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.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Esoterica XVII: Autumn Randomness

Some random items for your amusement.

 The song is solid enough, the music video is endearingly cheap as only a mid-80's music video can be but that werewolf design is just plain cool. No idea how they got Ozzy to sit still long enough to get the damn thing on but it must have taken something pretty strong.

In addition to seeing A View to A Kill on VHS, one of the big things that fueled my passion for all things James Bond was the ABC Sunday Night Movie showings of the films. The main one that sticks out for me is Thunderball. My overall favorite of the series, this cut of the movie is s;lashed to pieces with all the great bits of violence (if released today it would probably net a strong PG-13 for the underwater battle alone) and nudity and also, by default, led to my affection for edited for TV cuts of R rated movies.

To finish things off, I would like to give you the reader, a small glimpse into the awesomely, hilariously insane world of the late and lamented supermarket staple Weekly World News. I've always found it to be amusing but a post on Facebook this week inspired me.

 Probably their best known cover. This one is good, but there are two that me smile even more.

 Can't go wrong with a horny Bigfoot story, can you? Everything about this is just wonderful from the brazenly obvious photoshop job on the images to the large headline. Crap like The National Enquirer and The Globe may still be around, but this stuff is true gold.

To end, I present you with this gem from October of 2001 that inspired me to do this post today. Just about everything about this cover made me laugh so let's go story by story.
  • Up top we have another Batboy story as the little guy has finally gone out and gotten himself a real job.
  • Bottom right is fairly pedestrian for the mag as you could probably have gone to their offices and tossed a coin in any direction and knocked over a stack of morbidly obese fat people stories.
  • Bottom left makes me chuckle just for the sheer randomness of it.
  • And lastly, we have the tale of a man. An ordinary man, an Everyman who just wanted a simple tuna sandwich with extra mayo. But that is not what happened, my friends. What he got instead, was a mini mermaid. No word on whether or not he got the extra mayo. I would imagine you have to read the whole story and that issue isn't available online. No idea what they used for the mermaid photo but I gotta say it makes a huge increase in the production value when compared to the Bigfoot love slave issue. The promise that the reader can find out where to get a mermaid sandwich of their own is just the icing on the cake.
And that does it for me today. Until next time...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

VHS Memories XXXXII: The Amazon Prime Edition

I use Amazon Video for much of what I do for the blog and Amazon Prime is especially useful when there is a movie you don't necessarily want to pay money to watch. With that in mind, here is a stack of four movies that for the most part are better off watched free of charge, if at all.*

*In other words, I'll be damned if I'm gonna pay three bucks to watch New Year's Evil! I don't care how much I love old school Cannon Films! You hear me? I ain't getting paid for this at all! Not shi-!

Ahem, sorry about that. Let's get started.

 Speaking of which, our first contestant is this sleazy slasher from Cannon Films about a woman-hating maniac who promises a woman who does a show on the punk/new wave scene (ah, the early 80's) he'll kill one woman every hour on New Year's Eve, right as it hits midnight in the correct time zone. Not a bad plan as far as diabolical murder spree plots go but it never works at all in the film, nor do we ever learn why the killer is going to all this trouble. All we learn is that its her husband doing the killing and he has some serious issues with women (played by Kip Niven) and her son probably also has some mental issues (he's the obligatory red herring who we see little of ). There is a fair amount of 80's cheese on display and the killer is enjoyably ridiculous (the first scene where he taunts the lead over the phone has him using a voice scrambler that makes him sound silly and in general his murder spree sees him going from, disguise to disguise which would be done better in Terror Train) but the overall film is sloppy (see the lack of motivation for the killer which could come off as scary in a better movie), poorly acted and generally dull to watch. Cannon's later slasher Hospital Massacre is better.

 David Gale of Re-Animator fame plays another mad scientist in this 1988 horror flick which sees him as an insane TV show host who has a giant alien brain he uses to control his followers. Naturally, the only ones who can stop him are a couple of teens since this is a late 80's horror movie. This is a low budget Canadian film from the tax shelter days and it has a cheerful, spoofy sense of humor that makes it rather endearing. Performances are about one would expect with Gale coming off the best and the giant brain is a fun, cheesy special effect.

This is a really, really (deservedly) obscure British comedy from 1983 that stars Tony Curtis as an inventor who wants to sell his latest invention (a laser skywriter) and ends up having to deal with a dinner party for potential buyers put non by his wife. The buyers range from Erik Estrada as a gangster (with Peter Lawford in his last role) to Donald Pleasence as a Scottish guy to Orson Welles as a gypsy who appears in the last ten minutes. The eccentricity is through the roof in this one and in general, that makes for a rather painful viewing experience if not handled well. Sadly, in spite of having a very good director on board (Terence Young did three of the first four James Bond films), this just ends up being wacky for the sake of being wacky and its a little hard to take, really. Curtis is a mess of anxieties (he's broke and a hypochondriac), his wife is an oddball and the rest of the cast... Well, you can imagine given the short descriptions I gave how subtly they play their parts. Granted with material this bad I wouldn't blame them if they were all plastered during the shoot but still! Just painfully unfunny, it's not hard to see why it wasn't given either a UK release or an American one. I couldn't get through this one without skipping ahead.

Lastly, we have this delightfully odd, cheesy flick from the late, fairly decent William Girdler. This was his last film, sadly but boy is it one hell of a film to go out on! Susan Strasberg plays a young woman who is worried about a growth on the back of her neck that is growing and eventually turns out to be the reincarnation of a 400 year old Native American medicine man who is more than slightly pissed off at the white man. He is opposed by Tony Curtis (for some reason, my brain always wants to write Tony Randall whenever I think about the guy) as Strasberg's ex-boyfriend who is a phony psychic and Michael Ansara as another medicine man. What ensues is essentially The Exorcist with a Native American spin until the last few minutes when it turns into a bizarre light show as Strasberg starts shooting laser blasts at the evil medicine man and his spirit boss. It's quite the showstopper and one hell of a fun good.bad film. I was going to save this for a future studio seri4es piece but it's just too good to pass up.

That's all for now, until next time.

About Me

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