Friday, February 24, 2012

VHS Memories XXIII: Random Acts of Nostalgia

The title says it all, let the randomness begin!

This is a quite awful Roger Corman flick that was shot or the simple reason that Corman still had time to use the sets from The Raven (a rather excellent movie, by the way) and being the industrious (cheap is too harsh) guy he is, he cobbled together this lame piece with Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson.  Being public domain, you can probably find it on any number of discount sets.

I don't really need to sell you on the next two, the covers alone are more than enough...Plus I truly have nothing new to add to the Evil Dead films.

This is a solid anthology film, based on the old EC Comics of the same name.  While Peter Cushing is fantastic, I have to say I prefer the HBO series as well as its cinematic spin offs.

Peter Jackson's debut feature is also, outside of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Dead Alive, his best movie.  Fast paced, gory as hell and immensely entertaining, it still holds up today.

What happens when you take Charlie's Angels and make it even more cheap and cheesy?  Well, you end up with this limp attempt at entertainment directed by Greydon Clark.  Even MST3K couldn't make this worth while and it shows in the episode this appears in.  I generally consider it to be a bad episode when the host segments are better than the movie riffing.

Ah, one of the great films I fell in love with as a kid and still love to this day.  I don't really need to get too into things as pretty much every person who would give a damn about it has seen it but if you haven't, I heartily recommend it.  It's a bit on the long side (not sure there is ever a need for a two hour sword and sorcery movie) but it's worth every minute.

Forgot to include this in my Stephen King post but in all honesty, the movie is bad enough I really forgot all about it.  It's based on a novel King wrote using his Richard Bachman pseudonym and while the f/x by Greg Cannom are good, the rest of the film put it charitably, not.

This is a true classic of the genre, a wild and wacky romp that is both a tribute to all those cheesy 50's alien invasion movies...and at the same time, a cheesy alien invasion movie.  The Chiodos put together fantastic f/x along with a fun script to make for one of the few horror comedies that actually works.

I actually sort of like this middling sequel though it doesn't even come close to the original.  The f/x are great, Julian Beck is wonderfully creepy as the bad guy Reverend Kane and the screenplay has some interesting ideas (gotta love how the titular Other Side is portrayed) but overall it just feels too rushed.  It's not often I say a bad movie would have been better served with another ten minutes or so but the lean 90 minute running time really cripples the script and what the filmmakers were going for.  If nothing else, it's better than the third movie.

To wrap things up, we'll take a look at this campy British horror film from 1973.  Michael Gough stars as Dr. Storm, a mad scientist doing some sort of brain experiments on young people
 in order...Actually, I'm not really sure why the hell he's doing this but in the end, it really doesn't matter since the emphasis in on camp and gore.  It's not really a good movie but it's certainly fun if you;re in the right mood for it.

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1986

Fangoria Flashbacks: 1986

We're going with a change of pace for the series as I'm finding doing each issue one at a time is getting rather repetitious.  Therefore, from here on we'll be going year by year with me covering the entire year of issues (or as many from said year as I possess) and giving some brief notes (at least when I have something to say).

With that in mind, let the mayhem begin!

