a piece on film distributor Alexander Beck.  I love when Fango does this sort of thing as it lets the reader see there is more to horror cinema than simply setting your camera up, telling an actress to lose the shirt and tossing some fake blood at her.  They've done a few other pieces like this and never fail to deliver quality.
  • Sandwiched in between the book column and Nightmare Invasion section is the last article of the issue, a nice preview of the fantastic debut for the Coen Brothers, Blood Simple.  It goes without saying the article is good, and I recommend anyone who loves films should see the movie.
Issue 42 is a real winner with good stuff all the way through.

Coming soon Fangoria #44: Jason is back!...Sort of

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Fangoria Flashbacks: Issue #38

    Fangoria #38 October, 1984: Gore in '84

    We regretfully skip over most of 1984 (most of those issues are out of prints and horribly expensive) and go to October of that year.  1984 was a pretty great year for horror with Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Gremlins and a bunch of others making it a good year for horror fans.
    • We begin with a moderately big cosmetic change as the film strip on the front cover now goes from the bottom of the left side all the way to the top.  It will stay this way until 2009.
    •  The silly Midnight Writer thing is over and Bob Martin (billed as R.H. Martin) is sharing editorial duties with David Everitt.  Martin contributes a rather good editorial on horror movies influencing real life crimes, basically saying it's bull.
    • We begin with an interview with Australian Director Richard Franklin of Psycho II and Road Games fame.  Here, he talks about Cloak and Dagger, his 1984 movie with Dabney Coleman that I remember being a perfectly acceptable thriller.  It's a nice piece that also gets into some of Franklin's earlier movies.
    • Up next is an interview with Roger Corman alumni Jonathan Haze.  Haze is probably best known for Little Shop of Horrors and he gives an amusingly candid interview.
    • Still on the b-side of things, we get an early appearance from Dr. Cyclops via a review of a few Richard Cunha films out on video: Frankenstein's Daughter and She-Demons.  I'd love to have some of the gaps in my collection filled so I could see if this was a regular thing in '84.
    • The Friday the 13th portion of the issue is up next with a tribute to Jason in lieu of his apparent 'final demise' in the fourth film.  It's a fairly silly analytical piece that I have to assume was intended to be humorous.  Otherwise it means that the staff at Fango was taking a simple slasher movie franchise way too seriously and that just makes my brain hurt.
    • Alex Gordon is up next, talking about some more recent entries in the genre.  And by recent, I mean '70s.
    • A preview of a new slasher called Fall Break is up next (later released as The Mutilator) and the only real noteworthy thing about this movie is the poster which had the great tagline "By pick, By axe, Bye bye!"  Yep, not even the ultra-gory f/x are worth talking about, impressive as they are.
    • The main Dr. Cyclops column is up next and we get six reviews.
    1. Of Unknown Origin (1983):  This is one I've always wanted to see.  Peter Weller vs. a giant rat, directed by the same guy who did Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra?  Count me in!
    2. Grave of the Vampire (1972): Low budget vampire movie that sounds rather bizarre.
    3. High School Confidential: 50's teen movie.  No idea why it's being reviewed here.
    4. Night of the Howling Beast (1975): Another Paul Naschy werewolf movie.  This time, it's werewolf vs. yeti in Tibet.  I'm sold!
    5. Tales of Terror (1962): A nice Corman anthology starring Vincent Price in three Poe-influenced stories.  The middle section is the best with Price in rare form and Peter Lorre giving a very funny performance.
    6. Horror Express (1972): A fantastic Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing team-up that I will discuss in detail later.
    • Pieces on The Philadelphia Experiment and The Hills Have Eyes Part 2  follow with the Hills article being better as we get another nice Wes Craven interview.  Say what you will about the man's track record but he definitely is a good interview.
    • Two Gremlins articles are up next with a Joe Dante interview and a piece on the Chris Walas f/x.  This is followed by a quick piece on Troma slasher Splatter University and after that is the Nightmare Library column.  The book of the month is a James Herbert book titled Shrine.  Sounds like a pretty good read.
    • Things wind up with a nice long article (part 2) on f/x artist Stuart ( Star Wars, Planet of the Apes) Freeborn, an interview with Robot Monster writer/director Wyott Ordung and the Monster Invasion section.
    Issue #38 is a brisk, solid issue with some good articles (silly Jason analysis aside)  and a nice balance between old and new.

