Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mill Creek Madness: A Time to Watch Crap

Time to once again delve into the wild world of those bargain movie packs I've written about from time to time. Mill Creek Entertainment is a pretty terrific company when it comes to getting good value for the money and if you're an old school VHS buff, their releases actually replicate the VHS experience rather nicely. And by nicely, I mean that by DVD standards, the picture quality usually stinks and your chances of getting a widescreen print of whatever film you're looking at are not good (at least for the older stuff). They've also branched out into more mainstream fare for their releases (a butt load of catalogue titles from various studios that I will get into at a later date) but for now, we're sticking with the crap.

We got quite the lineup for this piece, so let's not waste any more time.

Savage Weekend is an early Cannon release (I think this was right before it was bought by Golan and Globus) that is an early slasher film that came out in 1979 (though it was filmed a few years earlier), more or less right between Halloween and Friday the 13th. A recently divorced woman and her friends go to a secluded vacation spot for the weekend only to be menaced by the obligatory psycho killer who turns out to be her politician ex-husband. The cast isn't too bad with William Sanderson and David Gale turning in decent performances (though most of the characters are unlikable as hell) but the pacing is typically slow for a 70's horror movie (nearly an hour passes in this 85 minute movie before the first person gets killed). The mask the killer wears is pretty neat though, real creepy. Savage Weekend is an undemanding little bit of sleaze with an interesting cast that's probably worth at least half a glance if you like early slasher films.

Mad Dog (not listing all the alternate titles, we'd be here all day) is an Italian crime flick along the lines of your standard "scummy criminal kidnaps a couple and they have to fight to escape" film only with that patented aura of grime and sleaze that you can only find in this sub genre. Helmut Berger is the titular Mad Dog, a slimy piece of work named Nanni Vitali who we first see breaking out of prison with three accomplices.

Berger is good in the lead role (think the average Jimmy Cagney bad guy minus the charm and wit) and B-movie vet Richard Harrison does well enough as the lead inspector hunting Vitali. The story though is pretty predictable, however. Psycho criminal escapes, cop pursues, psycho goes on crime spree and eventually gets killed at the end (in this case he's captured and taken back to jail but you get the point). Apart from Berger's unhinged performance, it's nothing you haven't seen before.

This is the R rated cut of Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978), one of the many Italian cannibal adventure/horror films to come out in the late 70's/early 80's. Like most cannibal films from the period, it's from Italy and ends up being one of the more mild entries in the genre. And by mild I mean I got, as noted, the R rated cut which chops out most of the bullshit animal abuse (in terms of the animal kingdom, this genre is essentially a bunch of snuff films), which I need to see like I need to see my own death. It also drops the running time from about 99 minutes to 81 (from the looks of it, mostly the gory stuff from the climax and a scene where Andress is stripped nude and painted which means most of the real animal torture is kept in while most of the fake stuff done to the human characters is trimmed in this version).

Fantastic! I can use that eighteen extra minutes to wash after viewing this piece of crap!

Former Bond Girl Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach star in this one as a woman looking for her missing husband and a scientist helping her out, respectively. The Andress character has also brought her brother along and of course, more potential entrees end up joining the adventure which takes them to the expected cannibal tribe. Sergio Martino directs things just fine (the animal abuse was forced on him by the producer though there some other tales that paint a less than savory picture of the man) but as tends to be the case with this genre, the film is a bit too mean-spirited to be truly fun and enjoyable. The characters are reprehensible (Keach is the most likable guy in the film and he gets offed), the violence is nauseating (the animal abuse in these films is really sick and needless) and while the film has a good jungle atmosphere, it's just a slog to get through.

Ugh, I need something at least slightly better after that.

That'll do, pig. That'll do.

Count Dracula and his Vampire Bride (also known as The Satanic Rites of Dracula) is the final Hammer Dracula movie to star Christopher Lee (there would be a final entry in 1974 without him) and if nothing else, you have to say they go out with a bang. An odd, sort of muddled, deeply stupid bang that sort of resembles a wet fart at times, I'll grant you. But a bang nonetheless.

Like the previous entry (Dracula A.D. 1972), this puts the titular count in the middle of swinging 70's London. This time it's a bizarre blend of spy thriller and horror film (think an episode of The Avengers TV series crossed with a typical cult horror movie from the 70's with Dracula and Van Helsing tossed in) as Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) gets pulled into investigating a satanic cult that turns out to be run by Dracula (posing as a reclusive Howard Hughes type with a cheesy Bela Lugosi accent for some reason) who plans to unleash a plague that will wipe out the entire population, sort of a suicide by way of mass murder.

While many dislike this film to the nth degree, I find it endlessly amusing and fun. It's silly and cheesy; Dracula takes about thirty minutes or so to show up in his own damn movie as tended to be the case with this series and to say Lee is phoning it in would be rather kind as he makes it abundantly clear that he is tired of the role and barely gives a crap. Still gives a decent performance because it's Christopher freaking Lee but still! Cushing is fun as well, giving the dialogue his usual gravitas and even though the script is actually quite shoddy, it is still fun to see Cushing and Lee squaring off against each other one last time.

Hammer never quite got Dracula just right in my opinion. While Lee and Cushing were always fine whenever they showed up, both were far too often given short shrift, especially Lee who often was hindered by bad scripts and limited screen time. It's not very shocking he finally got tired of the role and ended up returning just for the money. In the case of this film, as noted, he turns up 31 minutes in, has one or two scenes with Cushing and ends up dying in a less than impressive manner. Still, the film is watchable enough if you set your expectations low.

That's all for now. Next time I hit Mill Creek, the films will be... Well, newer at any rate. Until next time.

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About Me

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