1986 gets off to a great start with issue #50, a special issue featuring a stack of great articles and the first appearance (the first of many over the next four years or so) of Freddy Krueger.
  •  First off is a big change as Bob Martin has left by this point.  Not sure which issue was his last but his departure is certainly a big loss for the magazine as he really steered it on the right course in its early days.  David Everitt is the sole editor at this point (this is also his last issue as Dave McDonnell of Starlog takes over for the rest of the year and a little of 1987) but the associate editor is a man who will very shortly take over the reigns, Anthony Timpone (but that's a story for another day).
  • As usual, the interviews are top notch, featuring chats with Clu Gulager, Angelo Rossitto and the great Beverly Garland.  The only gripe I can find is with the Phil Leakey interview.  Phil did the makeup for some of the early Hammer Horror films and to be frank, he comes off as a bit of an ass.  He openly admits to hating horror which is fine but he doesn't seem to regard his work too highly which is unfortunate, especially when it affects the way the comes across in the interview.  Well written piece though, and kudos to Fango for publishing it as is.
  • Dr. Cyclops has a nice selection of reviews this month with the highlights being reviews of the exploitation classic Savage Streets starring Linda Blair and the Coen Brother's debut, Blood Simple.
  • Other good articles are an interview with one of the screenwriters of Re-Animator, the writer of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and a preview of Underworld (also known as Transmutations), the first adaptation of a Clive Barker story.
    Fangoria #51 kicks off with a new editor in Dave McDonnell and a slight change to the logo as now there is an  amusing image from one of the films covered in the "O".  This month it's from the film out cover ghoul appears in, the entertaining cheese ball horror/comedy House.
    •  The overall feel of the magazine for the next twenty years or so is finally locked into place with this issue as the Monster Invasion section has been moved up right after the letters section.  I really dig this change as it serves as nice appetizer for the reader before getting into the articles.  Making things even better is the format as they now highlight two or three movies coming soon (mainly Evil Dead 2 in this case) and the rest goes into a small sidebar called The Terror Teletype.
    • Article highlights are a nice interview with actress Mary Woronov, an enjoyable interview with Steve Miner about House and his work on the Friday the 13th movies (he directed 2 and 3), a solid piece on the Return of the Living Dead f/x and a fantastic interview with Clive Barker that serves as a great intro to the author.  We also get a nice selection of articles on TV terror thanks to pieces on Tales From the Darkside, The Hitchhiker (remember that one?) and a revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents capping things off with a Wes Craven interview where he discusses his work on the new version of The Twilight Zone (the show has gone through at least four versions that I know of).  We also get a decent preview of Critters, a fun Gremlins riff from New Line Cinema.
    #52 is another solid issue (as they all are, really, hence my altering the series format), no major changes...yet.
    • We get some fantastic stuff here with great interviews with Ian McCulloch (he's done a bunch of Italian horror films including Zombie and Contamination), a brief Tom Savini piece talking about his latest venture: A video documentary produced by Fango called Scream Greats.  It was supposed to be the first in a series on horror icons or something but for reason, things got botched and it never made it past the second volume.
    • More highlights include looks at Psycho III, the f/x of Nightmare 2 with Kevin Yagher, an interview with the legendary John Carradine, a look at the wonderfully incoherent gore fest Demons and a chat with author Dennis Etchison.
    #53 is a solid one and about as close to a placeholder issue as you can find with this magazine.  The spring of '86 was a bit on the slow side and it shows in the articles.  It's not a bad issue, just a very middle of the road one.
    • The best part of this issue is the Dr. Cyclops column which generally is not a good sign in my eyes.  He covers a nice selection of movies including The Company of Wolves, the Charles Band directed Dungeonmaster and the notorious Italian cannibal flick Make then Die Slowly.
    • Outside of that, there's a nice interview with director Gordon Hessler (he did Scream and Scream again amongst many others), a review of The Bachman Books, a collection of four novellas Stephen King wrote under his pseudonym Richard BachmanLitten and an interview with horror host Billy Cardille (also known as Chilly Billy).
    Things pick up a bit as we get into the summer of 1986 with #54.  I should also note that with this year, the issue count rises to ten a year, a fact that is announced in this issue.
    • There's a nice blend of articles here, highlighted by a good interview with b-movie star John Agar and stories on the upcoming Poltergeist II, Night of the Creeps (spelled with a "K" for some stupid reason) and Critters.  The Critters article is especially good as it highlights the Chiodo Brothers' solid f/x, though they don't exactly come off as well.
    • The Dr. Cyclops column remains a highlight with a packed house in terms of reviews.  Dario Argento's Inferno, the campy Horror Hospital, the Amicus anthology The House that Dripped Blood...Truth be told, and I hate to say it, but sometimes I enjoy this section more than any other piece in the magazine.
    #55 continues the quality with more on Poltergeist II (strange that such a mediocre movie can yield such interesting articles) as well as other big summer releases.
    •  In addition to the P II coverage, we also get a nice look at the f/x of From Beyond which we will get into a little more next issue as well as other John Buechler projects.  Even better are the looks at David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly and Tobe Hooper's first film of the year, a remake of Invaders From Mars.  He also chats about the upcoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.  There's also a nice interview with Lance Henriksen plus the conclusion of the Clive Barker interview that began in issue 51.  Things also wrap up nicely with an interview with the lovely Martine Beswick.
    The best issue of the year is up next as we get more coverage of the films I already mentioned plus a nice, long interview with Stephen King about his directorial debut, Maximum Overdrive.  Sure the film stinks but still!
    • It's another packed house as in addition to the Stephen King interview, we also get stuff from Tom Savini (talking TCM 2), more on The Fly, From Beyond and Invaders From  Mars, a Christopher Lee interview, a piece on Charles Band and a brief article on a little movie called Aliens.
    All in all, a fully loaded issue and I think I only mentioned half the stuff in it.  There's so much stuff that there's barely any room for retro pieces.
    Unfortunately, I don't have #57 so we're going straight to 58.  It's another damn fine issue though, chock full of great articles.
    •  To be honest, it's pretty much more stuff on the movies already mentioned as the magazine is now getting more comprehensive in their coverage of new movies.  I like it though, as more often than not they manage to avoid getting too repetitious.
    • In addition to the extended coverage, we get a typically good Robert Englund interview a look at David Lynch's Blue Velvet and some other goodies.