    Coming Soon Fangoria #42: The Company of Wolves

      Monday, October 24, 2011

      VHS Memories V: Bronson is on the loose!

      One of the great movie tough guys was Charles Bronson.  Active in film for nearly fifty years, he amassed a ton of kick-ass movies...and some that were not so great.  Here's a cross-section of the good, the not so good, and the crappy.

      Here's a neat little gem from 1977 as Chuck plays Wild Will Hickock who teams with a Native American to hunt down a mythical, gigantic white buffalo.  One of Bronson's many collaborations with director J. Lee Thompson, it is an interesting, entertaining western.

      Bronson's last film for Cannon, this is a rather dull thriller in which he plays a journalist investigating murders in a small rural community.  A shockingly dull thriller, Bronson is more wooden than normal and at times seems to just not give a damn.  Can't say I blame him.

      Better is this 1987 outing, a refreshing change of pace from the bog standard vigilante films Bronson was stuck doing at the time.  Here, he's a secret service agent protecting the First Lady, played by then-wife and frequent co-star Jill Ireland.  It's a fun romp though, like many Cannon films of the time, it gets a little dull and has a bad ending.  Still, it's worth checking out.

      This formula cop movie gets bogged down in a meandering plot with annoying characters and a lack of good action.  Bronson phones it in and once again, I can't say I blame him.

      Now for the last three Death Wish movies.  The first one is a gritty classic and the second is one of the sleaziest, most unpleasant cinematic experiences I have ever had the misfortune to have.  Granted, once you get past the first twenty minutes it's not that bad but who wants to watch a movie that way?

      The most entertaining Death Wish sequel, this eschews the gritty downbeat mood of the first two in favor of an over the top comic book style with some bits of nastiness here and there.  It's a brisk, silly and tasteless 91 minutes that is bad it's hysterically funny.

      I recapped this one for The Agony Booth and for some reason, it's my favorite of the sequels.  It's more fun than the second and third movies which tended to get a little too nasty and it also benefits from a hilarious turn from John P. Ryan.  It's not as funny a role as his part in Avenging Force but he's always fun to watch.  It's a fun romp that is one of the better late-era Cannon films.

      The final installment in the series is pretty good, though Bronson is quite noticeably tired of the whole thing by this point.  It benefits from some nice kills and a good performance from Michael Parks as the bad guy.  Overall, it's a solid entry in the series and a nice finale.

      This is a solid thriller with Bronson as a Russian agent out to stop a deranged Donald Pleasence.  Pleasence plans to activate several Russian sleeper agents in order to undermine security and it all ends up being a taught, tense ride that is well-directed by Don Siegel.  The best way to get this is to grab the DVD, you will not only get that but the superb St. Ives which I reviewed on this blog last year.

      We end things this neat thriller, written by Elmore Leonard, my favorite author.  Bronson plays a watermelon farmer who runs afoul of a rather unhinged gangster and has to fight for his life.  It's classic Bronson, classic Elmore Leonard and overall one fantastic gem of seventies action.

      That about wraps things up.  Until next time...

      Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria #31

      Fangoria 31 December, 1983: 3-D in Hell!

      We close out a rather underwhelming 1983 with another solid but unexceptional issue.

      Notable Notes
      • The editorial continues the bizarre wrestling tribute as Bob Martin is still posing as The Midnight Writer.  I have no idea what the thinking was behind this.  It's just strange.
      • We jump right into the thick of things with the cover story, a nice piece on the f/x of Amityville 3-D.  Coming on the tail end of the 80's 3-D craze, this is one of the better Amityville sequels...Which isn't saying much considering the others are by and large awful and the original isn't too hot either.
      • To the article itself, it's another interview with John Caglione who gives the usual quality interview we generally get from f/x guys.  That's one of the benefits of focusing on an area of film not generally given much attention.  The guys involved are really garrulous!
      • We go for a little retro fix with an interview with director Don Sharp.  Sharp directed a bunch of British horror films such as as Kiss of the Vampire as well as slightly more mainstream titles like Rasputin: The Mad Monk.  It's not quite as long a piece as I would prefer but what we get is good.
      • Up next is an interview with novelist and screenwriter Richard Matheson.  While Matheson did a ton of scripts for Roger Corman in the 60's (which we will get to soon), here he mainly focuses on his screenplays for Twilight Zone and Jaws 3-D.  Yep, he did the script for a crappy Jaws sequel, proving that even geniuses need to eat.
      • It's a nicely expansive piece as Matheson is quite chatty.  Hell, it almost makes me want to watch Jaws 3-D again...Almost.
      • More new stuff is on tap mas Scott Glenn talks about his new movie The Keep as well as his career in general.  Probably a good thing as The Keep is a prime example of a movie based on a book that doesn't even come close to matching what the book is able to do.  It's very nice to look at but also very muddled and disappointing.
      • After a brief piece on the mechanical effects in The Exorcist, we get part one of an index for the magazine that covers all the issues up to that point..  This concept has popped up every now and then but has never really caught on.  It's nice as a reference tool but to be honest, it really just takes up valuable publishing real estate.
      • Alex Gordon is next with another piece on AIP horror.  It's his usual piece, well done and informative.
      • Next is the Dr. Cyclops column with seven new releases on video.
      1. Frightmare (1982): A rather muddled horror movie about an aging horror star that is half amusing horror comedy and half typical gory slaughter fest.
      2. The Creeping Terror (1963): One of the all-time bad movies.  Featuring endless narration, a goofy monster that appears to be mainly carpet and wheels and pretty much nothing else.  The MST3K episode featuring this is pretty good too.
      3. Boogeyman II (1983): Confusing sequel to a crappy slasher movie from a crappy director.  nothing more need be said.
      4. Cat-Women of the Moon (1954): Another entry in the 50's cycle of "battle of the sexes in space" movies.  Like most films like this, it stinks quite profusely.
      5. Hollywood Boulevard (1976): Joe Dante's first movie.
      6. The Hills Have Eyes (1977): One of Wes Craven's best movies.
      7. Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome/Spooks Run Wild: A double feature of '40's movies.  First off is a Dick Tracy adventure with Boris Karloff as the villain.  It's followed by a Bela Lugosi film.
      •  We now get an interview with schlock director Richard Cunha.  Cunha directed a bunch of b-movies in the fifties and he gives a nice, detailed interview.
      • Up next is the final part of Bob Martin's Dead Zone coverage, followed by a little piece on a horror house in Connecticut.  These are followed by a piece on horror host Count Gregore, the book review column and a brief piece on Spanish slasher movies Pieces.
      • Dr. Cyclops makes a return with a special review of Basket Case and after the Nightmare Invasion section, the issue comes to a close.
       Issue #31 is decent enough but there are a few too many articles and not enough substance.

      Coming Soon  Fangoria #38: Gore in '84!

        Sunday, October 23, 2011

        Road Games (1981)

        Here's another favorite of mine. Road Games is an Australian thriller in the vein of Hitchcock and is directed by Richard Franklin who also gave us the surprisingly good Psycho II.  Stacy Keach plays Pat Quid, an independent freelance trucker who spends most of his time driving the long, desolate stretches of highway that line Australia while carrying on running monologues with the other drivers and his pet dingo.

        Being the curious sort, he gets drawn into trouble when he begins looking into a strange man who has apparently been dumping body parts.  The tension is built up very nicely as he develops a rapport with Hitch (Jamie Lee Curtis in a glorified cameo) and ends up having to save her from the killer.