    1986 ends with issue #59, another solid issue based mainly around articles on From Beyond and various other late-year releases.  Highlights include interviews  with David Carradine and Vincent Price, looks at the f/x of Tales From the Darkside, and the aforementioned From Beyond piece and a look at the f/x of Demons.

    Well, that's 1986 for Fangoria.  All in all, a solid year with only one issue really standing out as being underwhelming.  Next year, however, will bring about some more changes.

    The Essential Clint Eastwood

    Clint Eastwood is probably the first actor I really latched onto, I've always enjoyed his films immensely and feel he is one of the best action heroes of all time, if not the best overall.  Here's what I consider to be a list of his essential films as an actor...At least when it comes to films appropriate for this blog.

    For starters, you can hardly go wrong with Sergio Leone's Man with No Name trilogy, the films that put Clint on the map.

    The third one is probably my favorite as it has an amazing epic feel to it as well as a fantastic soundtrack.

    Clint's directorial debut predates Fatal Attraction by sixteen years and also has the advantage of being a hell of a lot better.  Clint gives a very good performance here as a man being stalked by a deranged woman.

    No list about Clint would be complete without this one, a very solid (if somewhat dated) cop drama about the most famous bad ass cop in cinematic history.

    Clint takes a rare trip into the horror genre with this creepy quasi-supernatural western about a mysterious stranger who rides into a town and proceeds to literally paint it red while getting revenge on some bad guys.  Yes, the character was supposed to be the brother of the town's dead sheriff but given how the film is shot, one can easily read it as a ghost story.

    I actually prefer this sequel to Dirty Harry over the first one.  It has more action, more humor and in general is a really entertaining 70's action movie.

    My favorite Clint Eastwood Western, this is, in a way, even better than Unforgiven.  Clint perfectly balances the story of redemption with the usual action his fans expect and the end result is a beautifully crafted motion picture.

    I just love this one because Clint takes his Dirty Harry persona and turns it on its head, playing a cop who is basically a loser.  Outside of The Rookie, it's really the only time Clint ever did a big, stupid action movie, (at least the only time he did one that worked).  The poster art seen above is also great.

    Yes, I am recommending you check out the one he did with the ape.  It's dumb, it's silly but underneath all that is a surprisingly warm comedy.  Hell, the second one is worth checking out as well, if only for the great fight at the end.

    The title speaks for itself and Clint is fantastic in this one.

    To be honest, this one doesn't really thrill me that much but there are so many iconic moments in it you really need to see it at least once.

    Clint does Shane with a mild supernatural twist thrown in for  good measure.  It's not the greatest thing on earth but it's certainly a fun way to kill two hours.

    I really enjoy this military action/drama/comedy as Clint is both hilarious and oddly touching as a career Marine who has to train some new recruits.  Clint has always been at his best when circumventing his image and this time out is no different.

    It goes without saying that this is his career pinnacle.  I remember actually doing a victory lap around the living room when this won Best Director and Best Picture at the Oscars that year.