        I say this with all sincerity, Road Games is one of the best thrillers I have ever seen, if not one of the best movies I've ever seen period.  I first discovered this gem in high school, naturally the rather lurid cover got my attention (though it was an Embassy Home video box and not the Charter one shown above) but there's far more to the movie than a nice box cover.

        Franklin is a master of suspense and he uses the landscape perfectly, putting you right on the road with Keach.  Keach is also great, turning in a fine performance, especially when you consider he spends a good deal of the film's 100 minute running time essentially acting all by himself.

        Jamie Lee Curtis isn't in much of the movie, she really is there for name value but she does turn in her usual charming performance, making you give a crap about what happens to her...if indeed anything has.  Road Games is a fantastic ride.  If you can find it, grab it.

        Tuesday, October 11, 2011

        Special 50th Post: Cannon Chaos!

        For post #50, I thought I'd do a brief overview of some of my favorites from Cannon Films plus our main event, the best Cannon movie not available here in the U.S..

        We begin with an underrated gem of a movie from Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame.  Lifeforce is a pulpy cheese-fest starring a wonderfully unhinged Steve Railsback as an astronaut who encounters a bunch of space vampires, led by the nearly constantly nude Mathilda May who end up leveling London.  It's a boisterously loud movie with a ton of energy and while the plot isn't exactly the most lucid thing ever written, it;'s certainly worth watching.  It was cut down from 127 minutes to about 100 prior to release but the version you can find these days runs 116 minutes and is one hell of a fun ride providing you like schlocky horror/sci-fi hybrids that aren't especially worried if they're making sense or not.

        One of Cannon's best as well as one of Chuck Norris' best, I covered this a few years ago for The Agony Booth, check it out.

        I covered this on The Agony Booth as well as the sequel right here on the blog.  It's one of the most gloriously bad movies I have ever seen, right up there with Howling II.

        Another Agony Booth subject, this is possibly my favorite ninja movie outside of American Ninja 2 (which I will cover a little more later).  This is over the top, sleazy cheese at its finest.

        And now, for the main event.

        To finish things off, let's talk a little about one of the best Cannon films not available stateside.  Avenging Force is, unless I am mistaken, meant to be a sequel to Invasion U.S.A.  Michael Dudikoff plays Matt Hunter (Chuck's character in the former) who ends up trying to protect his friend, politician Steve James, and said politician's family from a group of insane white supremacists led by Glastonbury, played by giant ham, and sadly departed, John P. Ryan.

        Ryan was one of those actors who could give a subdued and layered oerformance, but it's so much more fun to see him cut loose and overact.  Let me tell you, he does this like few others I have ever seen.  Baring his teeth, snarling, whooping like a nut, shouting madly, the man hams it up in a way that is simply awe inspiring.

        In addition to being racists, the bad guys also like to hunt people for sport in the swamps near their hideout so of course we get a little Most Dangerous Game thrown in along with the usual action.  I love this mopvie beyond words.  Itr's simply insane in how over the top it is.

        Generally, you would expect the Steve James character to lose maybe a family member before joining up with Hunter to kick butt in the final showdown.  Here?  Not really.  First off, one of the man's three kids is killed in the beginning sending him on the requisite butt-kicking outings with Dudikoff.  About an hour later, the other two kids along with with his wife go down and then, he goes down!

        I swear, this is a movie that just does not give a damn about character conventions!

        James is his usual; cool self and I've already spoken about Ryan which leads us to our hero for the day.  Michael Dudikoff does pretty well, though his emotional range is somewhere between Chuck Norris and Dolph Lundgren.

        Happily, this isn't a movie where you really need to act as we get loads of action and stacks of inventive killings throughout.  If there is a downside to the film (apart from Steve James dying), it would be the rather odd open ending the movie goes with.  Clearly they wanted a franchise out of this thing but for whatever reason, it never happened.

        Avenging Force is, sadly, unavailable on Region 1 DVD.  You can get is in Region 2 but unless you have the right equipment or want to splurge for the VHS, you're sort of screwed.  I'd love for this to score a stateside release, it's truly one of the best 80's action flicks and one of Cannon's finest.

        Monday, October 10, 2011

        VHS Memories IV: Post Apocalyptic!

        As one might guess from some of my other posts, I have a deep and abiding love for cheesy post-apocalyptic action movies.  Sure, you can go straight for the quality stuff and watch The Road Warrior, but there's so much to see if you really dig deep!

        Now I haven't actually seen this one but the box alone makes it a...Well, it makes it a crap shoot, really.

        This is one I've wanted to see for a while.  It's got George Eastman and genre fave Al Cliver who we'll see more of soon.

        Here's the alternate title for Battletruck which I reviewed here earlier in the year.

        This is a post-apocalyptic flick from b-movie legend  Cirio Santiago.  Santiago made a ton of movies, most of which I really, really want to see.

        MST3K fans will know this better as Escape 2000.

        Another one with Al Cliver in it.  Great box art too.

        I did a big piece on this for The Agony Booth a few months ago which you can find right here.

        I love this cheesy little flick from Australia. It's one of those bad movies that's just too entertaining to truly hate.  Plus you get Steve Railsback and some really nice gore f/x.  Not to be confuses with the Escape 2000 mentioned above, this was originally called Turkey Shoot.

        And we finish off with the other Big Daddy of the genre.  This is one of my favorite John Carpenter films.  He gets just about everything perfect with great work from the cast, good music and some very inventive ways of hiding the low budget.  This is one hell of a movie.

        Sunday, October 9, 2011

        Fangoria Flashbacks: Fangoria #30

        Fangoria #30 October, 1983-Into the Twilight

        Fangoria #30 continues the mild slump of 1983 with a solid but unexceptional edition.  Not sure what the deal was, maybe it's just that '83 was a better year for science fiction since Starlog was pretty much wall-to-wall quality that year.