    A perfect fusion of Clint kicking ass and Clint being human is on display in this fantastic thriller about a Secret Service agent looking for personal redemption.  John Malkovich is great as the villain and Rene Russo is, as always, fun to watch.

    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    VHS Memories XXII: Film Ventures International

    One of the things I really miss about the VHS era is the amazing amount of schlock that not only cluttered the shelves of video stores but also, more often than one would ever think imaginable, scored theatrical releases.  Generally the companies behind said movies would toss out out maybe a small handful and then vanish into the ether but in the case of our subject today, a general movie house rather than a simple video distributor, they just stuck around for a while...Kind of like a really persistent rash.

    Film Ventures International was founded by Ed Montoro in the 70's and stuck around until the mid-80's.  They tended to put out derivative horror flicks that were either made in-house or were international pick-ups.  I've already spoken about The Last Shark, one of their more notable titles but today, I want to delve a little deeper...Because that's what we do here.  Let the pain begin as we sample the wares of Film Ventures International.

    Their first real splash came with the U.S. release of this crappy Italian Exorcist knock-off that is high on exploitation and relatively low on actual quality.  In other words, a fairly typical Italian knock-off of a popular movie.  Good for a few laughs, though.  You can't take that away from it.

    Ah, now this is more like it!  A Jaws knock-=off from low budget filmmaker William Girdler.  This is one of the better riffs on Jaws, mainly because it's so damned silly that you stop caring that you've seen the damn thing done better already.

    Another flick from Girdler, this is even sillier as animals go after a bunch of campers after being driven mad by ultraviolet radiation (God, I love seventies horror flicks!).  Highlights include attacks by eagles, wolves, snakes and to top it all off, Leslie Nielsen sumo wrestling a bear.  Needless to say, the bear wins.

    This is a bizarre documentary narrated by Orson Welles that is fairly typical of the other pseudo-science docs that came around this time.  I haven't seen it but it sounds pretty out there.

    This is one of the company's more notable titles, mainly due to Tobe Hooper starting the project.  Hooper was fired and replaced by John "Bud" Cardos of Kingdom of the Spiders fame and the end result is a confusing, yet not un-entertaining movie about an alien who fries people with eye lasers.

    A bad Canadian tax shelter funded science fiction movie starring Jack Palance as a bad guy looking to control both the moon and Earth only to be opposed by some bland heroes.  Bland and cheap is the best way to describe this one.

    I haven't been able to find much on this one but based on the trailer, it looks like a horror movie revolving around organ theft. 
    A really nasty, excessive riff on Psycho telling the tale of a disturbed young man who sets women on fire in a special room in his house.  I think "ick" just about covers it.

    I already spoke about this one but I really love the poster here.  Great stuff.

    Here are a pair of slasher films the studio released (and to be frank, two of the better ones of the four or five they put out).

    House on Sorority Row is actually not too bad for the most part but Mortuary just gives you an early Bill Paxton role...and not much else.

    God, being on this list is about the only way this one would ever look good.  A horrid E.T. rip-off from Spain, MST3K skewered this one pretty well (though it's not my favorite episode of the series).  I cannot imagine watching this one without Joel and the bots.

    This MST3K alumni, however, I have seen uncut (though this version above is from New Line while the FVI version is called Cave Dwellers).  A sequel to Ator: The Invincible, this is a really, really stupid yet enjoyable piece of crap that works just as well with or without Joel and company.  As for the episode, it's easily my favorite of the series.

    We finish things up with this, one of the better films FVI put out (though that's not saying much)...and also one of the last.  Wings Hauser stars in this cheesy zombie film.  That's about all there is to it, really.  The film is kind of dull, actually.

    Well, that's the story.  In the end, Ed Montoro ran off with a ton of money and the company eventually vanished.  Too bad, because this could have happened, a half-shot and never refinished sequel to Grizzly that would have been a collaboration with Cannon Pictures and featured small roles for such names as George Clooney, Laura Dern and Charlie Sheen with larger roles for John Rhys Davies and Louise Fletcher.  Ah, what could have been.

    Fan-made poster for what would surely have been a lousy, yet memorable movie.

    About Me

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