        Notable Notes
        • Things get off to an odd start as Bob Martin returns...sort of.  I would guess someone with the mag was a fan of pro wrestling (Dusty Rhodes to be precise) since Martin makes his return under a mask as "The Midnight Writer".  Not sure what the point was but it's just eccentric enough to get a chuckle from me.
        • We jump right into things with a Joe Dante interview concerning his Twilight Zone segment.  Easily the best part of the film, (though I sort of dig John Lithgow hamming it up in the last one), it's classic Dante with lots of nods to 50's genre films and a darkly comedic tone.  It's a good piece, as one would expect.
        • We delve into the world of classic British horror again with an interview with director and cinematographer Freddie Francis.  Francis has a ton of films to his credit, my favorite being The Creeping Flesh which is one of the best Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee team-ups.  Francis is a great interview (as most of the older guys tend to be) and he delves deeply into his career.  This is one of the highlights of the issue, the other one will be later.
        • Next up is more current stuff as we get an interview with f/x artist Mike McCracken, and a chat with Lewis Teague about Cujo.  Both are solid pieces.
        • It's more retro horror host mania as we next get a piece from Maila Nurmi, otherwise known as Vampira.  Vampira was a horror hostess in the fifties and a precursor to Elvira.  Ms. Nurmi writes a solid background piece on herself giving good details and writing with a frank openness regarding the current Elvira character that is always good to see from an autobiographical piece, even if it does come off slightly bitter.  There's also a sidebar with a mild rebuttal from the Elvira producers.
        • Alex Gordon is up next with part IV of his look at A.I.P.  As before, it's a solid overview of a really classic b-movie production studio.
        • More horror from the UK as we get an interview with author James Herbert.  It's a nice piece and I always enjoy seeing authors other than Stephen King get some face time.  This is something Fangoria has always been good about.
        • John Carpenter is up next with a brief article on the release of the Halloween soundtrack and after that, we get the true highlight of the issue: A nice interview with Vincent Price.  As always, the man has more stories than you could ever hope for and isn't shy about rattling them off.  Here, he chats a bit about his current projects including House of the Long Shadows as well as some other projects.
        • Time for Dr. Cyclops and seven more terror-ific video releases!
        1. The Sinister Urge (1961): Late-era Ed Wood (as in post-Bela Lugosi) crime drama that sounds just as wonderfully bad and silly as the rest of the man's work.
        2. Blood on Satan's Claw (1971): A British supernatural thriller that I've heard is fairly decent.
        3. Frogs (1972): An entry in seventies run of killer animals on the loose films as Ray Milland and Sam Elliot are menaced by all sorts of swamp life.  It's mainly reptiles and insects on the rampage, making the title a bit of a tease.
        4. Dark Star (1974): John Carpenter's first movie, an outer space comedy I still need to see.  This was written by Dan O'Bannon who would take one or two elements from this movie and turn them into Alien.
        5. The Living Head (1961): A follow-up to the wonderfully insane The Brainiac, this sounds like a step up in quality but a step down in i1972): As I said earlier, this is one of the better Cushing/Lee films.  It's a fantastic bit of Gothic horror with Cushing turning in a really strong performance as a misguided scientist (aren't they all in this sort of movie?) and Lee doing his usual strong job as Cushing's asshole brother.  It's really an underrated gem of a movie.
        6. Bedlam (1946): We wrap things up with this Boris Karloff chiller about an insane asylum.  Sounds pretty decent to me.
        • Coming down the home stretch, we get an interview with Doug White about the f/x of Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, another Charles Band release that was his second shot at the 3-D market.  The movie is really only notable for the 3-D aspect and for having one hell of a cheat in the title as at no point does Mr. Syn get destroyed.  On the upside, it does have Richard Moll in a role which is always nice to see.
        • Screenwriter Tom Holland is up next to chat about his scripts for Psycho II and The Beast Within (also the subject of the Scream Greats poster which is as close as that film will ever get to being called great) and I must say that as a fellow writer, I am biased towards screenwriter interviews.  In light of that, I'll just say this one is excellent and move on.
        • The Nightmare Library returns with a review of Stephen King's Christine.  Good book, good review.
        • Last up is another Twilight Zone article, this time it's an interview with makeup artist Craig Reardon
        • The Monster Invasion section takes us home and another issue ends.
        Issue #30 is, like the one before it, a solid issue with some good stuff.  There's a little bit of strangeness here and there but overall, nothing wrong here.

        Coming Soon: Fangoria #31, 3-D in Hell!

        Thursday, October 6, 2011

        2019: After the Fall of New York (1984)

        It's back to Italy for more early 80's cheesy goodness.  This time, our subject is an off the wall blending of Escape From New York with some Road Warrior thrown in for flavor.  It's 2019 and the world has been decimated by nuclear war.  On top of that, there is only one fertile woman left on earth which means...Well, it means there are probably a lot more horny guys at the singles bars than usual.  A lone hero is enlisted to find her and deliver to safety with the usual array of colorful characters both helping and opposing him.

        Michael Sopkiw is our hero for the day, the standard loner we get in this sort of movie.  This time, his name is Parsifal and he ends up teaming up with a few random characters who serve mainly as cannon fodder but a few do stand out, mainly Big Ape (George Eastman), a huge pirate with a rather simian appearance.  Eastman is great as usual, exuding his usual blend of charm and menace.

        There really isn't much to talk about plot wise as it's pretty much wall to wall action and violence with some impressively gory footage here and there.

        Director Sergio Martino does a fine job lensing things and happily, he knows exactly what sort of movie this is and doesn't waste our time with a "message".  There's some good car chase stuff with the usual insane Italian stuntmen saying "Safety measures, hah!", a bit of humor here and there plus some oddness to go along with the cheap models and cheese.

        After the Fall of New York is a fantastic piece of 80's cheese.  Not too long (95 minutes is about the most a film like this should run so this is just at the limit) and full of action, it's one of the better Italian action films and a definite must-see.

        Raw Deal (1986)

        By 1986, Arnold Schwarzenegger was quickly becoming the biggest action star of all time.  He had two back to back hits in Terminator and Commando and as a follow up he re-teamed with Dino DeLaurentis with whom he had done the Conan films and Red Sonja.  The end result is Raw Deal and while it has some good moments it remains a pale shadow of Commando.

        Arnie plays John Kaminsky, a former FBI agent turned small town sheriff who is enlisted to take down a Chicago crime syndicate by his old boss played by Darren McGavin of Night Stalker fame.  John goes up against Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker) and his goons led by Rocca (Paul Shenar) and Max (Robert Davi) and the end result is...well, sort of adequate.

        The big problem with the movie is that it clearly, desperately wants to be just as cool as Commando was and as anyone who has seen it can tell you, that just is never going to happen.  There's a fair amount of action that is well directed, especially the last act when John gets pissed off enough to drop the undercover routine and just shoot the hell out of every bad guy he runs into, but the rest of the film seems oddly muted for some reason.  The horribly sappy ending that feels grafted on from one of those inspirational dramas about triumphing over adversity hurts the film as well.

        Not helping matters is the fact that some damn fool thought it would be a great idea to give Arnold, whose grasp of English is not so great even today, a ton of dialogue.  This leads to many unintentionally hilarious moments.  There are far too many to mention all of them but let's just say that the person who thought Arnold should say the phrase "molested, murdered and mutilated" was either an incurable smart ass or a true sadist of the highest order.

        Arnold also fares rather poorly when matched up with the female lead, a rather pointless mob girlfriend character played by Kathryn Harrold.  She's basically there so Arnold can have someone to talk to which of course leads to the above problem I mentioned.

        There are good aspects, however.  As I said, the climax (right until the last scene) is well done and I just have to smile every time I see Arnold slam a Rolling Stones cassette into his tape player just so "Satisfaction" is blasting for the first part of his assault on the bad guys.  Wanamaker is good and Davi is his usual entertaining self and Steven Hill is decent as a rival gangster.

        Despite all that, it's a decent enough time waster, a good rainy day movie.  When all is said and done, the cast (apart from Arnold) is quite good in terms of talent and the action scenes have some good energy but what success the film does have is mainly based on how low your standards are.

        Tuesday, October 4, 2011

        VHS Memories III: Never saw the movie but gosh that's a cool cover!

        Note:  For some reason, the images in this post vanished mysteriously.  Here's a cut down version of it.

        Naturally, there are always movies that look great only because the distributor managed to put together a good looking poster/cover.  Here's a batch of films that I haven't seen but just based on the cover, there's a good chance I would have rented it...and later returned it while stifling the urge to punch out the clerk.

        Here's a classic one to start with.  This is a really cheesy slasher flick from the early 80's.  From what I've read, the tagline on the video box is the best part of the movie.

        Always wanted to see this one, from what I hear it's actually not that awful.

        Good box art and from what I hear, skin-peelingly bad movie.

        Another Charles Band production I really want to see.  I hear it's a pretty decent twist on the WWII film.  Aliens vs. Nazis?  Why the hell is this not on DVD yet?

        This is actually a slight cheat on my part as I did catch the last few minutes of this on a UHF station a few years back.  Yep, caught it just as the crummy cop-out freeze frame ending came up.  Still, nice cover and I hear the rest isn't too horrible.  Saw it at Blockbuster a few times but never went for it...Mainly because I couldn't find anything really good to go along with it.

        Here's an interesting case:  This is the re-cut version of an Italian Island of Dr. Moreau riff called Island of the Fishmen with gore f/x from Chris Walas.  And yes, the box is the best thing about the movie.

        We'll wrap things up with two classic boxes.  First off is the sci-fi horror film Future-Kill which not only reunites two cast members from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but also has one of the coolest covers in video history.  Sure the film isn't good but still!

        And to end things, here's the great box for Dead Pit.  Folks will probably remember this for the box which had a great gimmick, the zombie's eyes light up when you press it.  Bonus:  The film is supposed to be pretty decent as well!

        About Me

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